Thanks to the low cost airlines and our ability to book flights from the comfort of our homes, or even on the go from our cell phones, flying is becoming more and more accessible to all.
However, the trip may end up costing more than you expected if you don’t research a bit about basic expenses like the cost of a subway ticket or the taxes in the country you’re going to visit. If you read blogs and forums from other travelers before heading on your trip you can even see some of the unfortunate experiences in a particular city or country.
Today we want to help you out with a list of scams and rip-offs you need to be on the look out for while traveling and how to avoid them, because even the best of holidays can be ruined if one of them happens to you.
What do we mean by scam? Unfortunately there are many related to tourism and most rip-offs take advantage of the ignorance, or just general lack of being informed, we’re all guilty of when we visit a new city.
To help you avoid them, we have divided the travel scams into 3 categories: those that take place in the street, on public transport and online scams. Some refer to pickpocketing and others are about misleading offers or being ripped-off just for being a tourist.
1. Counterfeit money at the currency exchange. Exchanging money on the street may seem convenient, but it´s not the best option. To prevent fraud like counterfeit money or the wrong amount, the safest option is to go to a store specialized in money exchange and know what the current exchange rate is.
2. Tricks and street games. This type of scam can be seen in cities like London, Barcelona or Paris. What happens is the attention of passersby is diverted by a person that does “magic tricks” or the classic game of an item being hidden under one of three cups. While the onlookers are distracted, a pickpocketer robs the spectators.
3. The friendship bracelet. The rip-off is simple, someone puts a bracelet made out of string around your wrist and says it is a “free” friendship bracelet. If you keep it, the person then demands you pay them for it. It is a common practice in Paris, Rome and Milan.
4. Convincing to go to a different hotel. If you arrive at the airport or train station and someone comes to ask you what hotel you will be staying at, proceed with caution. Besides the fact that you shouldn’t tell a stranger this information, many times the person just wants to do a bit of “business”. If you fall into this trap, they will tell you that the hotel you chose is closed or full and they will try to get you to go to a different one where they most likely get paid commision to bring unsuspecting tourists.
1. Special prices for tourists. Sometimes simply looking like a tourist is enough to fall victim to being sold tickets for transportation that most likely are much more expensive than the actual price. In this case, the best option is to know how much public transportation costs in the city you are visiting. Another good option is to ask locals.
2. Pickpockets in the metro / subway / underground. Unfortunately, in big cities where there is an underground transportation system there are many problems with pickpockets. These people are experts in their “profession”, so you have to be especially careful to keep track of your belongings at all times. They have various tricks to rob you: sneaking up behind you as you board, taking advantage of crowds to reach into your purse or pocket, and even creating a rucous to distract you.
3. The fake tourist. No need to travel to be a victim of this scam, since it is made up of people who pretend to be tourists in need of help. While you are giving the “tourist” directions, their partner in crime comes along and pickpockets you.
4. Illegal taxis or without taximeters. This happens worldwide, although in some cities it is easier to spot illegal taxis, or they have more stringent legislation that requires them to have a license on display. However, dishonest taxi drivers can trick the meter in many ways, like by applying the most expensive rates at the wrong time of day. To avoid this, make sure you are informed in advance about official taxi fares. You can read more about taxi tips and etiquette in our Europe taxi guide.
Online Scams While Booking Holidays
1. Rent a vacation home that’s booked or doesn’t exist. Don’t trust outrageously cheap prices that seem too good to be true. Make sure you investigate the website to see if it is legitimate, to do this user reviews are very helpful. Another option to make sure the holiday home you rented exists is to look at competitor websites to see if the same ad is there or directly on Google Maps.
2. Fake websites. If you can’t find contact details (phone, email, social network accounts) anywhere on the website, avoid booking because if there is a problem you will have no way to complain.
3. Fake travel agencies. There have been many cases of “new” travel agencies that offer amazing discounts. They are companies that are online temporarily, long enough to attract customers, and then they mysteriously disappear. Before you buy from these scam online travel agencies, with deals that are too good to be true, you should research the company and read user reviews.