Tales of Caution
Tales of caution from world travelers! Take these tips from these people who have experienced first hand just what kind of tricks countries pull on you when visiting.
- My husband and I arrived at Paris’ Gare du Nord in the early evening and proceeded to read the map to find out how to get to our hotel via the Metro. One guy came up and advised us to buy tickets from the ticket machine. While we were at the machine trying to read the French, another guy came out and “helped” us buy tickets. The 3-day tickets we thought we were buying were, in fact, 1-way single-use tickets. We paid him the 48 euros which was displayed on the ticket machine, but he must have cancelled that transaction and bought us the single trip ticket instead. My advice is to buy Metro tickets ONLY through the ticket counter at the Metro station (a 2-day ticket is only about 13 euros).
- Be careful if you are parking at the Tronchetto and want to ride the public vaporetto boat into Venice. Men surrounded us, told us where to walk and directed us to private taxi boats. They refused to allow us to go to the vaporetto dock. They raised their voices at us, insisted that we take their private taxis. I pulled out my Rick Steves book, showed them that I wanted the vaporetto, but they yelled “NO MA’AM” at me and made us walk to the taxi boats. When we got in the boat, the man asked for more money than we’d been told it would cost. When I questioned him, he yelled “GET OUT!” My husband and I and our two children (and luggage) got out of the boat. As we walked back toward the parking garage, we found signs pointing to the vaporetto, and got there easily. We then realized that the men kept positioning us so that we could not see those signs earlier.
- I had just been served pizza with some friends in Paris when a women came up to our table and tried to take our food. Thinking she was a waitress, I said in French, “We are not finished, thank you.” She ignored me and kept trying to take our food, when a real waitress appeared and shooed the woman out rather forcefully.
- While visiting Sacre Coeur in Paris, a friend and I fell victim to the shell game in one of the alleys leading up to the church. Yeah, we were stupid, but our initial intention was only to watch. Of course, it all looked so easy. We lost about $70, no big deal. That $70 made me much more vigilant, so perhaps it was a cheap lesson. If you see someone playing the shell game or 3 card monty, be careful. No matter how easy it looks, only the “plants” in the crowd will win (if any native is playing then he/she is a plant). If you want to pick out thieves in the Metro and elsewhere, simply observe who’s looking at what (the thieves are the ones who are looking at what other people are carrying). On the Metro, thieves love to walk up and down the aisles until just before the doors close. They time their grab with the closing of the door, and quickly jump through as it shuts.
- My wife and I were ready to leave Rome after a great ten day visit. We got into a cab outside our hotel, and asked the driver to take us to the train station (where we’d take a cheaper ride to the airport). The cab driver asked if we were leaving to fly home. We said yes. He then proceeded to tell us that there were major problems with the train to Fiumicino Airport, the line was down, etc …but he would be glad to drive us directly to the airport for 80 euros! Thank God I’d built enough time into our schedule so that I could investigate the train situation myself. I told him no thanks, take us to the train station anyway. There was no problem whatsoever with the train and we made it home sans difficulty. The lesson: try not to be in a rush.
- Anywhere in Europe, friendly locals can invite a tourist into a bar where you end up buying a drink for a girl, you notice a burly bouncer at the door, and your bill comes to $80. This happened to me in Istanbul. I met a wonderfully friendly young man who suggested we stop by this bar close to my hotel. Once inside, we were having a beer, when a girl sat next to me and my friend ordered her a drink. At that point it just clicked in my head…this is that scam I’d read about. Sure enough, there is no one in the bar other than the big guy standing by the door and the mean looking bartender. The bill was $80 for my beer and the girl’s drink. I had no choice but to pay. Never go anywhere with someone who approaches you on the street, regardless of how “tough” you are or how “nice” they seem. It’s almost always a scam and can lead to real trouble.