As a traveler to an unfamiliar country with very different customs and language barriers, you may easily find yourself the target of individuals that are unscrupulous and can’t wait to take advantage of their next unsuspecting victim. It is those who are most enchanted by the place and the people that are often the easiest to fool. If you are aware of the type of scams that are commonly experienced, you may be able to avoid them altogether.
Cheap and VIP Bus Tickets
Once you are booked and traveling on these buses, the bus driver seems to deliberately stall the bus until the ferry has stopped running for the day or the border crossings have closed. However, the bus driver will very conveniently take everyone to a good guest house that he knows of, and drop them off there for the night. This scam is most commonly experienced on the route that runs between Cambodia and Thailand. Be careful of buses that advertise very low fares because of their competition. You can also find yourself on a regular bus even though you have paid to upgrade to ‘VIP’, because the bus may be conveniently broken. You will not be refunded the difference.
Get Rich Schemes
You should make a quick getaway from over friendly strangers who mention the words exports, cards or gemstones. These con-artists approach tourists and earn their trust, then they begin by planting different ideas for ways of making money. Although these business ventures seem simple, why are these strangers not involved in these activities themselves if they are so good? So many visitors fall for these scams even though they appear to be a lot more obvious than others.
Washing your own clothes might actually be a better option than giving them to a laundry service. If you are determined to make use of laundry services you would be well advised to count every item of clothing before you hand it over or you may see several people actually wearing or selling your clothes. You can also buy them back if you feel the need!
Keeping away the persistent and relentless salesmen that swarm on you in the streets of Nha Trang will take a very firm no and shaking of your head. This will not only ensure that your neck gets a thorough workout, but also discourage people from following you in these tourist havens. You may even be accosted at your table when you sit down to eat in a restaurant. Pick Pocketing is incredibly common and a very serious problem, so beware of those sellers who follow you along the streets, in an attempt to distract you while another empty’s your pockets.
Tourist Information Offices
Beware if you come across offices that have been designated with signs that read “tourist information”. These so called offices are very rarely legit. They have been set up to earn commission from sending tourists to hotels and restaurants that are more likely to charge prices that are higher, in order to pay the middle-men. They will tell you that the place you want to visit is closed, while it is probably not included in their network. Don’t ask taxi drivers for recommendations of hotels or restaurants as they will only suggest the higher priced venues, in which their contacts work and they are paid commission.
Most scams take place either at bus or train stations and borders where only the local people are aware of the correct fares. Negotiate your prices before you get into a vehicle and don’t catch a ride from a friendly smiling local who is probably going to demand money from you once you reach your destination. Even though the meter is working the driver may by pass the hotel by accident and charge you extra for going around the block. Being charged a fair price can be unrealistic in Southeast Asia.
It is going to be worth your while to make use and pay for the hotels tour services if you choose to stay in a cheap hotel. These hotels and guesthouses make most of their income from their tours and not their accommodation. If you choose not to use these services you may be in for a difficult time when you attempt to check out. Alternatively you may prefer to pay more for a better hotel and choose your own tour services.
Another common scam in this country is perpetrated by young people who claim to be students at University, that are no longer able to afford their education. They ask for assistance by asking for money to stay in school. In Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, you will find many claiming to be art students. They will attempt to sell their art work to pay their tuition. This art is nothing but cheap imitation.
Exchanging Money Scams
When exchanging currency it is always best to count it yourself rather than allowing someone else to do it. Do not accept bills that have been damaged or torn as you may find these difficult to spend. Don’t exchange your currency with individuals on the streets, but only in legal currency exchange establishments. Even calculators can be fixed to display incorrect currency information. Because rates are usually inferior at border crossings, currency is best exchanged away from them.
Visa Office Scams
Drivers will sometimes take tourists to offices that process the paperwork for a visa before you cross the border. This is common at the Friendship Bridge between Thailand and Laos. You can save yourself some money by doing the paper work yourself on the very same forms, when they are given to you for free at the actual border offices. These visa offices serve no real purpose or value and are only out to make money. Completing these forms is simple and you will not need assistance.
Compared to other areas, Laos is rather laid back when it comes to scams. Besides the occasional corrupt money changer, most scams here are either really mischievous or a mistake.