Home Travel How to avoid sun scams – from scamming taxis, exchange rate disadvantages and that LOVELY waiter who can’t be trusted, what to do when you land on holiday

How to avoid sun scams – from scamming taxis, exchange rate disadvantages and that LOVELY waiter who can’t be trusted, what to do when you land on holiday

0 comment
How to avoid sun scams - from scamming taxis, exchange rate disadvantages and that LOVELY waiter who can't be trusted, what to do when you land on holiday

You may feel like it’s time to relax when you’ve booked your holiday, having managed to avoid the ever-increasing glut of fake online deals, fake tour operators and flight payment scams.

But once you’ve arrived, you should still be on guard against a variety of old-fashioned confidence tricks designed to separate you and your hard-earned money.

Having visited 157 countries in the last 20 years, I’ve faced almost every travel hustle under the sun, and even had trouble with them once or twice.

These are some of the most common ones to pay attention to.

Airport taxi scammers

Incredibly, many major airports, such as Istanbul and Auckland, do not have direct rail connections to the city centre.

Taxi drivers know that you are tired and just want to get to your accommodation, and that it is very likely that you have not calculated the exchange rate yet. The result? Crazy rates.


  • Never lose sight of your credit/debit card, it could be cloned.
  • Beware of fake parties on social networks. Instead, use companies connected to reputable groups such as ABTA and AITO, with an ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) if flights are included.
  • Beware of prices that seem low, but not ridiculous, sold through unknown websites.
  • If there is high availability at peak times, be careful.
  • Avoid companies that require payment by bank transfer.
  • Never click through to a third-party website via email or text message.
  • Be careful with online reviews. Be suspicious of a small number of glowing reviews.
  • When booking tickets for an attraction, always check the official website.

The solution: first, know the exchange rate; see xe.com.

Then book your taxi in advance. This can be easily done now thanks to a new wave of companies, such as Welcome Pickups (welcomepickups.com) or Taxi2airport (taxi2airport.com), two of the most reputable companies with reasonable rates. Drivers will meet you at the arrivals hall.

Restaurant extras

That charming waiter who waved you in from the street didn’t tell you about the cabaret show happening later on a far corner, and there’s a charge for that. He also informed him that the ‘catch of the day’ will leave him with a staggering bill.

The solution: as for live music, look for a stage, no matter how small, or if there are street musicians nearby, since there is a possibility that they will stop by, paying a commission to the diner. When in doubt, choose the smaller restaurant on the main street.

In seafood restaurants, simply never order the “catch of the day” until the waiter has told you the price and shown you a menu.

Useless tour guides.

You’ve paid for an “experience” that doesn’t deliver as promised, and maybe even had to pay admission to attractions you thought were included. Or your route has been little more than a succession of horrible souvenir shops.

The solution: Do your research by checking Trustpilot and Tripadvisor ratings, and be sure to scroll down a few pages as the former may be placed by the owner.

If it is too late and you are already on a useless tour, never leave early as it will be very unlikely that you will be refunded. Grit your teeth and complain immediately afterwards.

Beware of camera thieves

This one is nothing fancy: a friendly local volunteers to take a photo for you or your group. However, your new acquaintance runs out with your phone/camera.

The solution: If someone offers to take your photo, politely decline. However, if you want a photo, use your instincts to know who to ask. It’s best to wait until a parent arrives with a child and doesn’t seem too busy.

Unreliable car rental companies

You are charged for causing damage to the vehicle but it was already there when you rented the car. It’s your word against theirs.

The solution: Never stop walking around the rental car taking photos of the interior and exterior before driving away. This is proof that, for example, the drinks stain on the back seat was already there before you set foot inside.

Disadvantages of the exchange rate

Everyone knows that hotel reception desks offer dismal exchange rates. But surely a (seemingly) reputable airport currency exchange service can’t be that bad? Do the math after you’ve exchanged your vacation money and you might be in for a pretty nasty surprise.

The solution: Using an ATM just once to withdraw holiday cash is highly unlikely to cost you more than four or five pounds, although the ones in airport arrivals halls almost always have a charge higher. Better yet, change your money before you leave. You can usually get decent rates at the Post Office.

Safety on the streets

Pickpockets or robbers use distraction techniques in busy tourist areas. Be careful if they ask you for change, the time or directions to a place. Keep an eye out for criminals working in small groups: two will distract you while another opens your backpack.

The solution: don’t carry a backpack in front of you instead of behind, it makes you look more vulnerable and gives the idea that you are carrying things that are really worth stealing. Also, if you find yourself in questionable locations, always have a decoy wallet with enough cash to satisfy a mugger. Give him this instead of your actual wallet, which should be in an inside pocket. If you’ve been wearing a T-shirt for a while, don’t feel silly putting cash inside your socks.

‘Can you sponsor me?’

Someone approaches you with a pen and paper to sign a sponsorship form and give you cash for a school, hospital, or similar.

The Solution: Most of these approaches are scams. If a refusal results in perseverance, ask where the school/hospital/whatever is so you can give the money in person. This will usually discourage them.


RURAL CHINA: Explore the nature and rich cultural history of northern China on a 12-day trip, now £744pp, departing 10 July. Stops include the Great Wall and Shanghai (intrepidtravel.com).

ITALIAN ROMANCE: Enjoy three nights’ bed and breakfast at the Hotel Nazionale in Rome, from £595 per person for two people sharing. Includes flights and transfers to Gatwick, departing on January 10, 2025 (citalia.com).

SPANISH SPLENDOR: A week’s stay in Benalmádena costs £1,487 for a villa with sea views, a large pool and five bedrooms for up to ten people, arriving on June 15 (solmarvillas.com).

ADRIATIC ADVENTURE: Ten days on the MS Oosterdam cruise from Rome calling at Portofino, Naples, Dubrovnik and Piraeus costs from £749 per person all-inclusive. Includes up to $150 (£118) to spend on board (hollandamerica.com).

Laura Sharman

You may also like