What are the Most Common Travel Scams and How to Avoid Them

Travel scams are becoming rampant.

Online or at the destination itself; it’s easy for an unsuspecting tourists to become victims of some of the most common travel scams. Their modus are becoming more clever and tricky, and if one is not vigilant enough, a dream vacation might end up becoming a nightmare.

Here is a compilation of the most common travel scams, and what can be done to avoid them.

travel scams
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One thing you are likely to do when you initially enter a country is take a taxi. Even that has been turned into one of the common travel scams in a lot of countries. And there are several tricks some drivers use to try and scam you.

Getting a Taxi (the meter is broken)

Airport cab drivers will tell you that their having technical issue with their cab meter and that if you want, they can charge you a fixed price – a fixed price that is often high. If you don’t know what is the usual amount of rate per meter of the taxi in the country you’re in, you’ll end up scammed the first time you set foot at your destination. Never fall for this type of travel scam.

What you can do to avoid it:

You’re probably used to jumping in the cab first then negotiate, but in some countries, better to check if the meter is working first before you get inside the cab. If the driver proposes to negotiate the fare and tell you that it’s much cheaper if he doesn’t use a meter, get out. Find another taxi. Do a bit of research about transportation at your destination, public transport is recommended but that depends on your arrival time. Sometimes you also just want to get where you are going faster. There are many taxi apps with reputable companies in most countries, so a quick look around the internet can save you money and a headache.

On the way to the hotel (Overbooked hotel)

This still involves cab drivers. They’ll tell you that your preferred hotel is booked out and would suggest you another hotel instead without you even knowing that the driver makes money out of you through a commission that they receive from the hotel.

What you can do to avoid it

Stick to your destination, tell him you already made a reservation even if you haven’t. Not many people travel these days without making a reservation ahead of time. In my backpacking days, I used to just show up at a hostel and book a dorm room. Now, with Airbnb, I tent to book ahead of time.

Still, at the hotel (Fake wake up call)

This is usually done in the middle of the night or at an inconvenient time for you so that you may not be thinking a lot about what is happening. They’ll call you and ask that you confirm some details about the card you used to pay them. The reality is, they are trying to steal your credit card details.

What you can do to avoid it

Never give out your credit card details via phone to anyone you don’t really know. If you receive such a call, tell them that you’ll go yourself to the front desk first thing in the morning to confirm the details they need.

Heading to the tourist attraction (Sorry, it’s closed)

An English speaking local will approach to inform you that the tourist attraction that you want to go to is closed for a no. of reasons, and will offer you to go to this and that place. Another worst thing is that the place may be too pricey and or you purchase something you don’t really need or want and was just pressured to buy.

What you need to do to avoid it:

Thanked the local but ignore what he said. Try to ask others and see for yourself if it’s really closed or not. If they have a website, have a look, closing and opening information can be found there.

At the tourist attraction (Group Photo Offer)

You: What a nice view, it’s a shame to not have pictures and it would be better if I and my friends are complete in the photo.

And then someone offered a nice gesture take group photo of all of you. The last thing you know, the person who took the photo has gone with your hard-earned camera.

What you need to do to avoid it:

Still risky, but this is less risky. Instead of saying yes to someone who offered to take pictures of you, say no and thanked him for the nice gesture, then you do the asking yourself to other fellow tourist and in return, you’d do the same for him/her.

Heading to and from the attractions (Fake Transpo Tickets)

Could be a bus, train or even plane tickets. Picture this: So you’re in line to buy tickets. Then someone offered you to buy tickets from him. Aside from avoiding the long lane, you also get to buy tickets at a discount. It’s last minute when you get to noticed/figured out that the tickets are faked and the person who sold you the tickets have gone in the wind.

What you can do to avoid it

Just say ‘no’, period. Buy transportation tickets from the ticketing office even if it means having to wait in a long line.

In the streets of your destination (Disabled/Child Beggars)

This modus is everywhere. They use disabled, child beggars and even pregnant women to ask for any amount of money. Little did you know that they’re just getting your attention and you’ve been pickpocketed by an accomplice nearby.ย 

What you can do to avoid it:

It’s heartbreaking to see people like them begging, but if you really want to help them, give them food instead. But be wary of your belongings.

You’re in a city, a big city (Fake Police Officers)

This is one of the most dangerous travel scams, so please be really careful. Someone will approach you offering or handing you illegal items like drugs. Then a police officer will appear (complete with uniforms and badges) asking for your passport and wallet only to find out in the end, they’re fake.

What you need to do to avoid it

Never ever hand them over your passport or your wallet. Ask for their identification ( a true policeman will not hesitate to show it to you). If they insist to get your passport, tell them you don’t have it with you and that they can accompany you to the hotel to get your passport. If they refuse, just walk away!

Connect to the internet (Modus: Fake Wifi connections)

So you need to connect to the internet and there is an unlocked wifi you can freely connect. Guess what? These hubs might be dangerous and if you’re lucky, you might end up compromising your delicate online details i.e. your passwords, online accounts etc.

What you can do to avoid it:

Just don’t be tempted to connect to those unsecured wifi hubs. There’s no harm in asking the hotel/airport/mall/coffee shop personnel what is their official wifi connection.

In the streets (Modus: Free rosemary/bracelets)

Actually, it’s not just rosemary or bracelets, this is for anything they can put on your body. Once they’ve successfully put it on you, they will demand money. And if you refused? They’ll make a scene, something you won’t like.

What you can do to avoid it

Just don’t allow them to put anything on you even if they insist it’s free. If they successfully did, just take it off and tell them firmly to stop. Walk away and then move on. That’s it!

Here are at least 10 of the most common travel scams that you should be careful of. There are still a lot out there, more clever and trickier. But if you’re careful, wary and prepared, scammers won’t get in the way of your dream vacation. Knowledge is power, as they say, you’re lucky if you know this common travel scams and what you need to do to avoid them. ย 

Have you been scammed before? If so, comment below and tell us the travel scam experience that you had.

Tate Nanje is an Author and blogger who has been traveling the world since 2009. He teaches English, Business, and Crypto investing: Buy e-book Now


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