Don’t fall for these travel mistakes – like I did

I’ve been had, but at least only my pride was injured.

Don’t fall for these rip-offs

Even moderately experienced and normally intelligent travellers have their weak moments. I’m prepared to confess to two in recent times. I don’t doubt you’ll think I’m stupid, but it may drive home the possible dangers of a ‘weak moment’.

I’d landed in New York after flights from Melbourne and Los Angeles, tired but elated. I’d planned to find a regular Uber ride to East Village but was overwhelmed by the chaos, ended up in a private Uber without checking the price, and paid about $US100 over the odds. I’d realised my mistake soon after getting into the vehicle, but then just prayed I would end up at the right destination with bags intact. At least my stupidity only cost me money. I’ll never make that mistake again. I hope.

Years earlier in Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, eight of us jumped into two taxis without negotiating a price. Again, my cab driver wanted about 10 times a fair price, locked my son in the car and was starting to drive away with him. We paid. Stupid us. Maybe I should just holiday in Oz.

So, notes to self.

1. Prepare your transfer plans from arrival to lodgings in advance – and stick to them
If the travel time was long, you’ll be tired and probably not thinking straight. You may be stressed. Females will look like particularly attractive game. Remind yourself of your research, which should have given you a ballpark figure as to the price of private transport or where to catch a train or bus. Ask at an information desk if you need further guidance. Don’t be drawn into conversations from drivers offering ‘quicker and easier’ ways to get to your destination.

2. If you don’t want it, don’t buy it
The pressure to buy can be enormous: a never-to-be-repeated price, a charming salesperson. You may have been taken into the carpet factory by your tour guide and sat watching an elderly woman deftly tie knot after knot – as she has for decades. But do you really want a rug? Or a scarf? Picture the item back at home. Does it work? Has it been ethically produced from quality products? Again, be polite as you decide whether to accept the ‘amazing’ offer.

Alternatively, if you do want to buy, have you done your research and compared prices from different venues? Have you haggled hard enough? There’s nothing quite like leaving a store to induce a dramatic price drop. Have fun, but also be kind.

3. Be sure about your currency conversions
There are enough good apps available now that you should not be guessing the price of goods in Australian dollars. Doing the maths on Vietnamese dong (16,608 to one Australian dollar) or on Laotian kip (6076 to a dollar) can test even the most agile mathematicians.

4. Don’t be hurried
One of the surest ways to be ‘had’ is bowing to pressure, allowing yourself to be rushed. Whether it’s the tout at the airport, the super salesman, a car hire firm with a great deal, take your time. And research is key. At the very least, have a vague idea of what something should cost before you commit. Be careful who you ask for advice.

5. Beware visa scams
I’ve been there and done this one, too. I ordered an online visa before a trip to Cambodia. It never arrived and no amount of correspondence yielded a refund. The Consulate General of India warned late last year that fake visa websites were operating on the internet and claiming to provide e-Tourist Visa services to visa applicants desiring to travel to India. Of course, they looked authentic.

The Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website says you should only ever apply for visas with “links or organisations recommended by the diplomatic or consular mission of the country you are going to visit”.

Have you been ripped off on your travels? Or are you a master researcher?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    5th Nov 2018
    Airport scams in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) are legendary - we met some young lads from Perth once who had paid a massive 20 times the normal price without even realising they'd been conned - to the extent that the gov't now runs a bright yellow airport bus (#109) into District 1 tourist area for the equivalent of about $2 and with plenty of space for baggage. There's also a bright yellow #49 bus from the airport into the city which costs slightly more ($3) but stops at hotels along the way. There's also the blue #152 public bus (30 cents) but that stops everywhere and doesn't have dedicated luggage space so you might find yourself being charged double(!) to include the space your bags are using.
    The airport bus stop is clearly marked outside arrivals - and don't listen to the taxi touts who tell you 'the last bus has gone for the day' - both yellow airport buses operate every 15 mins or so between 5.30 am and 1.30 am.
    5th Nov 2018
    Oops, that should begin, "Airport taxi scams in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)...".
    And last para, "The airport bus stop is clearly marked outside the Arrivals Hall...".
    5th Nov 2018
    "If the travel time was long, you’ll be tired and probably not thinking straight". - Given the flight time of at least 12 and a half hours from Oz to the US, that is very predictable. As part of your travel plans you are able to check out the prices of a taxi from many points of A to B, especially in the US, and also what free shuttles are running to and from your hotel. This is more due to a lack of planning rather than a 'weak moment'.
    Yeah, right!
    5th Nov 2018
    Just back from Sicily. Rest assured everyone the home of the Italian Mafia lives.

    1. In some towns local resident parking is set down for all tourist areas. Local residents and the tow truck operator work together to split towing fees by removing signage (its easy with a spanner) calling the towie who comes and removes your vehicle. Then the resident puts the signage back - yep I was court but the next day I videoed it, took it to the police and got a shoulder shrug.

    2. MOST tourist seafood restaurants have a scam for replacing fish on the menu. They offer a really cheap special dish of the day at a reasonable price (in our case one at 10 euro and one at 12 euro). They took our order but the CHEF (with cap) came back 5 minutes and apologised that they had run out of the special. But he could do the same thing with another fish, just as good he promised. Unfortunately the price of this wasn't forthcoming even though we asked (non capisco). When we got the bill, we understood why - from 10 and 12 euro each it went to 20 and 60 euro each.

    STAY OUT OF SICILY, it's a garbage dump anyway!
    5th Nov 2018
    I am just back from Sicily also.
    Cant imagine why you would even think about driving there. Its a total madhouse.
    As for the fish scam, you should have probably gone to a restaurant that specislised in Sicilian food and you would have done much better. Caveat emptor (buyer beware).
    Yes the Mafia are there but fairly low profile.
    Should add I was on a very well organised (Italian based) tour which was headed by a History professor. Had a fantastic time and missed all the queues.
    If you think Sicily was a garbage dump, just look around a lot of Asian cities.
    5th Nov 2018
    I have just been ripped of when applying for an eTa visa to visit Canada. Google search brought up several sites which look like official Canadin Govt sites to apply for the visa. My credit card was charged $140 and I believe the actual fee is $7. Went ba k to the site and read the fine print. They " assist" with tourist applications and there is no recourse to get a refund. Found that most of the sites in Google search were similar companies. Beware!!
    5th Nov 2018
    It it was a con can't you write to your bank and cancel the transaction? I've cancelled a couple of Visa transactions because they turned out to be shonky.
    5th Nov 2018
    I have travelled a lot and usually find that a reputable travel agent will nearly always equal or better any deal found on the net especially for overseas. They will also point you to the correct site to obtain visas so you will not be out of pocket. Also go on forums and ask questions, read reviews on sites like trip advisor, do your homework methodically and painstakingly detailed and you should enjoy your trip instead of being stressed out. Start 6 or so months before you go, or if you see a really good deal for a trip with an included air fare, go for that. We found earlier this year a 14 night two river cruise in France with business air fare for $999 with Qatar, snd we built a holiday round that. Fantastic deal. Look for bargains they are there.
    5th Nov 2018
    TRISS. The problem is that they did arrange the eTa visa so I got what they promised. Their terms and conditions spelled out their no cancellationd policy. My fault for assuming they were the Canadian Govt site and not reading ALL The fine print
    Ted Wards
    6th Nov 2018
    I learned a lesson from a seasoned traveller, always have your airport transfers pre-booked, no matter where you are going in the world. I have always done that and have never been caught out. I use reputable companies and the price is agreed on before I ever leave home. We do it for accommodation and tickets, why not transport?

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