Issue 47 / Don't Get Scammed! Here's Our Travel Tips For South East Asia

Don’t Get Scammed! Here’s Our Travel Tips For South East Asia

Apr 27, 2016

When travelling through South East Asia you can easily get caught up with all the touristy stuff. Here are our tips on how to avoid getting ripped off.

Bored of routine? Itching to see some flashy colours and ancient sites? Why not go soul exploring in the third world?
Backpacking across South East Asia has become the go-to cliché for restless, wandering persons in need of some totally trippy experiences. There’s temples to see, along with an overwhelming plethora of Buddha statues, bugs on a stick  and plots to scam you out of your money.
Wait. Plots? You don’t want that.
So here are some things to be weary of if you decide to hop a plane over to South East Asia.


Learn the rules of the game before you go. 
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Everyone Knows Everyone
The first thing you need to know is that South East Asia is a place that was hit hard by war in the '70s and '80s, from conflicts to Vietnam, to the Cambodian genocide. These conflicts left their countries in a state of hurt and times of hurt are when people band together for survival. They needed to get their countries up and running again and what was their prime resource? Luscious travel locales. Places that the rest of the world cannot offer. The travellers, along with their wallets, were an inevitability. Locals just needed to figure out the best ways to milk the cows as they flocked in.
This is basically how it works: they all refer each other to each other, they kick back some money for the referral and they tell you that you’re getting a bargain. But in order to afford that referral money and still make a decent living they simply charge you more. For example, you can book a bus trip from your hostel to the next town for about $20 US. Or you could simply go to the bus station yourself and spend about $3 US for the same trip.

Hot Spot Helpers
This is what I call the locals who offer their services “just because.” But, of course, there’s a catch.
Throughout South East Asia, places like Cambodia’s Siem Reap, the #5 place in the whole world to visit as voted by Trip Advisor’s members for 2016, will have swarms of locals trying to sell you their wares.  
Some may even be little kids — youngins who are hagglers in training under the tutelage of their parents who were likely raised the same way. The kids may want to show you around, and you think, “Aww, cute!” and then they ask you for money.
Not so bad, that one, but then there’s the following . . .
Limited Time Offers
A common, quick and easy trick. Business owners may tell you that today, the very day you are in their store, just so happens to be a local holiday, and they are offering holiday prices! Lucky you! Except the price they’re giving you will be there tomorrow when you find out that there never was a holiday.
This can also happen on a larger scale.
Say you’re in Bangkok and you hire a taxi or a tuk-tuk to take you to one the most popular locations, the grand palace, and then the driver tells you that on that day, of all days, it’s closed. Dang, just your luck. But! He knows another location to take you.

The Bangkok Grand Palace, also know as the scam artist's central hub. 

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Taxi, where are you taking me?
Taxi drivers, and also the tuk-tuk drivers, may try and take you on a little detour, telling you that they want to show you something you may find interesting. You figure, “Hey, I’m on vacation, exploration is the name of the game! Let’s do it, boy!” Next thing you know you’re in the middle of some gem shop (owned by the driver’s buddy/business associate) but he doesn’t actually sell gems at all, but fake ones made of glass. Now you’re being told to buy something. Some may even lock the door until you buy, which is when you pull out your most trusty trick . . .
If you’re dealing with a family-owned business then no price is set in stone. A lot of times you will be given an outrageous price that even they don’t even believe you’ll accept (and if you do — sucker!) So name a price you’re comfortable with and go from there. South East Asia is business negotiations 101.  

Don't believe his lies.

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Basically the aim of the game is to prey upon your ignorance of the area, put on a happy face, and tell you stories that lead your cash into their hands.
Moral of the story: don’t trust anyone with a smile, or least don’t take what anyone says at face value. Learn as much about the country you are heading to before you go. Don’t learn the rules of the game as you go, lest you find yourself in some pretty awkward situations. And most importantly, if a local is being friendly with you, then always ask yourself the key question — “Why?”

Main Image Photo Credit:

Taras Babiak


Taras is a freelance blogger, video editor and screenwriter. He is the co-writer of "Made In Bali," which recently won Best Short Film of the year from the Director's Guild of Canada. 


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