Tourist Scams in China & How to Avoid Them

Eleanor Boniface
Career China Digital Marketing Manager
Nov 16, 2018

When traveling to any foreign country, there is always a risk of running into a tourist scam. To prepare for a trip to China, it's important to be aware of the biggest scams you might run into and how you can avoid them to make your China travels much smoother and more enjoyable!

Take a look at a few of the biggest China Tourist Scams below.

The Scam: Tea Ceremony / Art Student

While there are variations on this scam. It might look like this:

A Chinese person, most likely a young girl, will start talking to you and gain your trust. She might ask for help practicing her English or want to show you something. Many foreigners are excited to have the chance to meet a local Chinese person and want to spend more time talking together. The Chinese person will lead you to sample some tea or unexpectedly take you to a shop, where you might be left with a huge bill.

At this point, the Chinese person you met may have disappeared, and the store owner will not let you leave until you pay.


This is one of the most popular scams in China and will happen most often in the touristy parts of a city, especially Beijing and Shanghai. Solo male travellers are often targeted.

Tips to prevent being scammed:

  • Always be aware of anyone who approaches you. The best scammers are very patient and will slowly build your trust. Some people may genuinely just want to practice their English or talk with you, so use your best judgement and don't agree to go anywhere with them right away.

  • Don't let them take you to a place of their choosing. Suggest an alternate place, somewhere very public.

  • Always ask the price upfront. This is a tip for everywhere in China. When you go somewhere, they may show you the bill later and claim you ate or drink very expensive items. Look at the menu first and check the prices.

The Scam: Counterfeit money

There are a lot of counterfeit bills in China. It is very easy for people to give you a bill that looks real but is very fake. Taxi drivers might take your bill and tell you it's not real, but then give you a different bill back which is actually fake.


This could happen anywhere in China. Taxi's and shops are the places this is most likely to happen.

Tips To Prevent Being Scammed:

  • Carefully inspect any bills you receive, especially larger bills like 100RMB. If it doesn't feel real, don't feel shy about asking for a different bill or canceling the transaction.

  • When getting bills from an ATM you won't have to worry about counterfeit bills.

  • Also be aware if someone doesn't have the right change and will offer to round up your change and give you a larger bill. This is a common way to give you a fake bill.

The Scam: Black Taxi's

Illegal taxis (黑车 = literally “black car”) will often overcharge foreigners. They are not always black cars, but they usually are. They will have a red light but will not have a proper taxi sign. Sometimes, they'll have a fake meter to overcharge you, and they might drop you off then try to drive away with your luggage.

Note: In bigger cities a lot of taxi drivers might be inexperienced. Cities like Beijing are also constantly changing, so the g. So, try to assess if they really know the destination and don't assume straight away that they're scamming you (they might just be lost). The government cracked down on these taxis during the 2008 Olympics but still, there are still some out there.


Mostly around any airport and tourist hot spots.

Tips To Prevent Being Scammed:

When you're at the train station or airport, make sure you go to the official taxi line and check that the driver will use the meter.

Related Taxi Tips:

  • If you are traveling with 2 or more people, make sure the price you agree on is for the total. Some drivers will claim it is "per person."
  • To prevent getting a fake bill, try to pay with smaller bills.
  • It is better to hail a taxi driving down the street then to go to a taxi that is waiting.
  • Ask your hotel for general prices of a taxi ride beforehand so you can avoid being overcharged.
  • If you've been scammed, write down the license plate number as well as the driver’s ID number so that you can report them. Also, take some photos of the car and driver if possible.
  • Try to keep your luggage in the back seat of the car rather than the trunk so that if there is a problem the driver won't drive away with your luggage.

You can also learn how to use the Didi app in China to order a taxi that you can trust! Learn how to here.

The Scam: Cheap Tour

You might get lured onto a cheap tour. Someone will round you up onto a bus that will stop at many shops where they will get a commission. Unfortunately if you are far from the city you will have to endure these stops if you have no other way of going back.


Various place (especially Great Wall Tours in Beijing).

Tips To Prevent Being Scammed:

  • Choose your tour carefully. It is always better to go with a tour organized by a hotel or hostel, or a trusted guide book.
  • Make sure the tour is licensed.
  • Be especially careful of Chinese medicine tours, as they may over charge you.

The Scam: Rickshaw Car

Many rickshaws will offer foreigners a ride and agree on one price, and then later say you didn't understand and charge you more.


Usually in tourist areas or smaller neighborhoods where there are not many taxis, especially in Beijing.

Tips To Prevent Being Scammed:

  • Avoid drivers who are agressive and forceful.
  • Agree to a price before. If the driver tries to overcharge you, calmly leave the money on the seat and walk away.

The Scam: Bar Tabs

A bar or restaurant that serves drinks will overcharge you at the end of the night. Many places try to fool foreigners because they think foreigners will not check the price at the end or think they will be too drunk to notice.


Any bar or restaurant – usually cheap places.

Tips to Prevent Being Scammed:

Keep track of how many drinks you've had and check prices of everything before ordering.

The Scam: Fake Monks

Monks will come up to you on the street asking for a donation, they may even have some sort of donation book. Temples do not send monks on solo journeys for donations. This is not a common scam but it can still happen.


Around temple areas.

Tips To Prevent Being Scammed:

  •  If a monk approaches, smile and say you have no change and calmly walk away.

The Scam: Rental Bike/Scooter

Be careful where you park your bike or scooter when near a mall or subway. It is usual to be asked to pay a parking fee, but sometimes after you walk away for a few hours or days, your bike or batteries may be stolen.

It is also common for some places to hold your passport as a deposit, but be careful because someone may follow you after you take the bike and steal it back from you. Then they won't give you your passport back until you pay to replace the bike.


Anywhere you can park up, mainly in busy areas in the city.

Tips to Prevent Being Scammed:

  • Buy a lock and key for your bike or scooter.
  • It is recommended to take your batteries out of your scooter when you can to prevent them from being stolen.


Avoid the Tourist Scams in China

If you're going to travel to China or even wanting to move here, it's important to be knowledgeable of potential scams.

Learn more about the Best Places to Travel in China and the 7 Things To Know Before Coming To China

Don't let the idea of Tourist Scams worry you too much though! China is an amazing place to visit and a fantastic place to work. As long as you take some precautions and remain aware and smart while you are here, you'll have a great trip.

Learn more helpful tips for living and working in China with The Ultimate Guide for Moving to China

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