Scams are a relatively small percentage of traveling, but getting ripped off can totally ruin a fun experience. Even when we had a great time at a place we tend to remember events that leave a bad taste in our mouths such as travel scams. I still remember very well paying three times the fare from the airport to my hotel in Cartagena during my first trip to Colombia, I only found that out later on the trip from the hotel staff.
We should be vigilant and take as much precaution as possible while traveling. Here are some tips to avoid being a victim to travel scams on your next adventure.
1. Use official travel guides
You are on a trip and some guy tells you he can help you get somewhere or guide around the city, a national park or tourist area. Think twice before accepting what seems to be a kind offer. There’s usually some strings attached. And, before this guy might be pressuring you to pay a hefty fee. So, always use an official guide when available, someone with a valid ID. Not only they are usually very knowledgeable, they tend to have your best interest in mind because their job depends on it.
2. Research the area before you go
You don’t need to know every single detail of a place before traveling there but you should have some basic information like what’s the average fare for a cab in the downtown area, the rates from the airport to the hotel, what the area is known for. People sometimes research the excursions and activities of a place without getting a real feel of the destination. Knowledge is power. For example, knowing that an area has a reputation for getting fake bills might make you more cognizant of that during the trip.
3. Compare prices and bargain
As a tourist, you are the perfect prey for crooks. They can gauge the price 3-4 times easily. One way to not get scammed is to compare the prices of different vendors when possible. It’s hard to do that if that’s the first thing you see. In that case, bargain. Smile and bargain. Don’t be too aggressive, and always be willing to walk away. Don’t feel too bad asking for 50% – 60% off. They may say $50 and be willing to accept $20 because the actual price is $10.
4. Don’t gamble on street games
Unless you are willing to make a donation to them, don’t gamble on street games. These games are usually rigged and your chance of winning is extremely low. Sometimes they let you win at first so you can keep playing then you never win again. It might be better to give money to a good cause, like a charity, while traveling than to scammers on the streets.
5. Be mindful of Taxi drivers
This is one of the most popular travel scams, taxi drivers overcharging. With the proliferation of Uber and Lyft, you don’t have to rely on taxi drivers as much but ride sharing options may not available in some locations. Or you might not want to wait for them when a taxi is passing by.
In some places, they switch the bills, then either say you didn’t give them enough (so you can give them more money) or give you fake bills for change. Always repeat the bill aloud while paying. You may have to get into a short argument if you believe you paid the right amount.
6. Know the conversion rates
Failing to know the currency is an easy way to get ripped off. Some countries’ currencies are notoriously hard to figure out. Either use the help of the hotel staff, local friends or use an app to figure out the conversion rates.
7. Always confirm prices beforehand
I was walking on Ocean Drive in Miami South Beach, I saw a couple of people drinking a large and really cool drink. It was probably a super dubber margarita. Then a restaurant staff invited my friends and me inside. Come on it guys, come try one of those, she said. We needed a drink anyway and didn’t think twice before ordering one each. Hey, we are on vacation, I thought to myself, maybe these are $40 each. They cost more than double that amount. Make sure to confirm prices before buying something or taking part in activity while on vacation.
8. If renting a car, check it thoroughly
This may seem obvious but you never know when you might have to prove something, so take photos or a short video of the rental car before getting in it and drive away. Recently, I was in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, while renting the car there was a very visible scratch on the left side by the passenger door. The lady at the car rental clearly saw it, she even tried to wipe it off as if it was just dirt. She was taking notes, I could swear she marked the scratch but supposedly she didn’t. When we brought the car back it was someone else and he said we are responsible for the scratch. Heck no, my first thought was this guy wasn’t ready the notes properly but he insisted the scratch was our fault, then I showed him photos I took of the other employee observing the scratch just two days earlier. He didn’t even look at the photo twice and said we are good to go.
9. Don’t trust strangers
We tend to let our guards down on vacation. It’s time to have a good time and relax. Just like you learned as a kid, don’t trust strangers, especially not with your belongings and money while on vacation. Even when they look nice and act friendly, some people see tourists as prime targets since tourists are only there for a short time and they are unlikely to cross path again. Watch out for people seemingly bumping into you by mistake or overly friendly people. They may just be trying to trick you. The majority of people you meet while traveling are good people and nothing more than for you
The majority of people you meet while traveling are good people and want nothing more than for you to have a good experience at the destination but you are likely to encounter a few unscrupulous ones.
Photo courtesy: Flickr