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Alianz Global Assistance

Top 6 Tourist Traps

When in unfamiliar surroundings, and distracted by beautiful sights and scenery, we can’t help being a bit more vulnerable than we would be on our home turf. Unfortunately for tourists, this can play into the hands of con artists.

Once you know the tell-tale signs that point to a scam, it’s easy to stop petty crime from ruining your holiday. Read on for our advice on the tourist traps to be aware of and how to avoid them.

Extortionate Taxis

Hiked taxi fares are one of the most common, and no doubt most successful, tourist scams.

Disorientated travellers fresh off the plane are often easy targets for opportunistic taxi drivers. In many countries (from North Africa to Asia and even France), you may be charged a fare far higher that the locals would receive for the same trip or, if the taxi has a meter, find yourself taking the long way round to your hotel.

Do some research before you get to the airport so you have a rough idea of how much the journey should cost, and reserve a transfer before you arrive if possible. Be clear with your driver about your destination, and have the address and a map to hand.

Suspect Cash Machines

Although the existence of cash machine scams is fairly common knowledge, tourists can still experience foul play when trying to withdraw cash abroad. Tampered-with cash machines may temporarily trap your card and can be fitted with devices that can record your card details or pin.

To avoid being conned, keep your wits about you when making a withdrawal. Cover your pin, check around you to make sure no-one is loitering nearby, and inspect the machine for anything that looks odd or out of place.

If your card does go missing or you notice any suspect transactions coming out of your account, call the bank as soon as possible and ask them to cancel your card.


One of the oldest tricks in the book, pickpocketing is ubiquitous from Barcelona to Beijing. Large crowds – particularly in busy cities or on public transport – are a pickpocket’s feeding ground. This said, there are a few ways you can make life harder for the thieves, even when in a crowded area.

Firstly, be as discrete as possible with your valuables. Keep expensive items hidden in hard-to-reach pockets and limit the amount of cash you have to-hand. If you are carrying a back pack, wear it on your front when entering a busy area.

Last but not least, never put your items of value in the hold when travelling on a coach or bus – keep them in your line of sight.

Fake Guides

Chatting with locals while travelling is a great way to gain a first-hand perspective of your destination.

However be wary of those who offer you unsolicited tours and trips to sites, restaurants or shops.

You’ll often find that what seemed like an act of goodwill was actually a ploy to get you to buy an overpriced tour or a meal at a place ran by one of their acquaintances.

A firm no will keep would-be scammers off your back. Ask at a tourist office for a list of approved guides and use review websites to find reputable tour agencies before you go away.

Photo Opportunists

Photographs are the best way to create lasting memories of your trip. However be wary of your chosen subject matter; after taking photos of street performers or people’s ‘pets’, you may find yourself being hassled to pay for the privilege.

If you are looking for someone to capture a group shot of you and your companions, be careful who you ask. Handing over an expensive camera is an easy way for a thief to get hold of your valuables.

Be cautious if someone offers to take a photo out of the blue: look for other tourists and request they take the snapshot.

Price Hikes

One price for locals, another price for tourists.

This scam is replicated in shops and markets across the globe and is very difficult to avoid, particularly if you don’t speak the local language.

A quick bit of research will give you an idea of how much to pay for taxis, food and souvenirs. Most traders will expect you to bargain over prices, so don’t be afraid to haggle.

And remember the old adage – whether it’s ‘leather’ belts or ‘designer’ bags, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Finally...Travel Safe, Travel Happy

Remember that nearly all scams are avoidable if you take care of your belongings and stay aware of your surroundings.

The vast majority of locals want to encourage tourists into their region and will give you a warm and honest reception. Keep an eye on the risks and you’ll come back from your trip with only good memories – and all of your possessions.