Most travel agents and tour guides are reliable people – they rely on their reputation to gain them more business. But there are, of course, the bad apples who want to make a quick buck any way they can. Travel scams are part and parcel of the industry unfortunately and it was estimated that in 2015, these dodgy practices alone cost tourists $250 million USD.
The good news is that there are tell-tale signs to spot a travel scam from a mile away. If it smells like it, it usually is. The bad news is that not everyone can sniff them out, and sometimes, the over-excitement of being on holiday can often lead tourists to overlook certain things that can mean the difference between a great trip and ending up in a disreputable hotel with a huge credit card bill.
Always go with accredited and known travel agents, and never do any transactions online. Anyone who asks you for your credit card number or passport details over the phone should set your alarm bells ringing. Visit the offices of the travel agent, especially when you are making a large booking for several people. Be wary of agents whose standard answer to all your requests are “no problem!” Saying yes to everything you want is not a sign of a good agent, but a sign of someone who just wants your money.
Put everything on paper. Verbal agreements should not cut it and won’t work should it ever come to a police report. Whether it is an email or an agreement, always keep copies and receipts. Any agent who doesn’t issue paperwork or insists on cash for payment should be avoided like the plague.
Always ask for pictures of the hotel that you are going to stay in. You can usually trust the famous brands to deliver on quality, but if it is a hotel you have never heard of, do your research online and ask for pictures. Agents that do not have these on hand should also be avoided.
Due diligence is your weapon against the evils of would-be scammers scheming up ways to get your money. Never pay for anything extra that you do not really need and be resourceful on your own. It may be convenient to get the agent to arrange everything from airport pickups to hotel rooms but sometimes it is best to be a little more hands-on in the holiday planning.
There also have been recent AirBnB scams as well where tenants put up false information about themselves or their rooms and inflate their prices. Always do your homework, read reviews and do a little digging on the district you are going to stay in – it may save you from a horrendous experience.