Travelling often involves an element of adventure as well as risk. Traveling to an unfamiliar city, country or region requires one to be extra cautious so as to not get scammed by certain unscrupulous elements who might fleece an unsuspecting traveller. Every day, one hears of news stories where tourists and travelers who get cheated by fraud agents who promise to give them best discounts on tickets or hotel rooms but end up cheating them.
Tips to Avoid Travel Related Scams
In this blog, Student Cover provides useful tips to travelers in order save them from travel related scams during their trips. These tips would not only help them avoid scammers but also help them better organize their trips.
Plan your trip
There are two ways that one can choose to travel. One can either plan out the trip including pre-booking of hotel room, flight or train ticket and taxi or can simple pack the bag and go on a journey without any pre-planning and bookings. While the latter is more adventurous, it is also riskier than the former. In order to avoid being left clueless, one should do some background study of the place that he or she is going to visit. This may include searching the internet for local hotel and taxi fares, peak season and off-season prices (for tourist hotspots), routes to choose or avoid; Dos and Don’ts for travelers and testimonials of other travelers.
Do online booking from a verified vendor
There are hundreds of thousands of sites for hotel and flight ticket booking available over the internet. While most of them are genuine, some of them are just fly by night websites that lure unsuspecting travelers to pay money in advance for non-existent fight tickets and hotel rooms. It is therefore important for travelers to purchase travel tickets or book accommodation only from those sites which are genuine and have requisite permission from respective government or industry regulator to carry out travel booking operations. The same rule applies when booking tickets or hotel rooms with offline sellers.
Check out all options
In case one does not get ample time in advance to prepare for the trip and land up at an unfamiliar place without pre-booked accommodation, he or she should not depend solely on local transporters or agents to get them an accommodation. Such agents, including local rickshaw, auto-rickshaw or taxi drivers often take travelers to those hotels with which they have pre-arranged commission. In countries like India, hotels and guest houses are often clustered around airports or railway stations. If one is looking for an accommodation worth the money, one should explore at least a couple of hotels and inquire about room rent. This would give him or her an idea about the prevailing rate in that area.
Avoid unlawful guilty pleasures
As an old saying goes, ‘trouble seekers rarely fail.’ There is a tendency among certain types of travelers to indulge in those guilty pleasures during trips which one normally doesn’t, when at home. These may include trying out local booze, prostitutes or even drugs. While such things might be legal and well-regulated in some countries, it could spell trouble for the tourist on countries where they are banned or illegal. Each year, thousands of tourists get cheated by pimps or drug peddlers who lure them with the promise of drugs or prostitutes, take them to unknown locations, and rob them off their valuables. At times, they also pose as policemen or government officials and demand bribe against threat of imprisonment or legal action. Travelers must avoid such thugs and always try to be on the right side of the law.
Don’t give your ATM cards to anyone
Instead of carrying loads of cash, it is better to carry credit or debit cards for expenses while travelling. However, one should be careful while using those cards as there are scammers who might use credit or debit card information to transfer money to their personal accounts without the knowledge of the traveller. While paying the bill using card, travelers should ensure that the card reading device is genuine. They must never reveal the pin or password for ATM card and must link the card with mobile device so that they are informed the moment anyone tries to make an unauthorized transaction using their card or card information.
Stay on course, don’t deviate
While a planned trip ensures that everything goes out smoothly, one is often tempted at times to deviate from the plan and try something new. Tourists might come to hear about an unknown or unexplored tourist spot, a different mode of transport, a hotel that promises accommodation at cheaper rate. This could be a trap which might lead to the tourist getting robbed or cheated. Until and unless one is completely sure or that he or she has a back-up plan in case of an eventuality, it might be wiser for one to stay on course and not deviate from it.
Be careful while using Free Wi-Fi
Most hotels these days provide Free Wi-Fi to their customers. Travelers require internet facility to stay connected to their friends or family while travelling. However, one should be careful while using such networks as they might be used to hack into the laptop or mobile phones of travelers and steal valuable information including credit or debit card data. There are also instances where hackers set up rogue hotspots with names similar to public networks. Those who unknowingly log in their laptops or mobile to such networks face the danger of getting hacked.
Seek Price then purchase
Most hotels and restaurants either have price of products mentioned in the menu or on the price list hung on the wall. However, some vendors do not provide price information in the beginning and hence, charge high price from customers after they had their meal. To avoid being scammed by such vendors, one should seek the price of such items in the very beginning including the final price after taxes. The same applies for taxi and Auto-Rickshaws which do not have fare-meters. When in doubt, it is better to take a pre-paid taxi or auto-rickshaw from an authorized kiosk.
Don’t eat anything offered by Stranger
What applies to kids, applies to adults as well. During journeys, one gets to meet new people. At times, people develop friendship during their journey which might last for a lifetime. However, there are multiple stories of people being robbed by strangers who won their confidence, fed them items laced with nerve agents, and ran away with valuables after they fell unconscious. Such incidents are common not just in third world countries but developed countries as well. It is better to humbly decline such offers than to accept them and get robbed.
At last. Despite all efforts, one still gets into trouble with scammers, one should not panic. Staying calm is the least that one should do. Travelers should always keep the emergency contact number of local law enforcement agencies in their speed dial and seek their assistance the moment they notice anything suspicious. The cheats and thugs are there to make quick buck and usually back off when they smell possible trouble with the law. Most tourists panic and give away everything which emboldens those scammers. Law is same for all and one should not hesitate to call the police if one gets scammed.
We hope that travelers coming to India or going anywhere in the world will find these tips useful during their travel.