Arm yourself with the knowledge you need to avoid these common Caribbean travel scams!
There’s nothing worse for an excited traveler than finding out that the dream vacation he booked is a complete scam. Unfortunately, so many disreputable companies prey upon our desire to take a break, promising low fares and high quality.
Caribbean travel scams can take many forms– both before you book your vacation and after. Read through these 10 common mistakes to make sure none of them become an unfortunate part of your vacation experience!
Caribbean Travel Scams: Know Before You Go
Plenty of Caribbean travel scams can swindle cash from your pockets even before you go. Be sure to purchase your flights, hotel stay, or villa bookings only from reputable companies. No matter how great a vacation package deal may be, it’s not worth the hassle if the company selling it is fraudulent or sketchy.
1. The “Free” Caribbean Cruise
They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch– well, there’s no such thing as a free cruise either. And yet, people still fall for this scam every year. You may see an advertisement for a free cruise on the internet, or maybe receive a call out of the blue offering you an incredible cruise package.
In some cases, the “free” cruise is technically free, but only after you pay all kinds of other fees. In others, you’ll be required to travel (by your own expense) to attend a sales pitch or hotel tour in order to claim your cruise. Sometimes, the cruise doesn’t even exist, and you won’t be reimbursed.
How to Protect Yourself
- Be skeptical of any company that calls you out of the blue, claiming you’ve “won” a cruise, or offering to sell you one cheaply.
- Some Caribbean cruise wholesalers are legitimate, others are not. Many will tell you that they own certain cruise ships when they definitely do not, or provide other false information. Look up the company on Google and check for bad reviews.
- Check the cruise company’s rating on the Better Business Bureau website. Here’s a BBB warning for a cruise wholesale company called Royal Seas Cruises.
- The best option is to book your Caribbean cruise directly with the cruise line.
Not sure whether a Caribbean cruise is right for you? Here are 8 reasons why it might not be…
2. The bait-and-switch
Some websites or telemarketers offer gorgeous-looking hotel rooms or suites for a price far below market value. They won’t disclose the fact that the price you’re paying is actually for a different room in the same hotel, one with far less space and amenities.
In addition, sometimes a deceitful travel company will entice you with a low price, and then add on extra hidden fees later. This practice, called “split pricing”, gets vacationers to make a quick purchase, as they assume certain items are included in the original quote.
How to Protect Yourself
- Never make a purchase based solely on photos. Always ask for details and confirmation about the room size, number of beds, etc.
- Always read the fine print. Irreputable sellers often hide their pricing structure there.
3. Hidden hotel names and vendors
Sometimes, vacation package sellers do not disclose the exact names of the hotels and other vendors included in the package. There are several reasons why they might do this:
- They are not actually affiliated with any hotel, and are not actually offering you a real vacation. Therefore, they don’t provide any hotel name so that you can’t contact the hotel to confirm whether the deal is legitimate.
- The hotel may be closed or undergoing renovations.
- The hotel has bad customer ratings.
How to Protect Yourself
- Ask for exact hotel and vendor names. If the company refuses to give them to you, assume the deal is a scam. (The only exception is auction websites like Priceline or Hotwire, who do not disclose locations until after bidding in exchange for guaranteed low prices.)
Caribbean Travel Scams: Know While Traveling
Other types of Caribbean travel scams can occur while you’re enjoying your vacation. Criminals often target tourists because they aren’t familiar with their surroundings and local prices. Here are some of the most common ways that travelers get tricked in the Caribbean:
4. Overpriced taxis and services
This is one of the most common Caribbean travel scams that exist. Taxis will show up with no meter and try to charge you an exorbitant amount, or the meter numbers will increase incredibly fast. The best way to avoid this scam is use taxi apps that give you a guaranteed price ahead of time. If those are not available, ask a resident or hotel staff what the normal fares are. That way, you can be sure you’re getting a fair price. In addition, never get into an unlicensed taxi, no matter how low of a price they offer.
5. “Free” gifts
In the Caribbean (and in many other places in the world), you may meet people on the street or even in restaurants that try to give you something for free. It could be a bracelet, a flower, or even a hat. Once you’re holding it in your hands or you have it on your head, the “gifter” will demand you pay them for it. If you refuse, they will shout and scream until you pay out of sheer embarrassment.
6. Counterfeit products
Be careful while shopping in the Caribbean. In many cities, counterfeit goods are common. If you see a deal on designer bags or shoes that’s too good to be true, it probably is.
7. Wrong change
Unwitting tourists often accept the wrong change because they are unfamiliar with local currency. Criminals take advantage of this fact and short change travelers, hoping they won’t notice the difference. To avoid this travel scam, always count your change before you leave any store or street vendor.
8. Drug bribes
In developing countries in the Caribbean, drug dealers sometimes work with police to trap tourists into paying large bribes. Usually, someone will offer you drugs, and when you accept, a policeman will instantly arrive to arrest you. They’ll offer to let you pay them a bribe in order to avoid jail time, something that many tourists opt to do. Avoid this situation by avoiding drugs during your trip!
Make sure your vacation is all fun and no trouble! Read 6 Common Mistakes Americans Make While Traveling in the Caribbean.
Main image credit: cruisepassenger.com.au
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