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Watch your back: A guide to tourist scams around the world

Creative pickpockets in Italy, the fake tea hostess in China... every country has its guilty secrets.

travel Updated: Mar 16, 2019 18:29 IST
Rachel Lopez
Rachel Lopez
Hindustan Times
Tourist,Scams,Around the world
The Conjurer by Hieronymus Bosch, a 15th-century painting that depicts what is most likely an out-of-towner having his pocket deftly picked as he watches another trick featuring sleight of hand.

In Cambodia: Prostitutes, or women pretending to proposition men, will lurk outside touristy bars, waiting for the lone drunk male. They’ll then hustle him, running their hands over his body asking for a date or to be taken home. The man will refuse and escape, but later find that the women had stolen the wallet, phone or cash from his pockets.

In Nepal: Beware the man who sells you weed. He’ll rat you out to his friends, who’ll accost you dressed as the police and demand money to let you go and not turn you over to the actual police.

In Indonesia: Watch out for fake ticket booths in front of big tourist attractions or festivals – they sell expensive entry passes to something that is either free or cheaply priced. Tourists realise the scam only once they pass through the gates. Exits are often all the way on the other side, so no one bothers to come back for a refund.

In Spain: The scammers try everything from pickpocketing and street crime to hidden taxes and cheating taximen. Some scammers will go so far as to hide in a large luggage bag to get into the hold of an overnight bus so they can rip open bags and steal cameras and other valuables.

In the US: A common scam in touristy Las Vegas is the driver who will offer to remove your luggage from the boot of the car. It’s only later that you realise one bag is missing. But most tourists agree that the larger scams are those perpetrated by the hotel industry, which is notorious for advertising low hotel, travel, buffets and park entry rates, but charging your credit card for undisclosed taxes, fees and convenience charges.

In London: A common scam rolls out in the late hours, when you’ve checked into your hotel room at the end of a long day. The hotel phone rings with someone from reception sheepishly apologising that the card you used to book the room has been declined, and would you please give them the details once more? You’ll do it over the phone, preferring not to head downstairs. It’s only later that you’ll find the call was not from the hotel but from a scamster who had been given your name and room number by a hotel staff member.

In Italy: Pickpocketing is extremely well organised. Locals will warn you that there are pickpockets in the area and watch as you check your wallet and pat your handbag, noting the locations to target later.

In China: English-speaking Chinese who say they happen to be visiting from out of town will ask you to join them for a traditional tea ceremony they’ve booked. The ceremony will be in a rundown place, offering low-quality tea at high prices and you’ll realise you were duped by locals pretending to be tourists.

First Published: Mar 16, 2019 18:29 IST