Europe. The punchy paradise of patchwork nations, spanning the colourful horizons of mountain ranges, historical cities, reverent vistas and a startling assortment of sights, sounds and personalities. It can be overwhelming, a bit destabilising for the uninitiated even, wandering around the countless international airports, switching between English and a rainbow of languages. With this cacophony of new experiences, it’s hard to separate an opportunist from a friendly face – instead of treating every person as a potential threat or remove a place from your itinerary, learn how to spot the signs you’re being hustled long before you lose your valuables.
The Attack of Chatty Cathy
Do you hate people who talk on their mobile phones in front of you, as the roll their items across the scanner and take forever to pay the cashier? We do too. Imagine the positions reversed, a store clerk chatting away to a friend as you stand there waiting to process the transaction before moving on. If you observe a chatty Cathy or Craig manning the EFTPOS and cash registers, be very wary. European scammers are technologically savvy, taking pictures of your credit cards as you flash them across the counter, recording the numbers for later. Pay with cash. Local, cold cash every time.
The Best of Frenemies
Tourists are vulnerable targets, wide eyed and commonly trusting of the good intentions of smiling locals. While the majority of store owners and pedestrians are not out to swipe your stuff; keep a tight hold on your bag; stash your money and passport in a money belt and hide it under your clothes. Keep an eye out for overly friendly men and women, brushing the anything from poo to tomato sauce (imaginary, of course) off your shoulder while signalling their partner to fleece a backpack or camera bag. Don’t accept gifts of generosity or lend cash to anybody; this includes pan handlers and beggars, of which there will be many. While your altruism is noted, the money you throw their way won’t go to those who need it most, but the leaders of whatever street gang the children, women or men are a part.
Avoid street urchins and displays that require your participation; the end result will cost you a pretty penny and the feelings of unsolicited guilt tied up in denying this seemingly poor charlatan a chance to make a quick buck.
Beware the Street Circuit
As tempting as they are, tread lightly at street markets. Not only are the products cheap and dodgy, most countries limit the importation of knock-off bags and wallets, cracking down on these pedlars for human rights and financial reasons. Also, be on the look-out for kind passer-by’s, bending over to pick up a piece of jewellery they think you’ve dropped. Be careful with your electronics; to guard against a massive bill when you return home, on top of a missing phone, visit this URL to save the hassle of disconnecting your number and paying premiums on calls you possibly didn’t make.
This is a guest post by Jessica Hannah