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April 18, 2015

How to Avoid Getting Scammed

Our intrepid globe trekker R.L. answers your travel-related questions, this time on ways to avoid being scammed.

by R.L.

Dear R.L.,
Maybe I’ve been watching too much Scam City, but is there a way we can avoid being scammed when traveling alone? 
Dear Eka,

Paying ten times the value of an "antique" that was made last week in someone's garage sure puts a damper on your holiday.
So my advice is thus: always ask several locals how much things cost. By locals, I don't mean the ones loitering near the shops, they're probably friends of Fagin. How to know if they're trustworthy enough? Approach them. Strike up a conversation.
If they approach you, they already have an agenda in mind. Sure, sometimes locals are curious with the strange man with the strange camera, but sometimes they strike a conversation with the strange man with the strange camera because they want to sell something or earn a commission from a friend's shop. So it's important to ask someone who doesn't look interested in you. Then ask them about prices, shops. Compare.
Another tip is: do your research. People fall over the same old scam over and over again because they don't (or refuse to) believe what others have written in message boards, guide books, hostel lobbies. Read other people's trip reports.
Remember, if things are too good to be true, it probably is. A couple of hot locals hanging around touristy areas just invited you to drinks because they want to practice their English with you? Orange alert. A shop just offered a one-day-only discount, just for you? Red flag. 
Also, as with other expensive investments, if you don't understand the subject, then don't buy it. Gems, antiques, carpets, fashion. Ignore the tea, sweet talk, free lunch or "no commitment presentation". Not worth it. 
But on the other hand, once you accept the fact that as a tourist, you would overpay for pretty much everything in almost anywhere in the world, your holiday becomes more enjoyable. If you really like something, and you can get it for the price you're comfortable with at home, just do it.
Happy travels!
Send your travel-related questions -- in English or Bahasa Indonesia -- to [email protected] with the subject 'The Ahasuerus Files'.