Travel scams are one of those unpleasant situations that travelers have to face and learn to avoid. I’ll talk a little about the most common travel scams and the times I’ve fallen into the trap. Some situations I’ve seen and experienced personally and others are common scams of which I have heard.
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People asking for money
Although there are people who have a real economic need, there are also many who only want to take advantage of the tourists. That’s why it’s normal to see beggars near train and bus stations. There may also be other types of scammers in these areas, such as those who offer for currency exchange, so be cautious
On one occasion a man approached us begging for us to support him because he needed to complete the price of his bus ticket. Unfortunately, we did give him some coins, before we learned our lesson. They might tell you a sad story of how they have run out of money or that they need to get somewhere.
Also on another occasion, at the bus station in Brussels, a woman approached us asking for money. You know, with the suffering face and voice. This time, our heart was not moved and we didn’t give her anything. Before our bus departs, we took a walk around the area and saw the woman again. She was talking on the phone with a better smartphone than mine!
It’s amazing how they become multilingual to talk to tourists in their language. Near the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba in Spain, we found some gypsies (I think) asking for money in English 😮
Your signature for a good cause
I have experienced these travel scams twice, once in Paris and once in Florence. It’s usually a group of young people in places frequented by tourists asking for signatures. In Paris, it was in the Tuileries Garden, opposite the Louvre. In Florence, it was at the Santa María Novella station.
They approach you asking for a signature for some good cause, refugees, famine, etc. Anyway, on my first trip, I did sign. Then they ask you for a donation. And they press you and intimidate you so once you’ve signed, you end up giving them some coins.
The truth it freaks you out because you are in a country that is not yours and even you might feel bad if you don’t give a donation. Later, thinking well it’s obvious that it’s not for any good cause. So dear friends, do not give them a dime, do not be intimidated. And if you see them better keep walking without stopping.
The rosemary sprig and other “gifts”
Another of the most common travel scams in Europe are the people who offer you a gift. For example, in Granada Spain, we met the gypsies again. We were walking down a street, near the cathedral, and a woman gave us a rosemary sprig. It was our first trip and we were also distracted. They practically throw themselves on you and put the twig in your hand, they grab your hand to read it and then they ask you for money. They harassed us by several streets, even though we kept walking, they didn’t stop until we gave them some coins. The truth, sometimes it’s scary.
If you haven’t yet read about my experience in Granada you can do it in this link 10 places to visit in Granada Spain. A mini guide
In these cases, there is no other solution than being rude. In the first moment that we see them approaching we say no and keep walking. They wanted to do the same to us on a second occasion (in another trip), but we said no and we walked faster. For women, it’s more difficult to be impolite, but believe me, with this type of people it’s the only thing that works.
In Paris, on the steps of the Sacre Cœur, a man approached me to give me a toy. I don’t know what they were exactly, he was throwing it into the air. Of course, I moved quickly and did not take anything. I didn’t know if it was a scam or not, but better safe than sorry.
Well, selling a bad product is not exclusive to travel scams. But it usually happens more if you don’t know the city or the fraudulent business.
This happened to me in Florence, although now that I think about it it was my fault for not using common sense. I bought a charger for my tablet from one of those vendors who spread their things on the sidewalks. The price, of course, was good and he told me that if I had a problem I could go back and change it. Obviously, being able to move his “store” he was not going to stay there, right? Well, long story short, the bloody thing didn’t work and I lost my money. Maybe it’s not always like that, but you have to be careful anyway.
There are also those who sell imitations like handbags and other leather goods. In Venice, I saw how a couple of men picked up their items from the floor and quickly hid them when the police approached. Many times cheap can be costly, do not buy with these people.
Besides the travel scams, there are other things about traveling that I don’t like much. Find it out in this link 10 bad things about traveling
High fares in taxis
Another of the most common travel scams is when the taxi drivers charge you hight fares because they know you are a tourist. Honestly, I hate it because it happens very often and almost anywhere in the world. That’s why Uber has become so popular. Unfortunately Uber is not available in every city.
I’ve used the taxi as little as possible, and almost always asked how much they will charge us before getting in. If the price is not convincing you can ask more than one taxi driver, you might meet someone honest. When they have a meter, verify that they keep it turned on. Even with a meter, I know that some manage to swindle tourists.
People who offer to help you and then want to charge you
It hasn’t happened to me in Europe, but I know that in countries like India or Morocco it’s very common. Always or almost always, we will need guidance from the local people. Some of these scammers will come close if they see you lost and will offer to help you. Then they will ask you to pay for it.
If someone approaches you, don’t accept their offer to help you. Or if you ask someone for help, tell them you don’t have money and that you’ll not pay anything. Listen to your intuition, if inside you feel that something is not right is because it’s not right.
Once, looking for our hotel in Bordeaux, we were on a bus and didn’t know where to get off. We were lost and a very friendly man approached us asking us questions. He told us that he was from the Philippines and he started asking me where we are from, our plans, and so. I innocently answered, but my most suspicious husband beckoned me to be silent. At that time we got off the bus. Now that I think about it, it was weird so much kindness and all those questions. We probably escaped from a scam or something worse.
You can read more about my bad experience in Bordeaux in this link Storytime: Bordeaux when everything went wrong.
People who take you to stores to sell you something
Also, it happens that some people offer to help you if you are lost and it turns out that they take you to a store for you to buy. It’s not common in Europe, although perhaps on some tours it does happen that they take you to shops where the guides will receive commissions
Pickpockets fall into travel scams category because they do it without violence (although scams are a way of stealing). Usually, someone distracts you (or in crowded places) and they steal either your wallet or your mobile. It has never happened to me and I hope not to experience it but I know it’s common in Europe.
Take precautions such as not having your phone or wallet in sight or in an accessible place. Never carry them in the back pocket of your pants. If you bring backpacks, carry them in the front. You know, a little common sense and to be attentive to your surroundings.
Other travel scams
Thank God nothing serious has happened to me or that it implies a great loss. But I know there are more aggressive and intimidating travel scams.
For example, people posing as police to ask for your documents or your wallet and steal from you. Sometimes they can be real cops, which is even worse. Always ask them first for an ID or that they take you to the police station to fix the problem (probably not real).
Fake staff at your hotel
It’s also possible that there are people posing as hotel staff to have access to your belongings. Or that they call your room requesting bank details with the excuse that there is a problem with your card. It’s best to always check the situation at the reception desk or with someone in charge.
the fake tickets
Sometimes they sell you cheaper tickets or they offer them so you don’t have to wait in line. These people dress in uniform to cheat you. In the end what they sell will be fake and useless but they will have kept your money. That’s why you always have to buy tickets or transport tickets at the official ticket offices.
Once someone offered us tickets for The Accademia Gallery in Venice. He couldn’t use them for some reason and we bought them from him. I don’t know if it was supposed to be a scam or not, but we didn’t have any problem and nothing happened. We didn’t pay more or anything strange. But thinking better it was a mistake. We don’t have to be so naive.
If you want to know more travel scams to be extra cautious, check this link with 40 scams
Precautions to avoid falling into travel scams.
There are many ways in which we can be victims of travel scams. When we travel, we don’t know the place and the people so we are easy targets. But there are also some precautions that we can take to avoid travel scams and protect our integrity.
Knowledge is power.
Be well informed about visa and immigration requirements. There are some countries where immigration agents apply a charge on the border. Sometimes these payments are a deception, or you have already paid and you are not aware. Also get enough information related to your hotel and its address. Research as much as you can about the city you are going to visit. For example, public transport, schedules and official prices of the places that you plan to visit. This way you’ll not be deceived
Be a little suspicious
Especially of the excessive kindness or people who ask many questions. Don’t give important information or tell your plans or the name of the hotel where you are staying. Don’t provide your bank details until you are sure that you’re dealing with the official staff of your hotel.
Don’t give money to beggars.
I know that sometimes we have a soft heart and we want to help the world. But many times they only take advantage of us. Besides, sometimes behind the beggars, there are real mafias. In some cities and countries, it’s even illegal to give them money. So better avoid it. People who ask money for real charitable causes will not intimidate you or press you to donate.
Let’s use common sense
Use common sense and don’t take unnecessary risks. Avoid bringing too much money in the wallet, or open it too much when paying. Do not bring cell phones or wallets on visible or accessible places. Keep your jewelry or other valuable items out of sight. And listen to your inner voice when it tells you that something is not right
That travel scams do not prevent you from traveling
Above all, do not let bad experiences or fear prevent you from traveling. At least, of the experiences I have had, there has been nothing serious to regret. And I’ve also been learning from my mistakes. As I said, take precautions and always be attentive to your surroundings. And if you get scammed, it’s not the end of the world either. You will learn for sure from the experience and it won’t happen again.
Now I would like you to tell me about your own experiences in the comments section. Have you been a victim of the travel scams? Or, everything has been smooth on your trips? Do you know someone who has been scammed? If you have any advice you can also share it with us.
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