To avoid being stung on your holiday it pays to find out as much as you can about your destination before you travel, says Jodi Thomas from Budget Direct Travel insurance.
“With so much information available online it’s easy to research your accommodation, local taxi fares and attractions, and to cross-check reviews and feedback from other travellers,” says Jodi.
Jodi recommends informing your bank ahead of time of your intended destinations and to ensure your contact details are up to date. “That way the bank can advise you if there have been suspicious or multiple withdrawals made on your credit card and, conversely, you can avoid the inconvenience of having your account disabled because the bank is unsure whether it is actually you making those transactions.”
Jodi advises taking local currency in small denominations to avoid getting short-changed, and to always take out travel insurance.
“If your passport, credit cards or travellers cheques are stolen Budget Direct Travel insurance options can cover you up to the value of $5,000.
“But be wary of strangers who offer to take your photo or guide you around. While travel insurance will cover you for lost or stolen property it doesn’t protect you if you willingly hand over your possessions or leave your valuables unattended.”
5 common travel scams
1) ATM skimmers
It’s so convenient to withdraw cash in local currency, but you need to be aware that ATM skimmers and PIN readers are a worldwide problem, causing financial hardship for many long after the holiday is over. Take a good look at any ATM machine before using it. Most ATMs have a flashing light where you insert the card – skimmers obscure this light so if you don’t see the light, don’t put your card in. Always use your hand to shield your PIN when entering it and be on the lookout for brochure holders positioned alongside the ATM which can hide a camera.
2) Dodgy taxi drivers
After a long day sightseeing it’s tempting to catch a ride in the first taxi that comes by. However if you want to avoid taking the “scenic route” to your destination, don’t tell the driver it’s your first visit; if you can, agree on the fare beforehand and never take a taxi which doesn’t have a visible working meter. Ideally call ahead for the taxi rather than catch one off the street. Uber might be a better option as the drivers are registered and you will have a phone record of the trip.
3) Accommodation which is bogus or doesn’t live up to expectations
Not all websites are legitimate, and you could spend hundreds on a room with a sea view only to arrive at your destination to find they have no record of your reservation. When booking online – and this goes for reputable hotels as well as for airbnb – ask questions about the facilities, location, and services nearby before handing over your credit card details. You can easily cross check the provider’s responses through Google Earth street view, and reviews and feedback from other travellers.
4) Distraction artists
Distraction artists run all sorts of ruses to part unsuspecting travellers from their valuables and many operate in pairs. One will spill a drink on you while the other pinches your wallet, others will offer to take your photo and make off with your camera or phone instead. Some offer to take you to an exclusive tea ceremony only to overcharge you at the restaurant, leave you with a bill for nine people and skim your credit card as a final insult. Keep your valuables well-hidden, and be on the lookout for overfriendly strangers and quick getaway thieves on scooters.
5) Attraction closed
One common scam in major tourist spots involves an official looking tour guide, or friendly local, telling you the temple/cultural centre/shopping centre you’ve arranged to visit is closed for the day, but as luck would have it they know another equally good attraction nearby. This alternative is invariably not what you came to see and you find yourself pressured to pay a high entry fee or buy something. To avoid this happening to you research opening hours and days ahead of time, or go to the attraction and check for yourself.