CheapTickets.sg (CT) Travel Helpdesk: Staying Safe from Thieves Overseas
“I was at a café with my friends when someone barged in and begged us to help look for his missing bag. By the time he calmed down and left, all our backpacks were missing as well.”
“Boarded a crowded train in rush hour and got crammed into the middle by a swarm of locals. By the time the doors closed, my phone was gone, along with my wallet.”
Incidents like these are sadly not an anomaly - getting pickpocketed while travelling is a very real threat. Stealing from tourists is a full-blown operation in some countries, and letting your guard down for just a moment could make you a victim. CT Travel Helpdesk is here to help - with our comprehensive guide on common tricks and scams employed by syndicates overseas, you’ll be better prepared for unfortunate events that could scupper your entire holiday.
Sleight of Hand, Cost: Two Grand
Image by @davidclode on Unsplash
Let’s start with the stereotypical pickpocket, creeping through the crowds suspiciously with a hood on. Most of us see individuals like these during our travels and instinctively reach for our valuables. However, this potentially puts you in more danger. Firstly, pickpockets almost never work alone - syndicates usually assign accomplices to distract tourists while someone else does the pickpocketing. Also, they’re dressed to blend in perfectly - most pickpockets on the streets look like tourists themselves, deflecting any unwanted attention.
There’s no way for a traveller to identify a pickpocket before it’s too late. The solution, therefore, is not to avoid them, but to make yourself a difficult target. Keep your valuables in front of you at all times - no phones in back pockets, or passports in backpacks. Make sure your items are hard to reach, but easy to check on. Once a pickpocket realizes that it’s too risky to make away with your valuables, he or she (yes, theft is gender-neutral) will probably move on to an easier target.
Be extra careful when you’re boarding or leaving public transport - robbers have been known to snatch phones out of unsuspecting hands right before train doors close, leaving victims stunned. Other high-risk areas include tourist spots, shopping belts, and anywhere else with high crowd densities.
Everything Has A Price, Even Kindness
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We’re all inclined to stop and help a stranger in need, whether it’s a kid asking for help or a protestor asking for signatures. However, these could easily backfire when you’re on foreign streets, leaving you with nothing but a bruised ego and a lighter wallet.
The protestor guise goes like this: someone approaches you asking for a signature on a petition. Once you put your name down, he or she demands money for it and hassles you till you pay up. Similar scams include the gypsy band (same modus operandi, except they tie a bracelet on you and insist you bought it) and the young flower peddler. The possibilities are endless, so don’t stay to find out - when faced with a situation like this, check your belongings and leave quickly. Don’t stay to chat, as that simply gives them a chance to reel you in or distract you from potential pickpockets.
Taxes and Debt, ATMs and Euronet
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Scattered around tourist-rich hotspots, Euronet ATMs have become as ubiquitous as street sellers and inappropriately pointed selfie sticks. These ATMs may seem like a godsend to tourists who find themselves short on cash, but they hold an insidious secret - ridiculous exchange rates. When tourists insert foreign credit cards into a Euronet ATM, their systems automatically offer exorbitant rates that tourists without banknotes are forced to accept. In addition to this, these ATMs also slap on a significant service charge, leaving you a lot poorer.
Fortunately, prudent planning will keep you from having to use an ATM at all. Before heading to a destination, check if you can pre-purchase tickets or pay with cards directly. Cards offered by YouTrip give you the option to pay in foreign currencies at a reasonable exchange rate, which offers both security and value. If cash is the only option, be prepared - but don’t bring too much!
Traversing the Transport Conundrum
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Once you’ve touched down and cleared border security, you will usually be welcomed by a deluge of taxi drivers asking to take you directly to your accommodations. While convenient, these services are usually unregulated and can burn a hole in your wallet. Prices are known to reach upwards of 100 dollars - not exactly the best way to start a budget holiday.
So what can you do? With some planning, much more! Most developed cities offer train or bus services to the city centre, either on its own or as part of a travel pass. These services, while adding a few minutes to your travel time, will cost far less. For example, a shuttle on Barcelona’s Aerobus gets you to town for 6 euros (S$9.00), compared to taxi fares averaging 40 euros. Do your research before deciding on your ride of choice.
One more thing - cheap taxi prices are rare, but can be found in cities like Athens or Krakow. Look up ride-hailing apps when you arrive, and you might stumble upon a service that offers cut-price cab rates, along with a sign-on discount!
There you have it - a guide to some of the world’s common scams, and how to keep you and your budget safe. Travelling may have its risks, but what lies beyond our horizons will always be worth it!
Prefer the convenience of your own ride when you’re overseas? Check out our car rental guide here, and grab your next cheap flight at CheapTickets.sg today!