Guest contributor and world traveler Jess Signet writes about travel scams that are easy to come by and easy to fall for. Here’s some helpful tips on how to avoid them and what to look out for.
It’s easy to take advantage of tourists for a quick buck, which is why arming yourself against an opportunistic local is the best defense around.
From bad taxi experiences to WiFi that seems just too good to be true, there’s a couple of tried and true attacks against tourists that I’ve come to spot
– if I haven’t experienced – while traveling. In my opinion, an informed traveler is a smart traveler, so take a look at this list of things to avoid so you can stay safe:
1. The Taxi Scam
“Broken meter, broken meter, broken meter.”
I heard this incessantly in Marrakech on my first visit there. Since there was no one else to fight for my cause, I lost the first round to a guy who severely overcharged me to get from the airport to my riad. I was expecting to pay fifteen euros and ended up dishing out almost thirty. I wasn’t a happy camper, especially since it was my dinner money for the night. No tagine for me!
When it comes to pushy cab drivers, whether they be talking about faulty equipment or saying they don’t have any change, be firm and demand a meter. Meters often mean legitimacy and will always work out to be cheaper than negotiating in third world countries. If that isn’t available, then state your price upfront (TaxiFareFinder can help you find a fair price). Don’t get into the car if you can’t agree on a price.
I got a different cab driver on my return trip. This one had been arranged by my riad beforehand and was prepaid before we left. He was wonderful, spoke 9 different languages and gave me insights as we drove to the airport. Everyone isn’t always out to get you. Just sort out the money first and you’re more likely to get a decent deal.
2. Free Gifts
To the peddlers of homemade palm tree leaf roses that I have met all over the world, thanks but no thanks. I can’t take on your severely overpriced floral bouquets at the moment. How exactly would that get home with me in a backpack still in one piece?
But more than logistics, free gifts that are offered in the street can cause many problems, and all of them include scamming you out of money. From demanding you pay for the free item to claiming you stole their merchandise, you can certainly get into a place where you feel uncomfortable enough to just hand over a wad of cash to get out of the situation. This means you fell for the ruse.
A word to the wise is to just keep your hands and wallet closed off to anything handed out on the street.
3. Closed Attraction Scams
This is more common in some parts of the world than it is in others (Southeast Asia, I’m talking to you) and it is one wicked way to grab a few extra bucks from blindsided tourists.
A local overhears you on the street talking about your next adventure, and smiling, comes up to offer to take you to the location. Moments before reaching the entrance, your guide puts on a sad face, explains the attraction is under construction, and then ushers you into a waiting tuk tuk to another destination entirely. What just happened exactly?
This has happened to me and my traveling companions more than once touring temples in Malaysia and it’s usually subtler than what is described above. The friendly guide is actually a paid employee looking for ways to get you to go to his employer’s restaurant, bar, taxi service, excursion itinerary and who knows what else. My advice in this situation is simple: trust your own itinerary, your gut and your research. Go see a closed sign on the attraction before you believe anyone else.
It’s hard not to falter a little when you see them. You are on vacation, after all. Clearly you have a little bit of extra change to offer to the poor person kneeling on their feet in Vatican City. If you don’t, you must be a cold-hearted person. Right?
While it might be tempting to put coins into the hands of the apparently poor, it’s not always the most noble of causes. The harder a person is to turn away, the better they are at their jobs. There’s just no way to know who’s legit so I only warn you of this in hopes that you use your own discretion when your heartstrings are pulled.
5. Fake WiFi Hubs
Fake WiFi Hubs are certainly cropping up as one of the biggest things to take on wandering tourists, and they’re also the ones that can potentially be the most devastating to your trip. Logging into a fake WiFi hotspot and having your information stolen can be horribly damaging to more than just your afternoon. It can have effects ranging from damage to your credit to having your itinerary copied.
What may look like a normal coffee shop could also be a place where hackers are set up to make attacks on your personal information, but the good news is they can also be avoided with a couple of clever strategies.
First, always travel with a Virtual Private Network as you travel, as it hides your IP address and encrypts your connection so you aren’t recognizable when you sign onto public networks. Even if you sign onto a dangerous network, your information will be much safer for it.
Second, make sure you aren’t logging onto any unlocked connections. If you are, make sure that the staff at your location says it is the official network. Free WiFi can be tempting, especially while traveling, so don’t fall for it!
Whether you’re on the road to a tourist favorite or you’re planning on trekking out to an undisturbed paradise, being the odd man out can get you caught up in costly scams if you’re not careful. Stay firm, be smart, and stay on budget. It’s easier than it seems!
Have you encountered any scams yourself while travelling? Any that were not listed above? How did you deal with them? If you have any thoughts on the matter, please leave a comment below.
About the Author:
Jess Signet is an avid traveler and enjoys writing about her adventures. Knowing there’s more to the world than the bubble she lives in makes her want to travel even further. Traveling is her drug, and she’s addicted. Check out here website here.
Many thanks to Caitlyn for sharing this information with her readers! I’m definitely a huge fan of getting out and conquering the unknown. Her City Guides are must reads for me. The Madrid 10/10 post in particular helped cement my itinerary when I went back for a second look this past year and it was amazing!