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Travel Rip Offs and Scams
If you are going to travel for long time then you are going to get ripped off, no ifs, ands or buts about it. It is just a question of time. Typically it will happen the moment you land when you get into your first taxi. It might not be for weeks or months, you might even think that youve enough experience and are wise enough to see through any scam, but your guard cant be up all the time. Your time will come too. It probably wont be for a lot of money, but the anger you will feel at being taken for a sucker will stay with you forever or so it seems.
When we talk about getting ripped off we are not talking about being over charged for a product or service. Being charged 20% or even 50% more than the locals is something to be expected when you dont know what the market price is. What we are talking about is being played like a fool it is not the amount of money that matters (at least most of the time). Being charged for something that doesnt materialise, paying ten times the real price, giving to a fake charity thats being ripped off.
Rule number one never be rushed. If there is one thing that con and rip off artists know, it is that if their prey is given enough time they will see through their scam. Thats why it is normally just minutes after you have been ripped off that you cop onto it. Always take your time with your decisions, there is rarely a need hand over money that instant, regardless of how frantic the person you are talking to is. In the developing world nothing ever happens in a hurry anyway, relax, take your time, hours or even days if needs be.
Rule number two do what the local people do. This is a good general rule when it comes to just about anything. From food to clothes, you are just about always better off and safer doing what the locals do rather than going to somewhere that caters for travellers. When it comes to rip-offs, if a bus conductor is asking you for money but not asking any of the locals, then it is a rip off. Bear in mind though that some places, like India, have a rip off culture and the locals get ripped as well.
Rule number three this one may seem a little harsh, but dont believe anyone until the evidence strongly weighs in on their side. If a taxi driver tells you that your hotel has burnt down in a fire, dont believe him. Insist on going to see the smoking wreckage for yourself.
Rule number four be informed. It is very difficult to rip someone off who knows what the real price of something should be. Before arriving somewhere ask other travellers what they paid for various services. Ask your hotel for the correct taxi fares to places etc. Dont be surprised or put out if you cant negotiate the price down to what the locals pay. As long as youre in roughly the same ballpark youre doing ok.
What follows are accounts of the four times to date (18/8/02) that we have been ripped off.
Rip Off 1
What we did wrong We were not informed, we should have known what the correct fare was (300R). Also we were not alert enough having just finished 14 hours of travel.
Rip off Two
What we did wrong We were rushed. Also there were plenty of Indian people on the street, in a rich part of town. Why werent they being targeted for a local charity?
Rip off Three
What I did wrong I didnt do the maths. I knew the rate and should have calculated how much money to expect.
Rip off Four
What we did wrong We were rushed.
Also the conductor only asked us for the fare, none of the locals. We
should have waited for someone else to pay and followed suit.