The Most Common Scams You Should Know About Before Visiting Fiji

If you travel regularly, you may occasionally fall foul of scammers. It's easy enough to do when you feel a little overwhelmed in an unfamiliar place, perhaps surrounded by a different language and coming to grips with a new culture and currency. Or it could be that you're enjoying your vacation so much that you stop paying attention to what is happening around you! Fiji enjoys a reputation as one of the friendliest countries in the world, but even it is home to unscrupulous people who will try to deprive you of your hard-earned vacation dollars the shady way.


The good news is that serious crime against tourists is rare in the South Pacific paradise, and most visitors enjoy a fantastic trip without incident. However, scammers prowl for easy marks like any destination that attracts affluent tourists in the hundreds of thousands each year. Many Fijian scams are variations of con tricks you can stumble upon anywhere worldwide, relying on carelessness, distraction, and the target being too polite to say no. Others are more specific to the islands, particularly in heavy tourist areas like Nadi and the capital, Suva. So, what do you need to know about some of the most common tricks before your dream vacation to Fiji?

Familiar scams that still work on the unwary

Taxi scams are among the most common globally, and they are no different in Fiji. Beware the garrulous driver who insists on giving you a guided tour, as they may demand a substantial tip for their local knowledge. Similarly, friendly locals may try to act as your shopping guide in marketplaces, offering advice and assistance before insisting on payment for their help. In both cases, tell them firmly that you don't require their expertise.


Bar scams involving over-friendly individuals are common from Europe to the South Pacific. After a little flirtatious chatting, they suggest more drinks in a bar they know. There, you find yourself landed with an exorbitant bill, and some rather large guys will either persuade you to cough up or take you to the nearest ATM to get the cash. The best way to avoid this costly scenario is to choose a different bar altogether and always look at the prices on the drinks menu before ordering.

Another con trick popular in Nadi is a variation of the three-card Monte. The mark (you) is encouraged to guess in which of the three boxes a ball is placed. Rather than losing your money through sleight of hand, however, the goal here is distraction. Another onlooker picks your pocket while you're busy trying to follow the ball. Simply don't play to begin with and apply the same vigilance regarding your possessions as you would in any crowded situation. For the best chance at safeguarding your valuables, check out Samantha Brown's advice on protecting yourself from pickpockets while on vacation.


Scams specific to Fiji

Fijian taxi drivers are adept at befriending their passengers before inviting them to dinner at their place. If you accept, you are greeted by their family and enjoy a delicious meal and a pleasant evening. Then comes the sting; when they drive you back to your hotel, your host presents a hefty bill for food and transport. To avoid uncomfortable situations like this, travel safety expert Phil Sylvester advised that visitors should remain "politely alert" and "make firm but gentle inquiries about there being any charge associated with the service you're being offered."


Stuff travel news director Juliette Sivertsen described one typical Fijian con as "the friendliest scam in the world." A stranger will approach you in the street and ask your name and where you're from. If you give out the latter information, they whip out a piece of wood and start carving your name on it. If you don't nip it in the bud quickly, they may insist on an overinflated price for the souvenir. This is a regular ploy in busy areas around Nadi and Suva and you should refuse and walk away if someone starts carving your name into any objects.

Lastly, in Nadi, beware if a bird poops on you. Rather than genuine avian excrement, it is more likely a white substance tossed by one accomplice so their friend can help tidy you up. At the same time, they surreptitiously dip into your pockets. Politely refuse assistance and always keep valuables well hidden, ideally in an inside pocket. As with any popular destination, stay alert, and you'll have a great time exploring all there is to do in Fiji!