Swindles go with the territory

Simon Calder looks at the repertoire of rip-offs that antagonise travellers this year
Click to follow
The repertoire of rip-offs that antagonises the visitor to Greece is by no means unique, but swindles seem to arrive with alarming frequency in some parts of the country.

Transport is of fundamental importance to the traveller visiting an archipelago of 100-odd islands. Some less-scrupulous Greeks regard this dependence as possessing a rich potential for income. A shipping agent might solemnly assure you that the only boat from Alpha to Beta is at 5pm, only for you to be dangling your toes into the warm Aegean at noon when the wash from a departing boat splashes over you. Since ferry fares are all fixed by the government, there is no financial loss to you - just the irritation of kicking your heels for a few extra hours while the agent pockets the percentage for selling you a ticket on "his" boat rather than the rival earlier sailing.

On the mainland, taxi drivers may convince you that the last bus or train to that remote village has gone for the night/is on strike/broke down irreparably last Thursday. Only once your pounds 25 fare for the cross-country ride disappears with the driver in a cloud of filthy exhaust fumes from his clapped-out Mercedes do you discover the deception.

So you settle for a consoling Amstel at the village taverna and the barman cheerfully offers you a second beer on the house. Soon a gaggle of young women appears - not remotely connected with prostitution, they seem innocently intent on an evening of merriment. More beer and retsina are followed by the sting, when you discover that, "in the Greek tradition", you are being held responsible for paying for the women's drinks.

The most baffling thing about these scams is why they should occur in a beautiful country whose people are overwhelmingly honest and hospitable. Tourism bears some of the blame, since such deceit is unknown on unspoilt islands such as Halki.