How to avoid the believable con artists when traveling

Con artists

Buddhist monks standing drawing at a holy site. Source: Sacha Styles / Unsplash

STORIES of people getting in ferocious arguments with waiters because “the tip is too small” or thinking you’ve won yourself a brilliant bargain when you’ve been extortionately ripped off are all too common when traveling.

Expats, locals and frequent travelers can fall into these money-alleviating traps.

So here are a few things to remember when traveling in Asia to ensure your money stays in your pocket.

Because after all, you wouldn’t tip your mom for showing you where the light switches are.

Kuala Lumpur: Unmetered taxis

Con artists

Source: Alex Mao / Unsplash

This bright city is full of skyscrapers, speak-easy bars, lush green parks and surrounded by a belt of rainforest covered mountains.

It truly is as magical as it sounds, until you smartphone’s battery runs out and you find yourself hailing a taxi.

Kuala Lumpur has brilliant transport systems including a monorail, underground and over-ground trains, buses, and Grab.

So the need to get in a taxi is unlikely, but if the event occurs, then make sure it is metered.

If you look foreign, expect the driver to tell you the meter is broken. Say “Okay, thanks”, walk away and carry on hailing.

Thailand: Tuk-tuks

Con artists

Source: Jordan Opel / Unsplash

Tuk-tuks are a quintessential part of Thai culture. They can be seen zipping around Phuket and Bangkok, ferrying starry-eyed tourists and their backpacks.

They are great for short sightseeing rides around the city, or to get back to your hostel, but be warned – many tuk-tuk drivers are scamming artisans.

They’re not bad people, they just want to make a quick buck.

A common scenario many travelers face is having their destination changed for them without knowing.

The drivers will suggest going to tourist traps in the middle of your journey when you’re in unfamiliar surroundings.

Be stern and ask them to carry on the original plan. This may turn into a price hike, but that is also negotiable.

Equally, try to avoid tuk-tuks at night as drink driving rules in Thailand are very relaxed and drivers may be under the influence.

Remember: Be stern, but fair, and have your wits about you.

Mumbai: Beggars

Con artists

Source: Igor Ovsyannykov / Unsplash

Unfortunately, those who beg on the streets of Mumbai do need money, but the money they receive won’t help them.

Often beggars are on the lowest rungs of society and have been infiltrated by gangs who prey on their vulnerability to collect money.

Often you will see beggars with missing limbs, blindness and be carrying babies. These people do need your help, but anything you give them on the streets will feed into a higher network of gangs and fuel this modern-day slavery.

If you want to help, give money and other donations to registered charities.

In the name of God

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Source: Ryan Tang / Unsplash

In Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and other Asian countries, you will frequently see Buddhist monks roaming the streets going about their daily business.

Sometimes they may ask you for alms, but this will only ever be foods such as fruit.

If they ask for money, especially past midday, you can bet your bottom dollar it is a scam.

Impersonating a holy person is illegal around the world, but it doesn’t stop people from adorning the traditional uttarasanga (robe) and asking for money from unsuspecting tourists.

Again, if you want to help, donate to a temple.

Thailand: The “special massage”

Source: Frida Aguilar / Unsplash

Thailand is notorious for “special massages” with a “happy ending”. But what you think is going to be an enjoyable experience may very well turn into an empty bank account and a black eye.

If you’re enticed to try this experience, then be aware that often a lady will lead you into a parlor where a group of men will be waiting for you.

You’ll quickly be marched to the nearest ATM, forced to withdraw money which they will promptly steal.

Is it really worth it?