I have been traveling for 20 years and lived in Europe, Asia and the US for extended periods. I’d call myself an experienced traveler but that still is not enough to avoid many travel ripoffs.
Here is my personal TOP 13 (or bottom 13).
Table of Contents
- 1 Travel Ripoff I – The eternal taxi scam
- 2 Travel Ripoff II – Dynamic Currency Conversion
- 3 Travel Ripoff III – ATM fees
- 4 Travel Ripoff IV – Credit Card Foreign Exchange Fees
- 5 Travel Ripoff V – Hotel Food
- 6 Travel Ripoff VI – Airline Fuel Surcharges
- 7 Travel Ripoff VII – Excessive Airport Taxes
- 8 Travel Ripoff VIII – Overzealous Immigration Agents
- 9 Travel Ripoff IX – Priority Pass Extra Guest Fees
- 10 Travel Ripoff X – Excessive Visa Fees
- 11 Travel Ripoff XII – Airport Food
- 12 Travel Ripoff XIII – Trip Insurance
Travel Ripoff I – The eternal taxi scam
This must be as old as traveling – the local transport from an airport or port tries to take advantage of your missing knowledge of a city. That does not mean every taxi (or now Uber) driver scams you but there is a good percentage.
I can not count the amount of times that a taxi driver has quoted an inflated price or ‘gotten lost’ when I was giving him directions. Yes Google Maps helps but it’s still not a sure thing if one just takes a ‘short cut’ or a much longer route. Turkish and Malaysian taxi driver are usually the most aggressive but getting a cab in Dakar airport or Entebbe airport can be downright intimidating.
Uber drivers are much more trustworthy in general (since there is a real feedback mechanism) but they have recently started to take wrong turns on me a lot – just last week my Uber driver took at least 10 wrong turns adding a solid 10 minutes to the drive in the middle of downtown Mexico City – not an area where you can ‘get lost’.
Travel Ripoff II – Dynamic Currency Conversion
I feel this has peaked already – for a while everyone and their cousin tried to run the credit card transaction in dollars using an inflated exchange rate. I always request to be charged in local currency and that works most of the time – sometimes cashiers just pretend to not understand – oh well.
Travel Ripoff III – ATM fees
Believe it or not but until last year I paid Citibank an outrageous 3% fee for withdrawing from foreign currency ATMs – this comes on top of the fee an ATM charges!
Earlier this year I switched to a checking account from First Republic that does not charge any foreign exchange fees and also reimburses up to 15 monthly ATM fees – worldwide. Some ATM fees can be as high as $10 – this is an awesome tool.
Travel Ripoff IV – Credit Card Foreign Exchange Fees
For years I used my American Express Starwood Business card for most of my spending and paid 3% on most foreign transactions (this fee has been dropped lately) – adding up to $150 per month! No wonder American Express considered me a good customer!
Usually my Chase Sapphire Preferred card now gets all my non-US spending and since it’s often for travel or restaurants it earns 2 miles per dollar – awesome!
Travel Ripoff V – Hotel Food
This one is not always true – in India the best restaurants are actually located inside the luxury hotels. However I usually avoid eating at hotels as the food is mediocre and tends to be overpriced. It also gives me an excuse to explore of of a city.
Travel Ripoff VI – Airline Fuel Surcharges
There is always a way to avoid fuel surcharges but sometimes it is just too much research and calling airline agents who don’t know anything about the job they were hired for. I do occasional pay them but rarely paid more than $200 per long-haul leg.
Travel Ripoff VII – Excessive Airport Taxes
Some governments must think travelers are a perfect way to raise taxes. The Philippines, Ghana, Uganda, Senegal have incredible airport use fees – topping $100 in certain cases for a one-time use – that’s just insane and there isn’t an easy way to avoid it.
Travel Ripoff VIII – Overzealous Immigration Agents
This is rare but sometimes overzealous customs and immigration agents give you trouble – you guessed it that’s mostly happening inside the US (see my adventures with SSSS) but also is an issue in the Middle East.
Travel Ripoff IX – Priority Pass Extra Guest Fees
This one is sneaky – most of us have a Priority Pass card to access participating lounges. Now when you show up at a lounge and request entrance with a guest (or guests) they can’t tell you how much you will pay. They do NOT even know if you have complimentary access or pay per visit. Yes you can call Priority pass – but for that we need Wifi from the lounge.
Travel Ripoff X – Excessive Visa Fees
I believe in the basic human right of all humans to roam the planet as they wish (unless they are a risk to health and safety) – so the idea of a visa isn’t something I ‘ll ever endorse (yes I’m happy to volunteer my data to a government before arrival but there is no need to charge $180 for a visa – ever). But it is a fact of life and things have gotten better already.
But some countries seem to just cash in on visitors with a Visa on Arrival – Doha is surrounded by countries that seem to fine without a visa fee. It’s also not exactly short on government revenues – so why institute a $28 visa fee for visitor who go to an airport hotel?
Travel Ripoff XII – Airport Food
Just like Hotel Food the food at airports is usually driven by profit making and less by delivering a solid product. The food at the Rome Fiumicino Airport is nothing short of awesome. The brand new Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles airport also has some great foodie options.
Travel Ripoff XIII – Trip Insurance
Many people feel this is a waste and most of the time it is since it covers just a bit more than your credit card insurance but on occasion I would have been happy to have it as it comes with a wider coverage.
What are you worst travel ripoffs?
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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