"Warnings and Advice" is an ominous subject, I know and, hopefully, your visit to Tenerife will be an enjoyable one and pass without incident. I feel, though, that it's my duty to offer you some basic warnings and advice, should you need them in case of an emergency.
Warnings and Advice on pickpocketing techniques that have been tried on me - and worked!
If someone (usually Canarian or Spanish) asks you for a light for his cigarette, then proceeds to put his arm round you, mumbling something in broken English about football, you can be sure that he's rifling through your pockets at the same time.
Similarly, if you are walking past "adult" bars late at night and someone approaches you to try and get you to enter the bar, he might start to "admire your trousers", pulling at them while saying how smart they are. He's picking your pocket as well.
Trust me, I've had money stolen by both those techniques. Any form of physical contact by a stranger, in the guise of "friendliness", should be viewed with suspicion.
Warnings and Advice on "The subtle approach"
There's a pathway in Los Cristianos, leading from the main road (where Hotel Princesa Dacil is) down to the beach. A team of Oriental women used to lurk there and they would approach tourists asking if they had any foreign (ie British) coins they could spare, whilst offering them a rose.
Usually in groups of three, they would, presumably, watch to see which pocket was delved into, to see which one contained the money, then two would keep the tourist occupied while the third dipped in the appropriate pocket.
The last few times I've been down that pathway (ready for them), they've not been in evidence, so maybe the police moved them on.
Warnings and Advice - Sensible Precautions
If you decide to go to a place with packed crowds, like a market, don't have anything of value, such as a passport or wallet, in your back pocket. That's asking to be taken.
Ladies, if you're wearing jewellery on a night out, don't take a short cut through a badly lit route alone, as a thief could jump out from bushes and quite easily snatch a chain from round your neck.
This happened to my partner Alison once, leaving her, understandably, shaken and upset.
The next bit of warnings and advice has been said many times before, but I'll say it again. If you're in the bedroom of your apartment, close and lock your patio doors! A thief will be in and out within seconds and you'll be none the wiser.
Place all your important belongings in the safe at all times, even when you're actually in the hotel room or apartment. (If your accommodation doesn't have a safe - and it should do - the hotel reception or apartment complex office should at least have one.) Use theirs.
Warnings and Advice on The Dreaded Timeshare Touts
Admittedly, these people are not as much in evidence as they once were. Because they were affecting tourism adversely, the government clamped down on them somewhat. But they still can be found congregating in certain hotspots, waiting to pounce on holidaying couples.
One of the latest things is the "scratchcard". Once they have got your attention, they offer you a scratchcard to try, which always, miraculously, turns out to be a winner. The objective is to get you to sign something and, ultimately, you can be sure that you will end up parting with a large sum of money - if you are not careful.
My advice is to just keep walking and, as they follow you an unbelievable distance along the road, making their sales pitch, on no account engage them in conversation. Just keep walking!
For those of you who actually want to buy timeshare, it's better to approach a reputable company yourself.
It is possible, occasionally, to come out a winner with these people. Once, we were approached as we were sat in a bar and a young fellow came up and said if we agreed to attend a presentation the following day, he would give us 40 euros there and then. He said it would be worth his while as we would make up his weekly or monthly quota (can't remember which). Needless to say, we took his money. I also can't remember if we actually went or not.
Remember, they only target couples, so, if you see a gaggle of them lying in wait, then split up, just to get by them. That's what Alison and I do. It saves time.
Warnings and Advice on "Lookie-Lookie" Men
Anyone who has been to Tenerife will know about these people. Usually from Senegal, often on the island illegally, they prowl the bars, promenades and restaurants, selling bootleg sunglasses, watches, belts and other such items.
Usually a polite "no thank you" is enough to make them leave you alone. If, by any remote chance, you actually want to buy anything from them, then really barter them down from their initial price. Keep saying, "no, we'll leave it then", and they'll keep dropping the price. We did this once and the starting price of about 50 euros ended up at about 8! Just shows how much their stuff is really worth, eh?
What I find extremely annoying is when they actually enter a restaurant and pass around the tables, while people are having a meal. Fortunately, a lot of eating places have banned these people from entering the actual building, restricting them to the terrace area.
warnings and advice
(Recent years have seen the rise of the "Lookie-Lookie" Ladies. Invariably of Oriental appearance, they also cruise the tables of bars, trying to sell stuff. What is distinctive about these is that the "tat" they are selling is of an even lower standard than their male counterparts - and, irritatingly, usually consists of animated novelties that make a noise! They can be a touch more persistant than the men, often lining up their wares on your table. Remember though, they can't force you to buy anything. They're just a major nuisance.)
Warnings and Advice: The "Find The Lady" Scam
This is truly something for the extremely gullible. Believe it or not, there are still some teams operating this scam in the tourist areas. You know the one, three face-down playing cards get shuffled around on a makeshift table and you have to say which one is the queen. On watching it for a while, you may see some "members of the public" actually winning. These people are part of the scam! They operate in groups of up to 10 people, some posing as fellow holidaymakers, others as lookouts. This activity is totally illegal. You will never win!
Here's some information to forewarn you of a problem that now exists in Las Americas (where else?).
There are gangs of African women (usually of, let's say, rather full figures) that patrol the partly pedestrianised street between approximately Leonardo's Bar and the new Iceland supermarket. At night, obviously, they present themselves as prostitutes and will boldly approach a potential "mark".
In fact, their true intent is to rob the unfortunate person. Please be aware, they operate in teams and the technique involves one grabbing your arms while the other rifles your pockets, aiming to steal money, wallets or mobiles.
As things get physical, this amounts to a mugging.
You have been warned!
Warnings and Advice: Miller Travel
This excursion company has brochures liberally dotted about the tourist resorts, usually on walls on street corners, anchored by a stone.
Amongst their tempting offers is an all-day island tour, with lunch, glass of wine and a bottle of wine to take away with you, all for between eight and 10 euros!
Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? Well, yes, there's a catch. Things kick off with a four-hour coach ride to a location in Tacoronte, in the north. There you are subjected to a compulsory one-hour presentation on blanket and bedding manufacture, at the end of which you will be pressured to buy something.
Now, there have been conflicting messages on various forums about this. Some say they were really given the "hard sell"; others stated that, once they said "no thanks", the sales people were okay with it.
The bottom line is, if you're prepared to sit through this presentation, then the Miller Travel tours are really good value for money.
Warnings and Advice: Shopping
Unfortunately, shops on the island are rife with counterfeited goods. Here are some tips to take into consideration when buying stuff in Tenerife.
Even though packaging and logos - even brand names - may seem genuine, check them carefully for spelling mistakes, or subtle alterations. They are the fakes!
All goods - especially electrical ones - should be sold with a guarantee. Make sure there is one and that it is still valid when back in your own country. The shopkeeper should have no problem about showing you the guarantee -provided the product is genuine!
You are entitled to ask the shopkeeper to test the appliance in your presence, to verify that it is working correctly.
Hang onto the receipt! This insignificant bit of paper is essential for any situations involving changing the product or repairing it. It may also entitle you to a monetary refund (though not all shops will offer this facility).
If you're paying by card, it's always a good idea to check the amount the shopkeeper has entered. He may (by accident, of course) have entered more than the correct amount.
Making A Complaint
You may have seen a sign up in many bars or shops, saying "Complaint Forms are Available to the Customers". If you have a grievance with a particular retail outlet, you are within your legal right to ask for a complaint form. These forms (bilingual, Spanish/English) enable you to give details of a problem you have had with a particular vendor. Three carbon copies are made of this, one for the shopkeeper and two for you.
The shopkeeper has ten days to rectify the problem to your satisfaction. After that time, if he has not, you submit one of the form copies in your possession to the appropriate authorities, who will then take legal action.
Another option is to approach the Oficina Isular o Municipal de Información al Consumidor, or OMIC. This is the Consumers' Office and they will take your case in hand and deal with it on your behalf. You can find a list of their offices in Tenerife here.
There is another organisation called the Junta Arbitral de Consumo de Canarias, or System of Consumer Arbitration. This is an arbitration service only suitable for businesses that are associated with it.
Shopping tips based loosely on a press release by the Tenerife British Consulate
The Great Electrical Store Scam
(see Update, below)
There is a major electrical store scam that you should be aware of. In all the tourist towns, you'll probably have seen these stores, inevitably manned by staff of Asian origin. I've had many people posting on my Q&A page, telling of a system these people use to do innocent tourists out of thousands of euros.
From the point of view of you, the tourist, the first mistake is for you to enter one of these stores in the first place. Sometimes you may go in voluntarily, to buy something like a T shirt or a gift to take home. Sometimes you may be enticed in by a member of staff hanging about outside - he may even try to grab your arm and pull you inside.
This is when the scam starts.
One of the staff will show you a brochure featuring an electrical item, usually a camera or video recorder. At this point, the price is extremely reasonable - a bargain, in fact. So much so, even though you didn't intend to purchase any such thing, you think, what the hell, it's only (for example) 35 euros. That's step one.
Next, another member of staff will say that they have in stock a better model with loads more features and they'll take a photo of you with this item and show you the result on a TV screen. The price, of course, has gone up, so it's now in the hundreds. Believe me, they are so persuasive, you'll end up saying okay then. That's step two.
Finally, they say that the item has to be configured for use in the UK and has to be sent away to the engineer. You need you come back the day before you leave Tenerife to collect it. They offer a car to pick you up at your hotel.
When this happens, you are told that you have to pay a huge extra amount of money for other stuff, like a hard drive or other nonsense. That's when your total outlay reaches the thousands. Step three!
Other advice is: never pay by credit card. When they go off with the card to put it through the machine, they appear to have a way of cloning it. Also, beware of anything branded "Clickonika". Any such item is rubbish.
The best advice, of course, is
NEVER GO ANYWHERE NEAR THESE SHOPS!!!
Something has finally been done! After an undercover operation by the Mail Online, using a 76 year old retired police superintendent, posing as an innocent tourist, Tenerife National Police have arrested all 21 members of an organised crime group that have been perpetrating this scam throughout the Canary Islands for years. Apparently, the five ringleaders are already behind bars. In due course, the National Police will want to hear from anyone who has been swindled in this scam, with a view to returning their money. I hope to let you know when this happens and what action you should take, if you're one of them.
Island Breaks/7 Island Experience
This is a fraudulent scam that has just come to my attention. I'm not sure, but it is possibly only UK citizens who are targeted. It begins with a cold call from someone purporting to be an employee of a company called "Island Breaks" (sometimes "7 Island Experience"). They state that they are a company specialising in reclaiming money spent on mis-sold timeshare.
The company would guarantee a complete refund within 60 days of initiating the process and it was also no win, no fee. They would take 20% commission of any successful claim.
Smell anything fishy yet? It gets better.
All that's required is the unusual step of taking a free week's holiday in Tenerife. Everything would be paid for, except flights. Whilst there, you would have to attend a three hour meeting, where any relevant documents would be handed over.
Yes. Definitely dodgy.
The reality is that you are driven to a remote town where you are stuck for a lot longer than three hours. Eventually you will be seen by a "representative" and, after a lot of faffing about, will be asked to pay £4,000 there and then and another £4,000 a month later. The first amount, supposedly, is to register your claim and the second to process it. But it's okay, because the full £8,000 will be paid back into your bank account at a future date. This last thing is a lie.
It is an extremely high pressure sales experience and people who fell for it have ended up signing documents they didn't really want to.
My advice, if you receive an unsolicited call from Island Breaks or 7 Island Experience, put the phone down on them.
It has now come to my attention that the people perpetrating this scam have shut their offices and done a runner with their ill-gotten gains. If you've been taken in and have lost a lot of money, click through to this webpage for useful info and advice.
Now, this company appears legitimate, even having a professional looking website, but I have had several posts on the my Q&A page, saying that Reserva Directa scammed them out of several thousand pounds. Here's how it goes:
You are first approached in the street with the opportunity to play a scratchcard. (I know I covered something similar further up the page, but this is not timeshare.) Invariably you win on the card and the tout will then take you to the Flamingo Beach Mate Hotel, in Costa Adeje, near La Pinta beach, to claim your prize. Once there, you are taken down to a basement room, shown round, then seated with a lady called Nadia, who will subject you to a very professional sales pitch, lasting up to two hours.
The bottom line is an offer of six weeks of holidays, starting off with one week at the Flamingo Beach Mate Hotel, which, to be fair, looks quite nice. It appears that the victims fork out around £4,000. So, you get your week in this hotel, with Nadia booking everything for you, including flights.
This is when it gets dodgy.
Apparently, when victims try to contact Reserva Directa to claim their other holidays, they cannot get through by phone and any emails produce an automated response. The general mood of the victims who have posted on my site say they have been scammed out of nearly £4,000, no small amount.
My advice, therefore, is never to take part in a scratchcard offer, by someone approaching you in the street.
warnings and advice
For a website devoted entirely to safe travel, why not check out www.travel-safe-travel-smart.com where you can find unique tools, information, and travel strategies to make your next independent trip or group tour to Europe safe, secure, and your best trip ever.
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