New Orleans Tourist Scams and How to Avoid Them


New Orleans is known as a party town. That makes it an exciting place to visit but there areareas that can be quite shady. While there are plenty of nice people in the city, there are also a lot of scammers who are just waiting to take advantage of tourists. 

Knowledge is power and knowing what scams to look out for will keep you protected and prevent shysters from ruining your vacation. If you are planning a visit to this city, here’s what you need to know about common scams. 

The Welcoming Committee

When walking through popular tourist destinations, you may be approached by someone welcoming you to the city. At first this will seem like a genuinely nice gesture, but eventually, they will turn their welcome speech into a rap. After they are done, they will have their hand out asking for money, and they can get pretty pushy if they don’t get it. 

Once the rapping starts, it’s best to walk away, unless you are willing to spare a few dollars. 

The Sneaker Scam

This is another scam that occurs in tourist traps. 

A scammer will walk up to you and say, “I bet I can tell you where you got your shoes.” If you engage with them they will answer, “On your feet.”

The problem here is the use of the word bet. 

Even though you were only innocently engaging in conversation, scammers will try to turn things around and claim you were betting with them and now owe them money. Again, the best thing to do here is walk away. 

The Last Name Game

Similar to the sneaker scam, here’s another one where people might try to get you owing them money on a bet. 

They will come up to you and say, “I bet I know how to spell your last name,” or “I bet I know how many letters are in your last name.”

To those who haven’t already figured it out, they are counting on actually spelling out “Y O U R L A S T N A M E”, and, oh yeah, you can definitely expect them to ask you to pay up. 

Electronic Stores on Canal

No matter how desperate you may be to replace lost or broken electronics on your trip, avoid purchasing them in any of the shops on Canal. These shops are known for overcharging for low quality items and selling counterfeit goods. 

In general, when in the city, stick to buying from reputable companies only. 

Shoe Shines

There are many people in New Orleans who will offer you a shoeshine, even if you’re wearing running shoes. They are so aggressive they may actually spray some sort of ‘cleaning solution’ on your shoes as you are walking. 

If you see anyone on the streets in New Orleans who looks like they are set up for a shoeshine, it’s best to steer clear.

The False Citation

When sightseeing around the city, you can expect to be approached by someone who gives you a citation for not having enough fun. Once they have your attention, they will do any manner of things to get your money. They may even start putting different hats on your head and telling you they are actually collecting money for charity. 

In order to thwart yet another scammer with their hand out, it is best to ignore anyone that tries to ‘write you a citation’.

Shot Girls

If you are out bar crawling on Bourbon Street, it’s likely you will enter an establishment where a good looking shot girl comes along with a tray full of shots. She will offer it to your party and you may just take a shot thinking it’s free. But after you drink it, she will have her hand out ready to be paid. 

What’s more, it’s likely the drinks are overpriced and watered down. 

Our best advice is to be on the lookout for these shot girls and avoid taking the drinks they are offering. Not paying is another option but if you try that, she’ll probably be back with the bouncer to collect.

Parking Scams

Parking scams are especially likely to happen during Mardis Gras.

At this time of year, it is very difficult to find a parking spot in the city. While driving around, you may come across someone standing in front of a lot with a sign that says ‘Parking $10’. This might seem like a good deal so you will give the person your money and park your car.

However, the truth is, this person is not affiliated with the lot at all. He or she is just trying to take your money and as soon as you park your car they will run off. When you come back for your car, you will find that it has been ticketed or towed. 


Thank goodness for Uber and Lyft. Before they were around, it was extremely difficult to find a cab in New Orleans. If you did get one to stop for you, they would charge you exorbitant fees. 

Now that there are ridesharing services, overpriced taxis aren’t as much of an issue but they should still be avoided at all costs. 

Beware of AirBNBs 

Because there are so many seedy hotels in the city, AirBnB’s make a great alternative. However, many of the New Orleans properties listed on the web site have owners that don’t actually reside in the city. This means, if you have any issues with your lodging while you are there, it may be difficult to get in touch with the owner to find a solution. 

To avoid this issue, go for Air BNB properties that you know you will be sharing with an onsite owner. Barring that, ask plenty of questions to find out who will be available to help you during your stay and how they will be providing support. 

Avoid Fake Voodoo

One of the reasons New Orleans is so attractive is, it is shrouded in voodoo. 

Voodoo is an actual religion in the African diaspora that is founded on the belief that there is a universal energy in which the soul can leave the body during dreams and possessions. Worshippers often practice using beads, crystals and tarot cards. 

The religion became popular in New Orleans when it was brought over by Haitian immigrants. 

Today, many people take advantage of tourists by selling candles, crystals, herbs and other goods that are advertised as being authentic voodoo items but actually have no supernatural guidance.

You can keep from falling for these scams by doing some research to find out what establishments are legit. Also, stay away from anyone claiming to be a priest or priestess hanging out in tourist trap areas.

Final Thoughts 

New Orleans’ shady underside is part of its appeal but in order to have a truly enjoyable vacation, it’s important to steer clear of scammers. The tips in this article provide guidance that will help you stay safe. Here’s hoping you have a terrific trip!

This article contains some research from the following sources:

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