Updated: Mar 30
I don't want to discourage anyone from travelling especially as there are so many positives but its important to remember there is always some sort of scam or tourist trap which can ruin your experience if you're not prepared. Even full-time travellers can get caught out by scams and across the world there are hundreds of different ways people target tourists but here are three common scams and my top tips to avoid them.
The 'Free' Gift
This scam is my worst enemy on a trip and I find it the hardest to avoid, mainly as I don't want to come across as rude or unappreciative. There are a few versions of this scam but the general idea is that someone will try and offer you a free gift or service and then once you take it they will then charge you. Bracelets are commonly used for this but they can really use anything, I've also seen this scam done with flowers, hair braiding, and even lucky pennies.
I have had my fair share of run-ins with this scam, one of which was in Athens, and here are my top tips to avoid being ripped off:
Be Aware - It's easy to get caught up in the moment when you're travelling and let your guard down. The people running this sort of scam will stick out in a crowd and if you have these people on your radar you won't be caught off guard if they approach you.
Do not take the gift! This may seem obvious but is often the hardest part. The people running these scams and sometimes be quite forceful and sometimes a simple "no thank you" doesn't work.
Walk away! If they do not take no for an answer simply walk away and don't engage any further with them. If you have taken a gift and they won't take it back simply put it on the floor and walk away. They may follow you for a few minutes but they will soon realise you are not going to pay.
The Local Guide
I don't want to discourage anyone from interacting with locals on a trip however I would advise that do so with caution. The majority of the locals are innocent but unfortunately, there are always those trying to exploit tourists. They are often the hardest scams to foresee, anytime someone offers to do something for you or to show you somewhere you hadn't preplanned then alarm bells should be ringing. Everything from offering to carry your bags to showing you the best spot for a picture can lead to them demanding money in return.
Although I'm sure this scam runs worldwide I have found it more common in middle eastern countries, Petra-Jordan and Karnak Temple-Egypt both have similar scams where locals will offer to show you an amazing view and then once you are far off the main trail they will demand money in return for showing you the way back. The only way to ensure you are safe is to use official tourist guides and prebook them before your trip where possible.
Thieves will operate everywhere and anywhere; landmarks, public transport, museums, beaches... you name the place and there are probably pickpockets at work. Obviously, this is not something to be paranoid about but you should be mindful and take measures to protect yourself and your belongings.
Here are my top tips ... Be aware of distractions. Personally, if someone bumps into me, even if seemingly innocent, my first reaction is to check my bag zippers and where I keep my money. This is the best habit to get into otherwise it could be hours before you notice something is missing by which time it will be too late. If you travelling with friends keep an eye on each other's bags, especially in crowded areas. Don't be careless. It is easy to get caught up in the beauty of some places and forget to look after your stuff, even if you sitting at a café make sure you have your belongings in sight at all times. Don't just leave your bag on the back of the chair or your phone on the table, I will usually wrap the bag strap around my leg that way I know it is safe. Split up your valuables. Don't keep all your money in one place, this way if you are targeted you will only lose a limited amount. Personally, I usually split my money into three sections; a money belt or bumbag, an inside zipped pocket of my rucksack and I keep some emergency money in a locked suitcase in the hotel room.
And don't forget travel insurance ... just in case.