Top 10 Tourist Scams and Traps in China

Tourist scams and traps follow travelers wherever they go. China is no exception in this phenomenon. China is generally a very safe place for tourists. However, while travelling in China, there are several tourist scams that visitors should be aware of. Always be careful with what you do and with who you can trust.

If you travel to Beijing in particular, you may read my another article Top 10 Tourist Scams in Beijing for more information.

“Black” Taxis

“Black” taxis don’t mean that the colors of the taxis are black, but refer to the illegal taxis or cars that can be found all over China. You may encounter them almost everywhere you need a taxi, including the airport, the city center, or around attractions.

The drivers will approach you and asking “where are you going”. They will not only overcharge you but there have been reports of tourists taken out into the middle of nowhere where several of the black taxi driver’s friend showed up and took all of the tourists belongings. Don’t even talk to these people.

Free Tour Guide

These people may found in tourist-heavy area of largest cities of China: the Bund of Shanghai, the Tian’anmen Square of Beijing, the City Wall of Xian, etc.

An attractive male or female will approach the tourist and offer to be a free tour guide. They may actually take you to a place or two, all the while learning more about you to find the best way to get your money. Just remember, there is no free lunch in the world, so don’t believe them.

Super-cheap Tours

There are always many cheap tours offer to you when you arriving at some cities of China. They will take you to shopping places and force you to buy a lot of things which you don’t want to buy, and you may spend more time at these places than at the places that you intended to visit.

What’s more, the services are not very good: dirty bus, bad lunch, for example. You should find a standard tour agency to start your tour in China.

Teahouse Scam

While you are touring in China alone, one person may starts to chat with you in fluent English. He/she is friendly to you and teaches you a lot of local customs. He/she shows you around, then brings you to a teahouse.

You order cups of teas. At the end you’re told you should pay a large amount of money for the tea. Don’t talk to them at first, or check the price of the tea you will be drinking beforehand.

Art Student Scam

Also at some big tourist destinations of China, some young people, disguised as “art student”, will approach you. Of course, they will show you the art that they have allegedly produced.

This one is usually more of a waste of your time than anything, and once you have realized that they are only selling the same “art” that you can find everywhere and that they are selling it at much higher prices, you can simply leave.


Pickpockets always can be found in the major tourist sites of China. Always keep your eyes on your bags, and carry your wallets in a front pocket or a pocket inside your coat, especially in the late evening alone.

Beware of these young men and also of the ladies in whose interests they ply their trade. This is one scam where a true tour guide is very helpful, as thieves will not target tourists with a tour guide that knows how to turn them in to the police.

Vendors and Counterfeit Bills

While you are wandering around some scenic spot, a tout may asks you if you want to buy a souvenir from him/her. You like one of them, then you haggle over price. Then you found that you only have RMB1OO notes.

You give it to the seller and he/she gives you a RMB50 and some change. Later you try to use the RMB50 but others will tell you that it is fake. You should always keep small change on you to pay for little things, or learn to distinguish the real money.

Expensive Souvenirs

There are always many stalls which selling souvenirs in a ridiculous high price inside some scenic spots. These vendors always sell souvenirs to visitors, especially to foreign visitors who don’t speak Chinese.

Just don’t buy them inside these scenic spots. If you want to buy some souvenirs of some city, you can go to the markets of that city.

Child Beggars

Some children will beg for money, sometimes even grabbing onto your legs until you pay them some money in some cities of China.

There are reports that these children may have been kidnapped from other places specifically to be used for begging purposes. If you give money to child beggars, you may have the risk of getting a swarm of them. Just avoid those child beggars.

Ticket Scam

When joining a tour, or being guided at a local sightseeing spot, you may be offered a higher priced ticket, including a performance that you don’t want to watch. Always ask the price of the sight-only ticket.

Hassle-free China Guided Tours

If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours,  here are some options for China guided tours:

Top China Private Tours
Top China Small Group Tours
Top China Train Tour
Top China Yangtze Cruise Tour
Top China Silk Road Tour

Further Readings

Top 10 Places to Visit in China
10 Fascinating Facts about China
How to Pack for your China Trip
Plugs and Sockets in China
China Tour Packages
Learning Useful Chinese Phrases for Travellers 
How to Recognise Chinese Currency

Top 10 Travel Experiences in China
10 Most Scenic Drives in China
Top 10 Most Beautiful Mountains in China
Top 10 Most Beautiful Lakes in China
Top 10 Most Beautiful Grasslands in China
Top 10 Most Beautiful Rivers in China
Top 10 most beautiful waterfalls in China
Top 10 Places to See Autumn Leaves in China
Top 10 Most Beautiful Villages in China
Top 10 Most Beautiful old towns in China
Top 10 Most Beautiful Museums in China
Top 10 China Tourist Scams
Top 10 Souvenirs in China

Any questions, just drop a  line.

3 thoughts on “Top 10 Tourist Scams and Traps in China

  1. Hello Ulrike Lartey,

    It is better to prepare for a small amount of Chinese yuan before your departure for China.

    Three posts below may be useful for you.

    How to Recognize Chinese currency:

    How to use credit card in China:

    How to use ATM in China:

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