Saturday, June 15 2024

Traveling through Southeast Asia can be an exciting opportunity, but it can also be stressful to deal with all the unknowns. Tourist scams plague all of the world’s most popular destinations – and Southeast Asia is no exception. Here are the most common scams you’ll find there, and how to avoid them:

Uncertified Guides

The scam:
Uncertified guides plague every popular destination around the world. You’ll easily recognize them lingering at tourist attractions addressing foreigners for a (cheap or even free) guided tour. If you go with one of these guides, you’ll end your tour being completely ripped off for an exuberant price.

How to avoid it:
If you want to go on a guided tour of a particular monument or site, head to the official tourism office. There, you can request a guided tour with an official guide.

official tour temple photo
Photo by Crumblin Down

Tourist Taxi

The scam:
Taxis prey on tourists everywhere around the world so you will always have to be careful when getting into one. In Southeast Asian countries, if you’re at a popular tourist spot, you may find that your taxi driver will claim to not have a working meter. This might lead to negotiating a rate that will be much costlier than necessary. If the meter is working, you may discover it suddenly increases dramatically with no explanation. In either case, you’ll find that you might pay much more than usual if you catch a taxi at a tourist hotspot.

How to avoid it:
Of course you’ll want to visit the main attractions in the city or beach resort. But when you need to get a taxi back to your hotel, walk a little first. Get away from the tourist crowd to catch a taxi a bit further away. You may find that your taxi driver will be a little more honest.

Money Exchange

The scam:
Sometimes, when you go to exchange money (always at a legal shop, never an individual on the street), you might find you didn’t get your fair amount in the local currency. It’s common for agents to slip some money out of the total amount before physically handing it to you.

How to avoid it:
This is as simple as being well informed about the exchange rate and counting your money before you leave the shop. You might take a bit longer but at least you’ll be getting every penny you deserve.

currency exchange shop thailand photo
Photo by cowyeow

Border Hassle

The scam:
If you’re backpacking through Southeast Asia, you will probably cross a few country borders on foot. And you’ll have to update your passport with a new visa at said borders. Before arriving at the border, many travel agencies (and even locals) will try to lure you with “cheaper” fees to take care of your visa. You’ll arrive at the border, only to find out it was much cheaper to do it yourself here.

How to avoid it:
Skimp out on these “cheaper” offers. Be informed before heading to the border and then just do it yourself. It might take you some time, but your wallet will thank you later.

Fake monks

The scam:
This one is most popular in Malaysia. Men will dress in Buddhist monks robes and will wander through the city asking for donations for their temple.

How to avoid it:
If you want to donate, do so at the temple itself and not to an individual on a street.

monks malaysia photo
Photo by TeohEH
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