September 23, 2017

Tourist Scams to Avoid When Traveling

Heading out somewhere soon? Here are some common travel scams and how you can avoid them.

Closed Attraction

siem reap

Image Credit: Lukasz Maznica

This scam is quite widespread near famous tourist attractions, where a local or a guide will approach you and inform you that the attraction you wish to visit is closed for the day. They will explain that it’s closed for various reasons, whether it’s a public holiday, a religious ceremony, or it simply closed early for the day. Often they will convince you to go with them to another attraction, where they will lead you to a shop and you’ll be forced to buy something.


Image Credit: Yuki Eyre

Don’t be lured into this false information by going straight to the attraction’s main entrance or ticket counter, where you’ll find out for yourself if the attraction is closed or not. You can also research ahead the opening and closing times online, where they can also announce if they will be closed for certain dates.

Free Souvenir

A friendly local will approach you with a free item – a bracelet, a postcard, a sticker, something to remember your trip by. While this might seem like a thoughtful gesture at first, the local will eventually demand money once you accept the item.


Image Credit: Delfi de la Rua

Get out of a potentially sticky situation by not accepting anything free, especially in tourist areas. Don’t allow them to force an item you by ignoring them and walking away.

Broken Taxi Meter

Think you’ve escaped Manila’s notorious taxi drivers and their always broken taxi meters? Think again! Taxi drivers all over the world also pull this scam, so you need to know what you’re getting into before agreeing to that taxi ride.

hong kong taxi

Image Credit: Richard Lee

Make sure that meter is working and that you both agree that the driver will use it during your ride. You can also research beforehand or ask your hotel concierge or airport information booth about how much a taxi ride should be, so you can negotiate the taxi rate if needed.

Child Beggars / Women with Babies

A common scam in developing countries, child beggars or young women with babies are often wandering the streets asking for money. It will be difficult to say no especially when you see them dirty and hungry, but they are, more often than not, employed by a gang.

Image Credit: Journey Cloud

Should you wish to really help out the needy, what you can do instead is give them food or old clothes that they can use. You can also volunteer your time or donate money towards local charities that aim to help locals that have been recruited to these gangs.

Wrong Change


Image Credit: Neils Steeman

You’re heading out to a local market or buying from a street food stall when you hand out a large bill to pay for your goods. Some sellers will take advantage of the fact that you’re not paying full attention to the transaction, or that you’re not knowledgeable enough about their local currency, that they’ll give you less change than what you should be getting. By the time you notice it, you’ll be back at your hotel or you don’t even notice at all.


Image Credit: Lily Lvnatikk

Go over the change the seller gave you before rushing out of the store. Make sure you have a basic grasp of the local currency and understand how the bills should really look like, basing it not just on the color, but also on the value.

Good Souvenir Deals

Gems in Thailand, carpets in Morocco, an antique item in Hong Kong… these are just some of the expensive souvenirs you might be tempted to take home. Some taxi drivers or tourist guides will offer to set you up with “good deals”, where they will take you to their “friend” who sells your preferred souvenir for a great price. The problem is, while these items will definitely be cheap, they will also be definitely fake.


Image Credit: Wei Pan


Image Credit: Trang Nguyen

A good rule of thumb here is if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. Remember that anything designer or luxurious is worth an expensive price, and there’s no reason for it to be cheaper than usual. If you really want to purchase an item such as gemstones, jewelry, antiques or even artisan crafts, make sure you go to trusted sellers who only have your best interest in mind.

Main Image Credit: Milada Vigerova