Tourist Scams

Tourist-scams-beachTourism is a multi-trillion dollar industry, with hundreds of millions of tourists traveling abroad every year to destinations they’re mostly unfamiliar with. This makes them an easy prey for scammers looking to make a quick profit off the naivety off a foreigner. Most of these scams are pretty much harmless in the sense that the victim will only be out of a handful of cash, but when the stakes increase, so does the potential danger. Worldwide, scamming tourists is a multi-million dollar industry all by itself and will continue to thrive unless the potential victims are made aware of what to look out for.

Tourist-trapsFor scammers, tourists are an easy prey as they’re likely not familiar with the local habits, and moreover: the local price level. A great proportion of scammers use this to overcharge customers from other countries for goods or services for which the locals will only pay a fraction of that price. Especially tourists who’ve just arrived in a country and haven’t yet gotten a sense of how much they can buy for the local currency are likely to overpay without noticing. Examples of this kind of scam are the Mekong River Boat Tour scam in Vietnam or the Black Market Carnival Tickets scam in Rio de Janeiro. Another popular variant to this theme are taxi scams. Tourists taking a taxi in a foreign country are easy to rip off for taxi drivers because most of them have no experience with the regular cost of a taxi fare in the country they’re visiting. Taxi scams are omnipresent and our list is far from complete, but be especially on guard when taking a taxi in Amsterdam, Budapest, Gambia, Jamaica, Marrakech, or Shanghai or when taking a tuktuk in Bangkok or cyclo in Ho Chi Minh City.

While it is almost common knowledge that one needs to be especially on guard with taxi drivers and money changers, many scammers are disguised as friendly and helpful locals, seemingly honest businessmen, fellow tourists or even police officers. This makes it easy for them to build up trust from their potential victims so they can then rip them off mercilessly.

Typical-tourist-ready-to-be-scammedScammers select their victims based on their appearance, their timid behavior and their trouble with finding their way or speaking the language. The swindlers then use these disadvantages to play their targets. They pretend to be friendly and eager to help, but in reality they’re only interested in taking the tourist’s money or to profit from them in every way they can find. A often used strategy is to use their local knowledge to take the tourists, who are often happy that someone is willing to show them the way, to a certain shop or restaurant. But what the tourists don’t know is that their helpful guide has made a deal with the owner of the business to overcharge them and to pay a commission of sometimes up to 50% of what the tourists spend. Examples of these con jobs are the bumsters and hustlers in Gambia, the helpful local scam in Marrakech and Tunisia, the Tea Party scam in Shanghai and even the fake police scam in Budapest or Bangkok. And be extra suspicious when going to a strip club or when a local (mostly good looking women, but sometimes also men) invites you to a bar or club. Bar scams are played around the world, but are most infamous in Bangkok, Budapest and Istanbul.

Tourist-scammed-tropical_holidayThe scammers themselves and the businesses involved can make a quick and easy profit, knowing the tourist wouldn’t have been a return customer to that specific establishment anyways. Busloads of new potential victims arrive in their town every day. What they don’t realize is that their actions can spoil people’s holidays or even leave them broke, hurting other, honest businesses in the area and harming the image of their country as a safe and pleasant tourist destination.

Tourist-rip_offs-city_tripsThe mission of is to offer information about the existing scams in various popular tourist destination and to make travelers aware of the pitfalls that others have already fallen in before them. In an ideal world, this should prevent the scammers from making new victims and should stop their harmful behavior in order to find a decent way to make a living instead of hustling and scamming.

We’ve already compiled an overview of the tourist scams being played in a great number of destinations, based on the real-life experiences from travelers, but new stories are more than welcome. You can contribute to our work by sending in your own story and experience of being ripped off while on holiday, so we can expand our database of known scams and help warn others of these rip-offs. You can also thank us for our work by making a small donation, just click the button on the bottom right of the page to do so. We’d be very grateful and feel encouraged to continue our crusade against tourist scams.