Traveling comes with its fair share of hazards, such as lousy weather, a poor travel companion, or a crying baby on the plane. At the same time, some of the biggest dangers will come when you’re on the ground interacting with the locals. Instead of letting yourself get ripped off, it’s important to be aware of a number of common scams that tourists all over the world fall for.
One of the most common scams has to do with getting around, particularly in a taxi. Particularly in poorer countries, the only people who get around in cabs are tourists, so by even hailing one down, you’re putting a target on your back. Still, sometimes you have to cab it, particularly if you want to get to your hotel and the public transportation from the airport is lousy. While you should normally be fine in western Europe, it is common enough for cabbies to have special meters for tourists that naturally go up much faster. Other common taxi scams involve taking the scenic route (pay close attention to your smartphone to avoid this phenomenon). To avoid this, ask your hotel concierge how much cabs should cost, or better, stick to Uber and Lyft for a standardized fare.
The following will mostly happen in developing countries, but it is not uncommon for tourists to get talked up by shopkeepers who will then try to build a rapport with the customer, typically by finding out where they come from and saying that they were there or have family in that particular city. While this may be true if you come from Los Angeles or New York, what are the chances that their second cousin lives in your town in a flyover state? They will then give you tea and maybe ask you for a small favor, thus leave you feeling obligated to purchase something from their shop.
One of the more hazardous scams is the drink spill. To explain: a passerby in a quiet street will “accidentally” spill a drink on you and hurriedly try to wipe it off by making a big fuss. In the meantime, their friend will pickpocket you, and you won’t have noticed until they are long gone because of how frazzled you got from wearing a chocolate milkshake. This one is hard to avoid, but the best thing you can do is to ignore that you’ve been spilled on and walk on by. Also, try walking on busier streets and carrying your valuables in inside pockets.
This is why it’s best to keep shopping in a foreign country to a minimum: commonly enough, you’ll find “designer” items being sold in stands outside touristy areas. While occasionally, and we mean occasionally, the bags will be real, more often than not, they will be counterfeit. What can sometimes occur is that the shopkeeper will have an authentic bag on display, but then switch it out with a fake while you’re not paying attention. To avoid this, just keep a close eye on the salesperson during the whole transaction, no matter how cute those bracelets are.
In general, the rule to avoid getting scammed is very simple. If it’s something you wouldn’t go for back home, avoid it like the plague. If you get a funny feeling about something or someone, trust your intuition and cross the street or go into a big chain like Mc Donald’s or Starbucks, even if it’s just to use the restroom and rest your legs. (The employees are usually so poorly paid that they won’t care if you aren’t a paying customer.)