10 Tourist Scams in Taiwan – How to Avoid Them
If you are traveling to Taiwan, make sure that you know the common signs of tourist scams in Taiwan.
The place is safe in general, but it doesn’t mean that some shady and mischievous people won’t try to trick you.
The biggest problem with the world’s most popular places is the fact that some of the people will try to get more money from the unsuspecting tourists and travelers.
But if you are familiar with their ways of operation, you can avoid being tricked into the scams.
Cooking Fee Charge
Be careful when you go to restaurants, especially when they are close to Fisherman’s Wharf. When you order, they may add the so-called cooking fee for each dish that you order.
Then you end up with exorbitant amount of charge after you are finished eating. This practice is common at Tamsui.
To avoid such a thing, make sure that you only choose reputable and credible restaurants. Make use of restaurant review apps to find the trusted ones. Don’t go to places promoted by street touts because they may not be true – the price may be too high with bad quality foods. If a place is truly good with tasty food, they don’t need promotion.
Don’t forget to check the menu and the details. Check for fine prints and price. Ask the clerk about the extra charge and the details of each course. When you get the bill, check for each item.
You can also make use of the food tour service, like the one offered by some providers like Klook. But still, find out the details of each service.
Fake 101 Tickets
Never buy such tickets from street touts. Some travelers claimed that they were approached by old women offering tickets – most of them are offering very inexpensive ones.
This is one of the most common tourist scams in Taiwan that is actually easy to avoid. You should only buy from licensed retailers or from official counters or companies.
You can also check some of the trusted online tour services or platforms for the tickets. In short, never buy from anyone or strangers you meet on the corner of the street.
Tea Leaves Imitation
Taiwan is mountainous and it has humid and misty condition, which is perfect for producing and growing tea. That’s why some of the top popular tea leaves are coming from Taiwan.
However, some local producers may mix the authentic tea leaves with the non-original ones. Some people may also try selling tea leaves claimed to be high in quality but they are actually the low quality ones. The cheap leaves are sold as the expensive brands.
If you want to avoid such a thing, make sure to try and taste the tea before buying. You should know how to differentiate the authentic from the fake ones. For instance, real tea has deep color and their aftertaste would linger for up to 30 minutes after you drink it.
The leaf structure ball would be made on a single stem consisting of 2 to 4 leaves. Don’t buy the leaves if you don’t like the taste.
You should also buy from reputable tea houses or retailers, such as Stop by Tea House, Skyline Teahouse (in Jiufen), Taipei Expo Farmer’s Market, Lin Mao Sen, Amei Teahouse, Yingge, Wang’s Tea, or Wistaria Tea House.
You can also take part in Pinglin Tea Plantation, Taipei Tea House, and Thousand Island Lake tea tour that is usually arranged by the reputable and trusted tour companies.
If you happen to come to some night markets, you may see come stalls with no price tags or labels for the items. The sellers would quote you a price as they wish – which is usually based on their own opinion about yourself (whether they think you are rich or not).
Although this scam is usually concentrated on Raohe Street Night Market in Taipei, it doesn’t mean that you may not encounter such a scheme elsewhere. Always be careful.
One thing for sure: Never buy those items without asking the price first. Don’t touch anything – just point. If you can’t find any price label at all, it’s better to find other stalls or shops that have the prices labeled clearly.
You don’t want to spend more money than you should have.
Fake Car Accidents
This tourist scams in Taiwan usually happens when you rent a car and drive on your own. But if you depend on public transportation or taxi, then you won’t have to worry about it.
This isn’t happening often to travelers (maybe because most of them would rely on the public transportation) but it doesn’t mean that it ever happens to foreign travelers. Some scammers are trying to get your money by throwing themselves at the path of your moving car.
This is generally happening at quiet roads where not many people can witness the whole thing.
If you are confident about renting a car and drive around on your own, make sure to rent one with a working in-car camera. Don’t go without any camera or whatsoever. It would be better to rent one with camera on the front as well as on the back because scammers always have their own to avoid being recorded by cameras.
It is possible that they may bump themselves on purpose on the back of the car, for the sake of money.
This scam usually takes place at Shilin Night Market with the fruit vendors as the main scammers. There are several schemes that they may try on you.
First, when you ask for a fruit (just ask for a price), they would cut it up right away so you can try it. As a result, you feel obligated to buy it.
Second, they don’t have any price labels. Some may have labels, but it isn’t clear. For instance, you think that it is $5 a piece, but it is $5 for per 100 grams.
Third, some fruit stalls don’t display the scale they are using. It is likely that they tweak the weight and cheat on it.
Never choose or point on a fruit. Check the stall whether they have the price label or not. Ask someone with you to record the whole thing from the beginning so the sellers won’t be able to do mischievous things.
If you see the price label, ask the sellers for the details (whether the fruit has a unit weight). Choose vendors with electronic scales and the weighing should be done in front of you.
Lastly, trust your guts. If you think that you are being scammed or ripped off, walk away from the vendor. Find out the hotline for complaints and report the sellers if you find the cheat.
Fake Branded Items, Watches, or Gemstones
If you are joining a tour and your guide is directing you to such a stall selling high-end stuff with very low price, you should stay alerted. If everyone else wants to buy the items, let them be.
You don’t have to buy the stuff. It is common that a tour guide may get a commission from a shop (or some shops) to get travelers coming to the shops.
Don’t be tempted by the seemingly good items – branded watches or gemstones. They may look good but they are all fake. Branded items are impossible to be sold at such low prices, so you know what is worthy or not.
If you do want to buy branded stuff, go to the official outlet or store. The price may be high but at least you get what’s worth from your purchases.
As one of the most common tourist scams in Taiwan, you may be approached by someone or even a group of people claiming that they are collecting donations.
They may sell anything (wallets, pens, etc) with a rather inflated price because they want to help the kids to get the proper education or they are from a charity organization.
The best way to avoid the scam is to walk away and simply refuse. If you do want to donate, it is better to do it at the established and reputable charity organizations, instead of people wandering off the streets. No matter how sad their story is, don’t give away your money easily.
You won’t have to worry about this scam if you don’t rent any bike or whatsoever. But if you do, make sure that you have extra security measurement to prevent the bike from being stolen.
It doesn’t hurt to have solid locks, tracking device, or such things alike to prevent the bike from being taken away. You need to take the picture of the bike along with the serial number.
When you lock it, it doesn’t hurt to use several devices at once (a lock, a chain lock, etc) and locate the bike in a well-lit area – possibly in an area where a lot of people are roaming around.
This isn’t exactly a scam but it is more like a criminal action. Always be careful with your belongings, especially in a crowded area. Thieves and pickpockets are always looking for targets that seem clueless and easy.
They usually work in groups where each person has its own role and job. Once you get diverted or distracted – poof, your items are gone for good.
If you have to bring important documents, bring the copy instead of the real thing. And have hidden spaces or compartments on you – not on the bag. Small changes can be placed on your wallet while big bills should be hidden. If you can have an anti-theft bag, it’s better.
Those are the most common scams that may happen in Taiwan. If you know the signs, you can avoid these tourist scams in Taiwan without jeopardizing your holiday.