Travelers looking to make the most of their trip effortlessly fall trap to different holiday tactics. I know the feeling. When you’re fascinated with new things surrounding you and busy smiling to over-friendly locals, it’s easy to be oblivious of such events.
Whether it’s an overpriced tour, an overcrowded attraction, or hard-sell vendors – these things are uncontrollable. Sometimes you won’t even know it’s happening to you. Given that, I’ve reached out to other travelers to share their personal experiences and tips.
Here are some tourist traps to keep in mind and how to avoid them.
The Santa Justa Lift | Lisbon, Portugal
Throughout Lisbon, there are many lookout points that offer fantastic views of the city. Although most are free, there are a few that require paid admission including Castelo de Sao Jorge and Triumphal Arch.
One of my favorite lookout points in Lisbon is from the terrace of the Santa Justa Lift, but unfortunately, it’s a tourist trap if you don’t know any better. Although the lift is absolutely gorgeous, I would advise against using it.
What To Do: Save your 5 Euros and instead head over to the overpass behind the Carmo Church ruins. There you’ll pay 1.50 Euros to climb the spiraling stairs all the way up to the top. This saved me so much time since I avoided the long lines. I also saved 3.50 Euros which I later used to sample ginjah and port wines in Alfama!
By Danielle Des, The Thought Card
The Grand Palace is Closed! | Bangkok, Thailand
I was in Bangkok earlier this year and experienced the infamous “The Grand Palace is closed” scam. What happens is that you try to get a tuk tuk or taxi to the Grand Palace, and the driver tells you that it is closed but they are happy to take you on a tour of some other sites. They then take you to a few temples and some stores where they get high commission if you buy something. Meanwhile, the Grand Palace is open and you are missing out.
It’s pretty common and I had three different people tell me that it was closed before I found someone who would take me straight there. Sometimes people stand outside the attraction and tell you that it is closed as well. They just want you to pay for their guided tour of other sites.
What To Do: Stand your ground and ask them to take you there just to check. The Grand Palace is beautiful and definitely worth the trouble!
By Kassie Ricci, The Fly Away Life
The Grand Indian Railway Scam | Delhi, India
Shabir, my mum and I arrived at the New Delhi Train station and were immediately intercepted by an official looking man. He claimed that the tourist office was unable to pre-book train tickets on a Sunday. He made a convincing case, so we decided to trust him and began walking towards this other office he was pointing out.
When he made his claim one too many times, my ‘spidey senses’ kicked in. I felt that something was wrong and I literally yelled at Shabir, “No, we are going to the tourist office!” I stormed back towards the real entrance, only to be blocked by another man with another ‘official’ ID card. He made the same claims as the first man, and would not let me pass him. Luckily I am stubborn and didn’t back down to these men who were just a little too pushy. I was thankful when Shabir and my mum backed me up and we’re able to break away from these well-organized crooks!
This scam is quite well known – when you arrive at the second office, you are sold a very legitimate looking ticket, perhaps for the correct amount of money, maybe a little bit more, but it definitely won’t get you on a train. Because they only sell tickets for future days, they are long gone by the time you realize it is a fake ticket.
What To Do: Remember this – the Tourist Office at New Delhi Train Station NEVER CLOSES. It is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can buy tickets for same day travel, next weeks’ travel, or next month if you need to. Don’t be bullied by anyone, no matter how official they might look – it pays to check it out for yourself.
By Tara Harrison, ShaTara Travel
Overpriced Bus “Tour” | Phong Nha, Vietnam
Hue was the first stop of our Central Vietnam trip. Arriving late to the hotel, we seek the staffs’ help in arranging our transfer to Phong Nha the following day, hoping to make the most of our time and schedule. Exhausted with no idea how the currency works, we trusted the staffs’ recommendation to go for a day tour and forgoing the return journey to stay there. After the staff gave us a “discount”, we paid and went to our room to rest before our 7 a.m. bus ride.
Not soon after we got on the next day, we realized that not everyone on the bus is on the tour. A fair amount is just there for a ride to Phong Nha. The tour is pretty decent if you are going on a day trip, but for us, we essentially paid double the amount for a tour if we were doing it on our own.
Day tour includes: Return bus ride 300,000 dong, entrance fee 150,000 dong, boat fee (360,000 dong for a boat of 14) and lunch (estimated of 80,000 dong) =~560,000 dong = 25 USD, and the tour price is 27 USD.
What we really needed: Single bus ride 150,000 dong, entrance fee 150,000 dong, boat fee (360,000 dong for a boat of 14), and lunch (estimated of 80,000 dong) = 406,000 dong = 18.2 USD. We lost 8.8 USD.
Our homestay host was devastated on our behalf, and we have definitely learnt our lesson about not asking enough questions.
What To Do: Be wiser and ask if there are bus only tickets available. Do not fall straight on the first recommendation. Try to ask others to have a point of comparison and get the best deal.
By Nam Cheah, Laugh Travel Eat
Organized Pickpockets | Athens, Greece
From the Athens airport, we decided to take the Metro to Piraeus thinking that it was the best and the safest way to reach our destination. There’s no direct train route so we had to change train in Monasteraki station.
Having two big luggage in tow we made our way to the platform and waited for the train to arrive. My husband told me to get on the train first so I won’t get caught in the middle of the crowd. I made my way inside, however when I looked back… I saw three men surrounded my husband when he was about to board the train. Two men restrained him and the other one took his wallet from his pocket. He knew then something was wrong but his main goal was to join me so we won’t get separated. The three men jumped off before the train took off. The wallet contains all our euros, two ATM cards and two credit cards.
At the Tourist Police Station, we’re surprised that we’re not the only victim of such crime. It was then we realized that many pickpockets and muggers roam the Athens metro particularly stations that has connection stops like Monasteraki, Syntagma, Acropolis and Piraeus. What is more terrifying is that these men work in groups. They are organized and they have their ways of letting you fall into their trap.
What To Do: Keep your valuables in safe place or wrap it around your body. If you’re coming from the airport with luggage, I suggest you take the bus especially if your metro route would require you to transfer trains at connection stops. Buses in Athens has direct routes that will take you from point A to point B without any hassle of transferring.
By Joy Generoso, Travel with Joy
The Petition Scam | Paris, France
Just before we left Charles de Gaulle airport, a well-dressed woman approached us to sign a petition for something that seem legitimate. I tried to ask her about it but she refused to speak in English. Thinking that it’s for a good cause, I get the pen from her and I was about to sign when a passerby shouted to us, “Pickpocket! “Pickpocket”. That’s when we noticed that while we were distracted, she was already reaching out to my backpack doing her quirk. Thankfully, I didn’t lose a thing except for a broken zipper.
We encountered more of them in Paris – with a paper and a pen, they are targeting innocent tourists. This time around, we know better so every time someone comes to us with the same trick, we just walk away.
What To Do: Politely say no and continue to walk away from them as fast as possible. There’s really no “cause” in that except their probable theft of your valuables.
By Melai, read more about our experience here.
Holiday scams can make or break your dream vacation. But I hope that it won’t stop you from traveling and yearning for authentic experiences. It’s all part of the adventure! And a life lesson to remember later. ;)
Have you encountered any of these traps? How was it like?
If you experienced other tourist trap that is not in the list, email me the details and I’ll update the post. Let’s help each other be aware of these sly acts!