Top Ten Scams in Beijing
1. The Foreign Menu
On occasion, at certain restaurants located in tourist heavy locales, foreigners, unaware of the average price of a meal will be offered a different menu than locals. Kungpao chicken, normally less than 10 dollars on any normal menu may come to over 20 on the foreigner menu. To avoid this either search first online for the right price or travel with an experienced Chinese guide.
2. Black Taxis
They’re called black taxis, but that has nothing to do with the color. From Shanghai to Shangri-la these drivers pose as licensed drivers and approach visitors hailing cabs; Beijing is no different. Airports, hotels and city attractions are hotbeds for these motorists who may charge double the price of regular taxis or change their price upon arrival. Avoid them at all costs. (Real Beijing taxis have 北B plates).
3. Discount Tours & Tour Guides
Discount tours will offer discount value: Traveling on cramped subways and buses, trapped in endless traffic, and in rare cases visitors may experience China by having to walk across half of the city. Compare prices and keep that old saying in mind: “You get what you pay for.”
4. The Tea House Scam
If approached by a lovely young lady who invites you to have a cup of tea or coffee, buyer beware. Many of these young ladies are employed by these cafes and teashops to attract customers. Visitors can end up paying nearly a hundred dollars for a cup of tea as their gorgeous host disappears into some back room, leaving you with the bill.
5. The Overpriced Hotel
There are five-star hotels in Beijing that could cost a thousand a night, but then there are those that offer no-star service for a discount price. Visitors are lured at airports and tourist hotspots with promises of discounts and convenience, then find themselves tossed into below par motels and hostels. Even at a discount these rooms leave customers asking for their money back.
When searching for tickets to the Summer Palace or some musical performance visitors may encounter scalpers claiming to have cheaper tickets. They may in fact either be selling more expensive tickets or what’s worse, fake tickets. Only buy tickets from official booths or box offices and stay clear of everyone else.
7. Fake Beggars
Whether it’s a sense of charity or obligation, tourists give out hundreds of dollars a day to street beggars in Beijing. There are those who take advantage of that sense of sympathy and use it for their own profit. When encountering beggars, especially child-beggars, it is likely that they are part of a ring set up to earn money on the streets. Be a little stingy, many beggars earn more than Beijing’s white collar workers!
Carrying around cash is a necessity in Beijing. Some shops don’t accept credit cards and using foreign credit cards can result in frightening fees. Certain pickpockets zero in on tourists and their fanny packs, sometimes working in teams to snatch cash. When in town, and busy places especially, keep an extra eye on your wallet and purse, and if in a group keep an eye on one another's backs.
9. Counterfeit Cash
Aware that many foreign visitors are not familiar with the appearance of Chinese yuan, some will return change that has a similar look to yuan but is completely worthless. Tourist should avoid shady looking street stands and try to purchase everything from official stores or well known markets.
10. The Oldest Trick in the Book
Well, as old as Internet-bought tours anyway... Perhaps the most common trick found in the Beijing streets starts before tourists even purchase their plane ticket. It’s fake or flaky websites advertising great trips and dual understanding of both Chinese and Western culture. Most don’t. To avoid this, well, you’re already in the right place.
Avoiding Tourist Traps
For a pleasant China experience with no regrets, disappointments, or feelings of being robbed/cheated, do your best to avoid tourist traps. Most Chinese are helpful and honest (if a bit vague on directions), but devious opportunists thrive where the unwary give them opportunities.
Our experienced staff and guides can help you combat experienced cons. We at China Highlights are passionate about giving you a high-quality China experience and care about you and your personal property.
I updated this article on February 20, 2014
See all my travel articles
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