Top Backpacking Scams in Asia

When visiting Asia for the first time, it is important to stay safe throughout the trip. Your backpacking experience will be much more memorable without the scams and other potential dangers that foreigners usually go through when traveling on the fly.

As with any type of traveling experience, there are unscrupulous people and time-wasting activities you should avoid. Backpackers are thought to be frugal travelers, relying on dirt-cheap accommodations, cheapest transport modes and are not picky with food. But the mere fact that they come from Europe and America have many people believe these folks have the money — only that they wish to travel cheap — and therefore still worth every scam or trick.

1. Boat trip scam.
The approach involves the scammer giving you a seemingly complete package to transfer from one island to the other by boat. However, when you arrive on the other side, the ferryman or boat owner will charge you cash since they don’t know about the said package.

2. Taxi scam.
Many places in Cambodia and Thailand have taxi drivers who charge 2 to 3 times as much the regular fare. Study your itinerary and know the general fares first (by searching online or asking the hotel staff) before embarking on anything. While the color of your skin makes you an unmistakable backpacker, behaving like an innocent, gullible traveler makes you a perfect prey.

3. Money exchange scam.
Some traders in Asia will offer to exchange your dollars with local currency. However, their rate is much lower than the actual so you have to be constantly aware of current rates.

4. Rape scam.
Some male tourists experience casually meeting an attractive woman in a bar or park and then having sex with her afterwards. The next day, she’ll threaten to report that you raped her and will ask for a lot of money for her silence.

5. Police scam.
Unscrupulous individuals dress up like the police and will approach you asking for your passport or saying that you violated a local policy. You will be asked to pay a fine.

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6. Lost wallet scam.
A person in the terminal or station will look distraught and tell you that she lost her wallet and passport. She will try to get your sympathy and ask for money for food or a train ticket. This person’s story may be true but there are many others who mimic such victim’s situation to take advantage of kind hearted travelers.

7. Seller scam.
Sellers can easily identify Americans or Europeans searching the markets for items. They will generally charge twice or thrice as much. Learning a few local words will help, though not that much.

8. Accommodation scam.
There are fake online booking agencies that will arrange your hotel accommodations before you arrive. When you get to the hotel, the establishment will not honor your reservations because they are not associated with the fake online booking service. Therefore, you must book only at reputable websites or travel agent contacts.

9. Food and drink scam.
Some cheap inns and motels will offer almost inedible local cuisine or drinks so that you will be forced to purchase imported goods at very expensive prices. Reading a prior review of these accommodation places should help you weed out scammers.

10. Ticket scam.
Fake online agencies will offer you transportation passes upon payment via credit card. There is no evidence for the purchase so you will realize that the boat or bus will not let you in without actual tickets.

11. Kidnap scam.
A few very unfortunate tourists are accommodated by extra friendly locals. When they drink the offered coffee or cocktail, they pass out because of the drug placed in the drink. They will soon be in the hands of an organized crime group asking for ransom.

12. Service scam.
There are street shows, fortune tellers and other local services that charge exorbitant rates for very poorly done shows and performances.

These scams are not exclusive to Asian destinations and can happen anywhere in the world. For a safe traveling experience, know your terrain first. While going on the fly is an exciting experience, you must always remember that your safety is paramount.