Top 10 Tourist Scams Beijing

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Dear Travelers

We’d like to have the following travel guide to be always updated for the benefit of new visitors coming to Beijing.

If anybody having used the piece finds necessary updates, please leave a message or feedback. Thanks!
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Plan your Beijing tour? Most foreign travelers feel very safe when traveling in Beijing. But that doesn’t mean you should lower your vigilance on possible travel scams in Beijing.

The remark below is quoted from Percy from USA:
Thank you for having this site. As a traveler and student of human nature, I appreciate the scam warnings and the comments. I am a native New Yorker, and I feel it important to remind people that scams are not only in China.

Anywhere around the world where there are larger groups of humans, there will be more opportunities for scams. It seems the way of the Universe that these will be filled. You should always be aware, do research and remember that if it seems off, or too good, it is probably a scam. This is true in China, the U.S., or any other place where humans exist.”

Latest feedback from Denis:
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Hi, you website is very helpful. I can share my experience about another scam:

We used an official taxi with the meter, so when the ride was over, we wanted to pay with 100 RMB, as we didn’t have any other bills. The taxi driver didn’t like the bill we gave to him and asked for another one. Then for another one and so on (every time giving back the previous one of course).

He was also friendly but insisted on the other bill and we couldn’t understand what’s wrong and what did he wanted, so we just kindly gave him different bills to try out. At some point we just decided to leave because it started to become annoying.

After some more negotiations he finally took one of our bills, gave us the change and left. The next day, when we tried to pay by cash at a grocery store it appeared that 4 of our bills are fake and I’m quite sure they were not fake before.

Not such a big amount for learning a new type of scam (I have forgotten already that there is such a thing as fake money on the streets) though.

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Scam #1 Avoid KTV bars
Whether you enter on your own or taken by a Chinese “friend.”, in most cases you are in for a trap! It is a karaoke place. You enter the room to sing a few songs and have a few beers. Suddenly girls appear and want to drink with you. Then suddenly a cart appears with lots of snacks and beer.

The snacks are NOT free and they are expensive–but more on that later. The girl wants a brandy and you say okay. You will end up paying huge amount of money! Just avoid KTV!

Scam # 02:  Tea Scam
At some heavy tourist areas (like Tiananmen Square, Wangfujing Street…),  you will be approached by one or three  attractive females or gentlemen, who are  willing to have a natural and nice talk with you or  even give you a free tour of hutong  in a polite way.  She or he will talk about the interesting things in Beijing, or talk about the culture or history of your home country and even world affairs!

Then if everything goes smoothly, then  invite you to a traditional Chinese teashops or ceremony. The whole ceremony proceeds then at the end of the ceremony your “friends” will ask you to pick out some favorite teas. So the scam start when it comes time to pay the bill, and it can again run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars. Simply don’t go for it!

To make the tea scam more natural,  they  pretend to be very friendly. They even don’t suggest you pay the whole amount. It is to be split between you and your “friends”.  So you  will see them pay their part. It is a scam!

It happens in central part of Beijing mainly, esp. in Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the surroundings.

Scam # 03: “Art Student” Scam
Also at some big tourist destinations,  some young people,  disguised as ” art student’”,  will approach you. They offer you a free tour of an art show. Thus begins the “Art Student” scam.

Actually they will take you to an art shop selling all kinds of “art” stuff. This is just a waste of time. You can easily find these art pieces on the market. They sell the same “art” at higher prices. Simply say bye to them.
It happens mainly in historical sites, and public transport hubs. They are good actors(actresses) indeed. To us Chinese people they say they are out job-hunting and is penniless; to overseas travelers they say they are art students. Many of them are very properly dressed.

Scam # 04: Rickshaw Scam
Some first-time oversea or even domestic travelers visiting Beijing fall into the traps of some seemingly “humble rickshaw drivers”. For example, let’s say, you and a rickshaw driver agree on a price of RMB 40 for a pedicab ride. It will turn out to be RMB400!. The trick is that your rickshaw driver will pretend to be ignorant and he will pull out a laminated price list and say it is 400 yuan instead of 40 yuan. Better take a taxi than a pedicab.

1) Rickshaw Scam at the North Gate of Forbidden City
There are two entrances to the Forbidden City – the south gate ( Meridian Gate – Wumen)  and north gate( Gate of Divine – Shenwu Men).  The south gate is linked to Tiananmen Square to the south. You have to enter Forbidden City from its south gate and exit from its northern gate, which is officially set as a one-way south to north travel route.

Make sure you are taken by your taxi to the south entrance of Forbidden City (better yet, take the subway line 1 –  its very nice and very cheap!). Don’t ever take a Rickshaw at the north gate of Forbidden City unless you feel like getting lost and extorted.

So if you visit Forbidden City by getting to a wrong gate (north gate), don’t use a local rickshaw to get back to the south gate, just walk to the right gate (south gate). For the same reason, if you exit from the north gate after visiting Forbidden City, don’t use a rickshaw for your next place.

2)  Rickshaw scams also occur at the entrance to the “Legend of Jinsha” which is performed at the Beijing Workers’ Club in Beijing.

3)  Rickshaw scams possible at any places in Beijing
Rickshaw scams could occur at any other places in Beijing. Be Vigilant!

 Scam #05: “Black” Taxis
When arriving at the airport, keep away from the taxi drivers who approach you in the terminal or outside the terminal as they will charge you much more than the actual price. Just following the sign pointing to the taxi line just outside the terminal. Taxi drivers should use their meter; make sure that the driver puts down the flag.

Taking a taxi from the airport to the downtown Beijing costs just over RMB 100 plus RMB 5 toll fee. Beijing legitimate taxi license plates will begin with the “Beijing B” otherwise it is possibly a black taxi!

After paying a legal taxi, you will get a legal computerized receipt in which you can find the taxi company’s phone number while a black driver only offers you a hand-written receipt with which you will never find him! A black driver would charge you RMB 400 – RMB 500 for the airport downtown drive! Normally a taxi ride from the airport to the downtown of Beijing costs you around RMB 120.

Black cars could be found around the subway stations, shopping malls, and also around some major tourist attractions such as Summer Palace, Forbidden City and Wangfujing Street and Beijing Railway Station as well.
By the way, your taxi driver may pull out a very official looking list of all hotels and official airport price. Never belive so-called official taxi-rate list of all hotels and official airport price. Never such a taxi-rate list!

It seems that there is a new kind of scam in Beijing when it comes down to the taxi’s.  Taxi drivers are asking their passengers to get out of the car and help to push it / close the trunk. When the passengers are outside, the drivers takes of with all their belongings.

For more information on taxi, please visit Beijing Taxi.

Scam # 6:Fake helpers/officials around Mao’s Tomb at Tiananmen Square 
When you line up for entering Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, you will probably meet some fake helpers or officials who are trying to “grab” some money from you.  To avoid being cheated, please read the following travel tips:

The admission to Mausoleum of Mao Zedong is free. No need for passport ID check and no need for buying shoes to replace your sandals (though not encouraged). As with most mausoleums, strict rules are enforced for visitors. No bags and cameras are allowed inside the hall. One locker is located 500m to the east of the mausoleum. The deposit is not free ( yes, a little strange)! The charges on deposit locker ranges from CNY 2 to 10.

Scam #07:  Scams Occurring Around Tiananmen and Forbidden City
The area around Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City is a favorite hangout for scammers.  Below is a trip by a scam victim named  Akalan:

In fact this was my 4th trip to China, but first trip to Beijing. Many a times many people, usually young ladies chatted with me and they helped me a lot. Even on the same day morning I went to the Great Wall and a young girl with good English walked with me. All those I met earlier were genuine people who just wanted to help a visitor to their country. Most of the time they did not even allow me to pay a bill, ticket price or taxi fare.

With that sort of experience, I had no suspicion on this woman. Still my priority was to get into the Forbidden city ASAP, as it was passed 3pm and I knew that the ticket sales would stop at 4 pm. This lady said that she would show me the “East gate” where I can enter without a long queue. Yes, there was a queue of people at the main entrance.

I simply followed her advice and she walked with me to “show” the entrance. On the way she said she is from Xi’An (a city I visited 1 month ago) and we had quite a good conversation on history, culture and languages. She also explained some history of the area.

She said her friends from another province are there and they will meet her in 10 min. If I can wait 10 min, they also can join me to go inside the Forbidden city. While waiting for them, she suggested me to sit some where and have a tea or fruit juice. In fact after walking and climbing whole morning in Great Wall area, I was thirsty and wanted to sit and stretch my legs. So I agreed.

I tried to sit on some chairs laid outside, but she suggested to go inside – less noisy, less dust and air-conditioned! I picked a Chinese tea and the scam began!

You know the rest. Yes, she split the bill, still I lost a few hundred! Worst thing was that she took me to a gate, assuring that I could enter from there, but obviously there were no ticket counters. I had to get to an electric car. The driver charged 20, instead of 2, as he sensed my urgency!

He actually did not take me to the ticket counters, instead, he stopped somewhere and a woman approached me. She was telling me that the ticket counters are closed and she would sell a ticket to me for 100 ! I did not want to let some one rip me off for 3rd time, within 15 min. Finally when I found the ticket counters, they were closed! So I missed the Forbidden City!

Scam #08: Avoid Itinerant Tour Companies at Street
AVOID TOURISM COMPANIES, the ones who talk to you at street, promising a great price to go meet Great Wall (for example), they will make you pay more inside the bus, will take you to the worse section of the Great Wall, and prepare yourself for a long day stopping at market places, really awful experience.

If you want sightseeing, get a legal one, from important sites.

Scam #09: Cheating Rampant at North Gate to Forbidden City 
There are two main gates to the Forbidden City – the south gate ( Meridian Gate – Wumen)  and north gate( Gate of Divine – Shenwu Men).  The south gate is linked to Tiananmen Square to the south. You have to enter Forbidden City from its south gate and exit from its north gate, which is officially set as a one-way south to north travel route.

So don’t try to go to the North Gate to Forbidden City.  The North Gate now only serves an exit gate.  If you get to a wrong gate ( the north gate ),  just walk along the streets circling Forbidden City and move on to the south gate. In this case, you are not encouraged to use a rickshaw or a 3-wheel motorcycle taxi at the north gate of Forbidden City.  Some  of the rickshaw and 3-wheel motorcycle taxi drivers are just disgusting swindlers.  Avoid Them!  Below is the account by Bill of the victim at the North Gate to Forbidden City.

I was a victim of two scams in the same day! The first was with a 3-wheel motorcycle taxi at the north gate of the forbidden city. I was offered a ride to the south gate for 3 Yuan. The taxi drove through a maze of narrow alleys and he stopped at an isolated spot. Then he demanded 300 Yuan, about $48.

The second incident was the tea shop routine. A nice couple invited me to a local place near Tiananmen square. I told them about the taxi incident and they sounded shocked and empathetic! We were given snacks (2 Yuan per bag in the store), some high quality tea, orange juice, and about 1-2 ounces of wine. The bill was 1200 Yuan plus 100 for the tip. He paid half (money probably borrowed from the owner), but I was still squeezed for over $100.

The next day, near the same square, a woman began a nice friendly conversation with me and tried to do the same thing. The good-bye was very quick.

Scam #10:  The Counterfeit Money
Hi there – another scam to add to the list is the counterfeit money. We used a standalone ATM at the silk markets and received many hundreds of RMB that was fake. We didn’t know of course – its nearly impossible to tell. Now we have some lovely souvenirs that look like 100 RMB notes 🙂
The advice would be to use a bank ATM I guess.

More Tourist Scams:

Tourist scam on Chinese Medicine ( Feedback from christian Holscher )
There is a tourist scam where people pretend to be part of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences. They pretend to be doctors and ‘diagnose’ an illness just by taking the pulse. Then, they sell very expensive pills which are most likely just herbal remedies.

The company does not give receipts for their sale, and no address or contact number was provided. They clearly do not pay tax. All what they give to the customer is a worthless certificate with no address. The real of this company can be found on the credit card receipt.

06611Tip:  Hassle-free Beijing 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 guided tours to Beijing:

Beijing Highlight Day Tour from US$59 P/P
(Tiananmen + Forbidden City + Mutianyu Great Wall)
Beijing Classic City Tour from US$65 P/P
(Tiananmen + Forbidden City + Temple of Heaven + Summer Palace)
Beijing Excursion Tour from US$59 P/P
(Mutianyu Great Wall + Ming Tomb)
Beijing Hutong Highlight Tour from US$59 P/P
( Hutong + Rickshaw)

Mutianyu Great Wall Half Day Tour from US$55 p/p
Hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu Great Wall Day Tour from US$69 p/p

Mutianyu Great Wall Layover Tour from US$65 p/p
Beijing Highlight Layover Tour from US$75 p/p

Further Readings


Top 10 Attractions in Beijing
How to Visit Forbidden City
How to Visit Temple of Heaven
How to Visit Summer Palace
How to Visit Ming Tombs
How to Visit the Great Wall of China
How to Visit Tiananmen Square
How to Visit Hutongs
How to Visit Olympic Sites

Top 10 Markets in Beijing
Top 10 Shopping Malls in Beijing
Beijing Shopping

Wangfujing Night Snack Street
Qianmen Commercial Street
Beijing Huguosi Street

Any questions, just drop a line.

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154 Responses to “Top 10 Tourist Scams Beijing”

  1. Gary says:

    I wish I had of visited this blog page before went to the Forbidden city as my wife and I were hit by the tea room scam. They seem so believeable and kind but when you walk away you realise with disbelief that you have just been ripped off for 200 – 250 CNY. It leaves you with no faith in human madkind.
    We travelled to several cities south of China and met many genuine people whom actually picked up the bill until we arived in Beijing and found that every corner you turn is a scam of some description.
    Anyway we have put this down to experience and reading this blog page gives some reasurance that we are not the only dills walking around Beijing.

  2. admin says:

    Dear Gary,

    Thanks for your time writing us the tea scam you have expereinced around the Forbidden City,which will remind new visitors of the possible tourist traps around this area. Life is still beautilful. Thanks again for your feedback on your Beijing trip!

  3. Tony C. says:

    Amazing that I got hit by several scams in my first trip to Beijing.

    First, I went to the taxi line like a smart boy, and several Chinese soldiers, very very friendly, looking very official, helped me get into the right taxi. turned out to be a black taxi and cost me 550CNY to get to my hotel. I protested a bit but they pulled out a very official looking list of all hotels and official airport price. Got to my hotel and found out normal cost is 120CNY.

    Ran into some very friendly students, trying to talk me into going to an internet Coffee place for a cup of coffee. They were too persistent, I smelled scam and am sure it would have a cover charge or connection charge I would get stuck with.

    On the way to hotel a few more attempts to engage me.

    On the positive, I stopped into the Legendary Hotel (quite luxurious) and asked for directions. A lady there at the Concierge desk (Tracy Cao) went way out of her way to help me find my way to my own hotel via taxi. Classy person.

  4. admin says:

    Hello Tony C.,

    Thanks for your posting your taxi experience in Beijing! It is also my First time to learn about the taxi trick regarding so-called official taxi-rate list of all hotels and official airport price. Never such a taxi-rate list!

    These swindlers have been using all possible ways to deceive people and make dirty money. They are bad and disgusting. Thanks again for your useful post to remind newcomers!

  5. michael m says:

    I’m not rich. Im from australia.

    Last night, On my first night in beijing i went for a walk and met some very nice students my age. We share stories about culture, language. The told me they where on holiday in beijing. It was friday night and they invite me To join them for a night out. To cut a long story short a few drinks, a small meal, and sing a few songs in a karoake bar cost me 500 usd.

    I feel So stupid, what i find really sad was that i was lonely and genuinely thought i had found some nice people to share some time with. Much of my budget is now gone. I worked so long for this holiday. I am worried the bar will take more money from my card.

  6. admin says:

    Hello Michael

    Are you traveling Beijing alone or on a group? These “fake students” are disgusting like die-hard croaches. We’re sorry that you’ve fallen into their trap. A fall into a pit, a gain in your wit. Don’t feel sad about it.

    Just a kindly reminder, you may try to contact your credit card company to deny them money. Just have a try!

  7. Dev says:

    Oh my God! I wish I had seen this website earlier!

    Today, I was tricked into the tea ceremony scam. I went exactly as mentioned above. I “student” talked to me and eventually took me to a tea shop saying that we sit and enjoy tea. The bill was huge and although we shared it 50%-50% it was more than my 3 days hotel bill! I was so shocked, buy this “student” was so calm, I had no choice but to pay. By the way, I used my credit card to pay as I did not have much cash then. Now I am worried about the security of my credit card. Should I change my credit card? any possibility of cloning the card by these people?

  8. admin says:

    Hello Dev,

    Sorry that you have been hit by the “students”. As far as we know, these “students” and the people behind them only want to get money from your credit card, and little possibility of cloning your credit card.

    By the way, it’s best to get in touch with your credit card company if thinngs go wrong. And try to extract the money with the help of your credit card company.

  9. Jamie says:

    I was hit by TWO scams today, and boy do I feel suckered! First I was approached by two women who said they were visiting from the south of China. We chatted for a bit and then they suggested getting some tea. We walked into the first tea shop we saw and each ordered a tea. The price came to 500 yuan each. They each “paid” with their visa. I was shocked. The money part made me angry, but the betrayal part made me feel much worse. I’m still in disbelief that these two, kind-seeming ladies who shared so much with me could have been hustlers. Finally, a “student” convinced me to have a quick coffee with him so that he could practice his English. In Korea, where I live, this is normal and innocent. I did and the bill for my powdered coffee came to 100 yuan. These people are the lowest of the low. Unbelieveable.

  10. admin says:

    Hello Jamie,

    Thanks for posting your story about your encounter with the “students”! This is helpful for newcomers coming to Beijing. Have a good time in Beijing! and Don’t be affected by the experience and life is still beautiful. Thanks!

  11. NeilBR says:

    As a *Chinese* university student studying in Beijing for 4+ years I can tell you that these scams are true, and EVERYWHERE. Yes Beijingers are helpful, yes they are kind and warm-hearted, but that doesn’t mean all you meet occasionally and coincidentally have a good intention.
    There are scams in other places, and so there are scams here in Beijing. SOMETIMES YOU WON’T EVEN NOTICE IT (personal and friend’s experience).

    Some remarks to the article:

    >> Tea Scam: it happens in central part of Beijing mainly, esp. in the Forbidden City and the surroundings.

    >> Art Student Scam: it happens mainly in historical sites, and public transport hubs. They are good actors(actresses) indeed. To us Chinese people they say they are out job-hunting and is penniless; to overseas travelers they say they are art students. Many of them are very properly dressed.

    >> Black taxis: they rip you off the same way they do to us. Quick trick: as of Aprial 2013 (this post was written), ALL taxis in Beijing have a licence plate beginning with 京B (京 is the shortened form for Beijing in Chinese, and B is a reserved letter for public transportation vehicles in Beijing.)

    >> Fake Badaling Great Wall: to be quite frank ShuiGuan is more adventuring and less crowded. If you visit the Great Wall simply for recreation then Shuiguan can be your destination. But again, plan the itinerary yourself, NEVER RELY ON UNKNOWN TRAVEL AGENCIES FOR GREAT WALL TOUR. P.S. Badaling is always over-crowded. Another option is visiting MuTianYu Great Wall.

    >> ‘Fake volunteers’ at 877 station: again as i’ve said previously, plan your visit to the great wall on yourself, and do not trust any others. I don’t know why local government have allowed such scams going on and on for 10+ years. More importantly, you may find advertisements on bus stops reading one-day travel to the Great wall with a telephone number–that’s totally a scam and the Bus Company is having a hard time removing it.

    >> Delinquent/Illegal Tour Guide: local Chinese are ripped off by them all the time, let alone overseas travellers. One principle I abide by when communicating with strangers on travel is: if something is too good to be true, then it is problematic; and if someone is too amiable and hospitable within the initial 15 minutes of your conversation, avoid’em wisely. An extra rule: always beware. better keep your money in your pocket than being regarded indifferent.

    >> Pickpockets: they are not as many as those in Xi’an. But if you left something unnoticed for a long time in public places you probably won’t recover them. Sometimes they are taken away by cleaners and guards but you just don’t know where to find them if you can’t speak Chinese.

    One of the uncommon ideas to travel in Beijing is to join activities on Couchsurfing.org. You can check it out if you like.

  12. admin says:

    Hello NeilBR,

    A big thank for your review on the Beijing Top 10 tourist scams! Your post will help people better understand those scam tactics and play them out.

    We’ve also just updated our Beijing Top 10 list per your latest review. Thanks!

  13. Melisa says:

    Hi! Great article! I’m from Argentina and I will be travelling to Beijing for the first time this August. Do you know it there is a way to get to downtown Beijing by train or subway from the airport? I don’t want to be scammed by illegal taxis.

    Thanks in advance for the answer!

  14. admin says:

    Hello Melisa,

    Please don’t be scared by the illegal taxis. Just follow the taxi sign at the airport and take your taxi at the official taxi stand.
    See: http://www.tour-beijing.com/taxi/

    Or you may use airport shuttle bus.
    See: http://www.tour-beijing.com/beijing_airport_shuttle_bus/

    Or you may use airport express light train. See:
    http://www.tour-beijing.com/travel_blog/beijing_china_sightseeing/beijing_airport_express_train.php

  15. GoYvon says:

    It seems that there is a new kind of scam in Beijing when it comes down to the taxi’s. Taxi drivers are asking their passengers to get out of the car and help to push it / close the trunk. When the passengers are outside, the drivers takes of with all their belongings.
    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-01/23/content_16166995.htm

  16. admin says:

    Hello GoYvon,

    Thanks for your message about the new kind of taxi scam in Beijing.

  17. Christian says:

    Rickshaw scams are not only for the north side of the forbidden city.

    After seeing the “Legend of Jinsha” show, I got out and asked someone at the door for a taxi. He pointed me to a Rickshaw. I gave the driver my hotel address and asked up front how much it would cost. She said “4”. I said “4 yuan?” and she said “Yes, 4 yuans”. It had costed me 16 yuans by metered taxi to get from my hotel to the show. 4 yuans seemed like an very good deal. It was my first night so I still had no point of reference as to what costs what, except my ride to the show. So I said ok.

    Eventually she stopped, said the hotel was one block away and asked for the money. I felt bad because 4 yuans didn’t seem like enough. So I gave her 10. She said it didn’t cost 4, but 40. I was a bit annoyed of having been lied to, but tired (had been up for 26 hours, 13 of those in the air), I gave her 40. Again, she said it was not 40, but 400, then she pulled a price sheet with 400 yuan on it. Now I really became mad and I started to argue. More so because I didn’t have 400 on me. I brought the price down to 200. She left.

    After she left I looked around a bit, started walking in the direction that she gave me. Something felt wrong. So I pulled my smartphone out and the GPS placed me a good 30 minutes walk from my hotel, at 22h at night and extremely tired. It took me a good two days of being angry before I could start talking to people and not feel like everyone wanted to rip me off.

    But most of the time, when someone talks to you first, and in English, good odds are it’s a scam. Sad but true.

  18. admin says:

    Hello Christian,

    Sorry for your bad experience! Your review is useful for those new travelers visiting Beijing on the rickshaw you haved used after seeing the “Legend of Jinsha” which is performed at the Beijing Workers’ Club in Beijing.

    Thanks for your time writing the feedback, a kind reminder for foreign travelers coming to Beijing in future.

  19. Destiny says:

    So, i just got tea scammed yesterday around the forbidden city/Tienanmen square area. Same as others who have been scammed. these people are very good. they prey on your kindness and you wouldn’t expect it at all.

    On our way to the forbidden city, three girls asked if we were lost and needed help but we said we were okay…. conversations started and of course the whole going to a tea shop and having tea and snacks business. they were very friendly and nice…. and lets be honest we foreigners do like it when we find someone who can carry out a conversation in english. little did we know it was all a scam. the bill came, and it was 1860 yuan.

    I only had 200 quai on me so my friend had to pay with her debit card. they didn’t even suggest we pay the whole amount…. it was to be split between the 5 of us and we did see them pay their part (or at least it seemed like they paid). my friend had to go to another store to pay the bill with her debit card. After the whole shenanigan, we came out thinking…. “Damnnnnnnnnnn that was one expensive ass tea… i mean, who pays $65 on 3 tiny cups of tea”. we took pics, said our farewells and parted ways.

    then my friend said…. “umm i think we just got tea scammed”… never heard of it before so i replied.. “nah… they were probably just some rich bitches that drink expensive tea”. We went back to the hostel and looked up tea scam and concluded we did INDEED get tea scammed.

    we asked the hostel receptionist if we could cancel the charge but she said because it was a debit transaction, we couldn’t cancel through our bank only through the merchant. we google translated some simple sentence…. Tea scam… too expensive… call police.. we want our money back… and took it to the shop.

    I am Black and can be aggressive when called for. We were able to intimidate the restaurant scammers involved. my friend did call the cops but she didnt know how to describe our location, so they were little to no help. Thank God we had a receipt (860rmb tot). they tried to take it from me but i didnt trust them. I thought they might tear it so i held on to it and told them they could look but not touch. they said because we drank some of the tea, we had to pay some… i suggested 100rmb for both of us but they said it was too little. My friend suggested 200rmb coz she didnt want the situation to drag on considering we had to cat a train back to shanghai in an hour. We had 2 options…. cancel the whole transaction and pay 200rmb in cash or leave the transaction as is and they refund us 660rmb cash. Didn’t want to risk getting fake bills so we paid them cash and cancelled the transaction. Got the new cancelled recipt (btw, they wanted to keep the original receipt making some excuses but i told her no because we were going to use it to verify with our bank the transaction was cancelled).

    We left the shop feeling better. I am still mad about paying 100rmb for tea but its more acceptable than 430quai each. No body followed us (unlike other comments i’ve read) and we verified with one of the area guard that the cancellation receipt was indeed one.

    This is definitely an organized crime because when we mentioned we were tea scammed to the guard, he knew where it was and pointed towards the direction of the shop. maybe hes in on it too, who knows. we will check with our bank later on this week to make sure the transaction was cancelled and we didn’t get scammed an extra 200quai. That would be really sad but funny.

    I mean, if we were going to get butt raped (analogy), we weren’t just going to bend over and take it…. had to get a couple of scratches in there too…. I suggest people go back…with your receipt and a cop! if you just let it happen and don’t do anything about it, the crime gets worse. TRUST!

  20. admin says:

    Hello Destiny,

    Yes, you are right by saying that “I suggest people go back…with your receipt and a cop! if you just let it happen and don’t do anything about it, the crime gets worse.”

  21. Michael says:

    Hi, the same thing that Christian describes above happened to my girlfriend and I today. We got in a rickshaw outside the Temple of Heaven and asked how much to go to Beijing railway station. He said 50, we said no as we knew it was cheaper in a taxi. We said 30 to which he agreed after we started to walk alway. Less than a 5 minute ride later we arrived at the station, handed him 30 yuan, he laughed, pulled out a laminated price list and said 500 yuan (our turn to laugh). After much arguing in the middle of the road we eventually gave him 50 yuan. We won’t be using one again! Shame as our general opinion of Beijing is quite good!

  22. admin says:

    Hello Michael,

    Thanks for your feedback! Your experience on a rickshaw scam is a good reminder for people to be more vigilant if they are going to use a rickshaw.

  23. Manu says:

    Well I have experienced a The Scam with a rikshaw driver. I wanted to get to a Place in North Beijing that was like a 5minute ride, i was tired After walking for the whole Day. So i Took a rikshaw, he was very friendly and started to Drive along small roads. Near to the Goal he went Into a narrow Road and ripped me Off 300 Yuan. So guys Take a taxi or the U!

  24. josh says:

    I fell for the taxi scam, the tea scam and the rickshaw scam during a solo visit to Beijing in 2007. It was a little frightening as a solo traveller as especially the rickshaw scam involved a near assault with the driver. I handed cash over for the taxi in dollars, was scammed using s debit card in the tea room and managed to get away from the rickshaw cowboy. No-one can help you unless you travel with a local guide so watch out for these “friendly” offers.

  25. Frank says:

    In the two days I’ve been in Beijing, I’ve had the tea invite, art gallery, and fake tour guides with printed business cards, happen to me (approached by 7 people first day and 3 in second day). However maybe because I’ve had my past experience with scams and rough cities I’ve visited around the world, I didn’t fall for them. When I was a teenager, I fell for a scam in buying a cheap piece of metal souvenier sold by hippies in Peru at expensive price and in Colombia I fell for the taxi scam where the taxi driver said he couldn’t find the destination address but he would try to help me, at the end we headed back to the airport and he charged me 25 dollars for a ride that costs 6. Then I took a airport guaranteed taxi and got there quick with no problem. After I knew my route I could tell taxi where to go and not fall for taxi scam again.

    I believe this happens all over the world, but as stated here before, one should be weary about weary about very friendly locals and say no to offers and take airport or official approved taxis, whenever possible. I think the taxi one is hard if one just came into the country. But keep your eyes open and be skeptical!

  26. Daniel says:

    Hello Frank,

    Thank you for taking the time writing the post. Your travel experience is much useful to tourists visiting to Beijing. Much appreciated! Kind Regards.

  27. Frankk says:

    Here is a hustle I haven’t seen mentioned. At the Beijing airport near the check-in desk we were approached by him nicely dressed man Who asked to see our tickets then our passports and ushered us over to the correct check in window. We presumed he worked for the airline until he asked for compensation for his help. It is surprising that the authorities allow this to go on inside the terminal –particularly the part where we were asked to hand over our passports.

  28. Daniel says:

    Hello Frankk,

    Thanks for your post about the scenario that you have talked about! It is a good reminder to shun the persons who offer such illigal service and don’t your passport to anybody except policemen.

  29. Maria says:

    Traveling to Beijing. Wondering if to book a tour for the major attractions, or just figure it out on my own. Traveling in Aug

  30. Daniel says:

    Hello Maria,

    Some prefer organized tours; some prefer independent travel. It alldepends on your travel experience and time. Have a good time in Beijing!

  31. Amit says:

    Hi,

    I too wish that I had read this blog before coming to Beijing. We got tea scammed today. Just Chinese tea and one coffee and some coconut drinks cost us 1200 CNY. They seemed rather friendly. My son gave a good tip that I can share. The café had only one table. And we all were seated there.

    They offered cigarette and also suggested Karaoke. Son walked out of the place at that point and was saved more hole in the wallet.

    Finally, wife and son had a big laugh at my expense.

    I have travelled a lot and spent a lot of time with impromptu friends. My first time to be scammed. Tip to everyone – Don’t lose faith in humankind because of these scamsters. You were the idiot like I was.

    Cheers,

  32. Daniel says:

    Hello Amit,

    You are great by saying “Don’t lose faith in humankind because of these scamsters”.

  33. sam wilson says:

    Hubby and i got the tea scam. The woman was Very Good! Must be an actress. Said she was a teacher and wanted to practice her english. Bill for 2 sodas and 1 beer was 980 yuan. Husband refused to pay. The “poor teacher “had to pay the rest. She was almost in tears because she could not afford it. Great acting!

  34. sam wilson says:

    We got the tea scam. But hubby refused to pay 980yuan for 1 beer and 2 cups tea. The “teacher” almost cried because she had to help pay the bill but she needed her money for bus. Great acting!!!! We paid 300 yuan just to get out of there.

    Also got approached with the student artist scam but we smelled a rat and said no thanks.

    Here’s another one… went for peking duck at quaduje. Arrived at 6 and was greated near the entrance where a lady said they were full. She then took us to a sister restaurant. We realized it was not a sister restaurant. As it turned out the food was good. But not the quaduje experience.

    Government should definitely step in to protect their tourism.

  35. Aletarw says:

    Another scam that is not listed here is related to Quan Ju De (Hepingman Branch). We arrived for dinner at 6pm, but were greeted by a lady out front who told us the restaurant was full. She said they had another outlet down the street and she took us to it. When we got there, we realized that we had been “redirected”. Decided to go with the flow and we had a nice Peking duck, but will have to return another day to try Quan Ju De.

  36. christine says:

    I & my hubby will be travelling to Beijing in middle of September. I read all these blogs about scams happened to most of tourist. I was wondering whether I book a tour guide or use my own to explore the city.

    Thanks guys for all your comments about tourist scams in Beijing.

  37. Ryan says:

    Last night my friend and I went for Peking Duck. We were greeted outside by a friendly man who said the place was full. He chased us down on the street right after, said he spoke with his manager who booked us a table at another location. We were led away to a small restaurant and overpaid by about 150RMB. The food was actually OK but still a scam. It was executed so well, we didnt even notice and thats after having our guard up for tea scammers.

    Beijing is full of scam artists and the taxis around tourist sites are a complete nightmare. My one tip is to always agree to a price beforehand, and if someone tries to scam you, just make a scene and threaten to call the tourist police number. Good luck out there.

  38. Ivan says:

    I have two experiences to share.

    1st AVOID TOURISM COMPANIES, the ones who talk to you at street, promissing a great price to go meet Great Wall (for exemple), they will make you pay more inside the bus, will take you to the worse secction of the Great Wall, and prepare yourself for a long day stopping at market places, realy awful experience till my chinese girlfriend found a subway station and we run away. If you want sightseeing, get an legal one, from important sites.

    2. AIRPORT HOTEL, i smelled rat from begining but i was rly tired, at Beijing i arrived for wait my flight back to brazil, a young guy with China Air shirt approach and ask if i want go to Airport Hotel to rest a bit, i accepted. And of course the Hotel isnt AIRPORT Hotel, the guy ask TIP, the hotel is expensive for a couple hours, the shuttle who take you back to airport ask TIP too, but i paid no one because i keep playing with them, saying they tricked me.

    Anyway, china is great, but like evey place have theirs tourism traps. Just Pay attention, good luckk

  39. Daniel says:

    Hello Ivan,

    Much aprreciated! Very useful travel experience!. Thanks!

  40. JC says:

    Fell for the tea room scam in Beijing this Oct 2013, and lost 200 Yuan. But on the plus side, the 3 ladies were so good at their game, I feel like the 200 Yuan is worth for the first hand experience. Got Pproached in Shanghai again, but by then I had wizened up. Great blog, and just like a lot of others, I wish I had read up this blog before my visit rather than after. But that said, to experience the scam first hand was a great learning experience.

  41. Julian says:

    I arranged for a seemingly simple tour to badaling, ming tomb and Olympic stadium – 400Mb for car, driver and guide, excluding entrance fees. When I got into the car, the guide told us we will drop by a pearl centre and jade shop. I refused, as i only had one objective – see the walls. But they insisted n expressed surprise that I was not aware that this is not a tour but a business trip. I expressed my anger that their manager had not told me anything abt side trips at all, and asked to get off the van at the nearest subway. I felt frustrated that I had wasted my time. When my family and I got off the van, there was no time for me to get to great walls. It was our last day in Beijing. That was one heck of a lesson.

  42. Imran says:

    My dad and i got ripped off by a guy who charged us for like 100 yuan for a few minutes journey. We were waiting for a taxi and this guy approached us and decided to gibe us a lift. We thought we can trust him. My dad paid him like 30 yuan but he wanted the remain 70. So after a argument. We decided to just leave the money and open the card door. When we about to open the door. He stepped on the gas. So my dad paid him another 50 and said thats all he had at that time. Then he decided to let us go. I was shaking. My adrenaline was rising like crazy. Remember always choose a taxi driver who installed meter thingy rather than a stranger.

  43. Carlos says:

    i just got ripped off by this guys that was going to take me for a push bike ride. The agreed price was 40Y but before i even got to my destination, this bike pusher demanded 400Y (yeah, the laminated piece of paper everyone talks about with official logo of the chinese company). Anyway, before i realized what just happened, i was surrounded by a whole army of them that watch how this guy was screaming at me in chinese. hell if i knew what he was saying…. well, i played the silly card, open my wallet and gave him the last 100Y i had. lucky, this little old lady came out of her house and told them to let me go. Good to know that i’m alive and telling you all this story. they all look innocent but be careful with this scam type. Better to use cabs and the ones with the letter B in it.

  44. CJ says:

    Tea scam charged my credit card CNY 9,950, they rubbed out the US currency amount. Was so obvious, so I refused to sign and went to the police. They tried to get me to give them cash and I said, “no, and when the police come we can discuss further”. This happened on a Saturday and they are saying the bank with the machine would credit on Monday….I just notified my credit card company. Needless to say, good lesson on importance to ask how much first. Do you think the bank with the machine was really contacted/legit? My feeling was it was to appease me and the police.

  45. Tam says:

    This is my story and it happened less than three weeks ago, on the last week of October 2013. Apologies for the length of my tale, but I want to detail every little trick these con artists use. I only hope that someone will read my story BEFORE going to China.

    It was my first trip to China, I have since left and am currently writing this post from Japan.
    On my second night in Beijing I left my hotel and took a night stroll in the popular and affluent shopping district of Wangfujin. Barely 5 minutes out on the streets and two young, beautiful, well-dressed Chinese women in their mid to late twenties or at the most early thirties (difficult to say with all the make-up) approached me. Or rather accosted me right there on the streets. They were really cool, really nice, spoke perfect english and looked the part. By the part I mean they looked like well to do women with a solid source of income. Designer clothes really classy fall collection (it was in October) nice handbags, high heel shoes and so on.
    They struck up a conversation with me right there at the traffic light, asking me where I was from, was it my first time in China? Business or pleasure? And so on (With hindsight I now know they were scoping their target).
    They seemed genuinely excited to be speaking english with a fellow english speaker and suggested we go for coffee and talk so that they could practice their english some more. They had told me they were finishing up their Masters in English at one of the local universities.

    Quite frankly I was excited too…Here I was, making two new friends, locals who spoke english and Mandarin and easy to the eye as well. What a great way to learn more about the culture, Beijing, China. I honestly didn’t find it odd that two well-dressed woman would boldly approach me like that, since on my previous days in Beijing and Hong Kong before that, I would be approached and photographed practically every hour on the street. You see I am black, and some people around these parts of the World find it odd/funny/surprising/exciting/disturbing to find themselves face to face with such a man as me. So I get approached a lot and street photo shoots are just part of my normal day. Back to the story, the two ladies were very talkative and actually fun to talk to as well. They suggested a coffee shop they knew but I suggested the Starbucks close by the hotel. They insisted it was already closed, they had walked past it minutes before meeting me. I thought that was odd ’cause it was only 9pm and last night they had closed after 10pm but whatever, I told myself. They suggested a place they knew just around the corner, and off we went, chitchatting about silly things. Literally less than 50 meters from where they first had stopped me was a rather dark alley with a neon sign saying “Japanese Restaurant”. Below that sign was a much smaller inconspicuous neon sign saying “the bar”. I only saw that smaller sign on my way out of the place when I was looking for landmarks thinking some triads types were gonna jump me and the police would have to be involved. “so we’re going to a Japanese restaurant” I asked, a bit uneasy about the sudden change of scenery away from the lights of the main street. “Yeah how cool is that right?” We then took a flight of stairs into some basement, I could hear some music, Bruno Mars was playing. It was a bar. Looking back, as a seasoned traveler I never should have gone into that basement, it felt dodgy, the whole scene felt wrong. A red district Bangkok type of dodgy bar in a basement, in a dark alley in one of the most affluent shopping district in Beijing? I was right. From the moment I stepped in and sat down, it all spiraled downhill.

    So we sat down, I was strategically sandwiched between the wall and the girls. no way out. In the bar, two other patrons only. They looked like regular. They looked like they had business in this bar. Two big guys, a bartender and a waitress. Within seconds and I mean seconds after we sat down the bartender dropped some cheap peanuts and other crappy snack (some seeds of sorts) on the table. Seconds later the waitress drops three glasses of wines on the table. Seconds after that and the bartender is back with some cheap tea and super small tea cups. The whole thing looked rehearsed, staged. Automatically then and there I told the girls I wouldn’t drink alcohol and I had to go back to the hotel. They could see I was tensing up. So they geared up their game to the next level. The conversation became sexually charged. They were laughing, drinking, and suggesting I should get a Chinese girl asap. The one was overly suggesting that we should bang in the bathroom of this bar. I was like ok maybe its a sex scam. The other girl took my cup of tea and drank it and gave me hers, no doubt she could see I was skeptical about ingesting the tea before her. I drank (sort of under pressure to remain polite) two of these mini cups. The tea tasted like sh%t but they assured me it was from the best leaves in China. Yeah whatever you say, 15 minutes later I was ready to go, I called for the bill and right there the two other guys stepped out of the bar and the mood changed.

    The bartender arrived and slapped me with a bill of 500$ US. At that time I knew what was up. I told the guy you must be kidding me. For two crappy 30ml cup of tea and some wine???
    “Sir the wine is from France and the tea is our best. He showed me a beautiful leather-bound covered menu with the silliest prices. One cup of tea 85 US dollars, one bottle of “French red wine” (no name) 1000 (one thousand) US dollars. Piece of crap snacks 100 US dollars and so on. A special “made for tourists” menu. Common in China.

    I refused to pay up, they all became quite animated, the mood had turned really hostile, the gloves were off. They were trying to intimidate me. The girls were insisting I pay up or else. I told the bartender I was never gonna pay for the wine I didn’t even ordered nor drank. After a long discussion he then agreed and said I should pay 200 dollars US for the 2 cups of tea. An iPod for 2 cups of warm water basically. No way. I told him all the RMB (yuan) I had on me was the equivalent of 40 US dollars and even that was too much for the tea. More commotion, arguments. I tried to leave they blocked my way. I was trapped at the table. They wanted my credit card to cover the expenses…I laughed and told them I don’t have any credit cards on me.

    Now it’s all turning aggressive. They want to check my wallet and I tell them that’s never gonna happen. Finally, tired of these shenanigans I pick up my phone and call the hotel. I explain my situation, my location and ask them to call the police immediately as I felt in danger. At that stage, the bartender called one of the girls aside and came back to the table stating “you’re free to go”. “Say what?” I said. You’re free to go, the girl paid for everything with her credit card, you’re free to go. No need for police, go now. I don’t want no trouble here, the girl paid up, go. Go now, no police.

    As I stood at the door at the bottom of the stairs it dawned on me that the two girls were waiting for me in the alley and the two other guys had left when the bill had been called. I took a deep breath and told myself that this is communist China, they can’t be armed, the police is feared and unforgiving in this country, they wouldn’t try anything stupid. As I emerged out of the basement into the seedy alley. The guys had split. The girls were still on to me with the scam talking about “we paid 500 US dollars pay us back now”. The one was intoxicated (she had 2 glasses of wine in 10 minutes). I told them to go f$%*k themselves and went about my way.

    Back in the hotel I googled Beijing scams and came across tens of testimonials of foreigners taken in for hundreds and even thousands of dollars by the “english practice ” scam or a variation of it. The tea ceremony scam, the art student scam, the karaoke bar scam. The traditional restaurant scam. I also read this website the night after I “escaped”.
    I counted myself lucky that night and remembered that the morning of the very same day two lovely girls in Tiananmen Square, one an english teacher and the other an english student were making small talk with me and invited me to a karaoke bar. I had refused as I was truly exhausted but took their numbers and promised to call them back the following day. I now thought “damn” they were on to me for all I have.

    From that day, every single day and night in Beijing and Shanghai, two different girls every night would call me to practice their english. I would toy with them before telling them to f_ off and they would know then that this guy knows what’s going on. Often I would see a foreign guy with a big smile on his face, a camera dangling on his shoulder and 2 girls walking by his side and would think “the circus is about to start”.

    I hope my story will help others. Always have a mobile with you and when stuck call the police or involve your hotel.

  46. Daniel says:

    Hello Tam,

    Much appreciated for your detailed and instructive trip report on your experience with “English praticing girls”! Hopefully all the future foreign visitors, especially solo male travelers would read your story before visiting Beijing and other parts of China. Kind regards, Daniel.

  47. Luciana says:

    One more reason for me to hate China.
    I’ve been fooled in the KTV scams by some people that seemed to look friendly.
    I called the police and they told me to show up tomorrow there. What type of police is that?!?!?!?!

  48. Trix says:

    To be fair, Luciana, it’s rare that police will attend a “civil dispute” in Western countries either. You weren’t robbed or assaulted, which would obviously be a criminal case. Obviously it could be considered fraud, but perhaps you “agreed” to pay the ridiculous sum of money. Your word against theirs.

    I’m sure in reality, the circumstances would be obvious – that it was a fraud – but you can see why the cops might well have other priorities. It’d require the will of the local authorities to crack down on this kind of thing – like cracking down on window washers and shell games in our countries. Hopefully they’ll wake up to the harm to their tourist industry – I’m sure most people who get ripped off this way wouldn’t return unless they had to on business.

  49. F says:

    Still kind of shocked by the tea-cer scam, just few hours ago.

    I am really sad for all the people who trusted these scoundrels and got robbed or worse.

    I was talking a walk in wanfujin and enjoying my time in this otherwise nice part of the city, when suddenly a girl stopped me asking me where i was from and that she wanted to practise her english etc. and I said why not let’s take a walk together and we can have a nice chat since I did not have any particular plans except for, unfortunately, going to eat something.

    So she offered to come with me and have a cup of coffe (again, never mentioning tea). So I, with no other purpose than having a chat with a chinese girl and meet new people went there with her and she took me in a small tea house close to the “Xiaochijie”.

    The boss led us into a small and quite “creepy” traditional private tea-room. Then when I asked how much a plate of rice would cost (70 yuan) I was not hungry anymore and opted for a pot of jasmine tea (100 yuan, fair enough) then she kept being nice and polite even showing me all the pictures of her hometown. I stupidly already knew that in some part of big cities there were these kind of rip-offs but I would never imagine this would happen in Beijing. Later after drinking couple of cups of tea another “friend” of her came and she said that she had called her before asking her to join us for a cup of tea , nevertheless she never made such a call and did not text to anyone while she was chatting with me. (like, are you fucking kidding me?).

    So given the situation was getting really suspicious I suddenly stood up and said I had to leave cause I had an appointement somewhere else, than the boss came (randomly) and said she would bring the bill . It was 100 yuan so I said that we should split up so she got suddenly upset telling me that in China men always pay, so I told them I am not chinese and I don’t give a fuck but she said she did not have money so when I saw she had 50 Y bill I just took it out of her hand and gave to the boss (a middled-age woman) my 50 y (fair enough for a pot of tea) and her 50 y. She insulted me in chinese but given I’m studying chinese I understood and so we argued for a while when I finally got out of that bloody place. I also met her again on the streets and she started to insult me again, the point is: “do the people know what just happened?” No. So i could not do anything except moving on and keep walking down the boulevard. (and this is very frustrating).

    I know being naive is not a very good habit but sometime you feel you want to trust others and meet new people hoping they are as honest as you are, quite sad. People beware! As chinese people say: “知人知面不知心. “you may know a person’s face but not his mind”.

  50. Justin says:

    So I got Tea Scammed! I went to visit Tiennamen square and I’m alone and these two “tourist” Chinese women come up to me and start a conversation. The forbidden city area was closed so they offered to show me around another area. They take me to this little tea spot and into this kareoke room, but I’d been scammed before by the lady bar so I avoided that room. They said, oh it’s fine we can just go into a plain room if you don’t want to sing. Now mind you I’m thinking these two women have nothing to do with this spot but it all makes sense to me now. The bill came and it was 300 yuan! I was LIVID. They were like oh you’re not going to treat us? They’d been so nice and I felt pressured into it because I’m naive and thinking I guess… but I’m asking them to explain the bill and they give me some b.s. about each cup being 20 yuan and trying to explain it’s no big deal but I’m like maybe not to you!!! I’m SO glad I found this website. I knew something was fishy paying seventy dollars for three cups of a tea and a cup of coffee. I took it as a lesson not trust Chinese strangers. But I feel a lot better knowing that this is a common practice and judging from the other stories on here it seems as if I got off cheap. Afterwards walking with them they kept asking if I was okay and I told them hell no I’m not okay. I just spent seventy dollars. They kept saying I was a gentleman. If by gentleman they meant sucker. VERY clever hustle. I’m just glad I know better now.

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