These 15 Travel Scam Stories Will Make You Want to Stay at Home

Being targeted by one scam or another is unfortunately common when you’re travelling. Here are 15 that you should keep an eye out for when you’re on the road.

It’s natural to feel like a duck out of water when traveling. From the cuisine to the local customs, everything is new, exotic, and unfamiliar. Throw a language barrier into the mix, and it can all be a tad overwhelming.

Experiencing these kinds of cultural differences is one of the joys of travel. However, it also means you’re vulnerable. Wherever you go in the world, there are people and places that prey on innocent tourists.

Unfortunately, they have lots of effective ways to con you out of money, to the point where being scammed while overseas is practically a right of passage! Indeed, I recently came across a Reddit thread where travelers revealed the scams they’d suffered on the road.

I thought I’d highlight 15 of their responses (plus a few extras I’ve come across). Part entertainment, part education, hopefully, you’ll gain a better idea of the scams to look out for.

1. The Forced Bracelet “Sale”

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In many countries, you’ll see people trying to make money by selling cheap homemade bracelets and other jewelry. They patrol beaches, markets, and busy thoroughfares, walking up to tourists to advertise their products.

Some of these people try a common trick: They put a bracelet on your wrist as if it were a gift (they might even say it’s a gift) and then demand payment.

One Redditor found a good way around it. “[I] had the bracelet scam tried on me near the Acropolis in Athens. I just said thanks and walked off and ignored his demands for money until he finally just begged for the bracelet back.”

2. Restaurants Charging Food You Didn’t Order

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A common tactic in some foreign establishments is to charge tourists for things they didn’t order. It might be something small, like bread or olives, that appears at your restaurant table (you eat them, assuming it’s free, then see it on your bill later). But it can also be more extreme.

One Redditor described this happening in Turkey: “Honourable mention to the Turkish hotel which said they left a special gift in my room to apologize for a minor customer service glitch. When I entered the room, there was a little wicker basket on the table with a bottle of wine. When I checked out, they charged me about €100 for the wine. Apparently, the wicker basket was complementary.”

3. Pressure to Pay

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Whether it’s a market seller, taxi driver, or random “business owner” you encounter on the street, some locals can be incredibly pushy when trying to sell their wares.

This isn’t always a scam, but it can often cross into that territory. For example, one person on Reddit described a situation while traveling in Africa: “I had a guy in Morocco insist that I needed to pay him to shine my shoes. I was wearing sneakers.”

4. The Snake Removal Trick

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The previous traveler wasn’t the only person on Reddit to report a scam in Morocco. Someone else reported a rather unusual ploy to extort tourists. Apparently, “In the main square at Marrakesh, there is a group of men that will throw a snake on you and make you pay to have it removed.”

As unpleasant as that would be, it shows how desperate people can be to make money. Often, the men and women (and sometimes children) who commit these scams live in poor places with very few opportunities. What they do is wrong, but they might just be trying to feed their families.

5. Taxi Drivers Taking You to the Wrong Place

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In some places, taxi drivers have deals in place with shops and accommodation – they get kickbacks if they bring tourists, customers, or guests through the door. One Redditor described this happening in India:

“Getting into a taxi anywhere in India and being told your guesthouse had burnt down and they’d just take you to their friend’s spot. Or take you to the wrong place and just dump you there.”

6. Charging for Posed Photos

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Be wary of overly friendly locals at major tourist attractions offering to take your photo – especially if they’re dressed in a costume related to the attraction. For example, this has been a common scam in Rome, Italy.

“At the Roman Colosseum, guys dressed as gladiators will come up to you smiling and offer to take pics with them. They are super friendly…until the pics have been taken, then one will walk up close to you with a handout and a big scowl on his face demanding 20 Euros.”

7. Increasing the Price

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When I was in Sri Lanka, you always had to triple-check the cost of a tuk-tuk ride before getting in. It was quite common for the driver to agree on a certain price and then increase it out of nowhere upon arrival at the destination. If you complained, they’d kick up a fuss.

Always make sure taxi drivers turn the meter on, too. The unscrupulous ones won’t, then they’ll make up an extortionate number when you arrive. One Redditor wrote: “My first taxi ride in Buenos Aires, the driver didn’t turn on the meter and wanted triple what it would normally cost.”

8. Ladies at the Bar

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Another scam in some places (like Japan, for example) is to be lured to a bar where you’ll be joined at your table by some beautiful women. They’ll start ordering drinks and keeping you entertained. Then, when you want to leave, you’ll be handed the bill.

“This happened to me and a friend in Budapest. We caught on quick and got out, but the bouncer tried to tell us we owed €300 for the time. Luckily my friend was a soon-to-be NFL guard and once the bouncer realized how big he actually was he let us go.”

9. The Shoes on Your Feet

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Most people fall for scams because they happen so quickly, when they’re caught off guard, and then have pressure applied by the perpetrator. Here’s a good example of one that’s meant to be common in New Orleans:

“A guy comes up, points to your feet, and says: “Bet you five dollas I can tell you where you got dem shoes” You agree to the bet. He says, “You got dem on yo feet.” It gets quite a few people.”

Someone else added, “I had that happen to me on Bourbon Street…He said it so quickly and I could barely understand him, and then he said you owe me ten bucks. There were signs in the airport saying to beware of this scam.”

10. Guilt-Tips

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At the airport in some countries, you’ll find locals offering to “help” by carrying your bags. You say no, but they insist. Then when you get to your car or taxi, they ask for a tip and crank the guilt levels up to 100.

One Redditor had it happen in India: “In Delhi (this was like 20 years ago) at the airport, these dudes would go into the luggage section and pick up all the bags from folks that were flying business class/didn’t have Indian names. They’d try to hold us hostage for $20.”

11. Gold Ring Scam

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This scam is a classic from Paris, France, but you’ll find it in other European countries, too. Basically, a scammer pretends they found a gold ring on the sidewalk and gets your attention by asking if it’s yours. After you say no, they’ll try to sell it to you.

People who fall for the scam end up with a cheap ring made from something that definitely isn’t gold. It sounds obvious, but it must work enough for these people to keep doing it.

12. Petition Scam

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The petition scam is another one you’ll likely encounter in Paris. Here’s how it works: a few people (usually young women) approach you with a clipboard asking you to sign a petition. After you sign it, they ask for money to support the cause (apparently, it’s usually going to a gang).

You’ll probably say no. But they’ll persist, perhaps even following you down the road. Eventually, you’ll likely give them some money just to make them go away. Meanwhile, one of them may also have pickpocketed you.

13. 100 Rupees or 100 Dollars

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Several people on the thread had stories from India of locals selling/offering something that cost “100” without specifying the currency. Here was one of them: “The men with cameras outside the Taj Mahal do a similar scam. They tell tourists it’s only 100 to get a picture. The tourist assumes 100 rupees, and then after the picture is taken, they demand 100 USD.”

Apparently, you can also encounter priests doing this. They’ll offer prayers for you, your siblings, and your parents, then request 100 rupees for each prayer – that you have to pay in dollars.

14. The Flower Trick

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Some scam artists take advantage of the romantic vibe at some travel destinations. They’ll see a couple, present a gift to them, then demand an extortionate price and/or guilt trip them into buying it. For example:

“In Venice, at dawn, I was taking a photo for a couple, and my girlfriend was looking at the sunset over the Grand Canal. A guy came over, gave some roses to my girlfriend saying that I bought them for her. The guy comes back to me and demands a crazy price for them. My girlfriend seems so happy that I couldn’t even say no.”

15. The Dropped Shoe Brush

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A popular con in some countries is for a “shoe cleaner” to drop their brush at your feet. They might be walking in the other direction, so it seems like an accident – as if they dropped this important item. Sadly, that’s not what’s happened:

“A shoe cleaner in Istanbul lost one of his brushes in front of me without recognizing. I picked it up, ran after him and gave it back. He was very happy and gave me a quick free cleaning of my shoes to thank me. Then, after he finished, suddenly it wasn´t free anymore.”



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Author: Danny Newman

Title: Writer and Content Creator

Expertise: Travel, Digital Nomadry, Outdoors, Blogging

Danny Newman is a writer, content creator, and digital nomad from the UK. He founded the travel and lifestyle blog What’s Danny Doing, a popular resource for people seeking more adventure, self-discovery, and purpose. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s work features in dozens of online publications, including and news sites across the US.