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Travel Scams

We are traveling long-term around Asia. Many scams originate from taxi-drivers being shady. The scam scenario is simple; you want to go to a location and end up somewhere else! The driver gets paid for bringing customers to the business.
Here are the following travel scams you may encounter and some tips to avoid becoming a victim!

1. “The hotel/shop/restaurant has closed”. 

Scenario:

This can occur in a few different ways.  Firstly, you start driving then suddenly the driver announces, “oh no, that place has closed down” but not to worry as he has a better place for you to go. The second, more brazen way, is more common if get a taxi from the airport to accommodation. The driver will assume you do not know the town and will pretend they have delivered you to the right place!

The Scam:

The business has not closed. The driver gets paid to bring people to his friend’s establishment.

Avoid:

You can avoid the scam by opting to get transportation organized through the hotel. If the driver tries this scam, whilst in the car, you can call the hotel/shop/restaurant – or pretend to if you have no reception – and tell the driver it is open. Once they realize they cannot bluff you they will do the right thing.

Tip 1:

One word of caution. Make sure you are in the wrong place. It is common for businesses to be known by more than one name in Asia!   Or in some circumstances, they have no name at all. This is more common with smaller family-run establishments and “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants

Tip 2:

There’s no need to be aggressive if they try to scam you and do not accuse them. It will make the situation worse as the driver will “lose face”. Smile, be friendly but be firm.

2.Just have a look AT MY FRIENDS SHOP

Scenario:

The third way is often when you hire a driver for an organised day tour. They may take you with consultation or will try to persuade you to go somewhere not on the itinerary. They may even say, “please look at my friend’s shop”.

Scam:

Is this a real scam? Yes, as ultimately it is not where you asked to be taken. It is more an issue when they don’t ask. It is more of an annoyance than anything.

Avoid:

Remember the driver needs to earn a living and you cannot blame them for trying to earn a great wage from tips. If you like the driver and want to help him (yes, it is 99% of the time a male) you can simply have a look, who knows they might have an awesome shop.

If you are not interested. Smile, be friendly but be firm. If you do not feel comfortable be honest. If they keep pressuring you. Tell them to take you home and get another driver. Look elsewhere, they are in ample supply.

Tip 1:

If you find a good driver, get their business card or phone number for future work. It is great to keep these for places you may return to over the years. For example, I have a number of business cards from Bali and Sri Lanka that I can use in the future.

Tip 2:

Again, there’s no need to be aggressive in this situations as often this leads to “loss of face” and you’ll get nowhere fast. Be calm and firm with what you want.

3. “My Cousin will drive”. 

Scenario:

You meet a great driver, with excellent English and a comfortable safe car, so you offer him a job. The time to meet with him arrives. To your shock, you see a complete clunker arrive with “Uncle Tom No-English” as your tour guide.

Scam:

The original driver got a better deal to give the job to a friend. You have agreed to a price based on many factors and neither the vehicles nor driver would get paid that rate. If you do go with the new person, you need to negotiate a lower rate.

Avoid:

You can book a driver through a hotel but the price is inflated. If you are not happy with the car or driver, don’t get in and look elsewhere. Drivers are in ample supply in all touristy areas.

Tip:

This old chestnut! This is so common, it has happened more times than I care to remember. Even as a travel expert this happened to me last month. As I travel with kids I need a good condition van with “A/C and seatbelts”. The agreed van was nowhere to be seen. I looked inside, said “no way”, he drove off and I got another car organized in about 30 minutes.
More than anything it is most important to travel with insurances. If you cannot afford to have travel insurance. You cannot afford to travel.

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