Are you prepared to deal with the most common travel scams?

Published November 22, 2015
Passengers queue for security checks at an airport. —AP
Passengers queue for security checks at an airport. —AP

You may be travelling for business or on vacation; but there are chances that you may commit a mistake or just not give serious thought to something and get into trouble.

Here are some pointers that make you less vulnerable and prepared to handle the most common scams targeting travellers.

At the airport

Security checks

Most airports require you to empty your pockets of all metal items (phones, coins, etc.) and place them in a tray to pass through the X-ray machine. Likewise, you are asked to remove your laptop or iPad from the bag and place in a separate tray for scanning.

During this period often people are deprived of their items by thieves lurking around.

— Always put your phones wallet and smaller valuable items inside your handbag and lock it.

— If the queue is long, hold back till you can walk through and be able to receive the items as they come out from the X-ray.

If you have someone else travelling with you ask them to stay with the items or then proceed first for their check and so receive the items on the other side of the X-ray.


Countries that offer a visa on arrival service require you to pay the fee at the airport upon arrival.

Be cautious when approached by individuals offering to expedite your process or pay in the local currency on your behalf if you don’t have any in exchange for foreign currency.

Customs duty

Fees may be applicable on certain items such as electronic and household goods even if they are for personal use. Carry any purchase receipt for new items that clearly mentions the value of the item.

Always take receipts for fees paid, you may have to present it in the future at another inspection.

If you must pay fees check ahead of time if you can pay:

— In cash.

— With a particular currency (local or other international currency, do you have the exact change).

— With your credit card (make sure you’ve verified before travelling that your card will work).


The most common scam at the airports is taxi services.

Individuals loitering around arrival halls offering private taxis are in many countries not just illegal but also known to fleece customers. It’s not unusual to hear of customers being robbed by these individuals or their accomplices.

— Check ahead of time the average fare for your destination.

— Always take a registered taxi service. You can either book one at a dedicated counter or stand in queue at a location identified by the airport authorities.

While travelling abroad take care that you don’t fall foul of the law or are taken for a ride by scam artists.

— Before getting into the cab check if it accepts credit cards if you aren’t paying with cash.

— Check if the meter is running and if not then either choose another cab or negotiate a fare before getting into the cab.

— Place your belongings in the car trunk and only keep your documents / wallet with you inside the cab.


Most major international airports have dedicated websites. These sites provide you with an array of information that includes:

— Immigration regulations.

— Types of transport to and from the airport.

— Food, duty free or regular shops, banks, telecommunication and other facilities available at the terminals.

— Address and distance to major landmarks of that city.

— Emergency numbers.

ID documents

— ID documents should never be left with anyone at any time.

— In case of loss of a travel document immediately contact the embassy for a replacement.

— Generally you are provided a temporary document that permits you to return to the country of your nationality and not a third country even if you are a resident there.

Your purchases

— Do not share your pin code or allow a vendor to take your credit card out of your sight.

— If a shopkeeper offers to charge the card at another outlet make sure you go with them.

— Count your change before leaving and check the notes; this way you can avoid the risk of receiving less change or bad quality currency notes.

— Familiarise yourself with the type of currency notes in circulation so you are not duped into receiving those which are not valid.

— Check your invoice and compare cost to a price list such as a menu card at a restaurant, especially if it is in a foreign language so not to be charged for a higher priced item.

— Always book sightseeing tours and event tickets with authorised agents at their offices, on their websites or even in your hotel. Street hawkers generally can’t provide you a refund or make changes to your bookings.

— When buying tickets to a tour or ride make sure to check beforehand if the activity is actually happening. Often people are fooled into paying for attractions that are closed for a period of time particularly during off season for tourists.

— Never leave your items unattended even for a moment, if they don’t get stolen they could attract the attention of the law enforcement and be destroyed, especially at the transportation terminals (plane, train and bus)

Cultural sensitivity

— Know the appropriate dress code. Inappropriate insignias, overexposure, political statements can land you in trouble with the law or even the locals.

— Be certain about the forms of greetings (handshake, kiss, etc.) that are acceptable, not just when greeting locals but even amongst your group.

— Offering a bribe is illegal even if it’s considered the norm in some countries. Refuse politely any demand for a bribe as it could be the pretext to extort further sums of money.

Staying connected

— If you must use an internet café make sure you don’t save your passwords and clear the cache once you log out. Remember to always LOG OUT.

— If free Wi-Fi is available at any establishment (restaurant, hotel, etc.) always verify if is the official one. Open Wi-Fi can be used to hack into your systems

— Get yourself a mobile SIM from a registered outlet, whether at the airport or in a mall.

Safe travels!

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine November 22nd, 2015



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