Traveller Letters: Warning – fake Uber scam at Melbourne Airport

One reader had a driver attempt to scam them at Melbourne Airport. Photo: Scott McNaughton

TIP OF THE WEEK

RIDE SNARE

Last week I got caught in a fake taxi scam at Melbourne Airport. I had just arrived at Terminal 4 from Townsville late at night and the car I had booked didn’t turn up. As I was waiting, a white late model SUV arrived and the driver called out that he was my car. I loaded my luggage in the back and got in the back seat tired from a long day. As we entered the freeway the driver turned to me and said that he wasn’t an Uber and it would cost me $250 on a card or $159 cash. He didn’t know how to get to my destination so I had to give him directions and when we arrived he wouldn’t release my luggage after I offered him $100 cash, so I called the police. He eventually gave me my luggage and took off rapidly. I was able to get a partial number plate photo and have reported it to Melbourne Airport.

Robert Bradshaw, Ashwood, Vic

Editor’s note: We contacted Melbourne Airport about this incident. The airport advises that passengers should only use the designated Uber pick-up areas, and check driver details before entering the car.

LETTER OF THE WEEK

US OF YAY

I flew to Los Angeles on December 17 to spend Christmas with family and to meet a new granddaughter. Beautiful weather meant outdoor activities, hikes, and outdoor eating, masks were worn without question and vaccination status checked at indoor venues. Don’t miss the newly opened Academy Museum, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum and LACMA. Hike up Runyon Canyon and to the Griffith Observatory for a close view of the Hollywood sign. The long straight beaches are perfect for walks, not just the famous Malibu, Santa Monica and Venice – head south to Manhattan Beach and El Segundo for cafes, interesting shops and people watching. Two days in Honolulu on the way home confirmed that Hawaiians are ready for the Australians to return. My accent was constantly commented on alongside the question, are the Aussies coming back? This one certainly will.

Cate Stilwell, Little Bay, NSW

LIVE WITH IT

Neil Galbraith’s letter regarding travel to southern Africa hits the nail right on the head (Traveller Letters, April 9). I live and work in Cape Town and have seen South Africa’s tourism industry respond exceptionally well to the pandemic. Southern Africa is open to visitors and has been enjoyed by locals since restrictions eased. We are “living with it” now and there is genuine calm. No testing (just proof of vaccination) is required to enter South Africa (and it is straightforward in neighbouring countries). The exchange rate makes it very affordable for Australians to enjoy fantastic sights, excellent food and wine.

Sean Wilson, Bergvliet, Cape Town, South Africa

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PASSPORT STARTERS

I asked the passport office and my federal member if I could nominate a start date for my passport renewal. “No way”, they said. Most countries require six months’ validity, making a passport valid for only nine years and six months. I don’t need a passport until August, so I’ll lose another three months, giving me a passport for nine years and three months. Adult 10-year passports cost $308. With 30,000 applications a week, revenue is running at close to $1 million a week. Why can’t we nominate a start date and get value for money from our passports? They are among the most expensive in the world.

Lindsay Somerville, Lindfield, NSW

INDIA CALLS

I have been to India seven times and each time I have used a local Airtel SIM (Traveller, April 2). Pay a bit more at the booth in Delhi airport but fill out the form, photocopy your passport and you are soon cleared and ready to call or use data. The one drawback I found last trip was with the introduction of two-step verification. Trying to book return flights early in the pandemic with a credit card or debit card proved frustrating when I was asked to enter the code sent as an SMS to my Australian registered phone number. I shall have to remember to turn that extra level of security off if I go again.

Mark Baxter, Kingscliff

IN THE MAIL

I enjoyed Lee Tulloch’s missive (Traveller, April 2) about the now defunct aerogramme. I don’t write aerogrammes anymore, and I rarely send paper postcards, instead sending electronic postcards, using my own travel photos, and writing my own words, using the card App “Touchnote”. I no longer have to hunt for stamps, as these cards are printed and posted by the company, cost less than the traditional postcard and stamp, and arrive quicker than traditional mail. It feels authentic and personal, even if it is not handwritten but typed on a phone. The familiarity of receiving a postcard in the mail is something that the less computer knowledgeable elders, still appreciate.

Asra Bechaz, Warragul, Vic

SPILL THE TEA

While your correspondent did a wonderful job on the Mackintosh Tea Rooms (Traveller, April 2) two more Mackintosh options are well worth a visit if you’re in Glasgow. The Hill House in Helensburgh and The House for an Art Lover, in Bellahouston Park. The first was built for the wealthy publisher Walter Blackie, and the latter a Glasgow City Council project based on the architect’s vision. Both are truly magical places to visit.

Cate Wikner, Summer Hill, NSW

AIRPORT DOWNER

Returning to Sydney Airport recently from Canada, passengers with domestic connections were required to collect their checked luggage and clear customs. Instead of having a bag drop area for ongoing travellers (as happens elsewhere in the world) all travellers had to catch a bus to the domestic terminal with all of their luggage and begin check-in all over again. There was no signage, staff direction or assistance for passengers loading luggage on and off the buses. Many, including us, had missed their connecting flights resulting in further hours of waiting. It was a complete shemozzle. Sydney Airport needs to do better.

Lynda Turner, Torquay, Vic

EASY RIDER

Regarding your letter about motorcyclists without helmets (Traveller Letters, April 2), such sights are common in much of Asia and my impression is that Vietnam has the greatest quantity. Many times, and in several countries, my taxi from my hotel to the railway station was a motorcycle, with the diver at the front, my case upright across the seat and then me on the pillion seat, with my laptop slung over one shoulder and camera bag slung over the other. I have had a motorcycle licence since 1967 and wasn’t terrified or traumatised. However, it is increasingly difficult to get my leg over.

Roderick Smith, Surrey Hills, Vic

SAFETY FIRST

We’re looking for a travel insurance recommendation in these COVID travel times? My husband and I are aged 70 and 68 years respectively and are planning a five week holiday to the UK and Ireland in August. We’ll be hiring a car and have already paid for our return airfares. Can you please point us in the right direction?

Mary Bourke, Phillip Island, Vic

MORE TRACK STARS

Your European trains story (Traveller, April 3) brought to mind our family’s close call from Rome to Florence a few years back, and the importance of checking the train number. After arriving two hours early at the main Rome station I confirmed via the station departure screens that the Rome to Florence 12.45 train was listed. Anxiety gradually mounted however as departing platforms were allocated to trains listed before and after the Florence train but ours remained blank.The penny finally dropped with only three minutes to spare that our train was the 12.45 Rome to Venice via Florence with the listed train number corresponding to that on our tickets. Our ticket didn’t mention that the train continued on to Venice. A frantic scramble saw all eight of us including a couple of ailing pensioners just board the last carriage in time as the train was literally moving out of the station.

Paul Jurkovsky, Ferntree Gully, Vic

I have memories of adventures on sleepers, include the Reunification Express from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. It was the early years of its establishment so amenities were basic with breakfast comprising a thermos of hot water, a mug and an accompanying packet of dried noodles. The second is the Paris to Barcelona sleeper. Dinner was served with a French wine and in the morning, there were sunrise views through the curtains of cascading terracotta tiled rooves dipping towards the waters of the Mediterranean somewhere around Marseille.

Jen Alden, Spring Gully, Vic

REFUND WOES

It’s been over two years since we cancelled our flights to Italy with Thai Airways, booked through Flight Centre, and still no refunds. Thai went into administration in May 2020, but, what is so galling is the fact that they are again trading in Australia. The silence from both Thai and Flight Centre regarding our refunds has been deafening.

Julie Klok, Noble Park, Vic

WIN A SET OF THREE HARDIE GRANT TRAVEL BOOKS

The Letter of the Week writer wins Hardie Grant travel books worth more than $100, including Undiscovered Tasmania by Rochelle & Wally Dare; Emma Shaw’s Ultimate Weekends Australia; and Vantastic by Kate Ulman.

See hardiegrant.com

SHARE YOUR TIPS AND WIN THREE LONELY PLANET TRAVEL BOOKS WORTH $100

The Tip of the Week writer wins a set of three great Lonely Planet travel books, including Australia’s Best Trips, Best Day Walks Australia and Gourmet Trails Australia and NZ.

See shop.lonelyplanet.com

HOW TO WRITE TO US

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use full sentences, don’t use textspeak and don’t include attachments. Email us at travellerletters@traveller.com.au and, importantly, include your name, address and phone number.

Apr 15 2022

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