Biggest Scams in Chengdu (China)

Luckily Chengdu is a very safe city when compared to the likes of Beijing or Shanghai but of course, like almost anywhere else it is essential to be aware of what could happen if you’re no to careful.

Areas to Be Extra Careful

  • Chuan Xi road and Tianfu Square area
  • Metro stations and busy bus stops
  • Bars and Clubs
  • Crowded areas
  • Tourist attractions

The Scams – and How to Avoid Them:


1. The Teahouse Scam

Image result for teahouse peoples park chengdu

The teahouse scam is common all over china, it is most famous in Beijng and Shanghai but it has been heard of in almost every city in China. It involves local Chinese (often 1 or 2 pretty young girls) approaching you (mainly targeting men) and offering you to go with them to a teahouse/bar/art gallery etc. This will seem very appealing to foreigners wanting to get a full cultural experience, especially as the young girls will seem innocent and take an interest in your language or culture.

Once you have agreed to go with them, they will recommend a local place of there choosing and they will order some tea/drinks that they recommend. Up until this point the experience will be quite pleasant, but now we get to the scam. They will then ask you to pay for the drinks and you will be presented with a check/bill with over inflated prices  – which you will be expected to pay!

Of course these girls actually work for the teahouse/bar and have just lured you into a trap. At this point the girls may act shocked and offer to pay half, but you will still be landed with half. Once it gets to this point it is very hard to get out!

Avoiding the Teahouse Scam

The teahouse scam is actually very easy to avoid as long as you are street smart and know what you are doing.

  • Firstly be very cautious when someone approaches you in a public space with very good English, we are not saying don’t trust anyone, just be cautious.
  • If a stranger offers you to go to somewhere of there choosing, suggest an alternative place where you know the prices. If they insist on there place, decline the offer or proceed with extreme caution
  • If the stranger asks how long you have been in china, never say less than 1 month (even if this say the truth). If the person asks this your alarm bells should go off as the scammer is actually trying find ‘china newbies’ who don’t know about the scam.
  • This one should go without saying but always ask to see the menu

2. The English Menu Scam

English Menu

Some restaurants will offer an ‘English menu’ for foreign guests. Of course this is very useful if you don’t read a word of Chinese, but be careful. The restaurant will sometimes display different prices and charge the foreigners more than the locals. The worst part about this scam is that you won’t even know you’re getting ripped off.

Another variation of this scam is that the English menu will actually have cheaper prices to encourage you to buy more, then when the check/bill comes it will have the Chinese menu price on. They will hope that you won’t have looked at prices in detail but if questioned, the staff will show you the Chinese menu and say the English menu hasn’t been ‘updated’ for years.

Note: Sometimes the restaurant genuinely hasn’t updated the English menu in which case it becomes more of an annoying misunderstanding than a scam

Avoiding the English Menu Scam

  • If the restaurant gives you an English menu, request a Chinese menu alongside and compare the prices
  • Check your check/bill against the menu for any differences
  • Learn to read basic Chinese food so using a Chinese menu becomes easier

3. Counterfeit Money

Image result for chinese money

Counterfeit money is becoming less and less common in China, largely because almost every shop tests the money though a machine or examines it by hand. The most important places to be extra vigilant are taxis and small shops

The most common way to be given fake money is as change, usually it will be when you buy something with a large note (50 or 100). The shop keeper (or taxi driver) will give you change with 10 or 20 RMB notes and hide a counterfeit note somewhere in the middle where you are less likely to see it.

Counterfeit money is famously given by taxi drivers, another way they will trick you is take your money then, without you seeing, swap your money for a fake note. They will then tell you that you gave them the fake note and demand you give them a new ‘real note’. in this situation you will end up losing up to 100RMB on top of you taxi fare.

Avoiding Counterfeit Money

  • Check all the change you are given – even the middle of the stack
  • Keep an eye on your taxi driver when you pay the fare
  • Split your big notes in trusted or chain shops and give the small shops and taxi drivers your small change
  • Always get your money form ATM’s connected to a bank
  • See the videos below about how to check for fake money:

Video by SerpentZA

Video by Loser Laiwai

Post by Edward Hill
English Teacher in Chengdu

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