New to a particular country? Don’t let the possibility of being hustled burst your bubble of excitement. Con artists have upped their game in recent years, from expert pickpockets to cabs who stealthily zoom off with your valuables to swindlers who offer you free stuff… and then demand you pay a hefty price.
Sometimes it’s tough to climb over the language barriers and familiarise yourself with the cultural differences, so you end up falling prey to shrewd thieves and their sneaky schemes. Sadly, this is a problem that won’t go away anytime soon, so the best thing you can do is get savvy and guard yourself against tricks of any kind.
Here are some tips to help you steer clear of tourist rip-offs.
#1 IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS
If it sounds too good to be true, well then, it probably is. No, you’re not the luckiest person in the world to win a free night’s stay or a complimentary taxi ride just ‘cause the person throws a couple flowery words and charming smiles your way. Nothing – or hardly anything – is free in this world, especially when you’re obviously a tourist in a foreign land. So don’t encourage them or show any interest if you’re not genuinely keen – keep your hands to yourself, avoid accepting anything they hand to you, and walk off before they can stop you.
#2 SCAM ARTISTS CAN APPEAR IN ALL KINDS OF SHAPES AND SIZES
Keep in mind that scam artists can appear in all kinds of shapes and sizes. That pitiful child beggar might actually be who he says he is, or he might be part of a bigger criminal organisation. So be smart when you’re meeting people – sudden nearby commotions could be designed to distract you, helpful natives could be kleptomaniacs in disguise, smart-looking policemen could be totally phony, and fellow tourists claiming to be lost could be locals waiting to pick your pocket.
#3 PAY IN SMALL BILLS, AND DON’T FORGET TO COUNT YOUR CHANGE
This one’s pretty obvious, and yet most people can be careless when it comes to cash – pay in small bills, be sure of what you’re paying for before your money changes hands, and don’t forget to count your change.
It’s usually safer to fork out cash, but even then, get accustomed to the local currency and pay attention to what the cashier is doing – they could be talking rapidly to distract you or counting money slowly so you’ll be in a rush to leave and forget to tally up your change.
#4 THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR WHEN YOU ARE TAKING PUBLIC TRANSPORT
When taking public transport, always check to make sure the meter is on before you take off, or negotiate a fixed price with the driver so he doesn’t end up overcharging you. Some cabbies may accidentally-on-purpose drop your change and then give you similar-looking cash with less value, or they could offer to unload your bags, conveniently ‘forget’ one and then speed off before you even realiSe what happened.
They could even convince you your hotel is closed and bring you to an overpriced alternative, or take you to the wrong place with the exact same name.
#5 ALWAYS CLING TIGHT TO YOUR VALUABLES, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A HUGE CROWD
Street performances and markets are always fun, but don’t forget to cling tight to your valuables when you find yourself squashed in the middle of a huge crowd. The entertainer may have pickpocket accomplices disguised among the crowd or someone could bump into you and quickly empty your pockets before you notice anything’s gone.
#6 BEWARE OF FAKE ROOM INSPECTORS, PHONY FRONT DESK CALLS…
You may think you’re safe when you’re finally snuggled on your bed at the hotel, but sometimes that’s not the case. Beware of fake room inspectors, phony front desk calls that ask for your credit card details or even bogus takeaway food menus that charge exorbitant amounts to your card after you’ve ordered some food (that you’ll never see).
About the writer:
Alicia Lee is a dessert junkie with a serious (and probably incurable) case of wanderlust. Never one to pass up on retail therapy, she loves a great bargain and can usually be spotted on weekends browsing through quirky shops or chillaxing at a quiet cafe.