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Beware of Tourist Scams When Traveling Abroad

by Lux Joseph 22. July 2015

Summer is the season for our medical escorts to be traveling to/from Europe on a weekly basis. Although Commercial Medical Escorts moves patients in and out of Europe throughout the year, summer is the most favorable time of year for travelers to see the Amalfi Coast of Italy, the heart of Paris, and the other magnificent destinations throughout Europe. Pictures and stories depict Europe as a great place to visit, but as a tourist CME reminds you to be cognizant of your surroundings and stay away from “tourist traps”.

U.S News reports the top ten European cities as:

  1. Rome
  2. Paris
  3. London
  4. Florence
  5. Barcelona
  6. Amsterdam
  7. Prague
  8. Berlin
  9. Venice
  10. Vienna

Of these top ten destinations, three of the cities are in countries where tourist scams are most prevalent. Spain is the number one ranking country in Europe known for tourist and holiday scams. Italy and France follow close behind. Every day travelers to these areas have a high chance that they could become a victim of one of these scams. Some of the most common scams include pickpockets, over-charging taxi drivers, charging a hidden tourist tax at hotels, street vendor tactics, and street crime.

In an article written by Hugh Morris from The Daily Telegraph, he provides statistics from a study which travelers were scammed:

Rank

Country

Percentage of Individuals scammed

1

Spain

21.5

2

France

14.8

3

Italy

10.2

4

Turkey

8.4

5

Austria

8.1

6

Greece

7.5

7

Belgium

7

8

UK

5.4

9

Armenia

4.4

10

Cyprus

4.4

 CME strongly encourages our nurses and physicians to take necessary safety precautions when traveling abroad. Our operations team does a full safety review of each destination to ensure our escorts are aware of the safety protocols and current social environment at each location.

 The USTIA provides the following tips to prevent common scams when traveling:

Once you have arrived, here are some top travel scams you want to be on the lookout for:


1. Credit Card Confusion – You’re relaxing late at night in your hotel room after a long day. The phone rings, and the clerk at the desk explains there has been a mix-up on your paperwork and credit card number information.  They would like to read the credit card number to you to verify that it’s correct.  They provide you with the last 4 digits of your card number and ask you to verify that it’s correct (it won’t be).  After you explain the number is incorrect, they sound confused and ask you to read back the entire number. Once you read the entire card number they claim to have found the form and all is well. You’ve just been scammed!

What to Do When The Phone Rings:

  • Never give your credit card information over the phone from your hotel room. 
  • Go downstairs to the hotel registration desk in person should any “questions” arise in regards to your reservations or payment details. 

 

2. Taxi Cab Scam – You’re standing in the hotel’s official taxi line waiting. Suddenly you hear “taxi?” and turn to see a nicely dressed person motioning for you to leave the line. You notice the 15 people waiting in front of you and think bypassing the line might be a good idea; after all, you’re in a hurry!

Do not take the offer! Scam artists are known for posing as taxi drivers. Accepting a ride risks more than your wallet, and you might become a victim.  Once you are in the car, these con artists may take you to a deserted area and then assault and/or rob you of your luggage, money and other valuables.

What to Do If Approached:

  • All official taxis should have the car number and company plainly visible on the outside. Check for it – if you don’t see it, don’t accept a ride.
  • Visibly examine the rate “sheet” and/or the meter when you get into the car. This may keep the driver from getting any ideas about hiking up the per mile rate after you’ve started toward your destination. 
  • If you’re unsure about where and how to catch a proper taxi, check with your hotel concierge for a recommendation.

3. Helping Hand – Walking in a crowded tourist attraction, you suddenly find you’ve been bumped and food or drink spilled on your clothes. The kind stranger who jostled you offers to lend you a helping hand to clean up. While helping you, the stranger also helps him or herself to your wallet. 

What to Do:

  • Stay alert in a crowd! Any attempt to divert your attention or jostle you should be treated as a pick pocketing attempt.
  • Divide up any money that you are carrying between your pockets, socks, shirt, wallet and any other areas you can think of. It is unlikely that a thief will be able to reach all the different areas where your money is stored should you be targeted. 

4. The Deal of a Lifetime – This one may happen prior to departure!  These scam artists will offer you hotel or other accommodations in a travel hot spot for a ridiculously low price. The goal is to relieve you of your money as quickly as possible. To do this, they might offer you a “bonus” or a “prize” for purchasing. Typically the prizes sound great, but are not as advertised.  


What to Listen For:

  • Time sensitive Offer – “only good for next few minutes…”
  • Warnings - “you can’t tell anyone about this!” or “only one package is available...”
  • Verbal pauses - “ahs” and “ums”

If you are approached, do not agree to purchase without first verifying that the company is legitimate. In the U.S., you can do this by inquiring about the company’s liability Insurance. Any legitimate company should have liability insurance. If not, it should be a red flag that things aren’t on the up and up. Remember, if a trip seems too good to be true, offers too many prizes or bonuses or is below market cost, then it probably isn’t a legitimate offer.

If possible, use a credit card when paying for your tickets, hotel, car rental and attraction fares. This ensures you can dispute any charges if you do get scammed without actually being out money from your bank account.

Be smart when you travel. Make sure you purchase travel insurance and always know your surroundings. Commercial Medical Escorts believes safety and security is the number one priority and so should you!

Luxury Living: The Most Expensive Cities in the World

by Lux Joseph 2. April 2015

For the most part, we all enjoy traveling; whether that involves venturing into an unknown part of our surroundings or setting course for a foreign and mysterious country altogether, people like to travel. Yet there is always that one place that is just so great we often take the time to sit back and wonder how wonderful it would be if we had actually lived there. What would it take to live there comfortably and could it actually happen? Well, if you were thinking of living in one of the cities about to be mentioned, you’d better talk those plans over with your wallet.

The Economist Intelligence Unit came out with a survey listing the top ten most expensive cities in the world, and for those of you wondering, New York was 26th on the list. In fact New York is set as the base standard that other cities are compared to. At the very top of that list is Singapore in Asia. Singapore is a stand-alone city-state and because of this, it has to gain its resources, including electricity and water, from other neighboring countries. This can get very expensive, leading to higher utility cost. The transportation costs are also close to triple what it takes to get around NY. Not to mention the higher grocery prices and clothing prices, which is 50% more than that of New York. With all that to keep in mind, it’s no wonder why Singapore made top of the list two years in a row.

Another city on the list is Seoul, South Korea. While Seoul ties with Singapore when it comes to clothing expenses, what make this city really difficult to live in are the high prices for everyday food items. Fashion you could go on without, but food happens to be a pretty important part of our everyday life. Using the dollar to show the difference, a single kg loaf of bread in Singapore would go for roughly $3.50, while the same loaf of bread would cost an average of $13.00 in Seoul. This alone sets Seoul up for being a really expensive place and maybe even difficult place to live in. If you can’t afford to eat then you might as well not worry too much about the other necessities either. When CME has done transports to Seoul, the escorts have experienced and can relate to this cost difference when it comes to getting a meal before their transport.  

Standing on its own when representing Europe, Paris is the only European country to make it into the top ten list. With its generally high living expenses all around, the only thing you can look forward to are the relatively cheaper prices of alcohol and tobacco, and while that’s a lot of people’s dreams, it would be ideal if you at least had an apartment to enjoy such luxuries in. When it comes to arranging accommodations in Paris, hotels are priced relatively well compared to other areas of the world. Of course seasons depict different rates, but CME definitely sees a significant increase in costs when it comes to ground transportation. A sedan transfer in Germany that would be $125 could be more than double in Paris.

Others on the list included Osio, Zurich, Sydney, Melbourne, Geneva, Copenhagen, and Hong Kong (Which was tied with Seoul). If you’re really considering a move to one of these cities, it’s highly recommended that you consult your financial advisor to make sure that your bank can take the amount of pressure being placed on your funds. Otherwise, just enjoy your stay and let it be a happy memory that you can cherish in your comforts of your affordable abode. 

At CME, our nurses and physicians travel to all points of the world. They use currencies from dollars to pounds to euros to yen depending on their destinations. Of course anywhere you travel do will encounter tourist traps with inflated prices, but as you venture out to local areas you soon find out why some of these cities are recognized as some of the most expensive cities in the world.

Sources: 

http://www.ctvnews.ca/business/singapore-most-expensive-city-for-living-seoul-most-expensive-for-food-1.2263545#

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/04/most-expensive-cities-world_n_6793688.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/news/article-2977215/World-s-expensive-cities-revealed-Singapore-tops-charts-again.html

 

Hottest Domestic and International 2014 Summer Destinations

by Lux Joseph 9. August 2014

The summer is coming to an end, but there is still time to enjoy some of the hottest travel destinations of 2014. Orlando and Las Vegas are the top two most popular summer destinations according to the 2014 Hot Spots for Summer survey. Orlando came out on top with a 17 percent share of responses and Las Vegas maintained the second spot with 14 percent.

“Orlando and Las Vegas remain on top as affordable, family-friendly and fun destinations," said Zane Kerby, ASTA President and CEO. "They are also the type of destinations where a travel agent can enhance your trip from helping navigate Orlando’s theme parks, to making sure you pick the right Vegas hotel that matches your unique needs."

Following Orlando and Las Vegas, the other top ten domestic cities are Miami (4 percent), San Francisco (4 percent), Los Angeles (3 percent), New York City (2 percent), San Diego (2 percent), Honolulu (2 percent), Washington DC (2 percent) and New Orleans (2 percent).  New Orleans is new to the list, moving Seattle out of the top ten.

While remaining at the top, Orlando and Las Vegas have been slowly decreasing in response share for several years, as have most of the other top ten destinations. Ten years ago the top ten destinations represented 75% of the responses, and today it represents 51 percent. This year, over 100 different domestic destinations received at least one vote as a hot summer destination, reflecting the consumer trend for more unique vacation experiences.

When asked about 2014 state destinations, Florida again topped the list for the 2014 summer season with a 23 percent response rate. Rounding out the top five state destinations for summer travel are Nevada (13 percent), California (12 percent), New York (11 percent) and Hawaii (11 percent). As with the cities, the percentage share of responses is down for the top states, except for Hawaii which had modest growth in response share.

Do you have more than a few days free this summer? Are you looking to travel abroad? London and Rome as the two most popular summer destinations according to the annual Hot Spots for Summer survey. London received a 9 percent share of votes followed by Rome with an 8 percent share.

 Over 150 cities made the hot list, with the top ten cities accounting for 37 percent of the responses. Beyond the typical tourist cities, travel agents say they are also planning many trips to many unique destinations like Yerevan, Armenia and Johannesburg, South Africa for this summer with both cited by agents as hot locations.

In addition to London and Rome, Paris (8 percent), Cancun (5 percent), Punta Cana (3 percent), Barcelona (1 percent), Riviera Maya (1 percent), Amsterdam (1 percent), Madrid (1 percent), and Montego Bay (1 percent) round out the top ten international cities. Amsterdam and Madrid are new to the top ten pushing out Venice and Athens.

For countries/regions, Italy remains at the top with an 18 percent share of the votes. Mexico (11 percent) moves up to second place after two years in third and fourth place. The other countries/regions in the top five include France (11percent), United Kingdom (11 percent) and the Caribbean (8 percent). The same five countries/regions have remained in the top five for over eight years and represent 61% of the votes.

Commercial Medical Escorts utilizes a travel agent to make all their travel arrangements. We believe this adds cost savings to our clients, the most up to date travel information, and an educated individual in the area of medical escorts. We encourage travelers who would like to experience these hot spots to find a helpful travel agent who specializes in the destinations that they dream of visiting.


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