For tourists all over world, it’s hard to avoid meeting touts and scammers coming up with ever new tourist scams. These cheats are always looking for new ways of stealing money from unsuspecting tourists. We have written this article to help tourists avoid losing money due to such scams .
Some common tourist scams faced by travelers
1) Let’s go to this shop owned by a friend of mine
For shady guides and taxi-drivers, it’s a very common line. They offer tourists a free tour of a shop, factory, showroom etc and claim that it’s just part of the tour or owned by a friend and they are under no pressure to buy anything. But once tourists enter the premises, salesmen don’t let anyone leave easily without buying anything. They will find any excuse to keep you in and it could go on for a long time. The unsuspecting tourists are very often tricked in to buying useless, overpriced items like rugs, clothes or random trinkets at hugely inflated prices
2) Providing false information
This is also very common and there are numerous variations. Latest one we heard was from an American guest of ours who wanted to visit Red Fort (Lal Qila) in Delhi. He was staying in a hotel Paharganj, which is a drive of 15 minutes from Red Fort. When he started searching for an auto-rickshaw to take him there, a random guy from street came up to him and offered him to take him there in his ‘private car’, and for fare, quoted a price which was 6 times the fare of an auto-rickshaw. He tried to bluff by saying that only private cars were allowed inside the fort due to some terrorist threat,. Fortunately, the guest ignored the tout. He hired an auto-rickshaw and visited Red Fort by himself without facing any problem.
3) Tea Tasting Scams
There are numerous variations of this one, but most common involve tea tasting or light meals and are common almost everywhere in world with only slight differences in modus operandi. In this, a scammer or tout posing as another tourist or local in need for a small favour like photograph or translation will approach the foreigner tourist and strike up conversation. They they will suggest a ‘great’ tea shop or restaurant with excellent tea, coffee or food where you could sit and talk. After you consume something in the said place, you are presented with a bill that can easily eclipse that of a 7 starred hotel. The hapless tourist then has no choice biut to cough up the money as even police is indirectly involved in the whole business.
Simple ways to avoid tourist scams
Any tourist is very likely to be approached by dishonest touts in a wide variety of places and situations. Here are some ways by which you can avoid losing money or prevent touts from spoiling your vacation:
1) Ignore random strangers who offer you something
Many places frequented by tourists will have numerous vendors, guides and beggars trying to sell something or asking for money. Don’t pay any attention to them or make eye contact or do anything to make them think that you might be interested in buying something from them. Not everyone is a tout, but most of such people are poor who just want to make some quick money.
2) Collect information online and from books, magazines
Almost all reputable businesses have a website, reviews on forums and various travel websites like Tripzar,Google, Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor and others. Search for what other tourists are saying. Some businesses will have some bad reviews. Check their response or anything they did to make up for the bad experience. There are many business with no online presence which can be good, but in that case ask for advice before spending your money. People who are in business for long period, care about their reputations and are more trustworthy than touts who care only about money.
3) Don’t rely on guides, taxi-drivers exclusively for information
As mentioned earlier, most business owners pay a very significant portion of their sales to whoever brings clients to them. While a small commission is alright, a lot of times, it’s so much that the tourists end up paying at many times their reasonable cost. Some taxi drivers may offer you discounted fares if you agree to visit some ‘friend’ showroom or shop on the way. Avoid such people at all costs. If you absolutely have to go, then always check for reasonable price and bargain hard.
4) Plan in advanced and keep documentation
You should know every relevant detail before paying for any service in advance. When planning for a trip, make sure to have information about every hotel, driver, food, sightseeing, car, guide, etc. written down for quick and handy reference. It can prove helpful in many ways. Not only you have a good idea of what you are paying for, but you can also remove things you don’t need or can ask for upgrades and better facilities.
5) Don’t fall for bluffs
Some scammers try posing as officials of some government agencies to fleece money from people. It is rare, but if you ever meet any such cheat, always ask for an ID. Every government issued ID is in English as well as a local language, Hindi in most places. They’ll tell you that you were doing something illegal and threaten you with arrest or bigger fines if you don’t pay them. Contact nearest policeman or an uninvolved local and let him know of the issue. As a rule, ignore anyone without uniform.
6) Keep low profile and don’t show off
While traveling, do not show off your expensive belongings like expensive branded clothes, electronics, large amounts of cash etc as a status symbol or for any other reason. Try keeping a low profile and don’t let other people know of your economic status. People who look rich usually attract more unsavoury characters than simple and and less flashy ones.
Apart from this, there are many ethical businesses like ours :D, which don’t rely on such corrupt practices and travel scams . You’ll also find many good Samaritans who will help you without expecting anything in return. But you have to use your own judgement to know that. Don’t let behaviour of some greedy tout spoil your journey or mood. Of course, this is not a comprehensive guide to avoid tourist scams, it’s just a pointer. We hope that this article will prove to be of some help and you will enjoy your travel experience.