Being victimized by scandalous businesses when traveling is one of the sad stories we hear time in time again on the various Tripadvisor forums.  All too often tourists become unsuspected victims of scandalous businesses when traveling and trying to enjoy a bit of shopping while abroad.       

Tourists looking for good shopping deals, often in the form of cheaper electronics, cameras, cutthroat priced jewelry or other luxury goods that might be much more expensive (or unavailable) back home are often preyed upon by unscrupulous businesses that are experts at ripping off foreigners.  To make matters worse, often by the time you discover you’ve been tricked, your not in position to do anything about it.


How can you avoid this situation when traveling?

Know the price!

First, know the prices of the items you are interested in buying before you even consider making a purchase in a foreign city where products are based in a foreign currency.  If you don’t know the prices or even exchange rates, that great deal you think you scored might end up having cost you more than had you made the purchase back home.  Also, you need to factor in VAT and any duties you might be legally bound to pay in your home country by bringing certain goods back home


Shop around!

Second, shop around, compare prices and be patient.  Business scoundrels thrive on your excitement, anxiety, lack of time and natural impulse shopping tendencies.  They create situations that cause you to panic or act without thinking and this always plays to their advantage.  A common pitch goes something like….. ‘This is a one time lowest price offer, if you walk away we won’t give you the same price later’…  This is a classic con and you will probably be sold a secondhand or defective product.  If you hear it, best to walk away as you are likely dealing with a scam.   By shopping around, you will quickly learn the real ‘local’ price and have an understanding of roughly what you’ll need to pay to make the purchase you seek. 


Research areas to avoid when shopping!

Third, be aware and informed on what areas to avoid when shopping in a foreign city of destination.  This requires a bit of effort on your part before you travel so you’ll need to do a bit of research and homework before setting off, particularly if you don’t know the foreign city, which you intend to visit.  You can do this very simply by either using Google search or spending some time on the Tripadvisor destination forums to discover streets, districts or shops which have been cited for scandalous business practices and are best to be avoided.  

For example, on the Hong Kong forum there is a Top Question (FAQ) – What they don’t tell you in the books, where you can find helpful hints about avoiding the known scandalous shopping areas along Nathan road.  Similarly on the Singapore forum, a similar Top Question warns of the troubling shopping areas known as Sim Lim Square and Lucky Plaza.

Many of the Tripadvisor forums have Top Questions arranged that will include these ‘high risk’ shopping areas.  If they are not present, you can use the Search Box on each TA forum to see what has been posted in the past – just like doing an open Google search.  Alas, if you are unable to find anything of this nature, you can always ask a question on destination forums so the local experts and regular visitors can inform you of the present situation there. 


Other important tips

There are many more shopping related tips to keep in mind when you are abroad; such as always trying to pay in the local currency, knowing when and where to use credit cards and when it’s a best to stick with cash payments.  Also, remembering to count your change and just keeping in touch with your bank are a couple other simple but important habits to get into when traveling and shopping.  For more information just google – how to avoid shopping scams when abroad and you’ll find lots of online publications on this topic.  Lastly, the old adage "if it's too good to be true, it usually is" should be remembered.

Happy travels and safe (successful) shopping while abroad