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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   3 min read

No one likes being ripped-off but unfortunately it happens way too often to too many travellers spending their holidays abroad. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you can switch off the common sense button. Don’t be scammed, here are 5 tips on what to watch for while you’re travelling.

1. Don’t sign anything without reading it first

This rings especially true for car hire deals. You’re tired at the airport after a long flight and all you want is your rental so you can get to your hotel and sleep off the jet lag. The rental company shoves a piece of paper in front of you, motioning with a pen where they require your signature. STOP. Even if it takes a few extra minutes, make sure you understand what you’re signing and agreeing too. Otherwise, you’re helpless when you return the car and see your credit card has been charged for extra fees you didn’t bank on.

2. Tour guides don’t always have your interests at heart

Practically all tour guides are friendly, charismatic people with a sense of humour and a strong knowledge of their cities, that’s why they do so well at their job. On the other hand, it’s their job to act like this because you’re paying them to be fun and interesting, to show you a good time. Unfortunately as a tourist, many people will see you not as a person but a potential revenue source. It’s easy to forget that while tour guides say they’ll take you to the best place to go shopping, what they actually mean is that they’ll take you to the place where they make the best commission off of you. This is especially true in places like Egypt and Morocco, many parts of Asia too.

3. Make sure you can count

If you can’t do currency conversions and simple arithmetic quickly in your head then make sure you have a currency cheat sheet or a calculator on you at all times. These days most phones at least have a calculator function and many phones even do currency conversions on the spot. If the price doesn’t seem fair, or is entirely out of whack (because the other person is depending on you not knowing a thing about the value of their money), then ask why the price is so high, what does it include, etc. Another thing, watch out for big numbers, especially when dealing with Indonesia’s rupiah or Vietnam’s dong. It’s easy to add an extra zero unnoticed.

OANDA creates custom traveller cheat sheets which you can print out quickly before departure and fit in your wallet. Not a bad ting to have when you’re trying to quickly figure out a price.

taxi stand

4. Always have exact change

Probably the most common tourist rip-off is short-changing. While the amount may not be significant, time after time it can really add up. The easiest way to avoid this is to always have plenty of spare change when travelling so you can pay the exact amount. When you exchange money, ask for plenty of small notes. The more chances you have to pay with smaller notes or exact change, the less chance you have of being short-changed. If you make a small purchase with a large note, calculate how much change you should get and count what you receive before leaving the clerk’s view. Don’t be embarrassed to double-count, everyone makes mistakes.

5. Always do your pre-trip research

It cannot be stressed enough that travellers should do some research before departing on their holiday about the average cost of simple items like a cup of coffee, taxi ride from the airport, etc. You’re more likely to overpay in a country where things are generally quite cheap than in a country where things are naturally expensive. What seems like a good deal to British travellers is often times a rip-off in local terms. In terms of taxis, it’s worth knowing what is the norm: using a meter or agreeing upon the price before getting in. Remember though, often the quoted price is at least double what the meter would read. If the driver refuses to use the meter, find another taxi. He might change his mind when he sees you walking away.

On top of easy rip-offers there are dozens of scams to be aware of. Check out Tourist scams: what to watch for before you depart.

Any other advice for avoiding rip-offs while travelling abroad? Share them below!

Imgs: Paul Frederiksen, TylerIngram / Flickr cc.

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