There are many common travel scams. I have learned the hard way. Here are 9 travel scams that I have experienced, and that you should avoid on your next trip.
1. The friendship bracelet
A very common scam while travelling, is that someone approach you, and offer you a bracelet. Regardless of what you say, they will try to put it on your wrist, and thereafter ask for payment.
This happened to me in Hong Kong. I met two German girls at the hostel, and I joined them to the “Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery”. At the entry, we were met by two monks that gave a simple bracelets to each one of us saying it was for good luck. “How much those it cost” one of the German girls asked the monks. “Whatever you want” one of the monks answered. She give him one dollar. Getting the response from the monk “No, no, for good luck. 20 USD”. I was without any money, and gave back the bracelet they had handed me. I also felt that this was not right and that the bracelets were way overpriced! However, I was thinking, that maybe this was the entry fee to the park? They tried to force the bracelet back to me, while the two other girls paid the 20 USD. As I refused, the monks was trying to convince the two other girls to pay for me or make me pay. Then one of the German girl look up. And there behind us there was a sign saying: Caution! Free commission to our Monastary. Real monks wouldn’t walk around begging. Please ignore them or call the police if you are harassed by the fake monks.
Furthermore the German girl reacted by saying “I changed my mind. Give back my money!” She pointed on the sign. “If not I will call the police”, she continued while ripping out the money she had given from the fake monks hand. They got afraid and gave back the money to the other girl too, and disappeared right away on two expensive motorbikes that was hidden behind a small building.
2. Stain on your jacket
Another normal scam, is that someone will purposely spill something on your clothes or on your body. They do this when they for example accidently bump into you. However, this is for distract you, or offer you to clean it, while they steal whatever you have on you.
While going to the marked in Bolivia with my husband, I felt something disgusting and wet on my hand. I continued to walk without looking down to see what it was, knowing that I was in a bad area. Then a couple of guys closed the road for my husband that was behind me. He started to yell at them, and they let him pass. We walked for get away from the crowd, before I said to him that I had something on my hand. “They spit on you, for distract you, so they could rob you while holding me”, he said, and cleaned the spit with his t-shirt. They did not manage to steel anything. Also, I did not have anything valuable with me, as I have learned the hard way, being robbed in that specific marked before.
The same thing had apparently happen to my husband’s dad too. Where they spilled on his jacket for steel his wallet. A friend from Germany experience that they threw coca-leaves on him, which distracted him, while they stole his last model IPhone.
3. The expensive Taxi driver
While new in town, some taxi drivers will take advantage of your lack of knowledge about the area. They will take longer routes, side streets and routes with a lot of traffic for the taxi trip to cost much more. Some even have meters, where the rate increases at a much faster rate than normal.
This have happened to me several times, in different places around the world, while travelling. After learning the hard way, I always check the taxi rate from the airport before arriving to a new place.
If I am already in the city, I always ask in advance how much it will cost to the place I am going. Making sure that we understand each other.
4. Rose for your girlfriend
In bigger cities, a man will often approach you while you are with your girlfriend. He offers her a rose. He will then ask you to pay for it at an extortionate price, and make you feel like a bad boyfriend if you refuse!
I have been offered these roses many times when I am with my husband. However, I have never accepted these roses. That being said, I have observed others accepting the rose, and been put in the difficult situation, and kind of forced to buy an overpriced rose.
5. Bumping into you in crowed places
In places where there are many people, be aware of persons that bump into you. I have been robbed two times this way. Both times in Bolivia. First time, in a marked full of people someone bumping into me from the back, taking a bag that was inside my backpack. Money, credit card, cell phone was stolen. The second time it happened in the airport, while welcoming and hugging my parents that visited.
This also often happen in buses and trains where there are many people.
6. The store scam
Another common scam is that a friendly local starts up a conversation, and invite you to visit a relative’s store for a great deal. Alternatively, your guide, tuk-tuk, or taxi driver insists on that you will find incredible deals if you just stop at a specific store on the way. Everyone wins on this, except you. Usually, they get a commission for bringing people to look.
In south East Asia this happens all the time. In India, I was bargaining with my tuk-tuk driver/ guide for take me to three different places. He said, “Ok I will give it to you for that price. But then we have to stop at two stores. Do not buy anything, just go in look at some stuff. Because I get a commission everything I bring someone”. I went in and looked in the stores without buying anything. There were full of overpriced things, with low quality.
In Crete we were on the way to explore the local marked, while we were stopped by some very friendly Scandinavians. They asked us if we wanted to be a part of a free lottery. I being 14 years at that time was maybe the most eager to participate. While we all got a lottery ticket, my sister won. Making every one of the staff jumping around of joy. It looked like a big deal that she won. A taxi came right away, and we were pushed inside the car. Because the only way she could get her big price, was to go and get it at a hotel 10 minutes away. At the hotel, were we were greeted by a young woman. For hours we had to follow her around the hotel, to the beach, the pool and so on. Then we were taken to an office. Where she continued talking about how wonderful the hote was.
When we finally understood that this was all a scam, and that they tried to sell us timeshare in that hotel, my dad got very upset. He told strictly to the young lady: “You wasted a whole day of our vacation”. The girl started to cry, and her boss had to come. It was all pretty chaotic. However, they did not manage to sell a timeshare to us. They called a taxi that drove us back to the city.
Being in other very touristic places, I have seen the same program. However, I never fell for the scam again.
8. The overly helpful local
A very common scam around the world, is a nice man that speaks your language and offer to help you. It can be helping you with a confusing ATM, while he memorize your pin.
Though this have never happened to me, I have been tricked by an overly helpful local.
The first morning in Havana, a nice helpful man that talked English came and offered to show me around the city. He demonstrated pictures with Norwegians, and got my confidence. He showed me around, and the trip was nice. However, afterwards he said, “Let’s go and eat”. I responded with saying that I was not that hungry, and that I wanted to try the local pizzas they had on the street. But got a response that they taste like crap, and that I should be trying to eat real Cuban food instead. I followed him unwillingly. We went to a restaurant, which was locked. We were the only costumers there. The waiter gave us the menu, without any prices. He ordered lobster, me chicken. Afterwards the bill came. It was over 20 USD for each dish. In Cuba! More than in Norway. He left me to pay the bill.
9. The fake ticket
Fake tickets are sold all over the world. When arriving to New Dehli, me and a guy from the Netherlands that I met on the plane, decided to travel together into the city. While we were outside at the airport a local man starting to talk to us. We though there was a subway, however, he said no. As well did the other local people around. He offered us a very cheap taxi to the city. We said yes, and he joined the taxi, though he was not the driver. Which was for very weird. We asked to be driven to a specific hotel.
On the way to the hotel, it was a blockade. They said there were no way to get to that hotel, so they were going to drive us to the tourist information center for ask what we could do. When we arrived to what was supposed to the official tourist information center, the first thing we reacted on was the smell and how bad the office looked like.
On the way in, we met an angry young guy from Holland. As my friend as well was from the Netherlands they started talking in Dutch. The guy had be tricked while buying a train ticket at this fake tourist office for 10 times more than it was supposed to cost. And on top of it all, the ticket was fake.
Have you ever experienced a scam on your travels? Is there a story you want to share for warn people and make them aware?