To me, traveling to foreign countries is the one of the greatest things on the planet. Right up there with baby giggles and good wine. But it is good to be aware of all of the tricks that are out there, and more importantly, how to avoid them. With a record number of people immersing themselves into different cultures and countries, it’s not surprising that a number of travel scams have become common practice throughout the world. Luckily for visitors, these travel scams seem to take on a very similar nature no matter where you go, so with a bit of knowledge they can be easily avoided. Here is a list of some of the most common travel scams around the world to look out for as a solo traveler, and tips on how to avoid them:
The Bump and Grab
In many cities, if you see a large group of people congregating around a landmark or market, try to pay special attention to your pockets, backpack, or purse. This is a favorite time for the bump and grab, as thieves know you are occupied and surrounded, so they can bump you and grab your stuff, then dart away. The surrounding crowd then makes it hard to notice you've been bumped, and even harder to catch the thief who nabbed your stuff. It is so simple, yet so effective.
How to avoid it: Keep all valuables zipped up in safe pockets and, if you feel like a distraction ploy is happening, don’t be scared to turn around and check for the guilty party. Hold your wallet or purse tight when you can, and keep your eyes peeled.
While ATM fraud happens more often in the United States than it does in Europe or other countries, it is always good to be aware. Always try to use ATMs at banks, as thieves shy away from surveillance cameras. And watch out for common ATM scams like card skimming and money grabbers (sort of like the Bump and Grab)
How to avoid it: As always, be aware of your surrounds. If the ATM feels shady, off, strange, weird. Something is probably up with it. Remember to use ATMs at banks that look credible, and always cover your hand when putting in your pin. It is simple, but can make a big difference is if someone is lurking near by.
The Driver Scam
Most of us are familiar with this one - the taxi driver (or tuk tuk driver) chooses a longer route, claiming to avoid traffic, but in reality it’s to jack up the fare. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know when to argue with the driver if you're in an unfamiliar place.
How to avoid it: Negotiate your rate for the driver in advance. Take your time choosing a taxi or a driver, and make sure they use a meter. With today's GPS systems and maps, research your route before you get in the car or other moving vehicles.
Beware of cheap tickets and refundable schemes. if it doesn’t seem like the right price (aka a significant discount from what you would pay the window of the event or attraction) I highly recommend not purchasing. You could be out that money, and still not be able to enter!
How to avoid it: only buy from an accredited ticket office, so you know you what you have is legit, and you can go back if you have any concerns.
Purchasing tours and tickets from someone on the street can be sketchy. You just never know what you are really getting! But to save money, you decide to book a tour to Tuscan wine country for the next day, only to go outside your hotel and find a rickety bus and no tour guide (or no bus at all!)
How to avoid it: This has happened to me more times than I would like to admit, so ask those questions! as with above, only buy from an accredited ticket office, so you know you what you have is legit. You want to know the details of your tour, including: date, pick up time, tour length, stops, etc. Different countries have different issues with this, so make sure you ask these questions from the very beginning.
The Conversion Rate/Charge You More Scam
“Would you like to pay in (local currency) or U.S. dollars today?”
This is a phrase you will hear often when traveling abroad. From your hotel to local vendors. You only have so much cash, so you want to make sure it goes as far as possible, right? Well sometimes these savvy dealers know that you only have so much US cash and/or foreign currency, and either want you to pay with your credit card or with the US dollar you do have... and then use an absurd conversion rate to jack up the price from the local currency price.
How to avoid it: This is an issue from Hertz to Hilton to local vendors, so know the conversion rate, and try your damnedest to get enough local currency before you go and only pay with that. If they say you can pay with your credit card or US Dollars, make sure you know the conversion rate beforehand!
Visit me on my blog, ALittleBitAdrift.com, for more travel tips and inspiration. I’d love to hear about recent travel scams you’ve encountered, and how you fought back, in the comments below!