Traveling the world can be one of the most enriching experiences in your life, and more often than not, it is a completely positive experience. Still, there are times when the trip can turn a bit sour due to common scams targeting tourists.
Here I'll show you five of the most common scams so you can avoid them on your next trip.
1. Unofficial Currency Exchange Officers
Where it happens the most: Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America.
Exchanging money for the local currency is something every single traveler has to do, and we all know that the exchange incurs certain fees. No one likes fees, right? With this in mind, there are scammers who stand close to banks, touristy areas, and other key points where people exchange money, offering a much better rate than the official one. How can they do this? Aren't they losing money by giving a better rate? Well, more often than not, either that money is stolen or it is fake.
In either case, you could end up losing all of your money if a business detects the money you exchanged is fake, or you could even get in trouble for carrying stolen or fake money.
How to avoid it: Stick to official currency exchange places, and look for the one with the best rate, usually in town and not at the airport.
2. Tuk-tuk Scam (Jewelry Scam)
Where it happens the most: Thailand, but can also be seen in India, Cambodia, and other Asian countries.
This scam is quite popular in Thailand, and in fact, the name Tuk-tuk comes from the peculiar public transportation used there. The scam is mostly concentrated in Bangkok and it goes like this; you ask for directions to a major sight and the tuk-tuk driver (or accomplice) will tell you that the sight is closed (when in reality it is not). He will instead offer you a tuk-tuk ride to other sights for a really low rate. Sounds like a good deal, right? It isn't. He will take you to mediocre places, and then take you to a jewelry store to buy something. The jewelry store might look official, but the jewelry is actually fake.
How to avoid it: If a tuk-tuk driver says the site is closed (and you believe it is not), avoid any other contact with that driver and ask another driver or take an official taxi. Should anyone offer you to go to a jewelry store, just decline.
3. Hotel Burned Down Scam
Where it happens the most: Central America, South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa.
Similar to the tuk-tuk scam, the driver in this scheme will tell you that your hotel burned down last night, but that he can recommend you a nice hotel, very cheap. He will be quite persistent and almost refuse to take you to your hotel unless you insist in going to your hotel. The reason for this is because, should you accept his offer, he will get a commission from this other hotel.
How to avoid it: Have your hotel's phone number or email in case you need to contact them to confirm the allegations. Always insist in going to your hotel before heading anywhere else.
4. $1 Scam
Where it happens the most: Mexico, Cambodia, Egypt
As you walk through touristy places, you'll see several sellers offering several items for $1. Most of these items, though, look like they don't really cost $1. The trick is to catch your attention with the price, and once you're looking at their merchandise or decide to buy the $1 item, they will tell you the real price.
How to avoid it: Simply don't believe anything costs $1 these days, especially if it doesn't look like a $1 item. Simply walk away or practice your bargaining skills with the seller.
5. Friendly Touch Scam
Where it happens the most: Egypt, very touristy places in Europe, India, and some touristy parts of Southeast Asia.
Sellers love to use their charm to get your attention. This can be good in most cases, but sometimes it can be bad if the seller has the wrong intentions. In this case, the seller might get really close to you and make body contact by either giving you a random hug, pushing their merchandise towards your chest, or any other contact. While they do that, they are pickpocketing you, and you probably won't even notice it until after they are gone.
How to avoid it: Avoid any unnecessary body contact with anyone, and don't let any random person to get too close to you. Stay alert.
Scams like these happen, so don't feel bad if you happen to fall for them. It's just part of the travel experience. Want to know a secret? I've fallen for all of them, yet none of them have deterred my love for travel or any of the destinations where such scams happened.
What are some other scams we should know about?