San Andres Island has been a tourist destination for a long time, most people will treat visitors fairly with genuine open transparent hearts, nonetheless there's always the douche-bags that decided to take advantage of the people that visit us. To help you be more street savvy on your visit to the island, we have decided to put together a list of common scams reported by our guests. It is by no means definitive, if after your trip you have any scams that you would like to report, please send them and we will post them here if we see fits.
As in most destinations there are certain scams particular to the place you visit here are the ones from the islands
Time Share Free Tours
These tours are offered by the hotels trying to get you to buy a timeshare, they promised that if you endure the pain of listening to them shoving down your throat the benefits of spending a zillion pesos in a crappy pyramid scheme they will give you a free tour. If you do endure the pain of listening to them make sure they hand you the voucher for the tour and don't let me brush you off that you can pick it up later, because that will never happen.
Upselling in Acuario and Johnny Cay tour
Reports on this one started on 2019. Captains of the boats that cover the tours between Acuario and Johnny Cay will try to upsell you different routes and charge you $5.000 for it, for instance they will take you to the mangroves or the sunken boat and start collecting the money in the middle of the ocean. If you didn't agree in advance before getting in the boat do not pay anything even if other people are paying and report it to the person who sold you the tour.
If things get ackward just say, "nobody told me I had to pay extra and I don't have any money".
Pay Now, will Pick you Later.
We have heard of this one happening mostly when people rent a private boat instead of taking the regular tour, remember to pay at the end if you decide to go for a private tour to Johnny Cay and/or the Acuario.
Buying Tours from the Street
One would think that common sense would apply here, but unfortunately people tend to make their decisions solely based on money and buy the tours on the street from dodgy unlicensed vendor who will give you a fake voucher that won't be valid the day of your tour.
Always ask the price for a taxi/mototaxi before you hop in, keep in mind that the airport rate is different from the normal rate, here's a little chart of a range of legal prices, I will not update this list, so prices might change slightly.
|Airport-hostel (before 11.59 PM)||14.500||Not Recommended|
|Hostel-Airport (before 11.59 PM)||15.000||2.000|
|Hostel-Rocky Cay Beach||15.000||4.000|
|Hostel-San Luis beach||20.000||6.000|
Kayak renting in Providencia
This one is a funny one and very easy to fall for it. In this scam the unsuspecting tourist would ask the apparent owner of the kayaks to rent them they would agree on a price and pay. Victims would go in ther kayaking adventure, only to find out when they come back that the rightful owner of the kayaks is supper pissed off waiting to charge you the full price and yell at you!.
As a word of advice always ask for a receipt or some sort of proof of payment on all purchases.
Although this is not very common, make sure you check the scooter you rent before you commit to it, check for scratches and dents and if you can take a picture of the bike at the rental place, this will minimize to zero the possibility of them charging you for stuff that wasn't your fault. Also check the breaks, light, indicator lights on the bike, if only the front brake works ask for another bike, the road around San Luis is extremely slippery, and breaking with the front wheel is a guarantee that you will slip specially on rainy days.
Parking lots around the beaches
You do not have to pay for parking on the street, anyone asking you for money is trying to scam you unless is private property.
Rental of snorkeling gear in Rocky Cay
In this scam the unsuspecting victim will rent a brand new bad quality snorkel from the guys hanging out in Rocky Cay these snorkel mask will for sure break while using it making you having to pay for a overpriced new one , if this happens to you tell the guy that you would buy him a new one yourself.
This is a classic one that has happened to many people staying at our hostel.
Note: If you are going to rent snorkels first check they are good quality by tapping the googles, if they are tempered glass there's a high change that they are good quality and won't break, on the other hand if they feel plastiquy and the lens looks foggy I'd pass on renting or buying that kind of mask.
Entry fee at the pond
You do not need to pay to get into the pond, there's a guy at the entrance demanding payment to enter, this might get a little out of hand depending which guy is. There's generally a police officer there. As of 2019 there are self proclaimed guides that would take you around the pond and explain a few things, they charge $5.000 COP per person.
This one makes our blood boil, because for a few rotten apples visitor's perception of all the police force takes a toll. We advice you to never pay a bride even if you are at fault as this might land you in further problems.
In this scam the people driving a golf cart or a scooter will get pull over by police and be told that they were endangering the lives of other by X or Y reason, they will "call" on their cellphones and make you wait until you get annoyed and tell you they'll give you a "fine", when they say "fine" ask them how much it is and that you want a receipt and a photo of them where you can see their batch number they will most likely refuse. Then ask them to radio their supervisor so you can clear things out.
Keep in mind that in Colombia only transit police can give you vehicle related fines, for a normal police to threaten to give you a fine is illegal and is obviously super illegal for them to ask for money.
Unlike other countries in South America in most cases police officers are helpful and polite
Lockers in the Acuario Cay
On 2 separate occasions, guest from our hostel have gotten things stolen from the lockers at the Acuario cay, we suggest you only take things to this tour that you don't mind losing.
Money Exchange in the Street
This is very rare as most of the people that exchange dollars/euros on he street are well known in the local community, however there was one instance where guest from another hostel got a bunch of fake Colombian pesos, keep in mind that Colombian money is very confusing even for us as for the last couple of year the government decided to change the bills, but you still find different bills for the same amounts. Read our article Understanding Colombian Money
We suggest that to avoid any nuisances.you exchange at the Bancolombia bank (only USD and bring your passport and Tourist Card), the Currency Exchange at the airport (USD, EUR, BRL, ARS) or with us at the hostel (EUR, USD, CAD, GBR).