Health & safety
Jungle trip scams
Manaus is teeming with scammers and touts. Most go after budget-conscience travelers, selling cut-rate tours that turn out to be woefully uninspired: overcrowded, surly guides, caged animals, hiking through cow pastures, skipping activities etc. Worse, in 2007, a tourist drowned after the boat he was in capsized in a storm. The boat had no life jackets, was driven by an inexperienced guide, and had been booked by an agency known for snagging tourists off the street (and which is still operating today). Some precautions worth taking include the following:
Never pay for a tour anywhere except the agency’s main office in town. Touts often pretend they are with a legitimate agency but steer you to a café or airport bench to make the deal. They even make phony phone calls to convince you the main office is closed, or that you must to commit right away to get the best price or the ‘last seat on the boat.’ These are all scams.
Firmly turn down anyone who approaches you at the airport about booking a tour. No legitimate agency fishes for tourists there, so anyone who does so is a tout. If you’ve reserved ahead of time and are being picked up, look for a sign with your name on it.
Do not tell touts what hotel you are in, nor accept ‘help’ getting to a hotel from the airport. They just want to be able to hound you to take their tour, or steer you to a hotel that pays commissions, or both.
Confirm the agency is registered with the state tourism authority. Go to www.amazonastur.am.gov.br, select the Portuguese version (it’s more up-to-date than the English one), then Agências de Turismo.
Don’t risk your life to save a little money. In the end, the reason there are so many scammers is because travelers keep booking with them. Be smart: the Amazon is not a place to cut corners.
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