Interacting with local people is one of the best ways to get to know a new travel destination. But sometimes the best-laid plans go ago awry and that person you thought was a friendly local turn out to be a scammer in disguise.
Here are some of the top travel scams to beware of.
Thailand Gemstone Scam
This scam is extremely common in Bangkok, and people tend to fall into the trap when negotiating tuk-tuk fares. The tuk-tuk driver will offer an affordable fare on condition that you let him take you to a jewelry shop.
When you arrive at the shop, you’ll be pressured into making a purchase. Of course, the gems on sale are all fakes or terribly overpriced.
If you manage to identify this scam in time, the best course of action is simply to refuse to buy anything at the jewelry shops. While you’ll certainly be pressured into buying, walking away is usually enough to get the scammers off your back.
China Teahouse Scam
This scam usually operates in big Chinese cities with lots of tourists, the most obvious examples being Beijing and Shanghai.
You’ll be approached by purported Chinese students who happen to speak excellent English. They will chat with you for quite a while until you lower your guard, then they’ll invite you to witness a tea ceremony or participate in some kind of tea-related festival.
You then show up at the tea ceremony and enjoy the session until you are slapped with an exorbitant bill that can amount to hundreds or even thousands of Chinese Yuan, and threatened if you don’t pay up. You can try to haggle over the price, but rest assured that you will still end up losing a large sum.
European Friendship Bracelet Scam
This scam tends to take place in European cities that receive lots of tourists, like Paris, Rome or Barcelona.
What typically happens is that a stranger comes up to you and starts tying a friendship bracelet around your wrist. Unfortunately, this person is not at all interested in friendship with you, the exotic foreigner. Once the bracelet has been tied around your wrist, you will be charged for it.
There is one way to protect yourself from this scam, which is to tell the person firmly that you do not have any money and will not pay for the bracelet before he is done tying it around your wrist. The scammer will then either leave or let you have the bracelet for free.
This is another classic European scam that takes on many forms and tends to happen in touristy Western European cities. You are most likely to fall prey to it when you are driving a rental car or taking long distance buses that stop at petrol stations or rest stops.
What happens is that a stranger approaches you and asks for directions. He, of course, speaks great English and strikes up a friendly conversation with you. He claims to be a salesman at some unknown luxury brand and before parting offers you a gift of some of these luxury items.
He’ll then claim that he’s out of cash and needs some money for petrol. And you, filled with goodwill at having received gifts without offering anything in return, hand over cash in hopes of helping your new friend.
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