How to avoid 10 common tourist traps in China


A great trip is supposed to be worth your money and time. It usually includes a good guide, fabulous sightseeings, comfortable accommodation and more. In addition, learning how to avoid the tourist traps will make your trip more enjoyable and memorable.

You may encounter tourist traps at any time in your trip. Sadly, they are set up to exploit tourists by professional scammers. What they offer is not worth the time or the money.

Tourist Traps in Souvenir Shops

Shopping Street in Chengdu
Most of our clients will choose to buy some souvenirs to take home. These products often include tea, tea sets, pearl, silk and other localized specialties.

It is hard to judge if it is right to buy these products in the souvenir shops inside scenic spots.

Usually the price in these places are much higher and the quality cannot be guaranteed.

If you are interested in some particular products, let your travel advisors know and they can recommend you some good places to buy. Always remember to bargain, or even better get someone Chinese to bargain for you! Our guides are always able to help you.

Having Tea and Meals with Uninvited Strangers

This is a classic scam which involves a friendly stranger who invite you to go somewhere to drink tea, have dinner or perhaps practice their English.

Then they will find some excuse to escape and leave you to pay the bill. The scam is that usually this restaurant is owned that stranger.

Try not to drink tea or have dinner with some strangers. If you really want to make new friends, make sure you pick the place, see the menu when ordering the food and always keep the menu with you.

Touting of Hotels and Transport

You will find there are lots of Chinese people at airports, railway stations and bus stations asking if you need hotels or vehicle service. Usually these hotels and transportation are overpriced. If you do not agree with their price, they will leave you stranded in this strange city.

Beware: a reasonable price may change later. These people can sometimes be genuine and quite helpful, and the price is sometimes a good one, but if you are unsure why risk it?


There are also those who line popular tourist walking routes trying to get you to eat at their restaurant or buy whatever they are selling. A general rule is to avoid places so desperate that they have to hold a menu on the street. Always find a place packed with locals. Trust your senses, and let your nose guide you. 

Always figure out the price of everything in the restaurants before eating. Extras that are commonly charged for at around 1 Yuan each are tea, packs of napkins, and bowls of rice. These may cost a little more at more expensive restaurants, but check you are not drinking a really expensive tea without realizing. If you are offered a private room, check that it does not have an exorbitant price attached.

Counterfeit Money

Currency Exchange Logo
Learning how to recognize fake money is very important when traveling in China.

The money that you get from a bank or ATM could also be fake, even it barely happens. Anyone says they want to change your money could be a scam.

Other traps include: When you buy something, Some one will switch a note you use to a fake and then ask for another 100 Yuan note instead of “your” fake. The best thing to do here is definitely not to give them another 100 Yuan. You should call the police if you know it was a switch. 

There are some people using counterfeit money in exchange for foreign currency with new arrivals in China. They usually look for their targets on the street near popular entry points such as airports or bus stations. Most of them will offer good rates of exchange. Do not trust them. Always do currency exchange at a Bank of China, a reputable hotel, or a recognized Forex.


Use genuine taxis with working meters. Always ask for the receipt before you get out in case you accidently leave something in the taxi. 

Give me the receipt. - 我要发票. (wǒ yào fāpiào)

Illegal taxis may have rigged over-charging meters, leave you at the wrong place, claim the price was per person instead of in total, or drive off with your luggage.

Chinese Medicine

Chinese Herbs
Beware of shady practitioners that charge a lot for their diagnosis or overcharge for some herbs or other “cure”.

Do not get risks with your health.


There are lots of Chinese people begging for living. It is always your choice whether you give or not, but many of their stories when asking for money are not true. The classic ask is for the price of a train ticket home by some “destitute traveler”.

Often crippled beggars are left in strategic locations and used by someone as a way of earning money from peoples’ compassion.

Scruffy girls selling roses are often very persistent and highly skilled professionals. Try to avoid them as you will find it difficult to get away until you have paid.

Pick-Pocketing and Stealing

Pick Pockets
Beware of pick pockets in areas frequented by tourists, crowded streets and markets, sights, buses, etc. Often there will be more than one working together.

We do not recommend you to pursue them as they often carry knives in order to force a getaway.

One thief may distract or bump into the victim while the other steals. Use money belts or put your valuables where they are difficult to get at. If you have a backpacker, always put it in front of you. 

People Selling Stolen Cell Phones

Do not talk to any people who want to sell you stuffs on the street. They will say it is a stolen goods and the price is very cheap. However, if you want to buy it, they will switch it to a fake phone when you are not paying attention.

Choosing a reliable travel agency to arrange your trip in China is always the best way to avoid the tourist traps. We also have come up with some tips to help you define a local travel agency.

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