So you have managed to steer clear of all the dodgy websites selling fake plane tickets and hotels don’t exist. You have successfully avoided any of the extortionate airline extras and you have dodged the scam artists trying to offer you an exchange rate that makes the rupee look more expensive then a medium sized chateau in France.
Now that you have reached your dream destination, you may be forgiven for thinking that you can finally let you guard down. But at what cost? Here are some of our favourite scams from around the world.
Tickets for The Staten Island Ferry
Ahh the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps. With attractions costing upwards of £30 each and accommodation costing hundreds of pounds, you may be looking for a way to make your trip more frugal.
So a rock bottom priced ticket for the Staten Island ferry may look like just what the doctor ordered. And there are so many shops and stalls selling these tickets.
However there is no such thing as a Staten Island Ferry ticket! The Port of New York Authority categorically states that they will never ask for a ticket or any payment. The ferry is free of charge to locals and tourists alike. Never let anyone dupe you into buying a ticket.
The Grand Palace, Bangkok Scam
No trip to Bangkok is complete without seeing the majestic Grand Palace. This complex houses multiple ornate buildings, beautiful gardens and fascinating museums.
But on arriving to this magical location, many tourists are met by an official looking ‘guide’ who explains that the palace is closed. We have heard a whole range of explanations for this. One ‘guide’ explained that it was because the monks were having their lunch and another said it was because today was a special holiday.
The ‘guides’ then offer to be helpful and show you another location that is even more beautiful. All you have to do is get into their Tuk Tuk and part with some of your money.
As you may have already guessed, these so called ‘guides’ are con artists. As long as you visit between 8:30am and 3:30pm, the palace will always be open.
The Friendly Local Scam
This has to be one of the most common tourist scams. We have seen travellers fall for this in Europe, Asia and Africa. A smartly dressed friendly local starts talking to you and finds lots of common ground. They then ask if you would like join them for a drink at their favourite pub or nightclub. They might even make it seem that you would be safer going with a knowledgeable local rather than on your own. You might think that you will be fine as long as you watch your drinks.
Shortly after arriving and getting your first drink, your new best friend excuses themselves to go to the toilet. What they are really doing is slipping out of the back of the venue and just in time for the padded bill, sometimes exceeding £1000. Trying talking your way out of that in a foreign bar.
If a local ever invites you out for a drink, make sure you choose the venue and watch your drink. Or even better, play it safe and go to a cafe.
The Jet Ski Scam
When the sun is setting in an exotic location, what better way to unwind then jumping on a jet ski. On beach resorts across Thailand such as Koh Samui and Phuket, it’s impossible walk more than a few steps without being offered a ride. Some of the hawkers offer incredibly low prices that make it seem hard to pass up.
Before going on your jet ski ride, you will usually be asked for your details, your hotel and sometimes even your passport number.
After you return the jet ski, the shocked local points out some damage that you have soposidly caused to the jet ski. Within minutes there’s a whole gang of men all demanding you pay anything between £2000 and £7000 for the damage.
Around this time a local police officer usually turns up. But just as you think you have been saved, the police officer agrees that you must pay. He may try and make it look like he is on your side by ‘helping’ to lower the price. In reality, he gets his cut for helping. There is no point trying to run as they know all of your details.
This scam is so prevalent in Thailand that they now have a “Jet Ski Mafia”. It’s so easy to get caught out that we advise against hiring jet skis in Thailand.
The Airport Taxi Con
On arriving in a new country, it may seem that the most stress free way to get from the airport to your hotel is by taxi. But imagine getting into a taxi only to be told that your hotel is closed for renovations. The taxi driver may even show you photos to prove it.
But then the he offers to help. He explains that another hotel had been offering special rates to guests affected by the renovation works. It’s only after you check into this hotel and pay the full rates upfront that you then get a phone call from your original hotel asking why you didn’t check in.
This con is becoming increasing common and in some cities hotels are paying taxi drivers to con travellers into staying with them. Remember that your hotel or travel provider will always contact you if there is any changes to your itinerary. If anyone claims your hotel is closed or bankrupt, always try contacting the hotel or your travel agents directly before making alternative plans.
The above list of scams are just a few of the creative cons that we have observed or heard about. Con artists are always concocting new and colourful scams to separate you from your money. The golden rule is to have your wits about you, do your research and always think twice before handing over any money.