Traveling internationally is an unforgettable experience that allows you to explore the world outside of your native country. Every year, millions of people travel to exotic destinations to experience amazing weather, world-renowned historical sites, and discover different cultures.
Unfortunately, wherever tourists flock is where tourist traps present themselves. Businesses in high-traffic tourist destinations can often take advantage of travelers’ lack of knowledge of the customs by overcharging them for services. These business owners have perfected the art of conning innocent travelers, and are so sneaky in doing so that most visitors usually wouldn’t notice. It isn’t just local business people that are trying to make a bigger buck off of travellers, though. There is plenty to keep an eye out for so that you don’t get ripped off while traveling.
Here are some tips on how to avoid getting ripped off the next time that you embark on a travel adventure.
- Debit Card Fees
One of the simplest ways to spend your money abroad is to use your bank debit card. It’s more convenient than carrying around a wallet full of cash, not to mention a lot safer. However, if you bank with prominent card companies like Visa or MasterCard, you will typically be charged 3 percent of the cost of any purchase made in a foreign country. ATM withdrawals abroad are also expensive. For every withdrawal you make in a foreign country, you will be charged around $5 just for withdrawing your money, on top of the regular ATM charge.
So, although using a debit card while traveling is the safer option, it is also more expensive. It is recommended to use cash instead.
- Know The Exchange Rate
If you want to avoid hefty bank card fees, the best thing to do is carry a generous amount of cash with you to your travel destination. Once you’ve arrived, you will need to exchange your money into local currency, but beware of crooked currency exchange dealers! They will often target travelers who are unaware of the exchange rate.
To avoid getting scammed, it’s advised to research online reviews of the currency exchange dealer to verify their legitimacy. It is also wise to exchange your money while you are in the US before you leave for vacation.
- SIM Cards
Cell phones are a key tool to use while traveling, but using your local data plan in a foreign country would be incredibly expensive. The good news is that most international airports sell SIM cards that can be used temporarily for travel purposes. The downside is that these SIM cards are offered at sky-high prices, as they’re marketed towards visitors who aren’t up-to-date with local prices.
If you want to make sure that you’re being charged fairly, buy from well-known telecom companies that are trusted by locals. You can also reduce your cellular service by depending on free texting and calling apps that connect you with anyone, anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection.
- Taxi Scams
Depending on where you travel to, taxi services may be relatively unregulated and you may get scammed. If you’re considering using a taxi to get around while you’re abroad, keep in mind that taxi drivers may charge you as much as 10x the local taxi rate, particularly around airports. It’s recommended to do your research on taxi fares prior to arriving at your destination so that you’ll be able to identify a scam if you come across one. Or if you want to play it safe, use apps like Uber or Lyft to get around.
- Know Where To Stay
Overseas, hotels are generally pretty inexpensive. It’s pretty common for high quality hotels to go for less than $20 per night. However, the majority of well-known international hotel chains will often charge the same price in one of their foreign locations as they would in charge in one of their North American locations.
Don’t overpay for your stay just for a brand name. Research the best hotel reviews in the area that you will be staying, and find a hotel company that offers competitive rates. Also, depending on where you are, it may be possible to haggle the price with the owner, especially if you plan on staying for a week or longer.
One of the best parts about traveling is experimenting with the local gourmet cuisine. It’s a great way to acquaint yourself with a culture, and is generally quite cheap.
However, you will always find that certain restaurants are placed in the middle of heavily touristic areas in order to attract foreign visitors. These businesses will often charge travelers rates that they are used to paying back home. One tell-tale sign of a good restaurant is to take a look at the diners: if it’s mainly locals are eating there, it’s probably a good spot.
- Tipping For Service
In Western society, tipping is a customary gesture that comes along with paying for a service or product. In many other parts of the world, this is not the case. Depending on where you are, businesses that expect tips in Western nations charge higher rates instead of requesting gratuities.
To get a better idea of how much you should be paying, do some research on the tipping customs. If you’re not sure if you need to tip, asking other travelers if they are tipping could be a good way to find out.
Protect Yourself & Stay Alert
The number one thing to be aware of is the omnipresence of tourist traps and scams, wherever your international travel destination may be. Always remember that each country and region has its own set of customs and different sorts of crime, so it’s a good idea to do your research on what to look out for before you leave for your trip.