As westerners we’re happy to spend, after all we ARE tourists, but nobody likes to get ripped off! So here are our top travel tips on how not to get scammed and which sneaky tricks to look out for.
Travel Tips – How To Avoid Scams When Travelling
Like many countries you visit if you’re not a local, then you’re a walking target. Unfortunately it’s just a fact. People will see you as an easy way to make a quick buck and coming from a lot poorer countries, who can blame them.
The ‘Your Hostel Doesn’t Exist’ Trick
When you’re fresh to a new environment people will try to guide you the wrong way. They start by talking and befriending you. But it always ends with them wanting to show you to a hostel or a travel agent. It’s how they make commission – just keep one thing in mind, no-one is your friend.
You’ll hear all the stories; ‘That hostel doesn’t exist anymore’, ‘Don’t go there, that area is run by the mafia’ we once even got told by a local in Delhi that ‘two tourists were killed in the place last week’ on route to our 9.4 rated hostel. The easiest way out of an awkward situation is to either insist that you already have accommodation booked or give them the old ‘we’ve been here before, thank you’ trick…They’ll soon leave you alone!
The ‘Government Tourist Information’ Trick
Touched on in the previous point, if anyone mentions about Government Tourist Information Centres just keep on walking. They again are run on a commission basis and locals get paid to bring customers in. Your best bet if you need some help is to get straight online or ask other travellers/workers from wherever you’re staying.
Paying To Store Your Luggage On The Bus
One thing that really got to us in India was the constant changing of prices for luggage storage. Whether it’s a large amount or not, if you’ve paid for a bus ticket then 99% of the time this will include baggage. We started to get suspicious when our first Indian bus didn’t ask for anything, then the next asked for a little and our 3rd quoted a silly price! For sure it’s not even about the money but it’s the principle. For sure if it equates to 50p then it’s probably not worth the argument but if it feels like you shouldn’t be paying it, then chances are you shouldn’t.
Always Ask For The Meter
One of the best travel tips we can give!
In this modern day world, apps like Uber and Pick Me have definitely taken over, and rightly so. They’re easier, cheaper and less hassle. If you’ve ever tried walking down a road in Bangkok and getting a taxi then you’ll understand exactly what we mean.
Nearly every service providing vehicle SHOULD have a meter in it that calculates a fixed price per km. But 9 times out of 10 they’ll be surprisingly ‘broken’. Don’t get scammed into paying a ridiculous price for a short distance journey guys. If they’re not happy to put it on the meter then keep on walking.
Nowadays before we even mention a destination to a driver our first word is always ‘Meter?’ If we don’t succeed after a few attempts we usually just revert back to our handy local apps as mentioned earlier.
Oh and one more travel tip. If you’re negotiating a price beforehand then whatever you do pleaseeee don’t just take the first price. Locals will usually double if not triple the price dependent on how vulnerable you look. So know the distance by checking it on Maps.me and if they’re telling you it’s a 10km journey when you know it’s only 5km then this probably isn’t the tuk tuk you should be taking.
Children Asking For Money
We absolutely loveeee kids and this has got to be one of the hardest scams to block out. So you know the innocent cute looking kids that want to play and tug on your shorts, well ALL of them are working for somebody. Don’t think for a second that the money you give them goes towards them, their food or even to their poor parent sitting on the side walk watching them. Chances are the whole family will be involved in a gang, trafficking or just general begging businesses.
There are a few options here. You can either give them a firm NO, put your head down and keep walking. You can offer food, a lot of them won’t take it which is ironic seeing as they approach you gesturing their hands to their mouths. If they won’t take food we tend to just have a laugh with them. As soon as they know they’re not going to get a penny out of you, if you play some high five games or pull out instagram photos they usually love it!
Changing Money Over
This is a quick and easy one but one that a lot of people forget about in desperate times. Always check the latest currency rates before changing over money. We rely on the super simple app Converter+ where you can set up a few of your favourite currencies and instantly refresh at the counter of your travel agent. If they’re offering you a rate that seems close enough then take it or tell them what rate you want.
Also check the service charges before you get too deep into negotiations! You don’t want to waste 10 minutes bartering to find out they whack a 5% fee on top of everything. Just a bit of advice speaking from experience haha.
Find Out What Things Should Cost Before You Go Ahead
The worst thing you can do when buying something in a foreign country is ask ‘how much is it?’ For example, buses and trains, food etc.. A few times we’ve walked into local restaurants without menus and it’s not until the bill comes that you realise they’ve over charged you.
After being somewhere a few days and getting your bearings together you should gain a pretty good idea of how much things should cost. If you don’t then ask before you agree to take anything or even just guess it. We’ve often handed over a lot less for a bottle of water than we know it should be. The shop keeper will soon correct you and ask for a little more.
This applies to not only food but tuk tuks and clothes as well. If you’re not happy with it you can always decline to buy it and find somewhere else. Don’t wait until it’s too late and end up annoyed at yourself for over paying, it’s THE worst.
Pretty self explanatory but something a lot of backpackers set off with great intentions of avoiding and soon let the standards slip. As soon as you become comfortable and relax a little that’s when the passport will go missing. Stay on your A-game and keep a little lock on your bag at all times. That or a lot of people carry fanny packs, it may be a little 1980’s but it’s better than losing your most valuable possessions half way across the world! Not so much of a scam but more of a subtle reminder.
And Finally…Never Fully Let Your Guard Down
As much as you make amazing friends in a short amount of time, this is the exact problem. They are still strangers! Just because the new American guy clicks with your sense of humour or the cute Spanish girl seems keen to get you drunk, they are just as capable to ‘scam’ you as any other human.
It’s a shame but even backpackers have been known to go well out of their way to gain an extra buck or two. We’ve met many a people on the road that have been left heartbroken after befriending a fellow traveller, only for their new iPhone to magically disappear. We hate to end on a bad note guys but it does happen, so be sensible and don’t get caught slipping!
For travel tips on what to pack when travelling you can check out our guide – Things To Take Travelling – A What To Pack Checklist or to find out exactly what we use to take our photos – What Equipment Do We Use? – Travel & Take Photos Like Us