Image credit: David Goehring
First of all, even the most seasoned traveler has been scammed at least once, so don’t beat yourself up if it happens to you. Count it as a great story to tell when you get home and an addition to your round of traveling experiences. But if you want to prevent yourself from being taken advantage of, take note of the information below.
Before you leave home, get yourself some insurance against injury and theft. Should you need to make a claim, a police report will need to be filed within 24 hours of the incident. Even if an injury occurs while on the way home, the insurance policy will help with any expenses that could arise during the journey. It is a wise investment.
One of the most deceiving scams that takes place abroad is that of the helpful local. Every travel book and magazine will tell you to be polite and courteous to the local people but do not let this become a trap. Those who are trying to take advantage of the tourist know you have been advised to be polite and will take advantage of it. When you are sure they are trying to scam you, tell them adamantly ‘no’ and walk away. Make no further eye contact with them. You have no obligation to be polite to someone who has already been told a firm but polite ‘no thank you’ and continues to pester you. Continue to walk away and ignore their calls of racist, they will become frustrated and move on.
Before you left home you booked a hotel but as you tell your taxi driver where to go he says that the hotel is closed or dirty or riddled with thieves. Amazingly, he knows of another place that is closer and will be much more comfortable but undoubtedly, the room rates will be higher to include his commission. Do not be swayed by these claims, insist on going to your chosen hotel and make sure he takes you to the correct one. Some drivers will take you to the wrong hotel, insist it is the one you indicated and then you will have to pay even more to be taken (finally) to the right place.
Sometimes a local will push their way in offering help with a map, a ticket machine or even flagging down a taxi. As wonderful as this help may seem in the moment, be assured they will expect a tip in return. Another common occurrence is a street-person approaching you with a special gift that will bring you good luck or great fortune. They will tie the charm around your wrist and stoop down claiming to ‘find’ a ring or other piece of jewelry on the ground. The ring will be offered to you, but in return for a fee. When you don’t pay the fee, they will follow you around saying you robbed them. So no matter how charming it seems, do not accept gifts from beggars.
Taxi drivers sometimes like to charge insane amounts of money for what was supposed to be a relatively short trip. For example, they may not turn on the meter at the start of the journey and when you reach the end, a lump sum (which is always far too high) is charged. Always agree upon a price for the journey before leaving and be very clear about what currency it will be paid in. It is advisable to do so before you or your luggage get in the cab. Also, the forced scenic route can be a common scam. Since you do not know the terrain, the driver may take the long route to your hotel, causing a bigger fee. A good tactic for preventing this scam is to ask the hotel how much a cab ride from the airport to the hotel should cost.
Some people thinking about booking a trip will be completely put off after reading this article but keep in mind, this is just what to be aware of. You be cautious and make efforts not to put yourself in harms way, nothing will happen to you. Visiting a foreign country can be a hugely rewarding experience and well worth the trouble. Just do not go in wearing rose-colored glasses.