common tourist scams

20 Common Tourist Scams – As Described By Locals

While tourist scams have been around for decades, they are always changing and evolving and were here to keep you up to date.

As much as traveling to a new country can be exciting or thrilling, it’s very important not to become too comfortable or complacent – you should always be aware of your surroundings.

Even the most experienced travelers fall victim to clever scams or tourist traps, no matter how careful they may be.

Luckily we came across a few threads on Reddit where locals from certain countries describe common scams that some tourists may not be aware of.

Three users asked the simple question (Roh-Da-ProtenbatsujustthatguyTy) of what are the most common scams tourists fall for? We’ve compiled the most interesting ones into a list for you – so you can be on guard next time you travel.


I was studying abroad in Switzerland and a few of my roommates and I took a weekend trip to Milan. One of the street vendors put one of those braided bracelets on my wrist while I wasn’t looking. They were slick. I barely even felt it and didn’t turn to see it until it was already tied and it was on there tight so I couldn’t just pull it off on the spot. Of course he wanted me to pay him for his goods and services. Cue my male, Scandinavian (I’m female and American) roommates absolutely screaming at the dude in my defense before I could even get a bearing on what was going on. They were normally so mild mannered that I was completely taken aback by their sudden aggression. Made a point to always travel with these guys from that point forward.



Fucking Gypsies. They got me at the holocaust memorial in Berlin, they pretended to be mute and asking for money, by the time i realized what was happening i had given them 20 euros and they swarmed me. Luckily they were all 4 feet tall, so 6.2 me just walked through them. I’m not as angry about loosing 20 euros as i am the way they used the memorial, exploiting a mass genocide that they were victims of for profit. It Pissed me off quite a bit.

Scrawny Cheeath


In the Netherlands homeless shelters are free nowadays. The homeless people who tell you they need 80 cents for a place to sleep are lying. It used to cost a total of 4 euro per night, but it doesn’t anymore. Those who tell you they can’t get welfare because they don’t have a permanent address are lying as well: they get welfare via an ingenious system of P.O.boxes set up by the state and cities.
I honestly don’t mind people asking me for money, but I hate it when they lie about the reasons for doing so.

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I was walking with some friends down the main stretch in Rio de Janeiro when I looked down and saw some white goop on one of my black shoes. I knew it hadn’t been there when I left the hotel, and I hadn’t ordered any new-age bunkum from Gwyneth Paltrow, so I thought it might just be bird crap. But no sooner did I look up than this frowzy old man with a dirt-caked rag offered to clean it for me. I noped the hell out of there, and to this day I don’t know if he was after my wallet, my shoes, or my kidneys. It turned out to be toothpaste, by the way.



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I had a cab at LIN airport in Milan to take me downtown. I’ve done this like 20 times and no its around 50 euro. Driver decides to take me around town in circles to various hookers and start screaming at them when I didn’t want to buy their services. Ended up costing like 90 euro, then tried to be like “night fee extra 50 %”. Told him to give me a receipt since I billed the taxi ride to the state owned oil company….. which made him upset. I got my money back and my receipt had a crude drawing of a stripper with comical boobs and said “Titty Titty Bang Bang” on it



I’ve lived in China for 9 months. A scam that I’ve heard about in larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai is that a student-aged person will come up to you and ask to practice their English. The supposed English practice will end up in a real tea/coffee house, where they will ask you to pay for said tea/coffee because they are a poor student. The tea/coffee is invariably ridiculously overpriced, which a tourist wouldn’t know about. “Student” and shop get a nice payout.

Someone tried this with me while I was in Beijing last month. After telling them I’d lived in China for awhile. I knew what was going on and had some fun. Played along until getting to the tea shop and looking at the menu, then said (in Chinese) “this tea is too expensive!!!” and walked away giggling.



Thailand. They put water soluble paint on the bottom of the jet skis the tourists hire. It looks fine when you pick it up but then the paint comes off when your using it revealingly a bunch of scratches on the hull. When you return it they point to all the scratches, say you must have run over something, and keep your deposit. The bottom gets painted again and they wait for the next pasty white sucker.

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Don’t mistake this for racism, please. In Japan, if you go to the Roppongi area of Tokyo then don’t shake hands with the black guys who stand around trying to talk to people. Japan’s society is so homogeneous (roughly 90% Japanese, 5% Chinese, 3% Korean) so you’ll see them easily and almost every single black man who puts his hand out for you to shake is trying to get you to go to his really cool secret club that he knows about. The thing is, once you shake his hand he will not let go. He will grip you tightly and forcibly pull you into a bar while smiling and making nice so it doesn’t draw any attention. Once you get in, you’ll see a menu of affordable drinks and pay a not-too-bad “seating charge” which you’ll think is the hidden charge. But no. The actual hidden charge is the “leaving fee”. If you want to leave the club you’ll need to hand over an extortionate amount of money, or they’ll call the police who are not kind to foreigners in that particular area.

TL;DR beware of black men (usually Nigerian) in Roppongi, Tokyo. Also noracist.



Don’t buy the bottled water, unless you just need the bottle to fill it up as often as you like with all the wonderfully cold, safe and free water running from the taps.


United Kingdom

UK. If you ever visit London via heathrow, don’t take the “heathrow express”. It’s a massive rip off: the normal tube (underground), which also runs to the airport is about 1/10th of the price, and only a couple minutes slower. In fact, it’s faster if you’re going to central / east London.



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There is a fairly big problem in Vietnam (where I live, but not where I am from) with scooter or motorbike drivers snatching handbags, cameras, phones, etc) from people walking along the sidewalks or pavements. In my first week living in the country I was going out for dinner and had a lovely golden colored handbag with my passport, wallet, and first months rent inside. It was a small bag and I just had it on my shoulder while we walked. The mistake I made (because NO ONE had told me) was that I had it on the road side shoulder. Some biker just swerved onto the sidewalk, ripped it off me, and swerved back onto the road – before I had a chance to say a thing. The people that were walking with me didn’t even notice until after. It hurt my shoulder, and I lost my money, passport and the lovely bag, which matched my sandals. Bastard. After that I just remembered to always carry my bag on the inside.


New Orleans

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I’m American, but not from New Orleans. There is a scam where someone bets you they know where you got your shoes. If you agree, they will tell you “You got em on your feet”. It’s my favorite scam I’ve seen.



I was in Chicago, I was 25 but I’ve always looked younger than I am. I was with an 18 year old acquaintance, walking to the train station. Had a “homeless” guy start following us and talking about random buildings and such. We got to the train station and he tried to charge us for his “tour”. I told him to fuck off. He was not happy.


United Kingdom

I’m from the UK. For god’s sake make sure you understand how the currency conversion from your country to ours works. I knew a guy who visited here and paid £90 for a short taxi ride all because the taxi driver took advantage of his ignorance in said situation. I can see this being similar across many countries but there are people out there who’ll bet on you lacking knowledge in the money department; do your research, don’t let them.

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When I was 18 I went to Mexico. One night I went out to the clubs and proceeded to get really drunk. After I left the club, I had to piss really bad so I went to what I thought was a private area and let loose on a wall. After I was done, I turned around and am greeted by some policia. I apologize in Spanish then take out my wallet and hand them all the cash ($21 US) while saying “No policia.” They give me back the $1 bill and I quickly walk away. It kinda sucked because that was my cab fare back to the hotel. For most of the rest of the night I was drunkenly walking around the hotel strip trying to find my hotel until a very nice cab driver picked me up and drove me back to the hotel even after I told him that I didn’t have any money on me but would pay him when I got back to the hotel. I paid him and learned a valuable lesson: Mexican police can be bribed.



Not from Italy, but many restaurants will charge you for bread unless you explicitly decline it and wave it away. I had no idea this was common until our table ate 4 or 5 pieces of bread between us while waiting for meals and got charged like $12.



Drop bears in Australia. People will tell you they will drop on you from anywhere and eat you but that’s not true. They prefer to live in evergreen trees so if you are in a forest of deciduous trees, you should be safe.



In Brazil, some criminals run this pretty subtle scam. If you have your phone out they put a gun in your face and take the phone. Here’s where it gets a little more technical. If they also hear you speaking English, or speaking Portuguese with an American accent, they put a gun in your face, throw you in a car, and keep you locked up in a favela until your family gives them tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. The amount they ask for will depend on how nice your watch is.


Tourist Scams Summary

Tourist scams are a persistent issue and can occur anywhere in the world. It’s essential to stay aware and informed about the common scams that exist in the places you visit.

By doing so, you can avoid falling victim to them and enjoy your travels without worrying. This article provides an overview of the scams reported by tourists from different countries such as Italy, Berlin, Netherlands, Brazil, China, and Thailand.

Whether you’re an experienced traveler or visiting a new place for the first time, being informed is the best defense against tourist scams

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