5 Tips to Avoid Scammers Abroad

5 Tips to Avoid Scammers Abroad

What to Know Before that Big Trip
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I recently went abroad with my boyfriends family for his sisters wedding. It was a wonderful time, but there were some unexpected shortcomings that none of us were prepared for. Some of these we personally fell victim to or heard of others who'd been trapped by these scams. This is my warning to you to keep your bearings abroad, especially if you plan to travel alone. Here is a list of 5 scams you can fall victim to abroad.

1. Fake Taxi Drivers

Unfortunately, this is one of the scams we fell victim to. There was a very insistent man waiting at departures at our airport insisting that we get to our hotel using his taxi service. We were tired and desperate to get to the hotel, and had contemplated hailing an Uber, but we ultimately went with this man. We quickly regretted our decision, and felt as if the situation could turn into a Taken scenario at any time. We had the driver drop us at our street, not the hotel, and my boyfriend had to fork over 140 Euros ($170). We walked the rest of the way to our hotel.

We later came to know that the legitimate taxis were in a labeled section with a little sign on top of the car. (We only spent 11 Euros, by the way) We also used my Uber and got some rides for reasonable prices. In both of the latter cases we felt safe and well taken care of. So please, use the taxis in the labeled queue or use Uber if it's available in the country you're visiting.

2. The Bracelet Trick

Someone in our wedding party told us about a bracelet trick scammers use near some of the landmarks in the city. They loop a string around your finger and start to make you a bracelet. Then once its complete, they trap your finger in the loop until you hand them over the money they want. My boyfriend and I witnessed many other tourists fall victim to this little slight of hand. If you see someone with a wad of thread offering to make you a bracelet, politely decline and walk away briskly.

3. "Sign this please!"

Also outside of monuments and museums are people asking you to sign random pieces of paper, after they ask you if you speak English. This is where learning the language before you go can come in handy, because lets be honest, you really don't know what your signing and why their asking you to sign it. Politely say, "No, I don't speak English." in their language, and briskly walk away minding your own business.

4. Peddlers Near Landmarks

There are also many people trying to peddle trinkets outside of landmarks for exorbitant prices. You could blow 20 Euros on a tin statue of the landmark, then go to a gift shop and the same thing is 10 Euros or less. Go to the legit gift shops in the museums or at the airport, because even if they charge you a little more you know the quality will be better.

5. Skilled Pick Pockets

This is something you have to worry about practically everywhere nowadays, but people have gotten craftier over time. One thing in particular to look out for is the old distract and take. People will work in teams, one will chat you up and distract you while the other will rob you blind. Wear your cards on your person close to your body and keep conversations with locals polite and brief keeping distance between you guys.

This article was not intended to scare you out of traveling and seeing the world. It was only a cautionary tale for those who wish to venture abroad and do so safely.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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12 Struggles Only Portuguese Girls Can Relate To

It's like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" but Portuguese edition.
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As mentioned before in my "8 Ways You Know You're Portuguese" article, I'm 100% European Portuguese. Which means that if you're reading this, you're probably somehow related to me (see #5). You know these 12 things to be true if you grew up in a Portuguese household:

1. You're pressured to marry a Pork Chop.

A Pork Chop is a Portuguese person. The older generation feels that this term is derogatory, but Portuguese Americans self identify as 'Pork Chops.' Some families will probably disown you if you don't marry a Portuguese guy, but I lucked out and my family is pretty open minded. Let me put it this way, if you're not married by the time you're 28, your grandma and your mother are going to take you to the Portuguese club to find a nice Pork Chop to settle down with. You may not be forced into a Portuguese marriage, but it's highly preferred that you marry within the culture.

2. You're always too fat, even if you're skinny.

Portuguese people are a feminist's worst nightmare. They will body shame the hell out of you and feel no remorse. You could lose 20 pounds and look/feel amazing and a Portuguese person will still say "well, you could stand to lose a few more pounds."

3. You must remember your Portuguese classes that you took when you were five years old.

It is a crime against humanity to a Portuguese person if you don't at least understand the language. If you can speak it, read it, and understand it, you've automatically earned yourself the "golden child" title. Every time I move to a different state, my Grandma's only warning is "don't forget your Portuguese," because someone's got to carry on the culture.

4. Am I white? Mixed? Hispanic? Unclear.

I grew up thinking I was some kind of Latina just because the Portuguese language is so similar to Spanish. You probably feel comfortable in Hispanic communities because of your Portuguese background. I eventually realized that I'm white, but I still get told that I look racially ambiguous. Whenever someone asks what nationality I am, I give them three guesses. It's rare that people ever guess Portuguese, but upon finding out that I am, I suddenly become "exotic."

5. You have 55 first cousins.

This is not an exaggeration. My dad actually has 50 first cousins. I have 13, but I have way more cousins in Portugal that I've either never met, or I've met them, but wouldn't be able to pick them out of a line up. If you go to Portugal and visit all of your relatives, the faces and names start to blur together and it's safe to call every man "Joao" and every woman "Maria" or "Ana Maria" and they'll be delighted that you remembered their names.

6. You have to make sure you don't marry your own cousin.

Portugal is such a small country that if you meet a fellow Pork Chop in America, chances are, you're somehow related or your families are friends. I suggest drawing an extensive family tree before shacking up with a Pork Chop.

7. Somebody is always praying for you.

Portuguese people are devoutly Catholic, so it doesn't matter if you're temporarily down on your luck or a self made millionaire, you have a tia (an aunt) that you probably only see when someone in the family passes away, who prays on the rosary every night for you.

8. You must have a name that can be pronounced in Portuguese.

There are two criteria for naming a Portuguese baby: is it the name of a saint, and can it be pronounced in Portuguese? If your uncle twice removed that you see every six years when you go to Portugal can't say your baby's name, you need to pick a new one. Names like "Riley" and "Jackson" won't get Grandma's approval.

9. You're considered adventurous if you move out of your parents house before you're married.

It's rare that Portuguese women don't live with their mothers until they find a spouse, and even once they do get married, it's not uncommon for their mother to move in with her daughter and her (hopefully Portuguese) husband.

10. You've been given something with Our Lady of Fatima on it.

Fatima is Portugal's claim to fame. It's the city in Portugal where three kids claimed they saw the Virgin Mary in 1917 and it's now a popular, religious tourist destination. Your grandma has probably given you something with the Blessed Mary on it to put in your car or in your bedroom so that you stay '#blessed' all the time.

11. You're not allowed to be a vegetarian.

Portuguese people are fishermen and their specialty is codfish, so it's nearly impossible to maintain a vegetarian diet in a Portuguese household. You can be pescatarian though!

12. You have to warn people before you introduce them to your family.

Have you ever seen "My Big Fat Greek Wedding?" That's what it's like to bring a non-Portuguese boyfriend to a Portuguese family gathering. Good luck.

Cover Image Credit: CDMPHY / Flickr

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6 Reasons Traveling Is Good For Your Mind, Body, And Soul

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.

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Have you ever traveled to a new destination and felt your mood instantly improve? Are you like me and feel happiest when you're on vacation? This is because traveling is a way for you to renew your soul and step out of your comfort zone. It keeps you happy and allows you to experience new things.

Visiting new destinations can open your mind to experiences you didn't even know were possible. You can meet new people, fall in love, try new foods, and see remarkable sites all while traveling. There are no limits to the places you can visit, and the things you can see. Currently, I am on a mini weekend trip to Arizona, and being here has opened my eyes and made me realize how impactful traveling really is on your mind, body, and soul. Traveling should be something you do as often as possible and whenever you get the chance. Here's why:

1. Traveling makes your heart happy 

Traveling is something that most people enjoy. It keeps the heart young and childlike. Traveling brings people joy because they get to experience new things that they love with the people they love.

2. It teaches you to embrace every moment 

Traveling can be unpredictable, especially because you are experiencing new things. Although it can be challenging, we learn best from these unpredictable moments. When we travel we learn to embrace every situation that is thrown at us.

3. Traveling relieves stress and improves mental health 

Traveling reduces stress and allows you to relax. More often than not, you take off work when you go on vacation and you focus on renewing your self. You get away from all the crazy things going on in your life, and you can just relax and focus on your own happiness.

4. It broadens your horizons 

Traveling lets you branch out and experience different cultures. You can try new foods, new activities, and meet all different types of people. You learn diversity, and you learn respect for other people and their culture's. Traveling helps you learn other perspectives around the world and lets your mind think in ways it never has before.

5. It keeps you healthy 

Traveling actually plays a big part in your physical health as well. During vacations, you often walk a lot to destinations and participate in calorie burning activities like hiking and swimming. Activities like these are often why you still are able to get your workout in while on vacation.

6. Traveling reminds you what is important 

Most importantly, traveling reminds you of the important things in life. We live day by day forgetting that every moment is remarkable. Sometimes, we get stuck in the same old boring routine and take for granted the life we have been given. Traveling reminds us that memories are valuable and that our lives should be cherished.

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