Travel exposes you to a wealth of new sights, cultures, and experiences, but unfortunately it also exposes you to dishonest people who are trying to take advantage of tourists. And nothing ruins a vacation quite like getting scammed.
The good news is that you can protect yourself by being aware of the types of scams you might encounter while travelling. Planning a trip to Asia? Here are seven commons scams in Asia.
Damaged Rentals Scam
This scam occurs all over Asia. After tourists rent and use a jet ski/surf board/scooter, they’re asked to pay an enormous amount of money for damage such as dents and scratches that were, in fact, already there before they rented the product. It’s very important that you examine what ever you're renting and document all dents and scratches before you use it.
Official Unofficial Taxis Scam
Beware of inflated rate car transfer at many Asian airports (and airports around the world). When you exit the airport, official-looking touts may approach you and quote you a fixed price that’s anywhere from two to six times the metered rate.
Instead watch where locals are going and look for an official taxi counter.
Next, make sure that the driver is always using a meter. It’s usually illegal to charge a passenger without using the meter and drivers will sometimes charge unsuspecting passengers exorbitant rates. If a driver tells you the meter is broken or that he can only give you a fixed rate, get out and find another taxi. Another option is an Uber.
A note of caution from Nicholas from Rambling Feet is that sometimes even when you agree on a price before hand, at the end of the ride they can ask for more. This is what happened to him in Yogya, Indonesia with a trishaw driver.
The Attraction is Closed Scam (Hint: It’s not)
In Bangkok “The Grand Palace is Closed Today” scam is one of the most common scams travelers encounter in the city. This scam is also seen in similar forms throughout Asia.
A typical scenario is that a friendly local approaches tourists and starts chatting with them. He asks where they are going and then tells them the attraction is closed for a special event (and they’re far enough away so the tourists can’t see that it’s actually open), but he can take them to other temples or places for a very low price. In Bangkok he’ll take them to a real temple, earning their trust, where they’ll meet another seemingly trustworthy local, who will offer to take them to a jewelry or clothing store. Once there, they are pressured to buy things. He gets a commission if you make a purchase.
While it’s of course possible to encounter a local who is willing to help you out of the goodness of his heart, you should be suspicious if someone approaches you and offers to help when you don’t need it—especially if he happens to speak English very well and is carrying a map and/or an umbrella for you to use.
You may come across similar types of “scams” all over Asia; for example, your driver might insist on taking you to jewelry shops, restaurants, art stores, and so forth, and they make a commission if you buy something there. These aren’t always scams per se; they’re just annoyances. If you don’t want to go to any shops, mention this to the driver when you’re negotiating the price so you don’t feel pressured to go.
The Insufficient Change Scam
This happens all over the world and it’s common for good reason: it’s very easy to pull off. Minimarts or shops in tourist areas sometimes try to give tourists the wrong change when they buy something. Travelers are often not familiar with the currency, and if they’re in a hurry or fumbling with their cameras or maps or children it’s that much easier. Make sure you’re aware of how much the total should be and how much you’re giving the cashier.
Cheap Price But Everything is Extra Scam
This one is found in Sim Lim, Singapore’s largest electronics mall, and it’s also one of the few places in Singapore that you may get scammed. Before you buy something, compare prices at other shops and check the internet for the item’s suggested retail price (and even print out this information to take with you). Confirm the total price, as some shops try to add extra costs such as “unlocking fees” or chargers or batteries. Although rare, you may also encounter some fake products at Sim Lim. The problems in Sim Lim are so common the authorities put up warnings about certain stores at the mall. It's best to check reviews of stores online before making any purchases.
Money Exchangers Scams
Ensure that you are using a credible money exchange business. Some shady establishments will distract unsuspecting customers while they’re conducting the transaction and not give you all the money you are owed.
First, make sure that you can see what they are doing at all times. They may “make an error” when calculating the correct amount, but this is part of the scam; they are expecting you to catch it. While you’re explaining the correct mathematical process to them, you are likely distracted and don’t notice that they have kept a portion of your original money or not given you enough money back. You are proud of yourself for catching the mistake and not getting ripped off but in fact you are getting ripped off that very moment. To avoid playing this game, make sure the money exchange you go to is reputable.
This scams in Asia tip is from Lauren from The Travellers Guide by #LJOJLO
ATMs Dispensing Counterfeit Money
If you’re heading to China, be aware that there is counterfeit money floating around—even in ATMs. The counterfeit bills are so good that not only do they fool citizens, but they also fool the ATMs themselves, which are supposed to detect counterfeit bills. While tourists and even locals have trouble recognizing fake money, local workers who handle cash every day such as taxi drivers and store clerks can usually spot it right away.
So, what do you do if you learn the money you got from an ATM is fake? Unfortunately, you don’t have a lot of options. Try going into a bank, preferably the one connected to the ATM you used, and ask them if it’s counterfeit. If the bank says it’s real (perhaps the merchant or taxi driver was mistaken), ask them to exchange it for a different bill. If it’s counterfeit, ask if they will exchange it for you. You’ll probably have to go through a long reimbursement process.
There have also been reports of this happening in Myanmar.
Don't Let Scams in Asia Ruin Your Trip
There are so many scams in Asia to be aware of, the key is to know what they are so you can avoid them. Most importantly remember that most of the people in Asia are honest and genuinely kind, so don't let a fear of being scammed a few dollars ruin a chance to make new friends.