They say bad experiences make for great stories; it doesn’t make the experiencing though any less harrowing. Traveling albeit a thrilling experience, is not removed from possibility of setbacks, one of which is getting scammed. And they come in many forms, oftentimes targeted at tourists. It’s these acts of miscreants that give a place a bad name. In a perfect world, tourists have the freedom to roam and discover a place with no misfortune. And because the world is far from perfect, it pays to be vigilant and be aware of the ongoing scams in the places you are visiting. I asked some travelers to share the scamming incidents that they experienced while traveling in Asia. Here’s a list of the most common scams in Asia that you should be aware of.
Taxi scam in Laos
Laos has a reputation for being a friendly place, and I would say that, for the most part, this is true. However, wherever you go you will come across people trying to scam you. Sadly, I was actually scammed in Laos last time I was there.
I wanted to get from the airport to my hotel quickly, so instead of getting the bus, I got a taxi. The driver was warm and friendly, but he charged me 90,000 kip (USD 10.93) for a drive that took just over 10 minutes. It seemed a lot, but I was tired, and a bit frazzled, so I just handed over the cash.
When I made the return journey, just a week later, I was charged only 40,000 kip (USD 4.86), by a private taxi owner. Later, I was told by a fellow traveller that the taxis that operate out of the airport should charge a set fee, which is 50,000 kip (USD 6.07). Clearly, the first driver had scammed me, while the one had undercharged me if anything.
|The best way to avoid this type of problem is to pre book your transport from the airport to your accommodation and confirm the price. Before you get in, double-check how much the driver is expecting to be paid. Otherwise, you will face the same problem in India as well.|
In fact, regardless of the type of transport you use when you travel, you should do a bit of research so you can establish what a reasonable price would be for the journey you want to take. Then, before getting in the taxi or tuk-tuk, confirm how much you are prepared to pay with the driver.
— Tim, AmazonCreek
Bait and Swap scam in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a great place, but like anywhere there are a lot of tourists you have to be careful about being scammed. I am quite a seasoned traveler, so was stunned when I got caught out myself. The scam was a simple one.
My nephew likes gaming consoles, so it seemed like a good idea to buy him one that would be a bit different to the ones his friends owned. I had a look in the bigger electronic shops, but the prices were high. So, when I saw a GPD XD RK GamePad advertised for USD 195, I went in to take a look.
The assistant was helpful but only spoke Cantonese. After much gesturing, he understood I wanted the special offer. I walked out of the shop having bought what I thought was a bargain. In reality what was in the box was not a GPD XD RK. It was a much lower specification GPD XD that was only worth about USD 180, and there was no charger.
When I got back to the hotel, I realized the product was not what I had paid for. Naturally, I went straight back, but could not get my money back or swap the product. The item I had looked at was still on display, and the poster was still up, but the shopkeeper would not accept that he had given me the wrong item.
Talking to someone in a bar later I realized I had probably been scammed. What happened to me is known as the “bait and swap” scam. Shopkeepers bait customers with high-end products sold at a discount but give them much cheaper older models that look similar but are nowhere near as good.
— Chris, Victoria Harbour
Grand Palace and Buddha scam in Thailand
The Grand Palace/Buddha scam all starts the same way.
A tuk-tuk driver or in our case, a stranger, told us that the Grand Palace was closed that morning and we should go on a river cruise instead and visit other temples. Since it was “buddha day”, he said that all temples are free. So he hailed the nearest tuk-tuk driver who took us to the river cruise, which for 500 baht then took us to two temples, which was free.
The first place we went to was the tallest buddha, then the sitting buddha. At the second temple, a stranger then approached us and told us there is a very well known jewelry shop that was having a sale. He then told us he bought his ring for this amount, and bought a ring for his mother for this amount, convincing us that we should go. After that, the tuk-tuk driver then took us to a restaurant for “authentic thai dining experience”, which was mmm-okay, not that bad. He then took us to the jewelry shop for our last stop before he dropped us off at the grand palace. We paid the tuk-tuk driver around 150-200 baht (USD 4.50 – 5.99) each.
We only realised that it was scam a week after we got home when I remembered that I read something about the scam before we even made the trip. LOL.
— Jane, Moments with Jane
Taxi & Siklo Tour scams in Vietnam
(Now here comes my personal experience)
Everyone is a millionaire in Vietnam because of the too many zeros in their currency. Due to inflation, Vietnam printed more money to cope with a global financial crisis. This resulted to devaluation of the Vietnam Dong. If you are not used to handling money of this kind, chances are, you will be confused. And when you do, you might just lose a million over some taxi driver’s ploy of misleading a passenger.
The tactic goes like this; upon reaching your destination, you will be told to look at the taxi meter. When you pay the amount that you think would cover the bill, the driver would say that it’s not enough. The driver would then ask to see how much money you got. Do not, under any circumstances, show your money because he would most definitely pick the highest bill and claim that that’s how much you owe him. All it takes is one moment of confusion and you will be duped out of your money.
|Most of the locals and tourists recommend Mai Lihn taxi over Vina Sun. Take this advice or if you are not too sure, get a local sim card so you can book through Grab Car or Uber. They are proven to be much more reliable and honest, at least according to tourists.|
Ho Chi Minh is a bustling city with many points of interests, such as Cu Chi Tunnel, Independence Palace, Pham Ngu Lao Street, among others. Indeed, there are many places to discover and one of the easiest ways to tour around the city is by riding a siklo. Siklo is a three-wheeled vehicle that resembles a tuktuk (auto rickshaw), but on reverse; the passenger seat is at the anterior while the driver pedals from behind. Because of its unique structure, it allows the tourist to have the best seat to view the city.
Siklo drivers can be seen practically everywhere, offering a tour of the city that usually lasts for an hour or two. The tour covers spots that are frequented by tourists, such as War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market, Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Loan Bao Tin Mung (also known as the pink Catholic church), Saigon Square, etc. [Read: The Fun and Scam of Siklo Tour in Ho Chi Minh]
Many tourists have fallen prey to this scheme and it goes like this; A siklo driver would approach you, ask your country of origin, and show you a notebook that contains glowing reviews from previous passengers. He would make sure to show you the review written by your countrymen in your local language. Remember that this is part of the trick to lure customers in.
The driver would then offer a deal, for example, VND 250,00 (USD 11.00) for two persons. After the tour, you will be asked to pay double the price. The driver would insist that the agreement is 250,000 dong for each person, per hour. So if you did the tour for 2 hours, you will each have to pay 500,000 dong (USD 22.00).
Let this be a reminder to you to take extra precaution when booking a tour with the siklo drivers in Ho Chi Minh. If you have to take a picture or record a video or audio of the transaction, do it, just so you have some proof about the deal that you are making prior to the tour. Do not sign up for anything until you are completely sure — and again backed by some proof — that the rate they are giving would stand to the end of the tour.
|To avoid this scam, do not take the siklo tour. You’d be able to save more if you go on foot or if you take a bus or a taxi. If you’re determined to experience siklo however, take a video of the entire transaction so you have a physical evidence and the driver will have no choice but to keep the deal.|