20140818-IMG_1896We have all heard about pick pockets and classic scams like overcharging. But as the modern tourist gets smarter, so does the modern scammer.  In recent years, there have been a multitude of new scams and ways to swindle tourists out of their money.

During my travels, I encountered many of these scams more than once and some on a daily basis!  At times, I would only loose a few dollars, but if I wasn’t careful and prepared, some scams may have cost me my life. Therefore, it is important to be able to recognize when you are a target and how to deal with the situation appropriately.

Here is my list of these new scams and my advice on how to deal with them so you will be prepared during your travels!

Top 10 New Scams to Watch Out for While Traveling in Asia

1. Fake Taxi Meters

Thailand Taxis

Watch out for this scam at tourist hotspots, particularly in Vietnam. Everything seems normal upon first entering the taxi.  The meter looks real and the taxi driver starts it just like normal.  However, you quickly realize that the numbers are climbing way faster than they should.  This is a result of the taxi man tampering with the original meter.  If you stay in the cab, the trip could end up costing you ten times as much.

How to Avoid or Respond

The best way to avoid this scam is by making sure the taxi has the logo of a trusted company.  It is fairly easy to ask which taxi companies are legitimate at your hotel or closest tourist office.  If there are no trusted taxis available then ask for a set price that seems reasonable.  However, taxi scammers will often only agree to a price that is in the range of their fake meter.  In this case, leave the tourist area and flag down a cab on the street.

If you find yourself in one of these taxis, wait for a public area with lots of people and politely but firmly say you wish to get out there.  Once out, count your losses and find another taxi.

2. Guides/Drivers Promising one Thing and Delivering Another

Cambodia Tuk Tuk

This is another very common scam all over Asia, and can also be the result of poor communication.  A common scenario would be when you and the guide agree on several stops for a set amount of money. The tour will then finish or run out of time before you have been to all the stops you agreed on.

How to Avoid or Respond

Making sure the guide understands the deal is very important.  Have them show you on a map or repeat everything you agreed on.  Also, make sure to let them know you will pay them only after you have seen everything. Another way is to discuss increased pay for every stop.  They will be much more willing to continue if they know they will get more money.

3. Taxis Kicking You Out Quickly Hoping You Will Leave Something

This one is common in China.  You get in a cab and the driver frantically beckons you to get out.  Since this is startling and quick moving, it is very easy to drop a phone or leave a purse in the cab.

How to Avoid or Respond

Be aware of the scam and always double check your surroundings before getting out of any transport vehicle. Drinking excessive amounts makes this scam much more likely to succeed.

If you realize you left something, take down the taxi number and license plate so you can call the company. However, in most countries, once the cab pulls away the driver will deny having ever seen your lost item.

4. Not Getting Change


This is one of the most common scams in Asia, and while it is not very expensive, it can add up quickly if you’re not careful.  A clerk will wait until you ask for change, hoping you will just walk away.  They might also short change you a little hoping you will not notice.

How to Avoid or Respond

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Be aware and count your money, honey!

 5. Unsafe Boats and Busses


This scam involves promising a nice boat or bus and placing you in an older, dirtier, and less safe one. Thailand is particularly bad about stuffing way too many people in one old boat. This has, in the past, cost tourists their lives.

How to Avoid or Respond

Ask to see the vehicle, talk with other tourists, and look up reviews of the company online.  If the ride looks unsafe, demand your money back and find another.  It isn’t worth being shy on this one.

6. Prices Too Good to be True?  Tuk Tuk Tour Scams

Thailand has several areas rampant with these scams. If a tour seems way too cheap, then it should be an immediate red flag. Most of these tours have deals with businesses that they will drop you off at somewhere along the way.  You will end up spending way more time at these places than on the actual tour, and if you don’t buy, the tuk tuk driver will likely just leave you.  They will often say you don’t have to buy and then their gas somehow runs out halfway through the tour.

How to Avoid or Respond

Be prepared to buy something or don’t take these tours.

7. Using Children as Bait: The Tour Giver or the Little Helper


Around many attractions, particularly in Cambodia and Laos, children will be begging or selling things.  It’s fine to buy from them, just remember the money all goes to their parents.  These children will also find creative ways to assist tourists during their tour, which might look like fun and games, but ends in a demand for money.  I have had children fan me with leaves while walking up steps, follow me into a cave, and show me secret places to take a photo.

How to Avoid or Respond

In my experience, all it takes is a gentle “no” in the beginning and the children will stop.  However, there have been many times when I found the children to be very helpful in showing me things I would not otherwise see.  Make friends with these kids and they might take you to their secret hide out or off the path attraction.  I will always tip at the end if I think it’s worth it.

8. Border Crossing Scams

Cambodia boarder crossing

There is a myriad of scams that happen when you cross into a new country. A new one is the health check tent that looks obligatory, but in reality, you can walk right past.  They charge you for their fake exam.

How to Avoid or Respond

Move quickly and with purpose during a boarder crossing.  You want them to think you have done it before. Don’t look lost and when in doubt, ask other tourists first, then a guard or office clerk for verification, (because they can be in on it too).  Petty overcharging for visas happens frequently, but it’s just a few dollars and is not worth the hassle.

9. Asking to Come Home and Play a Game Involving Money

This happened to my friend in Laos. The scam involves meeting a nice local who then asks if you would like to come over for dinner.  He then mentions a third party that he wants to play a game with.  This game will involve money in some way and the guarantee that you will win a lot of it at the cost of the third party.  This, of course, is not the case.  My friend ended up running out in tears once the scammer tried to get her credit card involved.

How to Avoid or Respond

Politely decline to come over and ask if they want to have dinner at a restaurant instead.

10. People Pretending to be Official Ticket Checkers or Bag Carriers


This happens everywhere as well, especially Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia.  As soon as you arrive, someone official looking begins to take your bag and carry it for you.  They will almost always demand a large tip at the end.  I have also been greeted by a man pretending to collect tickets for the train station.  He takes your bags, ushers you on the vehicle, and then sits in the cab with you until you tip him.

How to Avoid or Respond

Never let anyone handle your bag unless they are just placing them on top of the vehicle or in a carriage. Even though they will get angry, most will leave if you tip them less than they demand. Now you are prepared for the adventure of a lifetime, traveling in Asia!

What is the craftiest scam you have heard about or been victim to while travel in Asia or other parts of the world?