Travel is fun, and it’s always a learning experience. But one thing not many people talk about is how you can easily be taken advantage of in a foreign country. Even if it ends up only costing you a few extra dollars, knowing someone was less than honest with you can end up ruining your attitude on a trip.
Here are some quick tips on the easiest ways to not get taken advantage of while on vacation:
Understand the customs
While it may be easy to think service customs in your country translate across the world, that is not always the case. And this includes small things you hadn’t thought about.
For instance, in many European countries being a server is a career that many people go to school for. What this means is many times the wait staff is salaried and not expected to be tipped. While it’s okay to tip a little, don’t feel like you have to tip up to 20 percent.
Also, many restaurants charge a service fee. If this is the case, look for it on your receipt. It may seem like you are paying more than you should be — if you are, it’s good for you to know why.
Another thing to remember about customs is you will generally pay for appetizers that might be free in other countries — pretzels, bread, or popcorn at your table — as well as water. Before you order, it’s worth asking.
Learn the language
The most important thing you can do to not be taken advantage of is to learn the language in the country you are visiting. While that may seem an insurmountable task, learning some important words can go a long way.
It will help you read receipts and even learn how to order, as well as helping your service workers (waiters, hotel staff, etc.) gain some respect for you.
Read your receipts
If a receipt gets returned to you and it doesn’t seem quite right, make sure to read it through to make sure everything seems correct. This is where learning the language comes in handy.
This receipt was from a recent trip to Prague. We ordered only two meals and four beers, as well as one water. We expected this to come out to around $25-30, but it ended up being 1517 Czech Koruna (CZK), or around $65.
While it seemed to be a lot more expensive than we expected, we had just gotten off a long flight and were not in the mood to argue. Plus, our waiter was great and we enjoyed the experience.
However, this receipt shows four meals, six cover charges (service fees), one water, two appetizers, and one pretzel — plus a number of other service fees and taxes.
If you feel your receipt is wrong, there is nothing wrong with speaking up to try to understand exactly what you are paying for.
Don’t eat or drink at your hotel
If you think locals try to take advantage of tourists, just wait until you try to eat or drink at an American company’s establishment. For instance, in Prague, you can generally buy a beer in a local bar for 40 to 50 Czech Koruna (CZK), or around $2.00. But at many American brand names, it can be far more. As an example, at the Hilton Prague, a beer cost 175 CZK (or around $7.50).
On our trip to Prague, we ate breakfast at many beautiful, local restaurants, never spending more than 700 CZK (or around $30) for breakfast for two people. Eating breakfast at that same Hilton cost 1500 CZK (or around $65).
If you do want to eat in your hotel, think about it when you are booking. You should be able to find hotels that offer free breakfasts — because many of them do.
Don’t take a cab
Taking a cab, whether one you found on the street, or one run by your hotel, can end up costing you more than it should.
On one occasion in Prague, we took a taxi from the Hilton Prague to the Žižkov Television Tower, a total of 1.8 miles. Taking a cab provided by the Hilton cost 400 CZK, or $17.10. While that may not seem like much, we decided to take an Uber on the way home, which cost 65 CZK (or $2.78).
Don’t go into travel situations thinking everyone is out to take advantage of you, because it will ruin your whole trip. Sometimes the experiences can be worth anything you end up paying. But it’s good to keep these tips in mind and keep an eye out.