We’ve been stuck on travel safety lately—and as we’re on a roll, it’s high time to talk about a few common travel scams and how to avoid them.
1: Unofficial Airport Taxis or Ride Shares
Look for marked taxis when leaving the airport to avoid spending more than you need – photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash
File this under “Harmless but Annoying.” As you leave the airport you’ll find a queue of unmarked or unofficial taxi drivers calling out to any jetlagged tourist who’ll take them up on an inflated fare. Common travel scams of this sort include fare hikes and long, circuitous drives to prolong your trip (and up that fee) from Point A to Point B.
Do this: Agree on a fare beforehand or pay in advance, and always look for a marked cab with a meter, if you’re going with a standard taxi. Ubers and other cars through trackable ride share programs may also be available, depending on where you are.
2: Not-So-Accidental Spills
Mustard, mayo, bird poo…there’s a ton of stuff you don’t want on your clothes or in your hair while you’re out and about. Through this common travel scam, you’ll feel an unwelcome splat while a seemingly well-meaning person will rush over to help clean you off–and in the confusion, clean you out. An alternative version: You’re told to remove your backpack so he can get all of the bird crap off of you, and you never see it again.
Do this: As dorky as it is, consider wearing a travel belt instead of putting your wallet in your back pocket. If you’re more comfortable with a purse or bag (I don’t blame you), keep it closed and clasped, and don’t wear expensive jewelry. Also consider storing your money in multiple spots so if you do get robbed, you still have a little bit on you.
3: Tea Ceremonies
You’re approached by a group of young women who chat you up and invite you to a “traditional tea ceremony.” Wanting to learn as much as you can about the culture (and to get to know the ladies), you jump at the chance. You’re treated to an elaborate ceremony with your new friends, and within an hour you wind up with a massive bill for the entire group–many of whom have already left.
Do this: Walk away before being dragged along!
4: “Closed” Hotels/Bars/Restaurants/Attractions
You flag down a cab and ask the driver to take you to this one tour spot you’ve heard was amazing. “They’re closed on Tuesdays,” he says. “I know a better one though.” You may or may not enjoy the recommended tour more than the original one, but you can probably be sure the guy’s getting a referral commission–and you’re getting a terrible deal.
Do this: Take a look for yourself and find out if that place really is closed on Tuesdays.
5: Bus Luggage Thieves
In this scenario, you’re on a five-hour bus trip from one end of the country to another. Partway through, you fall asleep, your backpack stored in the net above your seat. At one of the many stops along the way, a passenger grabs your bag and leaves the bus with you being none the wiser.
Do this: Keep your backpack on your lap (makes a good pillow!) or check it under the bus if the option’s available.
About the Author: Sarah Stone
Sarah Stone: As the managing director of Frayed Passport, my goal is to help you build a lifestyle that lets you travel the world whenever you want and however long you want, and not worry about where your next paycheck will come from. I've been to 20+ countries and five continents, lived for years as a full-time digital nomad, and have worked completely remotely since 2013. If you would like to share your story with our community, or partner with Frayed Passport, get in touch with me at email@example.com!