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10 Of The Most Common Scams In Asia And How You Can Avoid Them

Whether you are a student, couple, family, solo traveler or retired and looking to spend big, Asia is any travelers’ dream. You can’t really go wrong with cheap food, drinks, and travel, not to mention some cheap, yet surprisingly decent accommodation. From the hustle and bustle of Tokyo to the peace and tranquillity of some of the world’s untouched oases, Asia has something for everyone to enjoy.

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As with any region, there are some precautions travelers must take. However, it is particularly important that you pay close attention to scamming whilst traveling to Asia and the sub-continent.

10 Taxi, Taxi!

It is no secret that taxi drivers all around the world are constantly trying to scam travelers, however drivers in Asia are infamous for this scam more so than anywhere else in the world. You need to make sure of two things. First, agree on a price with the driver before you depart.

Second, map out where you are to where you need to be to find the most direct route, as taxi drivers in Asia have been known to give a scenic tour of the city, which is nice and all, but no one asked for it! Thanks, but no thanks. If you don’t have any internet, then be sure to ask a local how much the fare should be from point A to point B before proceeding to negotiate with the driver.

9 Beggars

Perhaps the most common of them all is beggars and students. Beggars should not come as a surprise, as they are in every city imaginable. However, Asian beggars seem to have gone to new lengths in an attempt to scam travelers.

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Popular in Thailand and into Vietnam, it is common for mothers to cover their babies’ face with grease and dirt and proceed to walk around holding their child and an empty bottle asking for money. Avoiding this scam is simple… don't give money to beggars. Maybe they really do need it, or maybe they don’t, and as much as we love to help people out, it is not worth the risk.

8 Students and ‘Monks’

Young people in Thailand who may or may not be students, walk around asking for money to stay in school and to help pay for their living costs. Sometimes, they can be found selling imitation art or fake items on the street. Just don’t buy (pun unintended) into their ‘artworks’ or stories when they come asking for money and you will be just fine.

While Monks, on the other hand... Well, men dressed as monks, have been known to roam the streets asking for a donation to their temple and the answer here is if you are wanting to donate to a temple, donate to the temple itself and not some random guy on the street. Common sense really.

7 Scooter scam

For anyone who has been to South-East Asia, or even just seen pictures, we all know that scooters are the most common means of transport. As a tourist, hiring a scooter can be cheap and convenient way to get around, but you must be careful which company you use. Some companies have been known to keep a key to the scooter lock on their person. So, let’s say you arrive at the pristine lagoon in Phuket ready to relax and soak up the sun, and as you return to your scooter, you notice it is missing and now you are required pay a missing vehicle fee.

Where is the scooter? The company whom you hired from has come to, in a sense, steal the scooter from you, leaving you in a bit of a rut. Just do your research before you hire. If you are staying at a hotel or hostel, ask reception which companies they recommend, this would be the best option.

6 Border Crossings

Be careful when crossing the borders in Asia, as scammers have smartly worked out that tourists travel with a wad of cash in their pockets. Busses usually stop at the border for passport control and security checks, which allows you to jump out and stretch your legs.

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It also allows those smart scammers to strike up a lovely conversation with you, so feel free to talk and make a new friend, but if you must take your wallet, keep your hands in your pockets, otherwise, simply leave everything except yourself in the bus.

5 Bus robberies

There are many ways to travel through Asia, but none perhaps cheaper than by bus. Many bus routes between major cities are overnight services, which means, naturally, people sleep on the bus ready to arrive upon sunrise, and explore a new and exciting destination.

What these passengers may not realize is that while they are sleeping, their belongings in the storage compartment are being closely analyzed for a possible robbery, by none other than the driver’s assistant! Keep your belongings with you at all times, even if it means your bag is limiting your leg room, it is better than waking up and half of your things have disappeared!

4 VIP or Premium service

Again, bus travel is in the spotlight with companies claiming to have a VIP or Premium service for just a little bit extra. Seems worth it, right? It is worth it if you get some extra services, however some companies simply just take the money and you get the same services as a regular paying passenger.

Sometimes, the driver will say the premium bus has an issue and so a regular bus has been made its replacement. Oh, and no refund in fare difference. It seems that after three negatives for bus travel in Asia, if you can fly, fly. It really is not that much more in cost and you can avoid these scams.

3 Currency exchange

We all know that when exchanging money, we are getting ripped off in one way or another, and let’s be honest, no one really knows what the proper exchange rate is. In Asia, it’s certainly no exception and it is recommended that you only exchange your hard-earned dollars in a bank or an authentic and licensed exchange center.

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One more pointer: if you are desperate and do end up exchanging in a dodgy looking place, use your phone to calculate what you should be getting, and if you do receive a torn bill, give it straight back and ask for a different one.

2 Skim that Credit Card

Unfortunately, the credit card scam is becoming increasingly common throughout the world and there is no much we can do about it. In light of this, and the amount of scamming that goes on in Asia, try to use cash only as scammers can install a chip into an ATM or credit card machine in a store to copy your card details all while you are completely oblivious to it…until you see your monthly bank statement!

All in all, use cash when you can and only use your credit card if you must, and only at an upscale restaurant or a hotel.

1 Ferry scam

You are excited, you’re on your way to a ferry which will take you to an island paradise, but first, the bus ride to the ferry. As most of the tickets to islands via a ferry come with a bus transfer included, you need to be aware of two things. The first being the company that is operating the trip, and secondly, the time.

If you take one of these transfers, it is not uncommon to see the ferry departing as you are arriving in the bus. Why is this? Because the bus drivers just happen to miss the ferry by 1 minute so then their passengers must purchase a night in a house nearby, which is typically owned by a fellow family member. If you experience something like this, it is recommended that you tell the driver it is a scam and post it online for other travelers. There is no real way to avoid this, you just have to do your homework, thoroughly.

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