There are many ways in which someone can end up being cheated out of their money while they're on vacation. These can take all sorts of forms like beggars who are faking illness or people shoving customized products into your hands demanding to repay them for their unsellable products. Whatever the case, the good folks over on Reddit wanted you to know these tips on avoiding such tourist traps. Read on to find out more.
Iceland's Crazy Restaurant Taxes
"Sounds counterintuitive but when you go to Iceland, pick an airport restaurant and have a decent meal there, and stock up at the duty free shop. Don't just sprint for the airport exit - Iceland will still be there in an hour. Most people are in such a rush to get out of the airport they don't consider that the international terminal is their final chance to dodge Iceland's impressively high tax on prepared foods and alcohol," says u/champaignthrowaway.
The thing you'll want to do is eat food at the restaurants in the international terminal of the airport because there isn't any tax and they're also surprisingly decent eats.
Speaking of restaurants, there are also some general guidelines to consider whenever you go anywhere. u/maxpixel explains, "As a general rule, avoid restaurants that are right near very popular tourist attractions (the Eiffel Tower, Sagrada Familia, the Colosseum). These places are probably there to lure in tourists who don't know any better. There are some exceptions of hidden gems in touristy areas but unless you've done your research ahead of time, avoid these spots."
You should do some research online before you go anywhere. You can find out many of the best places to go from other experienced people so you don't get tricked into paying extra money.
Italian Restaurant Tips
While it may be hard to figure out which restaurants are really just tourist traps, there are some ways to figure them out, in Italy at least. "If you're wondering whether a restaurant in Italy is authentic or a tourist trap, look at the opening hours. Legitimate Italian restaurants that cater to locals will open for dinner no earlier than 7 p.m., while tourist traps will stay open all day," says u/asmiggs. "There are obviously some exceptions but this works as a good rule of thumb."
At least there are some ways to figure these things out. It may not always be easy, but it's these little things that can help you differentiate the good from the bad.
Italy And Street Vendors
Apparently, Italy has a lot going wrong in terms of tourist traps. u/Dude19086 says, "If someone offers you something “ For Free!” Don’t [freaking] take it! They will dump it on you. Make it as hard as possible to take it back, and then pressure you for money. I am talking about how in Italy people will approach you offering a bracelet, attach it tightly and then ask you to pay them."
This actually happens in a lot of places. They'll make it seem like you are stealing from them and make you feel like your only way out is to give them your money. It's best to just not accept anything from anyone.
u/ARaceForRadio_20 recalls a story of when they were in Rome: "My wife and I went to Rome for our honeymoon. This was my first time traveling abroad, but my wife had traveled her entire life. We were walking from the Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps when we were approached by a man, who gave my wife a rose and was very friendly to us. Immediately I told my wife to give it back, and she was irritated with me saying that he gave it to her as a gift."
"He was asking if we were from the US, if we were married, and if he could take our picture using our camera. While saying no to him, I kept telling my wife to give it back. She refused. After a few minutes, his friendliness disappeared, and he jabbed me in the shoulder and pressed his index finger and thumb together, demanding money."
u/soulfister talked about a story about their experience with a similar sort of scam: "I was in Paris walking with a female friend and some guy in front of us picked up a ring off the floor and motioned to ask if it was her’s. She said no but he insisted she take it. I said 'don’t, he’s trying to get money off of you' and she said 'no, he just picked it up off the floor!'"
"Sure enough, he asked her for money, she gave him a little, I guess it wasn’t enough so he asked for the ring back. When we walked away I said 'you know that guy just took you for a ride, right?' We're from NYC so she felt very ashamed."
Dropped Item Scams
A similar thing happens in other countries as well. u/cytokinestormteacup had there very own experience with this. They said, "In Turkey, shoe shine operators "accidentally" dropping the brush in front of you then offering to clean your shoes after you stop to pick it up. Followed by charging an extortionate price for the job." Pretty sneaky if you ask us.
It just goes to show that when you go on vacation you should probably avoid anyone who is trying to interact with you for no real reason. Though maybe you do need a shoeshine...
New York Shenanigans
But it doesn't end there. u/soulfister says it happens in New York, too: "I work(ed. F**kin covid) in Times Square at a Broadway theater. If you take a picture with one of those characters on the street, a bunch of them will come over out of nowhere and get in the shot and all expect money. I see it all the time. I’m not one of those bags who’s like 'don’t bother going to Times Square, that’s not the real New York!', it’s definitely something to be seen, especially at night, but I suggest staying away from the costume characters."
You just have to be really careful where you go and who you interact with. And if someone tricks you into doing something that they think they deserve money for, you need to stand your ground. Anyway, isn't the photographer supposed to be paid for the work? Pretty sure the people in the photo don't get a royalty from that.
Sometimes it's not so easy to reliably determine which restaurants are the best ones. Other times you can tell which ones seem a bit sketchy, but there are plenty of restaurants that are capable of hiding their authenticity. In that case, it's hard to tell, but u/Dude19086 also mentions that "any restaurant that has watermark pictures on their menus."
That's a really bad sign. Watermarks prove that the pictures of their food aren't real. If they were as good as they seemed, they would be able to pay for pictures of their own food. Run away immediately.
Just like when people try to usher you into their restaurant, there are going to be people who try to convince you to do other things like stay at their hotel. "Do not go with the guy who says his friend is the owner of a nice hotel nearby. Most likely won't be nice or nearby," says u/splashingseal. They're right, too, because, as we said before, if they are trying to get you to come it's because they don't expect you to decide to go on your own.
This probably means it's a bad place to stay. Maybe not dangerous necessarily but certainly not nice enough to have built a name for themselves.
All around the world are landmarks and famous locations that people want to see. Whether it's a museum or one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, there are tons of options to see our world's history. Actually, regarding that, u/they_were_taken says, "At the pyramids in Egypt, people with fake badges will tell you that you are required to pay them extra to see the Sphinx. It's included with your park ticket."
Always do your research when you buy tickets so you know exactly what you're getting. Don't feel pressured at any point if you ever experience this for yourself.
Water. We all need it, not everyone loves it, but we all drink it at some point. We would die otherwise. That's exactly why shops are able to take advantage of prices. If you need it, you'll buy it. So billbapapa has a tip for you: "Bring your own refillable water bottle. Especially when travelling, but even just everyday, you'll save a ton of $." This couldn't be any truer.
In general, you should also try to bring water and refill it from good sources. You never want to drink from a tap when you're out of the country, so buying more water tends to become a necessity.
Gifts From The Fiji Locals
"Walking along the street and friendly locals will greet you with "Bula vinaka" (hello) and beautiful smiles. Every now and then one will start a conversation with you and ask you for your name. Before you know it, they are carving your name into 'traditional' wooden spears and shields, etc then asking you for money for the work you never asked for," explains a since-deleted Reddit user.
"They will look upset when you tell them you don't want it and they will explain that now they can't sell the item because they carved your name into it already and they will follow you down the street reducing their price until you finally agree. Best advice: be friendly, say hello, don't give anyone your name."
Petra Mountain Hikes
"Do not ride the donkeys or horses at Petra," warns u/CaligulaAndHisHorse. "They are terribly mistreated by their handlers and are often forced to carry more weight than they can handle. They are also kept in terrible conditions and starved. If you are too fat and lazy to do the hike yourself, don't force some poor donkey to carry your [butt up the side of a] mountain."
They continue their warning with a second tip: "Also, don't buy the sand bottles at Petra, as they take the sand/rocks from the archaeological sites which contribute to its degradation."
u/CaligulaAndHisHorse doesn't stop there. They say, "if you take guided tours, there is almost always a part where they stop at some place like a factory or an artisan studio where they show you how people make things. I always just pass on these as they are usually overpriced tourist traps that the tour company has an agreement with. It's why I usually don't take tours at all."
The thing is that these places are really cool, but it's true that they are meant to trick people into buying overpriced goods. That being said, if you have the money for it, then by all means feel free.
Beggars Can Sometimes Cheat You
It's hard to decide what to do when you encounter beggars. You always wish you could help them, but not everyone has the money to spare and if you pay one you should pay the others, right? Well according to u/ZayaMacD, it's possible to be swindled by them: "Had some ladies pretend to be deaf in the plaza at the Louvre. They were deaf until I told them I had no money to give. They definitely heard that because they walked away pretty quick lol".
You just need to use your best judgement when you help people out. As unfortunate as it is, you can't always help the people who need it even if you try your best to always have some change.
More Scam Artists
Speaking of faking deafness, it seems to be a big thing in France. u/A-Few-Good-Taters says, "Scammers at Sacre Coeur in Paris. They block a chokepoint on the stairs up to the top of the hill and will pester you about signing some bollocks petition. I got 'deaf refugee children charity'. It's a tatty piece of paper with some black and white UN logos and crooked deaf symbols that they obviously made into a collage type thing and photocopied."
"This scam is normally run by women and they are not afraid to use their children. If you are lucky they will just demand some money after you sign. If you are unlucky you'll get pickpocketd while distracted and signing."
Restaurant Finding Tips
Back to the subject of where to eat, there are some other clues to help you discern the right place to eat. "If there is a host or hostess trying to lure you into a restaurant, walk away as quick as you can. Instead, ask the locals where they love to eat." This is just another way that people get tricked into spending their money at the wrong place.
If someone is trying to get you into their restaurant, it means they have reason to believe that you wouldn't go there on your own. Why? Because their food isn't good.
Guided Tour Tips
"If you want a guided tour, arrange it ahead of time. A lot of popular sites are surrounded by unofficial tour guides," says u/FutureBlackmail. "They may have a badge or an official-looking uniform, but if they approach you and ask if you want to hire a guide, it's best to politely decline. A lot of them have no idea what they're talking about. I had a guide at Machu Pichu who claimed that the Inca were "an ideal Communist society," then he took a break half-way through the tour to try and sell us essential oils."
"Real tour guides won't approach you and give you a sales pitch. If you want a guided tour, arrange it ahead of time."
Kings Cross Station Harry Potter Shop
u/touristtrap6969, someone who has admittedly worked at these souvenir shops, had something to say about them: "There's a Harry Potter gift shop in Kings Cross Station that's very popular with tourists. Outside the shop, there's a free photo op where you look like you're pushing a trolley through Platform 9 3/4 which leads you directly into the shop. It is just a small gift shop in a train station but it's always packed to bursting with tourists (covid notwithstanding) buying grossly overpriced merch."
"The shop isn't even a film location and the station has been renovated since they shot the films anyway." Well, that's just disappointing. We might still shop there anyway, whoops.
Harry Potter Continued
"Likewise," continues u/touristtrap6969, "any Harry Potter film tour of London. Be prepared to sit in a minivan and get shown various walls and doorways around London which have no obvious connection to the films. If you're that interested in Harry Potter, honestly I'd advise you stuck up the price of the Studio Tour and go to that instead. Literally, anything else you'll see surrounding the franchise is a tourist trap."
As much as we love Harry Potter, we'd probably have to agree with him. But if the merch looks like it's good quality, we might still ocnsider buying it. Those tours, however, seem like a no-go at this point.
Be Wary Of Taxis
When you take a taxi, you expect them to give you a ride on the fastest possible route. Sometimes that doesn't happen. u/YepThatLooksInfected explains that it's pretty common in Vietnam. They say, "If you're getting into a cab in Vietnam, know the general direction of your destination or follow the route on a map on your phone, if possible. I've had taxi drivers take me around the city for 45 minutes to rack up a fare, only to realize later that my hotel was just a short walk away."
We would actually warn you to be careful about this at all times. This can happen in just about any country that you want to visit. No one is safe, so be sure you know how to get where you're going. Otherwise, get out and take another cab.
u/philliamm96 warns not to use "Unlicensed cabs, always always use a registered company especially for safety never mind financially. A lot of countries have Uber equivalent... Philippines has grab, Bali has blue bird too". This cannot be stressed enough. Not only can these people end up scamming you, but it could actually prove to be a dangerous decision to use such cabs.
If you have no other option, we would honestly insist on walking. There's no way we would ever be caught dead getting into a cab or any vehicle for that matter that was unlicensed.
Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island is a cool place in New York full of museums, a zoo, and other cool attractions. It's also available to the public. "The Staten Island Ferry is FREE. If people are trying to charge you for tickets, they're scam artists. If you're traveling to New York, it's worth visiting for the views, especially considering the cost, or lack thereof," suggests u/Aceofkings9.
If You're in New York you should consider checking the place out. Because it's free, there's no harm in trying. Just keep away from anyone who seems sketchy.
Know Your Means Of Travel
There aren't many places that provide round-the-clock transportation services if any. So, "When you're traveling somewhere new, learn how the public transportation system works and how late it stays open," suggests a since-deleted Reddit user. "When I was in China, we went bar hopping in Beijing and stayed out past when the subway closed. The taxi cabs knew they were our only way home so they charged us four times the normal fare."
If you get caught out late and aren't going to be able to find a way home, this will definitely happen to you, especially if you don't know the language well enough to haggle with the driver.
Different Priced Menus
Not every country is going to go easy on the tourists that come there. There are plenty of sneaky ways to get visitors to pay more. "In some countries I’ve visited, restaurants in tourist areas will have an English menu and a native language menu with cheaper prices," recalls u.33Mastermine. "I usually ask for a native language menu then google translate the menu. Works most of the time in getting a better price."
This is actually a really good suggestion to get out of this sort of scam. When you don't have someone who can help you read the language, you've always got Google at the palm of your hand.
Pay In Local Currency
They don't stop there. "Always pay in the local currency when you can," suggests u/33Mastermine. "A lot of restaurants especially in Europe will ask if you want to pay in USD or Euros and it’s usually cheaper for your credit card to pay in Euros. Just know what your bank and credit cards do when you’re abroad." We've personally only seen multiple currencies payable at the airport, but we're sure this is a good way for restaurants to make some extra cash.
When at all possible, try to exchange some cash before or after you arrive at your destination. That way you can always be prepared when something like this happens to you.
Overpriced Group Tours
It's always convenient to go with a group on a tour because you know you'll be taken care of. But if you're on your own vacation and not a field trip, you might want to avoid groupings. "We wanted to visit the Colosseum in Rome.," u/DarkNinjaPenguin remembers. "All the way towards it from the tube station, there are dozens of people offering 'discounted tours' - you join a group, they get you in for a reduced price, seems good. Except it isn't."
"These tour tickets are about €20 per person, which seems reasonable until you get to the entrance to the Colosseum and see that it's €12 for an adult or €2 for a student. My wife and I got in for €14 because she still had a valid student ID."
That wasn't the only time they had trouble. "The exact same thing happened on the way to the Vatican - people coming up to us insisting that it's cheaper to get in if we buy museum tickets," said u/DarkNinjPenguin. It costs nothing to go into the Vatican! They rely on tourists who don't know any better, see the queue for the Vatican museum and think it's the queue to get inside the city. It isn't."
The moral of the story is to make sure you know what you're doing and all the information you need before heading to a major landmark. Otherwise, people will easily be able to take advantage of you.
Read The Fine Print
"Pay very close attention to signing for your hire car after a long flight," says u/cleavyb1. "I told the server at Budget Car Hire in Miami twice that I didn’t want any extras and just to have what I’d paid for and he still sneakily slid on the cover that I didn’t want nor need. The same attempt by a different company in Ireland caught before I signed - sat nav for £100? I think not. Read the print and question the numbers".
Good Looks Equals Easy Bait
Sometimes being well off in the looks department is not to your advantage. "If you're a young guy and some attractive women come out of nowhere thinking you're cute and asking to go to a bar, don't go," warns u/Mikeavelli. "There's a very common scam where they'll start ordering ridiculously priced alcohol for you all night. You only find out at the end of the night when you get a bill for hundreds of dollars."
There are plenty of people out there who are ready to take advantage of you and your money. If they butter you up and make you feel good about yourself, you're far more likely to pay them in kind.
Budget Airline Hidden Fees
Sometimes buying a ticket for a flight on a well-respected airline is out of your budget, so you need to buy a ticket for a cheaper flight. But be careful. "If you're flying Ryanair or a similar budget airline, familiarize yourself with the rules and hidden fees before you arrive at the airport I once forgot to print my boarding pass ahead of time and was smacked with a hidden $80 fee."
These airlines know you need them, so they can take advantage of small things like this. They aren't so over-the-top that it'll cost them their passengers, but it is enough to incur some outrage.
Not So Exciting Destination Cities
There are cities that generally attract people, but can easily be by themselves a tourist trap. Just because it's popular doesn't mean that it's exactly the nicest place to be. "Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Lovely city, but everybody hypes up this one street that’s crowded full of people. It’s practicallly [sic] highlighted in every tour guide of the city yet I still don’t understand the draw," says u/carsonwentz_god.
"Every restaurant and shop on the street is a tourist trap as well: overpriced and under-quality. It’s much more worth your time to stroll around the Gothic neighborhood of the city rather than Las Ramblas."
Even if you try to avoid the people who approach you, they may end up getting you to pay attention to them. u/Magic-Baguette says don't. "Always keep your belongings close when someone you don't know approaches you in a touristy area. In Europe, especially in big cities like Paris, pickpockets have a technique where they distract you to steal your things. If a stranger approaches you to talk, focus on your pockets, your wallet, and your phone."
You should always keep an eye on your things and maybe even keep your hands in your pockets at all times. Otherwise, you might not even need to be distracted to lose all your things.
Travel Agencies Can Be Bad, Too
From u/ConfusedNerd1: "In Phuket (Thailand) our taxi from the airport had to make "a quick stop" at a travel agency. He left us in the back of the cab so he could "go to the bathroom". We thought about getting out of the car but had no idea where we were or how to get a new taxi (pretty scary situation to be in). One of the salesmen from the travel agency came out speaking perfect English trying to trick us into buying every type of tour, luxury hotel, dinner, you name it and he was trying to sell it."
"We were very adamant that we had our itinerary and were not looking to buy anything. He eventually gave up and our driver came back a few minutes later. It was pretty uncomfortable but we were firm and acted like we knew what we were doing and that was the end of it."
"Look up exchange rates before you get there, and use ATMs inside bank branches," suggests u/bleepybleeperson. "There are companies who operate ATMs in airports and train stations who just want to take advantage of confused tourists, by offering them s**t exchange rates and setting the default amount for withdrawal too high. In Prague for example, some ATMs have as their default withdrawal amounts the equivalent of a month's rent.
This is so true. We've been to countless places that have exorbitant prices for their cash withdrawals. You can't so much as withdraw twenty bucks without spending half of it.
Come To My Shop, Brother!
"In Mexican tourist towns like Playa Del Carmen or Cancun, when you go shopping there is a good chance someone will come up to you and act like they know you," says u/Casperboy68. "They will say “it’s me ________ from your resort!” and try to make you think they work at your resort and remember you. Then they will ask what you are shopping for and whatever you say, they 100% have a “brother” with the perfect shop for that who will make you the best deal in town. That “deal” is around 3 times what you could find the same thing for at many other places."
The way people talk about others when they go on vacation makes us feel like they are only out there to get your money. Maybe that's true sometimes, but is there no one out there who is a genuinely kind person?
Sometimes you hear incidents of people getting stuff stolen from their car. But that can't be common, right? Wrong. "[In] San Francisco, CA Do NOT leave anything in your car, ANYTHING...you will come out to broken windows. Also, be aware of your surroundings when using your phone, especially if you are elderly (you may get knocked down so they can steal your phone). Even in summer you may need a jacket."
You can't always trust that your car won't be stolen from. There are plenty of places that don't have this happen often, but there will always be a doubt. Don't leave things in your car.
Thailand General Tips
According to a since-deleted Reddit user, "Generally speaking, no Thai person is going to approach you on the street unless they want your money. You should automatically be suspicious of anyone who does. It's always better for you to choose who you buy from - walk up to the shop that looks good to you instead of going with someone who invites you, hail a taxi off the street or use an app instead of going with the guy who comes toward you saying, "Taxi, taxi," etc."
"Thailand is a wonderful place full of wonderful people, but most of those wonderful people aren't hanging around the tourist areas."
From u/LOC98: "I went to London with my friends for the weekend while I was still in uni. We wanted to go to a certain nightclub in London so we pulled up google maps and were discussing the club. A local man (early 20s) overheard us and offered to bring us there. We were cautious and stayed a bit behind him while he walked us through the streets. He brought us to the nightclub and we thanked him profusely. We joined the queue and on entry had to pay £15. While paying we noticed this man had taken a few more girls to the club and winked at the doorman."
"Later in the club we were chatting with locals that were bewildered we paid £15 on entry. Apparently the club had no entry fee."