Monday, October 13, 2014

Top 10 Tourist Scams Beijing

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Plan your Beijing tour? Most foreign travelers feel very safe when traveling in Beijing. But that doesn’t mean you should lower your vigilance on possible travel scams in Beijing.

The remark below is quoted from Percy from USA:
Thank you for having this site. As a traveler and student of human nature, I appreciate the scam warnings and the comments. I am a native New Yorker, and I feel it important to remind people that scams are not only in China.
Anywhere around the world where there are larger groups of humans, there will be more opportunities for scams. It seems the way of the Universe that these will be filled. You should always be aware, do research and remember that if it seems off, or too good, it is probably a scam. This is true in China, the U.S., or any other place where humans exist.”

Scam #1 Avoid KTV bars
Whether you enter on your own or taken by a Chinese “friend.”, in most cases you are in for a trap! It is a karaoke place. You enter the room to sing a few songs and have a few beers. Suddenly girls appear and want to drink with you. Then suddenly a cart appears with lots of snacks and beer.
The snacks are NOT free and they are expensive–but more on that later. The girl wants a brandy and you say okay. You will end up paying huge amount of money! Just avoid KTV!

Scam # 02:  Tea Scam
At some heavy tourist areas (like Tiananmen Square, Wangfujing Street…),  you will be approached by one or three  attractive females or gentlemen, who are  willing to have a natural and nice talk with you or  even give you a free tour of hutong  in a polite way.  She or he will talk about the interesting things in Beijing, or talk about the culture or history of your home country and even world affairs!

Then if everything goes smoothly, then  invite you to a traditional Chinese teashop or ceremony. The whole ceremony proceed then at the end of the ceremony your “friends” will ask you to pick out some favorite teas. So the scam start when it comes time to pay the bill, and it can again run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars. Simply don’t go for it!
To make the tea scam more natural,  they  protend to be very friendly. They even don’t suggest you pay the whole amount. It is to be split between you and your “friends”.  So you  wil see them pay their part. It is a scam!
It happens in central part of Beijing mainly, esp. in Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the surroundings.

Scam # 03: “Art Student” Scam
Also at some big tourist destinations,  some young people,  disguised as ” art student’”,  will approach you. They offer you a free tour of a art show. Thus begins the “Art Student” scam.
Actually they will take you to an art shop selling all kinds of “art” stuff. This is just a waste of time. You can easily find these art pieces on the market. They sell the same “art” at higher prces. Simply say bye bye to them.
It happens mainly in historical sites, and public transport hubs. They are good actors(actresses) indeed. To us Chinese people they say they are out job-hunting and is penniless; to overseas travelers they say they are art students. Many of them are very properly dressed.

Scam # 04: Rickshaw Scam
Some first-time oversea or even domestic travelers visiting Beijing fall into the traps of some seemingly “humble rickshaw drivers”. For example, let’s say, you and a rickshaw driver agree on a price of RMB 40 for a pedicap ride. It will turn out to be RMB400!. The trick is that your rickshaw driver will pretend to be ignorant and he will pull out a laminated price list and say it is 400 yuan instead of 40 yuan. Better take a taxi than a pedicap.
1) Rickshaw Scam at the North Gate of Forbbiden City
There are two entrances to the Forbidden City – the south gate ( Meridian Gate – Wumen)  and north gate( Gate of Divine – Shenwu Men).  The south gate is linked to Tiananmen Square to the south. You have to enter Forbidden City from its south gate and exit from its northern gate, which is officially set as a one-way south to north travel route.
Make sure you are taken by your taxi to the south entrance of Forbidden City (better yet, take the subway line 1 –  its very nice and very cheap!). Don’t ever take a Rickshaw at the north gate of Forbidden City unless you feel like getting lost and extorted.
So if you visit Forbidden City by getting to a wrong gate (north gate), don’t use a local rickshaw to get back to the south gate, just walk to the right gate (south gate). For the same reason, if you exit from the north gate after visiting Forbidden City, don’t use a rickshaw for your next place.
2)  Rickshaw scams also occur at the entrance to the “Legend of Jinsha” which is performed at the Beijing Workers’ Club in Beijing.
3)  Rickshaw scams possible at any places in Beijing
Rickshaw scams could occure at any other places in Beijing. Be Vigilant!

 Scam #05: “Black” Taxis
When arriving at the airport, keep away from the taxi drivers who approach you in the terminal or outside the terminal as they will charge you much more than the actual price. Just following the sign pointing to the taxi line just outside the terminal. Taxi drivers should use their meter; make sure that the driver puts down the flag.
Taking a taxi from the airport to the downtown Beijing costs just over RMB 100 plus RMB 5 toll fee. Beijing legitimate taxi license plates will begin with the “Beijing B” otherwise it is possibly a black taxi!
After paying a legal taxi, you will get a legal computerized receipt in which you can find the taxi company’s phone number while a black driver only offers you a hand-written receipt with which you will never find him! A black driver would charge you RMB 400 – RMB 500 for the airport downtown drive! Normally a taxi ride from the airport to the downtown of Beijing costs you around RMB 120.
Black cars could be found around the subway stations, shopping malls, and also aound some major tourist attractions such as Summer Palace, Forbiden City and Wangfujing Street and Beijing Railway Station as well.
By the way, your taxi driver may pull out a very official looking list of all hotels and official airport price. Never belive so-called so-called official taxi-rate list of all hotels and official airport price. Never such a taxi-rate list!
It seems that there is a new kind of scam in Beijing when it comes down to the taxi’s.  Taxi drivers are asking their passengers to get out of the car and help to push it / close the trunk. When the passengers are outside, the drivers takes of with all their belongings.
For more information on taxi, please visit Beijing Taxi.

Scam # 6:Fake helpers/officials around Mao’s Tomb at Tiananmen Square 
When you line up for entering Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, you will probably meet some fake helpers or officials who are trying to “grab” some money from you.  To avoid being cheated, please read the following travel tips:
The admission to Mausoleum of Mao Zedong is free. No neend for passport ID check and no need for buying shoes to replace your sandals (though not encouraged). As with most mausoleums, strict rules are enforced for visitors. No bags and cameras are allowed inside the hall. One locker is located 500m to the east of the mausoleum. The deposit is not free ( yes, a little strange)! The charges on deposit locker ranges from CNY 2 to 10.

Scam #07:  Scams Occurring Around Tiananmen and Forbidden City
The area around Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City is a favorite hangout for scammers.  Below is a trip trip by a scam victim named  Akalan:
In fact this was my 4th trip to China, but first trip to Beijing. Many a times many people, usually young ladies chatted with me and they helped me a lot. Even on the same day morning I went to the Great Wall and a young girl with good English walked with me. All those I met earlier were genuine people who just wanted to help a visitor to their country. Most of the time they did not even allow me to pay a bill, ticket price or taxi fare.
With that sort of experience, I had no suspicion on this woman. Still my priority was to get into the Forbidden city ASAP, as it was passed 3pm and I knew that the ticket sales would stop at 4 pm. This lady said that she would show me the “East gate” where I can enter without a long queue. Yes, there was a queue of people at the main entrance.
I simply followed her advice and she walked with me to “show” the entrance. On the way she said she is from Xi’An (a city I visited 1 month ago) and we had quite a good conversation on history, culture and languages. She also explained some history of the area.
She said her friends from another province are there and they will meet her in 10 min. If I can wait 10 min, they also can join me to go inside the Forbidden city. While waiting for them, she suggested me to sit some where and have a tea or fruit juice. In fact after walking and climbing whole morning in Great Wall area, I was thirsty and wanted to sit and stretch my legs. So I agreed.
I tried to sit on some chairs laid outside, but she suggested to go inside – less noisy, less dust and air conditioned! I picked a Chinese tea and the scam began!
You know the rest. Yes, she split the bill, still I lost a few hundred! Worst thing was that she took me to a gate, assuring that I could enter from there, but obviously there were no ticket counters. I had to get to an electric car. The driver charged 20, instead of 2, as he sensed my urgency!
He actually did not take me to the ticket counters, instead, he stopped somewhere and a woman approached me. She was telling me that the ticket counters are closed and she would sell a ticket to me for 100 ! I did not want to let some one rip me off for 3rd time, within 15 min. Finally when I found the ticket counters, they were closed! So I missed the Forbidden City!

Scam #08: Avoid Itinerant Tour Companies at Street
AVOID TOURISM COMPANIES, the ones who talk to you at street, promising a great price to go meet Great Wall (for example), they will make you pay more inside the bus, will take you to the worse section of the Great Wall, and prepare yourself for a long day stopping at market places, really awful experience.

If you want sightseeing, get an legal one, from important sites.

Scam #09: Cheating Rampant at North Gate to Forbidden City 
There are two main gates to the Forbidden City – the south gate ( Meridian Gate – Wumen)  and north gate( Gate of Divine – Shenwu Men).  The south gate is linked to Tiananmen Square to the south. You have to enter Forbidden City from its south gate and exit from its north gate, which is officially set as a one-way south to north travel route.
So don’t try to go to the North Gate to Forbidden City.  The North Gate now only serves an exit gate.  If you get to a wrong gate ( the north gate ),  just walk along the streets circling Forbbiden City and move on to the south gate. In this case, you are not encouraged to use a rickshaw or a 3-wheel motorcycle taxi at the north gate of Forbidden City.  Some  of the rickshaw and 3-wheel motorcycle taxi drivers are just disgusting swindlers.  Avoid Them!  Below is the account by Bill of the victim at the North Gate to Forbidden City.

I was a victim of two scams in the same day! The first was with a 3-wheel motorcycle taxi at the north gate of the forbidden city. I was offered a ride to the south gate for 3 Yuan. The taxi drove through a maze of narrow alleys and he stopped at an isolated spot. Then he demanded 300 Yuan, about $48.

The second incident was the tea shop routine. A nice couple invited me to a local place near Tiananmen square. I told them about the taxi incident and they sounded shocked and empathetic! We were given snacks (2 Yuan per bag in the store), some high quality tea, orange juice, and about 1-2 ounces of wine. The bill was 1200 Yuan plus 100 for the tip. He paid half (money probably borrowed from the owner), but I was still squeezed for over $100.

The next day, near the same square, a woman began a nice friendly conversation with me and tried to do the same thing. The good-bye was very quick

Any questions, just drop a line.
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120 Responses to “Top 10 Tourist Scams Beijing”

  1. Elaine says:
    I had a great time in China and only fell victim to the “Art scam” at the summer palace. But this wasn’t so much a scam as a rouse. I bought an oil painting for $60 – a reasonably fair price and I still have the ‘art’. And I wasn’t pressured at all so that was all me. None of the other scams happened to me and I think that’s because I was with a tour group. There are downsides to traveling in tour groups but the upside was that our guide took great care of us. With his warnings and guidance (and apparently much needed protection) we had a great time. I also helped some *genuine* students (a class of 13-year-olds) practice their English at a historic site. And these sweet kids just talked with us for 10 minutes or so-they didn’t ask us to go anywhere or try to sell us anything. I left with a very favorable impression of Chinese people :)
  2. James P. says:
    I’ve been compiling a list of all of the travel scams in Asia, and the fake ticket booth isn’t just limited to Mao’s tomb…I’ve seen it at the Batu Caves, and in places at Siem Reap.
  3. R Man says:
    Hi need help !! I just travel beijing during Chinese New Year having bad experience tourist agent bring us to place selling jade which most likely all fake as now still waiting for result to prove whether issit fake! and all of us bout 20 PAx seems like kinda scam almost s$10k and I back to my country now issit anyway to call china consumer to file a complain get back our. money ?thank so much ..
  4. Daniel says:
    Hello R Man,
    Happy Chinese New Year!
    1. First of all, you may contact your travel agent to get your money back by returning your jade items.
    2. If your travel agent refuses to help you fix the problem, you may turn to the orgnaizations concerned to get your money back.
    In my opinion, the first method is fast and simple and the second method would be long and a bit complicated.
    You may contact China National Tourism Administration for assistance and its contact information as below:
    Complaint Telephone Numbers
    Institute to Receive Complain of China Tourism:
    Tourism Quality Supervision Management Institute of National Tourism Administration
    Working time: 8:30-12:00 14:30-17:00
    Voice Tel: (010)65275315
    ADD:A9 Jianguomennei Avenue, Beijing
    Postal Code: 100740
  5. Jo says:
    Just want to say thanks for putting up this website. Wish I had read up on this before my visit! I would have saved myself some $$.
  6. Daniel says:
    Hello Jo,
    Thanks! Life is just a process of experience. Never too late to learn. Be happy with our life.
  7. Rich says:
    Hi Daniel,
    Really Thanks for post this. It is just great information for tourist. I had been scammed (happily not much), but I realize is not uncommon, so I feel not so stupid :-P. As you say, is never too late to learn.
  8. Daniel says:
    Hello Rich,
    Much delighted this post is of some practical use to Beijing visitors. Enjoy your Beijing trip!
  9. steve says:
    enhanced scam no 2: tea scam
    i met group of three chinese men in their 30ties at tia anmen square claiming they are working for IBM in Shanghai and visiting Beijing due to conference. but today they have day off and have time for sight seeing. they will tell you to go different way as you planned, forbidenn city is closed, open at 3pm..etc and that they want to go there but later, they even did not mention the tea and walk with you chatt, good conversation, taking pctures and then they ask for business card, email, nobady has pen so lets go for a beer. as only you and one from these three scamers are drinking beer other two ordered tea but of course invite to taste and it goes so on…will also tell ypu that in chu=ina is usal to drink red wine when making friends…so be c arefull
  10. Stephen says:
    I met these same men in Tienamen Square, identical story. I later thought that if I took my camera out and began to snap their picture, they would have gone away. They are very friendly and engaging. They gave much information and spent two and a half hours with me. I did not have much money so they got only a little. What they did not know was that I would have bought drinks and paid them to talk, for what they got, there was no need to cheat. They only made 10 dollars an hour each for the time they spent, jokes on them. They probably make more most of the time, they got very aggressive. My question: if this site knows about them why do not the police take care of it, clearly the people on the street knew what was happening and the shop is in collusion.
  11. Mug says:
    Wish I’d read this before
    Heavily caught with the taxi scam with some official looking people at the airport; went out for a walk and got the artist scam but really don’t like Chinese art and it looked fairly crap – which it obviously is – so didn’t buy. Then got the karaoke bar scam this evening – alarm bells ringing in my head but ignored because I believe in the basic goodness of human nature. That cost me 400 yuan to extract myself from.
    The ‘artist’ and the karaoke girls were so charming and convincing that I have difficulty believing they were the scamsters that they obviously were.
    So I’ve been here for a little over 12 hours and am probably £100+ down as a result
    I will still believe in the goodness of human nature but will check for each new city I visit the scams I can expect.
    Like everyone else I just feel so stupid at being taken in!
    And I see that Snickers Bar in the shop across the street are 50yuan – bet that’s not what you pay if you’re not a gullible foreigner