Tourist scams

For every obvious street scam like 'find the lady', there are half a dozen more that you don't see. No matter how streetwise you think you are or where you go in the world, there will always be the risk of a con artist or thief looking for a soft target. The fact that you are a tourist, may not speak the lingo, might be lost, possibly jet-lagged, distracted by the sights of a new place and potentially loaded with cash and cameras makes you appear very desirable to undesirables.

Here are few old favourites. Please contribute any you have come across...


Pretty basic stuff. However early or late it is, avoid unlicenced cabs which are almost always rip-offs and illegal. Either agree a price up front or go by the meter, but not a combination of both. Of course you also need to ensure that the meter works and gets switched on. You also need to do your homework before you arrive. The last thing you need when you arrive at a foreign airport is to be reading your guide book to check the best way to get a taxi into town.

Some cities have taxi stewards and con-proof systems which ensure you know exactly how much your journey will cost and there is no room for any nonsense. Be aware that there may be some legitimate extra charges for tolls, per bag, on Sundays or national holidays, longer trips, airport trips or during unsociable hours. If you are not sure what charges will be added, ask.


Watch out for mysterious 'cover charges'. Although these are the norm in countries like Italy they are also a classic way for unscrupulous waiters or restaurants to pad out your bill. The same applies with taxes, unordered items and simple shortchanging.

Changing cash

Make sure you feel comfortable with the foreign currency you are using and how much it is worth in pounds sterling. The Euro has done away with a lot of the multiple-zero currencies where it was easy to get confused but you still need to be alert. If you are poor at maths then carry a calculator or currency convertor with you and don't be afraid to use it. Check your change before you leave anywhere. If a stranger or anyone on the street offers to change money for you, be immediately suspicious. If you are daft enough to do a deal, check all the notes very carefully and wait for the big slap on the back at the end from your 'new friend'. It's entirely possibly he - or she - is pickpocketing the very cash he just given you.

Tour guides

You're at a major tourist spot such as a temple and a well-dressed man with ID approaches politely, hands you a leaflet and introduces himself as a tour guide. He doesn't ask for money up front but if you decide to buy a tour he asks you to wait there for a few minutes. He then introduces you to his colleague, you pay the fee and the tour begins. But while your first friend had perfect English, his colleague can barely speak a word. You've been scammed.

Tour guides will also take you to the 'best shops' from whom, of course, they are almost certainly getting commission perhaps via inflated prices. Usually they are so poorly paid that this is the only way they can earn a decent living. Depending on how useless, overpriced or irritating the shop - or tour guide - is, your may want to complain and insist the tour moves on.

Public transport

Buses, trains and particularly underground systems (including London) are hot spots for pickpockets and beggars. Gypsy women may try to distract you with their babies, young children or cardboard begging signs while they go for your bag or pocket. In metro and subway systems look out for anyone trying to push through the ticket barrier behind you. You may think they are after a free ride but usually they will be aiming for your valuables.

If you see a poster or hear an announcement warning you to be wary of pickpockets resist the urge to check your wallet or bag. Thieves say they love these warnings as everyone immediately checks their valuables which shows them exactly where to steal from. The busier the better for pickpockets who don't need an excuse to press up against you. Watch out for anyone waiting until the last minute to board the train - the jump-on, steal, jump-off tactic is common.


Most operate legal scams. To avoid them you need to also avoid the minibar and the phone.

Beat the scammers

Only take out as much money as you need for the day and keep it in a money pouch around your neck, under your clothes.

Keep bags zipped and close to you at all times.

If you suspect a pickpocket is nearby then move away if you can. If it is not possible then look them in the eye and make it clear you suspect their intentions. Better to risk offending someone innocent than becoming a target.

Avoid getting too distracted in museums, galleries and cafes - particularly internet cafes.

Try to blend in and look as un-touristy as possible.
i have travelled a lot and i still shake my head at our own citizens who insist on wearing an England/Scotland etc football tops, it makes you an immediate target for scams.

try to learn the lingo and few well placed phrases can fool them.

look like you know where you are going (even if you don't)

ask questions and check everything if you are going to book a trip it can save misunderstandings and it can make it difficult for them to avoid telling you the whats not included in trips.

Be hard nosed and take no crap from anybody.
I live in S France & this is my advice after 10 years experience of life & tourism here:
1) If you're not happy in a hotel, shop or restaurant, complain politely & if they fob you off say the magic formula "Je vais informer le DGCCRF/ Office de Répression des Fraudes" - this is the Fraud Office & they are VERY hard on people ripping off tourists: like a bulldog once they've got their teeth into something they don't let go & they can set off a very unpleasant chain of investigations (tax, Health & safety etc.). The threat is usually enough to get your money back & a certain amount of respect but if they call your bluff go to the local Mairie & give the fraud guys a call (there'll probably be someone who speaks some English - enough to muddle through if your French is better than survival level.
2) Beware in general from about Montelimar down & east - many local people have had it with "touristes étrangers" & have had many years of practice in ripping people off. The prices double in summer for the tourists & triple if they think you're American. This sounds a horrible generalisation but that's what I often saw when I lived there for 2 years.
3) If you get involved with the local life - pastis in the bar, buying from the local shops, praising the star football/rugby team (stickers/banner in bar usually) & saying "bonjour" to everyone you will be welcomed with open arms & copious amounts of the local hooch & maybe even given the ultimate accolade of "nos *****" (OUR *whatever nationality*).
Hope this helps someone. :)
Eastern europe has a scam called "consumer girls".

In a nutshell, a couple of chicks will wander around the social centre of town looking for a couple of tourist types, get chatting then offer to go with them and show them the best spots. They will then take them to a bar / club and have a good time with them (all above board and sociable like). The bill for a few rounds of drinks will then arrive for a few hundred pounds / dollars along with strategically shaved gorillas to encourage payment.

I read about this in a tourist guide when in Budapest and sure enough a couple of chicks approached me and my mate. Fortunately we were too piss3d already and so they figured we were beyond "consumption". We tried to arrange to meet the next day as defence (auto-pilot still working a little bit) but that was about it.
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