The Great Swindle

They say that travel broadens the mind. It opens us up to new adventures, giving us an opportunity to experience something outside our day to day living. Which means that one of the experiences you’re bound to have while travelling is getting ripped off!

If you’ve ever been privy to one of these exchanges you’ll know that although it sucks and can make you feel silly, its easier to just take it as it comes and don’t let it ruin your holiday.  Who knows, you’ll probably even laugh at it one day.

So to make you feel better, I am sharing some of my worst experiences of getting swindled whilst travelling.

The Money exchange dilemma –

I’ll never forget when a suit tailor/ money exchanger tried to short change my sister. Being trusting people on their first holiday to Bali, we didn’t think anything of getting our money exchanged in a suit shop.  It wasn’t until we got back to the hotel and counted that Cassie realised that she’d been short changed the equivalent of about $50.

Not one to shy away from a fight,  she stormed back down to the shop and starting demanding her money back.  Although his English was perfect earlier in the day,  those skills were now lost and he wasn’t able to help us due to “no english, no english”.

It wasn’t until Cassie – now fed up – grabbed one of his mannequins, suit and all, and walked out the front door with a final “fuck you” that he appreciated the lengths she would go to. He threw his head back in laughter, gave her a round of applause and handed all her money back.   I still don’t know what was a bigger learning curve for me,  be cautious when exchanging money or never ever try to rip off my sister.

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Cassie. Cats for proof of craziness.

The Photo Bombers –

We’ve all been had by this one, on a first trip to Europe perhaps?  Taking a photo of a Living Statue then realising that for every photo you take you owe them money?  This has happened to me on more than one occasion, but I always get suckered because it’s worth the photo right?   Well… my last trip to Italy may have changed my perspective on the matter.

Outside the Vatican we saw the opportunity to get our photo with some Roman Gladiators. Maybe it’s all Russell Crowe’s fault but it seemed like a really good idea at the time. As you can see, husband and I were having a wail of a time until the last photo (evidence below) where Gladiator #1 posed whilst Gladiator #2 took the photo.  He then refused to give our camera back until we paid them 5euro EACH for every photo we took.   For the first time since we took these photos,  I’ve gone back to look at how many there were which was 9 all up. That’s 90 euros I spent on photos that, contrary to my original belief, I’ve never once looked at!  Yep – I got had. I won’t lie to you,  4 years later and these photos still make me feel bitter.

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Robert Deniro in “Taxi Driver”-

Everyone knows that the first question you asked before sitting in a Taxi is to ask if they have a meter.  So being “pro travellers” we asked the necessary questions before we jumped in the back seat and asked our driver to take us to the local gym (ugh).

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Photo is not an accurate depiction of real taxi driver.
Listening to “Bed of Roses” and cruising around the streets, we get to our destination and pay our 40 thousand rupiah. It wasn’t until we were inside that we realised we accidentally paid him 400 thousand rupiah instead!  Safe to say that he didn’t come back to pick us up like we had arranged for him too.

This one was completely our fault as we should have had a better handle on the currency. A happy ending to the story though,  after sharing our story with a friendly local they actually called up the taxi company to complain.  First thing the next morning we got a knock on our villa door which turned out to be our Bon Jovi loving taxi driver, coming to apologising for taking our money.    We’ve finally added a win to the  board!

ATM ATM ATM ATM –

Not a story of mine, but something that happens on nearly every holiday of hers, is Rosie leaving her credit card in the ATM.  Let’s just say that this is such a regular occurrence that the actual bank manager and her are on a first name basis.

A few weeks ago as we were in a cab on the way to the airport to come home when Rosie got a call from Roger (I’ve decided to name him) from Westpac advising that there has been fraudulent activity on her credit card. Instantly panicking Mum tears through her handbag to find that her card is missing, and that she’s left it in the ATM when she withdraw money last.

The very lucky person who used that machine next swiftly removed Rosie’s credit card and went on to purchase $1200 worth of goodies before the card was cancelled.  Luckily the insurances covered the charges so Mum wasn’t out of pocket.  I just hope that our mystery player bought something amazingly extravagant like a Gucci handbag so they can always look at it and think of the silly Australian woman who left her credit card in the ATM.

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The Monkey –

And finally, I will never forget my oldest friend Samantha and my chaotic trip to Morocco.  Funnily enough we are now both successful travel agents however 7 years ago we were just two country town girls wanting to explore the world, and Northern Africa sounded like a good place to start.

Armed with nothing but our Lonely Planets, we didn’t have a clue about what to expect as our flight landed in Marrakesh.  Realising we were in way above our heads very early on, being two young women on their own made us easy targets for harassment. At one point my dad was offered 5’000 camels for my hand in marriage.. I’m glad he wasn’t there as he may have just taken them up on that offer.

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One of my funniest memories of Morocco was the day we were approached by a strange man who dumped a monkey on poor Samantha’s shoulder .  Sam, being my oldest and loveliest friend had no idea what to do so not wanting to upset herself, the man or the monkey she just stood still and waited for me to do something. If you’re an avid reader of my blog then you’ll know where I stand on using animals to further the tourism industry  However back then I had no clue on how the game worked, so I pulled out my camera and snapped a quick photo before Mr Monkey Man removed his dirty little friend.

It was at this point he started screaming at Sam and I to cough up cash for his services. Unlike Asia where you can jokily laugh and barter them down on the costs, he was furious and wouldn’t stop following us until we paid.

Safe to say we kept a low profile after that until it was time for our flight home! It wasn’t actually until I was writing this story that Sam reminded me of this encounter and I am SO glad I still have the photo to be able to share with you (considering it cost us a fortune to take.)

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If you have a (now) funny story about being swindled while travelling, we would love to know we aren’t the only ones!  Please leave us a comment so we can hear all about it.

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