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How to Handle Border Crossing Scams

by Benjamin Kerns

Jan 14, 2020

© Americanspirit | Dreamstime

Tips / Safety

Border crossing scams have proliferated as travel has become more accessible. Southeast Asia is particularly synonymous with grifters trying to swindle money from oblivious backpackers. These scams can be avoided if you know what to look for.


Before hitting a border crossing be sure to exchange your currency. Doing so at the crossing will lead to you literally getting short-changed. Most travelers aren’t adept at converting one currency to another on the spot, and scammers know this.


Second, fill out all of your own forms. None of them are difficult to understand on your own, and people offering to help you aren’t doing it out of the kindness of their hearts. If you mess up a form the worst the border agent will do is give you another one.


You’ll also want to purchase your visa before hitting the border. Otherwise, you’ll be led to a consulate or shack that is charging exorbitant fees — sometimes $25–50 more than necessary. You can also give yourself a leg up by knowing exactly what the cost of crossing the border is before arriving, and only carrying exactly that much with you. They can’t talk into handing over extra cash you don’t have.


Finally, avoid taking the “through-bus” across a border. These buses are touted as an easy way to cross, as they normally start in one country and drop you off at a popular spot in the next. The problem is they invariably make a pit stop along the way to charge you a fee that is neither necessary nor official, and nobody ever argues against it. Cross on foot whenever possible.



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