The other day, I was chatting to an old friend about travel scams and he was describing how he had been pick-pocketed on the train in France. That reminded me of being scammed at a French train station myself. I was new to travelling solo and was trying to buy a train ticket at the Metro. I had obviously just arrived, complete with backpack and a sweaty “I’m lost and easy-to-take-advantage-of” look. A man approached me and asked if I needed help. Before I even had a chance to respond, he grabbed the 10 euro note from my hand, slipped it into the ticket machine, purchased my 2 euro ticket and pocketed the 8 euros change. I thanked him for helping me and saw his smiling face disappear into the crowd. A few seconds later, I realised I had been taken as a fool! Luckily, he had given me the ticket, and it could have been a lot worse. But from then on, I was always careful to have the correct change at the ticket machine. That experience helped me to become a smarter traveller.
It can be easy to grow complacent though. In my experiences, most of the time, people all over the world are very nice and helpful. I remember my host in a homestay in Vietnam woke up at 5am especially to prepare me a fresh breakfast of rice and eggs. She then passed me a bag full of fresh baguettes and oranges to eat on my long bus journey ahead. To this day, I remember her kindness, generosity and selflessness. She left me with a beautiful feeling inside, which I immediately wanted to pass on to others.
Whilst you may start your trip with a money-belt and photocopies of important documents spread throughout your luggage, you may return home with a wide-open hippy bag and a passport that has fallen into the river and now has water damage! I guess the important message is that there are lovely, helpful people all over the world, just as there are scammers waiting to pounce. Be smart, travel safely, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself and remember, sometimes people really are trying to help!
Have you ever been scammed? Or have you ever been helped out unexpectedly by a complete stranger on your travels? I would love to hear your stories!
Cover Image: Pixabay