If you decide to travel around Southeast Asia this summer, then forewarned is forearmed. You might find yourself the victim of a particularly nasty scam which may well ruin the rest of your holiday. Being a tourist usually increases the likelihood of being a victim so here is our list of some of the top scams to watch out for whilst travelling.
Beggars and other individuals
In many countries, particularly in Thailand, it is typical to see female beggars with babies whose faces have been deliberately dirtied. They will usually throw in an empty bottle for good measure to demonstrate their need for money. In Malaysia, some men dress in Buddhist monk’s robes and approach tourists for donations to their temple. This is usually a scam so make sure you donate at a temple rather than to an individual. You may also see young people claiming to be students that can no longer pay their tuition. This is prevalent in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, with many claiming to sell their artwork to help pay for school fees.
In Indonesia and Vietnam, it is common for tourists to fall victim to a motorbike scam. This involves someone associated with the rental company ‘stealing’ the bike, which you will then have to pay for. If you leave the bike unattended, someone may damage your bike which means you will have to pay for repairs to the bike rental company. Make sure you check a scooter for any existing scratches before you leave the rental agency.
Cheap bus tickets
This is especially common between Thailand and Cambodia, as there are plenty of bus companies wanting to undercut the competition. Once the tickets are bought, the driver deliberately stalls until the border crossing is closed or the ferries have stopped running. Perhaps a little too conveniently, the driver will know someone who has a nearby guest house where the passengers can stay. Upgrading to a VIP bus is also risky, as on the day of travel, the VIP bus may be broken down and passengers will end up on the usual bus. Don’t expect a refund for the difference.
This is the most usual of all scams in Asia so be particularly cautious. Make sure you exchange currency in real establishments rather than with people on the street. Many times the calculators used are also fixed to display the wrong information. Do not accept torn or damaged bills as these will be difficult to get rid of later and make sure you count the money yourself once it has been counted by the teller.
Visa offices and tourist information
Some borders often have fake offices where they charge tourists an exorbitant fee for processing visa paperwork. These offices actually serve no real purpose and the paperwork can be done for free almost anywhere along the border. Similarly with offices displaying tourist information signs, they are rarely impartial. Typically, they are in cahoots with local restaurants and hotels to send tourists there in exchange for a commission. The same often goes for taxi drivers in some cities, so make sure you check their advice against your own research/guidebook. Speaking of taxi drivers, make sure you set a price before getting in the car with them and check your route against Google Maps or GPS. You might find that you are being taken the longest route.