A work colleague was recently in Paris and he was charged 100 euros for a cab ride from Charles de Gaulle airport to his hotel downtown. He didn’t know — until I his return trip was much cheaper — that he had been scammed.
A year ago I wrote Common Tourist Scams and How to Avoid Them.
I detailed the Paris ring scam, where someone along the road ‘finds’ a ring and rushes to return it to you. Taking advantage of your greed, they separate you from your money in exchange for worthless ‘jewelry’. And the Chinese tea ceremony where a local wants to spend the day with you to ‘practice their English’ and shows you to a local tea place where you’ll experience local culture… and receive a bill many orders of magnitude higher than it should be.
There are pick pockets, and guides who wait near tourist attractions to pick up tourists by telling them what they’ve come to see is closed for the day (or only open to locals) but they’d be happy to show you other sites… by way of overpriced tourist shops who will give them a commission.
Some general principles for protecting yourself.
- Pay with a credit card, not cash. You can dispute charges later if you’ve been scammed.
- Split up your cash, keeping it in multiple places. You won’t be out everything if pick pocketed.
- Keep multiple copies of your important documents. That will make it easier to recover if your passport or other important items are stolen.
- Don’t be greedy. If you think you can take advantage of a local, they’re probably the ones taking advantage of you.
- Your hotel is your best ally. If a cab driver isn’t using a meter, is quoting you an impossibly high price, and your destination is your hotel — don’t argue until your baggage is out of the vehicle, then enlist the hotel’s help. They know local rules and expectations and what rides should cost, and they’re likely on your side as their guest.
- Hire a guide, even if you don’t need one. I think of it as paying one tout to keep away all the other touts.
- Stay aware of your surroundings. If you’re in a crowd, you’re a pick pocket victim. If you’re more focused on the awe around you than the people around you, you’re a pick pocket victim. And know what countries, cities, and attractions are home to such things, but in general where tourists gather they’re targets.
- Know what your purchases — whether souvenirs or transportation — should cost before you buy. Have some basis for comparison.
It’s better to be taken advantage of than to escalate a confrontation, losing a little money isn’t the end of the world for most. But staying aware will help you avoid making costly mistakes.
What scams have you seen.. or fallen victim to?