Cruise TipsTravel Scams I've Encountered After Taking Over 75 Cruises

Travel Scams I’ve Encountered After Taking Over 75 Cruises

I have taken over 75 cruises on close to 20 cruise lines all around the world. I have cruised everywhere from the Caribbean to Europe to Asia. While every destination is unique, there is one thing that is constant. You always have to watch out of travel scams.

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travel scams

Here are a few of the scams that I’ve personally encountered in different countries while taking cruises and how you can avoid them.

Taxi Scams

Let’s start with a couple common ways that some taxi drivers will try to scam you.

The first one is that they will quote you the fare price up front and then turn off the meter. They do this because this way they can overcharge you. Unless it’s a flat fare (In Rome, all taxi rides from the airport to city center and vice versa are 50 Euros), always ask them to turn the meter on.

Even if they turn the meter on, some will take you the scenic route (aka long way) to drive up the fare price. I once had a taxi driver tell me that roads were closed due to a protest so he had to take the long way. Of course, there was no protest as we drove by the main road and it was empty. He didn’t know I was familiar with that area.

Sometimes, there really isn’t anything you can do when this happens. I like to call it the “tourist tax” and just laugh about it.

Another scam some taxi drivers attempt is the “bill switch” or “switcheroo” trying to prey on you not being familiar with their currency.

After one taxi ride, the driver said it was 18 Euros. I handed him a 20 and turned to get out of the car. He then stated again that the ride was 18 Euros and I turned around to him holding a 5. He switched the 20 I gave him for a 5 trying to make me think I gave him the wrong bill. This was all done in the matter of seconds.

My first thought was, “oh I just have given him the wrong bill”. But I quickly remembered reading about this scam and realized he was trying to pull it on me.

I got really firm with him, told him I gave him a 20, and that he wasn’t going to scam me. He tried to convince me I gave him a 5 until I said, “Let’s talk to that police officer right over there”. He gave up trying to scam me at that point.

Now, I just say out loud what bill I’m handing them and this way they can’t try to scam you.

Below is a hidden video by Conor Woodman taken in a taxi showing how this works. The only difference is in the video, the taxi driver switches for a fake bill instead of a smaller one.

They also love to tell you they don’t have change so they can keep the difference.

How can you avoid these scams? While you can use Uber, they do not offer service in many countries. However, there is usually a taxi app that you can use in each country that will help you avoid getting ripped off. For instance in Italy, I use itTaxi. In Spain and many European countries, it’s FREE NOW. When in Asia, I use Grab.

You can have the rides charged right to your credit card and you will get a fare estimate when you search for a ride. The apps are just like using Uber/Lyft but the rides are in taxis and not private cars. I highly recommend using these apps for rides in foreign cities.

Another great app I use is Welcome Pickups. They are available in 228 cities in 92 countries. You are guaranteed a driver who speaks English and for airports rides, it can’t be beat. The prices are extremely reasonable and you won’t get ripped off. I have used them in Amsterdam, Paris, Spain and Italy.

Street Scams

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, street scams seem to be ubiquitous.

A good rule of thumb is that if someone is trying to hand you something and they say it is free, it’s probably not free. In Caribbean ports and even in Europe, they often try to put a bracelet or necklace on you and then charge you for it after it’s on.

Sometimes they like to hand women a “free” rose only to make you pay them for it once it is in your hand.

Another common street scam is “3 Card Monte”, “3 Cups and a Ball”, or “Find the Queen”. They are all run the same and here’s how it works.

You see a group of people standing and betting on a game that looks insanely easy to figure out. They have three playing cards with one of them being a queen. The dealer will move them around right in front of you and if you can choose the right one, you double your money.

A group of people are betting and getting it wrong. A few get it right and win. You follow along and can obviously tell which card is the queen or which cup has the ball in it. You think it’s super easy so you try it.

No matter how many times you try, you will lose 100% of the time. They will use sleight of hand so you never win, and they are very good at it.

The group of people playing before you are all in on the scam to make it look easy to win to suck in tourists. There’s usually anywhere from 6-10 people in on it. They only use sleight of hand when you’re playing, not to those in on the scam. They are basically street magicians who try to rip you off.

I’ve seen this game played on the street everywhere from Venice to Paris to Barcelona to Las Vegas. They always have lookouts for police and can pack up in seconds if one is coming.

These aren’t the only way that you can get tricked while in port, you can read our article on 10 Sneaky Cruise Port Tricks People Keep Falling For here.

Whatever you do, don’t let these common scams keep you from traveling and seeing the world. It’s just something to keep in the back of your mind so you can have the best possible trip.

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Ben Souza
Ben Souza
Ben is a world traveler who has visited 40+ countries, taken over 70 cruises. He is one of USA TODAY's experts for their 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. His writings have appeared and been cited in various media outlets such as Yahoo News, MSN, NPR, CNN, Fox, and ABC News. Ben currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow Ben on Instagram. Visit Ben Souza on Linkedin. You may email Ben at [email protected].
Cruise TipsTravel Scams I've Encountered After Taking Over 75 Cruises

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