Bad Moscow experiences

A couple of bloggers write about their negative experiences – mostly with scams – in Moscow:

Aaron, at 110 Lines of Longitude encountered the "wad of bills" scam first hand:

Then the really bad thing happened. After taking the subway into central Moscow and wandering around Red Square and the surrounding neighbourhood for a while, I was in one of the underground crosswalks and became the target of two thieves. They tried to pull the "wad of bills" scam on me, but I had read about it previously in the Bryn Thomas guidebook and instantly knew what was going on.

I’d heard of this scam many times, but never directly heard of it actually happening to someone – only "a friend of a friend…" type reports.  Happily, Aaron managed to quite comfortably talk his way out of trouble.

And, as Lovimoment discovered first hand, some Moscow taxi drivers will try anything on a couple of innocent looking foreigners.  After first quoting them a ludicrously low price for the taxi ride from the airport, he turned around with an entirely new price once they arrived at the hotel:

He said, "No, I said 3,150,"* which is over $100. It was all the money we had on us. But it’s impossible to argue once you’ve already arrived at your destination, so we got a receipt and called the company. They’ve never had situation like this. We’re faxing them the receipt, and then we’re going back to the airport to find the guy.

Most Muscovites (and most Russians!) are honest, not to mention friendly. It’s just a shame that there are a few a*holes like this around who spoil things for everyone, and make people afraid to come to Russia.  But, the thing is, Russia really isn’t that scary a place for most people, and certainly not for most tourists. 

I’ve spent plenty of time there, and nobody has ever tried to scam me – and, trust me, I’m as gullible looking as they come.  In fact, the only two times policemen have ever come up to me in the street requesting documents (once in Moscow and once in Irkutsk), they’ve glanced over my passport, handed it back, then saluted smartly. [Update: Actually, that’s not true – a baggage handler at one of the Moscow train stations did once try to pull one over one me.  See the comments section for details, if you really want to know…]

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9 Responses

  1. Mr. G says:

    Scams like this are part of life. The reason the people are out there is because it is profitable. One always has to be careful when traveling. Mr. G

  2. Rick says:

    Andy, et al..

    sorry if this is off-topic, but you may find this story interesting (and more than a little disheartening…):

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/08/14/MNGUSE7N2D1.DTL

  3. Tim Newman says:

    Taxi drivers the world over try to rip you off (remember this, I’m writing about it in my forthcoming story about my trip to Yalta). If you agree the price up front, repeat the price twice and make sure there is no mis-understanding. If he tries to charge you more, simply refuse and on no account, short of him pulling a weapon, back down. I do this in Abu Dhabi all the time.

  4. Tim Newman says:

    Actually, using the phrase:

    “Ya iz Latvii”

    helped put most scammers off.

  5. venichka says:

    True, when I lived in Odessa people frequently took a hint of an English accent to be from the “Pribaltiki”….

  6. Andy says:

    Tim, your Yalta taxi experience had completely slipped my mind, otherwise I’d have mentioned it.

    I think I must be one of the world’s most fortunate Russia travellers. Only once in all my travels has anyone tried to rip me off by suddenly upping the price – one of the baggage handlers at a Moscow train station, who tried to charge me and a friend $100 dollars to cart 10 bags (hey, I was travelling light. My friend, however has a weakness for buying big heavy books…) the grad total of 200 metres from the train at one end of the platform to the taxi rank at the other.

    It was my first, and so far only, major stand up slanging match in Russia, and so much fun that I kind of wish people would try and rip me off more often! Plus, I learned a few words that my teacher hadn’t mentioned before…

  7. venichka says:

    I trust the spat wasn’t instigated when you yelled out “nosilnik” (rapist) rather than “nosilchik” (porter) at him…..?

  8. Andy says:

    Ummmm….. oops.

  9. varske says:

    Hey everyone knows taxi drivers rip you off, especially from airports. There seem to be two rules: the fare is 20 something (pounds, Euros, dollars) when it should be 20 in local; and the fare back to the airport is half what you paid from the airport.

    Greek taxi drivers are the worst.