by Jill Robinson
What would you do if someone threw a baby at you? Probably catch it I would assume, but by then your pockets would be empty and you are void of a passport. The ole’ toss a child at a tourist trick is just one of the many scams aimed at foreign visitors.
Rick Steves featured a great article in the New York Times yesterday about popular European scams, and it was interesting to see how they have evolved. When I have been duped it usually involved unnecessarily long cab rides, or abruptly short ones with a demand for more money, and price hikes in everything from drinks to food to accommodation. Learning from others’ mistakes is the best way to avoid your own mishaps. Read up on travel threads like Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Travel Forum, or visit the U.S. Deparment of State’s site for travel warnings and updates.
Avoiding travel just because of these sorts of risks is no way to learn about new cultures, and while yes, there are plenty of places that do pose a real threat to the safety of visitors, usually all it takes is a little common sense to avoid being scammed. More importantly, if anything does happen (and usually at some point it will) the key is to have a sense of humor. If you do find yourself with a missing wallet, remind yourself nobody really wants to here about a travel adventure where everything went exactly as planned anyway. Not that those types of stories are ones you necessarily want to tell.
There are an array of tourist scams ranging from the petty to the dangerous, and it’s important to be aware of them when heading off to a new country. Losing a few hundred Euro is not fun, but neither is landing in a jail in Bangkok like in that Claire Danes movie, so it’s best to study up on where you are going.