11 Most Common Travel Scams In The World And How To Avoid Them


Mikhaella •  May 29, 2017

Traveling has a lot of positive perks! You get to experience exciting new things in succession - that exhilarating feeling of stepping on foreign soil, being greeted by a season you’ve never encountered, perhaps seeing and touching snow for the very first time, discovering new dishes to tantalise your palate, and of course, interacting with lovely locals ?

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However, we’re here to gently remind you that not all traveling experiences are like a bed of roses. You might find yourself abruptly wrenched away from an Instagram-perfect holiday and into a horror movie nightmare if you aren’t careful. To ensure of your safety, here are the most common scams around the globe that you should be wary of while you're on your travels ?

1. The Taxi Trickery

Manipulating meter fares, sneakily taking longer routes, lying that your hotel has been shut down for months so they can bring you to another hotel where they receive commissions; these are some of the ploys devious taxi drivers pull on innocent holidaymakers ?  The worst is when a bunch of drivers form their own mafia gang and take over a whole area, driving away the honest cabbies to less touristy spots!

How to avoid this? If you’ve just arrived at the airport, and all the taxi drivers quote you ridiculously expensive fares, go to a counter and get a fixed fare voucher to your hotel from an established taxi company instead!

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If you have to get in an independent taxi, pay attention to the meter and turn on a maps application to check that your driver is not taking a longer route. Alternatively, you can book a trip from a ride-service application such as Uber or Grab if they are available in that city?

Found in: Malaysia, Vietnam, Italy, Malta, Estonia

2. The Free Friendship Gift

In some towns, stragglers or gypsies in the main square will approach you with a free trinket, saying it's a gift to signify friendship. This may be a stalk of flower, a sprig of rosemary or even a bracelet that they wrap around your wrist.

Once you're holding the gift they'll demand for payment, and surprise surprise! If you turn away, they will follow you with raised voices and make a huge scene.

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How to avoid this? Know what’s coming by looking around and ignore the attempts to give you something you don’t want or need! Keep your hands in your pockets and your bags away from stragglers, as they will try to find a place to slip their item onto your person?

Found in: Europe, Egypt, India, Indochina

3. The Shoe Shiner

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Another similar tactic is the shoe shiner! A man sitting on the sidewalk will drop his brush in front of a passerby. As the passerby picks it up he thanks them by shining their shoes. After this is done, the seemingly free act of gratitude becomes a service you must pay for.

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Found in: Istanbul

How to avoid this? Feel welcome to help people, but do be wary of accepting favours in return?

4. The Unidentifiable Spill On Your Clothes

Credit: Caribb on Flickr

You happen to be doing touristy stuffs like taking a hundred selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower, and then you feel a splash on your shoulder. Out of nowhere comes a couple shouting loudly “Oh no it’s bird poop!” as they dab energetically all over your body with large handkerchiefs.

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The people who are helping you get the substance off are usually the ones who spilled it onto you in the first place. Check your belongings after the commotion, as people have found their wallets empty and their passports missing!

Found in: Spain, South America

How to avoid this? Be alert while you're sightseeing so no one can come close and spill something onto you! If it happens, keep a good grip on your personal belongings and try to get away from the culprit as soon as possible☺️

5. The Helpful Bystander

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Buying tickets from a machine can sometimes be confusing, especially if the display shows up in a different language! Sometimes kind bystanders will offer to help you but some may not have such good intentions? Hovering next to the machine while giving you instructions, they might steal your credit card pin number and your card after the transaction, so do be aware!

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Another tactic is by helping you buy the tickets directly at the machine, and then quickly switching your expensive all-week ticket with a much cheaper child’s ticket. When the conductor makes the checks on the train, you end up having to pay a fine on top of having to buy a new ticket!

Found in: Europe

How to avoid this? Always look for an official metro staff or go to the counter if you have trouble purchasing tickets on your own.

6. The Unbelievable Discounts

If you're following tour groups in a country, you'll usually find a day in the itinerary which is dedicated to shopping! This includes an entire day spent at a specific line-up of specialty shops, including jewelry stores?

Credit: WBUR Boston's News on Flickr

It begins with elaborate explanations of how to tell real jewellery from fake ones. To everyone’s delight, a small free gift of a ‘genuine’ grade is then given out. Next, the shopkeeper will announce massive discounts for the high-end items and a buying frenzy ensues, with friends even borrowing money from each other so they won’t miss out on owning authentic pieces! We all know how we can get when there’s a flash sale ?

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The sad part comes when these customers come upon the very same items in a flea market days later, but only that it's being sold at a much cheaper price!

Credit: gill_penney on Flickr 

Found in: China

So how can you avoid this? Be sensible, don't forget your research and compare prices at a few shops before deciding to buy something!

#HHWT Tip: Tour guides usually bring their group to the cheap markets on the very last day.

7. The Overly Friendly Folks

Sometimes, friendly locals will call out to you on the streets and you will be impressed that they'd recognise your nationality. They’ll invite you to their shop for tea by saying they have a cousin or a close friend living in your homeland. They might even ask your help to write a postcard to this cousin in your language! Once seated comfortably, they will serve hot tea and let you try many samples of their goods.

Credit: Navid Linnennman on Flickr

Being treated like royalty will make you feel guilty for not purchasing anything? Even if you've intended to buy only a few postcards, you might be leaving the premises with half the merchant’s stock of carpets, china, spices, perfumes, and boxed desserts, plus a headache on how to bring all of it home!

Found in: Turkey, Middle East

How to avoid this? Don’t accept any invitations to go inside a shop if you have no intention of spending. If you're feeling social and have some money to spare, then go ahead but learn to say no firmly when they become too insistent?

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8. The Closed Attractions

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You've finally arrived at one of the places on your bucket list after walking a couple of kilometres, but you can’t find your way in? A tuk-tuk or taxi driver may approach you and offer to bring you to another attraction for a cheap fare as this particular place is supposedly closed for lunch. Grateful that you won’t be wasting a couple of hours waiting it to re-open, you agree happily! Turns out the other ‘attractions’ are souvenir shops where the drivers have struck a deal for bringing in customers.

Found in: Thailand

Credit: Ken Hawkins on flickr

How to avoid this? Usually, main attractions are rarely closed for lunchtime! Most likely you've arrived at the wrong part of the attraction and have to go round the perimeters to look for the correct entrance. Check online to see opening hours and make sure today is not a public holiday in that country?

9. The Dropped Camera

At a popular tourist area, someone will ask you to help take a photo of them with their friends. They hand you their camera or phone, but when you attempt to take a photo, the device does not work?

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As you hand it back to the owner they will fumble so that you end up dropping the device where it'll smash onto the ground?

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You'll also find yourself accused of destroying their property and the entire group will force you to pay for repairs. In the chaos while you're distracted, they might also pickpocket you!

Found in: Worldwide

How to avoid it? Be cautious when doing favours for strangers. Don’t be afraid to report to the authorities if someone is intimidating you to pay for damages that were not your fault?

10. The Drug Setup

This happens when people are on their way to a concert or a party when the taxi or tuk-tuk driver offers them drugs. When they take it out to show you, the taxi is shortly pulled over by police officers. These are most likely fake authorities that are in cahoots with the drivers! Predictably, you will be asked to pay them a bribe to get out of being taken to jail.

How to avoid this? Don't buy drugs anywhere.

11. The Silent Stalker

We live in the age of advanced social media such as Instagram and Snapchat, where you can update about your travels the moment you step off the plane! It’s not too worrying if your accounts are set to private but for those with public accounts, be cautious about constantly sharing your location and details in real time??

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With geotags and live updates, we tend to share without thinking about what we’re doing right now and where we're heading next. Local stalkers who are checking a certain location will come across public accounts, find where you're at and what you're wearing at the moment, making you a possible target for their thieving plans!

Found in: Worldwide

How to avoid this? Especially to those traveling solo, be careful about your online as well as offline interactions. It’s never good to reveal too much information to strangers? Update your public social media when you’ve left the place or better yet, when you're done for the day and is safely back at your hotel!

So there you have it! We'd advise you to always do your research before embarking on a voyage to a new land? There are definitely more stories of good experiences of travel over the bad ones. Just remember to practise caution and you'll be a wiser wanderer! With that said, we wish you a safe journey on your next trip☺️