All of us want or need to travel from time to time, and there is plenty to think about before showing that boarding pass at the airport gate. You’ve written a detailed itinerary, got your visa and your vaccinations, arranged for your mobile to work overseas, and even packed your inflatable travel pillow.
But it’s all too easy to think you’ve dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’ without giving much thought at all to arguably the most important consideration when it comes to international travel – how to avoid being ripped off.
Because you’re venturing out of your comfort zone and into foreign and unfamiliar lands, it’s all too easy to step on a landmine or three laid by people who are actively trying to scam you.
Often, it’s the people and organizations you suspect the least that are trying to rip you off the most, so here’s what to watch out for:
1. Ridiculous Exchange Rates
It’s amazing how many international travelers wait until they’re at the airport before thinking about picking up the foreign currency they’ll need when they get to their destination.
And believe it or not, the banks are not much better. So to get the best deals, you’ll have to do a little more digging.
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2. Huge Card Fees
If you think your existing credit or debit card is perfectly fine to use overseas just because it’s technically good for ‘international’ transactions, it’s time to look a little more closely than that.
Just about all the major cards you use today charge hefty fees on every single transaction once you start using it overseas. This is then likely to be layered with even more fees once you start trying to pull cash from an international ATM.
And if you’re then using that credit card to turn into actual cash overseas, you’ll then be paying high interest on cash credit and be getting charged ridiculous money exchange rates to convert Australian to local currency.
In short, it potentially layers upon layer upon layer of fees – so think about a better option for your money abroad.
3. Bad Travel Insurance
Most people who travel abroad get at least some travel insurance. But some people make the mistake of thinking ‘any’ travel insurance will do.
If you don’t have the right cover that protects you in every country and in every circumstance, you could be left incredibly exposed. Imagine being stuck in a medical emergency and having to foot a massive bill or being denied treatment altogether.
Imagine being caught in legal trouble without access to advice or a lawyer. Or imagine losing your wallet, phone, laptop or passport and having nothing in reserve to get you out of trouble.
4. The Traps of Local Culture
Because we’re immersed in it, we can take for granted the nuances of our own culture. While there are scammers everywhere, you really can get caught out once you’re swimming in unfamiliar waters.
For instance, from the moment you step off the plane, you need to be wary of the intentions of everyone who is trying to help you. In some countries, you’ll get offered a service – food, transport, goods – that seems like a great deal or even free, only to be caught out later.
So do some research before you touch down. Will you need to arrange a taxi price before the journeys begin? Are you in a country where you are not expected to accept the first price that is quoted to you? Are you always going to double-check rather than simply trust you are getting the right change?
Knowing a little something about your destination is an easy way to avoid being ripped off.
5. Cold Hard Theft
Likewise, you may discover quite quickly that the crime rate in your destination country is not what you’re used to.
Often, locals out to rob you will spot a tourist from a mile away, so do your best to look as relaxed, confident and ‘normal’ as possible and try to fit in. Avoid flashing your fancy iPhone X, consider putting your wallet in your front pocket, and if worse comes to worse and you’re robbed, have as little cold hard cash and expensive jewelry on you as possible.
No matter why you’re going abroad, your travels should be as relaxing, functional and enjoyable as possible.
The worst case scenario is heading away on an overseas adventure only to have your trip and your personal finances ruined by a plethora of traps, tricks, and scammers.
Do your homework and read some online reviews to arm yourself with knowledge and protection, and say ‘Bon Voyage’ with confidence.