13 Common Travel Scams—And How to Avoid Them


While the vast majority of travelers return home without incident, there’s no denying we make easy targets. Excited, disoriented, and unaware of local customs, petty scams play you for a fool. If you don’t want to buy in, leave the paranoia and neurosis at home, but pack a little common sense.

1. The Store Scam

Common in Southeast Asia, Turkey, and India, a friendly local starts up a conversation, inevitably leading to an invitation to visit a relative’s store for a great deal. Alternatively, your guide, tuk-tuk, or taxi driver insists you’ll find incredible deals if you just stop at a store on the way. It’s all run on kickbacks, where everyone wins—except you. Usually, they get a commission for bringing people to look; in the worst case scenario, a vendor won't let you leave until you buy something.

2. The Deal Scam

Getty Images

Although you’d never fall for it at home, many travelers get duped into buying rings, watches, gemstones, and jewelry overseas. Everything seems legitimate—the stores, certificates of authenticity—until you get home and discover your “deal” is worth half of what you paid for it. So use common sense when confronted with a deal that seems too good to be true. It isn't.

3. The Change Scam

Always carry a range of bills, the smaller the better. It’s a quick and easy scam for vendors or stores to claim they have no change. The weirder the currency, the more likely you’ll just let them keep the bills. Fine when you’re just losing pennies, but watch out for $12 to be rounded off to $20.

4. The Practice English Scam

A local approaches you on the street and tells you he wants to practice his English. Seems innocent enough, and it is … until the conversation shifts to a sob story about poverty, a family member’s operation, the need to buy text books for school—all bogus, and an attempt to get money from you, so just keep walking. Unfortunately, this scam hurts genuine locals who really do want to connect.

5. The Taxi Scam

Taxi drivers can be ruthless. You have no idea where you are, or where you’re going, and unless you’re writing down names and licenses (if there is one), there are no repercussions. Three blocks can easily turn into an hour-long ride. In foreign countries, try and settle on a price first to get some idea of the cost, and only use official looking cabs. In North America, make sure the meter is turned on, and matches the rate displayed.

6. The Distraction Scam

At a busy attraction or on a bustling street, somebody spills water/ketchup/mustard on you. Apologetically, they start cleaning it up, but in the momentary confusion, they or their accomplice has fleeced you. If you get splooged, keep walking until you can stop in a less crowded space, and be extra aware of your personal belongings.

7. The Fake Tickets Scam

Foreigners are targeted at train or bus stations, particularly in India. An official approaches, asks if you want to bypass the heavy line-up. Together you visit an office nearby, and buy your official-looking ticket there. Problem is, the office and ticket are fake. Revisit the office, it will be locked, and paid-off security will shrug. Your best bet is to stay in line, no matter how tempting it might be to attempt a shortcut.

8. The Runner Scam

If a stranger asks if they can use your cell phone, listen to your instinct. Mom with a stroller could use a hand, but the single guy wearing runners might just disappear with your phone.

9. The Friendship Bracelet Scam

Walking around a historic old town, a local gives you a trinket, or ties a piece of wool around your wrist. It’s a gift, a friendship bracelet to say: “thank you for visiting.” Walk away, and you’ll quickly be pestered for a small donation. Too small, and the pestering will continue aggressively. If someone gives you anything, expect to pay for it.

10. The Spot Bribe / Fake Cop Scam

Depending where you are, the cops might or might not be real. Either way, if they’re hitting you up for some random on-the-spot fine, tell them you’ll only pay it at the police station. They might get aggressive, but insist. It’s the quickest way to make them move on to an easier target.

11. The Peanuts Snack Scam

Much like the Friendship Bracelet, only with food. Little scraps of paper with peanuts or snacks are placed on your patio table. If you touch them, you’ve just bought it. The guy will either gather them later, or watch them blow away in the wind as the cost of doing business. Popular on Rio’s Copacabana.

12. The Dropped Ring Scam

You're walking along a Parisian street when a local approaches you with a gold ring that they say they found on the ground. Is it yours? No? Well, it's far too big for the local, so you should have it. As soon as it's in your hand, the local will insist on some compensation, since they found it and it's real gold, after all. (It isn't real gold.) If anyone approaches you with a ring, say no thanks and walk away.

13. The “Let Me Take Your Picture” Scam

Visiting the Taj Mahal? A well-dressed, well-spoken local tourist offers to take your picture with the world wonder in the background. Very kind, until you ask for your camera back, and he asks for his rupees for services rendered.

All images courtesy of Thinkstock unless otherwise stated. 

Live Smarter
The Best European Destinations to Fly to on a Budget This Summer

Get your passport ready. According to the travel booking site Kayak, it's the cheapest summer for air travel to Europe in three years—especially if you're flexible about where you want to go.

Kayak crunched some numbers to discover the cheapest European destinations to fly to from each U.S. state, usually including several international airports in that calculation. Prices can vary wildly depending on where you live, but with this data, you can at least figure out the cheapest median airfare you can expect.

Across the board, Reykjavik, Iceland—a famously budget-conscious place to fly into—was the cheapest destination for the most airports analyzed. But how low that median price actually is varied quite a bit. If you're flying out of Pittsburgh, you can get to Reykjavik for a median price of $319, whereas if you're flying out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the same destination will cost more like $789.

An orange map of the United States with illustrations showing the cheapest European travel destinations for the summer

Dublin came in second for the cheapest-destination crown. It was the cheapest European destination city from 15 U.S. airports, though those airports apparently have quite expensive international flights in general. The lowest median airfare to Dublin is in the $700 range.

Unsurprisingly, though, the bigger the airport you fly out of, the more likely you are to find a cheap fare. From both international airports near New York City, you can get to Paris for a median price of just over $500. From Denver, you can get to Brussels, Belgium for $379. From Miami, you can fly to Madrid for around $545. From Boston, you can get to Stockholm for $479. (If a state didn't have its own international airport, Kayak used the nearest one, meaning that a whole lot of New England is included in Boston's cheapest fare data.)

The prices are all median airfares, so you could encounter both lower and higher fares, depending on the flight you book. But if you’re looking for travel on a budget, it looks like Reykjavik and Dublin are the way to go from most cities.

If you've gotten inspired, now is a good time to book. According to Kayak, you should book summer travel six months in advance, but other travel sites say you should book a little later. recommends booking summer travel around 47 days in advance, which right now means planning for early June.

See the full list of prices and destinations below or head over here to Kayak.


Airport Code


Median Airfare

Alabama BHM Paris, France $1110
Alabama HSV Frankfurt am Main, Germany $875
Alaska ANC Reykjavik, Iceland $677
Arizona PHX Madrid, Spain $563
Arizona TUS Zurich, Switzerland $805
Arkansas MEM London, England $1068
California SFO Reykjavik, Iceland $442
California LAX Reykjavik, Iceland $404
California SAN Dublin, Ireland $766
Colorado DEN Brussels, Belgium $379
Connecticut BDL Edinburgh, UK $548
Delaware BWI Reykjavik, Iceland $359
Florida MIA Madrid, Spain $545
Florida MCO Reykjavik, Iceland $541
Florida TPA Reykjavik, Iceland $615
Georgia ATL Budapest, Hungary $640
Georgia SAV London, UK $830
Hawaii HNL London, UK $906
Hawaii KOA London, UK $960
Idaho SLC Venice, Italy $468
Illinois ORD Reykjavik, Iceland $450
Indiana IND Reykjavik, Iceland $788
Iowa DSM London, UK $898
Kansas MCI Reykjavik, Iceland $600
Kentucky CVG Reykjavik, Iceland $509
Kentucky SDF Reykjavik, Iceland $789
Louisiana MSY Dublin, Ireland $732
Maine BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
Maryland BWI Reykjavik, Iceland $359
Massachusetts BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
Michigan DTW Reykjavik, Iceland $409
Michigan GRR Reykjavik, Iceland $789
Minnesota MSP Budapest, Hungary $463
Mississippi MSY Dublin, Ireland $732
Missouri STL Dublin, Ireland $752
Missouri MCI Reykjavik, Iceland $600
Montana BIL Dublin, Ireland $822
Montana BZN Dublin, Ireland $797
Nebraska OMA Dublin, Ireland $864
Nevada LAS Copenhagen, Denmark $563
Nevada RNO Reykjavik, Iceland $871
New Hampshire BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
New Jersey EWR Paris, France $521
New Mexico ABQ Geneva, Switzerland $705
New York JFK Paris, France $517
New York BUF Reykjavik, Iceland $740
North Carolina CLT Dublin, Ireland $739
North Carolina RDU Dublin, Ireland $665
North Dakota BIL Dublin, Ireland $822
Ohio CLE Reykjavik, Iceland $457
Ohio CMH Dublin, Ireland $694
Ohio CVG Reykjavik, Iceland $509
Oklahoma TUL Venice, Italy $760
Oklahoma OKC Venice, Italy $952
Oregon PDX Reykjavik, Iceland $642
Pennsylvania PHL Reykjavik, Iceland $497
Pennsylvania PIT Reykjavik, Iceland $319
Rhode Island BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
South Carolina CHS Reykjavik, Iceland $789
South Dakota OMA Dublin, Ireland $864
Tennessee BNA Dublin, Ireland $771
Tennessee MEM London, England $1068
Texas IAH Madrid, Spain  $598
Texas AUS London, UK $642
Utah SLC Venice, Italy $468
Vermont BTV London, UK $780
Virginia ORF London, UK $845
Virginia RIC Dublin, Ireland $793
Washington SEA Munich, Germany $663
West Virginia PIT Reykjavik, Iceland $319
Wisconsin MKE London, UK $835
Wyoming BIL Dublin, Ireland $822
Washington, DC IAD Reykjavik, Iceland $482


In-Flight Bidets Could Be the Next Big Thing in Plane Design

There are plenty of things to hate about flying, but having to repeatedly use a public (and very tiny) bathroom over the course of several hours is up there. That could change in the near future, though. Travel + Leisure reports that Zodiac Aerospace, a manufacturer of plane cabin interiors, is working on a fancy plane toilet like no other—outside of private jets, that is. Yes, it's a toilet with a built-in bidet.

Zodiac debuted its new design at the recent Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany. The company's latest and greatest toilet, which you can operate from a remote control that would be installed on a wall of the bathroom, features an adjustable water spout that retracts and can provide a nice spray for both the front part of your undercarriage and your back end. For those who understandably worry about germs on their airplane toilets, it comes with a special UV light to disinfect the loo.

According to Travel + Leisure, Zodiac's bidet-equipped toilets will most likely appear first on airlines based in places like Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, where bidets are more commonplace. The design might not be so appealing to airlines in the U.S., which is strangely averse to two-in-one toilet/butt-washing technology.

It's rare to see a plane upgrade that's actually good news for travelers. While there is the occasional proposal that might make economy travel more comfortable—like a design that would make middle seats wider and more accessible, or a seat that could alert the crew if you're having a panic attack mid-air—most new proposals would make flying even more of a nightmare than it already is, like a seat Airbus proposed in 2014 that would put passengers essentially in rows of bicycle seats for their entire flights.

Zodiac hasn't announced whether a specific plane or airline already plans to put this upgraded toilet into use, so it could be a while before you get to use it for yourself. Sorry, butts.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]


More from mental floss studios