20 Common Travel Scams and How You Can Avoid Them

Written By: The Planet D

In many large cities across the globe, thieves hunt from the shadows. They are armed with countless travel scams to take your money. These travel tips help you avoid them. 

Like a lion stalking its prey on the Serengeti, thieves aim to blend into their surroundings while staring intently at their next victimThey’re waiting to catch them with their travel scams. The good news is that akin to lions hunting for weakened gazelles, travelers can avoid being robbed by being aware of their surroundings. Thieves are willing to take risks, but they also calculate those risks.

Crooked opportunists take many shapes and forms, and while your time abroad will probably be incident-free, it is vital to be prepared.

How to Avoid Travel Scams 

Here is a list of common travel scams to make it easier for you to spot the danger signs and avoid any sticky situation.

1. Bump and Grab

common vacation scams
Sacre Couer is a commonplace to be scammed: How to avoid travel scams

The most common travel scam is the bump and grab, where a thief or a gang of thieves distract you with a bump and then proceed to lift your valuables from your pocket and/or purse. This method is most popular in the metro.

Victims of this method are often swarmed by several people who are pushing them, while at the same time, pick their pocket. Another trick is to grab the purse of someone standing/sitting near the door and get off the metro just as the doors are closing.

How to Avoid the Bump and Grab

The best way to avoid these travel scams is to stay one step ahead of the thief.

  1. First – spread out all your valuables; never keep all your important documents, cards and/or your passport in one place.
  2. Second – never put a wallet or anything of value in either your front or back jeans pocket.
  3. Third – Individuals should always opt for cross-body purses with zippers (no flimsy one-button purses).
  4. Pay Attention – Whenever I am bumped on a subway, bus or in the street, my hand immediately goes to the zipper of my over the shoulder bag.

I am always aware of my valuables and my attention immediately goes to my things before they can catch my attention. It may just be an innocent bump, but if someone is trying to pick my pocket, they won’t succeed.

2. Distraction – ‘You have Gunk on You’ Scam

There are two variations of this travel scam, but it starts out with someone putting something, such as mustard or ketchup (there have been reports of human/animal feces being thrown at travelers), on your body.

The thief will either smear something on your back or the substance will be thrown at you from an unknown location. Then, a seemingly innocent bystander will come to tell you that you have something on your back or offer you a tissue. The point of this travel scam is to get you to take off your backpack, purse and/or camera.

How to Avoid the Distraction

If someone tells you that you have something on your back, do not take off your backpack to check! Instead, keep walking, ignore any “Good Samaritans” and only remove your bags when you are in a safe and secure location.

3. Fake Officials

When traveling, you might think you can trust the police or security. However, every so often, on trains and in the streets, fake officials will ask to see your documents and ask for a bribe to get them back. Never hand over your documents if you feel that something is fishy.

How to Survive Fake Officials

Instead, ask them to take you to the police station, where you will be happy to show your documents. Or ask the people around you for help. “Many friendly locals in India offered us advice and helped us when in need”.

4. Wrong Class on Transportation

When traveling in India, we encountered many fake officials on trains that tried to separate us from our money and documents. This is a difficult travel scam to catch since we are conditioned to trust the police.

Official-looking men boarded the train to ask for our documents. They looked official complete with a notebook and official badge. When they asked to see our tickets, they told us we were in the wrong class and compartment but told us we could stay if we paid the upgrade fee. We fell for this once.

It wasn’t until another official came by later to look at our tickets that we realized we were scammed. The real offical simply stamped our tickets and moved on,

How to Avoid This

Avoiding this travel scam can be tricky, especially in a place like India, where figuring out the train system is complicated. The best way to avoid paying extra fees is to do your research. Ask the ticket desk how much it is to upgrade on the train and know the full cost of the ticket before getting on.

Officials will never ask for more money than they need. And when in doubt ask the people around you. Locals are always happy to lend a hand.

5. Bus Scams

Buses can be one of the riskiest places to be separated from your belongings when traveling. It’s important to remain diligent while traveling on a bus and keep an eye out for these travel scams.

Common travel scams on the bus

  1. A stranger helping you stow your bag above your seat while his accomplice picks your pocket or slashes your backpack.
  2. Another variation of this scam includes a Good Samaritan who was helping you stow your luggage, suddenly taking it off with your bag and/or handing it off to a runner near the front of the bus.
  3. While you are sleeping, you wake up to find all your belongings gone.

How to Avoid Bus Travel Scams

The best way to avoid bus scams is to be extremely wary of overly helpful locals. And to keep an eye on your belongings. Never let your bags out of your sight, keep your most valuable possessions as close to you as possible and never allow strangers to touch or handle your bags.

If we do go to sleep, we wrap our bags around our feet or arms. We also carry a PacSafe or padlock on a chain to lock our valuables up while we are sleeping.

  • We have more tips on how to travel safely on a bus here. 

6. Counterfeit Money

This type of travel scam is most common in restaurants and in taxis. At the end of the meal/ride, you hand the employee a bill, and he/she will claim that your bill is fake. They will return the bill to you and ask for a different type of payment.

The problem is that you did end up giving them a real bill and while you weren’t looking they swapped the real bill with a counterfeit one.

How to Avoid the Counterfeit Money Scam

To avoid this type of scam, make sure to familiarize yourself with the country’s currency before arrival. Pay close attention when paying and use exact change when you can. Try to change money into small bills at your hotel or a bank, so that you won’t be a target in this scam.

7. ATM Scams

ATM skimmers can apply different methods in order to steal your card and relevant banking information. A common traevel scam is to connect a skimmer device attached to the mouth of an ATM. It will then secretly note the credit card and debit card information when customers slip their cards into the machine.

Another method of this travel scam is to place a sticky or plastic slip inside of the slot, which will cause your card to get stuck in the machine. Once again, a “Good Samaritan” will be on hand to “help” you and might suggest that you call the phone number, often a fake number, on the machine for help.

How to Avoid the ATM Scam

The best way to avoid this travel scam is to always use ATMs in reputable banks. When in a foreign country, we always give the ATM card reader a little shake to make sure it is real.

If the ATM sucks in your card, refusing to give it back, then go into the bank immediately. And if you end up losing your card, call your bank immediately and cancel the card. We have had ATMs keep our card in both Argentina and Turkey. But had no problem after letting our banks know what happened.

In the end, never give out your personal pin to anyone in person or on the phone.

8. The Swarm

trevi fountain
Massive crowds at the Trevi Fountain

Similar to the distraction, this travel scam sees you surrounded on a bus or subway by a group of people. It seems innocent enough. It’s crowded, and they are moving around you to find a space. While people nudge and distract you, others rummage through your bags and take what they need.

Our Experience

Dave and I were victims of this in Namibia. A kind-looking gentleman squeezed into the seat beside me while the bus filled up with people. We laughed together as we acknowledged how tight the quarters were, and we didn’t notice until we left the bus that our shiny new camera was gone.

How to Avoid this Scam

In the end, the best thing you can do to avoid this is to be prepared. If people are making eye contact or trying to get your attention while the crowds grow, ignore them. Keep an eye on your belongings.

Keep your valuables zipped up in an over the shoulder bag, or sitting on your lap attached to your body. And keep your hands at the zipper to keep things safe.

19. The Ring Scam

We had the ring scam happen to us in Paris, but it is also popular in Rome and other European tourist destinations. Places like the Eiffel Tower and Colosseum seem to have a lot of ring scamming going on. A lot of scams happen around famous tourist sites like Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur, so always be on guard in any city’s popular tourist destinations.

As you walk along a street, a ring falls on the ground in front of you, and then a woman runs to pick it up asking if it is yours. Honestly, I was tempted to say yes.

I wish I did say yes because when you say no, the “kind” passerby offers to sell it to you. When you say you don’t want it, they keep badgering you until you hand over some money.

How to Avoid this Scam

We have learned that the best way to avoid travel scams at popular tourist attractions is to keep a serious look on your face, don’t make eye contact, and give the impression that you are well-traveled. (even if you are not)

When people approach us, we give a sharp head nod “no” while looking very serious. It gives the impression that we’ve already fallen for this scam and they can’t fool us twice!

10. The Friendly Local

I hate to say ignore friendly locals. Usually, the local people are just that, “friendly locals trying to help.” But other times, they are not.

People will often approach us and say they want to practice their English or learn about your country. After a few minutes of friendly chatting, they suggest that you come with them to their office or shop. You feel obligated to be nice to your new friend and soon find yourself in a high-pressure sales situation to buy art or jewelry.

How to Avoid This

There is no harm in talking to locals and we’ve had some great interactions with people. So, to avoid this, we suggest when you talk to someone, simply be aware that it could happen.

Keep an eye on your belongings, keep your valuables locked in their zippers, and when they ask you to come with them, say no. You have a right to say no and if they keep pressuring you, tell them you have to be somewhere and cut them off. Be firm, but be nice and they will usually walk away.

11. It’s Closed Today

The “it’s closed today scam” is a very common travel scam in Southeast Asia. Many times as you approach a tourist attraction and locals will tell you it’s closed before you have a chance to see for yourself. Don’t fall for this.

They are going to talk you into going to another attraction that isn’t as good and that they will get a kickback from. And you’ll end up missing out on the attraction you want to see.

How to Avoid

The way to avoid the it’s close today scam is to take a look for yourself. Even if they are persistent, tell them you want to see for yourself. Keep walking, look straight ahead and keep an eye on your valuables.

Chances are they will walk along with you trying to distract you, but don’t fall for it. They are hoping you will eventually believe them and follow along instead of forging ahead. But it never hurts to check things out for yourself.

12. I’m Your Waiter at Your Hotel Scam

We’ve had this travel scam more often lately. The scam goes something like this. We’ll be walking down the street when a man says “hi!” acting like he knows us.

They then he says, “I served you last night at your hotel.” Surprisingly, they often get our hotel correct. It could be because they have followed us from our hotel and kept an eye on us for an hour or so before approaching.

They then tell you that it’s the last day of a big sale or big festival and if you want to see it, follow them. Coincidentally, they are on their way there now.

Don’t fall for this

A server or front of house staff at your hotel will never approach you on the street. If someone does, ignore them. They have probably been watching you.

In Cuba, there was an entire network watching us in Havana. After leaving our hotel, a “friendly waiter wanted us to buy cigars,” when we went back to the main city square, another “friendly guy” knew our hotel as well and told us his cousin could give us a cheap deal on a Classic Car tour. “Special for Iberostar guests!”

The way to avoid this travel scam is to find your own tour and if in doubt, book through your hotel or at the tourism information centre located in most downtown squares.

13. The Switcharoo

We fell for this travel scam in the Middle East in Marrakech. Before visiting a local family for dinner we bought some figs at Jemma el Fna Market to take with us as a gift. (A tradition when visiting a home in Morocco)

We tasted the delicious juicy figs and ordered a large bag to take with us to dinner. While talking away to the very friendly vendor, we didn’t notice that he went behind the counter and filled the bag with old rotten figs. It was quite embarrassing to show up at a house with a bag of bad figs.

I have heard this happen to people on a far more expensive scale. They have paid for expensive carpets, jewelry, and expensive art only to unwrap it and find it is not what they bought.

How to Avoid the Switcharoo Scam

To avoid the “switcharoo” travel scam, make sure you keep an eye on your purchase at all times. Don’t let it out of your sight.

Once you have picked out the item you want, make sure it doesn’t go into a back room or behind the desk before it is wrapped. Don’t let people distract you with conversation and never let them take it away to wrap it up. Double-check everything before you leave the store or market.

14. The Bracelet Scam

scam for money jewelry
Not too upset I fell for he crown travel scam

I (Deb) get this one a lot. This travel scam is common on beaches and in cities. A woman will often come up to me to offer a free bracelet, or a hand made crown. Instead of waiting for me to say “I don’t want it,” they put it on without giving you a chance to say no and refuse to take it back.

The more you try to give it back, the more they offer their services to braid your hair or put more jewelry on your wrist or head. Before you know it, you are wearing bracelets, your hair is half braided, and they are painting your nails.

How to Avoid the Bracelet Scam

I have learned to give a firm head shake when I see this travel scam happening. When they approach me I firmly let them see “I know what you are up to.” It’s quite amazing how quickly they will turn and walk away when you say no with a firm nod.

I can usually tell now when someone is going to try to put something on my head or arm. It’s all about catching them in the act before they have a chance to pounce.

I admit, I was in a good mood once on a visit to Istanbul and when someone put a crown on my head, (see photo above) I paid them a couple of bucks. Once in a while, I know I’m being scammed, but hey, even some of the scammers are people too right?

15. Short Change

We just had this travel scam happen in Mexico at a pharmacy of all places! Dave and I were on one of our first official vacations in years. Usually, we check exchange rates before leaving home and have all information on hand. But this time we booked an all-inclusive luxury stay and had no plans to venture off the resort.

On a rainy day, we decided to go to the pharmacy to stock up on medication. We only had USD, but it is widely accepted in Playa del Carmen so we didn’t worry. We paid with a 20 dollar bill and she gave us change in Pesos. Since we were in a pharmacy, we didn’t question it. When we got on the bus to go back to the resort, we realized she shorted us about $5. Letting our defenses down cost us money. Not a lot, but we were still out $5.

How to Get the Correct Change

This is a common travel scam in high tourist areas. Scam artists rely on the fact that most people don’t know the exchange rate and that most people aren’t changing their money into local currency.

Before you travel, look up the exchange rate and use XE Currency converter. Don’t be embarrassed to count your change in front of the person giving you the change before you leave the establishment.

And, look up what coins and local currency look like before leaving home. We were lazy and fell for one of the oldest travel scams in the book.

16. The Begging Baby

Common in Southeast Asia, Central, and South America, this travel scam sees young women who will often approach you with a baby in their hands. Usually, it is just a doll. Sadly, sometimes a young girl is given a baby by criminals to prey on the emotions of tourists. You feel sorry for them and are compelled to give money. Don’t give into this. It only helps support the crime rings.

There are many similar scams like this with maimed or injured beggars too. You may feel that you want to help the poor child or help the injured, but they have to give the money to the leader of the organization and you are not helping them at all.

How to Avoid Falling for This

After watching Slumdog Millionaire my heart sank. Dave and I actually saw old blind men singing on trains in India that clearly had their eyes scorched out by criminal rings years ago. It was unbearably sad. But if you give to them, you are only helping the men/women who put them there.

If you want to give money, find a charity to give you instead. Don’t give to kids on the street.

17. Taxi Scams

There are so many taxi scams around the world, they deserve their own article. Taxi drivers rig their meters or say that the meter is broken in every city. In many places, people pose as taxi drivers when they are not licensed or qualified.

A common cab scam is that many taxi drivers will take you on a wild goose chase driving you to establishments that pay them a commission rather than taking you to your desired destination.

How to Avoid this Scam

The best way to avoid taxi scams is to look for official taxis. It’s easy to do a Google search to find what the official taxi colors are of the destination you are visiting.

If you need a taxi when landing at the airport, go to the official taxi stand, or official taxi office before you leave the airport. Don’t fall for touts approaching you at the luggage carousel. Go to the official taxi stand or waiting area.

At your hotel, have the concierge or manager call you a taxi.

18. Prepaid Taxi Scam

This is one of the most common travel scams you will find throughout the world. You have arrived at the airport or train station. You are exhausted and it is the middle of the night.

Cab drivers, tuk-tuk drivers, motor taxis, and more will approach you before you barely have time to get off the platform and offer their services to take you to a hotel. They will tell you that the prepaid booth is closed, or that there isn’t one there.

How to Avoid this Scam

Don’t let these touts pressure you. They are really good at their scamming skills, but just ignore them and continue to look for the official booths. Take your time to look around and ask the right people where the prepaid taxi booth is.

You will pay a fair price to your hotel of choice and avoid being overcharged or taken to the wrong destination.

19. If It’s Too Good to Be True, It is

If someone offers you a ride for a price that seems too good to be true, it is a scam. We’ve fallen for this travel scam ourselves. A tuk-tuk driver asked us where we were going, and we answered. They gave us a price that was way below the expected fee. Excited, we say yes.

You hop in the taxi (in Asia, it is often a tuk-tuk), and instead of taking you to your requested destination, your driver takes you all around the city, stopping at gem dealers, carpet shops, and tea houses.

You end up in the completely opposite direction of where you asked to go, and the only way to get back is to appease them and go into all the shops, wasting your day.

How to Avoid the Too Good to be True Scam

The way to avoid this is to know the approximate amount of your cab fare before getting in the taxi. It’s easy to check online or ask at your hotel. If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Follow your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

20. The Over Charge Scam

Dave and I have fallen for this one so often it is embarrassing. We’ve actually had an argument while sitting in the taxi that was scamming us, as we blamed each other for getting scammed at this exact moment. Our driver didn’t care. We were in the middle of the scam and it was too late. We had to pay him to get out of the cab.

How to Avoid Being Overcharged in a Taxi

The best way to avoid being overcharged by a taxi is to agree on a price before getting into the cab. Negotiate on a price while standing outside and then get in only when the price is agreed upon.

Or if they have a meter, request that they use it before you get in the car. It is also good to have a rough idea of what a taxi costs. We were just in Cuba and did our research before going. We learned that short trips in a Taxi Particular cost about $5. That gave us a rough idea of where to start so we could judge the distance on longer trips.

The internet should be your best friend, Google should be used religiously and you should never leave the house without proper travel insurance.

Remember to be aware; be cautious, but most importantly have fun!

Final Thoughts

Easier targets for travel scams can include confused travelers, drunken messes and overly anxious first-timers that tend to clutch their valuables in order to protect them.

Simply put; if you are confident, aware and most importantly, sober traveler than they’ll probably move on to an easier target.

Have you ever been duped? Tell us what Common Travel Scams you’ve fallen for around the world.

Read More:

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Book Your Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner. We have used them for years and have found that they have the best flight deals.

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor.

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • Safety Wing - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Book Your Activities: Looking for walking tours, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more? Then we recommend Get Your Guide.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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45 thoughts on “20 Common Travel Scams and How You Can Avoid Them”

  1. I agreed on a price with a horse carriage, and on getting out handed over the money and walked away. The driver called me back and showed me that one of my notes was a much smaller note then I thought I had given him. I apologised and gave him the correct money and only later realised that he had switched the note and that I had originally paid him correctly. Always hand over the money with the notes visible and not folded so that they can’t do this to you.

  2. be care with your c.c. when going to hotels scamers could copy your c.c . Info onto their phone, phones have came along way since ma bell and the apps that come with them can do just about anything, never let your card out of your sight.
    Also, we have people in Arizona who like to break you down mentally to steal your things, they will whisper, usually in the room next to you, sound crazy its not they try to act as if they are the voice of God, they try to get you to talk, give up personal info. My advice, don’t give in, call the police, they may think your nuts, but let’s be real, you know you, and if you know God, God will tell you whats feels right and whats not. Trust God, if God want you to have something,,you will have it, nothing can stop god. With that,don’t fall for scams.

  3. OH and I have visited Rio de Janiero many times and never encountered a problem until last December. We were walking along he pavement at Copa Cabana beach, early evening and it was still light. We were approached by 4 children aged 7 or 8, asking for money for food, we said we had no money and walked on. About 100-200mts later a street seller came in front of us and demonstrated a folding handbag, we could not continue walking as he was directly in front of us, at the moment we had to stop, one of the children who stopped us asking for money earlier, ran up and grabbed my chain bracelet from my wrist and ran hell for leather across the pavement, 8 lanes of fast moving traffic and disappeared down a side street. Everyone around just stopped, needless the hand bag demonstator disappeared. I wasn’t injured in any way, just shocked

  4. I had the bracelet scam in Paris. It happened to me at Sacre Coeur. It happened so fast, I didn’t even know what was happening. They managed to place the bracelet on my wrist but I was lucky to react quick enough before they tied it tight and I was forced to pay them.

    In San Francisco, a musician stopped us to ask where we were from, and then talk about his music. I thought it was just a local having a conversation, but then he proceed to sell us his CD for 5 bucks. We politely declined and then he requested a small donation in lieu. We threw him a couple of dollars just to leave us alone. We figured sometimes people can use it more than us.

  5. I was in the tourist district of Berlin, middle of the day, and some innocent looking guy came up to ask me to take a photo for him. I did it, and after he looked at the photo, he said it wasnt good enough and asked to me to do another one. After a couple more tries, he was happy with it. I thought in my mind, wow this guys is picky, but didnt raise any red flags yet. then he asked me where i am from, etc. Then he said thank you and and gave me a high five. I said ok, then he said left hand too (where i wear my watch), to be nice i complied without a second thought. Then he grabbed my wrist then suddenly his two frinds showed up and grabbed me on my shoulders and started distracting me. I immediately felt something was up and pushed them away, checked my wallet and phone and made sure they are there. Had a jacket on and did not immediately thought about my watch. They said have a nice day a quickly walked away. I did not find out my watch was missing until at least 15 minutes later..these guys are pro, and lesson well learnt, .He stole the watch off me in in literally one second.

  6. The Gypsy Monkey grinder at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany of all places. While you pose with him, she bumps up against your partner taking the picture to steal or find the wallet.

    Thank goodness my husband is very travel savvy. Instead he enjoyed the flirt and kept all our money safe while he took my picture.

  7. Hi Deb and Dave,
    Thanks for all the important tips, I have also been a victim in Paris (the bracelet trick at the Sacre Coeur), in Rome watch out for people dressed up as gladiators at the Colisseum, if they see you taking pictures they kindly offer to take a picture of you with them with your phone/camera and they ask for money afterwards (they pressure you as they have your phone and become agressive if you dont give them the money. A typical scam in Italy is also to give you a rose and ask for money once you touch it. In Spain (specially in the south) outside churches the gipsy women offer you a flower (the same trick).
    But the worse I have seen was in India. A woman with a baby asked my sister for money in order to buy formula to feed her baby and when my sister affered to buy the formula herself the woman was very thankful. My sister got into the store, bought the milk and handed it to the woman. A few minutes later we saw the woman returning the formula in exchange for money. The worst part was that the shop assistants know what the scamers are doing…

  8. Great article, thanks for the tips! Indeed, home to unspoilt rainforests, the Galapagos Islands, Inca monuments, colonial architecture and Quito, a city that marries ancient architecture and modern touches, Ecuador is a fascinating place to visit.

    However, there are tourist-targeting scammers and petty crime to be wary of.

    Do be wary of the Galapagos cruise scam, pickpockets, TAME airlines ticket scam, border crossing taxi money exchange, hotel scam, credit card fraud, and many more!

  9. Thanks for the informative article, it really helps to give me an idea of what to look out for! I have always wanted to travel alone, hopefully one day i’d actually able to do so! Cheers!

  10. I had a recent one happen to me in Cambodia where I went on a tour with a Tuk Tuk driver where he said I would see some floating villages and various other things. I paid $12 for his time for a couple of hours.

    What he didn’t tell me was that I would then have to get a boat tour if I wanted to see the floating villages which was $30 (I presume he would have got commission). I refused to pay for that.

    I then checked how much a tour to see the floating villages would cost at a travel agency and they said $18. So I definitely felt a bit scammed and probably wouldn’t have paid him the $12 for the tour in the first place.

  11. Great list guys! We fell for the ‘Milk for my baby’ scam in Cambodia. Very young mothers approach with a baby- I am thinking it probably was their baby sister they were so young. They only ask for milk, not money, so we thought we would help out. Come to find out these young girls have an arrangement with local small stores and will return the milk you give them and get money. Not only are you scammed by the girls, the store owners get to resell the milk so they are involved as well. Oh well, live and learn right? Cheers!

  12. I didn’t fall for it because I’d done my research so I knew it was a scam, but I was approached by 3 or 4 young Eastern European girls (Roma maybe?) in Paris. They shoved a ratty piece of paper in my face and asked me to sign their petition. I knew that if I did either one of them would pickpocket me while I was distracted or they’d try to extort money from me saying that I’d just written that I would or something like that. After walking away (and having them follow), repeatedly saying “Non” and “No”, I eventually resorted to a little Korean I know and loudly and firmly said “??! ??” (“No! Goodbye”), which confused them long enough for me to put some distance between us. One of them called me a name but that was the end of it. I guess white girl shouting Korean was weird enough for them to back off.

  13. A scam I’ve seen twice, in Egypt and India, is the “I have too much change” trick. I was taking a taxi in Cairo, which should have cost 10. The driver told me “I have to stop to the bank, because I have too much change”. In a country where it’s really difficult to *get* change, this should have triggered a warning. But I fell for it, very happy to find some change. I said “I’ll give you a 100 bill for your change, if you want”.

    So, he gave me 90, and said I should give him my 100 bill at the end of the ride. The whole duration of the ride, I was skeptical. Where’s the scam? I was asking myself. But I had counted multiple times the 90 he gave me, and it was fine. So, at the end of the ride, I gave him the 100 bill, said thank you, and just lowered my head half a second, to pick up my bag at my feet. When I raised back my head, he had a 10 pointed at my face and said “Hey! You gave me 10!”. For 2 full seconds, I thought I had done a mistake. Then, I could visualize myself holding the 100 the whole trip. So, I just ignored what he said and left the cab. He didn’t say anything more, meaning that I was right.

    The exact same thing happened in India, but we were 2 in the cab. My friend was just about to fall for the trap, but I recognized it and said “No, you already paid the right amount!”

  14. While we were in Rome we witnessed a great scam. A young woman (gypsy) with an large blanket wrapped around her arm which any observant parent would think was a baby asks for a handout for money to buy her baby food. While the tourist is searching for money the gypsy or a cohort picks your pocket or grabs the purse and flees. This was around the Coliseum.

  15. Hi Dave and Deb
    I have been travelling since 1987 and have been extremely lucky when it comes to scams, but I nearly fell short once in Bangkok, Thailand. A well-dressed Asian couple asked me where I had bought the T-Shirt I was wearing that day and I told them that I had got it at the MBK Shopping Complex. They thanked me and invited me for lunch which, seemed rather strange. At the time couldn’t make it and said that I could go the next day. We exchanged telephone numbers, then said goodbye. When I told my Thai friend about the meeting, he immediately said to me that was an invitation to try and rip me off somewhere down the line. This couple phoned me repeatedly at the hotel I was staying but I didn’t take their calls. The moral of the story, you shouldn’t simply trust a stranger on the street no matter what the circumstance might be. It was a lesson I shall not forget. There are a lot of scammers in Thailand. Best to avoid all of them, be polite and simply walk on by.

  16. my plane was late arriving in hong kong & I missed my connecting transfere to my hotel , so I had to get in the taxi line [11pm at night poaring rain & very windy ] as I joined the line a man came up to me and said I have a taxi but he does not like getting in the line & he offered to take me to my hotel & I agreed to this , on the journey he asked me if I hade been to hong kong before& I said yes[ but had not] to avoid being taken around the world the long way . on arrival at the hotel he said that will be $495 I thought that was a high number for a 10 minute ride so I checked the meter & it did say495 that is equivalent to near 50 australian dollars . I gave him 500hong kong dollars [ equivalent to 50 Australian ] & dumb me said keep the change. I later found out I should have been $4.95 . he had blanked out the decimal point with black tape . the average hong kong weekly wage was at the time $500 hong kong a week so he made that money out of me in ten minuts . if he did this 100 times a week he would be a very rich man .

  17. These are really great tips! A lot of them I haven’t heard before.

    One sort of funny scam happened to me in Belize. I had stopped in a market and was looking at handmade hammocks when a little girl started talking to me about her school and how excited she was. At first I thought she was just talkative and she went on about how much she loves learning but she can’t always afford school supplies. And then she pulls this display of bracelets out of nowhere and said she sells them to pay for her education. Hook, line, and sinker! I’m prettttttty sure the money wasn’t going to this girl in any way but I just couldn’t tell her I wouldn’t pay $2 for a bracelet. I bought three.

    Love the post!

  18. Thanks for sharing the great tips. It’s a shame when someone’s trip gets ruined by one of these things and it could have easily been avoided if they knew these tips. Let’s try and educate people a bit more before they travel so they don’t get scammed!

  19. Whether you like the idea or not we often get money from an ATM before we leave the airport when we arrive in a new country. When we arrived in Shanghai, China in June we went to use the ATM, and immediately had someone tell us the ATM doesn’t work with foreign cards, come with him to exchange money. I don’t think so! We tried the card, and everything worked fine, but we did see others fall for his story.

  20. Hi Dave & Deb ?

    thanks for this nice post, I love Jet Boat Safari and Hike Bike and Paddle, which one your’s favorite? Thanks

  21. I never trust 100% to my guide wherever i have traveled so far. I always ask 2 to 3 local people for any guidance and take my own decision accordingly. Always trusting one stranger is not the way to go as they will try to rip off you. Just my 2 cents.

  22. So many ways to get scammed, but its relatively easy to defend against them when you are aware of the big ones … great post!

  23. Great tips! Thanks for sharing these advices. Its true the travel scams are common to happen with anyone. I was always aware but your tips give me more knowledge

  24. Good tips! I was amazed how many people get taken advantage of in Prague. They exchange money with someone on the street, and instead of getting Euros they are given Belarusian Rubles which are essentially useless. Always best to exchange money at a reputable shop.

  25. Thanks for the great advices and tips. Yes, travel scams are very popular around the world. Everyone should know what to do so travelers can avoid getting into troubles and save their vacation.

  26. Hi!

    Dear travelers, this piece of information comes a bit late, should you have already suffered damages from a scam. But it helps you to avoid such problems in the future!

    If your rights as a touristic consumer have been infringed while you were traveling through Latin America and you had to face the problem being completely on your own (you were made to pay a price which was higher than had been agreed, you were sold faked goods, you were a victim of fraud etc.), you might like to know what legistravel.com/en can do for you next time – go and check our website!

    However, you can take a few appropriate precautions yourself: we recommend you to make an on-line research before making any payment to book flights, hotel rooms etc. to check, whether the travel agency, which offers the product, has a good reputation. And if you are still not sure, try to buy products, which are offered by travel agencies with a quality award or another quality assurance.

    DO NOT GIVE UP YOUR RIGHTS EVER! It is your money after all, and there is no reason why you should give it to people, who have absolutely no right to get it!


  27. Nice article.
    I would like to tell my own experience.
    In Mexico I dropped my iPhone in the taxi.
    I found a taxi after 1 hour, but not my iPhone…
    Moral: Do not hold the phone in your pocket…

    • That’s great advice Kristy. I dont’ wear any jewelry except for the handmade stuff that I buy on the road. i love it and I’d wear it over diamonds and gold any day.

  28. I’ve been the victim of two common pickpocketing schemes.

    In Rome many years ago I was approached by two Gypsy kids. One held a begging sign in front of my face while her six-year-old brother stuck his hand in my pocket and took my wallet. Luckily, I grabbed them fast enough to get my wallet back. Lesson learned: don’t carry a wallet, and divide your money among several pockets.

    Then, a few years ago in Ecuador, a thief jumped into the seat next to me on a bus and enlisted my help opening the window — the helpful stranger. Then he abruptly got off the bus. I was suspicious, and kept a tight hold on my camera bag with its expensive equipment. But later I found he’d somehow gotten into my tight jeans pocket and stolen $50. Lesson learned: move immediately if a stranger starts acting overly helpful for no good reason.

  29. I’ve run into several scams while abroad, though thankfully I’ve never been a victim of any of them. While in Rome I saw quite a few gypsy and other street scammers. And at a few other places abroad I’ve seen the fake policeman scam go down (the one where an ‘officer’ asks to see your papers, etc. and then either steals your documentation or solicits a bribe). I think some other good advice is: be aware of your surroundings, if something smells fishy it probably is, and if there’s an “officer” wanting your documents, ask them to take it some place more official (hey, maybe this would be better if we went down to the station) or ask to see their badge first.

  30. Hello there!

    Thank you very much for sharing this post. Travelers must read this. Yes, the most common travel theft is the bump and grab. That’s why we really need to be always careful.


  31. Thank you! I am extremely skeptical about using my card overseas and I only use bank ATM, especially when I was in Argentina and someone told me that fake currency was sometimes dispensed from the ATMs!