5 Notorious China Tourist Traps

China can be an incredibly diverse and beautiful country to visit, but tourists should expect to get ripped off a little at the big tourist sites. (Image:  Nick Richards  via  flickr  CC BY-SA 2.0)
China can be an incredibly diverse and beautiful country to visit, but tourists should expect to get ripped off a little at the big tourist sites. (Image: Nick Richards via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

China can be an incredibly diverse and beautiful country to visit, but tourists can expect to get ripped off a little at the big tourist sites. Be smart, and don’t get ripped off a lot. Here are five China tourist traps.

Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province

Scam level rating: ★★★

Main scam: Marriage scam in the bridal chamber of the forest park Love Tribe

There are many so-called folk customs in the village of Xishuangbanna, in the lush southern Chinese province of Yunnan. At the forest village of a local tribe, heavily made-up girls meet visitors and pull them into a local marriage game. Confused men are pulled into “bridal chambers,” where there is no escape unless they pay up. Visitors often end up paying 50, 60, or even as much as 100 yuan (US$16.40) before they can leave.

They also never give change, so make sure you have lots of smaller denomination notes. Today, folk customs are nothing more than folk traps.

Beijing’s Ming Dynasty Tombs

Scam level rating: ★★☆

Main scam: Purchase an entrance ticket, but leave enough cash for an exit pass.

Just as the underground imperial world is not very peaceful and prosperous, neither are the black-hearted tour guides who make you “leave money for redeeming vows.” Entering into the 13 Ming Dynasty emperors’ tombs, it is said you will disturb the yin (spirits); therefore, tourists are required to burn paper money to redeem their vows and to appease the spirits. Each family member has to pay, and at 100 yuan per vow, it adds up.

Also, hundreds of yuan are usually required for an exit pass.

Just as the underground imperial world is not very peaceful and prosperous, neither are the black-hearted tour guides who make you “leave money for redeeming vows.” (Image: kanegen via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

Just as the underground imperial world is not very peaceful and prosperous, neither are the black-hearted tour guides who make you “leave money for redeeming vows.” (Image: kanegen via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

Dali City, Yunnan Province

Scam level rating: ★★

Main scam: Beware of “fellow-townsman” jewelers!

The “fellow townsman” swindle prevails in Yunnan, Dali, and Lijiang. In this sales pitch, the salesperson engages the unsuspecting tourist in conversation and inadvertently mentions that they are from the same town as the shop’s owner.

Next, the owner comes out and inquires about a certain place in their hometown with concern. This is a set-up to persuade the unsuspecting tourist to purchase a nearly worthless item. The jewelry is typically priced at tens of thousands of yuan at the boutique counter, but is usually fake and only worth maybe 20 or 30 yuan.

Bashang, Inner Mongolia

Scam level rating: ★☆

Main scam: While it’s easy to ride a horse, it’s difficult to dismount.

In Bashang, horseback riding is a popular activity for tourists, but the privilege comes at a high price. As soon as tourists reach the stable, and even before touching the horse, the clock starts ticking. By the time the tourist actually rides a horse, which is led by the owner at a slow pace, it’s already been 10 minutes.

Although a typical charge of 40 yuan per hour had been agreed to beforehand, the tourist will find it difficult to dismount at the prescribed time. The tourist is forced to remain in the saddle for a considerable length of time while the owner casually leads the horse around a pasture before finally returning both horse and rider to the stable. Since it’s easy to spend two or three hours on horseback, one often sees tourists paying substantial riding fees amounting to a few hundred yuan in Bashang.

In Bashang, horseback riding is a popular activity for tourists, but the privilege comes at a high price. (Image: Todd Anderson via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

In Bashang, horseback riding is a popular activity for tourists, but the privilege comes at a high price. (Image: Todd Anderson via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

Mount Tai, Shandong Province

Scam level: ★

Main scam: There are many “heroes” from the foot of the mountain to the top.

When posing at Mount Tai, tourists must pay for taking pictures. If a tourist refuses or argues about it, they will be accused of disrespecting Mount Tai, and be rebuked, threatened, or even hit. This often results in injury.

There are many stores at the foot of Mount Tai where tourists are always ripped off. If a customer disagrees, the Mount Tai shop staff become extremely angry, which may lead to serious consequences for the tourist.

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