Trusting people and how to not get scammed

In this post I want to give you several tips about trusting random people when travelling. In general I can say that I'm a very positive person when it's about meeting new people. But when travelling through Thailand and Cambodia (I guess you can say that about most heavily visited places or/and south eastern Asia) I made a few shocking experiences which I want to share here.

Out of my and a few others experience, I think you can say that it's pretty save to travel trough Asia as long as you keep a clear mind. There is always a possibility to get mugged or robbed, which increases in certain areas. But in general people will not harm you in any physical way. They'll rather lie to you and try to trick you. Make advantage of you being a tourist who doesn't know a thing!

A few examples:

The Minibus Scam, probably the worst one

This particular one did not happen to me as I knew to avoid it. But during two weeks in Cambodia I met a few people who told me this story. (also the Internet advised me what to do in advance) Lets say you want to get from Bangkok to the Cambodian Border yourself. (or any other big distance) There are a few possibilities like flying, trains, buses or cabs. Comparing the conditions of each one in the Internet you find out that there are minibuses going for half the price of the others. They claim to be very fast, with air-conditioner and stuff. You decide to take that offer as it's the cheapest one, compared to the service you get. Here is what probably will happen to you: The usual time it takes for the journey is about 10 hours. You get into the bus and just right a 50 miles before the corner the minibus gets stuck in a puddle, or the engine stops. Fortunately it's right next, or not far to not so cheap (compared to others) hotel. The driver will tell you that it is not possible to continue the journey at this point and he has to wait for help. You got nothing left but spending the night in the hotel or get yourself a private cab which will cost you four times of what you expected, not to mention that you spend at least 18-30 hours on that trip. From what I heard and know myself, Avoid minibuses, use governmental trains if possible.

The waiting line Scam, Passport Control

I'm standing right in the line of the passport inspection on the border from Thailand to Cambodia. There is a huge sign saying something like "Do NOT trust anyone without a uniform, do not show your passport to anyone but the passport inspector". A woman walks up to me me, seeing my German passport, and tells me in broken English that they do not allow any Germans to enter the country today anymore. I'm asking her why. She answers that only a certain amount of tourists of one country are being accepted a day. She also tells me that she knows how to get in anyway, there is an agency who can get me an exception just around the corner. I believe if I'd have believed her, I spend a few dollars more then necessary and make a fool out of myself at the real counter!

The Visa Scam - Cambodia

I'm sharing a TukTuk with two friends from the Aranyaprathet train station to the Cambodian border. We could actually see the border as the road there was straight. It was a mile though. Driving down the road, seeing the Border coming close to us the TukTuk Driver makes a turn right, and stops in front of some kind of agency. We ask him what's wrong. The driver asks us to wait a second. A well dressed, close to perfect speaking English guy comes out with a few papers in the hands and starts to talk. "You have to get a Visa in advance. You cannot get it at the border, that's why the TukTuk Driver brought you here". We actually read about this type of scam in the Internet before so we didn't' listen to him. He wanted us to pay 1000 Baht for the visa, which is a ripoff. Knowing that, we told him that we don't want the visa, and we'd just like to get to the border. It ended with us repeating the word "NO" very loudly and clearly interrupting every of his tries to talk. At last we threatened him to walk by ourselves, so he insulted us in Thai and made the TukTuk driver finish his job.

The National Holiday Scam - Thailand

We're walking down the street to see the Big Buddha in Bangkok. Following the stream of tourists to our destination an old man calls us over. He says that today is a national holiday and the Big Buddha is unfortunately closed. But that is not that bad because there is another famous temple down the street to the other side. He offers us to bring us there. This is actually a very good try, because in Thailand they really have a lot of national holidays, and as tourist is next to impossible to memorize them all. Also there are really a load of different sights and temples to see. He probably had a deal with one of the tourists guides at the other temple. Of course we saw the Big Buddha in the end.

The Taximeter rip-off

This one is pretty easy to avoid. If the driver doesn't turn on the Taximeter you must tell him to turn it on before moving. Otherwise you will pay more, if not the double of what you expected. Once you decide to take a cab, either ask the driver for the exact price before you get in, or tell him to turn on the meter. A simple line every driver should understand: "No meter, no go!"