How to get scammed in a foreign country
Scams, scammers and touts; I’ve met a few.
I see myself as quite a savvy traveller.
I’ve camped in a hire car in the southern states of the U.S, in trailer parks with loads of people lurking around looking for a buck when I could only offer them a Budweiser.
I’ve trusted a guy in Costa Rica to pick me up at 5:00am to drive 6 hours to my next destination in his 1878 Toyota Tarago.
I’ve paid a cab driver that knew no English to drive me from Montenegro to Croatia. He didn't mention a car ferry water crossing closely boarding ‘Taken-esque’ Albania.
I’ve told my tuk tuk driver in Bangkok that I work in a hotel so he doesn’t bother taking me past his friend’s very cheap tailor shop.
Point is I think I’ve seen enough of the world to pick a scam and feel like I can read a situation better than some.
The following is a guide to getting scammed whilst travelling.
The first introduction to travel scammery was when I was fresh.
And I mean fresssssh.
I watched my buddy take the ‘free’ hip hop CD from the young gents near Times Square, NYC.
A gratuity fee was then discussed in a somewhat intense fashion and my friend ended up coughing up USD$30.00.
We were dumb and had no idea about the world.
We freaked out about the $30.00 but it didn’t really matter once we’d had our seventeenth $10.00 beer at Yankee Stadium.
Years later I travelled to San Francisco for a long weekend.
It was my first time to the city and again, fressssssssh!
Two home boys roll up, one dropped to his knees pulled out a spray bottle of cleaning liquid, a rag and spat out some lines.
“I bet I can tell you where you got dem shoes at.”
Me thinking here we go.
“Alright man, what you got?”
He begins squirting cleaning agent onto my sneakers, cleaning them up.
“Aight. You got them sneaks on the corner of Sutter and Market Street, San Francisco, California, United States of America”
F%$k f%#k f#%k, I’ve been had.
I was then told I owed him $20.00.
$10.00 for his mind and $10.00 for the product.
His buddy then offered , “you jus got hustled baby”.
I felt like shit.
A valuable lesson learnt.
Fast forward a couple of years later. I spent a week or so in Vietnam for work.
I then zipped over to Cambodia for a week of discovery.
I landed in Siem Reap alone and found a driver who was more than willing to drive me to my hotel and be my tour guide for the next few days.
For a fee he offered to pick up my partner from the airport the following morning and take us to the Angkor temples.
After a bit of negotiation I was happy with the price and we had a deal.
The next day we went to the airport then checked out the temples.
Cambodia is hot.
HAF and I am not a temple guy.
My partner was suffering from heat stroke from her time in Malaysia so opted for the hotel room for a few hours.
I had a two beer buzz so was keen to get amongst.
Saroul, my driver, offered me an extra trip (for a fee) to visit the infamous Tonle Sap Lake floating village.
My experience in South East Asia is somewhat limited and I know people rave about floating villages. Why not?
“How much extra Saroul?”
USD$20.00 – sweet as.
I spent nothing in Vietnam for work.
I felt flush enough to keep cruising around in an air-conditioned sedan.
We arrived at the boat launching spot where tourists charter the long tail boats.
I figured I could just jump on with another group.
After a quick photo and $40.00 later I had my own long tail with a few Cambodian lads as my crew.
One English speaking gent told me about the river system, the floating village, the fisherman and other facts about simple Cambodian life.
My 2 beer buzz was now a 4 beer buzz. I was feeling good.
Putting along in a boat where the skipper monkey-foots a piece of rope underneath a bare motor which revs the engine to keep us moving. It was cool. I had this boat to myself.
The river opens up into a huge lake which connects most of the country and the Mekong river system.
This lake is amazing.
Schools, pig farms, floating veggie patches, homes and shops all make up the village.
My guide told me about floods the people face every year where a number of people die.
He pointed out a school of orphaned children he said we could visit on the way back.
We then putted around the various sights.
I white-boy’d a few pictures and selfies with the crew (5 beer buzz now).
We stopped in an empty part of the lake. The skipper cut the motor.
Allllright, WTF is happening here.
“What’s happening mate, we good?”
My guide tells me it’s a good time to reflect.
We were in the sun, my sobriety levels were on a massive decline and I was keen to get moving.
He said we should stop by the general store where I could buy some rice or noodles to donate to the orphan school on the way back.
No prob I thought.
A can of beer is 50 cents in this country, surely rice and noodles is somewhat cheaper.
We arrive at the floating general store.
A guy helps me into the store and I meet three other men.
Me and 6 Cambodian guys in the middle of a floating village, maybe 15 kilometres from an internet connection or phone.
“Thank you for coming. Rice is $1.00 per kilo. We have 50 kilogram bags or 70 kilogram bags.”
My running total of expenses in maybe the most affordable country in the world is adding up.
I had to remind myself it was for a good cause.
I offered $10.00 however the 6 deep local pressure got to me.
“You are from very rich country. We very poor.”
I parted with the $50.00, lugged the rice bag to the school and peaced out. I was pissed.
We got back to the dock.
My picture was taken as I got on the boat.
As I got off, a young girl plunged a souvenir plate with my picture in the middle in my face.
Another $10.00 gone.
I had to visit the ATM on the way back to the hotel to pay Saroul.
USD$40.00 – Saroul Taxi Airport and temple tour fee
USD$20.00 – Angkor Wat entry fee
USD$20.00 – Saroul Taxi Tonle Sap lake fee
USD$40.00 – Charter of Long Tail boat for Tonle Sap Lake
USD$50.00 – 50kg bag of rice
USD$10.00 – Decorative face plate
I had to remind myself to stop being a tight arse and be happy they I lived in a privileged country, had a good job and could afford life’s necessities.
I didn’t like being pressured into buying things but got over it.
Two days later I met another traveller who also did the long tail boat cruise BUT did not go to the general store or school.
He told me of Tonle Sap Lake and the boat he saw loading bags of rice from the orphan school and taking it the general store just on sunset.
“You just got hustled baby”.