Where did you all go for the Labor Day long weekend? China is a very foreigner-friendly country when it comes to traveling, but you still need to watch out for potential travel scams and traps. Our forum readers share their personal unpleasant experiences while traveling in China. Let us know what travel scams you've fallen for in the comments.
Eric is a university teacher in China, he traveled to Mount Wutai for Labor Day. At the restaurant, he was presented with two menus. You can order off a menu with lower prices, but when you receive the bill at the end of the meal, they produce a menu with inflated prices.
To avoid this make them write the price on the order form and leave a copy on the table.
They use this trick on both Chinese and foreigners.
John is from the USA, he was returning from a work trip in Thailand and decided to stop in Beijing for a few days and tour the Great Wall before going on to Washington. According to John, “The tour was great, but afterward, the tour guide insisted on taking me to a small pottery plant. There a lady took me on another tour showing how craftsmen made hand-painted copper pottery. She then took me to the showroom to see which item I wanted to buy. I hadn’t planned on buying anything. She applied some gentle but distinct pressure to make a purchase. Wanting to look like a respectable American, I said what the heck and selected a small copper vase. It turned out to be about 5,400 yuan ($800). I later discovered that this was a massive rip-off and was basically designed for Westerners. They would never attempt to charge Chinese or other Asian people this much.”
In this case, you should insist on your position, as a traveler, and not pay for anything you don’t like.
Mr. Smith took a trip with his family to Sanya, where most scams are run by northerners running restaurants. They use strong-arm tactics and threats to harass customers into ordering their food; even the local get cheated by them. When you ask for the cost of a live fish in the tank, they will quote a cutthroat price and immediately kill the fish by throwing it onto the floor. How can you even bargain when the fish is already dead?
The best things to do is to tell them your target price when you ask the seller about the live fish, you could say “Can I have that fish for 10 RMB/kg.” See if they would give you a bargain price. If not just walk away.
“DO NOT believe in those cheap “Beijing one day tours” that cost you less than 150 yuan,” Lily warns. It was a horrifying experience for her. The post said the tour includes "Badaling Great Wall", but they bring you to "Jiayuguan", and the "Ming Dynasty Cemetery" instead, and only let you see a glimpse of it through the bus window. Throughout the trip, they kept pushing Lily to buy, buy, buy, and at the end of the trip, all the passengers were pushed to the basement of a shopping center where they sold jam. “A so-called foreigner showed up and told a lot of elaborate stories and tried to get us to buy the jam,” Lily recalled, “When we got back to the bus, the guide had disappeared, and we realized that we’ve been scammed.” Lily suffered a bad traveling experience in China. I mean, that’s a lot of effort just to sell some jam.
Before joining a tour think twice. Does it make sense for a tour to be this cheap? We really can enjoy what we want? To make sure it is safe and affordable, have the tour guide list out the itinerary. If you encounter any activities, not on the list, you can choose not to participate in them.
Last week, Jackeline was stopped by two women who asked if she is American and if they could practice English with her. This took place in the shopping mall next to the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Jackeline had heard of this scam before, but they seemed sincere - they asked if they could have coffee together so they could "practice English." Jackeline, an ESL instructor, out alone, was suckered in. However, according to Jackeline, “Instead of a coffee house, they headed down a side street near the mall to a Chinese tea house. They ordered tea and wine for the three us. We chatted, but they were more interested in talking about me than about themselves. Finally, it was time to pay. They produced a menu that listed each pot of tea at 750RMB! They passed the bill to me. The total bill was 3000RMB, or 500USD! It was obvious that these unsavory women were in cahoots with the tea house. They kept saying, just use your credit card. I had realized by then it was a scam and threw 300 RMB on the table and ran."
In this case, you should call the police! What they did was against the law.
In China, discounts are sometimes announced over loud and shrill megaphones. In Yangshuo's West Street you can find beautifully-crafted chopsticks in a dedicated chopsticks shop. There seem to be no discounts being offered, but when Chinese customers enquiring about them, they will be offered a 15 percent price reduction while laowai visitors are brushed off rudely with the claim that there is no discount available. In isolated cases, a five percent discount was grudgingly granted.
Go to a professional shopping mall where there are products with firm price tags; everything is sold based on a fixed price.
In Xenia’s case, she told us, “I took a taxi from Nanjing Road to Shanghai South Railway Station. The fare meter was moving faster than its normal pace. I did not ask him about the pace of the fare meter while I was on the cab. After reaching the station, he asked me to pay RMB378 which was much more than the normal fare. When I refused to pay, he was furious and even threatened to punch me. I then called one police officer over and explained the situation to him with my broken Chinese. After half an hour of super-charged drama, the police caught the Taxi driver. The police officer told me that the fare meter was a fake, and the taxi driver did not have a license to drive a taxi in Shanghai. Thanks to the Police officer, the matter was handled safe and sound.”
A great method to solve this case. Go Xenia!
China is a great country for traveling. We have many great cities and destinations, each with its own culture and charm. We try our best to share our experiences with travelers from all over the world – our 5,000 years of culture and development which lead us here today.
There are traps in every city, but this is just small part of living in the city. Those of us living in China love to welcome foreign visitors to travel or work here. In order for us to progress, we would like to share everyone’s experiences. We need to learn how to protect ourselves when we are in unpleasant situations. There are always good people around when you are really in need.
Where to find these good local people?
www.gogomate.net is here for help!
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Each friend you meet on GoGoMate will help you solve asymmetric information, bring you various stories and perspectives, ignite your passion for the world, not to mention be helping you to solve the problem of travel traps! Besides, you are also welcome to become a host to practice languages and meet new friends!
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