Asia Cambodia China Destinations Indonesia Malaysia Myanmar Thailand


There are so many scams in Asia.

So many, that you might give in to the fact that you’ll be ripped off in Asia.
It’s just part of the Asian experience.

I’m pretty good at detecting bullshit.
I’m also very wary of anyone that approaches me on the street.
Especially when they know I’m not a local.

Before I arrived in a new country I’d read about the popular scams to avoid.
But I discovered some others that were unexpected.
The scams listed below are all the scams that were attempted on me or other travelers I met.

1 – Check your Water Bottle Caps.

Small local stores will sometimes re-use bottles.
There’s 2 different ways they go about it.
Once a bottle is empty they’ll refill it with who knows what kind of water.
Then they glue the cap and seal back together.

The other way they reuse them is by cutting the center of the cap out.
This way they don’t break the seal.
Once they’ve refilled it they press the cut out part back in.
The cut around the top is so thin it’s hardly noticeable.

That’s the one they got me with.

Scam in Asia. Tampered Water Cap on water bottle.

Whenever you grab a water, usually the large ones, look at the cap and press on it with your thumb.
You should be able to see if there’s a thin cut around the top.
I also started to hold the bottle upside down and squeeze it.
If the cap has been tampered with it might leak.

I first heard about this scam from a local in Indonesia.
I was really good at checking all my bottles and I never had a problem.
But a month later when I was in Langkawi, Malaysia I didn’t pay attention to the bottle I bought. And sure enough I got a tampered one.
What sucked the most about it is that I didn’t notice the cap was tampered with until I finished the bottle.

2 – People that want to give you something.

You’ll find this all over the place.
People will try to put things in your hands in Thailand, China, anywhere really.
Once it’s in your hands they’ll ask you to pay for it.
If you don’t want it just give it back.
If they don’t take it back simply place it on the ground and walk away.

In Myanmar the females will approach you with Thanaka(their version of sunscreen).
They’ll want to decorate your face with it, and they make it seem friendly.
But once they’re done they’ll ask for money afterwards.

Face painted with Thanaka.

3 – Pay to Watch Shoes.

I was visiting some temples in Yangon, Myanmar.
Like all temples you have to remove your shoes before entering.
You leave them at the entrance near the lockers or pile of other shoes and then go inside.

Temple in Yangon.

When I came out and put my shoes on a little kid came up to me asking for money.
He said he watched my shoes.

He wasn’t there when I arrived, but he was there then.
There were no signs around that said anything about this.
Plus it felt like bullshit.
So I just laughed, said NO, and walked away.

One way to avoid this is to put your shoes in a day bag and bring them in with you.

4 – “Let’s Have Some Tea.”

This scam was posted all over my hostel in Beijing.
While you’re visiting tourist attractions a good looking girl will approach you.
She’ll ask where you’re from, how many days you’ve been in China, and where you’re going next.
Once you answer her questions she’ll then ask if you want to have tea or coffee.

If you say yes here’s a scenario that might unfold:
She takes you to a tea house that is probably empty.
You’ll sample different teas and she’ll try to force you to buy your favorite.
Whether you buy one or not you’ll get stuck with an incredibly expensive bill for the teas you sampled.
If you refuse to pay, the doors to the exit will probably be locked.
After that you better hope your martial arts are better than the people that own the tea house.

I was approached by a good looking Chinese girl outside of The Forbidden City.
I already knew the whole scam, but went along with it all the way to the “let’s go for tea” part.
I told her I didn’t like tea or coffee, but I do like Ice Cream.
Then I recommended an ice cream place right around the corner that I knew about.
All of a sudden she said she had to wait for some of her friends to arrive.

Hmm, how interesting.
“You were just ready to leave, but NOW you have to wait for your friends?”

5 – Drive-by Robbing.

If you’re walking along the road with something valuable in your hands be careful.
Two people will slowly and quietly drive behind you on a motorbike.
The person on the back will grab your stuff and then the driver speeds off.

This almost happened to someone I met in Kuala Lumpur.
He was standing out front of the hostel waiting for his Grab to show up.
He was staring into his phone and someone drove up slowly and tried to snatch it from his hands.
They only managed to knock it out of his hands and then they sped off.

Always be aware when you have your valuables out.

6 – Fake U.S. Dollars.

Cambodia uses U.S. Dollars more than their own Riel.
So, seeing dollar bills in Cambodia isn’t much of a surprise.

When I was on the island of Koh Rong, I was walking down the main path early in the morning.
In the distance I saw some money on the ground.
There was no one around, so I grabbed it, put it in my pocket and kept walking.
When I arrived back at my room I checked it out to see if it was legit.

To my surprise it was a crisp $100 bill I picked up.
Not to my surprise was how the colors were a little off, the size was too big, and the word “COPY” was printed at the bottom of it.
For a second I thought I was gonna have some extra cash.

Scams in Asia. Fake $100 US bill.

Whenever you’re dealing with U.S. dollars in Cambodia always look over the money.
You never know who’s trying to give you counterfeit cash.

7 – Timeshare Scam.

A well-dressed salesperson will give you a free scratcher ticket.
You scratch it and you’re a winner.
You can accept the prize if you follow them and go for their pitch.
If you go, you’re taken to a hotel where they’ll pressure you for hours to buy into their bullshit timeshare.
If you actually buy into the timeshare that’s where they’ll scam you.
If you don’t buy into their share they’ve just wasted a bunch of your time instead.

I was approached with this in Nusa Dua, Indonesia.
I already knew of this scam but I figured I’d play along with them.
I scratched my ticket and would you imagine that I WAS A WINNER!

When he asked me to follow them back to their hotel I told him that I already knew his scam.
But I wished him luck on scamming the next person.

8 – Attractions are Closed.

This one happens a lot in Bangkok and it’s almost always 100% bullshit.
Someone on the street, or a tuk tuk driver, will tell you that an attraction is closed.
They’ll make up a fake holiday or claim that it’s only open to locals.
But they can recommend another place that is open.

If you go to their recommendation you usually end up at one of their friends shops.
Once you’re there they’ll try and force you to buy stuff.
If you actually buy something the person that brought you there will get a commission.

The best way to avoid this is to know the hours of the attractions you want to visit.
And if someone seems to be going out of their way to be really nice, there’s probably sneaky reason for it.

When I was walking around Bangkok I had at least 3 different tuk tuk drivers ask me where I was going.
When I told them, they gave me their whole bullshit scheme.
I didn’t listen and I continued to my destination.
And each time, the place I went to was still open.

The Grand Palace in Bangkok.

9 – Corrupt Police.

I heard about this happening a lot in Ubud, Indonesia.
Many foreigners would get pulled over on their motorbikes for trivial things.
No helmet, no turn signal, broken side mirrors.
Then the police fine you.
But what they really want is a bribe.

Always have your debit card and real stash of money hidden.
If you have a wallet only keep a small amount of money in it.
Because if you get pulled over you can show them you don’t have an ATM card or much money.
If you only show them the small amount of money they’ll probably take what you have and leave.

If you’re given a ticket always keep it with you.
Because when the next officer pulls you over you can show them you already have a ticket.
They’ll most likely just leave because a different officer got to you first.

10 – Cabs in Bangkok.

Cabbies are probably known as the biggest scammers all over the world.
And taking a cab in Bangkok might sound like the worst idea ever.
But you’d be surprised how much cheaper they are than tuk tuks.
However, you have to find an honest cabbie.

I wrote a whole article about it HERE.

Taxis are some of the worst scams in Asia.

A lot of cabbies in Bangkok will try to avoid turning on the meter.
Just pressure them to do it or walk away.

Cabbies can be horrible if you’re not paying attention.
But I found taxis in Bangkok to be cheap and convenient.

I’m sure the cab drivers all throughout Southeast Asia are shady.
But I only used cabs in Bangkok.
I knew what to expect from them and I made sure to only take a ride if the meter was on.

11 – Pickpockets Everywhere.

This is not uncommon, but it happens to people daily.

Pickpockets are at every major tourist destination.
As long as you’re not careless you should be alright.

Many times I was walking through extremely busy streets.
Sometimes wandering around festivals or standing in tightly packed subways.
The thing that made me feel the most secure was shorts with zippers on the pockets.
Not once was I concerned about the thieving children on Pub Street in Siem Reap.
Or the tight crowds on Jalar Alor in Kuala Lumpur.
Shorts with zippered pockets made me feel completely safe with no worries at all.

You’re A Target.

Out of these 11 Scams I only fell for the water bottle cap one.
Not too bad.

A lot of the scams in Asia are mostly from people that are trying to act nice.
Once they gain your trust that’s when the scam starts to unfold.

If you’re a westerner traveling through Asia you definitely stand out.
The con artists and shady people will be counting on you to fall for their deception.
Always be aware.

Have you fallen for any scams in Asia?
Let me know in the comments below.

Jeremiah Cooper

By Jeremiah Cooper

Welcome to Live Life Extreme, a travel blog about thrill-seeking travel through some of the largest cities to off the beaten path getaways.

My name is Jeremiah and I'm a photographer from Arizona.
I'm always in search of picturesque landscapes and adrenaline pumping adventure.
Follow me as I show you What and What Not to do when visiting new places in search of Cheap Travel and Cheap Thrills.

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