Avoiding Scams And Thieves While Traveling Abroad

Flickr user Modenadude

My wife and I had just left the Musee D’Orsay when a young woman came running up to us clutching a ring.

The pretty brunette spoke in halting English, saying she saw it drop to the ground as we walked by. After a quick scan of our fingers, we told her we weren’t missing any rings, but she placed the ring in my hand and insisted we take it for friendship. Before my heart could swell with the joy of international love and brotherhood, she then asked for money for a cup of coffee. At that point, I realized it was a scam and handed her back the ring, which she no doubt tried to foist onto another hapless tourist couple.

While our stay in Paris was overall a wonderful experience, criminals threatened to put a damper on our trip. Before our flight out of Charles de Gaulle Airport, we would be accosted by other scam artists several more times, and my wife was pick-pocketed on the Paris Metro. Luckily the hipster shorts I bought in a Parisian boutique were so tight, I could barely get my fingers into my pockets, let alone a common thief do the same.

Unfortunately, theft and scams are all too prevalent in most major metropolitan areas. Staff members at the Louvre actually went on strike for a day earlier this year, protesting the unsafe working conditions caused by thieves and scam artists. Bob Arno, co-author of Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Crime While Traveling, estimates about 70 percent of Barcelona tourists will be approached by a street criminal; of those incidents, about 33 percent result in the loss of valuables.

According to the US government, Paris, Barcelona, London, Rome, Amsterdam and Naples have the highest number of scam artists looking to take advantage of naïve or distracted tourists.

Travel expert Rick Steves recently noted some of the most common international travel scams and ways tourists can avoid them. Other advice to consider:

  • Forgo purses or strapped bags in favor of body wallets or buttoned pockets.
  • Leave fancy jewelry or expensive watches at home. Don’t flash expensive electronic equipment –- particularly iPhones, thieves love them –- around. Have the number for the local police department saved in your phone.
  • Keep your passport and other important documents in the hotel safe, after you’ve scanned or photographed them and saved them in a file-sharing app or program like Evernote or Dropbox.
  • Stay alert. While you might be tempted to buy that second bottle of wine after dinner, realize drunk tourists are easy targets.

What are your tips for staying safe abroad?

French Vintage Carnival Rides Come To NYC

vintage carnival rides at Fete Paradiso
Courtesy Fete Paradiso

If you are a fan of carnival rides, history, or just good old-fashioned summer fun, take a ferry out to NYC’s Governor’s Island this summer for a festival of vintage Parisian rides and carousels. Billed as a museum meets amusement park, Fete Paradiso will open on July 13 and run until September 29, and feature 19th- and 20th-century attractions such as a pipe organ, flying swings and a bicycle carousel like the one featured in “Midnight in Paris.” To add to the vintage French feel, there will be food from bistro Le Gamin and a beer hall and event space converted from a 1900 bumper car pavilion, along with special events opening weekend for Bastille Day.

Admission to Fete Paradiso is free and rides are $3 a pop. The free ferry to Governor’s Island from Manhattan‘s Battery Maritime building or Brooklyn‘s Pier 6 runs half-hourly until 7 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. Learn more about Governor’s Island on their website, and follow the carnival set up on Instagram here.

French Given Etiquette Manual To Combat Rudeness

paris eiffel tower
Gary Cycles, Flickr

French tourism authorities desperate to overhaul the country’s reputation are handing out a manual aimed at teaching locals how to be polite to foreigners. France is the number one tourist destination in the world with nearly 30 million people visiting the capital in the past year; however, many foreigners leave Paris feeling snubbed by the locals.

The unhelpful tone and attitude used by shopkeepers or the unwillingness to speak English to tourists has earned the French a reputation for rudeness causing tourism bureaus to fear they will start losing visitors to friendlier cities in Europe.

The six-page booklet “Do You Speak Touriste?” teaches locals how to greet foreigners in a number of different languages and explains some of the cultural peculiarities of various nationalities. This includes referring to Brits by their first names, welcoming Italians with a firm handshake and greeting the Chinese (who are described as “fervent shoppers”) with a smile and a “Ni Hao.“Around 30,000 copies of the etiquette guide have been handed out to wait staff, taxi drivers, hotel managers, retail sales staff and other Parisians who regularly come into contact with tourists.

This is not the first attempt to encourage the French to be more polite to visitors – just last year the Parisian transport authority launched an ad campaign to end rudeness, and back in 2008, a group of locals set up a meet and greet service designed to showcase the friendlier side of the local folk. Five years on, the effort to combat rudeness continues… old habits, it seems, die hard.

Photo of the Day: Love Locks in Paris

Paris is a romantic city. The architecture, the lights, the food, the language; it’s hard to deny that this city is a place for love.

One of the classic expressions of romance in the City of Light is the collection of love padlocks on some of Paris’ most classic bridges. Love locks are a simple thing: a couple writes their names on a padlock, locks it to one of the bridges, and if they are really committing to everlasting love, throws the key into the Seine.

The weight of love in Paris is so big that a few years ago, town hall was concerned about the influence of the locks on the city’s architectural integrity, and one night, all of the thousands of locks were cut down – although the culprit remains unknown. But even French bureaucracy can’t win in the battle of love, and locks returned, in all colors and sizes.

You’ll find the biggest assortment on Pont des Arts and Pont de l’Archevêché (which bridge you choose depends on which type of love you are trying to express), where Flickr user jrodmanjir snapped this photo.

Have your own travel photos that capture a special moment? Submit them to the Gadling Flickr Pool for a chance to be featured on Photo of the Day.

[Photo Credit: jrodmanjir]

Photo Of The Day: The Master Of The French Bistro


A Parisian restaurant or bistro often gets its charm and ambience thanks to its waiters. They are the ones that control the scene, passing out espressos and early afternoon beers. If you speak a little French, they’re easy to schmooze. They’ll encourage you to get the carafe of house red with lunch and they’ll probably convince you to get dessert as well.

This photo by Flickr user jrodmanjr – aptly titled “Master of his Domain” – captures the essence of a Parisian waiter, the master of a culinary scene that is so iconic in the City of Light.

Do you have a photo that captures the essence of a place? Submit your photo to the Gadling Flickr pool for your chance to be on Photo of the Day.

[Photo Credit: jrodmanjr]

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