Simon Calder: The Man Who Pays His Way

Con the move: beware of Europe's travel scams

Goodness, Easter already. And this holiday weekend coincides with the start of summer, at least according to the airline industry. When the peak-season schedules begin tomorrow, you will have many more opportunities to travel. Croatia, for example, gets a couple of new scheduled services on British Airways. But just because you
can fly from Gatwick to Split or Manchester to Dubrovnik doesn't mean you
will. London and Paris will remain the leading city-break destinations for the British.

Goodness, Easter already. And this holiday weekend coincides with the start of summer, at least according to the airline industry. When the peak-season schedules begin tomorrow, you will have many more opportunities to travel. Croatia, for example, gets a couple of new scheduled services on British Airways. But just because you can fly from Gatwick to Split or Manchester to Dubrovnik doesn't mean you will. London and Paris will remain the leading city-break destinations for the British.

The art and architecture, cuisine and diversity in both cities is a powerful draw for tourists - and consequently, London and Paris attract all kinds of entrepreneurs and rascals trying to make cash by fair means or foul.

Rail travellers alighting at Paris Gare du Nord, where Eurostar trains arrive, are targeted by some of the most imaginative criminals in Europe. The American travel writer, Rick Steves, collects alerts at his website www.ricksteves.com. Darren from Boston reports a scam aimed at travellers baffled by the ticketing system on the underground: "I was looking at the Metro map to figure out how to get to my hotel when a friendly French guy came over and asked me where I was going. After showing me the best route he offered to help me buy a ticket at the machine."

If anyone ever tries this trick with you, beware: "As he was selecting the options from the menu he asked me how many days I would be in Paris for. I said seven, and he selected a seven-day metro pass for me (or that's what he told me it was, but how would I know if I can't read French?)"

Darren saw the sum of €77 (£55) appear on the screen, and inserted his credit card, but it was rejected. His new pal stepped in to help: he touched a few buttons and fed in his own credit card, which was accepted. A ticket emerged, which he handed to Darren in exchange for €77. You can guess the rest: the ticket turned out to be not a week's unlimited travel pass, nor even a one-day pass. It was a single-trip ticket, as the victim discovered to his embarrassment when he tried to use it on his second ride on the Metro.

VISITORS TO Britain are not immune to misrepresentation: another Darren, from Atlanta, describes a scam in London apparently perpetrated by a taxi driver. Early one morning he flagged down a cab to drive him to Victoria station to catch the Gatwick Express for his flight home. "He told me the train line was down for repairs. He drove me to a back entrance that appeared closed." This, presumably, was the British Airways city-centre terminal that was abandoned in the wake of 11 September 2001. The helpful cabbie then "offered to drive me to Gatwick for £80. Fortunately, it sounded suspicious, so I didn't fall for it".

ONE TRICK of the travel trade that can benefit both buyer and seller is the business of wholesale tickets. The last resort for impecunious visitors to Paris has long been the carnet. You buy 10 Metro tickets for €10.50 (£7.50), a saving of 25 per cent on the single-ticket price, then base yourself at the entrance to a busy Metro station and sell each ticket for a modest profit, saving your customers cash and hassle.

The idea has been imported. If you happen to be in London this weekend, watch for a parallel market that is emerging for the most humdrum of commodities: the bus ticket.

The price of ride on a double-decker in the capital increased yet again this year to £1.20, even for travelling just one stop. And, in central London, you have to buy your ticket in advance - they are not sold on board. Crafty Londoners with an eye for a bargain spent the last few weeks of 2004 buying up thousands of Bus Saver books, London's answer to the carnet, before a 43 per cent price rise. So heavy was demand that some Tube stations limited the number each customer could buy. Until New Year's Day, they were priced at 70p per ride. Overnight the cost jumped to £1.

These tickets are now coming on to the market, with enterprising locals selling them at central London bus stops this summer for £1 each - a handy saving in time and effort for the traveller, and a useful profit for the vendor.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?