This blog post was updated on September 28, 2018.
Traveling around some of Europe’s biggest cities this past week, I have been on the lookout for tourist scams. Nothing makes me more angry than watching someone rip-off an innocent looking tourist. If you are traveling to Europe for the first time or you aren’t very experienced with big city scams on the continent, you can largely avoid them if you can recognize the scam when you are actually confronted. Here are four common travel scams to dodge in Europe.
The Train Ticket Scam: I recently witnessed the train ticket scam in Europe. I watched as a clueless couple of tourists paid a man for tickets and then hopped on the train. When the conductor came around to check on everyone’s tickets, he told them their tickets weren’t valid and they would have to pay a fine. In Italy, this fine can be hefty. Thieves often loiter around ticket machines, looking for tourists who look a little clueless. They might tell you that your train is leaving soon and they can sell you the tickets faster than the machines, even showing you a badge like they work for the train company or the station. Once you pay the right price for tickets, they often hand over counterfeit or invalid tickets.
Those preying on tourists at train stations might also come up with other ways to get your money. Some might offer to show you to your correct platform, help you validate your ticket or even assist with carrying your bags. They will then promptly demand some money.
The Inconsistent Price Quoting Scam: If you head into a café, restaurant or even a shop and don’t see any prices listed, you might be subject to yet another common travel scam in Europe, the inconsistent price quoting scam. Shop and restaurant owners will allow you to order and then quote whatever price they want you to pay. Also be careful not to get out your wallet and flash what bills you have. In Spain, I had a café owner take one look at the bill in my husband’s hand and say that the bill’s value was what we owed, despite seeming horribly overpriced.
The Parking Space Scam: I have encountered the parking space scam several times in Europe, from Italy to Portugal. A man flags you in to an open parking space, usually in a free lot or a space where you pay a machine. If you pull into the space, they might immediately demand money for helping you park or suggest you must pay them to park there. In some spots, this scam can go one step further. If you don’t pay, they could do damage to your car once you leave. It is best to avoid those spots where someone is trying to get you to park.
The Gift Scam: You are wide-eyed, loving Rome, wandering arm in arm with a special someone. A man or woman offers you a flower, even saying you can just have it. And then, their friend tries to pickpocket you. In general in Europe, one of the easiest ways to pickpocket a tourist is by trying to distract you by giving you something. While it would be nice to think they are just being kind, chances are it is a scam of some sort if someone wants to give you a gift.
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