Taxi drivers, local tour companies and official-looking badges can't always be trusted by travelers.
Taxis are a common ruse for a scam. Never get into a cab
unless you're sure it’s reputable, and always agree on a price beforehand.
Beware taxi drivers (or "helpful" strangers) who tell you
that the hotel or attraction you want to go to is closed or fully booked. They
are often paid commission by other hotels and restaurants to take you there
double-check, through word of mouth, guidebooks or the internet, that local
tour companies are reliable. Some will add unwanted extras to your trip
(in exchange for commission), while others may take your money and vanish. Many
‘cheap’ buses taking non-locals across the Thai-Cambodian border, for example, fall
into the first category.
Pressured buys are a favourite tactic. In Beijing, for
instance, you may be invited to a traditional teahouse or art exhibition, and
then presented with a huge bill or guilt-tripped into an expensive buy. Beware
attractive strangers who invite you to bars only to vanish when a huge bill
An official-looking badge or uniform gives an extra layer of
authority. If you are asked for cash or for your passport in an unusual
situation, insist on checking with a police officer or senior-looking official
Lastly, refuse all unsolicited offers to buy
goods that you are told you can sell at a profit back home. This is known as
the gem scam. Despite all this, don't make paranoia your default setting when
stepping off the plane. For one thing, scams are common enough at home – check
out Directgov for some well-known examples.
This article was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.