Common Travel Scams

Keep an eye out for these common travel scams the next time you take a trip or vacation.

All travelers should remain aware of the possibility of scams or ripoffs when visiting a foreign country. Often travelers will be overcharged or taken advantage of when they least expect it or when they have stopped paying attention. So keep these common travel scams in mind the next time you take a vacation, with some basic steps you can protect yourself against getting caught in the same traps.

Taxi Scams:

Probably the most common scam of all, this scam is based on taxi drivers overcharging their customers. Often, a can will take the longest route to a location, or will avoid using the meter and instead charge a significantly inflated price. If you can, arrange a price ahead of time, something that will be reasonable for both parties. In order to avoid the worst taxis, do not take unregistered or unmarked cabs. Instead, wait until you are at an actual cab stop, or call a taxi service and have them send you out a car.

Restaurant Scams: When eating out, always check the bill before you pay. Some restaurants will add additional items or boost the price somehow, assuming that the customer will not double-check. If food or drink prices are not marked on the menu, be sure to ask before ordering. Prices may be much higher than expected. And though most countries are trying to crack down on the practice, some restaurants have two menus, with higher prices on the English menu for overcharging customers. Ask to see both types of menus and compare them just to be safe. Also, when looking at the menu, check to see if there are additional fees attached to the meal. Some restaurants will charge a per table fee, or a 15% tip on top, while others will make the customer pay for everything from the bread and butter to the actual napkins.

Bus Scams: Although most international bus companies do their best to protect their passengers, there are some shady operators out there. Be wary of any bus service that does not have an office location, or that does not give a receipt for travel. When buying a ticket, it is always best to go straight to the station office, instead of purchasing on the phone or Internet. Giving away your credit card number to buy a ticket should be avoided if possible, especially via phone or Internet. Instead, talk to somebody and double-check all the information on the ticket before leaving office. Sometimes casual mistakes, such as the wrong date or destination, can be fixed or avoided if caught early on. On the bus or train, keep careful watch over your luggage and personal belongings. Overnight trains and buses are the worst, as thieves may prey on sleeping passengers. If you have your own sleeping car, be sure to secure the door with the lock as well as the chain lock, as many doors can be opened from the outside.

Sidewalk Scams: Pickpockets and thieves are hard to guard against, but keeping your eyes open is the first line of defense. If you have cash or valuables, keep them in a money belt or inside your clothing. Pants pockets are very easily accessible, and purses or bags can be grabbed unexpectedly, or the strap cut. Some pickpockets work in groups, so be aware if a person begins to talk to you animatedly or to ask directions. It may be a distraction for a second person to go through your bag or pockets. When seated at an outdoor cafe, for example, do not put your phone or wallet on the table in front of you. Some people selling newspapers or objects will put their wares on the table on top of your belongings, then will take the entire thing when they leave. By the time you notice it may be too late.

Hotel Scams: Your hotel should be a place of refuge and relaxation, not a place where you are afraid of being ripped off. Some hotels charge extra for linens or extra blankets, while others will set a daily fee of meals or amenities, whether or not you use them. Before you check in, try and find out about all charges and fees. If you think your hotel is overcharging you, be sure to check the bill or ask for a list of prices, and if something wasn't mentioned when you checked in you shouldn't feel bad about arguing against it. Don't be afraid to ask to speak to the manager, and if that does not help, consider changing locations to a place where you will feel more at ease.

These and other scams are the type of things that travelers should keep on the lookout for while visiting foreign countries. Your vacation should be a relaxing and enjoyable experience, and with a basic awareness and a knowledge of things to avoid, you can make the most out of your trip without getting taking advantage of.

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