Sunday, January 17, 2016

8 Common Travel Scams To Avoid

how to avoid scams when traveling

"Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer." Who hasn't heard this quote? Certainly, the opportunities that travel allows us do make us richer and enhance our lives. However, there are moments that travel is not all about glamour and Instagram-worthy pictures - as a matter of fact, it is quite common for travel to be the perfect time to be scammed. And scams happen all the time while you are traveling. So, today, I'm going to take about the not-so-glamorous aspects of travel and discuss common travel scams! Now, I'm not going to lie- I've gotten sucked into a few of these. Many people have. It's not something to be ashamed of, rather, it is something to be aware of to prevent it from happening to others!

1. "Free" Bracelets/Flowers/Gifts ... Often when you are traveling, a friendly person will approach you and try to place a free bracelet on your wrist, give you a flower, or some other sort of gift. These types tend to hang out around the more tourist-y areas, and as soon as you let them place this free gift in your possession - BAM, you are expected to pay for this 'gift'! In Thailand, this tends to be flowers in your hair. In Mexico, it is often shot glasses. Throughout the world, this travel scam generally means a cheap trinket in order to lure you in. No matter where you are, be aware that this "free" gift may end up costing you much more than it is worth. Be polite, firmly say no, and move on with your business!

2. Taxi Drivers ... Unfortunately, often when traveling in another country you are at the mercy of a taxi driver. You get off an airplane, hop in a taxi, and give them an address. Chances are, they know the area much better than you - perhaps they will take you on an 'extended' ride to your destination, or they will encourage you to stay somewhere else (where they just so happen to receive a stipend for the referral). My personal experience with this was paying 20 euro for a 3-minute taxi ride in Riga, that didn't even end with us being in the correct destination (ouch!)! To avoid this scam, prior to arriving to any destination, learn what common fares are, and always negotiate taxi prices in advance.

3. Street Games ... Oh, the cup game in Paris and Connect Four in Thailand! I'll admit, I fell for both of these- even after knowing they were scams. In Paris, you simply have to guess which cup (out of three) the ping-pong ball is located, while in Thailand you have to beat a 10-year-old child at Connect Four. Look up either of these on the internet, and you will quickly learn they are scams. However, who isn't tempted to beat something so simple? My best advice...forget about it. I've tried, both before and after I knew these were some of the most common travel scams in the world. Just settle for beating your friends at these games at home!

4. Free transportation... Similar to taxi drivers taking advantage of you, it is common in Thailand to be taken advantage of by tuk-tuk drivers. Your ride (wherever you would like to go!) is free. All you have to do along the way is stop in to this shop that is owned by their friends - you don't "have" to buy anything, you just have to spend 1-3+ hours of your time dodging their sales pitch! Tuk-tuk drivers can know the best spots in town to visit, but if you already know your destination, don't trust somebody giving you a free ride. I absolutely loved riding in tuk-tuks while in Thailand, and it was so cheap - just make sure you are in charge and giving a destination, with a fair price!

5. Pickpockets and overly friendly locals... Pickpockets are one of the most common travel scams. They tend to hang out in highly busy, touristy areas where there are bound to be tons of people who may accidentally bump into each other. Variations on this include beggars who ask for money, or random people advising you of a recent pickpocketer. Both of these are hoping to see you pat wherever you keep your wallet, alerting an accomplice of exactly where to find it.

6. "Here, hold this super cute/exotic animal!" Unfortunately, animals are commonly utilized in tourist areas. Be it 6-foot snakes in Mexico, cuddly sloths, iguanas, the list goes on for days - animals are sadly often used in order to make money off of tourists. Many times, it can be a local walking down the street, thrusting this animal in your arms, and then expecting you to pay for a picture with them. The unfortunate part about this scam is that often these animals are drugged up to be very calm, or when they aren't working are kept in tiny cages much too small. Other variations on this include exotic animal shows or exhibits, such as pictures with tigers or elephant riding in Thailand. You can hear about my experience with elephants in Thailand - something I hope no tourist ever has to experience.

7. Overly friendly photographers... in highly touristy areas, be on the lookout for somebody who approaches you and asks if you'd like your picture taken, especially when you can't pinpoint who they are there with, or if they are even a tourist. There is definitely a chance that best case scenario, they will demand money for the picture, worst case scenario they will run off with your camera and all of your travel memories. Don't let this happen to you!

8. The fake wake-up call... This is a common scam that occurs in the middle of the night. You are sleeping after a long day, and in the middle of the night your hotel telephone rings, with someone claiming to be the front desk and needing your credit card information. Word of advice? Never give your credit card information out to somebody who you aren't sure of their identity!

Of course, there are certainly other travel scams that exist around the world. In my opinion, these are the most common, and relevant, travel scams. Either myself or a close friend has personally experienced each of these within the last several years, and they have been known to occur around the world. Some may note that I have left some of the other 'popular' travel scams off the list - the crying baby, the found gold ring, etc. I've left these off because I have yet to meet somebody that has personally experienced this. Overall, I would say this is the list of travel scams tourists must be aware of in 2016. Can you think of any that I may have left off, or what is the craziest scam you have experienced while traveling?

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1 comment:

  1. There are an insane amount of scams out there! I think the taxi one is huge (definitely think I've been a victim of this one), but fortunately, I haven't had to deal with any of the other ones!


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