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Southeast Asia: Five ways to avoid common travel scams

While you’re travelling in the region, stay on your toes to keep ahead of the swindlers. Here are a few tips to help you avoid some of the most common scams in Southeast Asia.

Tip 1: Steer clear of tuk-tuks too cheap to be true. 
In Bangkok, sometimes tuk-tuk (three-wheeled taxi) drivers will offer an amazingly cheap price, but take you by a long route. They may also tell you a famous attraction is closed (when it’s actually not) in order to guide you into gem and antique shops where they receive a commission from the owners. If you are taken to one of these shops, just walk away and hail another taxi.

Tip 2: Imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery.
Common in Vietnam, businesses have names that are the same or similar to the name of famous hotels or restaurants. They inferior copycats often pay taxi drivers to direct travellers through their front doors. To avoid this situation, give taxi drivers an address instead of a property name. When you reach your destination, check the address again before paying.

Tip 3: Ask questions about vague travel plans.
Some tour companies misrepresent or over-sell their itineraries. For example, a “forest trek” may only include a walk along the roadside! Double-check details about the itinerary before booking or pre-book through a reputable website like AsiaWebDirect.com, which tests all its listed tours.

Tip 4: Avoid incredible inflating fares.
In certain areas of Vietnam and Malaysia, taxi drivers rig their meters to run much faster than the usual rate. Others simply demand extortionate fares. Before going anywhere, ask your hotel concierge how much the taxi fare should be. And if you’re sure a driver has rigged his meter, or if he is demanding more money, threaten him with the police and take pictures of him and the meter.

Tip 5: Beware of the old bait and switch.
Sometimes vendors will charge you for a product but give you an inferior alternative. For example, travel agents may sell you tickets for a soft-sleeper train ride on Vietnam Railways. But on arrival, you learn that you have cheaper hard-sleeper tickets instead. To avoid this, check your ticket for the berth and class designation in advance. In fact, always make it a habit to check anything you buy before leaving a store.

It’s true that developing regions in South East Asia have their share of con artists. However, travel here can be a very rich experience. Take caution and avoid potentially compromising situations. Travel wisely, and you’ll have a higher chance of a safe and happy trip.

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