Safety in Asia

Tuk tuks (motorbikes) are popular in Bangkok, but can be really dangerous.  Wear your helmet and watch out.  Travel insurance rarely covers injuries while you are on a motorbike.DSC_0196

Use common sense.  If you are going to be hiking or trekking across Asia, it is wise to take a friend or a guide with you.

Stay away from public gatherings that are hostile or loud.  Even though these political uprisings aren’t usually targeted at foreigners, you may be caught in the middle if you don’t leave.

Common Scams in Asia:

Taxi (Tuk tuk) Scam: This happens all over the place, but especially in Thailand and Bangkok.  You ask to go somewhere and they drive you the long way around.   In Asia they may even tell you that your hotel is horrible or the place you are going is closed because they want to refer you to a friend where they will get a commission.  They may also refer you to restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions all for a commission, so don’t trust what they tell you, and don’t ask about it.  If you want advice on specific places to eat, things to do, and places to stay, use TripAdvisor.

Always negotiate in Asia.  Agree upon a taxi price before you get into the car.  Even if there is a meter, they may find ways to rip you off like driving in circles.  Never accept a ride from a local, it isn’t safe, use a licensed taxi driver.

I have even heard of the taxi drivers saying that the place you want to go is closed down and they suggest somewhere else.  This somewhere else may end up being a brothel, but may look like a bar at first.  They drop you off and then to get where you want to go you are out of town which costs you another taxi ride.

Rental Bike (Car):  If you are going to be renting a bike, motor bike or a car anywhere you should always record the condition of it before you leave the premises.  I always take a video or pictures with my phone and note every scratch.  In Asia a common scam is that they hope you don’t make note of these scratches before you leave, then when you get back they charge you for every dent.

In Indonesia and Vietnam some of the owners will even follow you and after you park the car will steal it back and make you pay for it, or actually make a dent or scratch in it while you are away.  Watch in your rear view mirror.

Cheap or VIP Bus Passes: This is particularly common in the route between Thailand and Cambodia.  You will get offered a cheap or VIP bus pass, but once it is booked either you will have to stand because sometimes they will over sell the seats.  It may not have air conditioning and a lot of times it will smell of fish.  Or the bus will “break down” and everyone will be referred to somewhere close by to sleep or you will have to catch another bus without a refund.

If you are traveling from Northern Thailand to Laos a popular mode of transport is the Slow Boat up the Mekong.  It is has beautiful scenery of traditional fishing villages and is quite peaceful compared to the busy city.  Bus drivers will be waiting for you at the port to offer VIP bus passes.  Stay on the boat because it is nicer, better scenery and you won’t get your refund.  It may be slow, but at least it isn’t going to break down.

Fake Visas:  “you make visa with me, cheap and easy”.  If you hear this sentence don’t believe it.  You may try to pay to get a cheaper visa, but when you arrive at the border you find out that the one you just paid for is fake.  Not to mention the actual cost is less than what you just paid for.

Near the Friendship Bridge between Thailand and Laos, some drivers may tell you the office here will process the visa paperwork before the border.  These forms are the same forms that you get for free at the border and you will save money if you do the same paperwork when you arrive, not before.

Expensive Doctor’s Visit: Some restaurants target foreigners with food poisoning.  You get nauseous and maybe even dizzy.  The waitress is more than willing to help you, and takes you next door to a doctor.  You will get medicine and in a few hours will start feeling better.  However, the doctor’s bill is extremely high not to mention how it made you feel.  My advice is to look at TripAdvisor on the best restaurants.  Most likely the high rated ones won’t pull a fast one on you.  Give your review if you have a bad experience to help future travelers avoid this problem.

Get Rich Quick Scams:  It is the same anywhere in Asia, someone approaches you and earns your trust.  They start scheming on ways to make money together with you.  If it is such a great idea, he wouldn’t need you to do it.  Most of these include gems, cards and exports.   Just say you don’t have money for that and walk away.

Drug Scam:  There are a lot of drug scams out there where the drug dealer is in cahoots with the police.  He may casually ask you what hotel you are staying in and what room number, then the police will come back and hand cuff you.  To avoid this and many other problems in your life, always say no to drugs!

Beggars, Students and Monks: Some common scams in Asia are when people dress up as a monk, a starving student to try and sell art work (I even had a door to door sales person do this to me at home) and a poor mother begging for money.  If you want to donate to a church, donate it directly not to a monk walking around.  Not all beggars are scams.  Just be aware if you are going to give money away that it is probably only going towards them and not a charity or a cause.

Exchange Scams:  There are a lot of exchange scams out there, read my page on Exchange Rates and in Asia don’t accept bills that are torn, old or faded, they may be worthless.

Tourist Scams:  Never go to an office that says “tourist information” in Asia, they will only tell you to go somewhere where they get paid a commission.  Usually this place is priced higher to cover their commission.








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