My friend Scott and I had just arrived in Thailand. We were in Bangkok trying to find a boat cruise to take us up and down the Chao Phraya River. Not even thinking about whether that was a deal or not, we agreed. To us — still thinking about prices back home — that offer seemed like a fair price. It was only as the boat tour ended early that we realized we might have been ripped off later on, we found out that we paid double the price. Then, after lunch, we wandered over to the Grand Palace. We looked down the left side of the palace, then over to the right.
An enterprising tuk-tuk driver came over to us and told us the palace was closed for lunch. Scott and I looked at each other. Maybe that was right. It seemed feasible. He offered to take us to a few that were open. Afterwards, as he took us to the palace which was unsurprisingly open. It was then we realized that it had never been closed — we had just been on the wrong side of the building.
My life as a traveler was not off to a good start. Avoiding travel scams requires a lot of common sense and a healthy dose of suspicion. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is! Additionally, if you are carrying a travel guidebook , they usually list the most common scams in that country.
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Here are some of the more universal ones to avoid:. This is one of the most common travel scams out there. To avoid this scam, first, you need to know how much a ride should cost. I always ask the hostel or hotel staff what a ride should be so I have a frame of reference. Next, if the cabbie tries to negotiate the rate with me, I offer him the correct rate. If he refuses, I find someone who will put the meter on. If the meter seems to be going up too quickly, I have them pull over and I get out.
Many tourism boards let you report bad cab drivers, so be sure to always make a mental note of their ID number when you get in the cab. Another cab driver scam: your driver will try to tell you your hotel or hostel is overbooked or even closed. Just ignore them and insist on going there. If they keep trying, continue to insist. They will usually shut up about it. And while this seems like a scam no one could possibly fall for, people do. A note on taxis: In this smartphone era, we have our power back. I like to look on Google Maps and see what the best route is.
I left a taxicab in Bangkok recently because he tried to pull a fast one on me by taking a longer route. Additionally, ride services like Uber place accountability on drivers, which greatly reduces the likelihood of you being cheated. Then you decide to play — and you win! Thinking this is great, you bet more money… and then you lose — and lose again and again. While in Morocco , someone tried this travel scam on me. I was walking out of a convenience store when a guy struck up a conversation. Finding I was from NYC , he said he had a cousin who lived there the first giveaway and wanted to know if I could come to his shop to write a postcard for him the second giveaway.
The goal here was to get me in the shop, maybe give me some tea, and then pressure me into buying something. In this scam, common in Europe , a friendly person will approach you for a quick chat, then place a bracelet around your wrist or hat on your head, or give you a little sprig of rosemary. Once you have it on your person, they will demand money. When you refuse, they will begin to cause a scene in the hopes you would rather give them some money than be embarrassed. If they put something on you, simply take it off, give it back to them, and be firm about it.
Then walk away and move on with your day. There you are, minding your own business, and someone spills something on you. Ruins your day, but accidents happen, right? They are profusely sorry and offer to clean it up, dabbing the stain, and apologizing. While you are all flustered, they are picking your pocket. By the time you realize what has happened, they are long gone. This scam is also common in Europe. If this happens, push people away and clean it up yourself. I see this scam a lot in Southeast Asia and other developing regions of the world. To avoid this, take photos of the bike first to document any previous damage.
Go around it with the owner so they know what you are taking pictures of. Use your own lock, and keep the bike out of sight and off a main street when you park it. Sometimes an owner will send someone to mess with the bike or steal it so you have to pay! Also, always make sure you buy travel insurance so you can make a claim if there is an issue. You arrive in a new country and head to a bar, where a beautiful local comes up to you for a chat. You have some drinks and amazing conversation and go to a new bar or club that she suggested. Or, worse, you get drugged and wake up completely robbed of everything on you.
Women are too smart to fall for this. As mentioned, this is what happened to me and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker! A friendly local approaches and informs you that the attraction you want to visit is closed for any number of reasons religious ceremony, holiday, etc. To avoid this, find the main entrance or ticket counter and see for yourself.
Even better, look up the open hours before you go, so you know what to expect — opening and closing times are almost always available online. An innocent-looking person picks up a ring on the ground and asks if you dropped it. He or she offers to sell it to you for a better price. They make some money, and you get some gold you can resell. This is common in Europe. One of my tour members almost fell for it when we were in Paris, but I intervened in time and sent the person away. The best way to avoid this scam is to not buy the ring. If it sounds too good to be true, it definitely is.
But the petitioner then demands a cash donation. Another one of my tour members fell for this scam even after I warned him specifically about it , but I saved him in time. To avoid this scam, just ignore people coming up to you to sign a petition, especially when they are in groups and try to surround you. Just keep on walking. This scam is common in many developing countries. You say yes, and before you know it, a real cop is on the scene!
They offer to arrest you or you can pay the fine right there i. This happens a lot in countries where the bills look similar to each other. This happens all over the world and mostly with shirts, carpets, rugs, and antiques. Maybe they got it wholesale? After some haggling, the owner agrees to sell it to you. To avoid this scam, remember that no designer anything is going to be that cheap. To avoid getting scammed when you travel, be wary when it comes to people offering you something in a touristy setting.
Think of it this way: in your day-to-day life back home, would you go for it? Comment below! Worried about getting something lost, stolen, or falling for a scam? Make sure you get travel insurance coverage so that if something does happen, you can be made whole again and recover your losses! I never leave home with it! They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory.
If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking. I use them all the time. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:. Looking for the best companies to save money with? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel — and that will save you time and money too!
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I recommend only products and companies I use and the income goes to keeping the site community supported and ad free. In Prague once a stranger approached me at in the morning asking if he could use my phone to make a call. Drunken me on my first day in Prague, I agreed. He said he would go into a nearby restaurant to make the call. Like an idiot, I let him, only to wait and wait and wait. Upon questioning the restaurant staff 10 min later, no one had seen him. He ran away with my phone through the back entry of the restaurant.
I find that they will try and convince you that you gave them X denomination instead of the Y that you know you gave. A way of heading this off at the pass is to really let the driver see you are looking at what you are giving them. We did this in Buenos Aires where they will try the change scam or try and claim you gave them a counterfeit bill. Worked really well! Also when changing currency. In Cuba at an official bureau de change was given peso short but cashier was nasty and hurried me away before I could check.
I got scammed with a taxi in Istanbul. When handing over a big note, say out loud how much it is. Always say out loud THB in Thailand. I checked my wallet when the taxi zoomed off at double the normal speed. I was surprised, though kinda not surprised, that the Police or whoever allowed them to get away with it. Sadly, we experienced the same frightening atmosphere around Sacre Coeur in Paris last year… Not the best start for our stay.
But all the other super touristy places even Eiffel Tower were better. The Eiffel Tower is well known for the petition scam. A fellow traveler on a cruise tour lost ALL of his travel money that way. When my husband arrived the man attempted to pick his pocket. He was being groomed by another man several feet away. It certainly taught me how much more vulnerable I am when travelling with my child. The bracelet scam was attempted on me at Sacre Coeur as well! Two men started to approach me from either side, but my husband grabbed my hand and we picked up our pace.
While in Paris, we saw only saw the shell scam. A little while later they would be the one doing it and the former operator was then the plant. We did have a young boy try to pick pocket an iphone from one of our group at Sacre Couer, but another one of us was observant and quick. She grabbed the boys hand and he dropped it and ran. Yes that happened to me and my two younger children at Sacre Coeur, The scammers asked us where we were from and as soon as we said New Zealand they started going on about the All Blacks whilst putting the bracelets on, my older son was running from one of us to the other taking the bracelets off telling us to walk away.
Then at the Eiffel Tower some people with petitions tried to get us to sign and acted like they were deaf. I was in Barcelona a few weeks ago to meet up with some friends who now. We spent a lot of time rambling around the streets at night and came across bucketloads of scams. Be careful who you ask in the street for directions as they will often give them to and then ask for payment. Pickpocketing is crazy over there as well. My friend saved me from getting my passport and wallet stolen in a beer garden when a guy who been sitting with us leaned over and asked me for a cigarette, he had his hand in my bumbag and I did even notice!
The taxi scam is ridiculous, happened to me too many times before I found out I was being fooled! Thank you for all the other tips Matt, very important for every traveler! Be careful on busy metro systems! Just stop talking and try to blend in. A, I rode the subway every day for 1 month. I clearly speak spoke spanish with a gringo accent so I just shut up. I was never bothered once. An australian couple came and started in my spanish class towards the end on my month. They were robbed the third day because they were loud on the subway. Guys surrounded them fully knowing they were tourist and made it impossible to move while a third guy stole the guys wallet.
Another thing I saw was in the DR. Kid came up and a sprayed liquid on my flip flop saying he was going to clean them. I repeatedly said no but he spayed it anyway. Well now my flip flop was so slippery I had to take them off. Kid then says pay me money to wash the soap off… That sucked. Great tip about blending in, Andrew. We were in France 3 weeks and never got scammed or approached.
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I made sure we dressed like the French do, not as a tourist. Keep your voice down, yes. Loud foreigners are a dead giveaway. Walk around the city like you belong there. If you have to look at a map or phone, go some place, a discreet corner. I spoke French as much as I could. Most people thought we were expats. At the Eiffel tower, a guy selling magnets tried to over change me. I started to barter in French, which surprised him.
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He knew I was on to him. We agreed on a dollar per magnet and then he tried to change the price to two dollars. He gave them to me for a dollar. Watch out for the Dropped Change diversion. If you are sitting near a train exit, someone may drop coins or wallet etc. You bend to help and their accomplice takes your bag from the overhead rack, then walks out the exit unseen. Even gives you his address false of course and tells you to call one or even two different phone numbers to countercheck his story.
Scammers often claim to be Irish and they have to take the ferry to get home and therefore need money. This one is actually popular in the U. A young man once approached me while I was sitting at a train station in Boston waiting for my train ride home. He said he was from New Hampshire and that he ended up in Boston and was now stuck in the city, penniless and currently jobless, and than he desperately needed to catch a bus ride home back to NH.
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He was very apologetic and nice over all but the shpiel he gave me sound a bit rehearsed because it most likely was. But the kicker is, I saw this guy 4 days later, at the same exact station. He strolled in with a bottle of juice in one hand and a fresh newspaper in the other. Ive seen something similar to this in Chicago. A guy walks out of a posh hotel or so it appeared. He approached my friend saying he was stranded after a fun weekend with friends from a local college.
He just needed some money for the bus to get back. I just happened to be about 20 feet behind listening to the whole thing. Who was pretty much opening her wallet before I ran up to stop it. I noticed the guys clothes were pretty dirty as well as his face and hands.
Plus he was talking super fast and just overall sketchy. I fell for this one in NYC when I first moved here. I cried about it afterwards, because I was so broke and was so angry at myself for falling for his scam. However, the worst for scams we found was Egypt. We had been warned about agreeing everything up front and a man approached us asking if we would like a picture with his camel, we refused but he insisted so we made it very clear — only if it was free and he agreed. When we argued and tried to walk away he held me until my partner agreed to give him some money, we only had a large bill but he said he had change.
We learnt the hard way!! Same in front of Colisseum in Rome. Rubbish photos too. The one where a man buys you a tea and demands sex and if you refuse holds you down. They think western women are so cheap accepting a tea means they are entitled to sex. Maybe attractive women scenario does not happen to girls so much but putting something in your drink to rape you does happen to women.
Other than that I do not get scammed. I have done the bracelet one on purpose I wanted a bracelet. I also was given bracelets and cheap gifts with the expectation that I would have sex with the man. I will say, I can add to the attractive man one by stating an even more dangerous one that has happened to us twice with teenage daughters in the Caribbean once on Grand Turk, and once on Grand Cayman. Needless to say, they scrambled away when they could see an angry mother and father approaching quickly! I was 14 and super uncomfortable with the situation.
He may have kissed my cheek. I learned at a young age not to trust the prices on things, and they definitely took advantage of my youth and unwillingness to haggle to scam me out of money. I am always carefull at street performances painters, dancers, singers, magicians. Love watching them, but I always make sure to hold my bag carefully as well as it seems to be the perfect place to be pickpocketed. In Tanzania through someone we actually met in Uganda, we had a good experience in his hostel before we booked a safari with a guy that ended up just booking a safari for us with another company, without actually joining us even though that was the deal.
We had car trouble when we drove ourselves. Owner blamed it on us, we blamed it on him. When we went in Bali, a guy with a motorcycle stopped and gave us some lottery tickets. He then said that my gf won a iPad and i won a shirt and we only have to go with him to get the prices. Later we checked it on the internet and we found out, that it was a popular scam in Bali for timeshared houses.
Even later we saw the same guy doing his sheme to an other couple in the streets, so we warned them as well. Great list, I had the ring scam happen to me in Greece. I was young and naive so I of course fell for it. It was late I was one of the last ones there playing backgammon with the waiters that were oh so friendly and just wanted to drop the bill with me so I could take my time… needless to say I was ready to leave after that. I had a similar experience in Istanbul, I was walking around Ayasofya at night when a stranger asked me to take his picture with his cell phone, i took the pic and we started talking.
He said he was a business traveler from Dubai and was heading to the airport the next day, he showed me a room key to a local hotel and said he was on his way to a bar the hotel recommended, and since i was travelling alone asked if I wanted to grab a beer. He was really chatty, talked to me about his wife and kid back in Dubai, even showed me pics on his phone.
Well his bar around the corner was actually across town at Taksim sq, we took a cab there which I was hesitant at first, but I weigh a good hundred lbs more than him, so I figure if things get dicey I could fight my way out of the cab. Immediately the girls leave, and this giant Turkish guy with one eyebrow comes out and gives me the bill, it came to something ridiculous like 2 grands. I refuse to pay, and call them con artists, and demand they call the police.
At this point they start pushing me and demanding I pay, I refuse, they try to make me use my credit cards. Though the adrenaline was pumping and I visualized myself fighting my way out of their like I was jason bourne. I had a gut feeling things were off the second the guy wanted to get into a cab, long story short, trust your instincts if it feels off, it probably is. I need to know. I can see why some people let it put them off travelling. I had my 16mo son with me and I am not easily intimidated. Thanks for sharing, these are great tips for those new to backpacking!
We got talking to her several times while walking the beach. She said she went out one night with so called friends they drank partied and bar hopped. You never know who is keeping tabs on you. Drinking too much in unfamiliar towns, putting all your valuables in one spot and being too trusting with unfamiliar people can cost you. Never keep your money plus credit cards all together. Also in this town we heard men dress up as women by the busloads ready to rob tourists. So be watchful of flirtatious women!!
We also saw this little boy try to steal a phone from a restaurant guest. The boy came up from the beach grabbed the phone and ran thru the restaurant catching the eye of almost all the waitstaff. We watched 6 or more staff members chase this boy down take back the phone then deliver him right to nearby police officers! Lesson to be learned. Because this is when there are tons of people in the cities much harder to be observant. People would bee-line to you if you were foreign to ask to pay for hospital bills.
I even had a caucasian white man ask me for money for his hospital bill. I encourage anyone to give if they have the means to do so and want to help out, but make sure you know exactly who you are giving your money to! They go right around your stomach so you can hide it right under your shirt. Kinda like a fanny pack without the bulk and you wear underneath clothing instead of over. Someone would have to really be putting in extra effort to get to this! Definitely gives you peace of mind, now you can focus on your actual vacation spot!
The PacSafe bags are great, I agree. Just so you know, if you leave them on the beach to drunkenly go skinny-dipping at night, they will still be stolen from you! Just kidding here, but shame on my year-old self for that. The overpriced shoe shine. A nice old guy offers to shine your shoes. In this is pretty common. He just starts in, no prices mentioned.
I got taken by this my first visit to downtown Chicago. I saw this shoeshine guy and considered that I did have a dirt spot but realized it would be stupid to get it done on tennis shoes. I gave no personal info but appreciated the talk. Then he throws a dollop of some dubious cleaner on one shoe. He asks about the incision on my ankle and I get to yammer on about the crazy injuries of my youth. I felt a bit threatened and pricing was not discussed up front. This is what made it a scam. Live and learn…. In Iran: The fake police scheme.
A cop in legit looking uniform and carrying an ID that may or may not be fake and asks for your passport. I luckily had my passport taken by the hotel front desk, but he demanded I go with him. I was so lucky a kind, wonderful local intervened. He may have been a real cop and just having a bad day, but he could also have been a robber or rapist. I would call my guide or local male friend if I had one. If not, I would tell them to call my hotel and start walking quickly back to the hotel.
If it was a real cop who was that concerned about my visa status, let him clear it up with the hotel staff. I was also annoyed at being way overcharged for a taxi back to the airport. I should have negotiated up front. So when we spotted an all marshmallow store we popped in to see what it was about.
Hudson Valley Marshmallow makes all their marshmallows locally in Beacon, in flavors like salted caramel, chocolate, strawberry and gingerbread. If you want to wander around a shop and look at random interesting things, old and new, this shop is your best bet. The shop sells everything from vintage items to cool gifts to movie props and superhero and Star Wars memorabilia. A varied collection of string instruments including guitars, banjos, mandolins, ukuleles, violins and vintage instruments.
The requisite small village bookshop. Part skateboard shop, part comic store and little of everything else thrown in. This spacious shop with high ceilings and brick walls is a cut above your usual cramped comic books store. An established glass studio casting functional and sculptural objects. Housed in an old firehouse. Email Address. Subscribe here. America , New York , United States. Sunset views from the train window will take your breath away. Not technically art, but loved the way the light streamed in. Walls full of Warhol. DIA Beacon.
Map of Broken Glass, Robert Smithson, McKenna serves as this hidden world's most visible "altered statesman. Brainy, eloquent, and hilarious, McKenna applies his Irish gift of gab to making a simple case: Going through life without trying psychedelics is like going through life without having sex.
For McKenna, mushrooms and DMT do more than force up the remains of last night's dream; they uncover the programming language of mind and cosmos. There is no deeper truth. McKenna is the most loved psychedelic barnstormer since Timothy Leary, the self-appointed guru of LSD who died in amid a flurry of digital hype about online euthanasia and his plans - which he scrapped - to undergo cryonic preservation. Like McKenna, Leary was an intellectual entertainer, a carny barker hawking tickets to the molecular mind show.
McKenna calls it "the harlequin role. Leary spent the late '60s attempting to gather a hippie army under the notorious battle cry of "turn on, tune in, drop out. In , he and his brother went to the Amazon to hunt for ayahuasca, a legendary shamanic brew. But when they arrived at the Colombian village of La Chorera that spring, what they found were fields blanketed with Stropharia cubensis, aka magic mushrooms. Within 36 hours of his seizure, 1, messages poured into McKenna's email in-box. The flood is testament to his underground stature. In some ways, it was a turning point in American psychedelic culture.
Back home, Leary's LSD shock troops had already disintegrated into harder drugs and bad vibes, and Leary himself was hiding out abroad after escaping from a US jail.
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Serious heads knew all about the psilocybin mushroom from scholarly books on shamanism, but no one in the US was eating S. After returning from South America, the McKennas discovered the secret, which they promptly published. Magic mushrooms were on the menu. McKenna farmed 'shrooms into the s. He could turn out 70 pounds of them every six weeks, like clockwork. The trade financed the middle-class existence of a relatively settled man. Then a good friend of his, an acid chemist, got busted. I had to work something else out. McKenna got his 15 minutes of fame when four of his books came out in rapid succession.
His collection of essays, The Archaic Revival, is particularly influential, especially among ravers and other alternative tribes attracted to the idea that new technologies and ancient pagan rites point toward the same ecstatic truths. Food of the Gods, published in , aims directly at the highbrows. In it, McKenna lays out a solid if unorthodox case that psychedelics helped kick-start human consciousness and culture, giving our mushroom-munching ancestors a leg up on rivals by enhancing their visual and linguistic capacities.
Though anthropologists ignored his arguments, the time was right for McKenna's visions. He was tempted with movie deals, got featured in magazines, and toured like a madman. He hobnobbed with Silicon Valley hotshots like interface gurus Brenda Laurel and Jaron Lanier and performed at raves with techno groups like the Shamen. Timothy Leary called him "the Timothy Leary of the s. McKenna also was a popularizer of virtual reality and the Internet, arguing as early as that VR would be a boon to psychedelicists and businesspeople alike.
But unlike Leary, who planned to use the Net as a stage for his final media prank, McKenna realized that the Internet would be the place where psychedelic culture could flourish on its own. You had to be Aldous Huxley to even know about them. To his great satisfaction, McKenna has lived to see the psychedelic underground self-organize online. Sites like the Lycaeum and the Vaults of Erowid now provide loads of information on chemistry, legal status, dosage effects, and - perhaps most important to the uninitiated - experiential feedback.
But to McKenna the Net is more than just an information source. He is convinced that an unprecedented dialog is going on between individual human beings and the sum total of human knowledge. If anything, my cancer has made me even more enthusiastic about the idea that through information, people can take control of and guide their own lives.
Unfortunately, by last October, five months after the initial diagnosis and treatment, he needed much more than just information. Despite the radiation therapy, the tumor was still spreading.
McKenna traveled to the medical center at UC San Francisco, where a team of specialists surgically removed the bulk of the tumor. They then soaked the cavity with p53, a genetically altered adenovirus meant to scramble the hyperactive self-replication subroutines of the remaining tissue's DNA.
Gene therapy is highly experimental; as Silness put it, McKenna became "a full-on guinea pig. At first, the doctors at UCSF were extremely pleased with the results, and for four months the tumor cooled its heels. But in February, an MRI revealed that it had returned with a vengeance, spreading so thoroughly throughout McKenna's brain that it was deemed inoperable. He retreated to a friend's house in Marin County, and his family began to gather. By the time you read this, Terence McKenna will likely have died. It is the end of , and I am visiting McKenna at his jungle home while he's recovering from brain surgery.
He lives a mile or so up a rutted road that winds through a gorgeous subtropical rain forest an hour south of the Kona airport. His house - a modernist origami structure topped with a massive antenna dish and a small astronomy dome - rises from the green slopes of Mauna Loa like something out of Myst. There's a small garden and a lotus pond, and the structure is surrounded by a riot of vegetation, thick with purple flowers and mysterious vines.
McKenna has owned land on this mountainside since the s but didn't start building the house until Every morning, I ascend a spiral staircase decorated with blue LEDs to get to the study. It's here that McKenna spends the majority of his time during my visit, either staring into his Mac or sitting cross-legged on the floor before a small Oriental carpet, surrounded by books, smoking paraphernalia, and twigs of sage he occasionally lights up and wafts through the air.
With his widely set and heavy-lidded eyes, McKenna looks like a seasoned nomad merchant. Silness has shorn McKenna's usually full head of hair down to gray stubble, and the upper right side of his forehead is gently swollen and graced with a Frankensteinian scar. Though he is desperately ill, his spirits are as alive as ever: gracious and funny, brilliant and biting.
But he tires quickly, and seems intensely energized only when the prospect of chocolate cookies or ice cream arises. He is also very skinny, having lost a lot of muscle in his thighs, and he moves painfully slowly when he moves at all. McKenna and Silness have hosted a regular stream of visitors and well-wishers over the last months, but the scene is definitely not Learyland. They are living life as close to normal as possible - which is how McKenna prefers it.
The other thing is to do what you always wanted to do. I wasn't too keen on that, either. My tendency was just to twist another bomber and think about it all. An early popularizer of virtual reality and the Internet, he argued that VR would be a boon to psychedelicists and businesspeople alike.
There's a lot to think about in McKenna's lair. An altar lies on top of a cabinet over which hangs a frightening old Tibetan tangka. With McKenna at my side, the altar's objects are like icons in a computer game: Click and a story emerges. Click on the tangka and get a tale of art-dealing in Nepal.