Planning a gap year?


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But feeling a little daunted?

Not sure which way to turn?

Wondering where you'll end up

And what might happen along the way?

Fear not!!

We have loads of tips and advice to share with you

From our own amazing Family Gap Year!

Being Ripped Off


"Own only what you can carry with you; Let your memory be your travel bag." Alexander Solzhenitsyn

When I was in South Africa I was walking out of shopping centre with a day pack on my back when I felt busy little fingers prying at one of the zips, instinctively and instantly I kicked backwards, lashing out like a pony.

Unfortunately, for lad who was trying to steal from me, I caught right him right where it hurt most. Fortunately, for me, all the other lads where who were in his gang collapsed with laughter rather than springing to his defense and I scarpered hastily before they changed their minds.

I am not naturally a cautious person (although I like to think I am street wise) but the below are some of the things I learnt as I travelled.

First, we know that Taxi's are a prime area for being ripped off, you have just arrived in the country, you don't know quite what to expect in terms of prices so many taxi drivers feel that you a fare game (yes, I know... hehehe)

But taxi drivers aren't the only danger to your budget. Many locals make a decent living through the naivety of tourist, trusting that are uninformed and usually we are!

Remember that you can't be ripped off if you know how much something is supposed to cost. Don't be shy to argue, don't simply pay up and go off mumbling, stand your ground. Remember that the extra £5 over-charged here and there can add up to a great activity or a nights accommodation.

Classic Danger Areas

Apart from feeling thoroughly ripped off by the cost of activities in New Zealand, essentially a giant theme park for young adults, the other areas that I found I had to be cautious are:

  1. Taxis. I only used taxi stands, checked to see how much I should pay before the trip, tried to find out how far away it was before we left, made sure that he had a clearly visible meter and radio and finally, because I was on my own with the children I avoided sharing taxis. How do you know who you are sharing with? Oh, and one more point. I have found taxis who quote me a fare then at the end try and add an extra fee for the luggage!

  2. Credit cards. Don't give your credit/debit card to waiters/shop staff/ hotel staff where they can take it out of site. It is better to draw money from a bank and pay for things with cash so your card is never out of sight.

  3. Look into single supplements. Many people are being ripped off by this. There were a couple of times that I wanted to have a room to myself (any parent will understand) but the single supplement was such a bite it just wasn't viable.

  4. Travel Insurance. This gave me a huge amount of stress as I wanted to be adequately covered for all eventualities in case the kids needed to be flown home on their own or some such nightmare and fortunately I found a very good one that didn't break the bank yet covered me for every eventuality.
    However you need to remember that most travel agents are on commission to sell you insurance alongside your holiday, and for far too many of them, miss-selling is too hard to resist.

    A survey in 2006 said that 81% of customers hadn't had their coverage properly explained to them by their travel agent, 55% weren’t told about their excess payment and 65% weren’t asked about any existing medical complaints that might have left them uncovered.

    Make sure, when you buy your insurance that all pre- existing conditions are carefully explained to the insurer and tell them precisely what you hope your trip will entail. If you plan to go scuba diving, skiing, water sports and mountain climbing you may find your insurance does not cover this.

    Often standard annual policies will not cover you for prolonged trips, usually it's 31 days at the most.

  5. Airport Security. I was very aware of this one after I heard about it. Apparently a 'business man' evidently in a great hurry pushes past you as you have just loaded your bags into security... While you wait patiently for this guy to unload his keys and loose change in his flurry of rush you get distracted by his daft antics. While you watch him his accomplice quietly makes off with your bag, passports, tickets and money...

    I always make sure my laptop is the last item on the belt so when I walk through, often the laptop is still to come and there is no way anyone can run off with it.

    As for purse and coins and jewelry and passports, I always put them inside my hand luggage for the scan, never loose in the trays. So far this has worked perfectly well.

  6. There is a temptation to buy this cool luggage - remember that expensive luggage advertises your wealth. Fine if you are wealthy enough to absorb the loss but not so good if you are on a budget with delusions of grandeur!

  7. When handing a hire car back make sure you do damage checks right there and then. A german car hire company tried to charge me £70 to fill up a car that I had returned filled up. A New Zealand company wanted to charge me for a wind screen chip that had been there when I picked up the car and in South Africa I heard of a man who returned his car to one of the car hire representatives at the airport, the company is now claiming that they've never received the car back.

  8. Fresh off the Plane.. a taxi driver picks you up, puts your bag in the boot of the car and asks if you want to go to hotel.

    He proceeds to take you to show you to the foyer of an awful hotel you wouldn't want to urinate in let alone sleep. You say no, hop back in cab and he takes you to a nicer hotel. Turns out while you are checking the place out an accomplice has rummaged through your apparently secure bag in the boot of the car and stolen any valuables.

    A good site worth visiting is SafeFromScams.com

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