Scams - The Advanced Course

Scammers are ultimately people preying on your ignorance for their own benefit. You don't want to spend your holidays wary of everyone and everything around you – travel is after all, an opportunity to try new things.  However, even for experienced travellers, sorting out what you see and hear from reality can be tricky.

If you've already read Travel Scams 101, here's more food for thought.


A skinny child in ragged clothing or a mother with a crying baby asks you for money.  There might be a heart-wrenching story or big sad eyes quietly burning into your guilty soul.  Face to face experience with a beggar can be one of the most challenging aspects of travel.  

The reality is that over a billion people in the world live on less than $1 a day and truly need your help.  Unfortunately however, begging is sometimes run as an organised business where kids are used as bait to tug your heartstrings and part with cash... which they'd be lucky to get a small slice of as most of it goes to a ringleader.

WorldNomads does advocate helping the world's most impoverished people (See our Footprints Program) – but make sure you're helping, not hindering.  Sharing your food or buying some fruit is the best way to make sure the kid's bellies get full

'Don't get me wrong, we all want to do something to help, something to make a difference to the world.. But, most people are too scared to look at poverty in the face' Gwen's amazing essay on her begging experiences in India.

Confusion tactics

This is a variation on the basic pickpocket scam.  Essentially, the method is to divert your attention away from your valuables and onto something else.  It could be anything from a crowd of gypsy kids jostling you, someone falling down, being covered with  tomato sauce, flattery from a group of sexy French men or having a cat thrown at you.  The trick here is to treat anything unusually diverting as a pickpocket attempt.

Paying too much

Now this really is in the super-advanced scam category because it can be be as simple as feeling ripped off when you don't know the local customs.  Or it can be aggressive behaviour that preys on fear or creates a genuine risk to your personal security.

When you arrive anywhere new, you are bound not to know what represents good value and what doesn't. Just go with the flow, accept that for the first day or two you'll 'lose' a bit of money on stuff and don't get stressed. Over the first few days you'll get experience with the local currency and then it isn't a problem anymore.

And accept this thought... you will always pay more than the locals do.

The Paying too much tactic can also be taken to extremes though -  a traveller is presented with an excessively high bill and physical violence is threatened if it's not paid.

The key is to find out the price before you buy, clarify what's included and what's not and pay up front if necessary.

' "NO WAY!", I say. "That's too much". I think to myself, I'm not getting ripped off on my first day. How dumb do I look?  We gave her $10 US dollars for 2 maps that were probably worth 10 cents. As we walked away the woman was punching the air and jumping for joy...'
Rosibud’s first day in Vietnam

What's your best travel scam story?

There are endless ways in which con artists will try and get you to part with your cash or belongings - and new scams come along all the time.  Leave us a comment about what happened to you...

And finally, whilst we offer tips for your safety, please be aware that you need to make decisions based on your own circumstances and the local laws and customs of the countries you will visit.

Pickpockets Love Tourists.