Although I love to travel, one thing I hate are the travel ripoffs that I’ve come across. Quite often these things are tourist traps that are aimed at new travelleres, but often the biggest ripoffs come from airlines or banks who are trying to maximize their profits.
To be fair, I’m sort of “happy” that I’ve been ripped off a few times because it allowed me to learn from experiences. Heck, some of the things you’ll read below are some of my fondest travel memories. That said, at the time, I was not impressed. Avoid the following travel ripoffs and you’ll save yourself some money and potential headaches.
Anything sold at a market
I’ll admit as a tourist, markets are a lot of fun. I love the idea of shopping amount locals and looking for souvenirs to bring home. The problem is, most popular markets are only visited by tourists and there’s typically no listed price. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could end up paying much more than you have to.
At the night market in Bangkok, I wanted to buy paper lamps. While I was browsing, there were three different prices which were all based on the person’s haggling skills. The person who spent the most paid double of what the lowest person paid. Because I overheard this, I got a good price, but the lamp ended up being of low quality and broke quickly.
When I was in Dubai, I headed to the gold souq with my friend who’s a local. She was looking for something for her daughters so she got a quote from one of the vendors. Right away she knew it was a ripoff since it was 25% more than stores located outside of the souq.
Foreign exchange fees
Changing money at the airport, your hotel, or even your bank can cost you a small fortune. When I was headed to Brazil, I went to my bank to exchange some money, they quoted me a 10% markup! While I was at the airport in Barcelona, the spread was 7.5% above the current exchange rate. As you can imagine, those fees can add up quickly.
I find using ATMs to be the easiest and cheapest way to get cash. The usual cost is 2.5% on top of the spot rate, plus a one-time transaction fee. It’s best to withdraw your daily maximum when using ATMs since it’ll lower your overall transaction fees. Note that the STACK Mastercard doesn’t charge the exchange fee, you only pay the one-time transaction fee.
Alternatively, you can use one of the best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees in Canada. These cards don’t charge the standard 2.5% exchange fee so they’re perfect for travelling. Some even come with extra travel benefits such as lounge access.
Hotel mini-fridge and Wi-Fi
I never really understood those who consume food and drink from the hotel mini-fridge. How lazy are you that you’d rather pay double to triple the price for a can of Pepsi or some nuts? I understand that you’re paying for convenience, but how difficult would it be to go to a convenience or grocery store to load up on snacks when you arrive?
I hate to keep bashing hotels but why do some hotels still not have free Wi-Fi in the room? Admittedly, this is becoming rare. However, to get free Wi-Fi, the major hotel chains usually want you to join their loyalty program first. That’s not such a bad thing since programs such as Marriott Bonvoy are excellent. Smaller and independent hotels typically include free Wi-Fi as a standard benefit.
Things sold on the street
I remember my first time in New York I saw people selling “designer bags” on a blanket, obviously the bags were fake, so why would you want to but them?
In Florence, I saw the same thing but instead of handbags they were selling tripods. I assumed there was no way there could be fake tripods, so I purchased one. Big mistake, after using it just twice the thing snapped.
When I was in Istanbul, I couldn’t walk 100 meters without being offered a tour of the Bosphorus. I did take a look at one of their tours, but I quickly realized the price was much higher than a similar cruise I could book online or through my hotel.
Carrier surcharge fees
When booking a flight on points/miles, many airlines charge a carrier fee, which is sometimes referred to as fuel surcharges. This is easily one of the biggest travel ripoffs since they’re only charged when you’re redeeming your points. Clearly airlines are doing this to recapture some revenue since you’re not paying for your ticket.
Not every airline charges this fee, and the good news is that the new Aeroplan is eliminating this fee completely. However, some airlines will continue to charge it which is why you should try to avoid those carriers when redeeming your points.
Whenever you visit any destination that gets a lot of tourists, there are going to be a lot things that are going to be a ripoff. It’s always best to do your research and to never make any quick decisions if you’re looking to buy something. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.