You go on holiday to relax, but you can't stop paying attention to your surroundings - tourist traps are everywhere, and there are plenty of scammers out there, just waiting to catch a gullible tourist or someone whose guard is down - you're on holiday, after all! Luckily, you can learn all about the most common rip-offs and scams before you leave, so that you can remain vigilant and ensure that nothing will ruin your perfect escape.
1. Pay Attention To Your Currency
It may be that you go on holiday in a foreign country and don't take the time to properly check and learn all the different notes and coins. But that is a big mistake, because it means you can get taken advantage of very easily. Tourist traps love it when you don't know the local currency, because they can trick you.
It's good to always check the exact amount you are handing over (wouldn't want to give them the wrong notes!) and throughly check your change, when you receive it. Remember that the largest note is not always the most valuable one, so never assume. On that note, be sure to also check the rules and regulations about taking cash in and out of the country on GOV.uk.
2. Check Your Bill Multiple Times
Picture this - you're on holiday, so you're relaxed, you're with a group of friends at a restaurant and you're having a good time. You've had a boozy lunch at a popular place, and you're flagging down the waiter for the bill. It takes a while for him to get back to you, because it's so busy, so by the time you get the bill, you just want to pay and get out of there.
That's your mistake.
You see, this is what they're counting on - that you don't pay attention to your bill and don't speak the language very well, so they can sneak in some extra charges. Always check your bill multiple times before handing over the cash and tip. And speaking of cash, avoid being charged outrageous exchange rates by reading some advice offered by Money Saving Expert.
3. Don't Give Anyone Your Credit Card Details
Have you ever fallen prey to the old "There's been a problem with our system and we need to verify your credit card details" scam? A lot of scammers try it - they impersonate your bank, online retailers, and in this case, hotels. There have been cases of guests being woken up in the wee hours of the morning and being asked - very professionally and politely - to verify their credit card details over the phone.
What they're banking on is that you won't want to go downstairs and talk to the receptionist face to face, but you absolutely should. Never hand over credit card details on the phone or online to an unverified source.
4. Don't Leave Valuables Lying Around Your Hotel Room
And speaking of hotels, obviously, you have to be careful about your valuables when staying somewhere away from home. Leaving your possessions lying around is not an option, because they can be easily swiped. And with the amount of employees and services hotels employ, combined with the very high guest turn-over, you will probably never get your valuables back. If there isn't a safe in the hotel room, then head down to reception and ask them to keep your things safe for you. Alternatively, you may even want to invest in a [portable safe]/https://www.safe.co.uk/products/master-lock-5900-portable-safe.html.
5. Be Mindful Of Overly Long Or Overpriced Taxi Fares
This one is as old as time itself: the overpriced taxi fare. It is to be expected that you will be scammed on taxi trips as a foreigner, but there is a point where it gets too much. Know where you're going and how long it should take to get there, roughly, as well as how much it should cost you. Make sure the metre is running the whole time and that the amount that is asked of you is the same amount shown on the metre. Oftentimes, taxi drivers will take the looooong way to your destination so that they can charge you ridiculous prices.
6. Don't Accept Services, Experiences, And Tours From Strangers
"Don't talk to strangers" is still sound advice, even as an adult, because stranger danger is real, albeit in different ways, now. When you're in a foreign country, chances are you will be offered all kinds of special tours, services, and experiences, especially around major tourist sites and popular destinations. Some friendly fellow will approach you and offer to be your guide, give you a tour, show you some not-available-to-tourists place, or invite you to some sacred ceremony. It's all a scam and you will probably be taken into some back room and charged an arm and a leg.
7. Guard Your Data When You're Online
You might find yourself in need to use a computer while you're away, but you didn't bring your laptop. An internet cafe can be a suitable solution, but you need to be very careful about how you use your data on public networks. Always make sure that you are connected to a secure network and be sure to delete any temporary files on the computer. Delete the internet browser history, and log out of any websites you may have accessed. And never do banking in public, if you can avoid it.
8. Don't Fall Victim To Pickpockets
This is another one that you're surely already aware of, but pickpockets are everywhere and they are always ready to strike. They particularly lurk in crowded places, like markets, tourist attractions, or on public transportation. The Broke Backpacker has some clever ideas for safely hiding money when travelling. To minimise impact and protect yourself, you can employ a series of measures:
- Keep a very small amount of money in your wallet, and the rest on your person, whether in an inside pocket on your jacket, or strapped on a belt around your waist.
- If you're carrying a bag, make sure the zipper or closure is facing you and not outwards. Carry the bag cross-body, if at all possible, or in the front. Never let it leave your sight.
9. Make Sure The Booking Site Is Legit
You need to start protecting yourself against scams before you even leave on your holiday. Did you know that some of these online booking sites are actually scams? Scammers create identical copycat sites that offer holiday packages, all-inclusive offers, etc. Because the website looks completely normal and legitimate, it's difficult to tell that it's actually fake.
In order to avoid situations like this, make sure to only book holidays on well-known, verified websites. Look for reviews from customers, but never on the actual website, because they will probably be fake. Look for reviews on third-party sites. Which can teach you how to spot fake websites.
10. Pay For Your Own Gas For Rental Cars
If you're looking into renting a car while you're on holiday, then make sure not to opt for a feature that allows you to rent a full tank and return an empty one. You see, in this case, you pay upfront for a tankful of gas that you probably won't use in its entirety. Chances are you will probably use half, maybe even less. And you lose all that money. Instead, opt to return a full tank, because that means that you only pay for the gas you use as you go.
11. Read The Menu Carefully For Hidden Service Charges
You may have not seen this particular scam before, which is why you are likely to fall for it. Did you know that some restaurants have a "cover charge" or "service charge", or automatic gratuity added to your bill? Most restaurants don't do this, so you don't check for it. And when your bill comes, you have a very expensive surprise.
When you're on holiday in an unfamiliar place or dining in a new restaurant, take a minute to check for such a charge on the menu. If it seems outrageous to you, just get up and go and don't feel bad about it.
12. Be Careful About Fake Credit Card Readers Or Cash Machines
The easiest way for scammers to get you is when you pay or take money out of an ATM. You see, these machines can be bugged and faked in such a way to steal your information when you put your card in. Before you know it, some guy is maxing out your credit card. Not a great situation to wake up to, especially when you're away on holiday and you have no other money.
You can prevent this by avoiding to pay by card or take money out in sketchy places. Try to always use ATMs in the daylight, and ones that are attached to a bank, or in a mall, if at all possible, in order to ensure that they are legitimate. The Money Advice Service has some great info on using cards on holiday.