One of the things you worry about when traveling internationally is getting scammed. Thankfully, it has never happened to us. But it almost did when we were in Paris!
Even though I had dreamed of visiting Paris for over a decade before we actually got to go, I hated some of the places we toured. I imagined having a quiet, peaceful picnic on the Champs de Mars while staring at the glorious Eiffel Tower. Instead, it was crowded and every 2-3 minutes, some guy was trying to sell us drinks or tacky souvenirs. They were like vultures. Every time I took a bite of my baguette, I had to say, “No, thank you,” as a swarm of street vendors approached us.
These guys were almost everywhere. We passed them as we walked along the Seine River. They were in the parks. There’s over 2 million people in Paris and I bet half of them are these street vendors.
Our first full day in Paris, we did a lot of walking. We toured the Musée du Louvre, Notre Dame, and Musée d’Orsay without any trouble from scam artists or annoying street vendors. We rode the bus to Sacré-Coeur Basilica on the top of Montmartre Hill. The bus stop was a few blocks away, so we had to walk through some sketchy alleys to get there. We wanted to turn back multiple times, but kept going.
As we approached the massive landmark, we were stopped by a group of guys. They were super friendly and we wanted to interact with some of the people while we were there, so we stayed and chatted. Big mistake. Before we knew it, they were grabbing our wrists and tying string around them. They kept saying they were making friendship bracelets as they were telling us about their home country. Not wanting to be rude, we let them. Our second mistake.
Once they finished making the bracelets, they demanded that we pay for them. We told them we didn’t have any money and to take the bracelets off of us immediately. They said we could keep the bracelets, but we didn’t want them. We ripped them off, threw them on the ground, and walked away from them as quickly as possible.
We felt so icky. Why didn’t we just keep walking when they first spoke to us? Why did I have to be friendly to them? It really dampened our moods. We wanted to retreat to our Airbnb. It’s no surprise that we only spent a few more minutes at Sacré-Coeur before we left.
A group of soldiers started to make their way down the stairs, so we followed closely by them. Surely no one would approach us if we were with soldiers!
As if we didn’t get enough of the scammers already, the following day we were approached again. This time by a woman asking us to sign a petition. We would never do this anyway, but our new friends from the Netherlands had JUST warned us about this scam. Women will sometimes ask tourists to sign a “petition” and once the document is signed, they leave a baby with you and run away. WHAT. No, thank you! Our tones were more firm with this lady as we told her, “No!” Then we ignored her and walked faster.
In all of our travels, this is the only time we have experienced something like this. We could have let it ruin our trip, but we focused on the good. Check out our Europe highlights here!