Wherever you go in the world, as a foreigner, you’ll be susceptible to scams. I’ve actually fallen for two throughout my entire traveling life – so far – which included:
And while sometimes the key is to really just remain vigilant and/or to keep your things extra-secure, there definitely are a few things you need to keep a keen eye out for and know about before heading off on your next overseas adventure. So without further adieu, these are some of the more common scams experienced in Asia so you can be fully aware of whether you’re about to get scammed!
To be honest, this definitely isn’t specific to Asia. Around the world, it seems, taxis are scamming people out of their hard-earned money. When I was in Moscow, I hopped into a “taxi” who told me he could take me to Red Square for 200 roubles but when we got there he demanded 1000 roubles – threatening me with not just violence but also going to the police to have it sorted out (which I thought might have introduced a corruption factor I wasn’t ready to face) so I ended up just paying to get out and forget about it all.
Anyway, make sure before you put anything into the cab or agree to anything at all, they are OK with using a meter instead of a specific price. If this is absolutely, 100% not possible and there are zero meters in any of the taxis, ask them how much first and barter to your best ability (go really low against their first offer, too). If possible, chat with a local before you start haggling to ask how much your route should be worth roughly.
Getting scammed/ripped off when exchanging currency is pretty much a rite of passage, even when you’re going to a huge bank. Conversion rates are often pretty ridiculous, and lots of places will actually charge you a certain amount on top of it all. But there are also a couple of other ways you can get scammed if you go to a street exchanger.
First, you might receive either fake currency or ripped currency. If it’s ripped, at least it’s obvious and you can return it to ask for a new one. It’s always best to have a good look through each of the notes to see if there’s anything at all you notice that’s off about them.
Also, a lot of them are really good at sleight of hand and counting through the cash; they’ll do it in front of you and count out each of the bills and then hand it all over. To make sure they haven’t sneakily pocketed a few of those bills, count them all out yourself on your side of the glass to double-check.
I have to include this because, as mentioned earlier, it happened to me while I was traveling in Thailand and I’ve heard it happen to other people throughout Asia on bus trips. A bit about my experience, though.
I’d been awake for about 30 hours’ straight by the time I hopped on the bus in Bangkok to take me to Chiang Mai. While I heard about this scam and did my absolute best to stay awake, I succumbed to my tiredness and fell fast asleep. Waking up, I checked my gear and nothing looked out of place at all so I thought I’d escaped being a target… until I arrived at my hotel and realised my phone wasn’t there anymore. Lucky for me though, it was a super-cheap Nokia I bought specifically for bringing with me on my travels, but still.
Be sure to stay hyper-vigilant while you’re on a bus. If you’re traveling alone and it’s impossible to keep your eyes open the whole way, though, get a few small locks and lock all your gear up.