10 Common Travel Scams and How to Deal With Them

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10 Common Travel Scams and How to Deal With Them

Meghan10 Common Travel Scams and How to Deal With ThemMillion Mile Secrets Team

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

One of my biggest pet peeves is believing that I’ve been had.  It’s the worst feeling to realize you’ve been ripped off!  Over the years I’ve definitely had my fair share of encounters with scammers, but have luckily been able to avoid any major loses, to both my wallet and my self-esteem.

Here’s a list of some of the most common scams you’ll see while traveling.  Including a few pro tips on how to avoid them and what to do if you find yourself getting swindled.  And if you want more travel tips, then subscribe to our newsletter to get them delivered straight to your inbox.

I Always Travel With Zippered Bags and Keep Them In Front of Me When I’m In a Crowded Area

Now before you head out on your next adventure, you can be prepared!

10 Travel Scams

1.   The Free Trinket or Flower

Sometimes Gifts Come With Strings Attached…Ugh

I’ve encountered this scam nearly everywhere I’ve traveled.  Someone stops you on the street and hands you a beautiful flower, slips a pretty braided bracelet on your wrist or offers you a sprig of Rosemary for good luck.

Once you have it, they’ll demand money.  And if you refuse they’ll try and cause a scene.  If this happens to you, be firm and politely decline the “gift.”

2.   The Photo Opportunity

Pictures Like This One Can Unexpectedly End Up Costing You

This trick is common near popular tourist locations, where the scammers can easily target people who are hoping to catch that perfect photo.  Think of a Pope look-a-like outside of the Vatican…who wouldn’t want that picture?

Just remember, these tricksters will be more than willing to hop in the photo with you, but will likely demand to be paid afterward.  There are also other places (like Times Square) where “street performers” make a living by dressing up and taking photos with tourists.

If you take a photo with them or of them, they’ll want to be paid.  But the problem is, they aren’t always upfront about this transaction.  So before you take any pictures of characters, get permission first.

3.   The Broken Taxi Meter

Most Taxi Driver’s Are Honest, But Beware of the Broken Meter!

It’s a bit easier to avoid this trick with the prevalence of services like Uber and Lyft.  But in spots where ridesharing hasn’t taken off yet, the “broken taxi meter” scam is still alive and well.

So pay attention and always confirm the price before you hop into the car!  Also, if a taxi driver offers you a flat price to take you to a destination, be careful.  Sometimes they will end up demanding the agreed upon price per person or trying to twist the deal in their favor.

4.   Knockoff Goods

Keep an Eye Out for Knockoffs When Purchasing Items From Local Markets.  I Was Once Shopping for Scarfs in Egypt Only to Discover They Were Made in India!

This is another case where paying attention is key.  You might be presented with a genuine product at first, but the scammer might do a switcharoo without you noticing.

Another trick is someone offering to wrap up your purchase for safekeeping.  It sounds like a great idea, but then the scammer switches out the genuine item and leaves you with a fake.  So be sure that once you agree to purchase something it doesn’t leave your sight before you take it home.

5.   Deceitful Beggars

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people in this world that need help, and I’m happy to give spare change to those I believe to be really down on their luck.

But it’s important not to always be too trusting of everyone you encounter who is asking for money.  Sometimes these scammers are part of a larger operation, with a ring of them trying to guilt friendly tourists into giving them money.  They’ll even go as far as using children to beg for them!

If you want to give something, consider buying food or clothing for them.  Oftentimes the scammers will refuse these sorts of gifts, while someone truly in need will gladly accept the offer.

6.   The Overbooked or Closed Hotel

Don’t Trust Your Driver When It Comes to Advice on Accommodations

Has this ever happened to you?  You find yourself in a taxi headed to your hotel, only to be told by the driver that it’s overbooked or closed.  It’s a bummer, but he’s happy to drive you to a different spot (yeah, right).

In actuality, he or she will get some sort of kickback for taking you to said new hotel.  So don’t fall for this one.  Just continue to insist that they take you where you’d planned to go.  Eventually, they’ll give up….hopefully. 🙁

7.   The Wrong Change

Dealing In Different Currencies Can Be Tricky.  So Be Sure to Always Count Your Change After Paying for Any Goods or Services!

This is a classic, but it can go down a couple of different ways.  Sometimes it’s as simple as just handing you the wrong change after paying a bill.  The scammer knows you’re dealing with a foreign currency and is counting on the fact that you just won’t be paying close attention.

Another trick is to actually try to switch out a bill.  You might hand someone a 50, for example, and they then insist you only handed them a 5, after having switched out the bill.

And always be sure to pay in the local currency because merchants will never give you a favorable exchange rate.

8.   An Overeager Helper

I’ll Carry My Own Luggage Thanks!

I’ve encountered this issue numerous times in various countries.  I find it happens a lot at airports and train stations, in particular.  These scammers might offer to carry your bags or help you find the “perfect” hotel, but they’ll end up demanding money in the end.

It may be a cynical view to have, but I always operate under the assumption that strangers are likely looking for something from you.  It’s far less likely that there’s just a friendly person who happens to be there waiting to help you out.

9.  The Pickpocket

Pick Pocketing Might Be the Oldest Scam in the Book

Being pickpocketed can happen anywhere, not just while traveling.  It’s always important to keep an eye on your valuables, especially when you’re in a crowd or on public transportation.

Sometimes, pickpockets will work in teams.  One person will create a distraction, while the other person moves in for the theft.

10.  Differing Prices for Tourists

As a Tourist I Expect to Pay Slighty Higher Prices, But Sometimes It Just Gets Ridiculous!

This may be the scam that bothers me the most because it’s so blatant.  In many countries, tourists are charged more than locals, for everything from entry fees, to transportation costs, to a soft drink.  I’ve personally dealt with this in Argentina, Egypt, the UK, and Cuba, for example.

In Argentina, they charge tourists more than locals for entry into national parks.  In Cuba, a tourist might pay 10X more than a local for a bottle of Sprite (they even have a different currency for tourists!).  And in Egypt, a boat taxi operator on the Nile tried to charge me 50X more than he was charging locals for a ~10-minute ride across the river.

It’s so infuriating!  Especially because this isn’t the way we treat tourists in the US, so it just feels wrong.  But it’s something you will probably encounter at some point during your travels.  And you’ll have to decide for yourself how you want to deal with it.

Tips for Dealing With a Scam

The best way to avoid any scam is to be hypervigilant and try to avoid being put in a compromising situation from the start.

Be confident and trust your gut.  If it doesn’t feel right, don’t worry about the possibility of offending someone.  I’ve been in a few heated “discussions” before while defending myself. 😉

When you’re buying something or paying for a service, ask about the price up-front.  It also helps to carry smaller bills, that way you might not even need to ask for change.

And of course, leave any valuables at home and keep your bag or purse close when you’re out in public.  Many people like using money belts or hidden pockets.  It’s a great way to fend off pickpockets!

Have you been the victim of any frauds?  How were you targeted and how did you handle it?  Share your story in the comments!

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We reserved for a hotel room at holiday inn suites in Chicago.we were charged with $220 for a two bedroom suite and when I downgraded to a one bedroom, we were charged less but one night was priced for $333. In the Philippines, that price would already include a sumptuous buffet breakfast. Now I travel within my country where it is cheaper and more luxurious hotels are plentiful.

Remember when we were in Taormina in Italy and went to buy an ice cream cone on a warm day. The local fellow in front of us was charged one price and we were charged triple.

Being ripped off does not feel good no matter what language it’s in. Once they hear English spoken, watch out!!!

great post. one thing ive started doing when i travel is putting my license and credit cards in my shoes under my feet. maybe its gross but its better than getting pickpocketed, and who is going to pickpocket shoes?

Enore Bondan Filho

Pickpock shoes? In Brazil, for sure!

This may not necessarily be a scam but it’s definitely another way to be taken advantage of while traveling. When I was in Prague recently, my mother-in-law wanted to convert Euros to Krones. The hotel receptionist recommended a place that advertised a near market value exchange with a flat fee. The employee at the kiosk did not speak German or English and only pointed to the rates sign. Mother-in-law hands her Euros, employee quickly prints a receipt and hands back a lot less in Krones than expected. Turns out they also added a 25% commission! As we walked around the city, even shops would advertise what I can only assume was a similar deal. Bottom Line: Understand exactly what you will get in return before handing over any currency AND your average bank will most likely get you a better rate.


Hi Adrian, thank you for sharing! That’s definitely another trick to add to the list. If I had only one superpower it would be to speak/read every language! Oh how empowering that would be… 😉

Good list, thanks. It’s part irritating, part infuriating how commonplace many of these scams are… sigh.


Totally agree, Luke.

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