10 Biggest Travel Ripoffs
Getting fleeced anywhere, whether in the states or abroad, is never fun—especially when you're trying to travel conservatively. Different languages and customs, however, can send even the smartest traveler into a financial tailspin. "Being gloriously overwhelmed by novelty and excitement at every turn leads us to be less perceptive than perhaps we might be back at home," says travel psychologist Michael Brein, Ph.D. "After all, the money is Monopoly play money—it isn't that real—so it's no wonder that it goes relatively more quickly than we think or expect." Recognize the world's top 10 worst travel ripoffs and you can save your cash for meaningful experiences that are worth the coin.
1. EXCESS BAGGAGE CHARGES
When you're at home riffling through your closet for the perfect attire for daytime, nighttime, and every time in between (you never know, you might be invited to the opera or a picnic, right?), toting along an extra piece of luggage can seem sane—if not downright practical. Not the case, says travel expert Terry Trippler, founder of the consumer website The Plane Rules. "Chances are you aren't going to wear all that stuff you packed and end up paying more in baggage charges," he says. "In a lot of hotels, you can have clothing laundered for less than taking more and paying excess baggage charges."
2. TRIP INSURANCE
Travelers can occasionally get a deal by purchasing travel insurance, but only buy it if you read and completely understand the policy. Otherwise, it can be worthless. "Travel insurance used to be basically flight insurance, but with the advent of non-refundable tickets, et cetera, businesses saw a market to sell insurance to cover expenses associated with the traveler's entire trip," Trippler says. (Medical care is one example.) "Watch this one—closely."
3. SHADY TAXI DRIVERS
The ways that unsanctioned cabs take more than their share of your money by unscrupulous means are many, including high unstated charges, less than efficient routes, and incorrect change returned, says Brein. Instead of hopping into the car of the first person who offers, he suggests asking yourself these questions: "Is the cab marked or not? Is there a license or permit visible? Is there a price chart available? Is the taxi parked with others or hidden away? Is the driver with the cab or hustling elsewhere?"
4. EATING LIKE A TOURIST
It sounds simple, but try to eat like the locals eat whenever you can, and that means deliberately avoiding the tourist traps. Specifically, watch out for incongruous cuisines, like an Italian joint next to a Caribbean beach, or restaurants that brag about their exquisite panoramic vistas. "What you might lose in atmosphere or views, you will gain in price and authenticity," says Laura Siciliano-Rosen, founder of Eat Your World, a website dedicated to finding the best local eats around the globe. To avoid shelling out cash for sub-par food, she suggests chatting up the locals—and not necessarily the hotel concierge. "Ask regular people: your taxi driver, your waiter, the guy next to you on the bus, the woman in line with you at the supermarket," Siciliano-Rosen says. "Also, you can probably tell where locals are eating by the look of a place. Does the place seem like it's trying to attract tourist money? Who's at the tables? Do you see any guidebooks or cameras?"
5. MANHATTAN HOTELS
A hotel room in the Big Apple can sound enticing no matter what neighborhood you're in, but for the amount of money you plunk down, you don't get much. What you do get is often an older hotel with tiny rooms. Trippler calls it "probably the worst 'value' in travel." Before you book, research exactly what you're getting, or branch out to reputable hotels in other boroughs.
6. AIRPORT AIRLINE CLUBS
When you picture a members-only portion of an airport, replete with its own bar, your first instinct might be to expect smoking jackets and the tinkling of a grand piano in the background. Not so these days. The reality can be anything but a sophisticated zen environment, which is not worth spending your money on, especially if you're paying a pricey day rate. "More and more people are joining and too often you can find a club that is just as crowded and loud as the airport departure gates," Trippler says. "The 'value' of any airline club depends on how often you will use it and the cities you will generally visit."
7. UNIFORMED "GUIDES" AT AIRPORTS
A fancy uniform does not a reputable guide make. After deplaning in your destination, you might be accosted by "guides" who look official in dress, but actually are paid to take you to high-priced, touristy locales. "They all lead you to think that they are who they say they are, but in reality they are not," Brein says. "More often than not, they lead you not to places to stay, markets and shops, and sights that have merit or good value, but rather to places that more often than not suit their own purposes." If you need help navigating a city, seek out guides from official bureaus, Brein says.
8. BLACK MARKET MONEY EXCHANGE
Trying to beat the system—and more specifically, the exchange rates—by changing money with locals on the black market is only going to hurt your wallet in the end. "Often, a few good bills are mixed in with money padded with either folded smaller bills, older illegal money, newspaper, and whatnot, and the money changers are usually out of there so quickly that the duped tourist has little or no recourse," Brein says. Stay on the straight and narrow and, if it helps you to know before you go, research exchange rates before you leave the country to avoid sticker shock at the counter.
9. "MINIMUM" FEES AT RESTAURANTS OR CLUBS
In some countries, "minimum" charges for entering a sought-after (or salacious) nightclub are commonplace—and some restaurants bill you for what seems to be free, like mineral water. The last thing you want to do is blow your budget without getting anything in return. "These tourist-only fees seem to exist in restaurants around the world, particularly in Europe," Siciliano-Rosen says. "The charge may or may not be listed on the menu. When in doubt, gently refuse the bread if you didn't ask for it."
10. INSANELY HIGH BOOZE TAXES
When in a country like India, which imposes an exorbitant tax on alcohol, skip the cocktails at restaurants, which can easily cost upward of $15. Go for virgin refreshments instead, such as India's traditional yogurt drink: "Stick to a lassi and save the beer for the hotel fridge," Siciliano-Rosen says.
7 Rules for Savvy Travel (Even if You’re on a Tight Budget)
By Douwe Osinga, CEO of travel app, Triposo It's easy to get wrapped up in doing all the touristy things and forget to seek out more interesting and off-the-beaten-path cultural experiences, like concerts, street festivals, and native dishes. Having been to more than 50 countries so far, I've developed seven rules that I think can help make traveling more enjoyable and rewarding, even if you're on a very tight budget. Sleep where you want to beOnce, I traveled to Lisbon for the weekend (something you can do when you already live in Europe, lucky me!). When I booked the flight, there was an offer for a luxury hotel for a relatively cheap price, so I booked it. Bad move. Sure, the hotel was upscale and beautiful, but it was also in the business district, which means that the area was totally dead on the weekend and miles away from the historic town. In terms of enjoying the city, any single-star hotel right downtown would have been much better. The lesson? You want to sleep comfortably, of course, but beyond that, sleeping is sleeping. It's much more important to be close to what you came for. Smile, mime, and try to say a few wordsSometimes people get very nervous about traveling to countries where they don't speak the language. Once, I traveled from Mexico to Venezuela knowing maybe 50 words of Spanish total (though I did pick up a few more by the end of the trip). Even with my low level of Spanish, it wasn't all that hard to get around. In many places we traveled to, English was scarce, but people appreciated that we tried to use the local language. Apart from that, miming and smiling usually works wonders, so don't be afraid to look a little silly. When I am confronted with somebody with whom I don't share any language, I usually talk to them in Dutch (my native language). Slowly and with lots of hand movements, I can usually get my point across. (If all else fails, check out the phrasebooks in our Triposo mobile app!) Learn when to listen—and when to ignore—local adviceI was in Namibia and wanted to cross to Zimbabwe through the Caprivi Strip. The bus was canceled, and the local travel agent said there were no more buses for the rest of the night. We asked what our chances for hitchhiking looked like, and they told us to ask the men who worked at the gas station down the street. As it turned out, they had their own (mini) bus system with continuous departures to Zimbabwe. We had an excellent trip and got to see a completely different side of Namibia. The lesson? The locals are, of course, a great source of first-hand information when traveling. However, they have their own prejudices and perspectives, so while their input is important, it's not the end of the discussion. If you don't like the answer you get from one person, go ask another! Sometimes you need to talk to a few different people before you get the whole story. Know when to trade time for moneyAnother time, I booked a trip with some friends on a boat traveling from Java to Sumatra. Once aboard, I discovered that my tickets placed us in third class. That meant an overcrowded iron compartment 10 meters below sea level. On top of that, the trip would apparently take 72 hours. My friends and I considered the situation for ten minutes, then grabbed our bags and bolted for the airport. That night, while sitting on our porch overlooking a tropical river, sipping a cold beer with orangutans howling in the background, we thought about how we would still be traveling for another 60 hours had we taken the boat... Yikes! Travel in third world countries can be very cheap, and that's great. It means you can see and do things you might not be able to do elsewhere. But sometimes you have to snap out of the cheapskate mindset and realize that you can buy a lot of time with a little more money and that is often 100 percent worth it. Readjust your appetite for riskGetting around in Kenya's matatu buses are undoubtedly much more dangerous than the subway in Berlin or New York. In fact, it's safe to say that the matatus would be outlawed as death-traps in many places around the world. So why would you take them when visiting Kenya? Well, if you use the same risk calculations when traveling as you do at home, you won't be able to go very far, and your visit probably won't be worthwhile. In my mind, since you're only taking these risks for a limited amount of time, it's fine. Higher risks for a limited amount of time in return for extraordinary experiences is a good trade-off in my opinion. Check the weather reportWhile in Morocco, I decided to take an excursion to the sand dunes of the Sahara. It hadn't rained there in ten years. Guess what? That day, it poured! While it's true that most places travelers visit have more stable weather than Europe or the U.S., nothing is ever certain. Most places are nicer with sun and if you leave your schedule open, you can always hop on a plane or a train to where the sun is shining. Use your smartphone to check the weather and don't be afraid to be spontaneous if it will result in a better trip. Don't go cheap on food all of the time If you're traveling on a budget, meals are often a great place to save some dough. Years ago, I was traveling with my brother (and now business partner) in Syria on a tight budget. Falafel three times a day is indeed a cheap way to fill your stomach, but it gets old fast. Only much later did I discover that I had missed out on the best parts of Syrian cuisine by being too cheap to eat in a nice restaurant. So my advice is to always take one night and splurge on the best food you can find. The memories will be well worth it, and your taste buds will thank you.
Focus on the Experience, not the Destination, to Save Money on Trips
By Alek Vernitsky, CEO of GetGoing.com. The cost of airfare has increased by 22 percent over the last 10 years, and as a result, many people cannot afford to fly for vacations—especially when there are multiple tickets to buy, and the price of airfare is often cost-prohibitive. But there is a simple trick for saving money when planning a vacation: avoid focusing on the destination. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but all too often, people get hung up on a particular destination they want to travel too, and if it is too expensive, they rush to the conclusion that they can't afford a trip that year. There are thousands of affordable places out there, and people should never feel as though price was the only reason they couldn't go on a great trip. So if you really want to save money, approach the travel planning process by thinking first about the type of experience you want, and then the destination. By thinking about the kind of experience you want to have, you open yourself up to a vast array of possibilities when it comes to the destination you book. Say you wanted to go to Maui (focused on destination), but Maui was too expensive this time of year. Is it really important to you that you go to Maui in particular, or are you simply looking for the experience of a great beach getaway? If you're looking for the experience, then why not consider Oahu, Kona, Honolulu—or even much cheaper destinations in the Caribbean? A quick search on GetGoing for "Hawaii Beaches" shows that right now, a flight from San Francisco to Maui is $683, but a flight to Honolulu is only $553. That ends up being a savings of $130 per person. So if you have a family of four, they would have saved $520 right off the bat—money that could be spent on the hotel, meals, or activities. A search for "Caribbean Beaches" reveals flights from San Francisco to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for $372—a savings of $211 per ticket or $844 in savings for a family of four. If you're simply looking to go on a great beach vacation (or whatever experience you're interested in) with your family, locking yourself into a destination-focused mindset can cost you a lot of money in the trip-planning process. The problem is that people often don't know what else to look for. If you've never been to Hawaii, you may not know that in addition to Maui you should also search for Honolulu, Kona, Molokai, Hilo, and Kauai. There are more than 15 destinations in the Caribbean, too, so if you don't know every single one, you wouldn't be able to search for more flights. This is where new travel technologies come in handy—enter a city, region, country, or experience and GetGoing will search for all of the destinations that match. Want to go scuba diving? Type in "Scuba Diving" and within seconds, view all of the options for great scuba destinations. Want to explore Italy, but don't know where to start? Enter "Italy" and it will return the best fares for every airport in the country with a single click, making it super fast and easy to compare all the fares and find the cheapest city to start your journey in. The same thing goes for planning your activities—focusing on the overall type of experience you want to have can help you find great deals on activities to do once you get to your destination. Websites like Viator let you search for activities based on the experiences you want to have, making it easy to find the best deals on food, wine & nightlife, cultural activities, watersports, and many more experiences. Regardless of whether you're just starting your trip planning process, trying to figure out if you can afford the flight and hotel, or you're looking for activities to book while at your destination, changing your mindset to focus on the experiences you want to have can help you save more money.
How to Save Money This Labor Day Weekend 2013
Who says getting away for the long weekend has to be expensive? We've already covered the best getaways that should be on your travel radar—here, we present more ways to save money this Labor Day weekend. Pay attention to last-minute deals and be flexible with your travel datesFamily travel expert Anne Taylor Hartzell of HipTravelMama.com says to keep an eye out for exclusive offers made by your favorite brands on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, and to use mobile apps to book on the go for access to last-minute deals. Check out festivals and events happening in your area or if all else fails, consider adjusting the dates of your trip around the holiday weekend to avoid high prices: try to leave on the Wednesday or Thursday before Labor Day and come home Tuesday to escape crowds, or if possible, postpone your travel dates until the week after the holiday when hotel and airline prices will be more reasonable. Consider visiting an alternative cityHotwire.com recently released a study of the five most popular destinations visited during Labor Day weekend and listed recommendations for alternative cities with a similar feel that you can visit for less. The results included visiting Indianapolis instead of Chicago for 53% savings; visiting Toronto instead of New York City for 39% savings; visiting Reno instead of Las Vegas for 19% savings; visiting Washington D.C. instead of Boston for 50% savings; and visiting St. Louis instead of Atlanta for 23% savings. Amount of savings based on hotel bookings made on Hotwire.com between Jun. 15th and Aug. 5th for stays between Aug. 30th and Sept. 2, 2013. If you're anywhere near Atlanta: free concerts and discounts at top family attractionsLovers of all things Coca-Cola will be thrilled to hear about discounts for Fan Days at the World of Coca-Cola from Aug. 27th to Sept. 3rd. Purchase tickets through this link to receive $3 off general admission—buying tickets online to the Georgia Aquarium through this link also gets you a $3 discount off their regular admission prices. A free concert will also take place on Saturday, Aug. 31st in Centennial Olympic Park—stop by between noon and 4:30 p.m. to see performances by Uncle Kracker and Sheryl Crow. If you'd like to support a good cause this Labor Day weekend, try Action Dash, a family-friendly 5K where participants don super hero costumes and run through Piedmont Park to raise money for Action Ministries, a non-profit organization helping Georgia residents fight poverty. The event also takes place in four other Georgia cities on Labor Day: Athens, Augusta, Gainesville, and Rome. Keep an eye out for hotel deals in big citiesRed Roof Inn is having a big Labor Day weekend sale at several of its locations in Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. Here's the breakdown: Red Roof Inn Chicago Downtown—Magnificent Mile: Rooms start at $149.99 per night.Red Roof Inn Chicago—Willowbrook: Rooms start at $69.99 per night.Red Roof Inn New York—LaGuardia Airport: Starting at $119.99 per night .Red Roof Inn Seacaucus—Meadowlands: Starting at $113.39 per night (located in New Jersey near the Meadowlands Sports Complex with easy access to New York City via the Lincoln Tunnel).Red Roof Inn San Francisco Airport: Rooms starting at $124.99 per night.Red Roof Inn Baltimore—Washington D.C./BWI Airport and Red Roof Inn Baltimore—Washington D.C./BW Parkway: Rooms starting at $71.99 per night.
Save Money With 2-For-1 Broadway Tickets
It's my favorite time of year: Broadway Week in New York City, where you can save big on buzz–worthy Broadway shows thanks to 2-For-1 ticket deals on select shows Sept. 7-20. There are 22 shows participating this year and tickets are on sale now through the website. Options this year include Aladdin, Amazing Grace, An American in Paris, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Finding Neverland, Fun Home, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Hand to God, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The King and I, Kinky Boots, Les Miserables, The Lion King, Matilda the Musical, Old Times, Spring Awakening, Wicked, and Something Rotten! Also available are discounted tickets for perennial favorites like Chicago, Jersey Boys, and The Phantom of the Opera. Visit this nycgo.com link to book your tickets online starting at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 19th, and for more information about shows and blackout dates.
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