Travelling, exploring and trying new things is great and everything, but at the same time, it’s important to not be naive when it comes to new places. Cynicism sucks, but it might just save you from losing your laptop, wallet and valuables all in one fell swoop. There’s a whole world of travel scams that ill-prepared people like you and me might fall prey to, and it obviously makes you feel like total shit.
To that end, here’s a list of some of the most common travel scams!
1. The cab driver telling you your planned hotel is very expensive or very bad
A lot of the times, the driver of the cab you take from the airport or station will have a few choice words about where you plan to stay, and none of them good. He might tell you your hotel has a bad reputation, or that he knows one that’s way cheaper. This is because this other hotel probably gives him a commission to make these referrals. Don’t fall for it!
2. The cab driver telling you a certain place is closed or overbooked
Another extremely common way to take advantage of tourists, the cab driver may tell you a certain area is closed or every place there is totally booked and that he knows a different and better place. Go check for yourself though, because usually they’re just acting on their commissions again, hoping to take you somewhere else that’s already paid them.
3. The cab driver telling you the meter is broken
Another extremely common and infuriating scam, this one involves the driver telling you the meter is broken a little way into the trip, and then charging you an insane amount. To avoid this, negotiate prices beforehand, or find out if there are any local buses or other transport options available.
4. A stranger spilling something on your clothes in order to pickpocket you
This might not be very frequent in India, but in places in Europe, it’s pretty common. Someone passing by or hiding above will spill something on you. Another ‘friendly’ stranger then starts helping you by wiping off the stain, all the while stealing your wallet. Avoid this by not interacting with overtly friendly strangers.
5. A stranger ties a ‘free’ bracelet on you and then demands you pay for it
Very common in Italy and France, especially Montmarte in Paris, this scam starts with a very friendly stranger tying a bracelet on your arm. They then demand you pay for it, and start screaming that you’re trying to steal from them. In India, it’s usually kids or holy men tying red string on your wrist. Best thing to do is to avoid locals who are too friendly.
6. A stranger steals your luggage at the airport security check
In this trick, a person will usually cut ahead of you in the line for security check at the airport, setting off the alarm because they ‘forgot’ something in their wallets. Meanwhile, their accomplice will steal your luggage, which has already gone through the scanner. To avoid this, always keep your luggage with your until you’re ready to go through security.
7. A pickpocket steals your belongings during a street show
Highly common in London, there have been several reports of street shows involving magic and the like where pickpockets steal your wallets and cash while you’re distracted by the show. Keep your necessities well within reach, and check on them every few seconds!
8. Stealing from the luggage compartments during overnight buses
There have been many cases of this reported in cheap overnight buses in Thailand. Apparently, workers rummage through the luggage in the night to steal valuables. To avoid this, keep your cash, wallet and other important things on your person at all times.
9. Pickpockets near famous tourist destinations
This one is as common as it gets. The world over, whether it’s the Louvre or Qutab Minar, tourists are always told to keep their valuables close. Pickpockets throng these places, and it’s only gotten more aggressive in recent years.
10. Asking for money for fake damage on rental bikes
Another easy scam, especially in places like Goa, a bike and scooty rental might ask you to pay to repair some of the damage on the bike you rented when you return it, even though it was already there and you never noticed it. Just take pictures and make sure of the damage on the bike before you take it out on the road, so you have proof.
Prevent a nasty surprise while on holiday. Be alert, be wary and have a good time!