Travelling can be a beautiful thing. Experiencing new cultures and alternatives ways of life, you often meet genuine and kind-hearted people who will take that extra step to help you on your journey. Despite all the good, every now and then, you are bound to meet people who will also try and make a quick buck of you.
As travellers, it is easy to think that with all your earlier experiences and safety precautions, will avoid you from getting ripped off on travel scams. But the truth is that it can happen to the best of travellers. While it is impossible to know when you will be scammed, it is important to know what kind of travel scams exist across the globe and what can be done to avoid them in case the situation demands. Here is a list of the most common travel scams to make it easier for you to spot the danger signs.
1. The Taxi Scam
Cab drivers near airport or train stations are infamous for pulling this scam, but it can happen anywhere. When you get into a taxi and drive, the driver informs you that his meter is broken and charges a ridiculous amount if you are not careful. Another scenario is one in which taxi drivers take longer routes to reach a destination or misguides you regarding the total distance often overcharging you for the trip.
How to avoid it: Negotiate rates ahead of time and check with your hotel/hostel on approximately how much a ride should cost. If you have access to data, use local maps to check the route you are taking for your destination.
2. Getting Free Bracelets/Rosemary/Anything
A common scam, especially in Europe, a friendly person will approach you with by offering you free stuff like a bracelet or a watch and place it on your hand. Once you have it, they will demand money and if you refuse, they will start creating a scene in the hopes that you will give them money to avoid being embarrassed.
How to avoid it: Do not accept anything for free from any stranger and even if they put something on you, simply give it back and start walking away. They will not chase you.
3. Getting a Spill On Your Clothes
While you are busy with your day, exploring the city, someone spills something on you and starts being apologetic, offering to clean it up or even pay you for it. While you are all flustered, another person is busy picking your pocket. Only when they are long gone, do you realise what has happened?
How to avoid it: This mainly happens in crowded areas. If it happens to you, simply refuse any help and clean it up yourself.
4. Car/Motorbike rental scam
A popular scam in Southeast Asia and other developing countries, it can happen with local and even national car and bike rental services. You rent a vehicle and then when you bring it back, the owner or representative demands an additional payment for repairs or damages. In some cases, for national car rental services, you may even get charged later for extra charges like fuel if you have taken a limited mileage package.
How to avoid it: Take photos and even a video of the vehicle before you rent it out to document any previous damages. If you have taken a limited mileage package, take a photo of the number of kilometres at the start as well. Always make sure to buy travel insurance so you can claim in case of any problem.
5. The flirtatious woman
Heading over to a bar in a new country, you cannot believe your luck when a beautiful woman comes up to you for a chat. After some drinks and an amazing conversation, she asks if you can go to a new bar or orders for expensive drinks in the same bar. These drinks are nothing but lime water or regular drinks which are just being overcharged by the bar in an attempt to scam you. After a lot of drinks, the woman simply disappears, and you are forced to pay the hefty bill or worse get threatened by some big guys for paying up.
How to avoid it: The most obvious way of avoiding this is by being wary of women who are overly flirtatious or who promise you the world to get a few drinks!
6. “Let me take your picture”
While hanging at a popular landmark, some local offers to take a photo of you and your friends. While you are busy prepping yourself for the perfect pose, you look up and realise he has completely disappeared with your expensive camera.
How to avoid it: If you have to hand over your camera or phone for a photo, look out for other tourists who are doing the same and ask them to click a picture for you and return the favour to them.
The truth is that at some point in time, we all fall into some sort of travel scam, even if we may realise it much later. But don’t let this deter you from travelling the world. It may seem embarrassing to be tricked out of your money but think of it as a learning experience and rely on your gut instinct for your next trip!
‘Curated by Neha Bhise’