Travel Smart: 5 Scams To Avoid
By Danielle Pointdujour
When planning a trip, it’s so easy to get caught up researching local attractions and fun activities—but there is more to planning a trip than visits to tourist attractions. Scam artists prey on the starry-eyed tourists who let their guard down and often play on the traveler’s kind and trusting nature, desire to save on holiday purchases and lack of local knowledge. Nothing can ruin a trip faster than getting scammed out of your hard saved travel funds, but if you keep your eye out for these five travel scams, you’ll make sure your next trip is hassle free.
Picture it. You’re roaming around a local souk looking slightly lost and kind person comes up to you offering directions or sightseeing advice when, suddenly, he or she ties a woven bracelet around your wrist in a double knot then demands payment. If you refuse, the scammer starts yelling that you’re stealing the bracelet and basically attempts to scare you into paying them. Seems so silly, but it happens more often than you think. Be wary of overly friendly people offering services you neither want nor need and tell them to remove the bracelet before you call the police.
Tricky Taxi Drivers
If you thought taxi drivers in NYC had tricks up their sleeves, think again. Unfortunately for all the good ones, cab drivers have a bad rep for ripping travelers off and it’s not uncommon for travelers to pick up a bad seed (even from the airport)! Some of the most common tricks drivers play: inflating fares or telling passengers their selected hotel/bar/restaurant is closed, (but they always know a better one just down the road). Many taxi scam artists will refuse to turn their meters on and try to tell you that they are off shift so they can’t turn it on. Lies! Always travel in licensed cabs and if possible, agree on a fixed fare. Also, insist on going to your original destination and see if it is actually closed for yourself. If all else fails, have the local police number handy.
Drink & Ditch
Although the nightlife in a new city can be amazing, one wrong move can leave you broke. The basics of the drink and ditch scam involve a traveler, usually male, being approached by local women (sometimes a group of seemingly friendly women) who invite him for a round of drinks at a local bar. After a few beverages the locals are gone and the traveler is left with a ridiculously large bill!
This is a scam that actually caught a friend of mine during our trip to Spain last year. You’ve just arrived at an amazing site and are happily snapping away, trying to get that winning shot, when a local in costume or someone with an intriguing prop shows up and offers to pose for a photo. You think this costumed funny guy is just being friendly, but what he really wants to make friends with is your wallet. Once the photo has been taken he or she will demand a crazy amount of money from you. Even worse, if the person in costume has a partner who took the picture he might not return your camera until you’ve paid up big time. To be safe, just take your own pictures.
Shine Bright Like A Fake Diamond
This has got to be one of the oldest tricks in the book, but sucker tourists fall for it every time. En route to your official destination, a taxi driver will offer to take you to stores where there are “deals” that are literally too good to be true. After getting you to purchase “high-priced” or desirable items such as leather goods or rare jewels, you arrive back to your hotel and discover that your “jewels” may be nothing more than polished glass. Lesson here….just say no!
Armed with a fully stamped passport, Danielle has been called “The Hotel Whisperer” for her strategic engagement of some of the top hospitality brands in the world. In addition to being an Editor for Travel Noire, her travel writing has appeared on sites such as EBONY, JET, Parlour Magazine and Clutch. In short...she's awesome.