Asia is a remarkable place, and we meet the most wonderful people when we travel… for the most part. Always trust your gut and the time-old saying that “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is”, because tourist scams are as real as they’ve ever been. At some point or place, we’ve all been scammed as foreigners. But in the grand scheme of scams, these eight are much grander — and unfortunately just as easy to get tricked by — than getting ripped off by your taxi.
#1 Wait, Those Aren’t Monks
So think twice before donating money to them on the streets. That’s even if they whip out their book of guests who’ve listed down their guilt-tripped donations. It’s not as common as you think for Buddhist monks to ask around for money and if you really want to donate, go right to the temple. Although we always find it hard turning down a fancy friendship bracelet…
#2 Keep Off the Animals
After a few incidents this year, people really began to pay attention to the role of animals in tourism. First, there was Thailand’s famous Tiger Temple which turned out to be a lie. Thankfully, all 140 tigers are now safe in government-run shelters. Then news broke about Sambo, the elephant that collapsed and died after taking tourists on rides around the Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia. The rule here is, animals aren’t entertainers. You’ll be paying to hurt them. If you want to see animals first-hand, and we all do, the number one thing you can do is your research.
#3 Yeah, Art!
Nope, not art. Probably just imitation paintings sold at an unfortunate high price. Ever come across teens or young adults with stories about not being able to afford their education? They show you pieces of your artwork and naturally, you cave. It’s such a good story you would never have doubted it until someone back home compliments your Andy Warhol.
#4 Dude, Where’s Your Bike?
It’s cheap, fast and part of the Southeast Asia travel experience. So is having the renter find ways to make you pay much more than you should be. Be very careful when finding a reputable bike rental company — again, research is key. You don’t want to believe the worst but we’ve heard so many stories about renters who follow you, steal back the bike, and make you pay for it. Or, subtly damaging the bike so you end up paying for repairs in a country where you might not speak the language.
#5 Girls Just Wanna Have Funds
Solo travellers especially, watch out! It begins innocently when a very pretty lady approaches you and suggests getting a drink. They might ask you where you’re from and to make you feel warmed up to them, say they have a relative living there too (watch how they don’t know ‘where’ though). And she promises to “love you long time”. Okay, let’s not pretend here. One of three things will happen: you do the deed, or you do the deed and then meet her “brothers” who rob you of all your possessions. Don’t do the deed. The other scenario? She leaves you with a big fat cheque.
#6 Sorry, Kiddo
We’ve contemplated this one for ages, asking our friends that travel constantly and doing a lot of reading on the subject. Our intentions have always been compassionate and really, isn’t it a good thing, giving money to children who beg? Essentially you’re helping out, but in the long run, it’s a lot more complicated than that. The short answer is, don’t give in. We found this article very helpful. While it isn’t an outright scam, it can very well lead to one. Poor families might see begging as the only way for their kids to make a living. Plus, we’ve been warned countless times that children are sometimes used as a distraction.
#7 Double-Duty Drivers…
…. With the doobie. Some tuk-tuk or taxi drivers will try to sell or offer you free drugs. For one thing, they might be laced with dangerous substances but also, we just don’t recommend or support it. But if you act against our advice, fake policemen have been known to turn up right then and there and request for a bribe. Even if you call their bluff, it’s a real hassle and people have paid off the “police” just to get out there.
#8 Fortune Definitely Faded
People don’t choose a career in fortune-telling because they have a gift. They chose it because it’s fast money and people want to know when we’re going to meet ‘the one’ (please say we’re not alone in this). It happens more or less this way: someone lures you in with some sort of broad observation, and then guides you to a tarot corner where they charge to tell you things like “you have a big decision to make”. Yeah, no.