7 Most Common Tourist Traps and how to Avoid Them
Choosing where to holiday next is already challenging enough without having to worry about dodging areas infamous for their tourist traps. While tourism is undoubtedly a booming industry that helps support virtually every country, there are many third-world regions where locals prey on the travellers pouring into their country to make a profit.
Unfortunately, you're going to find an element of this no matter your travel destination, but don't let that deter you from exploring the world. As long as you're aware of what to look out for, and how to protect yourself, then you can still enjoy your travel experience without being ripped off nine different ways before lunch time.
Hey, who knows, some of these tourist traps may result in your best travel adventures? There's always that silver lining. Here we've highlighted seven of the most common traps when you're travelling and our tips to avoid them.
1. Beware the 'broken taxi meter'
It might seem like a perfectly reasonable problem, but be wary of any taxi driver that claims their taxi meter is broken. They'll likely suggest an upfront fare for the total trip and you can bet your bottom dollar that this amount will be anything but reasonable.
It's also a good idea to check out what the meter is starting at to avoid paying for someone's previous trip, as well as yours!
Make sure to learn the currency of your holiday destination in advance and research some common purchase amounts online so you know when you're being ripped off or not.
2. The 'free' trinket routine
This tourist trap is a favourite among many different countries, from Europe to South East Asia. You'll likely be approached with an offer of a free, necklace, bracelet, or even a flower. Do not let them put the item on you/in your hand at any cost. What was previously declared as 'free' will suddenly come with an expected tip as a thank you.
If you refuse to pay, the individual will usually cause a scene and become very insistent or aggressive. Your only two options at this point are to give them some money or force them to take back their not quite free present, and sometimes, this may be a braided bracelet that you can no longer remove - funny that!
Another trick doing the rounds is they may tie something around your hands, such as a bracelet or string for a "trick", but the trick's on you as at this point their friend swipes your handbag or valuables. It's a fast way to ruin your holiday that's for sure, so always keep a lookout for you and your friends.
3. Suspiciously helpful bag handlers
Those who have visited many destinations during the one holiday can appreciate the struggle of lugging their heavy baggage everywhere they go. It might be tempting to accept the generous offer of a local to help you lift your suitcase up into the storage racks of a train, or down a flight of steps, but it's in your best interest to assume the worst.
While there are many decent folk who are genuinely interested in helping. Many others are doing so with an ulterior motive. Once they've done all the heavy lifting, they'll then demand a hefty tip for their services. Feel free to barter with them and offer a lower amount. They might have done you a service, but that doesn't mean you have to be a sucker.
Otherwise, make sure you're always in a position where the helper won't be able to simply grab your bag and make a run for it.
4. The guilt trip
If you have a big heart, then you are the ideal target for this next group of savvy street beggars. Travelling to impoverished countries can be quite the culture shock, especially when you are confronted by the staggering number of beggars and homeless people crowding the streets.
You'll likely find many children and pregnant women pleading for your help so they have enough money to go home. The unfortunate reality is many of these desperate individuals are in fact employed by local gangs and are sent out each day to play on the guilt of big-hearted tourists. There will always be those who are in genuine need of help, however, so use you best judgment when offering them money, and certainly don't allow them to accompany you to an ATM. It's also wise to prevent the beggars from seeing how much money you have in total, as they may ask for more money or other valuables.
5. Mysterious rental vehicle damage
"I don't remember dinting my rental scooter?" won't be an acceptable excuse should your rental provider decides to sting you with damage that was already there or never existed in the first place.
Thankfully, our travel tip for this one is very simple. Take photos of every square inch of your rented scooter, motorbike or car - including the registration papers - before and after you drive away with it, so you have evidence of your stellar driving ability.
6. Fake money and wrong change
This particular trap can go down a number of different ways when travelling. You'll hand over a big note, expecting change, and either receive a fake note or an intentionally smaller note than required. Again, one of our most useful travelling tips is to understand the currency before you use it.
This understanding should also extend to currency conversion rates. Some locals will offer you what seems like a reasonable exchange rate for your home currency, only for you to later realise you've been hoodwinked. This is where having a Latitude 28° Global Platinum Mastercard for your travels can be invaluable. With no currency conversion fees when you make purchases in a foreign currency, you won't have to worry about receiving dodgy or fake change.
7. Fake police
It's not uncommon to have a few shady people along the street offer you all manner of illegal substances or services in various countries around the world. Just watch out for plain clothed individuals who hang around these street salesmen and identify themselves as police officers. They'll end up accusing you of illegal activity and demand you hand over your passport or wallet for identification. Do not do this. They will either outright steal your belongings or have someone lift your valuables while you're distracted by the fake threat of being taken to jail. Ask to see their identification, or better yet, ask someone with a mobile to call the police yourself.
As long as you keep your wits about you when travelling and think twice before giving or accepting anything from strangers who appear helpful, you'll be less likely to fall victim to some of the more common tourist traps. For those travelling to Japan, make sure you also read our top 9 tips for surviving knowing only English.