9 Tourist Scams in Saudi Arabia – How to Avoid Them
Just because it is one of the richest countries in the world, it doesn’t mean that you won’t find tourist scams in Saudi Arabia.
Wherever you go, make sure that you stay alert and you don’t keep your guards down. The scams may not be as many as other touristy destinations but still….you need to be careful and don’t easily trust anyone.
If you can have or rent a deposit box in your trusted hotel or a reputable bank, it is better to keep your belongings there, especially your traveling documents (passport, visa, etc) and your bigger bills of money.
When you go around, just bring smaller change and the copy of your documents.
Taxi scam seems to be one of the most popular tourist scams in Saudi Arabia – or everywhere else in the world.
The scams may involve several schemes. The most common one is to claim that the meter is broken so you need to strike a deal.
They usually will charge you an inflated rate – which is usually higher than the usual one. The second one is to take the longer route or take you go around and around to make the rate higher than it should have.
The third one is to rig the meter so it runs faster than the normal one. The fourth scheme is to claim that they have no change when you pay with bigger bills.
This scam can happen anywhere, especially in tourist destinations. To avoid the scam, avoid taxis at the touristy spots. If it is possible, order the taxi through phone calls and then they pick you up.
When the driver claims that the meter is broken, cancel it. Don’t go with them. And always take the pictures of the driver license, the driver, and the taxi number. When you are inside, make sure that the meter is running normally. When it is running too fast, notify the driver.
You should install a GPS on your phone so you can check the direction – making sure that the driver is taking the right direction and route.
It is always a good idea to have someone else with you and stay connected with your family and friends while taking the ride.
Be careful when someone approaches you and offer you a one-day tour or whatsoever. Also be careful when someone offers you a good accommodation with low price.
There are many travel scams displaying overly cheap rate to attract and lure tourists. But once they get the money, they will be long gone before you realize that you have been duped.
Sad or Sob Story
This is also another common tourist scams in Saudi Arabia. There are abundance of schemes that will take advantage of travelers’ pity and compassion of toddlers or babies.
You may see a woman with baby, claiming that the baby needs medical attention but she is penniless. Then she asks you to give her some money so she can take her baby to the doctor.
Or it may even involve an entire family claiming that they are running out of fuel and also money. They ask for your help to give them money so they can buy the fuel to go home.
It is also possible that you are taking a taxi and then the driver tells you a sad story about his son or daughter who is ill and in need of money for their medical treatments.
This happens everywhere – on the street, inside the taxi, and many more. The best way for you is to refuse it.
You may seem heartless but this is just another scam that will take advantage of your pity. Just don’t give them the money and walk away.
This is also common in Saudi Arabia – and they are usually working in groups or a large number of people.
Each person has their own role: one as the blocker, one as the distracter, one grabs the item, one hides the stuff, and such thing alike. Make sure that you watch over your items carefully and closely.
The common places for the practice is in Masjid Al-Qiblatain or Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina, Souk Al Zel in Riyadh, Grand Mosque in Mecca, or Al Balad Souk in Jeddah.
As it was mentioned before, you should only bring a copy of your travel documents and leave the original at a safe place.
You should also have hidden pockets or compartments all over you or have an anti-theft bag that is positively secured and safe.
It is also a good idea if you can have a travel insurance for theft so you can stay secured and protected. If it is possible, stay away from the crowds and don’t be easily distracted.
Fake Zamzam Water
Zamzam water comes from the holy Zamzam well which is considered the holiest spot in Grand Mosque.
As the result, the water is also believed to be holy and may have some of the best perks (it can improve the health, it can fight against diseases, and such claim). But the government only allows several stores to sell the water that makes them the legitimate sources for the water.
But as the demand increases from time to time, several factories would produce the fake water. They basically only fill in the empty bottles with tap water and claim that they are zamzam water.
If you want to avoid the scam, make sure that you only buy from licensed and legal stores, such as the chain of Bin Dawood.
Fake taxis pretending to be the legal ones are quite common in Saudi Arabia. The driver may intercept you before you get to the official taxi line or counter.
It is also possible that a well-dressed man would pretend to be a government or airport staff, asking to see your passport.
Then you will be taken to another person who scrutinizes the passport and then brought to the unlicensed taxi. You will usually be charged inflated rates for the service.
If it is possible, you should avoid the interception. If you are already engaged in the scheme, you must take the driver, the driver license, and also the photo of the plate number.
If someone tries to divert you to another spot or line, don’t go along. Stay to your course and walk away.
There have been cases of fake listings – this is actually one of the most popular tourist scams in Saudi Arabia. The problem is that they are located in both fake websites as well as legit sites.
You should be suspicious if things don’t seem to be right, such as requiring payment off the platform which is usually irreversible, hidden details or details not included, and dodgy sounding reviews.
Also be aware of copy paste description, very cheap prices, and the differences in the photos and the pictures from Google Street View.
If you are thinking about renting an apartment because you are going to spend a longer time in Saudi Arabia, then choose a reliable platform. You can use the one having buyer protection rights, like booking.com or other platforms.
You should also check the location and don’t easily trust anyone – even the seemingly good reviews. Never pay for the off payment mechanism or pay anything in forward. Even when you get a seemingly good offer – with low price and all the promising features – you should use your head.
Is it even possible to have good offer with great features and facilities without you having to spend a fortune? You know the answer yourself.
Some beggars may ask for money like the traditional way – wearing lousy clothes, looking dirty, looking hungry, etc – but some may ask you for money in another form. The ‘modern’ beggars may look similar to the sob story scam.
Be careful when you are approached by a man with injuries (fake ones, of course) asking you for money because he can’t afford paying for his medical expenses. He may even show you the medical reports (also a forged one).
Another scheme may even involve a family saying that they can’t perform the Hajj and they ask for a financial help from you – at least to relieve their financial burden.
If someone (or even several people) approaches you for money, or at least for a minimal financial donation, don’t give them money. No matter how sad or convincing they are, this is only another common trick for the unsuspecting travelers.
Fake Hajj Travel Agents
They are usually operating online. Because Saudi Arabia has a strict and limited visa system, some people try to take advantage of it.
They offer you all-inclusive and exclusive package that includes flights, hotel, and air tickets as well as easy and fast visa. But after you transfer the money, they suddenly go away.
If you want to get the offer, you need to choose the reputable and trusted providers. And avoid paying everything off the platform or pay everything upfront – in full.
In the end, you need to always be careful when you are traveling to Saudi Arabia. If you know how to spot on the tourist scams in Saudi Arabia, you can enjoy your trip quite comfortably.