Security and safety in China
|**Popular Travel Scams**|
►Late at night, do not go out or stay out all alone, especially if you are female. If you do need to go out by yourself then it is best to head back to your hotel or apartment before 11 pm.
►Watch out when crossing or walking along a street. Pedal and Electric bicycles are both silent and very frequent in China, causing many roads to be considered walker-unfriendly, especially during rush hour.
► Thieves and pickpockets are common and often prey on lonely tourist found in railway stations, free markets and on buses. Always pull your bag in front of you when you are out, never keep all your travel money together in one place and try not to stand still and appear lost or confused as it attracts unwanted attention.
►Sadly, scam artist and conmen are also common in China, but especially in the major cities. These people make their living through trickery and deception and have practiced their lies a thousand times to be sure they make sense and appear genuine. Often they will start with a seemingly innocent story of woe or conversation beforehand to let your guard down, before launching into their own avenue of attack. Although it may seem unfair, in general if a Chinese local comes up to you on the street and starts to speak in English, it is very likely they are working some kind of clever con or tourist trap and you would do well to be extra cautious with them.
**Here are some popular travel scams we have collected from the Internet and from our previous clients**
1) Tea scam
The Tea scam is very basic and often happens in Beijing and Shanghai, usually along these lines. One or two young and pretty Chinese girls approach you and tell you they are English students who would like to practice their English. Then, after a brief chat with you they might offer to show you around a little first but will then suggest that you go for a drink together, sometimes even to a so-called ‘tea ceremony’.
If you accept the invitation they will then take you to a tourist-oriented tea house, where you will be served with tea and snacks. If you are clever you might already notice that none of the tea house staff can speak any English, which is a very bad sign as this not only prevents you asking them any questions directly but also causes problems with arguing over the bill at the end. You may also notice that the menus in the tea house have no prices on, which is another clear danger sign.
Once you have tried and tasted a few cups of tea you are then presented with a bill for a ridiculous sum of money, which your friendly girls will say seems reasonable for what you have all drunk. This is the biggest lie of all, as obliviously the girls are working for or with the tea house and are expecting to collect a payment later as commission. In the end you will be thrown in an awkward situation, do you pay up or just refuse and if you want to refuse how can you explain it to them?
In the past what then happen is based entirely on how brave and confident the tourist was feeling at the time. There have been reports that some refuse to pay and just walk out of the tea houses safe and sound, some try to negotiate with the hostess and pay a part of the bill while others end up paying the entire amount.
If you are a feeling brave or confident you can try not paying, and its unlikely that they will dare to stop you. But if you are not feeling that strong then maybe negotiation is a better choice for you. This is common but not the rule.
There are variations on the scam such as instead of tea houses they are art galleries or bars, but the end result is always to highly oversell you something of little worth and attempt to embarrass you into paying.
Of course it is not always a con to be approached by someone who wants to speak or practice their English students, so use your judgment. But do remember before buying or consuming anything, whether in Beijing, Shanghai or elsewhere, always check the prices beforehand, and if all else fails use a mobile phone or calculator to type out numbers so that you can fix a price. There are some very expensive teas in China and for the most part, you won’t know the difference so stick with teas in the range of RMB 30-40.
2) Fake renminbi scam
Counterfeit reminbis frequently come into circulation, although the government has been trying hard to get rid of the fakes.
The scam goes like this. In a store, you hand a large value note, such as a 100 or 50 RMB, note to the clerk for final payment. The clerk takes it and acts serious as if they are checking its a genuine one. Then they use a slight of hand to change your note with a fake one which is prepared in advance secretly and then inform you that your note is a fake.
At this point you are more likely to be confused than suspicious and might even put the fake one away and offer another real note to make your payment, which could allow the scam to be repeated a number of times.
The scam likely happens in stores close to railway or bus stations, where there is usually a big floating population, or when you are buying things from street stands, buying fruits from fruit trucks or taking a taxi.
How to avoid such scams? Firstly, learn how to tell the fake renminbis from the real ones. This will be discussed later. Secondly, be cautious. Yes, you need to be cautious. When a clerk takes your money over, watch how he or she acts carefully, leaving no room for their tricks. Thirdly, avoid stores near railway or bus stations. It is always wise to buy things at super markets.
3) Souvenir scam
This scam mainly occurs in areas of heavy tourist activity.
You walk into a souvenir shop, thinking of buying some souvenirs for some family or friend when you see and decide to choose a lovely china vase. However, as you reach for the vase it suddenly topples or breaks into pieces with a loud crashing sound, drawing the shop owner or assistant who then insist that you pay for their loss.
The fact is that you don’t know how or why it fell without being touched, but apparently you have become stuck in a tourist trap and really what else can you do under the circumstances? It is no use calling the police as it is difficult for the police to define who is lying and also the language barrier is a big problem.
We suggest that at this point you should always try negotiating to pay less for it. Whenever you are carrying any large purses, bags or shopping, be extra careful not to touch or even go near anything that looks fragile or expensive in such shops. Finally, in such shops once you have made your mind up on buying something always ask the shop owner politely to fetch your item for you before purchase.
4) Unlicensed taxi
Unlicensed taxis are common in China and for the most part they are hard to spot given the fact that they copy the licensed ones on decoration. They probably have a taxi sign on the top and maybe even an altered meter, so just by them having a meter is no indication of genuineness.
So how do you avoid the illegal taxis and prevent yourself from being ripped off? Those arriving at an airport or railway station with no pre-arranged transport should ignore people who tout for business and go for the official taxi rank.
Before you flag-down a taxi, you’d better do some research and get to know approximately how much it will cost to get to the destination by taxi. You can always ask the hotel staff about this in advance. Be warned however, as while the Tourist Information desks may be helpful and have friendly staff, they might also be linked to a premium priced taxi company whose prices are vastly higher than you will find at the official taxi rank, so ne wary should they offer to find you a taxi on your behalf. Often if you are able, it is better to take a train or metro tube away from your arrival point and then pick up a local taxi closer to your destination.
►Here are some emergency telephone numbers.
Traffic accident: 122
1-888-414-0686 (US & CA)
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