Scamming Tourists

Today, CNN published this interesting article “10 popular travel scams around the world.” It lists 10 cities around the world and their most popular scam that you may encounter while supposedly having fun. The article also gives some suggestions of how not to be scammed.

I found the camel riding scam in Egypt to be somehow funny:

… Often, there are trainers standing by to coax the eight-foot-tall, 1,500-pound animals [camels] to lie down passively in preparation for riding. Once you’ve paid your $15 and mounted the beast, though, some touts will insist that you pay again to disembark and hold you hostage on the hump until you do.

And what man wouldn’t be distracted by an olive skin beautiful Italian woman? Not fair Italian scammers, not fair! You don’t even need the fake baby for distraction unless your victim is a woman:

… Rome is home to the infamous "fake baby" ruse, which sees a woman trip and throw a bundled doll into your arms, or just drop it on the ground, in an attempt to draw your attention away from pickpockets, often children, nicking your wallet or making away with your camera bag.

Of course scams in the US are usually all about credit cards:

… Guests in hotels around Disney World have been finding pizza delivery menus conveniently slipped under their doors, but place an order — and make the mistake of giving your credit card number — and you’ll really pay. The phone number isn’t connected to a pizza parlor but to identity thieves.


… An increasingly common scam involves hotel guests who receive a phone call in the middle of the night from someone claiming to work at the front desk. There’s been a problem with your credit card, they say. Could you read the number back one more time? The scammers are banking you’ll do something while half-asleep that you never should — give out credit card info by phone.

A Saudi friend told me he was scammed by a taxi driver in Jordan when he found that he paid 15 JD (21 USD) for the fair instead of 1.5 JD (2 USD). My friend misread the meter but the driver didn’t bother to correct him.

Have you been to Jordan or other Arab countries and been scammed or heard a scam story? What happened?

If you are a non-Arab who is planning to visit an Arab country or already visited one what measures you take to not be scammed? Do you not leave the bus tour, befriend a local or just try your luck?

Speaking of scams, what advice would you give to someone who is planning to visit an Arab country? Are there any precautious measures that someone can take to not be scammed?


6 thoughts on “Scamming Tourists

  1. Great topic! I think generally when traveling one has to be careful of the “too great to be true” deal.

    In Mexico reputable tour guides warn of scams involving the purchase of vacation properties.

    I haven’t been scammed in Morocco, but I am most often with family.

    I once went to an Yves Rocher (French chain of beauty boutiques) to buy a nail polish. The price wasn’t marked and when I asked, the shop assistant had to go ask her boss, then came back with a very high price. When i questioned it, she talked about the exchange rate, price of importation, etc. I told her the French price and calculated the price in dirhams which even allowing for importation was far lower than the price she gave me. I was going to leave it when she said she would give me a free application of the nail polish (essentially a manicure). The price of the manicure was listed, and together with the normal price of the nail polish made the total she had quoted me. I decided to have the manicure and buy the polish. Later I double checked with my SILs and I had been right about the proper cost of the nail polish in Morocco. They were more upset about the incident than I was.

    Another time I was buying tickets to a museum for my SIL and myself. She was waiting out of sight and when I asked for 2 tickets the seller charged me 2 regular fees, whereas Moroccans get a reduced rate. I noticed there error but I didn’t bother to correct it. One BIL (by marriage) takes delight in thinking I was ripped off. Hmmmm.

    So, normal caution and honest mistakes would summarize my experience.

    Oh, and I recognize that I am “walking inflation” for all starting prices for haggling, and stay out of sight whenever possible before and during a “transaction”. 😀

    I also think one should be open to the idea of honest misunderstandings.

    1. Thanks for sharing. I wish there is an enforced law in MENA countries to put price tags on goods. I think this a real problem when shopping not just for tourists but for locals as well.
      It seems women in general are much better hagglers than men. Don’t you think so? I have seen it a lot in Jordan and Syria. Male shoppers for some reason don’t haggle or are very bad at it, including my self. The merchant can read my face at once if I am very interested to buy something, I don’t have a poker face 🙂

      1. I agree that women are better hagglers than men in general. I am not very good at it unless I really don’t care about the item. Women generally know prices and quality and have to balance the household budget so they are more experienced. They are also more motivated to save on one item to buy another one without the family wage earner blowing up. I have heard Arab men praise the haggling abilities of their mother and hope their bride will show the same skill.

        There is a cultural component in that those of us raised where there are fixed ticketed prices are taught to watch and wait for sales.

  2. Ah! If the front desk called me in the middle of the night to ask for credit card information, I’d be more likely to ask why in the world this couldn’t wait until morning than go find my card and read them my number again! 😀

    When we were in Syria, we had a local with us nearly the whole time. He took care of us so we wouldn’t be ripped off by anyone.

    Funny about the person being held hostage on the back of a camel! Actually I’d be irritated…and maybe sit up there all day just to prove my point. Plus the guy couldn’t make money taking other tourists out if I were occupying his camel. Hehehe.

    1. Accompanied by a local with I guess is the best way to enjoy your trip. It is very helpful since a local know the place very well and how to spend less for getting from one place to another.

      Proving a point by sitting on the camel for a whole day prove my point to Chiara, read above, that women are better hagglers than men 🙂

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