As tourists, we want to be open to new experiences and meet the world with open arms. To do this, we sometimes must ignore our trepidation and just take a leap of faith.
While this can usually result in an exciting new experience, there are also people looking to take advantage of that dynamic.
They profit off your insecurities and trusting attitude. Here are some of the common ways people try to scam tourists – and how you can avoid them.
“Will You Accept This Rose?”
This scam takes a couple of different forms depending on where you are, but the execution is the same: Someone approaches you, usually with lots of flattery, and hands you rosemary (for luck) or a rose (because you’re so beautiful!).
This seems like a sweet gesture until they start demanding money for the item.
You try to give it back, but they refuse. They want you to pay them and they are willing to make a scene until you do. This can also happen with string bracelets, where someone will tie the string around your wrist and ask for money, since the knot can’t be undone.
A good rule of thumb while travelling is not to take anything that is just handed to you. Assume that nothing is free until proven otherwise.
A lot of travellers learn early on that there are good taxis and there are the ones that can ruin your whole day. Taking overly long routes or turning off the meter and charging exorbitant prices are the common ways taxis can scam you out of money.
They might also tell you that your destination is closed or not very good, then offer to take you elsewhere.
The alternative they offer usually belongs to a friend, and they get kickback for bringing you there. At best, you get a mediocre and expensive experience that you didn’t want. At worst, you could end up in a bad situation.
Always order taxis from legitimate taxi services just like you’d stick to legitimate online gambling casino sites. If you’re unsure, you can ask authorities at the airport or see if your hotel has a preferred taxi service they use.
Most hotels offer shuttles from the airport. You can also refuse to get into taxis whose meter is broken, then track the route on google maps once you find a taxi you are comfortable with. Listen to your gut.
“What’s that on your shirt?”
This is also a scam that can take a few different forms. The most common is that someone will spill sauce on you, then offer to clean it off, apologising profusely.
While you are distracted by this, they can pickpocket you or have an accomplice go through your bag. Similar tricks include saying they like your shoes and want to compare shoe sizes, jostling you, or handing you a cute animal to hold.
These tricks rely on you being surprised and distracted, so to avoid them you should be wary of anything unusually distracting that requires touching from a stranger. Hold on tight to your belongings and politely refuse “help”.