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Travel Tip: Vetting International Tour Companies Based Overseas

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In today’s world of online booking, it’s easy for a scammer to pose as a travel or tour operator based in your destination country. So how can you protect yourself? Unfortunately, there is no international body that oversees international tour companies.

Start by looking at the travel company’s Web site, and call to ask if they’re affiliated with a local trade association. In Europe, there’s the European Travel Agents & Tour Operators Association. In Costa Rica, see if the agency is listed with the Costa Rican Tour Operators Association, or the Costa Rica National Chamber of Tourism.

If you can’t find a membership association, check with the national or city tourism office to see if they have a list of recommended travel providers. Ask the travel companies if they can put you in touch with former customers for references. If they say no, that’s not possible, consider it a red flag.

Check user-generated Web sites such as and Google the company’s name to see if any negative reviews are out there.

Get all details in writing prior to payment. That includes the total price, cancellation penalties, and an itemized list of which hotels, airlines, and tour operators are part of the travel package.

Pay only with a credit card, and get all your confirmation numbers in writing. Call your hotel and airline to confirm your reservations. And as always, if it sounds too good to be true … well, you know the rest.

For more information, visit our Travel Planning archive.

And get more of our Daily Travel Tips here.