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Terracotta Traps: How to Avoid Getting Scammed in Xi’an!

A city teeming with history, culture, tombs and pagodas, Xi'an is a dream for any Chinese history buff. Unfortunately, tourists who stream into the city every year to check out some of the greatest historical sites in China are often targeted by scammers and tricksters. Behind the monuments, warriors and temples there are carefully set traps for thousands of tourists every year. Luckily, these traps and scams can be easily avoided: but only if you know what to look for!

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1) The small clay figurines and the sword 
Walk into one of Xi'an's numerous tourist shops and you'll likely see displays of small clay figurines modeled after the terracotta warriors. Although these figurines may seem harmless at first sight, do not underestimate their trickery. The figurines are often clustered around a special knife that, loosely translated by those who've previously fallen for the scam, "chops the customers". Stores looking to scam tourists put the very cool looking swords and knifes right behind the figurines, then when a customer pulls the sword out to look at it the attached ribbons will knock down several of the little clay dudes. Once this happens, the shop owner will rush over to you yelling the equivalent of "If you break it you buy it!" and you'll be out at least 15 RMB per figurine.

How to avoid: If you want to check out an item, have the clerk remove it for you and don't touch anything yourself. If you fall for the scam and are made to pay, gather evidence at the scene, take photos and file a complaint with the local authorities.

2) Taking black cabs to tourist attractions
At the Xi'an Railway Station and other tourist-heavy areas like the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, you will most likely be solicited by a black cab driver. These drivers bring their own cars to tourist destinations to try to take advantage of unknowing tourists by offering to bring them to Terracotta Warriors and other tourist attractions for a little as 80-100 RMB. Unsurprisingly, this is a scam: the driver will first take you for "free" to antique shops or jade shops but will not let you back into the car until you buy something. After you reluctantly purchase an overpriced item, the driver will take you to the scheduled attraction, although with the time wasted at the shop, the attraction will probably already be closed for the day.

How to avoid: Take the tourist bus from the east side of the Xi'an Railway Station that runs every 20 minutes and will stop at all the tourist spots. The price for the bus ticket will be 1/3 the price of a black cab.

3) Fake Tickets
A majority of Xi'an's tourist attractions require a ticket, and scammers often take advantage of this. At the Xi'an Zoo, scalpers often gather outside of the gates to sell tickets to tourists, boasting "special deals" such as including a map of the zoo for free. However, if you buy one of these package deals you may find that the promised ticket is missing! Obviously, the zoo staff won't help you out with this one and you'll be forced to buy a new ticket to get into the park.

How to avoid: Only purchase tickets from the legitimate ticket booths. If you buy a packet make sure that the ticket is in there and don't lose your ticket stubs as they will be checked! 

4) Overpriced ethnic food at Huimin Jie 
The food stalls of Huimin Jie (回民街), also known as Muslim Street, are located near Xi'an Xi Dajie (西安西大街), and attract droves of tourists looking for an authentic Xi'an culinary experience. Because of its popularity among tourists, the prices on the street have skyrocketed and the cheap food stalls have all but disappeared. Nowadays, most food on the street is nearly the same price as a hotel restaurant! Also, the non-restaurant shops on the street, which originally sold cheap snacks, fabric and trinkets have also bumped up their prices to take advantage of unknowing tourists.

How to avoid: For an authentic dining experience, head over to Jiasan Guantang Bao (贾三灌汤包) or Yifenli (一分利). Be sure to avoid small restaurant owners who solicit tourists in the alleys, and remember that the exact same souvenirs sold in these places can be purchased at the stalls around tourist areas for much cheaper.

5) Huajue Xiang's Fake Antiques 
Xi'an is full of antiques and jade that tourists love to buy and bring home. Huajue Xiang (化觉巷) is Xi'an's most famous antique street, selling everything from snuff bottles and jade artifacts to porcelain and antique locks and boxes. However, the "antiques" sold on this street are almost always fake—forgery technology is incredibly advanced and it's often impossible to distinguish a real antique item from an imposter. Don't be gullible: know that what you're buying is not a real antique!

How to avoid: Since you know the antiques are not real, don't let yourself get ripped off in the bargaining process. Additionally, since the reselling and trafficking of antiques in Xi'an is very illegal, it may be best to simply avoid the antique scene altogether. 


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