Lonely Planet’s blog just published a great piece on 10 Common Travel Scams, including the ever-so-popular bird shit and fake police scams that trick far too many travelers. Fortunately, I haven’t encountered many scams myself during my travels abroad, but my husband and I did have one little “incident” during our honeymoon. Here’s the story of our “You look tired, do you want to stop for some coffee?” scam:
While my husband and I were honeymooning in Bali, a prearranged driver was supposed to take us from our first hotel in Ubud to our next one in Nusa Dua. During the drive, Aaron let out a yawn and the driver made some sort of joke about how honeymooners never get enough sleep. He asked if Aaron would like some coffee because he knew of a wonderful coffee plantation nearby. We don’t really remember saying yes to the driver, but the next thing we knew we were in a parking lot full of other taxis.
We were quickly shuffled to a table where trays of different coffees were set before us, and a young woman recited her memorized shpiel about the different blends. We tried them all, and Aaron even paid an extra $10 to try the coffee made from luwak droppings. (I passed on that.)
At the end of our tasting, we were given a quick tour of the plantation and our guide explained to us how poor the workers were. Right on cue, we arrived at the gift shop where we were told that every purchase makes a big difference in the workers’ lives. We decided to buy two little bags of flavored coffees and were shocked by the humungous price tag.
Okay, the bottom line is that we paid something like $40 for two dinky bags of coffee that I brought home to my mom as a souvenir and I doubt she ever opened. In the scheme of travel scams, this wasn’t a big deal at all. In fact, we probably would have really enjoyed our time at the coffee plantation if we felt like we had actually chosen to visit it. But the fact that our driver was going to take us there no matter what, and that we were guilt tripped into buying extremely overpriced coffee, definitely dampened the experience.
I did not write this blog post with the intention to instill paranoia in other honeymooners, but just to give an example of how well-traveled people can still fall victim to touristy scams. My advice is to just be on the lookout for people taking advantage of tourists, use your best judgment, and follow your gut and speak out if something doesn’t sit right with you.