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Tourist Scams that migsht not be

There has been discussion on what might be tourist scams and what might not be,. Some tourist scams rely on looking official to work so I thought I might write of a few that have been mentioned.

Driving; Driving comes in two forms - Driving and parking.

Driving: Except in the Republic of Ireland where they switched from mph to km/h in 2006 the limits are not generally posted. As a driver you are expected to know what the limit is. There are usually only three to chose from. Enforcement is possible by camera and is possible a few month after the event. For Europeans this might involve an insurance penalty because it may involve points to (UK) or from (France) the licence. It is not the policeman you need to worry about, but the camera.

Some countries will enforce at 1 km/h over the limit, some 10 km/h.

Parking/ZTL/Congestion charges: Again enforced by camera. The signs will be by what is called the Vienna Convention and in the local language only. Hire car companies will not quibble but pay the fine and ask you to pay them plus an administration fee. I get that from the Royal Mail if I but anything from North America. Which is why I buy from France.

Signs will be simple, clear and in the local official language, The only countries they will be in English are the UK, Malta, Republic of Ireland and Republic of Cyprus. EU law requires the signs be in the Latin alphabet so you might meet transliteration or translation in Bulgaria or Greece. Usually English but as likely to be Bulgarian or Greek,

Which Cyrillic language has most adherents? Bulgarian. Thanks to being an official language of the EU it has 450 million adherents, Russian has 200 million. Bulgarian Cyrillic has joined the Latin and Greek alphabets on the euro bank notes.

VAT: the price quoted should include VAT or equivalent. In the UK with 20% VAT we have LOW VAT in Europe. And the price should include VAT or give the price including VAT. That is what you should pay. In reverse, think of the European tourist in America who picks up an item priced at $9.99 and is asked for $11.

ID: In many European countries you are required to carry ID at all times. The police may ask for it. vos papiers monsieur is a staple of French detective fiction. But the police must be willing to show their id. They will not ask to see your money. If they do it is a scam.

There are genuine scams out there but some of the scams highlighted are not scams.

Any others? Please, please enter below.

Posted by
8293 posts

Very often posts here from travellers complain of scams which when detailed are patently not scams but are misunderstandings. Is it different from home? Must be a scam. Is there a language problem leading to a misunderstanding? Must be a scam plus "we know darn well he could speak English". Did he get a traffic ticket ? Obviously a scam targeting Americans. Did you know that ZTLs in Italian cities are installed to target American drivers? Yup. Those cameras can tell an American driver from an Italian one. Clever, no? Just because it looks like a duck doesn't always mean it's a duck or even a canard.

Posted by
507 posts

Your enlightening post is appreciated.


{Edit: To Americans a VAT = sales tax already added in.}

Posted by
8889 posts

"In reverse, think of the European tourist in America who picks up an item priced at $9.99 and is asked for $11." - definate scam
If I see something advertised in a shop window at €9.99, I go in I put it on the counter and put down a €10 note, I want my 1 cent change back!
When I go in a shop I am used to adding up the items in my head and putting the exact change down.

Posted by
7526 posts

I may be missing something, but other than a police official (with ID or not) asking to see your currency...none of the above in the original post constitute a scam.

Yes, some have tried to present them as so, but are quickly "shouted down" by others on the board

Posted by
507 posts

In reverse, think of the European tourist in America who picks up an item priced at $9.99 and is asked for $11.

The price of European goods includes the sales tax.

In America each state, county, and city have their own sales taxes that are added together & charged at the time of purchase. An item priced at $9.99 in my area carries an additional 7% sales tax. So one is charged $9.99 and a separate charge of 70 cents for a total of $10.69. In Europe that product would be priced $10.69.
Again, in my {Edit: city} the sales tax is 7% {Addition: of the combined state, county, & city sales taxes} the total purchase/services. The City of Houston (next county over) has a sales tax of at least 8%. Our sales tax is a separate charge that the merchant pays to the state.

{Edit . . . I believe MC was trying to set the record straight b/c Americans have bemoaned the fact they felt taken advantage of. People in the USA in general are not used to cameras being used in place of police. That is the biggest difference I see between driving in the States and driving in Europe.}

Posted by
919 posts

Except in DC where some speed cameras are pretty much a scam. But I digress...

Posted by
15581 posts

I can't tell you how many times friends of mine have complained that when they shop OR EAT in the U.S., the prices are pre-tax. Coming from countries where the quoted price is the final price, they feel that it is akin to trickery to entice you to buy something by displaying an artificially lower price. Just sayin' . . .

Posted by
1639 posts

This was really indicating some of the things people think are scams that aren't. the authorities are not out to get you as tourists. They are out to get everybody! There are of course scams that try to look official, it is what spammers do. And of course there are genuine scams people need to be aware of.

American prices without the tax quoted and especially American tipping practice looks to us like a scam but are not.

And of course there are legitimate businesses which look like their business model is the tourist trade a bit too much. Looking at no company especially that is not called Aberdeen Angus Steakhouses in London. 45 minutes for a rare steak? That came as well done. I think they have been fingered before though!

Posted by
1288 posts

Colette and Chani- I was going to post the same thing! I am American, but after returning from a month in Europe I had to get used to adding 10% to prices. (It shocked me at the Charlotte NC airport. I had exact change out for a Diet coke and they added another 15 cents). I can only imagine how European feel when they visit. It does really seem like a "scam". (One price is posted, but it is not the "real" price). I wish we would go to the European style. It made it so much easier to have my money ready. Here, I am never sure how much the price will actually be since tax rates vary state to state and even county to county.

Posted by
4535 posts

Hire car companies will not quibble but pay the fine and ask you to pay them plus an administration fee.

A clarification is needed here: most rental agencies will not pay the fine. They charge you an administrative fee, spelled out in the contract, for providing your contact information to the authorities. For each and every ticket. It is almost always the authorities that send you the ticket. Perhaps this is different for EU citizens. I would say this is the number one perceived "scam" by those visiting Italy based on threads here (due to the prevalence of ZTLs).

Posted by
97 posts

How can the American practice of adding tax to the price of something at the register be considered a scam? Americans know (or should know) that tax may be added to the item; therefore, the price shown is PRE-tax.

If Europeans don't know this, then it's something they should learn before coming here. I would never assume paying for something is the same in every country.

Posted by
8889 posts

@Kathleen. The point is the posters are trying to make an analogy. Most of the alleged "scams" posted on this website are nothing of the sort, they are just misunderstandings of how things work in that country, or examples of assuming things are "the same in every country", as you put it. Calling not posting the full price in shops / restaurants a "scam" is just a reverse example.

Though personally I think not posting the final price is basically fraudulent advertising, but that is because I am used to seeing the "correct" price posted.

Posted by
1639 posts

Douglas, good catch there, I should have been clearer. Where hire car companies may pay the fine and then hunt for the driver is where the fine is a civil liability, for example in parking tickets where the fine is attached to the car not the driver. They may therefore pay and then come round to your house and steal your washing.

In criminal liability issues they are obliged by law, at least in the UK, to inform the police who was driving. This is the penalty point issue. I am obliged to inform the authorities who was driving my car if I get flashed. This is what did for one of our ex-cabinet ministers.

Interestingly of the more polite nicknames for speed cameras, one is 'scamera' due to the feeling they are often there for revenue not safety. Another is 'cash machine'.