January 29th, 2018
People think that traveling is just pure fun. Little did they know that travel scam is one of the struggles that one traveler had to endure and sadly, it is all over the world now. Special targets are the people who are not familiar in the country they’re traveling to— foreigners.
What is a travel scam?
“Travel scam is a scheme for making money by deceptive, dishonest, or fraudulent means.”
This is not to scare you. Let’s just face the fact that nowadays we cannot really trust everyone. So to avoid it, here are the common examples of the scams that you might encounter on the road.
We can start when booking your flight tickets with different agencies or online websites. These are the fraud agencies who will post a very cheap packages and once you have booked everything they will disappear together with your money. Sometimes in online world they would even imitate a luxurious resort’s website to get your booking and once you flew to the country, it’s shocking that you will be informed that you never had a reservation. That’s what happened to someone that I know. For them not to spoil their vacation, they ended up paying again. But this time, to the resort itself. Just imagine how much they have lost? That’s kind of like around $20,000!! Be careful because not all cheap things are legit. And sometimes, because you wanna save money so bad, you will end up paying more. I would suggest to double check everything online, like the agency and their reviews, you can also check if they have been issued for scams or directly call. There are also websites that are very suspicious and obviously fraud. For walk in agencies, they should have their business license, photos of their previous clients, and again reviews.
First hand experience! There are different types of fake taxi scams.
* There’s an airport taxi that would offer you an overly priced ride to your 10-minutes-away-hotel and will inform you that all taxis are offering the same amount, and that there are no ordinary taxis other than the ones in the airport
* Taxis that will pretend that their meter is not working properly to charge you for $$$$$$
* Taxis that will drive you around the whole city, and later you will realize you’re just literally 5 minutes away from your destination!
* And of course, the one I’ve experienced in Vietnam. They will claim that they are part of this taxi company and will show you “receipt”. They are even in uniforms and will convince you that they will use the meter. Here comes the fake meter that jumps every two seconds. I was charged 200,000 VND for a 5-10 minutes ride. Again, research research is the key. Always check first what are the reliable taxi companies, ask the driver if he know where the place is and if the rates are metered or fixed. You can also try checking their company IDs that they usually display in their cars. Thanks to our modern generation, other trusted car companies are: Uber, GrabCar, Blahblahcar, etc.
First hand experience again. This is actually a continuation of my taxi experience in Vietnam. Two scams in one ride, yessss! After making sure that I’ve got the correct paper bill (because the zeros are confusing) from my purse I handed my 200,000 VND to the taxi driver. He took it and as I was about to leave, he gave it back and told me that I gave him 20,000 VND (two pieces of 10,000) not 200,000. I was confused because I’m pretty sure that I counted the zero correctly. Since I wasn’t familiar at all to this scam, I gave him another 200,000 VND. I left the taxi and counted my money and found out I’ve lost 400,000 VND in total. Please note that there are certain money that might confuse you, maybe the digits or the similarity of the color.
(TEN THOUSAND VND)
(HUNDRED THOUSAND VND)
I learned that it’s better if you count the money right in front of the person you’re paying for.
TAXI- TRAVEL AGENTS/ HOTELS
You will find this everywhere. Most of the taxis gets commission from the travel agencies whenever they bring tourists, and especially when they purchase something. So what they do is they try to convince the tourist that he knows a travel agency and offers variety of activities in a cheaper price when in fact it’s overpriced. We experienced this in Phuket, Thailand. Upon arrival we went to the mini van that will take us to our hotel, but the van had a stop over in one of their offices. At first, I thought he will only drop the list of the passengers or maybe the payment. Few minutes after, around 3-4 people who works in the said office went out and opened the van. We were instructed to leave our things, go out of the van and come inside the office. We chose to stay together with our things but they forced us to leave the van. We did what they have asked us to do and just kept on watching out our things that were left in the van. The lady from the agency was trying to have a friendly chat and we’re just giving few answers. Maybe she felt that we were not interested of anything so she didn’t bother selling us their packages. How do you avoid this? You can plan ahead and book to your trusted agents or do your own trip. One more way is you can just tell them you already have a booking for everything even if you don’t have it yet. If they kept asking for more information, try to divert the topic.
Pretty much the same thing to those fraud agencies who offers “cheap” or “discounted” rates but ends up way overpriced than the original price. Worst case scenario is giving you a non existent voucher. Always remember that there’s no harm in checking with the official shops whether they have promotion tickets or not, or how much will it cost you. There are certain tourist spots that gives local rates and foreigner rates. There are also some museums that opens in public for free in certain days. Don’t just take the bait. Luckily I haven’t experienced this.
Another first hand experience. If you have traveled to Bangkok you might be familiar to this place called Patpong. It is known to have bars and clubs that perform shows. And when I say show, this is not your typical show— they call it pussy/sex show. I couldn’t believe it when I first heard about it so the little curious cat in me went all the way to Patpong! So the scam will start with a person who will convince you to go inside and watch the FREE show. We were informed to just pay 150 baht which is for the beer. So me and a friend of mine sat, while we’re watching the show the waiters served our beers and an additional soda which we didn’t touch. As I have observed, one of the performers went to different tables and asked if she can have the soda. Some customers gave it while the performer just kept the glasses on the side. My conclusion is that once they took the soft drinks it will also be charged to the customer. Fast forward after the show, we went to the cashier to pay for our bill. To my shocking surprise, we were being charged for 4,000 baht— the receipt’s summary is: 2 SHOW, 2 BEERS! We argued with the cashier who was being rude and explained to her that one of her colleagues informed us that we only had to pay 150 baht/each and that the show was free. She tried to pretend that no one informed us about 150 baht. When we saw the lady we were referring to, the lady denied as well. To make the story short, WE STILL PAID 150 baht. Because helloooo, why the heck are we going to pay for 4,000 baht?! Tip? Do not go to Patpong, it is quite a dangerous place. I would actually consider it as a gangster’s territory. Believe me I can still imagine myself being trapped inside that club with mafia-looking guys. If you really want to see the show, then be prepared to pay for thousands of baht or take all your friends with you to be safe. NEVER GO ALONE, PLEASE.
This usually happens on the street. There are random kids or ladies who will give you ‘free lucky charms’ and will try to put in your hand or other parts of your body. Once they have successfully put it, that’s when they will start forcing you to pay for it. Never get fooled of freebies and don’t let anyone put things on your body.
Before my trip to Cambodia, I’ve been reading how to cross the border from Thailand. I have stumbled in few articles about the scam in the border. This scam mostly happens when you cross the border from Thailand to Cambodia through direct bus. You will have a stop over and there will be guys who would “assist” you for your visa or stamp, they will also ask you to handover your passport. Once they have your passport they will tell you that you have to pay for a certain amount for the processing. Once you realize your stamp is free (countries part of ASEAN), it’s too late to get your passport back. Luckily, I’ve crossed the border by train and did everything on my own upon arrival in the border. To avoid this scam, never hand over your passport to anyone unless you’re at the immigration itself! Don’t be lazy, everything is easy if you read and plan ahead. Do not just depend on third parties because sometimes it might end up draining you physically, mentally and financially.
Most of the Asian countries can be explored through motor bike rentals. And one of their favorite scams to do is let the tourist rent the motor bikes that are not so polished, or motorbikes that has been damaged ever since. Once the tourist is done renting it out, scammers will accuse the tourist for damaging their property (not taking care of the bike) and charge them a specific amount. There are also some cases where they will have an accomplice who will damage the bike just for you to be charged with a crazy amount. Same applies for jet ski rentals. I am not discouraging you to rent anything but when you do, make sure that all parts are working. Much better if you can take a photo of its condition before you rent it, so in the end you will have a proof.
These are just few from the common scams that you will possibly encounter. Awareness is your key to avoid all of these. Make your trip smooth by being knowledgeable enough about the things that you need to be aware of before leaving your home. Research is free and harmless.
Any travel scam you’ve encountered that I missed? Share your story below!
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