Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Travel Tips: Scams you need to be careful of when you travel abroad

There is a bigger probability that you are safer when you travel abroad than in your own country but there are some travel scams that seem to be common to any travel destination that we know of. So whether you are on transit, talking to people, or buying something it is always best to keep in mind that if something is too good to be true, then it must really be too good to be true.
Airport taxi
This happens everywhere. Cab drivers taking you around the city will try everything in the book to milk some extra cash from clueless travelers. You will be asked for an extra charge on top of the metered fare, will not use the meter at all, or just drive you around the streets before you realize that you should have just crossed the street where you were standing and you would have been there.
Spitting, Spilling, and bird shit
Crooks will do everything to get what you have. Be careful when you are riding a public transport or eating in a crowded food court.
One scam will involve you taking a bus and a guy telling you u got spit on your shirt. Of course you will check. And yes there will be a nasty thing on your shirt and another guy sitting beside you as you remove your shirt or clean it. Before you know it, valuables like cellphones, jewelry, or wallet will be gone. They are quick, really quick, so be very careful. Make sure you have your belongings in pockets or bags which cannot be easily slashed and snatched. Another version will be you in a public place and someone telling you you got bird shit on you, and the same sequence of events happens.
Similar to this is you being spilled with a mustard or a glass of drink by a total stranger. Once you are distracted, swoosh, your valuables are gone.
Pseudo cops
There will be incidents when police officers, real or fake, will demand to check your passport and find something irregular about your visa. Then the next scenario will be the authorities saying that it will take you a while and a ton of trouble to fix the problem but it can be all over if you pay them a certain “fine”. You have to give them some cash in short. Be firm and offer that you are willing to go down the police station to clear things up, and you will be surprised that they will say that the error they found is an excusable one.
Timeshare properties
A local will approach you while you walk in a mall or along an alley of shops and hands you out a scratch card that will reveal a good prize for you. Yes, for a moment you will think you are one lucky tourist having a holiday and getting some extra cash. The local will then convince your or force you to go with him or her to a hotel where you will know and get your prize. Of course you will decline because you have to go around and see the best destinations but the local will reason out that he will not be paid at work if you do not go with him or her.
When you fall into the trap, you will be led to a hotel room or a hall where you will see other tourists and you will have to watch a video presentation, an hour long or so, about time share properties. You will be pressured by these marketers to close a deal and get a time share at discounted prices. A lot of people give in but try to get out with your bank account intact. Another downside of this scam is you wasting more than an hour of your day or worst almost half of it instead of seeing the great places you wanted to see.
Hotel Scams
When you get off the bus or train into a new city or strange town, you ask the cab driver to bring you to the hotel of your choice. This is where your nightmare starts when the driver picks the hotel of his choice where he can get a good commission. At the hotel, you will be escorted to a room which looks different from the ad you have seen, and you will be asked to sign for a tour. After a while you will figure out you have been scammed. You are staying in a hotel which is a ripped off of the good hotel you have researched over the net.
Make sure you only get into taxis affiliated with the airport or the local tourism authority. It will be easier to complain as a consumer when you encounter problems with cabs affiliated with the government. Make sure you take note of the address of the hotel so you are certain you are taken to the right place. Another option, but may cost you more, is to have the hotel pick you up at the airport, pier, or train station.
It’s closed
In a lot of holiday destinations, you will encounter drivers or travel guides telling you that the place you want to stay in, restaurant you want to try, or store where you need to get something is already closed. Then they will lead you to their contact hotel or shop where they get a good cut or commission. This instances are pretty annoying so you must insist that you want to see the place just to make sure.
Carpet and jewelry deals
The common scenario is a cab driver bringing you to a jewelry or carpet store and you are welcomed by the shop keeper and offered a very good deal that you cannot refused. Take it easy and do not go for such thing since the gems may not be real and the carpets they are selling may not be the one you are looking for. The price will sound like a great deal but you will be bringing home nothing but trash(that is if ever you really bring something home from the store). Jewel and tapestry stores have set prices and they most likely have a small margin for discount, so be suspicious if the deal is too good to be true.
Coffee shop or bar scam
Vulnerable to this scam are guy travelers who are more than willing to meet local girls. You will be approached by a girl and be invited to go to a local coffee shop or bar. You will be talking maybe exchanging contacts (which are not real numbers). Once you ask for the tab, your new found friend will be gone. Not only that, your jaw will dropped with the hefty bill she left you.
Motorbike scams
You might be living off your dream going around a tropical island on a motorbike but things can turn into your worst holiday when your ride breaks down or if you meet a nasty accident. The owner of your rented motorbike will bring you to his trusted mechanic, who in turn will make an over estimate of the cost to repair it. The owner will of course insist that you need to pay for it. You will end up paying for the damages and some upgrades to the rental motorbike.
One way to avoid this is to take pictures of the bike before you take it out of the garage. Take a photo of the bike with the renter so they cannot deny the condition of the ride. It will also be better if you do not rent from companies which are connected with hotels or guest houses.
Another scam you might encounter will involve you parking the bike, and the bike gone when you return to your parking spot. Remember that these bikes will have two keys—one will be issued to you and the other remains with the company. Scammers will “steal” their scooter back and have you pay for it. What can you do if you leave your passport with them and you have a contract.
The best practice will be to get your own lock for the bike so you are assured it will stay in place when you park it. Also bring an old passport with you to avoid being sucked into a motorbike scam.