Blue Birds Adventures

The Slow Travel Experience

How to Avoid Being Scammed in Paris: A Guide for Travelers

Paris, the city of light and love, is a must-see destination for travellers worldwide. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and delectable cuisine, the French capital has much to offer. However, like any major tourist hotspot, Paris also has its fair share of scams targeting unsuspecting visitors. Here’s a guide to some of the most common scams in Paris to help you prepare for your trip.

1. The ‘Gold’ Ring Scam

In this scam, a stranger picks up a ‘gold’ ring off the ground and asks if it’s yours. When you say no, they’ll insist on giving it to you anyway, claiming it doesn’t fit them. Once you have the ring, they’ll ask for a ‘finder’s fee’. The ring, of course, is worthless.

2. Friendship bracelets at Sacré-Cœur

Commonly found near tourist sites like Montmartre or the Sacré-Cœur, a friendly stranger will start making a bracelet around your wrist or try to give you a ‘friendship’ bracelet. Once it’s on your wrist, they will demand payment. If you refuse, they can become aggressive.

3. The Petition Scam near the Louvre

Often carried out by seemingly innocent kids or women, they’ll approach you with a petition to sign—usually for a plausible cause like ‘support for the deaf and mute’. After you’ve signed, they’ll demand a donation. Sometimes, while you’re distracted with the petition, another person may attempt to pickpocket you.

4. Three Cups and Ball Scam under the Eiffel Tower

The ‘cup and ball’ game, also known as the ‘shell’ game, first started around 2,000 years ago. It involves the betting of money on where a ball is concealed under one of three cups. This is a classic street scam. A person invites you to play a game where you must guess under which of three cups a ball is hidden. It seems easy, but the game is rigged, and you’ll end up losing money. Often, the scammer works with a crowd of accomplices who seem to be winning to entice you to play.

5. Transparent Cup Scam

The scam is ingeniously set up with a transparent plastic cup, strategically placed about five feet from where the hustler is. The cup, barely noticeable, is conveniently positioned next to a street drain. An unsuspecting tourist, unaware of the transparent cup, accidentally trips over it, causing the cup to tip over and the coins (usually outdated currencies) to scatter, conveniently disappearing down the drain.

The hustlers, seizing the moment, point dramatically towards the drain, feigning distress over the loss of their ‘valuable’ coins. They apply pressure on the bewildered tourist, insisting that they compensate for the lost ‘treasure’ by contributing euros to their cup. The tourist, feeling guilty for seemingly causing the loss, often falls for this ploy and compensates the hustlers, not realizing they’ve been scammed.

6. Prints on the pavement

In this scam, artists seemingly display their paintings on the ground in crowded public spaces. The paintings, however, are not merely for show or for sale in a traditional sense. Instead, they are part of a well-planned trap. Unsuspecting tourists who accidentally step on the paintings are immediately confronted by the artists. The artists then insist that the tourists have damaged their work and should therefore pay compensation.

How to Avoid Being Scammed in Paris?

1. Remember: Nothing is for Free

Remember the age-old saying – if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. This applies to all aspects of travel. If someone approaches you with a ‘free’ bracelet, rose, or a deal that seems too good to resist, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. Always be wary of ‘free’ gifts, as they often come with an unexpected demand for payment.

2. Be Assertive

Parisians are known for their assertiveness, and as a tourist, you should be too. If you feel uncomfortable or suspicious, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ firmly and walk away. Being polite is important, but not at the expense of your safety and peace of mind.

3. Too Good to be True? Probably a Scam

Incredible deals on luxury goods sold in the street, money exchanges that offer rates significantly better than the market, or anyone claiming to offer a shortcut or a special ‘tourist-free’ experience might be setting you up for a scam. Always do your research and use established channels for purchases and bookings.

4. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Pickpocketing is a common issue in crowded tourist spots and public transportation in Paris. Always keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, or on the metro. Don’t leave your bag unattended, and consider using a money belt or a theft-resistant bag for extra security.

5. Trust Your Gut

Your intuition is a powerful tool. If something or someone makes you feel uneasy, there’s probably a good reason for it. Always trust your gut instincts when travelling.

Paris is a beautiful city with so much to offer. Don’t let the fear of scams deter you from enjoying your trip. With these guidelines in mind, you can navigate the city safely and create unforgettable memories in the City of Love.

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