As tourists in a foreign country we’re happy to spend, but let’s be honest, nobody likes to get ripped off. So here are our top tips on how to avoid common travel scams and what to look out for when venturing around the world.
Common Travel Scams & How To Avoid Them
‘Your Accommodation Doesn’t Exist’ Trick
Scam – Hotel owners trying to make you believe you are heading in the wrong direction or that your accommodation has been shut down in order for you to stay at their.
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.
How To Avoid It – Always book in advance using Booking.com and mark your accommodation on your maps before you arrive and know exactly which direction you’re heading in.
We once got told by a local in Delhi ‘two tourists were killed at that accommodation last week’ on route to our 9.4 rated hotel. The easiest way out of an awkward situation is to either insist that you already have accommodation booked or tell them that you’ve been to the area before. They’ll soon leave you alone!
The Government Tourist Information Trick
Scam – Touched on in the previous point, if anyone mentions about Government Tourist Information Centres just keep on walking and remember we mentioned it in our common travel scams blog.
They again are run on a commission basis and locals get paid to bring customers in. They will befriend you on the streets and convince you they are just out to help for FREE and working for the Government but lead you to a dingy office where you’re forced to buy tours.
How To Avoid It – Your best bet is if you need some help, check up online or ask other travellers/workers from wherever you’re staying. Most accommodations will have a tour desk or be able to book your onward travel, hotels or help with your trip itinerary!
Taxi Meters Not Working
Scam – One of the most common travel scams! Taxi drivers, tuk tuks, rickshaws. Every country is different. But whatever the name of the transport if they insist the meter isn’t working don’t get in! They will over charge you. Even if you’ve negotiated a price prior to the ride they’ll soon want to discuss money again once you arrive at your destination.
How To Avoid It – Unfortunately in this day and age trust has disappeared nearly completely when it comes to foreign tourists. In this modern day world, apps like Uber and Grab and Pick Me have definitely taken over the taxi world. They’re easier, cheaper and less hassle. If you’ve ever tried walking down a road in Bangkok and getting a taxi, you’ll understand what we mean.
Don’t get scammed into paying a ridiculous price for a short distance journey. If they’re not happy to put it on the meter then keep on walking.
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 taxi driver you should be taking.
Children Asking For Money
Scam – We absolutely loveeee kids so this has got to be one of the hardest common travel scams to block out. The sad realty is, the innocent looking kids that want to play and beg for money usually work for somebody.
Don’t think for a second that the money you give them goes towards them. Chances are the whole family will be involved in a gang, trafficking or just general begging businesses.
How To Avoid It – There are a few options here.
You can either give them a firm NO or sometimes we tend to offer food. If they won’t take food we try to have a laugh with them and play around. As soon as they know they’re not going to get a penny out of you they’ll either play along or walk off to try somebody else!
Money Exchange Fees
Scam – This is a quick and easy one, but one that a lot of people forget about in desperate times. Workers will completely switch the rates for a new arrival or add a few digits on the end!
How To Avoid It – 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 that they whack a 5% fee on top of everything.
Locals Over Charging Tourists
Scam – Locals doubling the price of things because the tourist doesn’t understand the currency.
More than a few times we’ve walked into local restaurants that don’t have menus on the table. It’s not until the bill comes that you realise they’ve over charged you. That or you pay the equivalent of £5 for a bottle of water when you first land.
How To Avoid It – After being somewhere a few days and getting your bearings together you should gain a pretty good idea of how much things cost.
Again our best advice is to download the Converter+ app. You can get the currency of your destination lined up ready and calculate the cost of something on the spot. If it seems fishy walk away!
Another trick is to always give the shop owner less than something should cost. We’ve often hand over less for a bottle of water than we know it should be just because we don’t want to hand over a large note.
Scam – Pretty self explanatory but something a lot of backpackers set off with great intentions of avoiding. Although it’s easy to slip up. As soon as you become comfortable and relax a little that’s when the passport will go missing.
Avoiding It – 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 to one of the worst common travel scams!
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 out of their way to gain an extra buck. We’ve met many 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 on backpacking common travel scams!
To check the prices of accommodation or book your hotels in advance, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com here.
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