Last Updated on 11-16-2023
If you are planning to travel to Taiwan, it is essential to familiarize yourself with common signs of tourist scams in Taiwan. Overall, Taiwan is a safe destination, but that does not mean that some cunning individuals won’t attempt to deceive you. This article will uncover tourist scams in Taiwan and provide recommendations for prevention and countermeasures. The aim is to enhance the safety and trust of foreign visitors in Taiwan and promote the healthy and sustainable development of the tourism industry in the country.
Tourist Scams in Taiwan
1｜Travel Agency Shopping Excursions
Some travel agencies, when arranging Taiwan travel itineraries, include mandatory or hidden shopping excursions where tourists are required to make purchases at specific stores or factories, from which the agency receives kickbacks or commissions. These stores or factories often sell counterfeit or subpar products, such as jewelry, tea leaves, jade, etc., and charge tourists prices higher than the market rate. At times, they may even employ various tactics like exaggerated advertising, fake certifications, and psychological pressure to entice or coerce tourists into buying.
To avoid falling victim to these shopping excursions arranged by travel agencies, tourists should carefully compare different travel packages and prices when choosing a travel agency. They should check if the package includes any shopping trips or hidden fees. If possible, opt for travel agencies that either have no shopping excursions or only a few that are voluntary in nature.
2｜Overcharging at Restaurants
One common form of tourist scams in Taiwan involves overcharging at restaurants. Some eateries exploit tourists’ unfamiliarity with local food prices and consumption habits by intentionally inflating menu prices or concealing additional charges, such as service fees and tea fees.
To prevent falling victim to such scams, tourists should diligently review all menu details before placing an order and confirm the final bill with the waitstaff. If they identify any unjustified charges, they can decline payment and file a complaint with the relevant authorities.
Bicycle theft is a common scams in Taiwan that can occur in both urban and rural areas. Thieves often exploit owners’ inattentiveness or inadequate bike locking, quickly making off with the bicycles.
Therefore, when parking your bicycle, it is essential to secure it with a lock and try to select locations with surveillance cameras or a high volume of pedestrian traffic. If you discover that your bicycle has been stolen, report the incident to the authorities immediately for assistance.
Read our article on Taiwan’s bike sharing system: YouBike so you can utilize Taiwan’s bike sharing system and avoid having your bike stolen!
4｜Fake Tickets for Taipei 101
Some unscrupulous individuals exploit the fame and allure of Taipei 101 Tower by selling counterfeit observatory tickets to foreign tourists and local residents, enticing them with discounts below the regular price. These forged tickets are often the result of forgery, theft, or illegal acquisition through other means. When buyers arrive at Taipei 101 Tower with these fake tickets, they discover they have been deceived, unable to access the observatory, and incapable of claiming a refund.
As a result, it is highly advisable that when purchasing Taipei 101 Tower observatory tickets, one exercises caution regarding their authenticity. Only purchase tickets from official channels or authorized partners to avoid falling victim to scams.
You can also read our Taipei 101 article so you can learn more about Taipei 101 before you buy your tickets!
5｜Fake Tea Leaves
Some unscrupulous merchants take advantage of tourists’ lack of knowledge and attempt to deceive them with fake tea leaves. These counterfeit tea leaves are typically created by blending inferior tea leaves or other plants and then adding spices or coloring to make them resemble high-quality teas like oolong tea, high-mountain tea, or oriental beauty tea. These fake tea leaves not only lack quality but can also pose health risks.
Therefore, it’s essential to select reputable stores before purchasing tea leaves. If a store is located in a tourist area, operates as a street vendor, or lacks a fixed storefront or contact information, it may not be trustworthy. Additionally, compare prices; if they are either too low or too high, it may be an indication of fake tea. After buying tea leaves, be sure to retain the receipt. If you discover that you’ve purchased counterfeit tea leaves, you can use the receipt to request a refund or an exchange.
Fruit vendors set up their stalls in tourist areas or busy streets, showcasing a variety of fresh and enticing fruits to attract visitors. They often overcharge tourists for the fruits, provide less weight than promised intentionally, or mix in less-than-fresh produce. At times, they may even pressure tourists into purchasing unwanted fruits or threaten to involve the authorities if payment is not made.
Therefore, tourists should inquire about prices and weights before buying fruits, insisting that vendors weigh the items in front of them. Furthermore, it’s advisable to select familiar fruit varieties, examine the appearance and aroma of the fruits to check for freshness, and stand firm in their choices, resisting vendor persuasion or threats. If any fraudulent activity is suspected, tourists can seek assistance from nearby police or tourist authorities.
But you should also be careful, there are laws in Taiwan that regulate which items can be taken out of Taiwan, you can check out our Taiwan souvenir article to avoid breaking the law by bringing prohibited items yourself!
Some unscrupulous businesses or individuals take advantage of tourists’ unfamiliarity by engaging in unpriced scams. For instance, certain restaurants, teahouses, massage parlors, or night market vendors intentionally do not disclose or hide their price lists, only presenting a high bill after the customer has consumed their services, demanding payment.
Therefore, it is essential to inquire about prices and request to see a price list before making a purchase. If the other party refuses or provides vague information, it is advisable to leave immediately. If they forcibly demand payment, threaten you, or prevent you from leaving, you can seek assistance by calling the authorities.
Scammers may impersonate charitable organizations or religious groups to solicit donations from tourists, but in reality, they pocket the money themselves. They may also claim to be raising funds to help children receive a proper education or that they are affiliated with a charitable organization, all while selling items at significantly inflated prices.
Therefore, tourists should remain vigilant, not easily trust strangers, refrain from accepting their invitations or offerings, and avoid disclosing personal information or financial details. In the event of suspicious situations, tourists should promptly leave and seek assistance from local authorities or their travel agency.
Like any tourist destination, Taiwan also poses certain risks of tourist scams in Taiwan and pickpocketing. It is crucial to exercise caution and protect your belongings, particularly in crowded areas. Thieves and pickpockets are always on the lookout for individuals who seem distracted or vulnerable. They often work in groups, with each member having specific roles and tasks. Once you lower your guard or become distracted, your belongings can easily vanish.
Therefore, it’s advisable to avoid carrying valuable items such as cash, passports, phones, or cameras in crowded places. Some pickpockets take advantage of crowded public transportation, night markets, or festival events to steal your belongings when you’re not paying attention. You should keep these items in a secure location or use anti-theft backpacks or waist pouches.
10｜Fake Car Accidents
One common tourist scams in Taiwan involves fake car accidents, where scammers intentionally collide with a tourist’s vehicle or pedestrian and then demand high compensation or medical fees. This type of scam not only results in financial losses for tourists but also impacts their psychological and physical well-being, potentially jeopardizing their personal safety.
Therefore, when traveling in Taiwan, it is advisable to select reputable travel agencies or tour guides and to have a clear understanding of the itinerary and associated costs beforehand. Avoid interacting with strangers or individuals of unknown identity and refrain from using transportation services provided by them. When driving in Taiwan, adhere to traffic regulations, maintain a safe following distance, and observe appropriate speeds. In the event of an accident, promptly contact the authorities, document the scene and license plates as evidence, and refrain from settling matters privately or making payments to the other party.
If you want to drive in Taiwan, you can check out our article on exchanging your international driver’s license for a Taiwanese one as well as our article on renting a car in Taiwan to make sure that everything goes smoothly for your transportation release in Taiwan!
These are some of the most common tourist scams in Taiwan. If you understand these signs, you can avoid falling victim to these tourist scams while in Taiwan without putting your vacation at risk. Therefore, we should remain vigilant, learn to identify and reject fraudulent activities, and report any illegal activities we come across to the appropriate authorities. Only by doing so can we protect ourselves and help make Taiwan a safe and welcoming travel destination.