A traveller’s perspective on 15 South Sinai travel scams

 I believe in always playing the honesty card. Sure, everybody lies – at times, we’re not even aware of it. Trying to limit the amount of lies/day is a thing to consider.

I also believe in portraying a destination the way I truly perceived it.

The snorkelling off South Sinai’s Red Sea Coast was the best of my life, but – on the whole – I didn’t enjoy the trip there.

Do I?

 

Much of my disappointment was linked to the human element. I did meet extraordinary people, but only a few. I did read a lot before going there but experiencing lies and harassment every day wears on you.

 

1. Bezness

I was looking at the older Slavic (maybe Russian woman?) having talked on the phone for at least half an hour and at the young Egyptian man on the deck chair, by her side. Marcel was also telling me about another Egyptian man changing places and hook-up tactics around the beach. And it was only an example of a sad phenomenon that I first experienced in Jordan; you can read about it here. It’s derived from the real pandemic of our times: NPD.  

Solution: Read about bezness and narcissism, about romantic liars and love scams. Don’t believe every man can fall for you in 1 day (even if you are special), don’t play his game, don’t send money if things get serious. Test him. Test him every single day.

El Fanar, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

 

2. Overpriced trips

Like in all resort towns around the world, ‘entrepreneurs’ flourish. And offer those same trips reeking of commercial and probably organised by a company from which they get a commission.

Solution: Don’t hurry to accept. Do your homework. Compare the prices, learn more about the sustainable character of the trip.

 

3. Hassle on the beach

Well, you can’t sit and relax on a beach (mainly in Sharm and Nuweiba) without somebody trying to sell you something [the same applies to Sharm and Dahab promenades].

Solution: Politely refuse and walk away or, if you get really annoyed as the days pass, don’t even make eye contact. I understood that it’s socially acceptable (so don’t feel guilty).

Sunset in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

 

4. Helping you get somewhere

Everywhere around Sharm el-Sheikh, there will be ‘good’ people willing to help you get from point A to point B. They’ll always expect a tip.

Solution: Walk firmly, like you know the surroundings like the back of your hand (even if you don’t), and buy an Egyptian SIM. It’s easy and cheap (there are kiosks even as you land, next to the airport exit).

 

5. A massage with an enormous price tag

The most elaborate scam I’ve witnessed in 5 years! A guy wants to accompany you to a place you’re searching for (see scam no. 4). Meanwhile, he befriends you and tells you that his best friend is from your country, then invites you to his store to give you a gift to deliver back home. The person in question doesn’t pick up the call, but you end up staying because there’s always another story, a tea, a hookah. And then, he notices that you may need a massage and forces it a bit on you. He’s always claiming to have nothing but best intentions while offering a free massage to his new friend. But nothing is free, right? Especially when you end up paying for massage oils and lotions. When you didn’t even want or need a massage. Or if you don’t even like massages.

Solution: When somebody appears to be too good to be true, he/she probably is. The story is very complex, there are only some glimpses above. The bad part was that it left us both sad, disappointed, with trust in humans shattered once again. Only a psychopath can make you feel like that.  

 

6. ‘The restaurant is closed’

This one’s common and well-known. And the person speaking the above sentence probably has a commission on the way from another restaurant that will be, of course, recommended to you! [Actually, the restaurant that we were headed to was closed, but we weren’t thrilled to be dining at a place simply shoved down our throat.]

Solution: ‘No, thank you. I would like to choose the restaurant on my own.’ [plus firmly walking away both from the first scammer and the second one (if applicable)]

 

7. You can get to St. Catherine on your own!

Marcel and I were a bit confused. We read that we needed to drive in a convoy or get special permission. You can go there with your passports but be prepared for at least 20 checks (too many, in my opinion!) and many weird questions. Not all the members of the military speak English and some will try to find reasons to squeeze money out of you.

Solutions: Know your rights and if straight and lawful ways don’t apply, act like you don’t understand what’s going on. They’ll get bored trying to explain the situation to you.

The road to St. Catherine, Egypt

 

8. Official lies

- Ras Mohamed is closed.

- Why?

- Because of the weather… and the… sharks.

[As we returned to the hotel, very disappointed – it was our last day –, our receptionist told us ‘But I’ve just booked a guest on a Ras Mohamed snorkelling tour today – he's just left.’]

Solution: It’s tough arguing with officials – you’d expect at least them to provide some transparency. My decision was to address Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism.

Still smiling while we weren't aware of the truth, Ras Mohamed, Egypt

 

9. Different prices at local stores

We used to buy a lot of guava juice. So, we did experience a whole range of prices.

Solution: Ask the price before buying. Always.

Not even a fruit market was easy to navigate, price-wise, Egypt

 

10. ‘Let me keep your car key’

You’ll hear this at snorkelling places that also host restaurants. What’s the catch? Being invited to have a bite at the key holder’s restaurant after your snorkelling session. You’d probably feel guilty to refuse.

Solution: You shouldn’t. There are also more creative solutions to hide car keys if you don’t want to depend on anybody. Hint: if it happens at the Blue Hole, there are many rocks around. ;-)

...and then, we could snorkel! The Blue Hole, Egypt

 

11. Dirty restaurants, bad food

‘Please look at our menu’ could be heard along Dahab promenade. I usually research my restaurants (also because I am an ovo-lacto-vegetarian). But I like to be spontaneous at times, so I did choose a restaurant that (almost) promised the moon to Marcel. What seemed neat from the outside was extremely dirty once we got to our table. Banana skins on the floor, dried-up pieces of flatbread. We tried, we even changed the table. Once we got the food, it was even more ‘fun’. I couldn’t eat my vegetarian dish – it looked and tasted horrible. I was not the only one feeling this way. We decided to be honest about it. We called the waiter and told him politely that we’d pay but that it was so bad that we couldn’t eat. In the end, we paid only part of the bill and I found comfort at the pizza restaurant that I loved.

Solution: Know what you want to eat, ask the staff to allow you to go inside the restaurant, feel the smells, and trust your gut. If there are problems, let the staff know. [Unfortunately, I saw many restaurants where I wouldn’t have been caught dead eating.]    

Yum! Dahab, Egypt

 

12. Car rental?

This is a tricky one. We found our car hit in the parking lot of our apartment rented via Airbnb (see scam no. 13). We ended up paying the damages (at an overinflated price – Marcel did check with an Egyptian friend).

Solution: Be careful where you park the car. Discuss all aspects concerning deposits, deposit refunds, possible accidents and insurances with the car rental company.  

The black one, in the middle; Dahab, Egypt

 

13. Airbnb hosts

Most accommodations that we’ve booked in Egypt looked far better in pictures than in reality. It was the same for the apartment rented via Airbnb – and I wouldn’t even mention the review full of lies that our ‘host’ left after I reported him or how Airbnb didn’t do a thing about it.

Solution: Research your accommodation, read reviews, read particularly the bad reviews. If possible, book directly with the accommodation and avoid Airbnb.

 

14. Airport taxis with a surcharge

There can be big differences between official airport taxi rates and unofficial ones – and this can indeed be found at almost every airport in the world.

Solution: Book ahead or ask for a trusted member of your accommodation staff to book a taxi for you.

 

15. Luggage scams at the airport

As soon as you arrive at the airport, there may be a man approaching you with a cart and simply taking the bags out of your hands and putting them on the cart. He may even claim that he’s an official airport employee. You’ll need money to get your luggage back.

Solution: Resist. Be firm. Take your luggage from the cart or from his hands and tell him that you can manage on your own.

 

In the end, it is not a pandemic consequence – because there are people everywhere in the world suffering. It is an easy way to make money in a country where I am sure that many are struggling, but they WORK to survive.

In my idealism, I would like these scams to stop; realistically, I just hope you travel to Egypt better prepared, slalom through all the scams, and enjoy your trip!

 

P.S. Links to all good and bad experiences in South Sinai will follow in 2 weeks.

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