Stephanie is a cherished member of the Sampling America writing team, dedicated to crafting captivating narratives that transport readers to thrilling adventures across the country and beyond.
Backpacking through Southeast Asia can be an enriching experience. Countries like Thailand and Vietnam are well-known as tropical paradises. With wonderful food and people, this backpacking trip is a favorite among world travelers.
However, many people in these countries will watch for inexperienced Western travelers in hopes of taking advantage. You will need to be aware of these common tourist scams to ensure you don’t get taken advantage of while on a life-changing trip.
There are many iterations of the taxi cab scam in Southeast Asia. Especially when being picked up from the airport, the driver will know immediately if this is your first time in the country.
They might refuse to use the money meter; it will look like the same ones used in the U.S. Also, they might use a rigged meter that runs up a bill faster than it should. You can haggle the price beforehand to know exactly how much the trip will cost.
Even if the meter is working correctly, they may take a winding route to run up the bill. In all of these cases, you should constantly monitor the meter for any suspicious activity.
Keep your phone open to a map while moving with someone else; this way, you’ll know if they’re taking a long route.
Bus scams can be scary, especially in a country where you don’t speak the language or know the customs.
One common bus scam is being sold an ultra-cheap bus ticket to another country. The bus driver will intentionally delay the drive so you don’t arrive at the border crossing until after closing. After, they will “allow” you to stay in a nearby house or hotel for a fee.
The scam is the bus driver bringing you to a location where you’re stuck overnight and paying more to benefit them or their family’s businesses.
To avoid this scam, only take buses with good reviews from reputable companies and never fall for a price too good to be true.
This is a very common scam that is incredibly easy to fall for. While traveling through Cambodia or Thailand, renting a motorbike to get around is common without relying on a bus or a taxi.
The people who rent the bike will follow you for a while and then steal the bike while you’re inside a shop or restaurant. When you return, you’ll be terrified to notice that the bike you just rented has been stolen.
There are a few ways to avoid being victimized by this scam. The first thing to do is always carry multiple photocopies of your passport. Many companies will request your actual passport to rent a bike or a hotel room.
But never give out your real passport to anyone for any reason. Instead, hand over the photocopy; if they refuse to give you the bike, go to a different rental shop. Also, you will need to read the terms and conditions on a contract very closely; if they have a huge dollar amount written in case of theft, it’s probably a scam.
When entering a jewelry store, you may have a salesperson cozy up to you to sell low-quality gems and precious metals for a “low price.”
The salesperson will often tell you that you can buy gems like diamonds and emeralds in Asia for low prices and then resell them for a considerable profit in the U.S.
Unfortunately, the reality is that they are most likely selling you worthless gems at a markup with the hopes that you’ll fall for the scam.
To avoid this scam, avoid buying any precious jewels or metals unless you can authenticate them yourself.
Money Exchange Scam
When entering a new country, getting to know the currency and learning a few words for essential communication and math is essential.
One common scam is paying for something in the local currency and being given either American cash or cash from a nearby country. By doing this, the shop owner is most likely stealing money from you under the guise of exchanging currency.
Avoid this scam by always counting your cash, refusing to accept a different type of currency, or paying with a prepaid Visa card when possible.
Fake Monk Scams
Buddhism, and therefore monks, are all over Southeast Asian countries. You might see them walking through town carrying hand-carved bowls and collecting items from locals.
These bowls are meant to collect food and medicine for local people who support the monks, as part of this Buddhist tradition is renouncing working for money.
So be aware if any monks try to approach and ask for monetary donations in these wooden bowls, these monks are probably fake and are trying to take advantage of your good nature.
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