Unfortunately every country has people who are looking to grab your money in less than legal ways all around the world. The situation is getting worse but if you keep your wits about, stay strong, you’ll never succumb to any of these.
Student Art Galleries:
Common all across Asia is “hey, I’m a student, I’m trying to pay my univeristy fees, can you take a look at our student art gallery”. Somewhere along the line, these scammers discovered that dressing like a student, speaking good English (like a good student), and calling yourself a student elicits a lot more trust from tourists, so they befriend you, convince you you’re doing a nice thing, give you the hardsell and you’re left with a crappy, over-priced piece of art that some dude in a back alley is reproducing every 15 minutes.
This is rife in China, but know in Taiwan, India and Nepal too. Pretty girls approach you in tourist zones speaking very good English. You chat to them, they chat to you, they invite you for tea, you go, chat some more. Maybe it’s gonna be free, awesome! If it’s not free, then it can’t be too expensive, no stress. Wrong! When you leave you get footed with a bill in excess of $100, unbelievable but true.
This goes for scooters, bikes, jetskis etc Operators rent you these things on a whim, you give your passport for deposit and off you go. You may cause a minor scratch and then when you go back you get billed with $500 repair fees! Ouch! To avoid this, when you rent the vehicle take pics all around it, point out any scratches and dents etc. Not only does this stop them from billing you from preexisting damage, it always shows them you’re not to be messed with.
If possible, change your money at a bank. If it’s not possible change it in a public place. Changing money on the black market is a common thing to do when you’re backpacking but if you’re entering a country you know nothing about, you don’t know the exchange rate or the new currency then avoid changing money. It’s normal for these guys to give you fake bills, outdate bills or even knock a decimal place off the transaction. I got robbed in Uganda doing this, not a happy experience!
Shops on Tours:
If you’re getting a tour that seems impossibly cheap, it’s probably not because you bargained brilliantly, it’s much more likely that your one-day tour (or your tuk-tuk ride) involves less about the tour and more about going from store, to store where the drivers and operators get commission from anything you buy. “But I just won’t buy anything” I hear you think. These shops apply the hard sell, they’re experts at coercing money from tourists. If you show any weakness you could end up with an fake Armani suit, a 20ft Jade Buddha and a nice new Rolex before you get out the door!
As a huge fan of local public transport, this one really aggrevates me. Taking local transport is much cheaper, and much more authentic but often ticket touts, selling tourist buses at a much higher rate, will hang around outside the public stations telling tourists that the bus is sold out, it’s already gone, it doesn’t exist etc. They’ll then “kindly” help you out with another bus. Forget these guys, go straight to the ticket counter and find out for yourself. 99% the touts will be lying.
Don’t be too scared about traveling, sure there are scammers but there are scammers in our own countries too! Just bear these in mind when people are approaching you and you’ll be set in good stead. Happy travels!
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