When it comes to travel, the phrase “forewarned is forearmed” couldn’t be more apt. While visiting new places and cultures can be a rewarding experience, it’s important to remember that tourists are often targets for various kinds of scams. From swindling taxi drivers to deceptive local “guides,” it’s easy to find yourself a victim if you’re not careful. Inspired by stories from a well-known online forum, this post aims to shed light on 13 common travel scams you may have already encountered – and how to avoid them in the future.
1. Pickpockets in Hotspots
While it’s easy to be mesmerized by the views at busy tourist spots or while waiting for public transport, this is prime time for pickpockets. These areas are usually crowded, making it easier for someone to slip their hand into your bag or pocket without you noticing. Pro Tip: Always keep your valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch, especially in crowded places.
2. The Taxi Driver’s Tricks
It might start with the taxi driver insisting that you haven’t paid enough or switching out the large bill you handed over for a smaller one, thereby asking for more money. Pro Tip: Always clarify the cost before starting your journey and consider using reputable ride-sharing services where the fare is predetermined.
3. The Overpriced Bar Scam
Usually seen in parts of Asia, tourists are lured into lesser-known bars and slapped with an exorbitant bill after having just a couple of drinks. Pro Tip: Stick to reputable establishments, especially those busy with locals. If something feels off, it probably is.
4. Athens’ Dishonest Taxi Drivers
In Athens, it’s not uncommon for taxi drivers to claim that certain streets are closed or that the metro is on strike, all in an attempt to elongate your route and, as a result, the fare. Pro Tip: If you hear something suspicious, double-check this information with a local or through a quick online search.
5. The Pushy Street Vendor
If someone approaches you on the street offering to sell you something at an exclusive “tourist rate,” be cautious. More often than not, these items are overpriced trinkets. Pro Tip: If you’re interested in buying local products, go to a reputable shop or market.
6. The “Exclusive” Luxury Items
Beware of local shops claiming to offer “tourist-exclusive” luxury fabrics or clothes. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Pro Tip: For authentic luxury items, it’s always safer to shop at verified retailers.
7. The “Free Gift” Trap
If a stranger tries to give you a bracelet, flower, or CD, be cautious. Accepting it often leads to an immediate request for a “donation.” Pro Tip: Politely decline or be prepared to make a small payment if you do accept.
8. The Fake Police Scam
You might be approached by someone claiming to be a police officer, who finds a mistake in your visa that could be “fixed” for a fee. Pro Tip: Always ask for identification and, if possible, accompany them to the nearest police station for verification.
9. The “Bird Poop” Distraction
Yes, it sounds strange, but some scammers throw substances resembling bird poop on tourists. An accomplice then offers to clean it off, pickpocketing you in the process. Pro Tip: If something like this happens, leave the area immediately and clean yourself up without outside assistance.
10. The Broken Taxi Meter
Entering a taxi only to be told the meter is broken is a classic trick to overcharge passengers. Pro Tip: Know the standard fares in advance or simply find another taxi.
11. The Street-side Distraction
Similar to the “bird poop” scam, friendly locals might strike up a conversation only to distract you while an accomplice pickpockets you. Pro Tip: Be mindful of your belongings while engaging in street conversations.
12. The Dinner Scam
Sometimes, a seemingly friendly local may invite you to dinner at a small, off-the-path restaurant, only to “forget” their wallet, leaving you with an inflated bill. Pro Tip: Be wary of invitations from strangers, especially if they’re a little too insistent.
13. Dining at Odd Hours
Avoid eating at restaurants that are open during non-standard hours, like between 3 pm and 6 pm, as the food is likely not fresh. Pro Tip: Stick to eateries that are bustling with locals, especially during regular meal times.