The pros of traveling definitely outweigh the cons, but that doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind when exploring new places.
While the language barrier and the cultural sites are exciting, they also open up travelers to scam artists and petty thieves. During the holidays, many of us are already distracted, so adding a new place and big crowds only further overloads the senses, making it difficult to keep eyes peeled for cons and “overly friendly locals.”
With this in mind, the members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist have compiled a list of the “Top 5 Worst Travel Scams and How to Avoid Them.” In addition to the scams, we also noted a few spots where they are most commonly found.
• “Senor Sticky Fingers” — pickpockets — Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Spain.
Pickpockets are no longer limited to the simple “bump and grab;” their scams and scenarios have greatly diversified. VirtualTourist members mentioned that pickpockets often work in teams — while one shows you a gold ring or points out mustard on your shirt, another cohort is stealing your wallet.
Keep in mind, though, there are many more things for thieves to steal than simply your wallet. Cameras and smartphones are readily carried by travelers, and they have a high resale value in most cities.
Another popular iteration of this scam is the distraction. A woman will approach you waving a newspaper or asking for help reading something, but under the newspaper, she is palming your iPhone off the cafe table.
It’s important to note that if someone offers you unsolicited help, politely decline and quickly walk away. Always keep most of your valuables (passport, important papers and extra credit cards) in your hotel safe, and record the serial numbers of any vital electronics that could be stolen, as some cities require a serial number in order to file a police report.
Unfortunately, pickpocketing is a scam that is not limited to one specific destination, but it is rampant in crowded areas with a large number of tourists. Also, while pickpocketing probably exists everywhere, VirtualTourist members commented that it was common in Barcelona, particularly Las Ramblas, the central pedestrian street that runs from Placa Catalunya through the Gothic Quarter and to the sea.
• “He’s Going the Distance” — gypsy cabs — Termini Station, Rome.
Taxis are often ground zero for scam artists, since passengers entering taxis have often just arrived in a city or aren’t completely sure how long or how far their destination is from their pickup. Taxi scams can be as simple as drivers being unlicensed to overcharging and “long hauling,” when drivers take a longer route to a destination to increase the fare, which is particularly common in Las Vegas.
However, there are a few rules to follow to make traveling by taxi easier. First, in Rome, always use a taxi from a queue where licensed taxis wait for fares. Second, many cities (Rome, New York and Los Angeles, to name a few) have a set fare from the primary airport to inside the city — make sure you know this number and confirm it with the taxi driver before letting him or her place your luggage in the car. Lastly, if you are leaving your hotel, ask the doorman or concierge how much the taxi fare to your destination should be.