You’d be surprised at just how many travellers fall victim to scams during their trip, some may seem pretty obvious while others are more likely to catch you out! From fake police to the ‘baby throw’ (yes, you read that correctly) there are a number of travel scams to avoid when travelling and here are our top 10…
Let’s start with one of the main tourist scams, common in South East Asia, particularly in places such as Bangkok near popular tourist attractions. A local will approach you and make small talk, eventually coming to the topic of jewellery. They will then proceed to tell you about a jewel export opportunity, where you can bulk buy gems at a bargain price and sell them back home for a huge profit. If you fall for this scam, they will take payment upfront and arrange for the gems to be shipped to your home address…when you get home & open your package you’ll find the gems are made from plastic or glass and are worthless!
2) Attraction Closed
Beware of ‘helpful’ taxi/tuk-tuk drivers or locals approaching you near tourist attractions and telling you that the attraction you’re planning to visit is closed due to a public holiday, shortly followed by… “There’s another place I can take you, which is much better!” This is all a ruse to get you to another attraction, shop or restaurant where they earn a commission for anything you buy. Nine times out of ten the place you intended on visiting will in fact be open! Politely decline their offer and go see for yourself!
3) Slow Counting
This one is likely to catch out those of you in a rush. When paying for something with a note rather than change, the vendor will count your change extremely slowly and will look confused. This is all in hope that you will eventually get bored of waiting, giving them the opportunity to short change you. Try paying for things with the smaller notes or the right amount of change to avoid this scenario.
4) Dirt on your Shirt
You’re walking along through a busy street, when all of a sudden a patch of dirt will appear on your shirt or jacket. In a matter of seconds, a friendly local will approach and offer to help clean you up. Whilst you are distracted by this ‘Good Samaritan’ their accomplices will pick-pocket you and relieve you of your wallet, phone and other valuables. Politely decline their offer and walk away from them as quickly as possible.
5) Train Pick-Pockets
When travelling on crowded trains you need to keep your wits about you. That person standing a little too close for comfort isn’t necessarily doing so due to a crowded train carriage, this is a common tactic used by pick-pockets on trains and other forms of public transport. As you’re crammed in it can be easy not to notice someone rifling through your pockets and once they get off at the next stop, you’ll most likely find yourself missing a few things.
6) Taxi Fares & Detours
Travelling means experiencing new and unknown places, and some taxi drivers like to exploit this. When you first arrive at your destination it can be hard to gauge how long a journey from one place to the other should take and how much you should expect to pay. You’ll find that some taxi drivers take advantage of tourists, taking them on longer routes to run up higher fares. Try and agree a fare before you start your journey to avoid getting ripped off.
7) Friendship Bracelet
A local gives you an item such as a friendship bracelet or sprig of rosemary, as a gesture of friendship and hospitality. At first this seems like a nice gesture, but it certainly doesn’t come free of charge. After giving you the bracelet, rosemary or trinket they will begin to ask for a small donation or offer other services such as palm readings, then ask for payment. Sometimes they can become quite aggressive and unpleasant, so as with many of the scams on this list…politely decline their offer.
8) The Baby Throw
This one is probably one of the most ludicrous. A woman with a baby will approach you and suddenly throw the baby at you! Whilst you’re in shock and have your hands full, the woman or a team of accomplices will steal your valuables and other belongings. You will then realise that the baby is in fact a doll.
9) Fake Police
Often posing as ‘Tourist Police’ these uniformed scammers will ask to see your passport or documentation and claim there is a problem with it. They will then proceed to bribe you and say that they can make the problem go away for a fee, if you pay it there and then. Another tactic they may use is asking to search you and your bag/wallet. Afterwards you’ll find that you’re missing some of your belongings and cash!
10) Broken Camera
This is a difficult one, as I’m sure we’ve all been asked to take someone’s picture on holiday before! Someone will approach you and ask you to take their picture, but when you look at the camera, it’s not working. When you try and give them their camera back and tell them it’s not working, they will say it was fine before and accuse you of breaking it, then demand you pay for the repairs.
There are many other tourist scams out there, so be cautious during your trip. With a little common sense, you should be able to avoid most of these scenarios. To make your belongings more difficult to steal, we recommend security money belts and hidden wallets.
Rachel has worked for the company for 9 years and as one of our buying team, has a wide knowledge of travel gear. She has travelled in Europe and Southeast Asia, but her dream destination would be South America to experience Carnival in Rio, unleash her inner Attenborough in the Galapagos and sip on Colombian coffee in colonial Cartagena.