If you travel, you need to know how to avoid common travel scams. It’s sad but true—travelers are a top target for pickpockets and scam artists around the world. Learn about these scams and follow the tips to avoid turning your dream vacation into a nightmare.
This is probably the most common scam out there. It’s not as destructive as some others, but it can still cost you extra money if you’re not careful.
- What it is: Locals often take advantage of unwitting tourists by overcharging them on all sorts of products. I’ve had this happen to me many times, especially in the Caribbean. A taxi driver once offered to drive me a few miles away for $100. I knew that the costs was $2 per trip, so I waited for the next taxi.
- How to recognize it: If something seems way too expensive, it probably is.
- How to avoid it: Know pricing before you go. Before you board a bus, ask the price. Before you eat a meal, ask the price. That way, if the price seems wrong, you can avoid the problem by finding an alternative. I’d also recommend asking locals what general prices are as soon as you have the chance. Shop keepers can often be very helpful with this.
In developing countries, corruption is just a part of life. People operate under a system of corruption, and often tourists are a huge target.
- What it is: Police and other officials know you can’t do anything and don’t know anything, so they often have no problem pulling you over for made-up traffic offenses and asking for bribes.
- How to recognize it: It can be hard to know what’s legal and what’s not unless you’re very familiar with an area. Get to know the laws (official and unofficial) of the area so you can know a bribe when you see one.
- How to avoid it: Altercations with foreign officials are a terrible idea. Sometimes, you will find that your only way through the border crossing is a bribe, and you may just have to go with it. In other cases, requesting to pay your supposed fine at the police station may get you out of it. We have expat friends in Africa who keep fresh-baked cookies with them on every trip and casually offer them to soldiers and police officers when they are stopped. They rarely have to pay bribes! Above all, though, be safe and choose paying a bribe over getting in trouble, whether or not it is legitimate.
No Insurance Necessary
Never opt out of insurance when renting a car. That $10 could save you a lot of money and hassle in the end.
- What it is: Shady rental agencies who encourage you to opt out of insurance services are probably not trying to helpfully save you some cash. When you return your car, they may try to charge you for scrapes you did not cause, or worse, steal the car during the night and leave you with responsibility to pay for the “missing” car.
- How to recognize it: When a rental car agency tries to convince you to skip the insurance.
- How to avoid it: Insist on purchasing insurance—or rent your car elsewhere.
Good old fashioned con artists have many tricks up their sleeves. I once met a con artist who started a conversation about pizza and walked away with $40 that we willingly handed to him!
- What it is: Fake beggars, pick-pockets, and many more.
- How to recognize it: If a stranger is being strangely friendly in a crowd, keep one hand on your wallet. Locals who offer to take your photo, ask to hold your debit card, or tell you a sob story could be con artists.
- How to avoid it: Keep your cash in an inaccessible location on your body. Give beggars goods, not cash. Never remove your wallet unnecessarily in crowded areas. Be aware of your surroundings.