10 Tips to Avoid Travel Scams


how to avoid travel scams
Tourist scams were our worst fear when we started travelling! 

Wanting to avoid the dreaded travel scam? We all do! Tourist scams were one of our worst fears when we began travelling!  In this post we will share some real stories of when we were scammed as tourists and how you can protect yourself from being scammed while travelling.  We are sharing our personal stories and tops tips to ensure that you can prevent travel scams on your next adventure.

We have explored many places and have definitely been scammed a number of times while travelling. We even got scammed by a monkey once! You can watch that video here.

Being scammed can make for a funny story later on, but at the time, it can really put a damper on your trip. After almost a year of travelling through some of Asia’s most challenging destinations, we have encountered many travel scammers.

We have also heard countless travel scams stories from other travellers who we have met along the way.  With all this in mind, we want to let you know some of the most common travel scams and how to avoid them. In this article we will share a couple of our own tourist scam experiences along with our top 10 best tips to help you avoid travel scams during your next trip abroad.

Our Travel Scam Stories:
Short Changed Scam
Are You Lost Scam
Medicine for my Daughter Scam

Top 10 tips to Avoid Travel Scams:
1. Avoid Touristic Destinations
2. Conversation Starters to Look Out For
3. Beware of Overly Friendly
4. Act Confident
5. Research Common Travel Scams
6. Avoid Over Paying for Transport
7. Carry a Money Belt
8. Avoid looking too flashy
9. Stay Polite
10.It’s Not all Scams


Some travel scams can be incredibly elaborate and complex and others can be fast and simple. Sometimes you might just feel like you have been ripped off or lied too other times you have been totally sucked into a fully organised scam involving multiple scammers!  To give you some insight into what different travel scams look like, here are a couple of true stories of when we were scammed while travelling.

Short Changed Scam:
This is a relatively common tourist scam that probably occurs in many parts of the world. For us it happend in Vietnam. We were in Ninh Binh a popular tourist destination in North Vietnam, we had decided to go on a boat ride, so we parked up our motorbike which was going to cost us a small fee of 15,000Dong/$0.70USD.  We grabbed our parking number of the man and headed off on the boat ride, which was epic by the way! 

To be honest by this time in our journey we had been on the road for almost 10 months and had become quite confident travellers and you could say compliance. On our return there was a large line of bikes trying to exit and things seemed rushed. When it was Reti’s turn to drive up to the counter and pay he did so quickly, grabbed the changed and we drove off. 

It wasn’t until we arrived back to our room that we realised we had been ripped off.  Reti had paid the man 500,000dong/$20USD and we received 1,000dong notes back instead of 100,000dong notes. So he short changed us almost $18, which as budget travellers was quite a a big blow to the budget. We were gutted and it seemed our fun day now had a dark cloud over it. 

Lessons: The biggest lessons we learnt from this experience are……
1) Always check your change is correct before you leave
2) Don’t get complacent after you have been travelling for a while
3) Always carry small notes with you! 


Are you Lost Scam?
This travel scam occurred in Marrakech Morocco and was a bit more on the elaborate side, the scam involved 3 men who entered the scam at different times.  It all started as we were wondering through the maze of alleyways and small streets in medina….we were actually trying to get lost and discover hidden parts of the city. 

As we began to walk down a quite alley a man called out to us and said, “not down there thats my house!” He then proceeded to say “the market is that way” and point in a general direction, we thanked him and carried on.

He chased after us and mentioned that his friend could show us the way…..his friend appeared with a big smiley and kindly offered to show us the way to the market.  Alarm bells were ringing for us so we said “no thanks”. He insisted and told us not to worry, no money free, free. So we decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and followed him to the market.

As we were walking to the market he was acting as though he was a tour guide and began telling us historical facts and information about the places we were passing.  We were then led to the doorway of a leather tannery and there was a man with a large smile and a bunch or mint (for the smell) waiting for us eagerly.

We knew at this point that we were probably in the middle of the scam, but we continued and entered the tannery…. The man proudly showed us around the tannery and we took a few pictures and then continued to the market.

Instead if leading us to the market, the scammer took us to an overly priced leather store where all the sales men were so extremely pushy that Reti purchased an over priced wallet just to get them to leave us alone.

We proceeded to exit the store and all three men who had been involved in the scam were waiting outside of the store demanding extravagant amounts of money. Money for the mint, the pictures and the tour….We refused but the scammers become aggressive, so we gave them a small amount and literally ran away.

Lessons: The biggest lessons we learnt from this experience are……
1) Follow your gut, if it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t.
2) If you have realised you are in the middle of a tourist scam, don’t let it play out, get out of there ASAP!


The tannery from our travel scam story

The day we got scammed
Medicine for my Daughter Scam
We managed to avoid this scam because of some research we did before travelling.  I had read about women who would ask travellers to buy milk for their children, then return the milk to the store for cash back. 

We had just arrived in Colombo Sri Lanka and a well dressed man approached us and asked if we lived here. We answered no and then he went on the ask us a favour.

He said he was in town to purchase medicine for his daughter but forgot his eftpos card and could we fit the bill?  He said he would take us top the pharmacy to purchase the medicine.

I could tell he was scamming as it was so similar to the mothers milk story and he had asked if we were living in Colombo before moving onto the scam. We polity declined  and he went on his way. 

Lessons: The biggest lessons we learnt from this experience are……
1) Scammer usually use guilt to prey on travellers 
2) Don’t be afraid to say no

Our Top Tips to Avoid Travel Scams!1. Avoid Touristy Destinations
This one is our number one tip! Popular tourist destinations, sights and attractions are usually teaming with scammers and persistent sales people. We found that as soon as you veer off the tourist path, scams and sales pitches seem to almost stop completely.

​It’s such a refreshing contrast to the bombardment you get when visiting popular tourist destinations. Plus, visiting off the beaten path locations can be equally if not more rewarding then travelling to those popular sites! If you do plan to visit some popular tourist destinations on your trip then read on so we can teach you how to prevent travel scams. 

2. Conversation Starters to Look Out For
Many travel scammers will use similar tactics and will ask similar questions. They will approach you in either a very assertive manner or an overly friendly manner. Here are some sure fire ways to know your dealing with a scammer. 

Common questions scammers will ask you:

  • First time in India?

Most people will reply honestly and say…..”yes, just arrived today.” This is music to the scammers ears, they now know you are new to the country and that you can be easily scammed. helpful tip: Just tell a fib and say something like….third time to India or we have been here for many months.

  • Where are you from?

They will use this to build rapport, they will mention their friends live there etc etc.. helpful tip: you can reply by saying your towns name instead of your country, use your native tongue or use an obscure or uncommon country name. We use the Native Maori name for New Zealand which is Aotearoa. It can stop a scammer in their tracks or just throw them off a bit

  • Which hotel are you staying in?

They are basically trying to find out how much money they can scam out of you! helpful tip: We never reply with our actual hotel name. You can either refuse to answer or tell them you are staying at a friends place or a cheap hostel that you forgot the name of!


3. Beware of Overly Friendly Locals
You will meet many genuinely kind and friendly people during your travels, this is the joy of travelling and can oftentimes be the highlight of your travel experiences.

However, do be wary of overly friendly approaches that seem a bit unnatural. Oftentimes this leads you straight into a scam.  It can be hard to tell the difference sometimes, but trusting in our gut instincts has worked for us in the past.

If a friendly local approaches you and starts a conversation and it feels good, then by all means let it flow. One time we had a lovely man Vietnamese invite us to his cousin restaurant and we had the most amazing local experience with his entire family!

Another time a girl approach us on the street and just wanted to practice her english, it was so nice to help her and chat with no strings attached.

But if the friendliness seems disingenuous or leads into a sales pitch then your gut is probably right you have a a travel scammer on your hands!

4. Act Confident
Sometimes travelling to a new place can a be a bit overwhelming and daunting.  We have definitely felt this way on many occasions. But its best to try and keep these feelings under wraps if you can!

If you show confusion or uncertainty with your body language you’re letting travel scammers know you are an easy target. 

Instead try be (or act) confident, walk with purpose and assertion. Scrambling around with a map or looking confused and lost will surely attract the wrong attention. Confidence is a great way to repel a cheeky travel scammer or thief!


5. Research Common Travel Scams
This one is a great tip to help you prevent travel scams and is quick and easy to do before you leave home. Every country or city will have a different set of common travel scams, some you may have heard of and others you will have no idea about.To ensure you’re one step ahead of the scammers, we suggest you do a bit of online research for popular scams in the area you are visiting. 

This will give you an idea of what to look out for!  We feel a bit guilty sharing this tip, as we sometimes forget to do this one ourselves because we are constantly on the move. But knowing ahead of time what the local scams are is a smart way to avoid them!

6. Avoid Overpaying for Transport
A lot of the time taxi or tuktuk drivers will exaggerate the distances of travel in order to justify charging you more.

To avoid getting overcharged, have Google Maps or Mapsme ready so you know exactly how far the distance is! A quick search and you know the exact distance to your destination, easy as that.

It’s also a good idea to ask a trusted local what a fare rate would be before you set off. We usually ask at the hotel, restaurant or a friendly stranger as they are generally unbiased.

Depending on your location, If you’re catching a tuktuk or taxi, you can sometimes check rates on Uber to compare fare prices. 

Negotiate if you need to. In most cases the first price is usually inflated by at least a quarter. Be prepared to walk away if the price is not right. Usually there is more than one taxi or tuktuk ready for your business.

Sometimes if a driver quoted us something extremely overpriced we would not even bother negotiating with them and would just go with the next driver, as we didn’t want to give our $$ to a dishonest businessman.

PictureDon’t get scammed while travelling

7. Carry A Money Belt
We always carry our passports, credit cards and cash in a sports belt that we can hide under our clothes.  We only keep enough cash for the day in our wallet and hide the rest in our sports belt.  Even after all this time travelling, it’s one thing we haven’t relaxed on.The sports belts are discrete and are usually sweat proof which works really well if your travelling to a hot climate or a rainy one! Not only will this ensure pickpockets can’t reach your most valuable things, it also means you have less chances of misplacing them, because they are strapped to your person.

Bonus tip, we rarely leave these items in our hotel room and almost always wear the belt when we head out.

8. Avoid Looking too Flashy
We are sure you will agree, one thing we don’t like while travelling is feeling as thought we are walking ATMS, but lets be honest thats exactly how travel scammers see us! 

Wearing expensive jewellery and showing off expensive technology can put a bullseye on your back for scammers and thieves.  So avoid drawing extra attention to yourself and leave the expensive jewellery and big flashy cameras at home.

Plus, if its safe at home it won’t get lost or stolen while your travelling. If you do need to bring certain expensive items with you, keep them discreet and be mindful of when you showcase them. 

We travel with a Gopro it’s a small and durable action camera that is perfect for capturing a travel adventures. We can get quality shots without that big bulky flashy camera. It’s great when it comes to travel scammers as well because its so small and discreet that we don’t draw attention to ourselves when we use it while travelling. 


9. Stay Polite 

Be as polite and friendly as you can. Most scammers are trying to make ends meet for their families and at the end of the day they are human too. We try not to get grumpy with them and sometimes even get a little cheeky back.

Staying polite can also help stop a bad situation from escalating into an argument or unsafe environment.  When we know a scammer has approached us, we usually either politely dismiss them and move along or get a little cheeky with them.

​One time we just looked at the guy pointed and smiled, he knew we knew and he giggled back.

Reti, being the social butterfly that he is will go as far as sometimes sparking up a convo with the scammers and end up having a honest friendly conversation with them. One time the scammer even admitted to Reti that he was the ‘Tourist Catcher’ for his cousins shop!

10. Enjoy Your Trip, It’s Not All Scams!
Although you have to be aware of scammers, don’t worry yourself sick thinking about it, you need to enjoy your trip as well! Along with the occasional scammer you will also encounter true acts of kindness that will leave you speechless.

One time we accidentally overpaid a tuktuk driver, we paid 3000 rupees instead of 300 rupees!!! In a true display of honesty, he returned 2mins later with the money,  (you can see that video here)

We hope you found these tips to avoid travel scams useful and remember, all travel comes with it’s risks, but the rewards are definitely worth it! If you have any tips or questions related to  travel scams or if you would like to share your travel scam stories with us, then drop us a comment below…we would love to hear from you!

Cheers, Native Travellers


How to avoid travel scams

Join the Native Travellers Journey and get off beat travel stories, guides and hacks. Plus we will send you a free Native Travellers music bundle!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts