Top 10 common travel scams to avoid in Asia


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Asia is a wonderful continent, and many travellers long to visit this diverse and culturally rich part of the world to experience its beauty.  Asia is also known for its friendly, warm, and open people.

Amidst its beautiful sights and its warm people, unfortunately, some Asian countries have a dark side to them. There have been travellers who reported negative experiences, having been victims of travel scams. Being scammed in a place where there’s a language and communication barrier is certainly difficult.

This article sheds light on some of the more common travel scams in Asia, and gives advice on how to avoid falling for them. Also, always consider taking out a reliable travel insurance policy so your pre-paid holiday costs are protected from the day of purchase, and you are covered against various unexpected mishaps.

  1. Beggars and other people asking for help

In bus stations and other public places in Asia, there are a number of elderly women, small children, and even monks who will tap you on the shoulder to ask for money.  You will also encounter young people who will hand you a letter, saying that they are students and that they need money to go back to school.  Though these may tug at your heartstrings, these professional beggars could be part of a syndicate who take advantage of tourists. Just hand them food instead cash.

  1. Motorbike rentals

Be wary of motorbike rental shops in Vietnam and Cambodia who steal your rented bike while parked, and make you pay for the lost bike.  Be sure to rent from reputable shops. Research well.

  1. Money exchange

Many hole-in-the-wall currency exchange shops may give you insufficient cash.  They count it in front of you, and then discreetly get money while handing the cash to you.  This has happened many times, tourists are advised to just get money from the cash machine and count the money many times before leaving.

  1. Pickpockets

Please be very careful of pickpockets especially while you’re in very crowded areas like train stations and markets.  Keep your valuables in a zippered and locked bag.  Before sleeping inside a train or bus, lock or secure your rucksack.

  1. Drugs

If anyone offers any type of drugs, just say no.  There are severe penalties in countries like the Philippines and Indonesia for drug users and drug offenders.

  1. Expensive Taxis

Taxis in airports or outside hotels will not use the digital metre and will give tourists a “fixed rate”, which is usually an exorbitant amount of money. Always insist on following the metre.

  1. Tourist Menus

This is common in restaurants and cafés in Southeast Asia, who give a separate English menu for tourists, where food is marked up three to four times higher than the local menu. To avoid this, request a local guide or a local friend you made along the way to order for you.

  1. Fake shops

Watch out for fake tourist shops who claim to be selling souvenirs, jacking up the prices to ridiculous amounts.  If you want to buy souvenirs, go to accredited tourist shops in malls or at the airport.

  1. Tourist Information Offices

Drivers and receptionists in tourist information offices often work hand in hand to lure tourists with a seemingly cheap tour of the city.  They will insist that their tour is the cheapest one you could find, until you discover that you should have booked a tour with a legitimate travel agency instead.

  1. International Drivers Licence

When corrupt police officers see an unsuspecting foreigner driving a motorbike, they usually stop the vehicle and demand for their international driver’s licence.  They will not accept your valid driver’s licence because they are looking for a bribe. Do not give the officers money.


Despite this list of scams, majority of the locals that you will meet in Asia are very friendly, helpful and accommodating.  It is good to be very careful who you deal with, but this shouldn’t stop you from reaching out to those who are genuinely nice people.