While flipping through Budget Travel this morning, I came across a wonderful rundown of the latest tourist rip-offs.
I was reminded to watch out for semi-trained monkeys that go after your valuables—and wild ones that may “borrow” your camera for a self-portrait.
Photos: David J Slater/Caters, via Telegraph.com
I was also reminded that some scams are fairly benign, like the time Esteban and I got accosted by a beautiful Senegalese man in Milan. (“Where you from?” he asked in richly accented English. “Married? Any beebees?”)
By the time we’d divulged our marital/childless status, we were wearing two lovely matching bracelets. “Only €2 each,” said our new friend. Rather than make a scene we paid up. In the end, those bracelets became a humorous souvenir—and the basis of a wonderful inside joke.
But other scams are a bit more sinister, like the classic “distract and rob senseless” ploy. The version I witnessed in Paris involved a man on a Métro train approaching a tourist to ask for directions. While the tourist struggled to understand his assailant, an accomplice sized up the foreigner’s backpack. I don’t think the thieves actually got anything in the end, though.
I’ve also been surrounded by mobs of teens who claim to be deaf and who only wish that I sign their petition (while they pat down my pockets). I’ve been asked if a “found” gold ring is mine, and I’ve been told by a Mexican cabbie that I owe him three times the amount shown on the meter. (“¿Cree que soy estúpida? ¿Me ve cara de turista?” I asked the cabbie in my native Spanish. End of story.)
For every tourist there are a thousand scams. After all, tourists are vulnerable: We’re often jet-lagged, lost, and less-than-conversant in the local language. Sometimes we’re also too kind (or gullible) for our own good.
But—thanks to Budget Travel—I at least know how to avoid getting scammed in Cairo.
The pyramids around Cairo are one of the world’s best photo ops, and some tourists up the ante by posing on the back of a camel. … Once you’ve paid your $15 and mounted the beast, though, some touts will insist that you pay again to disembark and hold you hostage on the hump until you do.
Solution: “Never just get on a random guy’s camel,” says Kara Lucchesi of STA Travel. Stick to rides arranged via an established tour company.
“Never get on a random guy’s camel.” Good advice, no matter where you are. Happy travels, my friends!