I have always been a budget traveler. So I don’t mind destinations that are further away from the city center, as long as I get a good price. I have never had issues with hotel scams so I didn’t expect to happen in Peru. So I’m writing this here as a warning, and how to avoid these situations. I feel like as a solo traveler I was more vulnerable to this. Anyway, enough of moaning here is my experience with hotel scam in Peru.
Hotel scam in Peru: what happened
I was on my way from Paracas to Ica, where I wanted to spend two days, visiting both Ica and Huacachina. Not a lot to do, just chill and enjoy. On the bus station in Ica, I asked for a taxi driver from the bus company. I’m always using these, so I don’t run into more taxi scams. I got him the address, he started driving. Everything was fine until we get to the address. That is where I find out that my hotel is not on the address.
The taxi driver was super nice, so he decided to keep trying and hopefully we will find this hotel. We went around the whole town, asking people if they know about the hotel. Nobody knew anything. The taxi driver even went to the police station to ask them about the hotel. They just said that they don’t know that such a hotel ever existed.
Cool. So basically I was a solo traveler in Peru, not speaking Spanish, and not knowing anyone around. Since I didn’t have too many options, I just asked the taxi driver to get me to any hotel in Huacachina. I was so annoyed that this hotel scam met me in Peru, where I have heard that in the main season is really hard to get a hotel on the last minute.
Turns out, the taxi driver knows a decent hotel in Huacachina, where they had a free room.
Different city, same scenario
I thought that this is going to be a problem just in Ica. Turns out, the same scenario happened in next town, in Arequipa. Got a taxi, the taxi driver got me to the address, the hotel was nowhere to find. This time, when we meet the people on the address, they even said that this hotel never existed on this nor on this address, neither on the street or the neighborhood.
So I did the same thing. I asked the driver to get me to the hotel where he knows they will have a spare room. He did, it was great. The staff at that hotel was even nice, once they couldn’t get me their taxi driver on my way to another adventure, they even check up on me on facebook (which is a little creepy, but still nicer, I guess).
Solving hotel scam in Peru with Booking
In both scenarios, I got myself a different room at a different place. Which was great. But my issue was that Booking still didn’t know about these scams and I wanted my money back.
I wrote a big complaint on both of the hotels, explaining my situation, basically telling the whole story. I got a call from someone from Booking in two days. Unfortunately, during that time, I was high in the mountains on a tour, where they cannot reach me on the phone. So I got mail, saying that they will try to contact the owners of the hotels and ask their part of the story.
I don’t know who did they call, or what did the people on the other end tell them, but the truth is, that I never got the money back and one of the hotels that I complain about is still there, so be careful if you want to book accommodation in Ica.
How to avoid a hotel scam in Peru
I guess I can say that in some ways, this scam made me smarter. You will probably never be 100% sure when you are booking if the hotel really exist. But you can look for signs.
Is there a lot of reviews from different nationalities? Well, that is a good sign.
Did you get any message from the hotel? If so, you can be sure, that this place is up and running.
However, if you didn’t, don’t panic. Try to contact your accommodation, ask them if they can pick you up at the station or at least send their known taxi driver that would drive you there. If you get a message back, you can be sure, that this place is safe to go. If not, I would probably think about booking some other place.
Please know that these scams are mainly issues of small hotels for backpackers. If you are going for luxury accommodation, you probably don’t need to think about things like this.
Also, I wrote this post mainly because I’m usually traveling alone and I kind of want to know other female solo travelers, how risky this could be. But hey, you might have luck. I did, and I managed to find decent places to stay after.