Unexpected costs can turn an amazing holiday into a trip to hell.

We’ve all been there. We landed a deal for a hotel room, a flight, a rental car or an activity package that was almost to good to be true. And then it turned out that it was indeed too good to be true.

 

The last time it happened to me was when I felt particularly smug about finding a rental car for a weekend away for half the price than most other companies were advertising. Do I really need to say more? In the end, we paid a lot more than we would have paid somewhere else, because of ridiculous rental policies and a lot of little mistakes from our side.

It got me thinking, most times we feel ripped off on our travels, it’s  a mix of our own fault and someone else’s bad intentions. No matter which one dominates the particular situation it’s sh*t and we ask ourselves, what we could have done differently to avoid the mess.

So, without further ado, here are 10 ways to avoid being ripped off when traveling!

 

Rule 1: Read the small print

I think one of the top causes for feeling ripped off on the road, is when you forgot to read the small print. When you don’t know what’s included or covered in the price you paid, that’s when the unexpected costs hit you the hardest. Make sure you know what you pay for.

For tours, check which services and stops are included; for rental cars make sure you know who is responsible for what in case of an emergency; read up about credit card and insurance requirements. Failing to read the small print can result in high fees for things that could have easily been avoided.

Rule 2: Compare prizes and read reviews

Often companies that rip people off, don’t just do that one time but are “repeat offenders”. Of course, you’d know that, had you read the reviews…

Comparing prices and offers, and reading experience reports and reviews of other travelers can help finding good deals. “Good” in this instance does not necessarily mean cheap, but rather good value for money.

PS: Learn to read between the lines. Often bad reviews are really just someone letting off steam about a mistake that could have been avoided by following rule 1; or they are complaints about situations that the company could really not have anticipated or influenced in any way.

10 Ways to Avoid being Ripped Off when Traveling | Travelettes | Whether we didn't read the small print properly or someone it simply determined to charge you twice the local price - being ripped off when traveling is real! Here are 10 ways to avoid it.

Rule 3: Research what things cost

Afraid of being overcharged for a taxi fare, a hotel stay or a restaurant meal?

When you travel abroad it’s always good to research what common things should roughly cost, and with the apps and online communities we have access to right now, this has never been easier!

If you find out what you should expect to pay for certain things (like a taxi fare from the airport to the hotel), it is much easier to stand your ground in a negotiation for a price.

Rule 4: Ask ‘Is it too good to be true?’

Most people will follow rule 3 in order to avoid being overcharged; but rule 4 makes sure that you know how much you should expect what to pay if you want a high quality experience.

Would you really want to save money on a glacier walking tour, if there’s a chance that your guides are not as experienced as with the more expensive company, or safety equipment is not replaced as frequently? If your Kilimanjaro trek is a steal, how can you be sure that your porters are paid a reasonable wage?

Some activities are come at a high price and there are good reasons for it. If you find an offer that seems to good to be true, look into the details and make sure you’re not saving money at the cost of someone else.

10 Ways to Avoid being Ripped Off when Traveling | Travelettes | Whether we didn't read the small print properly or someone it simply determined to charge you twice the local price - being ripped off when traveling is real! Here are 10 ways to avoid it.

Rule 5: Trust your people skills

Imagine someone makes you a seemingly irresistible offer, whether it is for an activity, a meal, a personal tour or something else. But something seems fishy about them…

Even if you can’t put your finger on what makes you feel uncomfortable, you should follow your instincts. Don’t sign contracts with people who are pushing you into making a decisions. Take your time and make your business with people you can trust.

Rule 6: Don’t be afraid to ask questions and demand written confirmations

But how do you know whether you can trust someone? A trustworthy person who’s running an honest will probably be happy to answer any question you might have – so make sure you ask plenty of them and get every detail of your deal straight.

If possible (particularly for bigger expenses) ask for a written offer or a confirmation of your agreement. That makes it easier to hold someone accountable to their word.

10 Ways to Avoid being Ripped Off when Traveling | Travelettes | Whether we didn't read the small print properly or someone it simply determined to charge you twice the local price - being ripped off when traveling is real! Here are 10 ways to avoid it.

Rule 7: Get your money straight

There are two ways in which you can make sure you keep your money straight on the road.

First, check your conversion rates and memorise a few crucial amounts in order to calculate the cost of things quickly in your head. Make a cheat sheet for your purse and keep it handy.

Second, talk to your bank about which fees apply when you use your cards abroad. If you know what your bank might charge you, you know when it makes sense to use your card and when you should bring enough cash on the road.

Rule 8: Be selective about when and where to use your card

Another thing on credit cards. A common travel rip-off that unfortunately keeps happening around the world, is credit card fraud. Only use your card in businesses and at ATMs you can trust and keep track of where you used your card. Do this to make it easier to track when and where something went wrong in an emergency.

10 Ways to Avoid being Ripped Off when Traveling | Travelettes | Whether we didn't read the small print properly or someone it simply determined to charge you twice the local price - being ripped off when traveling is real! Here are 10 ways to avoid it.

Rule 9: Get an international phone plan or a local sim card

Apart from bank charges, roaming charges can be the second-most annoying cost to blow your travel budget unexpectedly – especially because they can be avoided so easily.

Before going abroad make sure you enquire with your phone provider, what roaming charges apply when you use your phone abroad. In order to be able to use your phone without being charged crazy fees, do one of the following two things:

  1. Get an international phone plan,
  2. or unlock your phone and get a local pay-as-you-go sim card at your destination.

Rule 10: Buy travel insurance

This is a no-brainer. Medical costs abroad can be expensive. Get travel insurance to cover you for all sorts of emergencies!

10 Ways to Avoid being Ripped Off when Traveling | Travelettes | Whether we didn't read the small print properly or someone it simply determined to charge you twice the local price - being ripped off when traveling is real! Here are 10 ways to avoid it.

Bonus Tip: Put things into perspective

Finally, I’d like to give you a bonus tip. Being “ripped off” can be a very subjective experience – for some it’s enough to be charged even $5 more than a local, while others only start complaining when it’s about a really big sum of money.

Next time you find yourself overcharged put things into perspective. Especially when it’s about a relatively small sum of money, think how much that little extra could mean for the person you’re dealing with. Does it really matter to you whether you pay $20 or $25 for a souvenir? But those five bucks might mean a lot to them.

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Have you ever felt ripped off on your travel? Share your story and top tips below!

 

All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.