Paris is known as the pick-pocket capital. Near many tourist attractions, young girls carry around clipboards asking for your name and to donate to a shelter. They end up stealing your money and running. While outside of the Notre Dame, one of the girls on our trip was approached by one of these scam artists and said “no, you are a pick pocketer!” as if she cracked the code and was extremely proud of herself. The little girl with a clipboard spit out her tongue.
Later, we saw another scam taking place at the Basilica du Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre. These men will weave you a friendship bracelet and lock it right on your wrist. At the end they expect you to pay a ridiculous amount for it. Spoiler alert: they also don’t give change. I tried to gesture to the teenage boy getting scammed, but he was too far away to see. He realized it was a scam on his own and ripped the bracelet right off.
While we were still in the art district of Paris, we took a trip down the alleyway where there were shops. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to do any real Paris shopping because the stores were all designed for tourists, not authentic Parisians. I had a portrait of myself drawn, although that wasn’t my plan. A “starving” artist approached me and drew me. Although he told me I was not obligated to purchase the sketch, I felt compelled to. The group of us five girls was determined to not give in, but we all ended up buying them.
This particular guy was persistent. I lied and said I had no money and also told him that I didn’t want to waste his time. He started calling me by my name, which he must have picked up from one of my friends. He told me that if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to pay. Then he started drawing me before I gave him an answer. Since he started, I felt bad. I agreed to it and posed awkwardly. I had never posed for a drawing before so I didn’t know what to do. All my friends had their sketches in hand so they started watching him. Even some tourists stopped to watch us. It took him only ten minutes. My mind was made up that I wasn’t going to pay him because it must be a shoddy picture if it only took a short amount of time. Then he revealed his work. I was amazed; it looked exactly like me. The rest of my friends got caricature-like drawings from their artists. I had to buy it, although it was 20 Euros. I fell victim to a scam in Paris, but it turned out to be one of my favorite souvenirs from the trip.
Later on as we were heading towards the metro, a guy in my tour group pretended he was pickpocket and grabbed my bag for laughs. I stood my ground and ripped it out of his hands before I knew it was a joke. I was surprised at my quick reaction time.
Speaking of purses being stolen, Albufeira, Portugal presented itself as a not too safe place at night. Because of the clubbing and drinking scene in this small town, tourists are at risk of being robbed. Our group of friends was leaving the club early. We were told later that girls who left before us and took a cab back to the hotel were almost robbed. The robber specifically targeted a very tall, athletic girl. They grabbed her purse and she grabbed it out of their hands.
I finished my tour of Spain in Barcelona. Two girls from my trip and I split the cost of hostel. The hostel boasted that it was in the middle of Barcelona, had a full kitchen, an elevator, and air conditioning. The price we paid was not worth it. We were in the middle of Barcelona, however the hostel was dirty and in disrepair. We walked up to the door seeing that anyone could enter the building. One of the windows was broken. The hostel did have an elevator but it was extremely small (as most European elevators tend to be). I could see dead cockroaches in the corners of the stairs. Our room was somewhat clean but only had a fan, not an air conditioner. There was a kitchen but it was dirty. The bathroom was extremely slippery. I fell in the tub while taking a shower and caught myself before the shower door opened and I flew across the wet bathroom floor.
One day, after spending the afternoon and night in the medina, our group decided to head back to the hotel. We flagged down a taxi and two cabs stopped. We weren’t entirely sure which one was there first so we started to file into the one nearest to us. The one cab driver started screaming at the other guy for taking his business (I assume, because I don’t speak Arabic). It escalates quickly with some of us in the cab and some waiting on the sidewalk. Both the drivers started punching each other and grabbing at each others clothing. One girl in our group got accidentally pushed as she attempted to get out of the cab. I was stunned on the sidewalk. We all walked away and saw people on the streets calling the police. That night we didn’t take any cabs and walked 30 minutes back to our hotel.
A major scam in Istanbul is people trying to sell you tickets on the street to Bosphorus cruises or special entrances to sites sans long lines. These people are part of the Turkish mafia. Once someone agrees to be taken to the front of a line while waiting to enter the Hagia Sophia, they are taken to the scammer’s cousin’s rug store instead. Tourists have to look at poorly made Turkish rugs and can’t leave until they buy something. I was approached by several of these scammers. Without knowing what their endgame was, I said no the people who approached me. I figured that I would have to wait in long lines and I didn’t mind it. My driver also attempted to sell me a river tour on the Bosphorus because his “cousin” was a tour guide. Real Bosphorus tours can only be sold by the ticket office.