Tourist Scam Alert: 2010
Tourists are targeted by scam and rip-off artists everywhere in Europe. If you know the games (spilling the mustard, bus 64 in Rome, and so on), you're less likely to be a victim. By sharing the latest scams (and learning from each others' mistakes) we'll all travel more safely.
Remember, pickpocketing attempts throughout Europe can be expected unless you wear a moneybelt under your clothing. Smart travelers leave wallets at home and store their credit cards, passport, paper money and rail ticket(s) in a secure moneybelt. Visit our Travel Store for Rick Steves' recommended moneybelts.
What cons and scams have you encountered?
Read the Distillation: Tourist Scams, 2005
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
Leave valuables in the hotel safe. Learn how to use the safe at the hotel before you lock it up.Do a test by locking the safe up with nothing in it.Use a money belt but take only enough money.Leave the rest behind in the safe..Better yet, use a credit card or interact but check the billing after.Carry a little money in your pocket or purse and when you have to throw it away from a armed robber do so a then run if your can.When using a MONEY BELT only open it in a secure place like a washroom stall or a private place.
Winnipeg, MB Can Sat 01/01/2011
And to make sure you remember to get your money out of the hotel safe when you leave, put on shoe in the safe with the money. When you leave and you look for the missing shoe, you know where it is!
Louisville, KY USA Sat 01/01/2011
Skillfu Paris pickpockets
We just returned from a one week trip to Paris. Before leaving, I got money belts for everyone in the family, to carry ID, passports and cash. My oldest son decided that he was also going to carry his wallet, mainly to keep his day cash and his museum pass. I warned him that Paris, particularly the Metro, was full of pickpockets. However, he said that his wallet was attached to a lanyard, so they would not be able to take it without him knowing. Despite my warning, he insisted that he was fine.
Everything was fine till the sixth day of our trip. We were going out to dinner, but the subway cars were very crowded since it was the last weekend before Christmas. My wife, other son, and I got into one end of a subway car. Because it was so crowded, my oldest son had to get in at the other end of the car, so we were separated from each other and could not watch out for each other.
After we got off the car, he sheepishly said that he had been pickpocketed. Apparantly, he had to reach overhead to hang on. His lifting of his arms exposed his lanyard, which showed the pickpocket exactly where his wallet was located. During the bumping and movement in the subway car, the pickpocket was able to skillfully extract the wallet from his pocket, open it, and extract the cash. My son found the wallet dangling by his side, still attached to the lanyard, but minus 35 euros. Luckily, the bulk of his cash, passport and other important documents were safely in his money belt.
I told him that keeping his day cash in his front pocket was safer since the pickpocket has to guess where to look. The lanyard told them exactly where to go. My son is now wiser and more respectful of the skills of Paris pickpockets. So, it was a modestly expensive lesson.
San Francisco, CA USA Tue 12/28/2010
Scams alive and well in Paris!!
Just got back from Paris and just had to comment on the abundance of scammers my family encountered over the holidays. From the petitioners in Gare du Nord to the abusive use of puppies to bait those of us who are animal lovers; the Holidays were ripe with grifters in Paris. We all had a wonderful time and did not lose a dime to any of the many scams described in this thread. However, we certainly repelled more than our fair share. Traveling as a foursome, mother, father, sister and brother and dressed for cold weather in our most obvious american attire, we were certainly prime targets. This Christmas, at every tourist spot we were confronted by very pushy groups of Romani women and children claiming to be deaf and dumb and insisting we sign some petition to start some type of school or center. We got the "do you speak english" jam a card in your face scam. And, I witnessed the end of the bracelet scam as some poor Japanese kid forked over five euro for some wound pieces of [INVALID] The scam that bothers me the most is the shameful use of puppies bait tourists into thinking they are giving money to someone who really needs it. What happens to those poor puppies, I don't want to think about it.
Lewes, DE USA Tue 12/28/2010
I just returned from Egypt. traveled all over the country alone. i am a woman in my 40s. In my opinion it is so much safe then Spain and Italy. Not once did anyone try to rip me off. When I told people I was going to Egypt they said it was dangerous and this is not true!! The last time I was in madrid the theives were trying open my luggage on the metro with the locals just sniggering...in Italy it was relentless dishonesty..wit heven old ladies trying to cheat me out of my rightful money change when I purchased an item.
Egyptians are honest people and the country is safe.
tx USA Thu 12/23/2010
Passport Thieves in Spain
This warning came from the State Department's website. "There have been reports of thieves posing as plainclothes police officers, beckoning to pedestrians from cars and sometimes confronting them on the street asking for documents, or to inspect their cash for counterfeit bills, which they ultimately confiscate as "evidence."
This warning makes me tempted to just carry a copy of my passport while in Madrid next spring. I hope it is legal to do so.
Washington, DC USA Mon 12/20/2010
Attempted robbery at an ATM (Paris)
In Paris two weeks ago I was nearly robbed at a cash machine. Two people approached very quickly. One shoved a handful of flyers in front of the screen. I got nasty and shouted at him in French to go away. My daughter pushed him and he left. When he was gone I noticed that he had pushed buttons and there was a high amount of money showing on the screen. We're pretty sure the idea was to then push the enter button and grab the cash as it came out...while the tourist was confused by the flyers. I canceled the transaction and started over. We noticed that several passersby stopped and watched the would-be thieves until they were out of sight. The day before we had experienced the "do you speak English" approach by the Eiffel Tower. Thank goodness for this scam alert page. It really helped us to be on our toes so we could truly enjoy the beautiful city of Paris. It's true that speaking a little French will get you a long way with the Parisians. We had no communications problems and got lots of smiles. Avoid being the ugly American and you won't meet the unpleasant Parisian.
Indianapolis, IN USA Tue 12/07/2010
Casa Lagana, Venice, fraudulent Visa charges
We stayed at Casa Lagana in Venice in September of 2010. It was recommended to us by Corte Campana which was full for our travel dates. Against my better judgment we booked there even though I knew it was a risk since I couldn't find one piece of information or reviews on it. Turns out my instincts were right and it turned out to be the worst accomodation experience of our travels. Of course since I use so many of Rick's suggestions, I 'll admit I've been a bit spoiled, but still this place was a hack job. We witnessed about 3 parties arrive in 4 days who had reservations yet the B&B was already booked. Just a couple months ago, almost a year to the date of our stay in Venice I find a charge from Venice, the very same Casa Lagana. I call my credit card company to complain. Well good thing I pay attention to my credit card statement because 4 days later yet another charge of 400 euros shows up. Please steer clear of this place. If they did this to me, they've certainly done it before. These people should not be in business .
Vancouver, BC Canada Fri 11/26/2010
a few tips
Reading these stories really can put you off on travel. Fortunately, I haven't had any serious problems whether in Europe or remote SE Asia.
A couple tips I use might be of help to folks here.
First, I will only stay in hotels with room safes and I always use the room safe. I don't understand people who walk around with passports, lots of cash, etc. I change the combination to the room safe every time I open it.
Second, I never have a lot of local cash on me and always use ATMs. I ONLY go to ATMs at a major bank (this is easy in Europe) and ONLY during business hours. If the ATM eats my card (its happen twice to me), I can run inside and retrieve it immediately.
Finally, I try to always walk with a purpose and not make eye contact with people on the street. If I'm approached by anyone I say sharply and loudly, "nein, nein" just like a German soldier in any WWII movie. The Germans are a frank, no nonsense people and it works so well it's hard not to laugh as the street urchins scatter.
When out for the day, I carry one days worth of local cash and a credit card secured around my neck and under my t-shirt and outer shirt. I do carry an expensive camera which I take pains to protect in a travelon safe case and an iPhone which I also take pains to protect.
Best of luck to all and for those who are considering your first trip to Europe, don't let these stories put you off. Petty crime happens everywhere so just be smart and you will be fine. I've yet to be a crime victim and have loved every trip I have ever taken to Europe.
Saint Louis, MO USA Wed 11/24/2010
Avoiding Taxi ripoffs
Taxi ripoffs of tourist is a huge problem in many cities around the world. I haven't had problems in Paris or London, but have in many other cities. It seems the further East you travel, the worse it gets.
I have learned to arrange airport pickups and drop-offs thru my hotel before I leave home. While not perfect, this has worked very well for me. Hotels use trusted people who get a lot of business from them and want to maintain that relationship.
I get the name and cell of the driver who brings me to the hotel and call him as much as possible when cabbing during my stay. A relationship forms and I've not been taken advantage of as a result.
I'm going to Italy the summer of 2011 and I get the impression that my taxi strategy will really be tested.
Saint Louis, MO USA Wed 11/24/2010
Fresh off a pick pocketing incident in Barcelona
I am actually in Barcelona currently, just having arrived yesterday. My parents had warned me about pickpockets here from their trip last year, when their friend was pickpocketed. The funny and sad story they told me was that the thief actually handed back the wallet to the startled friend sans cash and ran away, since the police had apparently seen him in the act.
So before my trip, being intrigued I read up quite a bit on the scams used these days. That did get me a bit more paranoid than usual. I scolded myself for reading too many of these articles. I am an experienced traveler and I had to remind myself to to trust humankind and my instincts and experience. When discussing the same topic, some Spanish colleagues (not from Barcelona) also assured me that Barcelona is very safe. Just in case, before going out today I took some precautions by splitting up my money and keeping the essential cards and passport inside hidden pockets. It helps that it is cold and I had to wear a jacket with secure pockets inside.
So while I survived intact today, unfortunately I could not prevent the theft of a money purse from a young tourist girl in front of me in line for tickets at the Sangrada Familia.
The scam involved two boys and a girl asking for a petition to be signed to help Dumb and Deaf children. They approached the young woman in front of me and very passionately started asking her to sign the petition. As she did it, I spotted the two boy's eyes roving and observing the young woman's bag. They were standing very close to her and one was even stroking her shoulder and telling her how nice she was.They then starting asking her for a money donation. Surprisingly, she pulled out her wallet from her zippered purse on her side, with the boys eagerly helping her look for coins. I quickly stepped in at that point to prevent the inevitable from occurring and told her to keep the wallet away. She looked confused and I tried telling her that it was likely a scam. Unfortunately the young lady did not understand English and ignored me and continued picking through her wallet. At that point I was pushed back and obstructed by the third accomplice - the young girl with the same clipboard insisting on having me signing the petition as well. I raised my voice and backed away. From the corner of my eye I spotted one of the boys hiding the wallet under his clipboard. I have no idea how they managed to extract it from the young woman with so much ease. I reached out and grabbed one of wrists of the boy and with my other hand struggled to get past the girl with the clip board to get to the wallet. The boy deftly passed the purse on to the other boy. As I tred to get to the second boy who now held the prize, the first one managed to wriggle away from my grip. Unfortunately all three managed to get past the several tourists who just stood around dumbly staring at the spectacle. All three ran off so fast that there was no hope for me to compete - I'm not exactly a spritely young kid anymore even if I imagine myself to be one ;-). Once the tourist young woman realized what was happening, she did make a futile attempt to chase them, but they were long gone.
Unfortunately I could not talk to the tourist girl. I did spot her after, walking away crying after she had apparently tried to report the incident to the cop standing right at the corner. I wish I would've had a chance to talk to her and to express my regret for not doing better to prevent this theft It crazy to think about this now, but the whole thing actually lasted just a few seconds, but perhaps if I had held the boy's wrist tighter, or good involved sooner...
In any case it is my hope that posting this story here will be my redemption. Hopefully this story will help someone else from falling for the same scam.
I have one more day to go in Barcelona. Let's see what tomorrow brings...
Montreal, Quebec Canada Sat 11/20/2010
Flat tire scam and rip off dealer in Valencia, Spain
This actually happened in June 2009. We arrived in Valencia on a Sunday night. While stopped at a signal light and looking in my rear view mirror I saw a car pull up very close to the right rear of my leased Peugeot. I noticed the driver reaching out to my car and thinking that he was trying to mark up my car (not thinking of the tire scam) I pulled forward. The driver realized I was on to him and pulled away. The light changed and I pulled away, then the cars warning system advised me that I was losing tire pressure. The neighborhood didn't look too safe at that time of time so I kept driving to our hotel, but before I got there I had to change that tire. I took all our luggage out of the trunk and locked them inside the car before changing the tire. The next day I took the car to the local Peugeot dealer who gladly charged me 400 Euro for a new tire. Talk about adding insult to injury!
Pacifica, CA USA Sat 11/20/2010
So many scams in Paris
1) Don't let anyone help you use the ticket machines in the Metro. They use slight of hand so it looks like they are getting tickets out for you. The tickets are in their palm the whole time
2) Beware of groups of people approaching you. It takes two or more people to distract you and pickpocket you. Single people with clipboards want you to hold the clipboard and pen, the clipboard hides your view of your pockets and keeps your hands out of their way. I encountered a group of 5 women on the narrow steps up to the Sacre Coeur, where there is little space and it's easy to get close and pickpocket. A legitimate souvenir seller who was close by shouted hell at them, he must have been exasperated at the constant thieving he witnesses
3) The Sacre Coeur string men are agressive if you let them get you. There are about a dozen, I said "NO" about 5 times while moving on before he gave up. While my fiance was in the shop I watched them tie some string to a guy's (he was on his own). He was asked for 5 euros, when he disputed this scam another string man came up and put his hand on his shoulder suggesting he just pays, then another guy did the same on his other shoulder. This is deliberate intimidation.
I was in Paris for 3 days but I was getting so sick of them all I would have been happy beating the crap out of the lot of them. I intervened when a young Spanish couple were about to pay for the gold ring (she got her purse out), I can't repeat what the scum gypsy said to me. I felt unsafe after that because it looked like a family of them on the streets, including a tall male
Paris is a beautiful magical place I'd go again tomorrow, but I learnt a lot about the scams in my short stay. Someone said the police just stay away from the scan hotspots and I can confirm that the police had no presence on the Sacre Coeur courtyard at the bottom or the steps leading up. Nor were they on the banks of the river on the Eiffel Tower side
And don't gamble on that game they play on the cobbled streets before you get to the Sacre Coeur, it's impossible to win
Paris, USA Tue 11/16/2010
Taxis in Rome
Rome Taxis - we had the 20.00 for the 5.00 switch pulled on us once. He was very rude and nasty. The our hotel reserved a taxi to the airport the day before our pick up for 4 of us and we were told one price, but of course got there and he wanted more, then didn't have any change to give us back....my Italian is OK but not good enough to argue with a taxi driver. It's too bad because those few dishonest ones makes it bad for all taxi drivers. Makes you want to walk more or take public transportation.
Delaware, OH USA Mon 11/15/2010
Pickpocket in Rome
After reading so much about pickpockets in Rome we were determined that it wouldn't happen to us. Even with precautions, let me tell you I was a victim on the Rome Metro at the Repubblica stop. As I reflect I believe we were targeted as we were trying to figure out how to correctly have our Roma Passes scanned. The subway was massively crowded and as we squeezed on our "friends" squeezed right on seperating my husband and me. I was so busy trying to stand upright and not fall down that I never saw/felt them get into an interior zipper of my over the shoulder purse- and I was holding it! Two subway stops later with our "friends" now gone, I glanced at my purse and saw the zipper was unzipped. Luckily, it was just about $30. that the thieves got. So, even with all our heightened awareness it happened to us. I'm still mad about it. They are real pros. Normally we wouldn't have tried to get on the subway when it was so crowded, but we needed to be at the Vatican at a certain time. The good news is that it could have been so much worse.
Cincinnati, Ohio USA Mon 11/15/2010
Not a Scam
Coliseum Scam (Rome) Rick has mentioned the facebook scam, which is sad. But in Rome we got robbed by the teenagers from the USA who sell very large group tours of the Coliseum, the guide was a blonde man who spoke horrible english, he looked like he should spend as much time studying as he does in the gym. The group was about 40 strong, we did pass the line but overall we felt this was a scam because the teens told us we needed to join a tour to pass the line, that's not true of course. Megan Quick USA 10/16/2010
This is not a scam. I Took the tour which was 20 euros instead of 12. For the extra 8 Euros, you bypass a very long line (over an hour the day i was there) and have a tour guide for the Colliseum and Palantine Hill. If you value your time more than money, its worth it. I also learned a lot of stuff I didnt know about the area, including the fact that Michaelangelos Moses is just a short walk from there and free to see!
Boston, MA USA Mon 11/15/2010
Overcharging your dinner! Venice
Just got back from a weekend in Venice with 7 other friends. We are experienced Americans who live in Europe. I want to share with travellers to make sure and check their dinner tabs while in Venice or elsewhere. We were overbilled 50 euro - the tab carefully altered with 14 euros charged instead of 12. An extra antipasto or drink. The waiter flirted wtih us and gave us a complimentary bottle of "limoncello." Thinking we were naive Americans who were intimidated, they tried to rip us off. PLEASE check your bills carefully at restaurants and pay attention to the menu prices. Do not let the waiters "suggest" things. They will sell you the most expensive items. This waiter tried to talk us into a 60 euro appetizer. Be bold and don't be intimidated!
Stuttgart, Germany Mon 11/08/2010
Paris Metro Ticket Scam
When my debit card wouldn't work in the Paris Metro ticket machine at the Chatelet/Les Halles Metro stop a very friendly well dressed frenchman stepped in quickly to help. I really didn't want any help but because the guy was so nice I was embarrassed to say no and walk away. In no time he had purchased for us a double carnet value ticket (24 euros). This carnet was just 2 single tickets but worth 10 rides each. He used his credit card, we gave him cash. Wow, what a nice dude! Until we tried to use the tickets a second time (now far away and hours later) and found out that we had been had. They were just single use tickets. Of course they were. They looked like single use tickets, they worked like single use tickets. How could we be so dumb? But really it's the perfect scam, and the guy was very smooth, with the right combo of persistence and helpfullness. So be careful with helpfull people I guess is the lesson. Especially when it comes to money. Otherwise we met nothing but friendly and courteous people in Paris.
Langhorne, PA USA Fri 11/05/2010
Eurail pass France
Arriving at Paris CDG with an eurail pass, we couldn't obtain a train reservation, had to wait 3 hours with no results, then walked to the next train and asked the controler to seat us. We concluded that SNCF does not like rail passes and discourages their use by tourists.
Houston, TX USA Fri 11/05/2010
Our night train Madrid-Paris was canceled indefinetely due to the strike in France. We had to stop in Irun, spend the night, then take another train to Paris. Our cost is a cancelation fee, a night in hotel, the loss of one day of Eurail pass travel, together more than $200. If you pay in advance, you'd expect a refund or the contract to be fulfilled completely.
Houston, TX USA Fri 11/05/2010
Gold ring scam
within minutes of hitting the Champs de Elysees we were targets for the gold ring scam. Having read about it in Rick's literature we were prepared and just walked on by - smiling. Because we were prepared, it was more like a street performance than a threat. That and the Eiffel tower said "we're in Paris."
Denver, CO USA Thu 11/04/2010
Martha, you made a reservation with hotels.com therefore you should have canceled directly with hotels.com You didn't follow the rules and you suffered the consequences...which does NOT make hotels.com a rip-off.
USA Fri 10/29/2010
Hotels.com rip off
I traveled in Italyin October and made one reservation through Hotels.com. I gave them my credit card information. The confirmation gave me a deadline, midnight two days before we were to arrive, as a cancellation deadline. When our travel plans changed in route, I canceled per their policy by contacting the hotel directly the afternoon before the midnight deadline. Because Hotels.com did not process the cancellation for two days, i was charged a one night penalty. I have contacted them repeatedly and they refuse to refund that penalty. In the future I will book directly with the hotel and never use hotels.com
Seattle, wa USA Thu 10/28/2010
Cash For Gold Price Per Gram
While in Barcelona, we stopped our car (a new Renault with French plates) to look at something, and a man on a scooter rode up and started asking for directions. While we were talking to him, his partner apparently slit our rear tire with a knife. Several blocks down the street when I pulled up on the sidewalk to change the flat tire, the same two men arrived, disguised with motorbike helmets, to give directions to a "tire shop" just around the corner. I had the trunk lid open to access the spare tire, thus limiting my view into the interior of the car. While the first man was trying to convince me to go with him to the tire shop, the other man was in the car and going through our stuff, including my wife's purse. A local woman on a balcony started screaming at the two thieves; I closed the trunk lid, started shouting and waving the tire wrench, and the two of them dropped the purse and ran off. We have used money belts for over thirty years of world travel, so there wasn't anything of value in the purse, just make-up, photos, small change, etc. We were staying in an outlying area, so we went to a Renault dealer near the hotel and had the tire replaced (80 euros). When I returned the car to Renault Eurodrive in Paris, I mentioned to the agent that we had been to Barcelona, and he said, "Did you have your tires slit?".
Cash For Gold Price Per Gram
florida, florid USA Thu 10/28/2010
Hertz Rip-off I renteda car from Hertz in Prague, to drive to Poland,Czech Rep.,Austria,and Germany. On advice from Rick Steves video I got full coverage for insurance. While in Poland my car was broken into with the GPS being taken. I was told by the Hertz rep. in Poland don't worry you have full coverage. On 6-9-10 I paid $662.91 for the rental car, a GPS,and insurance for a 10 day rental. On 8-19-10 I was charged an additional $1,648.65 by Hertz on my credit card, with the explanation that the GPS is not covered by Theft Protection. I was given the breakdown in the Czech lanquage. On writing Hertz a letter of my un-happiness, I received an e-mail that everything would be covered. Looking at my e-mail I noticed this was not my name, so I called Hertz and was informed you weren't supposed to get that it was ment for someone else. I was told my charge were accurate and they weren't going to adjust anything. So I was charged $2,311.56 for a 10 day rental. WHAT A RIP-OFF Tim
Golden, Colo. USA Mon 10/25/2010
A bit of advice: don't carry 1,000 euros in your pocket! Why would you want to have that much cash on you in the first place? I never had any problems with the ATMs in Italy this past summer.
Louisville, KY USA Sun 10/24/2010
This is not really a tourist scam, but rather a scam targeting unemployed Americans. Certain people claim to represent companies in English speaking regions such as the UK. The unemployed American gets hired for a job that includes a nice apartment in London, Dublin or some other desirable city. A check is made out to a bank to establish an account ahead of time. You guessed it. The job does not exist (though the companies and apartments often do!) and the money is gone. The legitimate company never heard of the recruiter who contacted the mark.
Seattel, wa USA Sun 10/24/2010
A friend of mine just got back from Rome. At the airport he was "bumped" and when his taxi arrived in the city he discovered he had lost over 1000 euros and all his credit cards. He said,"I lived in Rome for 3 years and this never happened to me." My response was that it only needs to happen once. Don't be paranoid, but don't get overconfident. WEAR A MONEY BELT.
Washington, DC USA Wed 10/20/2010
Subway rip-off - Paris
We were a target in Paris at the subway. It was really our own fault but thought I would warn you not to make the same mistake. We could not quite understand what tickets to purchase on the subway and a nicely dressed gentleman offered to help us purchase our 3 adult tickets. We gave him the money and he purchased 3 child tickets instead. We thanked him and then we tried to use these not knowing they were children's tickets and of course they didn't work and he was gone. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Know how much everything should cost and the wording even if the language is a barrier so you don't have this embarrassment happen to you.
Bountiful, Utah USA Tue 10/19/2010
ATM/Bancomat theft - Italy
We thought we did everything right--notified our bank when we would be in Italy and were careful not to let anyone get close enough to see the keypad when we used the Bancomat. We couldn't get money out regularly, getting a message that said "not authorized for international use". We emailed and then called the bank. They assured us that we were approved for withdrawals overseas. When we got home, $5,600 had been taken out by someone in Bulgaria in 48 different transactions over the 2 weeks. The state dept. website said that pinhole cameras are used to record the PIN # and that one should cover the keypad with a hand when entering the PIN #. The magnetic strip can be read by an illegal device and you can still get cash and your card back. Even if we check our bank acct online every day on our next trip, there is still the problem of what to do for money if they have to stop withdrawals to avoid theft. We think we'll just take all the cash we'll need in moneybelts. The good news, the bank reimbursed us within 24 hrs. of our written report.
Philadelphia, PA USA Tue 10/19/2010
Cascade Fountain, Barcelona
There is a real scam at Parc de la Cintadella - Cascade Fountain, Barcelona, Spain. They try to swarm you to sign a petition and pick pocket you while you stop. Just plow through them and never pause.
Dublin, Dublin USA Mon 10/18/2010
Coliseum Scam (Rome)
Rick has mentioned the facebook scam, which is sad. But in Rome we got robbed by the teenagers from the USA who sell very large group tours of the Coliseum, the guide was a blonde man who spoke horrible english, he looked like he should spend as much time studying as he does in the gym. The group was about 40 strong, we did pass the line but overall we felt this was a scam because the teens told us we needed to join a tour to pass the line, that's not true of course.
USA Sat 10/16/2010
Mugged in Naples
Just returned from a month in Italy. There are always minor scams in Italy, but I didn't realize I would be in real danger while in Naples. I leave most of my jewelry at home, but I did have on a gold necklace. Big mistake! My husband and I were on a day trip to Naples from Sorrento. We had just exited the metro at Cavour and started walking on a busy main street, Via Foria, at 11 a.m. towards the Archaeological Museum a block away. He came up from behind me, put his hands around my neck and broke the necklace off. The locals on the street just shook their heads and acted like this happens all the time. I had marks on my neck for over a week. We have safety bags, wear money belts, are aware of the current scams and thought we would be protected. My advice: Stay away from Naples, and don't wear any gold jewelry while traveling in Europe. Although scared, feel lucky I wasn't really hurt.
Viera, Fl USA Sat 10/16/2010
Athena, what is the shell scam in Athens, please?
Editor's Note: Please post questions on the Travelers Helpline (http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm) in the future.
Maspalomas, Gran C Spain Thu 10/14/2010
Crete and all of Greece
The worst scam you are likely to see anywhere in Greece is the shell scam in Athens. Just walk right past. I promise they will not chase after you. At least I never saw them chase anyone down. I have traveled in Greece, driven rental cars, used public transportation and know there is no reason to fear scams. A few pickpockets on the Athens Metro (wear a money belt), otherwise scams and Greece really are not a concern.
Iowa, USA Mon 10/11/2010
I've been here in Crete (Chania, with a day at Knossos and Iraklion) for the past week, and I have seen absolutely nothing as far as travel scams and pratfalls here. The people on the island are overtly friendly and welcoming towards tourists. The biggest thing I would advise is keeping your head on a swivel and be aware of your surroundings. And DON'T advertise that you are American, either by clothing or by loud conversation. Use common sense and avoid sticking out, and you should be ok if you travel here.
Norman, OK USA Thu 10/07/2010
Pickpocket on Nice Tram
Be careful on the tram in Nice! We had a great time in Nice, France last week, but we observed a man get on the tram without a ticket. He then proceeded to reach his hand into the open pocketbook of a lady on the tram (her attention was turned away as she asked directions from another person on the tram). Make sure your bags are zipped/closed whenever you are on public transportation!
Durham, NC USA Thu 10/07/2010
50 Euro being passed off at 10 Euro
Took a taxi from the Termini station (left side, with the "taxi" sign) going to Campo De Fiori. A driver got out of his cab, hailed another cab, put our bags in, helped us get in the taxi, then got in himself after we did. So now, we had drivers A and B. It was daytime so we weren't worried. We gave 50 Euros to driver A who handed it to driver B who was now outside the cab. When we were getting our bags, driver B was showing me a 10 Euro bill which was similar in color. He tried passing it off as the 50 Euro bill 3 times but I stood my ground. Then he makes a big show of "making a mistake", gets the 50 euro from his friend and gives us the correct change. I read the warning of Rick Steves on the 20 and 5 Euro bills - same scam. So at Termini, make sure you get a taxi from the front of the station, where the buses are. Other than that, no problems encountered in Rome.
Makati, Philippines Tue 09/28/2010
English translations & gold rings, oh my!
Last spring in Paris, my husband and I were treated to several scam attempts. We were approached by a young woman who needed something translated from English. I'm not a paranoid type, but this reeked of scam, so we just walked away quickly. My presumption was confirmed when it happened a couple more times. Being fluent in French, the 3rd time this happened I exasperatedly started to tell the girl that there are lots of people with gold rings who could probably help her. The moment I started to speak French she scurried away. And, ah, yes... the gold ring scam. The first time this occurred, I took the ring from the woman, threw it on the ground and kicked it away. I almost threw it into the Seine, but thought better, not knowing how violent these desperados get. She was plenty pissed as it was and gave me a shove while cursing. I smilingly bid her good day. Later when a guy approached us with a ring I asked, "Where do you people keep finding all these rings?" He laughed, shrugged and walked on, obviously in better humor than the previous ringbearer.
Willtis, CA USA Tue 09/28/2010
Feeling safe in Germany
My husband and I just returned from a trip to Germany where we felt very safe. Nobody tried to rip us off or try to steal anything from us. Of course it helps to be aware of your surroundings and to stay away from crowds or suspicious looking individuals who beg for cash while trying to involve you in a conversation. Naturally keep your cash and credit card in a safe place where nobody can reach it. Also try to look confident as if you know where you are going, pretend you are one of the locals. This attitude may help you from being victimized.
Everett, WA USA Sat 09/25/2010
Why no one reporting from Scandanavia
I find it very interesting nearly all the scams discussed take place in Italy, Spain, France. Several years ago, I spent a week in Sweden. Beautiful country, clean, beautiful people, wonderful food. Not for a moment did I feel threatened or vulnerable and I had a great time. Lots to see. No one has reported any scams in Scandanavia. Maybe more of us should visit.
Tacoma, WA USA Sat 09/25/2010
Taxi Drivers at Prague Train Station
Don't go to the taxis directly outside the main train station in Prague-they are thieves! I went to the TI office in the station and they ordered a taxi for me. The driver charged me one-third of what those thieves outside wanted.
Jupiter, FL USA Fri 09/24/2010
I bought the Rick Steve's hidden pocket which attaches to your belt. I put my wallet in it. I put the pocket into my pocket or sometimes inside my pants. Never once worried about it. I would not recommend pulling your wallet out in a busy place such as at a crowded ATM machine or on a bus. Women should be careful of their purses. I would not recommend a fanny pack as they are too in the open. Use common sense and you won't have any problems.
portland, or USA Tue 09/21/2010
Pickpocketed in Venice
Venice 7th August 2010. My mother had her purse stolen from her bag while riding on a vaporetta filled with 'tourists'. Why do I think everyone was a tourist? Pretty much everyone on the boat had a camera round their neck. Pickpockets are dressing up to look like fellow tourists to blend into the crowd. Unfortunately she was carrying all her credit cards and around €90 in cash in her purse (unknown to me). She had no access to any more money for the next 2 weeks. So don't ever think it can't happen to you - it can!
Sydney, USA Mon 09/20/2010
While in Rome this summer we took the taxi three times and the bus several times. Absolutely no problems with the taxi rides. The drivers were always helpful and moved us thru traffic as efficiently as possible in the Roman traffic! We wanted to go to the new MAXXI museum and the driver was unfamiliar with it. I had the address and he had his book of maps and we quickly found it. The bus, on the other hand, was hell! So crowded and hot. If I could have afforded it, I would have take the taxi everywhere.
Louisville, KY USA Sun 09/19/2010
A different Rome taxi scam
In Rome at Piazza Venezia we needed to catch a cab to the Vatican to meet our tour group at a restaurant. The first taxi driver covered the meter with his hat as he pulled up and when we asked for the meter, he insisted it was a fixed price to the Vatican. We simply asked to get out. (Which we did... he then yelled something angry-sounding in Italian after we were at the curb.) We found another cab in about five seconds and he took us there without incident. (The only fixed price is to/from the airports.) Our Rick Steves tour guide warned us about this exact scam ahead of time and we are glad he did. (He did not warn us about the other taxi scam of bill-switching, but we didn't run into that one.)
Raleigh, NC USA Fri 09/17/2010
Safe Travels in Central Europe
Just wanted to post a positive for anyone getting freaked out about scams in Eastern/Central Europe... I just returned from 15 days in Prague, Krakow & Budapest with not one hint of pickpocketing or scams the entire time, aside from one restaurant who tried to charge us a "cover charge" for the condiments on the table. I did have a money-pouch that I used for a few days, but got irritated with the bulk of it & it looked ridiculous, so my husband carried our passports/credit cards in the zippered pocket of his travel pants instead. Worked great. We only carried about $150 in local currency in our pockets/day packs anyway. We had an amazing time and would recommend to anyone going there to just be aware of your surroundings and take the advice of keeping your most valuable cards/money under your clothes.
Riverside, CA USA Fri 09/17/2010
I've been all over Europe on at least 15 different trips and have never ONCE been scammed or pickpocketed or accosted or ANYTHING! This forum can scare you to death...don't let it.
USA Fri 09/17/2010
"The Petition" Scam
Travelers, beware: I was forcibly pickpocketed while walking down the steps of the Cascada (the astounding arch fountain in the Parc de la Ciutadella) in Barcelona. My friend was walking ahead of me and we were approached by 4 or 5 girls with clipboards, asking us to sign their petitions. We politely refused but they were persistent and 3 of them surrounded me, blocked my path, and physically shook me by the shoulders. It wasn´t until I got to the bottom of the steps that I realized my skirt pocket zipper was open and my wallet was missing. Right then, I knew I had been literally ¨shaken down.¨ When I retraced my steps, I saw my wallet lying on the ground and the girls looking at me with a "Who, us?" expression. They got away with 10 or 15€ and my T10 metro card; luckily the money belt on my friend with the more valuable items was safe!
Cambridge, MA USA Fri 09/10/2010
Pay for a legit fado place in Lisbon
The neighborhood open-mic fado place in Lisbon with no cover charge listed in Rick Steve´s Portugal 2010 should be AVOIDED! There is a cover charge, even though a waiter told us there was a one drink minimum. We ordered a glass of ginjinha and flan and listened to a couple fado songs by the staff there. It looked like it was a slow night for the restaurant, some tourists left without ordering anything. When we asked for the check, the waiter/singer handed us a slip of paper with "20€" scribbled on it. We were shocked. He sternly explained that it cost us 10€ each to listen to the fado. I refused to be taken advantage of, and remained in the restaurant, debating how to act. I recalled Rick Steve´s advice to ask for the book of complaints if things turned awry. Turns out in Portuguese (I had a Rick Steve´s phrasebook) it´s "livro de queixar." We complained to the waiter, he assumed that we wanted to talk to the police. Later he came back and we demanded to see where the 20€ charge was printed on a sign or a menu. He tallied up the flan and ginjinha from a menu and wrote a new total, 7€. We hastily paid and booked it out of there. What a nuisance!
Boston, MA USA Fri 09/10/2010
Pick-pockets Ramblas Barcelona
Just got back from a pleasant vacation in Barcelona, I was not pick-pocket nor robbed, thanks to Rick's Tourist Scam Alert page. I must say that Ramblas is like honey for pick-poket's , twice a saw pick-poket's crawl through people distracted with the street artists making them easy bate. At one time I stared at one that was looking out for police or trouble, he made a signal to his partner (that was scoping the crowd) that they had been spotted, mean while I had also alerted my friends and we were about 6 staring at them, they looked back at us with a face, that meant what's your problem mate. They then disappeared throw the crowd looking back. Ohh yeah, they looked like tourists, not the typical Spanish type. Use always a money belt and a lock on your back-pack and you're surely going to enjoy your vacation without problems.
Funchal, PORTUGAL Thu 09/02/2010
Fake police steal one thousand Euros
Dear Rick Steves, In Barcelona,on 15th August 2010 at 10 PM,near place Catalunya, passage Garcia, two fake policemen have stolen one thousand Euros. A young woman approached my brother and me with a smile, asking her way to Sagrada Familia. She had a city map in her hand. My brother wanted to help her. All of a sudden, two men in plain clothes appeared shouting that they were from the police. They said in English : Passport control, Passport control. My brother obeyed without objection. Then, the so-called policeman said : Cash control, cash control in his typical accent. My brother obeyed again. The policeman took out the notes in his hand and put back. It was then my turn. I had one thousand and seven hundreds and fifty Euros in my wallet. All in 100, 50 and 20 currency notes. The fake policeman took out all my money and like by magic tricks, put back a thin wad. I realized that he had stolen one thousand Euros only when I was back in my apartment. Please bring this information to the attention of your net surfers. Thank you.
PARIS, FRANCE Wed 09/01/2010
Burned on Apartment Rental in Rome
I cannot recommend RomePower. Use a different company. My group paid a rental deposit on the Ovidius Apartment through RomePower.com for 5 days in Oct, 2010. We got a receipt for the deposit but did not receive the contract as is customary. We became very concerned when the Ovidius apartment continued to show available for these dates on the RomePower site. This continued for 7 weeks despite multiple e-mails, phone-calls, etc. Venere.com showed the apartment rented (but not to us) and RomePower.com, the last time I checked, still showed the Ovidius apartment available. We had fallen into a bait and switch. Marco and Valerie of RomePower told us the apartment was too far for us to walk, then told us the apartment would be painted during the time we had booked it, then told us that the area was not safe for women. They recommended an apartment near the Spanish Steps at almost twice the price (over 1700E for 5 days). When we declined, explained that bait and switch is a deceptive business practice and asked for our deposit of nearly $400 US to be returned, RomePower ceased to respond. Our deposit has not been returned despite all of our efforts. We were very fortunate to actually rent an apartment for the time period we needed (and got the contract with the receipt of deposit as is customary) but lost 7 weeks trying to work with RomePower. Learn from our mistake, take your business elsewhere. This advice could save you $400! Bri/Texas
Austin, TX USA Wed 09/01/2010
Pickpocketed in Milan Central Station
I was pick-pocketed in Milan Central Station.. the main problem was that I was carrying lots of luggage and couldn't walk away, and I guess, too nice to tell the guy to get lost. I'm young, careful, dress down, travel all the time, and speak Italian.. so perhaps not the typical victim. I have to hand it to him, he was a pro - a handshake was all it took. 2 minutes later, I went to make a phone call and realised my phone was gone. I then ran outside and caught up with the theif and recovered my phone. I had to catch a bus and didn't have time to go looking for police etc. I just said to him, "yes it is my phone... you're quick ;)" He knew he'd been caught out and just walked off. Then, 5 minutes later, as the bus pulled out I saw him back in the same place talking to someone else.. they're fearless!
New Zealand Mon 08/23/2010
Foiled Thieves in Barcelona
On the L3 line of the metro in Barcelona, a group of three or four people surrounded me as I entered a metro car. I realized I was being robbed when they wouldn't let me move. I turned and knocked my wallet out of the hand of a woman who had fished it from my bag. I yelled at the group loudly and grabbed my wallet from the ground, and they split. It seems to me that the doors stay open a bit longer in the Barcelona metro than in most metros...and the non-interventionism of the locals makes thievery more attractive. It happened SO fast...the entire incident was under 10 seconds. Barcelona is beautiful and the streets and metro are immaculate, but unfortunately, it's crawling with groups of thieves! Rather than carrying a switchblade around at all times at the ready, I think I'll opt for a money belt.
Seattle, WA USA Mon 08/23/2010
This year we traveled to Paris in July. While walking with my husband around the Louvre area, a very young well dressed girl "supposedly" picked up a ring from the street asking us if it was ours which I told her it wasn't. Two days later another young lady did the same thing. Then I was talking to the staff at the hotel to be careful because they were using that to entertain you and grab your purse or ask for money if you wanted the ring but definitely is a scam.
Miami, FL USA Mon 08/23/2010
pickpockets in Madrid
This is a pickpocket Modus Operandi in Spain. Two guys are involved. One would be walking ahead of you and the other one behind. At some point while you're walking, the guy ahead would pretend to either trip, stumble or stop suddenly so that now, you could bump into him. At that point, the guy behind you would slip his hand in your pocket to pick your wallet. Luckily, for me, my wallet was in the front pocket and was fairly deep and the guy couldn't pick my wallet. My wife who was walking behind and slightly to my left saw the whole thing and pushed the pickpocket, shouting "pickpocket!" The guys ran! I now have a moneybelt tucked inside my shirt. If safe, try not to walk closer to buildings and be aware of your surroundings. Also, wear something that covers all your pockets (long sweater, jacket, etc.)
San Francisco, CA USA Sun 08/22/2010
pickpockets in Madrid
A similar thing happened to me in Madrid, I was walking through the Sunday market,a man in front of me slowed down apearing to look at items on a stall , as it was very busy I could not get past him, another man behind me then got very close, I realised as I glanced over my shoulder and saw he was carrying a coat over his arm despite it being over 30 degrees that he was moving in to pick my pocket. I swung my right leg forward and quckly backwards into his shin with as much force as i could, I turned quickly to swing for this lowlife but he spun around and disapeared limping into the crowds babbling some obscure jibberish
Yorkshire, England Sun 08/22/2010
Budapest Mugging and assault
I was enjoying the view at 630PM on the chain bridge in budapest when two dark skinned men in very expensive clothes came up to me and asked me where a "fishing restaraurant was" One pickpocketed me and got 450 in travelers checks. He signaled to other and he started pushing and pulling on my belt. I screamed get off me. Hit him in mouth. Ran to police. spent 6 hours in police station with interpreter on last night in budapest. They said they usually throw you over the bridge into the icy waters. It was February 2002 when this happened. BEWARE OF VERY WELL DRESSED PEOPLE. THEY CAN BE PICKPOCKETS. I was very lucky i lived thru this mugging and assault. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Fort Lee, nj USA Sun 08/22/2010
Rental car insurance scam
Be aware if you rent a car in Sicily: you will absolutely get charged up to the minimum that kicks in your insurance (usually $500) if you don't take the "overcharge" insurance from where you rent from. I had this problem with an Avis car I picked up at the Catania airport over Easter this year; traffic was so bad we arrived 15 minutes before our flight left and, rather than staying to check in the car, raced to the plane. We were then billed $475 for non-existent repairs (we knew the rear bumper wasn't damaged, and I've never heard of a place charging you for having a flat before!). I've been fighting with them for months on this with no luck; they've even mocked up a receipt for repairs to the non-existent damage, and my UK credit card doesn't have the consumer protection my US ones did. Be warned, some companies have no compunction about just giving themselves a little extra money on top of your rental fee. What's sad is that the rental agreement from Expedia said it included insurance, but we still wound up paying triple the price of the rental car for the non-existent damage to the vehicle.
London, n/a UK Wed 08/18/2010
Beware thieves as agents in car rental facilities at Linate airport in Milan. We rented car from Eurocar. Went to parking lot and my wife had purse and portable GPS stolen while ";guard"; stood by possibly in on it. Leave nothing out of sight for even a moment.
Lynnwood,, WA USA Wed 08/18/2010
ice cream and car wrecks
My sister and her family (husband and 2 children) were in Rome last year, and they encountered a scam in a crowded gelato shop. They were examining the menu when the counter girl handed them four large gelatos that they had not ordered and were threatened with the police when they refused to pay. They paid.
My husband and I visited Zurich and Italy last summer and encountered no scams, but we were involved in a minor fender bender with our rented car in Greve. Even though we were the victims, we lost since the guy who hit us claimed to be the local head of police. We didn't really want to challenge him, so we backed off.
TX USA Tue 08/17/2010
scams in France
We spent 3 wonderful weeks in France during July 2010. While in Paris, we had the "found ring" scam attempted on us 4 times in the same day! We were so grateful we knew about this from Rick's travel books. My husband & I just turned our heads and walked along, ignoring the attempt to get us to interact with the scammer. Several "do you speak English" attempts also. The information we already had about these scams helped us feel more comfortable and prepared. Thanks, Rick!
Greenwood, IN USA Mon 08/16/2010
Here's a tip for a simple, virtually "free" security device! Take a handful of large safety pins with you. They are great for pinning money belts inside clothing, pinning pockets closed or pinning zippers to closed. I purchased a couple of large diaper safety pins (with plastic ends) and they work wonders! Plus, if prospective thieves see you are pinned up tight, imagine they will seek their prey elsewhere.
Washington, USA Mon 08/16/2010
Barcelona - pickpocket attempt
In Barcelona, we got off the Aerobus at about 1:00 AM and walked to our hotel on the Granvia. We were sprayed from behind with a liquid make-up, and then accosted by two folks who offered to help clean-up. We knew enough to keep walking as this was an attempt to rob us.
We told a local about this afterwards - he admitted that Barcelona has a bad pick-pocket problem. He said that the penalties for pick-pockets are very light provided the theives take less than 400 Euros.
London, On Canada Sun 08/15/2010
Bodrum,Turkey Restaurant scam
My mother and I were wondering around some side streets of Bordrum, Turkey looking for a good place to eat. We stopped to read the menue outside of a street cafe when a friendly old gent came up and started speaking in English. He told us how great the restaurant was..authintic Turkish dishes.. and even helped us order. We each ordered a main course that was 10 lira and then a drink. About half an hour later the waiter brought us each a huge platter of french fries surrounded by lettuce with some charred hotdogs on top. It was gross and really strange. We both nibbled at our platters..maybe each having a few greasy french fries but that was it! We had each ordered different dishes but got the same thing!
When the bill was presented we were over charged by 100 lira! We refused and the waiter brought out the chef..all very threatening..they said we had received huge amounts of food and must pay. We paid and ran as fast as we could but will never return to Turkey!
dallas, tx USA Wed 08/11/2010
Duplicate Credit Card Charges
Just spent 1-16JUL10 in Europe & just got my credit card bill. In Paris, I had problems with double charges for the same purchase. The first was McDonalds near the Arc de Triumphe where we stopped to eat luch with the kids. They had a self-service ordering kiosk where you could order in English & then pick-up at the counter. It worked fine until one of the workers came over to me & said "Did you get a receipt from the Kiosk?" I said no & she had me go to another kiosk & submit the same order again & waited until it spit out a receipt. My credit card bill had 3 charges for the exact same amount from the McDonalds on the same day. The other restaurant was called La Source near the Invalides. Besides the food being terrible (we asked for well-done steaks & got ones cooked for about one minute), the price different than what it was advertised in our hotel on a plastic "business card" (the waiter said that the restaurant was under new management), my credit card bill showed the placed charged me twice for the same meal. Luckily, my wife works in the finance industry and got the credit card company to take the 3 charges off our bill.
H. David Pendleton
Lenexa, KS USA Sat 08/07/2010
Deaf mutes of Arles, France
This may or may not have been a scam, but I suspect it heavily. In Arles, France, we were "asked" by multiple deaf/ mute young people to sign a petition to get approval for a deaf/ mute international center in Arles. It seemed absurd to suggest, and the first guy was pushy, making me suspect a pickpocket, but I later wondered if he simply wanted to get my home address, name, and signature in order to then attempt to steal my credit card and use the information. It was odd and only in Arles. We encountered a woman later with the same sort of petition. Obviously it's safer simply to avoid any petitions or similar "appeals," and the usefulness of a US signature for a French center is rather doubtful, but I still wondered. Does anyone know more about that?
Dayton, NJ USA Wed 08/04/2010
scams in italy
Vacation in Europe, wonderful, fun and nightmare. I had been to Europe before,in 2005 and 2008. Paris twice, saw the scam on the golden ring on the Seine border, a woman approached my and wanted to sell the ring she had just found,it didn't work, I didn't fall for it. This year, JULY 2010, while traveling in Italy, my husband was robbed and we were scammed by a very well dressed man who was lost and asked for directions and as a compliment to the direction, handed us 2 jackets with Versace logo on the bag,and then demanded 100 euros to fill up his gas tank. This happened in the Saint Marie Majore in Rome, yes were target because we were taking pictures. We didn't give him 100, but my husband gave him 37 euros. So as you know, when we arrived at the hotel, which was 3 minutes from the square, the jackets were not Versace, but at least they were well made and fitted us. When at the train station in Naples going to Pompei, 4-5 guys blocked our entrance to a side section of the train, we insisted on getting into that section, where there were seats, after the pushing,right before the train left the station, the guys left the train. We realized my husband's wallet was missing 40 minutes later when we arrived in Pompei. So they had used all the credit cards, they had withdrawn money from the checking card, and had all the euros and dollars my husband was carrying, including the passport. Luckily I was wearing my money belt under my pants and my money and my cards were safe. Lesson to learn: NEVER CARRY LOTS OF CASH, if so put it in a pocket under the pants and make sure you have very fitting waist pants, so no one can put their hands underneath. The vacation continued, because all the hotels and transport were already paid for, but we limit our spending to almost zero spending. Why nobody tries to stop these thieves?
oakland, CA USA Tue 08/03/2010
Beware of anyone dropping anything near you! During our recent trip to Spain, three different teams of pickpockets tried to victimize my husband in one day, all on the Barcelona subway. The first was laughably bad - he literally tossed his keys on the floor in front of our feet, then had his hands all over my husband's leg while attempting to retrieve them, while his partner held the door open to make their escape. Only later did we notice that a lot of the local men seem to keep their money in their socks. In the other 2 scenarios, groups of 3 or 4 young men surrounded him and made a lot of commotion to distract him.
What made them target someone 6' 6" tall, I can't begin to imagine, but they had no way to know that he's a retired cop. He didn't do an serious damage to any of them, but they didn't get anything for their trouble!
Clinton, MD USA Tue 08/03/2010
Rip-off public phones in Italy
Rick has wisely advised travellers to buy cell phones to use in Europe or buy phone cards. I thought I'd be fine with using my office cell sporadically (I'd bought a limited plan before leaving) and my phone company card. On the Amalfi Coast our apartment did not have a phone so we were drawn to the Servisi Telefonia public phones in the main pedestrian alley in Positano. The labels said to dial a 1-800 for an English speaking operator and that the phones would accept phone cards and credit cards. However my friends and I found out that neither Italy-purchased phone cards or my Canadian Telus phone card seemed to work. Out of desperation we punched in our credit card numbers and that worked fine...until I got my credit card bill when I got home. Each call generated two bills...one worth $8 CDN and then the actual call which averaged about $40. The calls were quite short...only a few minutes. I questioned the charges and asked VISA to investigate. They did, and sent me forms to complete for further investigation but in order to qualify the call had to have been made without my knowledge, been overcharged (hard to prove since no tariffs were posted)or a duplicate charge. I would have been better off to use my cell phone and pay the $1.25/minute. So avoid, avoid the public phones in Italy promising you English speaking operators and encouraging you to dial the handy 1-800 numbers. My phone card worked fine when I went to a tiny hill town and used the little booth in a bar. But next time I'll just buy a cell phone or use the plan for my existing one.
Victoria, BC Canada Tue 08/03/2010
Romaround Tours in Rome
Although not a complete scam, we did find Romaround Tours to be less than honest when offering tours of the Colosseum in Rome. They misrepresented the cost to get into the Colosseum without the tour. They made it sound more expensive than it was. They also compared the price you would pay them to a combo price available for entrance to the Colosseum, and Palatial Hill and Forum. Be careful and check on line before you go for the actual fees.
Nottingham, NH USA Mon 08/02/2010
Attempted purse snatching in Barcelona
We'd read all about the pickpockets in Barcelona. I had on my moneybelt, but we still weren't prepared for a purse snatching scheme during our second night in Barcelona. We were eating dinner at a nice outdoor cafe. During the course of the dinner two well-dressed women diners were seated at the table beside ours. Somehow, within the next few minutes, one them reached down and took my wife's purse, which was on the ground, sort of under the table, near her feet (last time we made that mistake!). We think the snatching occurred while we turned to admire a little dog that walked by our table.(I still think the dog and its owner were part of plot!). Anyway, somehow my wife noticed the purse was missing, and when she got up, she noticed the would-be diner hurrying away with it. My wife ran after and ripped it back from her (very impressive!), so it was "all's well that ends well. If that thief had gone another 10 yards, though, she would have blended into the crowd, we never would have seen the purse again. As we were getting the purse back, we discovered that a well-dressed man who had been lingering by the cafe's menu board during our dinner had been serving as a look-out or coordnator for the whole operation. All of this was a bit more elaborate than what we'd been expecting, so stay alert!
Gainesville, FL USA Sun 08/01/2010
Be prepared but not paranoid
Spent 3+ weeks in London, Paris, and Italy with my family (2 kids, 10 and 14) and had absolutely NO problems. Maybe we were on guard where we needed to be (Rome and Paris transportation systems) and avoided others (Naples and Circumvesuviana) altogether. But we had no issues. Be prepared but dont be paranoid!
(The only very small thing was the case of the taxi drivers in Rome who had to discuss amongst themselves if they would take us to our hotel but my wife smelled a rat and we just walked to another taxi stand.)
Vancouver, WA USA Thu 07/29/2010
Keeping an eye on your wallet
Please wake up people. "Keeping an eye" on your wallet in any visible pocket has nothing to do with "being aware" or whether the pickpocket gets at it without you noticing.
Most pickpockets are NOTHING like Oliver Twist. They push/shove HARD and they don't care if you know their hand was in the pocket. There will be a commotion involved and the wallet will be grabbed while you're falling to the ground, or crowded between strangers, or struggling to get to your feet, or searching for your family.
The best defence is to break tradition and don't behave with money how you would at home. Use a money belt. Get a good one with several compartments, split your cash between them, and carry only the cash you need for that day. Don't arrive at any destination with all the cash you need for the holiday. Dress like a local, no stupid hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, straw hat, camera and sandals in winter! And as others said, look as if you know exactly where you're going. If anyone approaches, apologise but say you're much too late for work.
And in Europe, beware the Romany. Yes, the gypsies. It might not be politically correct to single them out, but they're all over Europe and their culture considers theft to be smart business sense - there's no shame to it, so why should they care if they con you out of you money?
Helsinki, Finland Thu 07/29/2010
Theft at Rome Train Station
While running to catch the Leonardo commuter train to the airport from Roma Centrale train station, two women cheerfully stepped aside to allow me to hoist my wife's and my carry on bags onto the car. While I was securing them, the younger of the two grabbed for my wife's purse, which was fortunately strapped over her neck. My wife screamed bloody murder, and I quickly returned to assist. Their plan failed due to my wife's determination not to lose her prescription sunglasses. The Leonardo is quite a distance from normal boarding platforms. So, it is an easy target for the 'gypsies' who prey on senior American travellers. Watch out.
Chatsworth, CA USA Sun 07/25/2010
Paris Taxis --
Technically this is not a scam, but something to be aware of. When requesting a cab in Paris, the driver turns on the meter as soon as he/she starts to go to your location. In my case, the meter had 10 Euros when the cab arrived at the hotel. I hate surprises!! I should have checked Rick's book more carefully.
Richmond, VA USA Fri 07/23/2010
ID demand in Barcelona
Last week in Barcelona, a scam I read about happened. A young man asked us for directions to the train station. Then an older man appeared, demanded the young man's ID, and then our ID. I recognized the scam, blew him off with a few nasty words, and grabbed my husband's arm and marched off. They ran off.
Baltimore, MD USA Wed 07/21/2010
Pickpocket in Munich
The best defense is a strong offence.
A couple of days ago a pickpocket in Munich's Marienplatz tried to pull the "I'm a drunk guy with a bottle of beer" scam with a 70-year-old traveling companion of mine. (The next step is that the pickpocket stumbles against his mark, spills the beer on him, then is all over the mark, supposedly patting off the beer but really looking for where the wallet is.)
My friend stepped back about ten feet to get clear of the rest of us and told the pickpocket to come on over, with the clear implication that the pickpocket would have a very unpleasant experience with this old but very strong guy.)
The pickpocket thought about it a moment and then wisely decided to try elsewhere. Since I was getting reading to kick him from behind if he went after my friend this was a doubly wise choice.
East Lansing, MI USA Mon 07/19/2010
Beware of this scenario in a Roman train station: All ticket machines but one are inoperable. A young lady stands beside the working machine, pointing out to each person who steps up to the machine, how to use it, whether the person wants help or not. When your ticket is purchased, and your change drops, the young lady deftly grabs it. When you realize what has happened and ask her to return your change, she says, "Go to a bank."
Also beware of a woman with a baby in one arm, a map or newspaper in her other hand, and older children at her side. She will use the map or paper to cover the little hand reaching for your bag.
San Diego, CA USA Mon 07/19/2010
Some people have asked about how agressive the "friendship bracelet" people are near Sacre Couer in Montmartre are. From my experience, they haven't been. Many tourists willingly place out their arms to be tied up - as silly as that might appear to a RS traveler! Of my multiple times there while studying abroad in the Paris, I had only one encounter. I was walking alone in mid-morning when hardly anyone else was around. One of the many 'vendors' approached me and attempted to put his arm around my shoulder. I immediatedly screamed "LAISSE-MOI MAINTENANT", leave me alone now!. The guy called me some choice words in French but backed off at the commotion. Remember when in doubt make a scene and catch them off guard.
Chicago, IL USA Wed 07/14/2010
Two Paris scams
Encountered two different scams in Paris in 2004. The first was a man on Champs Elysie, trying to get tourists to buy a Loius Vuitton bag from the store. He claimed they were only selling one per person and that he would buy it from us, I am sure for a money gift. Yeah, right - we ignored him. The second, often in high traffic areas, were boom-box stereos playing dance music, accompanied by dancing cardboard Mickey-esque and Minnie-esque characters, with string arms/legs and magnet? hands/feet. Supposedly they 'magicly' dance to the music. I later saw on t.v. that the characters are somehow attached to the stereo, which has a motor designed to move them. I did see tourists buying them.
Alameda, CA USA Tue 07/13/2010
Getting Scamed in Rome
We were recently in Rome and were going into San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains) to see Michelangelo's statue of Moses, a man dressed in a suit was at the door with a printed sign saying they were collecting 1 Euro as a donation. We later saw the police in the church they had run off the man, he was an over dressed beggar. There was no charge to go into the church.
Mesa, AZ USA Fri 07/09/2010
Experience and tip
I was walking along the way above the Seine in Paris when an old Gypsy woman came at me holding a gold wedding band. Right away I remembered reading about that scam from my Rick Steves guidebook, so I knew the score. It was a hoot seeing the astonished look on her face when this "typical American" called BS on her and cursed her out in perfect un-accented French!
N. Miami, FL USA Thu 07/08/2010
I tried one of those cloth money belt pouches that go inside my pants but I found it very uncomfortable with my stiff passport inside, plus embarrassing trying to fish it out and stuff it back in public.
So I found these travel socks that have a zippered pocket, big enough to fit my Passport, license, ATM card and a backup VISA. I carry my main VISA and a few euros in a small nylon tri-fold wallet in my front pants pocket. I went to WalMart and got a cheap fake-gold link necklace which is about 2 ft long open. With safety pins I attached one end to the inside of the wallet and the other end to the bottom of my pocket. A determined thief could yank it free of course, but most likely the average pickpocket would be so surprised to find the wallet was tethered that he would just let go and run.
N. Miami, FL USA Thu 07/08/2010
Mon papa! Mon papa!
Several years ago, my wife and I were in Paris. While she was napping off her jetlag, I decided to go for a walk. Just after passing the Louvre, two Gypsy girls came rushing at me with the oldest one yelling, "Mon Papa, Mon Papa, Mon Papa!" Having read about this type of theft attempt in Paris, I started yelling at them in complete gibberish. I think it startled them for a minute and they backed up. Then they came at me again yelling the same thing. I went into my crazy man who has been on a plane a little too long routine and they left to find a tourist who was a little more predictable. This year, upon our arrival in front of the Gare du Nord in Paris we had the pathetic woman ask us if we spoke English. We both just shook our heads as if we didn't understand and got into a waiting cab.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA Wed 07/07/2010
Scams on Tourists
Here is a tip: Avoid looking like a tourist! Try to blend in a bit. Simple as that. No fanny packs, baseball caps, cargo pants, bermuda shorts, USA themed university sweatshirts, Keen shoes, Teva sandals, North Face/REI type Parkas (In Europe they wear long coats), and for gods sake dont have a water bottle hanging off your belt. Stay off your cell phone in busy areas so you can be alert.
Use messenger bags instead of backpacks, like the Europeans.
I have been to Europe 3 times and have never been targeted for scams or pickpocketed.
Women: Always wear a fancy scarf.
Boulder, CO USA Sun 07/04/2010
RE:Pickpockets-train from Naples
Let's see...wallet in back pocket, evidentally passport too since you were "lucky" they didn't get it. Moneybelt in suitcase - next time why don't you just hand the thieves your wallet & passport all wrapped up neatly in your moneybelt and that way perhaps the thieves will allow you to get to your precious seat quicker.
Good grief people.
USA Fri 07/02/2010
pickpockets in Rome
Not really a con, just a reminder. I was in Rome with my husband and teenage daughter. We got on a VERY crowded Metro car and immediately got separated. I knew there were two men on either side of me who definitely made me uncomfortable but I was confident that I had my bag in front of me and zipped. But when I moved a little, they moved ... and again. Anyway, I made it off the train, reunited with my family, and checked to be sure the little bit of money I had in my bag was still there (I left our passports, most of my money, and all of my credit cards in the hotel safe). It was ... but my camera was missing. I still can't imagine how they did it but they did. My bad. My suggestion is to hold your bag literally in front of you with your hand around it ... and don't get on crazy crowded subway cars!
Oakland, CA USA Fri 07/02/2010
Pickpockets-train from Naples
Confirming that pickpockets are alive & well as you board the train to Sorrento from Naples (June 2010). We got on a train car that had a 2nd opening to the seats - 2 middleaged Italian men were blocking the doorway & shouting at someone apparently seated in that section. We had our suitcases and wanted to get past them to a seat - we tried to squeeze past - they suddenly got off as the train was about to leave. And as soon as we sat down, my husband checked the pocket of his shorts... wallet was gone. Train pulled out and we were stuck for an hour while they apparently tried to use his Visa card within about 5 minutes. Luckily they didn't have the P.I.N. so it didn't work. Afterwards, we re-read of this "classic" set-up in Rick's book. We were lucky they didn't take his passport. Moneybelt was tucked safely in suitcase.
Vancouver Canada, Thu 07/01/2010
Rome Pick pocket scam: I had read all about the pickpockets in Rome and thought I was prepared. I was wrong! My family (myself, husband, and 2 teenage boys) just returned from Europe last week. We were about to board the subway in Rome when literally out of nowhere I was surrounded by 3 women wearing "babies" in frontpack carriers. My son and I were blocked from entering the train. As I struggled to get my son on the train, the door closing buzzer sounded, a man jumped off, yelled ok, the women jumped off and we jumped on. The doors closed, I looked down and say my purse was open and thankfully only my coinpurse was taken! The whole thing took less than 20 seconds and I never felt a thing. Luckily, we all stayed together and all my valuables were tucked safely in my moneybelt! I knew to look for mothers with babies, but I didn't expect to be surrounded by them, nor did I expect them to try to split up a family!
Racine, WI USA Wed 06/30/2010
Italy and Scams
My partner and I just returned from a two week trip to Italy: Venice, Florence, Rome, Pastum/Sorrento. I reserved all rooms via the internet, using Rick's recommendations, with my credit card and paid in cash when we checked out. We usually received a discount by paying cash. We used the taxis in Rome with absolutely no problems or scams, used the trains from city to city, had tickets for the Ufizzi, Accademia, Vatican Museum and the Borghese Gallery all purchased ahead of time. We had NO problems with pickpockets, scam artists or overcharges on our bills. We did have problems with rude waiters in Rome, only Rome! For some reason, in my 4 trips to Europe (London, Paris, Reims, Italy) I have never had problems with scams.
Louisville, KY USA Tue 06/29/2010
A possible counter to the quick-change artists
Just a suggestion: To avoid the cab driver or anyone else from switching bills on you, try counting out each bill and coin as you give it to him. If it's possible, learn "Here is(then count out the money)" in that language. If these people still try cheating you, tell them to call the police and have them settle it. I suspect that mentioning the police will shut them up.
Midwest, USA Mon 06/28/2010
Not sure where my post went, but to the person making it sound like I chose to be a victim, I did not. I checked the fare online afterwards. We planned on taking the bus, but it was shut down after midnight. I used an official white "SPQR" taxi. I wanted to share my experience in the hopes it would help someone else avoid a similar situation.
Phoenix, AZ USA Mon 06/28/2010
Rome taxi scam - me too
We were a victim of the same Rome Termini taxi scam that was described on 6/26. I handed the driver a 20 euro note and two 5 notes. He apparently quickly switched one and claimed I had only given him 3 5-ers. I got bullied into paying an extra 20.
Lesson learned is to very deliberately hand them one note at a time and get their confirmation of what you're handing them.
Keller, TX USA Sun 06/27/2010
Friendship Bracelet Scam: Spanish Steps
Saw the "friendship bracelet" scam today on the second level of the Spanish Steps in Rome. Couldn't believe how many tourists fell for it. It was amazing how many people let these strange men put strings on their fingers. Within 30 seconds the man made a bracelet, and tied it to the wrist of the tourist. Sure enough, they were shaken down for some Euros. I was videotaping the "transactions" and one of the men showed me his disapproval with a universal hand gesture, then started to come after me!
Chicago, IL USA Sun 06/27/2010
Termini ticket machines
When using the automatic train ticket machines at Termini, there are characters who look over your shoulder and if they see you are using the English menu they will try to help you out and try to con a few euros out of you after you get the tickets. I just waved him away and told him I knew what I was doing even though it was the first time I used the machine. It really was user friendly and you don't need help from these con men pretending to help you.
Seneca, SC USA Sat 06/26/2010
Its a choice, choose not to be a victim
To Jill and others....
Often it is your choice if you want to get ripped off or not.
If you KNOW the cost of the taxi should be 16 Euros. Give the driver exact change of 16 Euros and get out of the taxi.
If you KNOW you handed someone 40 Euros for a 35 Euro fare and and they claim you gave them 25 you might not get the 5 Euros back. But no way should you ever give them 10 more Euros.
If you calculated that the resturant bill ought be 24 Euros and the bill comes to 60. Leave 25 Euros on the table and leave.
If they want to call the cops on you for theft tell them you would be more than willing to discuss with the local tourist police their scams and cons.
But try to AVOID the confrontation. With a resturant it is best to leave the money and then get out before the waiter realizes what you did to avoid the confontation. But don't fear the confrontation either.
Of course with a cab it is dependant on you having your luggage with you and not in the trunk. (Another reason to pack light.) It also requires you have exact change or close to it.
albany, ny USA Sat 06/26/2010
London museum scams!
My husband and I traveled to London with my parents and were sold discounted tickets to the National Gallery. We each paid the discount rate of 10 pounds to the man who approached us. He gave us official tickets and a broshure. When we handed the tickets over at the museum the front desk people laughed and told us the museum is free!
Houston, Texas USA Fri 06/25/2010
We had the experience of the golden ring scam and the rail depot english letter scam in Paris and rather enjoyed being targeted (we were forewarned via this website). We simply yelled out the scam and the folks quickly left us (wife and I).
Centennial, CO USA Thu 06/24/2010
When using an ATM, be sure to first inspect it for a false card entry point and also be sure to cover the keypad when you enter your PIN. Some crooks have been able to insert a false device into the card entry point which then keeps your card and if you've entered your PIN in view of a person nearby or even from a car with a person using binoculars, you may find your account cleaned out.
Hoboken, NJ USA Sun 06/20/2010
Be especially wary in Prague
Prague is beautiful and a wonderful place to visit, but everyone is out for a buck. Not unlike Vegas in that people will rip you off so quickly it will make your head spin. Have exact change in crowns (koruna) ready. If you can't add/subtract quickly, carry a small calculator and don't be shy about using it before your bill comes. Do not trust pretty young waitresses to give you the correct change. Watch your wallet, and look for pickpockets in crowds... as RS mentions, dressing to look like a tourist is a common costume for pickpockets. Men who look to be "traveling" solo and packs of teenage boys seem to be more common among them.
Portland, ME USA Sun 06/20/2010
Italian train workers
If you are taking the train out of Rome, Please remember--train workers wear Green jackets. Other people in jackets will try to help you and then expect a BIG tip or will walk away with your suitcases.
TX USA Sun 06/20/2010
By the way, I just read about pregnant girl in Rome train station. I think this is the same girl we encountered last July! The woman working with her, was wearing a green jacket but we realized that it did not have any train emblems and was the wrong shade of green. Just be alert, this adventure turned out fine for us.
TX USA Sun 06/20/2010
Scams in Paris and Using Credit Cards in Europe
As for the "bracelet" scam in Paris, near Sacre Coeur, they were very "assertive," reaching out and grabbing your arm, then tying a bracelet around your wrist at lightning speed. Saw this happy to a couple of tourists. We, however, simply walked around with our hands tucked in our jackets (it was cool and drizzling) and had no problems what-so-ever. As an aside, no one ever guesses we are American tourists, probably because we dress very plain and walk with purpose (having planned our trip ahead of time and not constantly rechecking maps).
As for compromise of a credit card, even though we completely pre-paid for our hotel before the trip, our hotel in Italy required a credit card (we used our Mastercard) for check-in (many hotels do). Within 2 weeks, the card had been cloned and thousands of dollars in purchases made on it. What is amazing is that we used the card in Italy (no charges were made to it by the hotel), but the false charges were made in person (not via the internet) in Mumbai, India within days!! My credit card company found the problem and notified me before any charges even showed up. They canceled my card and immediately issued me another one. And this was the second time this same company had to do this for me after travel. They were great!
I always inform my credit card companies when I am traveling out of the US and tell them the speicifc countries to which I am traveling. I also use cash for every purchase I can (I plan ahead and get money in country at an ATM or appropriate exchange as I need additional cash). Works well for us!
Florid USA Sat 06/19/2010
Cash Only ...
Husband and I have a credit card designated ONLY for travel. We asked the company to set a low credit limit. We use this particular card only for reservations where a card is required. Makes us feel safe and limits any liability to a minimal amount. We do prefer to use cash for pretty much everything when we travel. It works for us ...
St. Petersburg, FL USA Fri 06/18/2010
Cash Only for Hotels - I think not!
If it's true credit card then you have nothing to fear from the maxing out of your account. If, on the other hand, you use one of those prepaid cards or a debit card, well then, learn.
And the last comment you made about cash only is not possible. You want a hotel to reserve a room for you without a credit card? You want them to just take your word that you'll pay in cash when you show up? Sorry, that's not the way it works.
USA Thu 06/17/2010
Just how aggressive are they?
I've been to the UK several times with no problems and thought that my next trip should include Paris, but after reading this board, I'm having second thoughts. Just how aggressive are the "string" or "bracelet" guys? Would they actually tie one on your wrist without permission and then demand money?
Sean's post below is even more unnerving! I hope the reason why those men were continously following him is revealed. I'd like to know why, so I can be prepared.
One thing that seems true is that in most, if not all, these cases these people take off if the police are mentioned. So, would it be enough to give them just a sharp, "Laissez-moi! Ou je vais telephoner la police!" (Leave me alone! Or I'll call the police!)?
Midwest, USA Thu 06/17/2010
use of credit cards in Rome
My wife and I travelled to Rome in Sept. 2009, and booked a hotel (mentioned in Rick Steves' ROME 2009) through a booking agency. A credit card was used only for this hotel for this trip. In June 2010, seven unauthorized charges were made to this account, including four international flights and some smaller amounts to "test" the system. These thieves have my home phone number, my address, and other information, and have used it to max. out my account. My advice is to use CASH ONLY for all transactions.
J W Brown
Austin, TX USA Wed 06/16/2010
From Russia with love... Used the ATM at the Rosbank in the Gum Department store in Moscow. Came home to find bank account cleaned out.
Salinas, CA USA Tue 06/15/2010
Approached by a string of men in Paris
In March 2010 I was in Paris with my son, we stayed in the Latin Quarter and on our 3rd or 4th day I wanted to go to the Louvre and ended up going by myself. After walking around the Louvre for hours I walked through the Garden of Tuileries, grabbed a cup of coffee "to go" and tried to sit down in the outdoor cafe, but was shooed off because it costs more to sit outside...at any rate I walked further and sat on a bench where I was approached by a very persistent "French" guy who claimed he didn't speak English but insisted on coming with me. The guy would not take no for an answer in spite of the fact that I spoke very little French and he claimed he spoke no English. At any rate after about 30 minutes or so of turning him down for his persistent invitations to come with me...because no means no in every language...however I got up to walk further, he followed me and I ended up veering off suddenly and calling someone on my international cell phone...he realized I was no longer beside him and looked back - finally I think he got the hint...at any rate, I decided not to go anywhere without my son again so I walked back to my hotel in the Latin Quarter...a man came from behind me and out of the blue asked me if "we can talk, if it's not a problem.." I simply said loudly, "it's a problem!" and he kept moving...then I was approached by a man who was taking pictures at Notre Dame and he asked me if I would take a picture of him with his camera, which I had been asked to do multiple times at the Louvre and didn't really see a problem with it..so I did and he started telling me about himself and asked if he could come with me...and I was thinking, "oh here we go again" I said "NO" and "goodbye" and as I was walking away from him ANOTHER guy approached me and I immediately said "NO!" and he replied "Vous etes de Paris?" and I said "NO!" and he left me alone...keeping in mind all four of these encounters occurred within about 30 minutes while I was walking from the Garden of Tuileries to the Latin Quarter. ANY feedback on this would be appreciated because I was very concerned and will NEVER walk alone in Paris again.
Chicago, IL USA Sun 06/13/2010
Money Changing Scam in Old City Square of Prague
I changed money in the old republic square by a place called "Change" located at Staromestke nam. 17. These people are the biggest scam artists. Despite the posted rate of 22 KC for 1 USD, they gave me 14.74. I threatened to call the police but decided against it as I was in a hurry. I did tell them I would post it on the web. So here it is. NEVER trust the street vendors to change money. Take it from me - Jack - on June 13, 2010.
Brooklyn, NY USA Sun 06/13/2010
in Rome and Venice we encountered a new scam they grab men acting as rail employees grab your suitvcasea and insist on helping your,actually arguing with us,finally we gave in and thye then demanded 10 euro's a bag,I refused to pay,but my travel mate gave in.Same thing happened in Venice and they were even more persistant,we had to threaten them to get our bags back.
Richmond, Calif, USA Sun 06/13/2010
Italy luggag troubles
On boarding the Rome train a young girl very pregnant grabbed our bag from inside the train and insisted on helping us put them up and got us loaded in to the right car suposedly,I tried to warn my traveling companions to not allow it and watch for the pick pockets as soon as she heard me say that she turned and ran the other way but still on the train.She had actually located us in the wrong seats and car!
Richmond, ca. USA Sun 06/13/2010
It never stops in Paris
Just back from Paris... Got approched twice within 10 minutes of arrival in Gare du Nord by pushy guy selling carnets near broken machines; saw the Poor Ugly Woman's Note Written In English being handed to hapless tourists several times; and on the d'Orsay footbridge, spotted the shiny ring which, if I'd thought quickly, I could have dove for and beaten Yet Another Poor Ugly Woman to it! Then I could have badgered *her* for a finder's fee. But she got to it first, so I used colorful language and vibrant gestures to indicate that she might skedaddle, lest I chuck that ring, if not her as well, into the Seine.
I want to love Paris, I really do, and there's so much greatness there -- finally saw renovated Orangerie, for example, which is fantastic -- but all that scamming is disgusting. We have many poor people in the USA, yet one can vacation in our great cities and parks and seasides for a lifetime without being offensively harassed.
Princeton, NJ USA Sat 06/12/2010
Current Big Scam
Having spent most of May traveling around Europe,the current big scam is the "found wedding ring".I encountered it 3 times in three weeks but never encountered any other scams.While walking in a residential area east of the city center in Vienna a young man walking the other direction suddenly stopped and tapped me on the shoulder.He pointed to a "gold" wedding band laying on the sidewalk and said we could claim to have found it together. He then offered to sell me his "share" of it for 10 Euros.I had walked over that patch of sidewalk a few seconds earlier and happened to be looking down at the sidewalk.There was no ring there a few seconds earlier and I quickly realized it was a scam.I told him to get lost.In Paris I was walking along the north bank of the Seine across from the Louvre when an older woman tried the same thing on me. I immediately suggested we go to the police with it.Needless to say she quickly strode off.The next day in almost the same spot I saw a young woman trying to pull it on a young American couple.I stepped in and told her to scram and warned the couple what was going on.
Minneapolis, Mn. USA Sun 06/06/2010
Scam Found Ring
My husband got the found ring scam about seven times while in Paris. Glad we knew about from this website first. thanks
Cincinnati, OH USA Tue 06/01/2010
Paris, 31 May. Had the found ring pulled twice - at the Louvre where we just ignored him and whilst sitting on a bench by The Seine. Ignored the first and laughed at the second and said "Scam!". It worked, he wandered off with a big grin but none of my cash.
Exmouth, Devon UK Mon 05/31/2010
I parked our rental car in Sintra, Portugal,cleaned out the inside of the car.Luggage was in the trunk (we were on our way up the coast).The car was broken into,carry-ons stolen. I knew better than to do that, but hoped things would be O.K.! DUH! It ruined what could have been a lovely trip. Just be be careful-these thieves are professionals. We were an easy target with our rental car & stupidity. They most likely watched us from the moment we drove into town. If renting a car here-I do recommend insurance. Hertz was very thorough looking the car over upon return. Before our departure from Portugal, we did drive up to Obidos & stayed in the Casa de S. Thiago do castelo (Rick recommends). We arrived around 10 pm. The owner took care of us & comforted us as if we were family, asked us if we needed food,etc.,etc. Lovely man & adorable guesthouse. I hope to go back!
Evergreen, CO USA Sat 05/29/2010
Pickpockets in Paris
While my boyfriend and I were trying to find our way to the Louvre on our first day after arriving in Paris, we went the wrong way along the Seine and got into a more isolated area. However we quickly realized we were going the wrong direction and turned around. About 100 yards away I saw a sketchy looking man walking our way. When we passed him all of the sudden a large gold looking ring was on the ground, and he yelled to us asking if it was our ring. However, we had been warned the previous night just after we arrived in Paris by some other tourists there of a ring scam, where a man drops a large ring and points to it and asks if its' yours. Then while you bend over and look at the ring he takes your wallet from the back pocket. Well we knew that the ring was not ours because we made certain not to wear jewelry, and because just a minute ago we had walked past that very spot and there was no ring, and no one had walked by since. So we just walked quickly from that guy and gave him a look to show him that we knew what he was up to. So people travelling to Paris beware of this ring trick!
USA Sat 05/29/2010
Rip-off --really not
Actually in Italy there is an additional charge if you purchase food/drink in a cafe to take outside to sit...Herb was not ripped off, he just didn't realize this custom. If you want to save money, eat/drink your purchase inside the cafe.
USA Wed 05/26/2010
Restaurant rip-off (service charge)
In Sienna we stayed at the Albergo Bernini which is a lovely hotel. But up the block is a cafe called La Delmonica. Don't go in there and buy a an esspresso, cappucino, panini sandwich and take it outsdide and sit down. They charge you 3 times the amount of the cost of food. A real rip-off.
Dallas, Texas USA Sun 05/23/2010
Scammed in Egypt - Really???
If the transactions were PIN-based, how can you prove that you did not use it? Your PIN is supposed to be known only by you - that's why it's called a Personal Indentification Number. I doubt any Attorney General is going to waste time on something like this.
Richmond, VA USA Fri 05/21/2010
Scammed in Egypt
I did a bit of quick research. Apparently Meta Bank has had many such "problems" and is already being investigated. The more people let the AG know the more likely it is that the truth will come out. People steal PIN numbers all the time. But this bank appears to take advantage of that fact. Do what you want, but I think my pro bono advice was good.
Washington, DC USA Fri 05/21/2010
Scammed in Egypt
Brian, thanks for posting. You might have saved others some trouble. Contact the Better Business Bureau and report all companies involved. Then file in small claims court. They may just pay up to avoid coming to court. If they don't show there can be a summary judgment against them. Also contact your state Attorney General's office and report this as a possible scam. The companies may have violated the law and they will really dislike getting a letter from the AG. It may lead to an investigation and charges against them. Also you can report them to the US DOJ's office as the scam was international in scope. None of this will cost you much money, but it will cost them more then if they had just paid you what they owed. Even if you don't get the money you will have the satisfaction of having caused them as much grief as they caused you. Enjoy!
Washington, DC USA Thu 05/20/2010
RE Scammed in Egypt and back home
NOBODY...uses traveler's checks anymore. That is why you were unable to obtain them in the first place. My method has been to load my money belt with foreign cash before I leave the States. I haven't had a problem in seven vacations over the past three years. And who the heck is Meta??? I steer clear of businesses that I have NEVER heard of! Face it, your money is gone.
USA Wed 05/19/2010
Scammed in Egypt and back home
DO NOT GET A AAA VISA TRAVELMONEY CARD. I was scammed and ultimately I was not protected from fraud by AAA or Meta, the card issuer:
My girlfriend and I visited Egypt in late March, into April, 2010. Prior to departure, I visited my local AAA office in Springfield, PA and was looking to secure Travelers Checks. I went with the intention of securing American Express travelers checks, something I have been doing for many years. However, AAA stated that they no longer carried them and that merchants abroad no longer accept them. However, my use of travelers checks is isolated to cashing them at an Amex office only for cash. So ultimately, this AAA Travel Card was strongly encouraged as their newest product to safely access cash abroad with theft prevention safeguards. They sold me on the fact that if it was stolen or compromised, they would send a new one overnight, and touted its protections against theft, etc…
We bought it and loaded it with $1,400. I used all the necessary precautions that one needs to exercise when withdrawing money from an ATM, covering my typing hand when typing in my PIN number, etc. I was told at the Marriott to only use ATM machines that have a flashing green anti-tampering card insert port, in which I followed through on.
After a few days in Cairo, we then we took an inter-country flight down to Luxor, Egypt. We then boarded a Nile cruise boat and this when things got sketchy. As we were traveling down the Nile River, we stopped for the night in the town of Kom Ombo. It was here where we experienced the first anomaly. We attempted to withdraw money from an ATM directly across the street from the cruise boats were docked and it did not work. I assumed the machine was out of money, but I tried it twice nonetheless. It was the only ATM near all the tourist areas and as a result, we were out of money at this point and had to borrow from some nice British family we met on the boat. However, having lived and travelled abroad, I have a keen awareness of my surroundings and after using the cash strapped ATM in Kom Ombo, I did notice a kid who was lingering near us, and upon our walking away from the machine, he ran off and was yelling something to someone. At the time, I thought of it as quite weird, and started wondering if we somehow just scammed, but ultimately, I think it had nothing to do with our problem.
We were out of money for the next day until the boat arrived at Aswan. It was here in Aswan that I asked our tour guide to take us to an ATM machine. He took us to the Barclay’s bank. I looked up the address online and the address is: “Beside Hadiket El Shagara- in front of the Radio & Television building, El Sadat St., Bandar, Aswan”.
When we arrived at this branch, there was a security guard sitting at a desk as well as a man with whom the security guard was chatting with. The non-security guard man, greeted me. I attempted to withdraw 2,000 Egyptian pounds, however, this request did not go through. I was bewildered by this because I knew we had enough money, but figured it was some kind of restriction on how much you could withdraw in one transaction. I attempted again to withdraw and this time, I attempted a lesser amount of 1,000 Egyptian pounds. This time, the withdraw spit out cash. So I left. Furthermore, I recall with absolute certainty that this machine had a green, security card port in it (otherwise, I would not have used the machine).
That was the last withdraw we were able to make and thankfully we were capable of repaying our debt to our gracious British fellow travellers. From there on out it was credit cards and it was a MAJOR hassle for the rest of the trip not having cash. I attempted to use the card numerous times at the Aswan Airport and back in Cairo, but the machines were saying there was insufficient funds or something to that effect. Furthermore, the phone number we were given at the AAA Springfield branch to call if there were any issues within Egpyt were incorrect. Most phone numbers within Egypt only require a certain amount of digits and this had too many digits. I implored the help of hotel staff as well and they didn’t recognize the phone number exchange given. I was not able to call until I returned to the states.
Upon arrival, I went directly to AAA Springfield branch. I spoke to the very accommodating and helpful retail office manager, Amanda. After listening to my problems, she printed out the transactions on the card and attempts on the card. It was then that I noticed that supposedly the first transaction I entered at the Barclays bank in Aswan, actually went through in system, even though no money came out. Additionally, it was recorded that someone went to a “El Hakeem Mall” and withdrew money after that. We never went to a “El Hakeem Mall” or heard of it for that matter.
She gave me the necessary documentation to report fraud on the account and I submitted it. Then on May 5, 2010, I received a response from META that claimed that “according to their terms” since it was a PIN based transaction, there is nothing that they can do. I made every precaution to protect myself from my PIN being compromised. I covered my hand when entering the digits and somehow, my card was still compromised. As touted (when I visited AAA Springfield prior to the trip) as a hedge in the event of fraud abroad, how am I being protected from fraud?
After looking at these dates and transactions, there is one thing that caught my attention. With the transaction history, the transaction dates do not fit the itinerary and where we were at the time. For example, I know I made a successful withdraw in Aswan at the Barclay’s ATM on Thursday, April 1, 2010, but the transaction date says March 31, 2010. I am 100% positive that it was the date because it even says so on the ATM receipt. However, the transaction dates on the printout provided by AAA, states that it was on 3/31/2010. I do not understand how this is possible.
Additionally, there were attempts made on the account at this mall location that were unsuccessful. I even have documentation from Egypt Air and Marriott that details that we were not even IN ASWAN when attempts were being made to withdraw more off the card. Facts that Meta refuses to take into account.
Ultimately, a total of $567.60 was stolen from us and we were told by the AAA office in Springfield that we would have protection from this fraud. We have been denied this claim.
I have already been inconvenienced abroad by not having cash available as well as spent significant time putting together this whole mess on paper. I was informed that this card was a better alternative to travelers checks, with which I have never had a problem using. So far, our dispute has been marginalized by META.
The last correspondence they mailed to me stated again that "the transaction in dispute was PIN based....we are unable to dispute PIN based transaction per association rules." Furthermore, "per your letter, the transaction you accepted was $181.79 on 3/31/10 at 10:40AM and the transaction in dispute was for $363.57 was on 3/31/10 at 10:39AM. Since the transaction that was accepted was one minute prior to the disputed transaction, we are not able to assist."
I completely understand how it does not make sense that I attempted to take 2,000 Egyptian Pounds out of the machine at 10:39AM and nothing came out and then at 10:40AM I was successful in pulling out 1,000 Egyptian Pounds. I don't know how it happened, but it happened.
I gave Meta one last chance to resolve this issue at their office at 5501 South Broadband Lane, Sioux Falls, South Dakota (866-782-0890) on May 18, 2010 and spoke to Employee ID #10991, Laurie who is a supervisor. After explaining to her this weird situation, she said, sorry, we cannot do anything for you. She stated that she indeed was the person who was receiving my written correspondence and that she and her supervisor reviewed my case but she again reiterated the company policy, "In the terms of our agreement, it states clearly that 'PIN based transactions are not covered by fraud'". She listened to my grievance, but ultimately, was unwilling to resolve this.
I entered AAA looking to get Travelers Checks. They said that they were no longer available, not explaining that you can still get them at an American Express office. They steered me into getting one of these Visa Travel Money Cards because of the fraud protections and ultimately, I was defrauded and now they are not behind me. I remember explaining to the girl at the back desk who was selling the cards, that I have always been leery of ATM cards because of fraud (I do not own one myself because A. it will lead to impulsive money withdraws and B. possible fraud that could clear out your bank account) but she assured me that it was protected from fraud.
Finally, upon my first visit to AAA Springfield PA office, I told them that they should contact the Barclays Office in Aswan Egypt and ask them about this and maybe even pull the video tape on the ATM machine. But, of course, this simple measure was most likely not heeded and now the tape is probably non existant two months later.
STICK WITH Amex TRAVELERS CHECKS and do not use the AAA Visa TravelMoney Card struck by Meta. Also, I cannot be the only one that has had this happen to them.
Please contact me if this has happened to you and also if you have been defrauded from Barclay's ATM machine in Aswan Egypt.
Media, PA USA Tue 05/18/2010
One week in Rome -no trouble
Just returned from a week in Rome and Siena. Not a bit of trouble. Not even the routine scams that we see in our visits to Paris. My advice is that I can not say enough for wearing Travelsmith pants with the small security zippered pocket. I keep a credit card and cash on a money clip and keep it in the security pocket. I can easily feel it when I think about it. No wallet. My identification and ATM card are in the money belt. No fears at all going through crowds, being on busses or going through train stations. Have worn these pants for years when traveling overseas and have never had any issues.
Chandler, AZ USA Mon 05/17/2010
Scams in Paris
The wife and I recently spent a wonderful week in Paris and experienced most of the scams described by others. At the Arc de Triomphe the young girls asking if you speak English. At Montmartre the guys trying to tie string on your fingers. At Notre Dame the "crippled" beggars though we did see several truly suffering handicaps. At the Eiffel Tower a mix of all plus the hawkers. On our last day, while walking the streets in a relatively quiet area, we finally encountered the "found ring" scam.
We simply ignored them all by not stopping and saying Non rather forcefully. Sunglasses helped a lot also by preventing eye contact.
Ed & Sue
Berwick, LA USA Sun 05/16/2010
Debacle in Paris
This is why you always use a moneybelt. I was traveling alone (I'm a 57-year-old experienced woman traveler) and I arrived at midday at the Gare du Nord in Paris. I was exhausted from travel that day and was fumbling with my purse at the metro ticket-buying machines. One minute I had my wallet, the next minute it was gone. I lost all credit cards and most of my money. Fortunately I still had my passport. However, imagine this situation: I was alone, knew *nobody* in Paris at that particular moment, had no credit or ATM cards and only about $20 cash. In addition, I had no hotel reservation but was planning to stay with a Parisian family (whom I did not know). Their address was in my stolen wallet! Thank *god* I could speak French. I went to an info kiosk in the train station and explained my predicament and they suggested I go to the post office to try to get the address of my hosts. The post office was closing in 5 minutes. I managed to get to the post office and again explained my predicament and asked if I could please have the address of my hosts (again, thank *god* I knew how they spelled their last name, because I no longer had any written information on them). I was told the post office could only give me their phone number. Well, this would do. I called the family on the phone, again explained my predicament and received directions to their home. Within 15 minutes I was at their doorstep and help had arrived! By the was, every French government employee I spoke with was kind, sympathetic and helpful. I left Paris feeling very different about French people after that. But what a frightening way to gain such insight! And yes, I was wearing a money belt, but for some reason that day I had put all my credit cards and most of my money in my wallet. Never, ever again!
Los Angeles, CA USA Sat 05/15/2010
Budapest Ladies Scam
This has been posted before, but i just want to stress that if you are a SINGLE MAN in BUDAPEST, you will be targeted by 2 girls on the main pedestrian strip, usually one pretty talkative blond and one quiet brunette. Could be in 20s to early 30s. They will ask you to go to a bar with them, and you will have to pay a MASSIVE bill. Once you´re inside the bar you´re screwed and you have to pay or, it is suggested, perhaps face physical force. I had 2 sets of girls approach me. I fell for it the first time and it cost me almost 300 Euro. Each glass of wine was like 50 Euro. There was NO MENU on the table so i didn´t know, and they don´t take credit card. These are the warning signs!
Sydney, NSW AUS Sat 05/15/2010
The Newspaper Drop
I think this one only works in a certain situation but it's worth mentioning anyways. I was in the La Spezia train station waiting for the local train to Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre (Italy). It was around 5pm and there were not many people on the platform. I was sitting alone listening to music when a train pulled in heading for Milan. About a minute before the doors closed a woman dropped a newspaper just as she was boarding the train. She looked at the newspaper and at me and back at the newspaper with a panicked face. I was feeling nice that day, so I got up and handed the paper to her just as the doors closed. I felt good having helped someone out, but I couldn't seem to shake the look on her face as I handed her the newspaper; she seemed annoyed and frustrated. I didn't realize until later that night she must have been upset because when I went to help her I took my daybag with me instead of leaving it on the bench for her partner to lift. Moral of this story: never lose physical contact with your daybag.
New York, NY USA Sat 05/15/2010
I am a martial arts instructor in jiu-jitsu - and had some "fun" putting a wrist lock on a gypsy in Rome. He had the misfortune of placing his hand in my daughter's purse as I was walking some distance behind her. My daughter begged me not to crack his spine, so I "politely" asked him if he wanted to live another day. He looked petrified, obviously not processing the fact that someone would stand up to him during his "mildly painful" wrist lock. A simple "warning shot" to his throat further reinforced a lesson in not engaging with defenseless women.
Hamilton, Canada Wed 05/12/2010
Tourist Scam in Nice,France
We visited Nice in May 2010 and were returning back from Gare SNCF Nice Ville(Main Train Station) to our hotel. We took the tram from the Gare Theirs(nearby tram station) and noticed some two 'grubby' looking guys following us at a distance.
After alighting from the tram we decided to stop at a bank branch to withdraw money.Unfortunately(or fortunately) the ATM did not accept our card. Very soon one of the guys came in and started shouting at us. I have heard about the scam and shouted "police" and "thief".
The bank staff came to our help. He was telling them we had picked his pocket! Of course, the bank security sent him in his way. We however waited a little longer. Then, his colleague came, but had to beat a hasty retreat.
Advice- Avoid areas near station. Trams are very crowded in Nice. Use buses they are cheap, frequent and not crowded.If taking taxis to/from Nice airport tell the driverbeforehand u need a receipt with his taxi number, (the 4 digit number written on roof next to word "Taxi"), they won't overcharge.
London, UK Fri 05/07/2010
That is a little out of context. He was referring to a hand in a front, zipper breast pocket. I would agree that it would be hard. However, that same attitude often applies to a front, unsecured jean pocket and that can be easy pickings. One of my front breast pockets is both zippered and covered with a button flap. I am sure no one can get to that without my being aware.
CENTENNIAL, CO USA Fri 04/30/2010
It'll never happen to me
"I think it would be hard for someone to slip their hand in there without me noticing."
...famous last words of most pickpocket victims!
USA Thu 04/29/2010
Europe apt scams
Be very careful when trying to rent an apt. I've had horrible luck with craigslist Rome and there seem to be more scams than actual apts.
Red flags: Do not send money in advance to be mailed keys, papers, etc.
If the person renting the apt doesn't live in town.
Bad spelling/ grammar... Especially if they are from the UK.
Price too good for the neighborhood- it is! Use your gut!!
Here are some names/ emails of scammers I've run into:
Howard Walter- email@example.com
Edwin Bekeens -firstname.lastname@example.org
lisa marie- email@example.com
Elizabeth Maria firstname.lastname@example.org
Phoenix, AZ USA Thu 04/29/2010
Paul, regarding those guns
Paul, in Europe, the bad guys have guns, too. Since they've taken them out of the hands of legal owners, they're the ones that are still carrying them around. England had a dramatic increase in crime after legal owners handed theirs in, and you can bet they have them in Italy, Greece, France...and so on.
Atlanta, GA USA Wed 04/28/2010
Street smart tips
I'm visiting this page because I'm going to Europe soon, on my own, and want to get familiar with the latest scams. I grew up in a large city in the US and street awareness kind of comes as a 6th sense. Last year I went to Peru twice on my own and stayed safe. (The diffence between S. America and Europe is that in S.A. the bad guys DO have guns. The large cities can be very dangerous there). Here's a few precautions I take. When I'm walking in a square or any area with a lot of people every so often I quickly turn my head around or twirl around to see if anybody is uncomfortably close behind me. Maybe if they see you looking they'll look elsewhere. I'm an avid photographer and anytime I want to stop for a picture I check out my surroundings first and make sure nobody is standing too close for comfort before I get focused on looking through the viewfinder. If I'm near a wall I'll back up against it if possible. Keep your camera in your bag when you're not using it and keep the strap over one shoulder and under the other arm, not around your neck. And always keep a hand on it. There is a company called Pac-Safe I've seen mentioned on this site a couple times that sells some really good daypacks and straps. The strap I bought for my camera has thin steel cords sown into it and cannot be slashed with a knife. Their daypacks have the same construction in the straps plus a steel mesh running through the fabric which foils any attempt at slashing your pack, and you can lock down the zippers so they can't be opened without you knowing about it.
As for wallets and moneybelts, I read a post here about a tour group where all the men got their wallets lifted. Why were they even carrying wallets? Did they have their credit cards and valuable papers in there too? Take out the money you are going to need for a day and put it in your pocket. Keep everything else in a money belt or better yet a couple different stashes. I keep my day money in a zippered breast pocket. I think it would be hard for someone to slip their hand in there without me noticing.
As far as making or not making eye contact with shady characters, it's ok to make eye contact, sometimes it's effective, just have a mean look on that lets the other know you are not in the mood for a scam and weren't born yesterday. And please, don't give large sums of money, your hotel name and room number to people you just met on the street. That entry really surprised me.
Boulder, CO USA Tue 04/27/2010
While walking in London, several blocks form Trafalgar Square on a Sunday morning peering into shop windows, I noticed a fellow walking directly behind me. I decided that OK this guy is on my ass and made a abrupt change in direction towards the street. The fellow then ducked into a narrow alley and another fellow was was standing at the entrance of the alley and as I walked by him he avoided looking at me. From this I gained a new appreciation for the advice - Don't walk too close to buildings.
New York, NY USA Sat 04/24/2010
Turkish men with wayward hands
I just returned from Turkey with my mother, father and cousin. My mom and dad are in their late 60s and I am in my late 40s. My cousin is 55. All of us were the victim of wayward hands while in the grand bazzare and public transportation. I was accosted by an older rug salesman who acted like all was a misunderstanding as he cornered me in his shop. As I escaped his hugs and kisses he accused me of being a racist!
My father was propositioned by our male tour guide who offered my dad a free oil massage. When dad declined the guide was rude and surly.
My cousin and mom had problems in the hamman with overly friendly bath attendants.
My dad suggested we all carry forks and poke probing hands on crowded buses and trains. This works very well indeed.
pearland, tx USA Thu 04/22/2010
The Park Hotel in London, in 64 Belgravia has a scam where they charge you upfront and once you sign your credit card, they grab your luggage and without an explanation and consent from you, take you to another hotel that is even worse than the Park, AVOID IT at all costs.
Guadalajara, Mexico Sat 04/17/2010
Your bank may rob you too
Not all scams are by individuals. Beware your bank, especially Bank of America! My friend and I prepared for our trip to Paris by confirming with our bank, Bank of America, that any ATM withdrawals from their French partner, BNP Paribas, would incur a 1% currency conversion charge and no additional fees. When we returned home we found we had been charged an additional $5 for every transaction, for a total of $50. The improper charges were reversed only after we each complained (we had to make separate calls), and we were told that the bank's policy is to keep the money unless the accountholder makes a personal complaint! Who knows how much money the B of A is making off of travelers who are trusting their bank and then getting socked with these 'mistaken' fees?
Salem, OR USA Thu 04/15/2010
I am a teahcer and I have just returned from a trip, with students, to Europe. We visited some "hot spots" for scams, such as Paris. My students never had any problems. This was due to the fact that they were always aware and were prepared. Given the fact that these students were even allowed to spend some time away from adult supervision, I was impressed. If high school students areable to be safe and not get scammed in Eupope, I believe that anyone, with a little bit a planning should be able to mangage in Europe. Thanks to sites such as this, all travellers, including high school students, are able to prepare for and have a safe and enjoyable European experience.
AB Canada Sun 04/11/2010
Budapest (Ladies Scam)
Men, If going to Budapest, beware of "Ladies scam". Scam targets mainly one or two men. Happens mainly on/near Vaci Utca (main tourist strip) in evening or night. Scam usually involves two lovely ladies, acting innocent. Was aware of other scams, but only glanced at the Embassy website.
Two 30-yr old ladies approached me in evening asking for directions. Of course, I had map and offered to help. One was cute, talkative and spoke good English, other so-so. After brief conversation they introduced themselves, where they were from and asked about me. They then explained how they were heading for a particular place for drink and food and asked me to go. I like finding out more about locals, their culture, enjoy chatting so I agreed to go for drink and food. Conversation and food was good, drinks...so so. 2 hrs later, 4 drinks later (we all had 4 drinks each), and some food, it was time to go. Bill came and waitress handed it to me (I didn't ask for it) and it came to 98,000 HUF (about $500)! I complained about the outrageous price, but waitress was forceful in it. I explained to ladies, I can't afford this, so we all opened our wallets and came up with 12,000 HUF total. But, 86,000 HUF remained. They wouldn't take credit card, but said their ATM machine would. Waitress showed me to the ATM machine outside along with one of the ladies. After insisting I didn't have that much money in the machine, I became worried that they would call cops. The waitress was forceful in looking over my shoulders. After yelling, "Back off", she did and I withdrew 40,000 HUF ($200), gave it to her and said that's all I had. Must've been enough for here, because she didn't argue too much more. I then walked away.
Later that night, two ladies sitting on park bench asked me what I was doing and if I wanted to go for a drink. I knew this was bigger than I thought. I didn’t' fall for it the second time, but I learned my lesson. These places are hidden in corner, don't have stickers showing their credentials on their door and sometimes perform menu swaps when you aren't looking. When they don't take credit card, beware!
Before you go anywhere, check the Dept of State travel website: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1765.html
For Budapest, Embassy has black list and more info:
MA USA Sun 04/11/2010
Ripped off (Kind of) in Prague
1.We're not exactly babes in the woods, having made 10 previous European trips and Rick warned about Prague ripoffs, but sometimes, even being vigilant won't help. At a small restaurant in mid-afternoon, we found that the price on the menu for a certain entree was 50% more than posted on the chalkboard outside. We should have left then, but it was still pretty cheap, so we ordered. When the check came, we noticed that we had been charged 50Kc (about $2.50) for the bread we hadn't ordered, and to top it off, When we were expecting 80Kc in change, we only received 20Kc, meaning we were shortchanged 60Kc (about $3). We called the waitress's attention to it and she informed us that it was "standard" to take the tip out of the change, which, or course, was BS. Sure, I could have called a cop, but for $5.50?
A side note: later that evening we ran into a British couple we had met the day before and they told us the same thing had happened to them about an hour later at the same restaurant.
2. We made a day trip tour out of town with a tour service recommended by our hotel. Their brochure advertised "pick up at your hotel". But when we returned to Wencislaus (sp?) square, we were informed that the price didn't include returning us to our hotel. In this case, no money was involved and we didn't realize how close our hotel was and we enjoyed the brief walk back, seeing some things we wouldn't have otherwise seen, Really, they had done us a favor,but it kind of rubbed us the wrong way and we would have felt much different if we had had to pay for a taxi back to our hotel
These minor events didn't spoil an otherwise great trip to a beautiful city, but I have to advise to be careful in Prague.
Lufkin, TX USA Tue 04/06/2010
Loud Argument Scam
The loud argument scam is akin to the strip tease scam I posted about 2 years ago.
It happenen in Pisa, where a "street vendor" loudly accused a young woman of shoplifting. Their exchange was heated and prolong, so many people gawked. The young woman started to take off her clothes to prove her innocence. While the crowd jostled and pushed to get a better view of her stripping down to her bra, cohorts went through the crowd and picked pockets. In one case, all of the men from a tour group had their wallets stolen. Recently, the scammers refined this act to have two women being accused. With two women stripping, the thieves have twice as much time to pick pockets.
The scene you had described was most likely a ruse to distract people so the large man with the plastic bag could pick the pockets of those who had just withdrawn money from the ATM.
Piedmont, CA USA Mon 04/05/2010
Besides the high pressure for a "donation," I am always wary of signing my name (and also providing my address, which is frequently asked for) on any document handed to me on the street. Whether I'm in my home town or in another country. Who knows what use might be made of that information?
Denver, CO USA Thu 04/01/2010
Sign a Petition Against Drugs - Italy
I just returned from Italy and was hit up at many rest stops on the A1 and other places to sign a petition against drugs. They were very indignant and insulting when I said No. I never did figure out what the scam was but am sure there was one lurking.
Cleveland, OH USA Thu 04/01/2010
Jake, I saw the same thing. After you sign they immediately hit you up for a "donation." They act very disappointed and pressure you if you refuse. This is not the sign of a legitimate operation. If you want to donate to a cause do it at home or put a euro on the poor box in a church. Never sign anything on the street or give money to anyone on the street for any reason whatsoever. Just make up your mind before you go that you will say "no" and walk on regardless of who is asking, or why, or the circumstances. Don't let scammers destroy your vacation and don't feel guilty.
Washington, DC USA Wed 03/31/2010
Drug Petition in Florence
I'm not really sure what this was about, but when I was in Florence with my students, a woman approached me in the Piazza della Republica with a clipboard. She asked me if I was a teacher and would I sign a petition 'against drugs'. I said 'No' and kept walking. They had a whole table and banner and looked very official, but it set off my 'scamdar'. Ciao!
Eureka Springs , AR USA Tue 03/30/2010
Beware of loud arguments on the street
This happened in Sydney, Australia, on a lovely Sunday in May, 2007, at the very busy Darling Harbour area. I was with some friends from our tour group, two of whom wanted to use an ATM located in a covered "plaza" area that had some shops, etc., on either side. It opened on one end to a major street and on the other to the Harbour dock area, and as I said the whole area was thronged with people out for a fun day. There was a line of maybe ten people waiting to use the ATM, which was at the end nearest the street/sidewalk.
We became aware of a middle-aged woman having a very loud argument, on the sidewalk, with a younger man. Naturally, we all focused our attention on the drama. However, something made me uneasy. So I silently looked to my right and left, and actually turned around to face in the other direction. I saw a large muscular man, holding an empty plastic shopping bag, standing a few yards away from our line at the ATM, in a position not visible to anyone in the ATM line who was looking at the loud argument. I gave him a good long look, then continued facing away from the argument and scanning the area around us. I watched him some more, and I think he realized I wasn't going to turn around again. He finally started walking, and passed behind the ATM line, which was across my line of vision because I was facing the opposite way, and as soon as he had walked past the ATM area? The two people having the argument wound it up in a strangely deflated manner, and also walked away.
I'm convinced I'd witnessed some kind of distraction attempt, and I assume the muscular man with the empty plastic bag had intended to fill that bag with some pickings from tourists lined up at the ATM, but I foiled the plan.
Could I be wrong? Sure.
Denver, CO USA Sun 03/28/2010
Regarding whistles, I recommend the police/bobby whistle as it emits a slightly jarring discordant trill that can be heard a mile away. Wear it around your neck on a lanyard or chain. Great to have if you are being followed or are trapped by thugs in a deserted alley. And if worn on a nice, thick chain it can double as jewelry!
NYC, NY USA Fri 03/26/2010
Gulbenkian Museum: Portugal
I followed the directions in the Rick Steves guide book to the Gulbenkian Museum in Portugal. I bit hard to find. No signs. Asked several people before I finally arrived at the building with The Gulbenkian sign out front. Went in. Paid my admission.
Then I found I had been ripped off. This is not the museum Rick describes in his guidebook. It is a museum of ulta modern art. Maybe some would like this, but it was not what I came to see. The museum Rick describes has Greek, Roman, and Renaissance art. I went around the corner and finally found the right museum. Same name. But, they would not honor my ticket. I explained what happened and they they basically said I would have to pay again or leave. I left.
Rick correct your guidebook. Do not let these thieves steal our money.
Yorkton Heights, NY USA Tue 03/23/2010
I hven't read this whole list; but I read on another website of a scam I had not heard of before. This one involves someone tapping on the window of your train from the outside, as it pulls into or stops at a station. When you look out the window to see what's happening, someone else on the inside makes off with your bag which you left on the seat beside you. Wear your valuables in your concealed moneybelt; and keep your hand on your daybag!
Canada Sun 03/21/2010
Rome Colosseum Scams
In Rome run dont walk away from the guys in the colosseum district. The guys in Roman soldier clothing and the teenagers from the USA offering tours are all working together to rob us of our hard earned cash. Thats my Scam Alert advice for Rome
USA Thu 03/18/2010
Prague Castle Scam
Prague Castle. All the tourbooks warn about scams in Prague, but this was a new one. "persuaded" to purchase audio guide. Later realized we had been charged $20-25 each. She was smooth, we were very dumb. No prices posted anywhere. Just say NO.
Piedmont, CA USA Thu 03/18/2010
At the risk of sounding a little over-the-top, I always check under the bed and in the closet when I first check-in to a room. Call it the "boogey man syndrome" if you must but my philosophy is "why take a chance". I am armed with a loud, shrill whistle just in case I do discover someone lurking about. Women traveling alone should especially be mindful of this scenario.
NYC, NY USA Wed 03/17/2010
Scam artist in aboound in Lisbon!
Location, Lisbon, Portugal, 300 yards south of Hotel Tivoli on Av. de Liberdade in the middle park section Date, March 15 2010, Monday afternoon about 2:45pm, weather sunny cool about 59 degrees, busy afternoon
Scammer: Tatiana Aaron Scammed: Tommy Miller What: scammed out of € 30 Euros How: she played well on my vulnerable side, 1.helping someone with good natured heart, 2. wanted to go out for drinks round the city.
I broke 2 of my own rules, 1 lending away money, 2 Trusting someone who has not earned it, but rather they made me believe I should, mistake! and pretty much giving money to strangers should of been an easy judgment call itself, Duhh! haha
Alright Listen up this is a good one!
There is a Women in Lisbon who has been scamming people for about 5 years,
She has black hair to her shoulders, about 5´8´´ not very pretty but not ugly either, slender in build, age is around early to mid 30´s, she talks a lot and very often. She asked me what time is was then walked away a minute then came right up to me she began her act.
Very personable and charming also easy to believe and I did, Im am angry that I beilived her not that she lied, and that I gave her money, and on top of that I asked for no credentials, ID, or collateral from her.
I was walking south out of my hotel in Lisbon at the Hotel Tivoli towards the bay area, on Av. de Liberate in the garden section with benches and palm trees its like a park-walk down the center street.
Ok her scam goes as this...She is he in Lisbon from Johannesburg South Africa, her accent is not detectable, somewhat neutral more European than South African like, She is here for a conference, she is studying psychology to help children, yada yada, she speaks very very well english and her act is perfected to include all emotions and genuineness of someone in need of help, she says she can not exchange her rands (South African currency) the banks are closed and no where she goes can help her and no one will exchange her money and she says it is her first time traveling alone and her bags she left at the airport she needs to get back to the airport and needs money for a Taxi.
She got € 30 Euros out of me and I found out later on the internet her name--- Tatiana Aarons--- is her alias she goes by, as well as several other combinations such as Sheeila Vincent Tatiana Vincent. She is extremely perfected her craft is very manipulative and believeable, DONT, haha, dont believe a word!! I gave her my email address and name and the hotel I was staying at and room number, after she gave me hers, she says she was at a hostel, but of course I soon found out it was fake! She was saying after she got back to get her belongings she wanted to go out for coffee and hangout later in the evening I guess thats what sold me, I had a gut feeling I would never see her or the 30 euros again but I wanted to belive her and what she said so much, but my gut knew otherwise, but of course I ignored it.
I found a site
That was created by her scammies and talks to the same as my story, I guess the first kick of a mule is the learning the second kick there is not learning,hahah, I hope she gets caught one day, some people repoert her, some dont I will, Trust is earned over time not in 15 mintutes haha, and not to lend away money especially to strangers, hah I read about the Cognitive Dissonance, its when you belief and good faith of something outweighs the logic of your thinkin, well to make it easy trust no one and dont give away money hahahaha. The funny thing was we both looked back at each other as we walked away in different directions at the same time at about 30 ft, I got SUCKERED plane and simple, well the wheels of Justice grind very slow...but very fine and I hope she does not have fun with my 45 dollars, she was probably and addict or something, and I guess she is a ``student of psychology`` hahahaha worked on me, well, If you see tell her Tommy told you about her and you know shes a big liar, hahaha, but hey other than that, Libon and Portugal has been quite nice, hahah, happy and Safe, Traveling, Tommy
P.S , Steve our family enjoys very well your well produced TV series, its the best around, I know you put a lot into it, that is why it is such a good program, Thank you!
Williamsburg, VA USA Mon 03/15/2010
gypsies in rome
i am 6 foot 1 inch, 250 pounds, weight lifter and i was SURE no gypsies would approach me and try to over whelm me. (big and ugly i am).
the woman (with 7 kids) approached me quickly trying to shove a newspaper for me to read...i lunged at them, yelled louldy and raised my arms like i was going to attack them. (so i looked like a moron...so what).
they scrambled and left me alone.
los angeles, ca USA Sat 03/13/2010
paris...gold ring or coin
plenty of times i walk alone... and a man signals to me about a gold coin or ring on ground. he picks up a gold coin or a ring, and tries to bring it to me as if (1) it is mine or (2) he wants to sell it to me for small euros.
look mean, make eye contact and so....NO. and keep staring (and look behind you for his accomplices)
los angeles, ca USA Sat 03/13/2010
if you 'think' you are being followed?
(1) duck into the nearest shop
(2) stop....put your back against the wall...look behind you and identify who it is....so you can reference that person for future stalkings.
continue when safe.
los angeles, ca USA Sat 03/13/2010
key in thhe lock
I returned from Spain and Morocco a few months ago and learned a great trick for keeping overly friendly night managers at bay. I simply leave the key in the lock from the inside. I learned this while staying in a hostel in Seville from another lodger. The old codger who manned the desk at night tried to open the door to the ladies dorm a few times. I also used this trick in Morocco and it worked like a charm. On previous trips the managers would let them selves into my room carrying a tray of tea or a hookah pipe. The would act like they just want to be polite but I suspect ulterior motives. The key in the lock eliminates these nighttime nuisances.
usa, USA Sat 03/13/2010
I realize this scam happened several years ago but I'll write it anyway in the hope that it will prevent the same thing from happening to another person.
I was young and naive traveling in Europe in the summer of 2002. I had stayed for several weeks in London without incident. On my last morning there, I was extremely hungover from being out partying all night. I had an early morning flight to meet up with a friend in another city in Europe. With my large suitcase and sleepy face, I stopped in a coffee shop for an extra-large cafe americano. I suspect the con-artist was inside the coffee shop and watching me at that point. I must have looked like I was half-asleep and a very easy target.
On exiting the coffe shop, which was right near a hotel, he ran up to me and explained in a desparate tone how his family was also on its way out of London, needed to leave right then or they would miss their flight, and was about to be separated because they did not have enough cash to pay an unexpected expense on their hotel bill. He pointed to the hotel that was literally right there. He was pleading with me and telling me how his son would be left behind if he did not get 50 pounds. He asked if he could borrow 50 pounds, run inside to pay the bill, and then ride with me to the airport, where he would use the ATM to pay me back. Like an idiot, I gave him the money. He ran off in a big rush and never returned. Now I know never to have compassion for anyone asking for money!
Ohio USA Mon 03/08/2010
Men looking for greencards
I am a woman traveler who loves to travel on my own all over the world. Unfortunately men in countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey or Egypt often try to latch onto me in the hopes of a green card. I thought up a great way to get rid of them by simply saying I am from the Ukraine or Russia. No one wants to go to those places to live. This works like a charm. They cant run away fast enough!
New Orleans, la USA Sat 02/27/2010
I've read through the top half of these posts,and the one thing I have not seen anyone mention is the use of a chain wallet. If you are unsure what I mean it its literally a wallet with a chain attached which then attaches to your belt. Many bikers/motorcyle riders wear them. I use mine evertime I travel to Europe (have been at least 6 or 7 times to different counties) and have NEVER had a problem. I also carry it in my front pocket. Another thing I do while walking is simply keep my had in my pocket placed over my wallet. It keeps your hands warm, and you know exactly where your wallet is. Is walking around with a hand in a jean pocket really that hard anyway?
1 other lesson I have learned is that the Americans are often very easy to pick out of a crowd becasue we talk so damn loud! Try to blend in by lowering your voice, and you'll attract less attention.
Lastly I ussually do not "flaunt" the fact that I am an American. People on the street (vendors, etc) often like to ask where you are from. I almost never say America unless our transaction is complete and I am already leaving. The fact that I have a very European appearance also helps me blend in. I ussualy have to convince people that I am indeed not from their country (Poland, Czech, Ukraine, etc). Every once in a while being from the US has helped things out, but I give that info on a strictly "needs to know" basis.
As many have already stated, Europe is a beautiful place so don't be scared, but don't be foolish either and you'll have a wonderful time.
Bloomfield, NJ USA Fri 02/26/2010
I did fight back in Barcelona
In answer to Hunter's question yes I did fight back once. In Barcelona on the subway a guy tried to pick my pocket. I grabbed his arm, twisted it, and called for some nearby police. They questioned him and I berated him viciously. He became very subdued and scared. As I was flying home that day I didn't stay to press charges, but I sure put the fear of God, or in his case Allah, in him. Score one for the tourists!
Washington, DC USA Thu 02/25/2010
Italy and France
I just returned from Italy and France. I had a great time. Rick's book was helpful. Florence was full of beggars, mostly gypsies. Do not hesitate to tell them to take a hike. They are persistent, but don't let them distract you from your vacation. Snarl at them and they will leave you alone. Lucca was a beautiful little city. I spent several days in Lyon and had a wonderful time. Everyone was very helpful and friendly. I wore a money belt the whole time and had no trouble from pickpockets. Btw, last year I was in Naples. If you go put on your tough face and walk like you know what you are doing. If you need directions go into a shop and ask there. Use common sense, be forceful when necessary, and concentrate on having a good time.
Washington, DC USA Thu 02/25/2010
Walk with confidence, avoid eye contact
Reading about the scams in Paris and elsewhere: Of all the places I've visited in Europe and ASIA I've NEVER encountered a single person trying to scam me. The reason? Well, this may sound harsh but I am short, I have dark skin and people usually think I work in the service industry. First piece of advice: Don't look like an easy target. When I travel I don't dress, walk or "look" like an American tourist. Unfortunately the way others look, walk and dress make them a target. Even here in San Francisco I can spot a tourist (Non-Californian) from a mile away. Generally they wear clothes that are wrong for the weather, are too flashy (or loud), wear too much makeup and jewelry, have big hair, and they walk around slowly without a care in the world (or without any regard for those around them - for example, talking up the entire sidewalk). Opening a map in public is a sure way to look like a tourist. Second, please do some research and try to blend in a little. My last piece of advice is to walk with confidence and avoid eye contact with undesirable people. Walk like if you were on your way to work, running a little late (you wouldn't have time to stop and chat with ANYONE if you were running late, right?). Please, don't look paranoid either. Not all people of color are "coming to get you". By the way, Gypsy is a derogatory term, so please don't use it. Try to keep a balance of alertness and cool. Chances are that if someone is trying to scam you, you'll see some red flags. More tips if an undesirable person offers you something: Put your hand up between you and them and calmly and firmly say "We are running late. We can't talk right now". Continue walking. There is no need to call even more attention to yourself by saying things like "I don't speak THEIF (sic)" like the woman from Texas. Just continue walking. If they follow you assertively say "I CAN'T talk right now" without making eye contact and continue walking away with confidence. After that ignore them and continue walking fast.
San Francisco, CA USA Thu 02/25/2010
No change if you don't know German
I was on my last day of a 2 week trip to Germany and needed to buy a train ticket from a machine at the Bingen train station (on the Rhine). Well the ticket to Frankfurt was only 7 euro an all I had was a 10 euro note. I'd used machines before and since I'm trying to learn German I usually selected German rather than English, but this time I selected English. I was surprised that this machine informed me to put in exact amount and that no change would be given. Well I backed out of the menu and switched to German language and guess what? There was no exact change message, so I put my money in and got change! So knowing German has now saved me 3 euros - but what a rip off otherwise!
Tucson, AZ USA Thu 02/25/2010
donation scam paris
Twice recently in Paris I hgave had my way blocked (on the way to different poular tourist destinations) by young women who don't say anything but point to their mouths in a gesture which appears to indicate that they are dumb. They agressively push something which looks a bit like a petition under your nose which essentially asks one to make a donation to a charity for the dumb. The "petitions" are just photocopied pieces of paper and the girls...and those who stand around watching them.... do not look like those who one might expect to be making such a collection. I am pretty sure that this is a scam and would like tourists to be aware of it.
oxford, UK Mon 02/22/2010
Thieves take advantage of closing doors.
I witnessed a petty theft and would like to share the tactic the thief used with other travelers.
I was traveling to Positano with my father. Our transport involved a short ride on the Circumvesuviana line that runs from Naples to Sorrento and Pompeii. Confirming what I had read, the Naples train station and Circumvesuviana line really did seem to be teeming with thieves (my dad and I had to literally stand back to back while I bought tickets at the machine as nefarious characters were swarming in from all directions and this is no exhageration), and this is the only time I have felt truly in danger of being robbed in all of my travels in Italy.
Here's what happened: There was only standing room on the Circumvesuviana when we boarded. There is a large area between compartments with plenty of standing room, this is where passengers get on and off through the automatic sliding doors. My dad and I placed ourselves and our small rolling bags on either side of the sliding door with our backs to the walls that separate this area from the seating compartments. By this time we had been jostled plenty from all directions and were fairly weary of watching our own and each others backs.
A man stepped onto the train at a stop and was standing in the doorway. I heard the bell warning the doors' immenent closure and glanced down to see that his feet were only half way on board and he was sort of balancing there on his toes. I was about to reach out to gently nudge him the rest of the way into the train when he reached out in between my dad and myself and ripped a necklace right off of the neck of a lady standing barely within reach. He was gone and the train moving before we could even comprehend what had just happened.
Lesson learned: thieves use closing doors to make a fast and clean getaway. If you see someone balanced precariously in the opening of a train door about to close, keep this in mind and keep hold of anything that might be snatched.
I realize that this is an isolated event but it serves as an excellent example of what to watch out for. After seeing this, and the red mark on that woman's neck, I will not wear a necklace nor earings when visiting or traveling around the larger cities of Italy.
Seattle, Wa USA Sun 02/21/2010
david langley scammer
My experience was almost identical to the other comments right down to the $267.00 dollars which was requested sent Western Union. Just My dream job was in the caynen Islands building resort communities for the richest people in the world. The company name given was Dania Resorts in Houston, TX. and the contact names Steve Willis and Dave Langley.
miami, florid USA Sat 02/20/2010
Listen to Rick ! My husband and I were weary when we reached Rome- spent most of our day trying to get there from Cinque Terra -due to transportation strike - we took, boat,bus, train and finally reached the Termini much later than we thought made the mistake of thinking we would be ok on #64 - long story short - I realized three men - one in a priest collar were trying to rob us- I got off the bus and held the doors opened and screamed Policia ! held the doors until they came - they asked me if I could ID the men( they were still on bus) and as we went to get back on a miracle happened - the wallet (-minus euros but american $ and all credit cards were in it) and our return plan tickets were passed out of the bus to us ! hmmm.... don't be afraid, be careful and call for the police - don't know where they came from but were there in a flash !
Cincinnati, OH USA Tue 02/16/2010
Trains in Morocco
Re: con men on trains in Morocco....we travelled from Tangier to Fes via train March 09, and whilst coming out of the bathroom going back to my seat,I was approached by a gentleman who asked where i was from. we chatted and he said he had a "friend" who was a guide and could show us around Fes. after discussing it w/my boyfriend, we gave him the name of our Riad and a time for the next morning, and the guy was there the next day. the 1st part of the tour was informational, but slowly turned into a tour of shops...but we did see some awesome things,and got to speak & interact with some "locals" that we never would have otherwise, not to mention we would have never been brave enough to try to navigate the medina by ourselves (the word "maze" isnt NEARLY descriptive enough). if you dont want to be apporoached, learn a few words of something other than french, german, english, or spanish,(all spoken/understood in Fes!) and just keep repeating them. If you Do take a guide, agree on a price up front, and make your intentions known at the beginning that you want a HISTORY tour, not a shopping tour. We got a full day tour for roughly $20.00!
charleston, sc USA Mon 02/15/2010
I am a fan of low quality, obviously imitation Rolex watches, and on my travels I usually buy one for $10 or so for my collection. I also have the advantage of being 6’5 and 300lbs with a suitable amount of street smarts, So I would not suggest this hobby to others. I usually find the venders in small countries to be normally up front about the products and amiable folks just trying to scrape on by.
So I found it amusing that while walking out of my hotel in Kowloon(HK-China)a local fellow offered to sell me a real Rolex for cheap. Being that I was going to walk to the night market and buy one anyway I played along.
The greeter then took me down a block to a papered over store front inside a legitimate looking mall, I found (oddly enough) a Pakistani fellow and his local partner sitting behind a counter with nothing inside it. I asked to see the watches and he showed me a catalog and asked which one I wanted to see. He then produced one (not the one I pointed to) and said “$1000 Dollars” my response was “It looks too fake, please get a better one”.
This caused a bit of confusion as they couldn’t figure out if I knew it was fake or that it simply did look too flimsy. He left the room and came back with one that looked really good but in a different metal. I said “that looks a little bit better, but still too fake”.
He assured me it was real and then tried placing the watch in my hand while holding onto the strap, the other hand he was palming a small battery powered vibrating ball. He must have been assuming that the vibration would somehow trick me into believing the watch was real.
Feeling both amused and a little insulted I offered him 70HK for it (at the time $10 US) and smiled at them. They then dropped the attempted con and said they had three levels of imitation watches A, B and C and that C was the lowest of these. I asked for “C – the cheap one” and they left the room. When they came back a minute later they had the same two watches.
So after talking to this fellow for a moment I said “Only C huh?” and he insisted that that was an “A”. I repeated my offer of $70 HK and got it for that price, with minimal protests. They did however say “you have credit card?” and stick their hands out more then once and only stopped when I handed them cash and retorted “You have got to be kidding my friend”.
So just to warn you, first off don’t buy knockoffs, Don’t go into dark alleys with strangers to make deals and please don’t take more money then you need when shopping, if it’s a truly good price go to the atm and take out what you need to cover it (alone). Never ever pay with a credit card for anything that is even slightly questionable or below board, they already work in a shady industry, just expect them to continue the act of being shady and smile with polite refusal.
If this doesn’t dissuade you, never pay more then $20 US (only take with you $30) and remember there is no A,B,C levels of knockoffs in small operations (of anything) in HK or The PI, only identical batches, so the sub-level scam will only be complemented with a plastic vibro-ball and no difference in the content.
Best wishes for safe travels Akiratwentyeight
Seattle, WA USA Thu 02/11/2010
English in Europe is NOT always a con game!
Midge, HONESTLY! If someone speaks to you in English about hotels, put your thinking cap on. Use your common sense to figure out what to do.
Everytime someone speaks to you in English you don't need to run around and flap your wings like "Chicken Little" and yelling something about the sky falling and the end of the world and doomsday.
Come on, act like a grown up!
USA Tue 02/09/2010
Con men on Moroccan trains
A WARNING ABOUT MOROCCO!
I was on the train to Fez and was approached by a man who started a conversation. He said his son lived in Texas asked me if I had a place to stay in Fez. I said I did but he said that the hotel had been torn down as unsafe by yhe local authorities and handed me a card for a hotel that was located in the Fez madina. It was late and I was tired. He followed me out of the train and put me in a cab of his choosing and said some instructions in Arabic. When we got to the hotel it was no where near the Madina and seemed old and creepy. A large man rushed out and grabbed my bag and hustled me in to the 'hotel' which turned out to be his house! He then told me the charge was 100 US dollars per night. I tried to leave but his friend barred the door in very agressive manner. He dropped the price to 50.00. As I tried to say good night and head to my room he started bringing out smelly old rugs and talking about how authintic they were..blah..blah...after 4 hours I broke down and bought one for 400.00. I was tired. My room was nothing more then a closet with an old stained mattress (no sheet) on the floor. The bathroom was bucket left outside the door. I left at first mornings light.
When you travel around Morocco remember that con men ply teir trade on the trains big time. If someone starts speaking to you out of the blue in English and talks about hotels..run like hell!
houston, tx USA Sat 02/06/2010
Gulasch Museum or Goulash Museum Vienna
I do wish that Rick Steves' travel guides would stop endorsing the Gulasch (Goulash) Museum in Vienna. My wife and I lead culinary tours to Europe, so we know about food there and what we can expect for our money. We visited the Gulasch Museum at 20 Singerstrasse, Vienna, Austria in January 2010 and proceeded to order based upon the appetizing photos and descriptions in the menu. What we received for about $24 per bowl was basically Dinty Moore beef stew without most of the beef. I was additionally brought a flat (stale) beer that the proprietor refused to replace, and charged me for. Oh yes - there's a 2 Euro "cover charge" per person that's not mentioned in the menu, and... it's CASH ONLY -- which the waiter/manager didn't mention until he handed us the bill. This practice obviously prevents people from back-charging their credit card after feeling ripped off. STAY AWAY from the Gulasch Museum! There are many great places to eat in Vienna -- don't be ripped off at this clip joint!
James K. Fowler
Houston, TX USA Sat 01/30/2010
id like to know if anyone has taken revenge and done what any american would be inclined to do by fighting back, or giving a good old fashioned ass whoopin' to pick pockets or scam artists...Im currently living in spain and im always on the 'hunt' for pickpockets...it blows me away that there are no sting operations to set up these scam artists....If i do catch one picking my pockets i pray God have mercy on their souls...
barcelona, tx USA Fri 01/29/2010
I fail to understand why people want to carry luggage/purses/etc that "stewardessees carry". They don't often walk around tourist sites with their attention distracted by the sight, stroll thru bands of gypsies, walk thru rough areas of town. Use some common sense. Wear a money belt, be alert and do not under-estimate the ability of professional thieves.
Charles M. Luther
USA Sun 01/24/2010
I've always hated money belts especially on hot days so I was delighted to find a purse that was designed by flight attendants specifically for travel. It's made of a thick nylon material and the strap simply cannot be cut without a special tool The closures to the different compartments are flaps, zippers and strong magnets. I find the most secured pockets very frustrating to get into so I feel confident that a pick pocket is going to pick an easier target. The strap is also designed so the purse wants to hang in front of the body. I spent five weeks carrying it around last summer and felt quite secure everywhere I went. Another safegard that we employ is multi-pocketed pants with various amounts of cash in them. That way we only have to expose a few bills at a time. Espresso money is located on the right calf. BTW I won't carry my travel purse at home. Unlike the European thieves who rely on skill and foolishness our thieves are not thwarted by zippers, magnets and special material because our thieves generally are carrying a weapon.
Calgary, AB USA Fri 01/22/2010
Paris is the winner
My husband and I just got back from our two-week Europe vacation, and we had a blast! I truly thank Rick Steves and this website for all of the extremely useful advice. Out of the 10 cities we visited in Europe, all of the obvious scams we encountered were in Paris! We too saw SEVERAL "friendship bracelet" guys on the steps of the Sacre-Coeur. As we were making our way up to the cathedral, one of them started to approach me and asked me if I was interested in blah blah blah, and my first instinct was to go "NOPE NOPE NOPE!" and sprint away! haha I left my poor husband in my dust. He told me that he was looking behind him to grab me and walk off but I was already way ahead of him! I felt like running was necessary, the freakin scammer was trying to corner me into the wall!
The next day we were sitting on a bench on the Champs-Elysees to enjoy some macaroons from LaDuree (another thank-you to Mr. Steves), and soon we were approached by a small group of gypsy women trying to pull the "do you speak English?" crap on us. To my dismay, my husband must have forgotten our pre-trip debriefing about all the scams, and said "yes". The lady immediately pulled out the note for him to read, and I got pretty assertive, loudly telling them to go away and leave us alone while keeping my bag very close to my body and grabbing my husband by the arm as I got up. It took a while for them to finally get out of our way.
After that, I began thinking of things to say or do if that happened again. My husband suggested acting all crazy and yelling really loud, and I considered lines like "No sorry, I don't speak THEIF", or just responding to them in Finnish, of which I know a few words from living there for 5 months. To my delight, another gypsy lady did the same thing as we were approaching the Louvre, and I gave her a big loud "MITA VITUAA!", which means "What the f*ck" in Finnish. She just kept walking. lol :)
People, it is a VERY smart idea to wear a money belt. I felt a lot safer while in large crowds or on the metros in various cities. It was also helpful that it happened to be winter and we both had zip-up or button-up pockets inside our coats, where we kept our passports and my digital camera. A pickpocket would have had to get very intimate with us if he really wanted to steal something.
Dallas, TX USA Sat 01/09/2010
Someone had posted to only trust taxis with S.P.Q.R. printed on their doors in a certain city/place. Maybe there, but my experience in Prague makes me not trust that without more details such as color of car. I got the following info on-line..'when in Prague use the AAA taxi -the best and is fairly cheap - dial 14014.'. When we arrived at the train station, we went out to the taxi stand, saw all AAA(were red) taxis, took one(even tho my ddaughter said they don't look real legit) and a few minutes later at our destination we had the guy yelling at us "29 Euros!!" Later i seen yellow AAA taxis and even later i seen black AAA ones..can't remember but it was either the yellow or black with the #14014 printed on teh door. When we left the hotel tehy charged us 10 euro(Actually paid in Kronas) more for each night than what was quoted on-line.....you live, you learn..
USA Wed 01/06/2010
Reading Sunny's post reminded me of two 20-something women I met on the Rome tram to Trastevere. They were in Rome for just the day and told me their goal was to eat in every McDonald's in the city. They were headed to the third one of the day. It was their first trip to Italy. I asked them what else they had seen in Rome, and they said "Just McDonald's." Amazing.
Salt Lake City, UT USA Wed 01/06/2010
Sunny, it's too bad you went all the way to Italy without experiencing, umm, Italy! I wouldn't know about the pricing scams in fast food joints because I never set foot in them. Next time (if you decide to give Italy another chance at a fabulous vacation) instead of McDonald's, try a salumeria where you can put together a healthy, delicious picnic lunch of fresh bread, cheese, olives, and other deli foods for the same price the locals pay.
Oh, and avoid that gelateria on the main drag in Sorrento. (The one recommended in the RS book was closed.) I didn't think it was possible to buy bad gelato in Italy, but I didn't even finish the one I got there, nor did a couple of American women we ran into. (I don't know if the tourist scams section is the proper place for this warning, but passing that stuff off as gelato was a scam!)
Willits, Calif USA Mon 01/04/2010
I didn't mind being charged $5 for a coke at a fast food restaurant. I didn't mind getting jiped $30 dollars at the grocery store. I didn't mind being told to unplug my laptop at McDonalds. I didn't mind being charged twice for using the train because the "1" looks like a "7". I didn't mind the lady calling me a liar. But then an Italian tried to get us off the train to make us pay a third time. That's when I decided not to ever come back. Or buy an Italian Tecnam airplane. I am buying US made.
Tx USA Sat 01/02/2010