Travelled to 9 countries / regions

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I grew up and live in Beijing



Asia > China > Beijing > Useful Info
Updated on Dec 11, 2018 Useful Info

The 5 most common scams targeting tourists in Beijing

Beijing is generally a very safe city. Because it's the capital city there is always a lot of security around, so tourists and locals alike are never in any real physical danger in Beijing (unless you protest against the government, of course). I feel safe walking home from bars at 3am in the morning.

But I have heard from my foreign friends some scams they have come across I thought I would share. Here they are:

  1. "Friendly" locals inviting you to bar/coffee/tea/art gallery: this usually happens in busy tourist attractions, like the area around the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Basically strangers will strike up a conversation with you (with good English) and they say they're also visiting Beijing. After they build some rapport with you, they will invite you to some place, usually a bar or restaurant, but I've also heard of art galleries. Big scam. A lot of people fall for it. If you go you will end up paying thousands of yuan at whatever place they're taking you to. Just make up an excuse and leave.
  2. Locals who approach you about wanting to practice English: another variation of the same scam as above. This time someone with not-so-good English will ask you about practicing English somewhere. Don't go. Bottom line is do not go anywhere with anyone who approach you. Just be friendly and talk to them on the spot, but do not leave with them to anywhere. 99% of the time it's a scam.
  3. Bars/restaurants without prices on their menus or switch menu after you order: when you are at any restaurant or bar, make sure the menu they give you have prices listed on it. And more importantly, hang on to a copy of the menu after you order, because some shady places will switch the menu and give you a big bill at the end and you will have no way to disputing it without the original menu.
  4. Cheap tours: this is less a scam and more of a business model. If you get on a tour that is very cheap, expect to be taken to many random shops where you will be pressured to buy stuff. Nothing will happen to you if you don't buy anything, but the guide will be very cold and unfriendly towards you. Always a good practice to ask in advance if the tour will have shopping stops included, we chinese always ask that when we book tours, and tour sellers will usually tell you what to expect (and legitimate operators will show you options that do not include shopping but will be more expensive, obviously.)
  5. Rickshaws in Beijing: not sure if this still happens, but I know at least a few years ago there were these human-drawn rickshaws you can take from some big tourist attractions (like Jingshan Park just north of the Forbidden City). They will quote you a very cheap rate (less than 50 yuan), but take you on a long-winded trip and charge you hundreds of yuan at the end. My advice is to never take any rickshaw in Beijing. Beijing has very good taxi/Didi/subway transportation that you should never have to use rickshaw. Also Beijing is too big and spread out for rickshaws to make sense anyway