Scammed in Bagan and How We Could Have Avoided It

The temples of Bagan are incredible to explore, no doubt about it. Thus it is one of the most popular travel destinations in magnificent Myanmar.

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View of Bagan seen from one of the temples.

Whilst the majority of locals are friendly, kind-hearted and helpful, you can always bump into somebody who will try to scam you. It happens everywhere in the world and sometimes you cannot avoid it, but it’s important to keep in mind few things that can save you a lot of time and money.

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Picture time with locals in Bagan.

We’ve witnessed few scams in Bagan and unfortunately became a victim of one. Before I go into details how we’ve been scammed, let me give you some popular scams you can see in Bagan.

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Knowing some biggest Bagan scams can save you a lot of money, time and disappointment.

Scam 1: Kids collecting foreign currency

This is one of the most common scams in Bagan in which kids are involved. There is a little boy who will claim that he is collecting notes and coins from around the world and ask if you have any foreign currency he can have. Although most of foreigners carry some dollars and euros, somehow the kid will miss them and ask if you can help him with his collection. We are certain it is not just some kid with honest passion, because we were asked by a few in the same manner.

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Most of the kids in Bagan are amazing, kind and hardworking (we’ve seen plenty of kids working in restaurants)

How to avoid it?

To help stop this scam, simply don’t give them money and ignore every kid that is asking for a foreign currency coins or notes for their collection. And don’t feel bad about it, it’s highly unlikely that they get to keep the money anyway.

Scam 2: Fake gemstones

There are locals that will try to sell you “real” rubies or sapphires that in fact are worthless fakes. Although everyone would know these are fakes, obviously some people do buy them thinking they are real, as otherwise these scammers wouldn’t exist.

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Local souvenirs.

How to avoid it?

Ignore everyone who tries to sell you precious stones in the middle of a field.

Scam 3: Homemade paintings and rock carvings

Everyone wants to buy a nice souvenir when visiting Bagan, that’s obvious. Many paintings and rock carvings sold in touristic spots are really beautiful and can make great souvenirs.

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Paintings in Bagan – I bought one of them.

The scam here lies in the fact that sellers will tell you that what you are getting is unique, homemade and rare in order to get more money from you. So be careful because a story of a family making hand paintings can be really touching and you will spend way more money than you should. Some sellers can be really manipulative!

How to avoid it?

Try not to buy anything from a person who starts telling you a story of her mother or brother making a painting with their hands for hours. If you like a painting, but the seller is scamming you, just walk away. You will see the exact same design at least a hundred times over the day because almost nothing on sale is unique in Bagan, and you will see it again! :)

Scam 4: Bagan temples entrance ticket

That’s the biggest one! At one of the main temples we were asked to pay the tourist fee to continue sightseeing. It was not at the entrance, but instead it was located inside the walls. There were a couple of people behind a little table who demanded 25000 Kyat. That’s a lot of money compared to all the other things we’ve seen. We would have walked away but they said it is a ticket that we will need to enter all the other temples. There was a tourist police officer who actually pushed us to the table to get the ticket so it looked more official with his help.

We have hesitated but we’ve paid. It was the first temple we have visited, so we were shocked that we were not asked to show the tickets anywhere else in Bagan. Yes, it turned out to be a scam. After a bit of research we found that we were not the first ones. Actually, our experience was better than some of the other travellers’s who were stopped at a fake checkpoint on the way from the bus station to the town and were asked to pay or leave Bagan. Here’s one of the scam stories.

How to avoid it?

The only way is to walk away. That’s of course if you are in position to do so, as the check point situation would be much harder to get out of without paying. If you’re asked to pay in one of the temples, just leave and go to see other temples, we were not asked another time so it’s probably one and same group that operates around Bagan with a silent approval of the authorities.

Were you ever scammed in Bagan? If so, please share your experience with other travellers in comments and help them avoid it in their upcoming trip.

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About Agness

Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"


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29 Comments

  • Third world countries are so hard to navigate sometimes wondering if something is a scam or isn’t. I’d probably fall for that handmade art too and to keep up with my niave mind I would think that it was a common design…instead of a cheap reboot.

  • Myanmar has Zone Fees for Bagan, Mandalay, Inle Lake and a few others. To enter the Bagan Zone there is a 25,000 fee that is charged by the Myanmar Government so that part was not a scam. https://www.go-myanmar.com/the-temples-of-bagan That will perhaps make you feel a little better about the 25,000 unfortunately the others were indeed scams. Kids hit us up too but we did not donate and since we are not going home for several more years we don’t buy things on the road.

    John and Laurel

  • One can never be too careful when they are traveling especially if it is your first time in that country. Thanks for the great tips they will surely come in handy

  • Oh my goodness. After all your travel experience, they even managed to scam you. Thank you for sharing.

    Question, what are other attractions aside from temples. Somehow I get a feeling that one can get templed out after a day or two of visiting the city (or country)

  • That’s bad! Scams leave a bad taste in the mouth, sometimes they are just unavoidable and there is nothing we can do about them. Thanks for all these tips, I’ll remember them when I visit Bagan!

      • But unfortunately, these type of scams are usually taking part with the authorities in on it with a bribe. There’s stuff like this all over India, almost every single minute if you’re looking out of place (and I’m brown as every other Indian but born in the US so they can tell that too). I actually got scammed in India when picking up food that my in-laws ordered from a restaurant they frequent. The guy acted like he didn’t understand English and purposely shorted the order. Made me want to punch his lights out after I got home found out.

        It’s terrible how lawless the world becomes without enforcement…

  • I agree with everything except for entrance ticket. If you are in cambodia, you have to buy day ticket for all temples. For the money that you have to pay/temples, Bagan ticket is quite economical.

  • A good way to avoid scam is to ask advise from a friend who is from that country before going there. Another way is to go with a tourist guide whom you will pay 20 to 30 dollars per day (Most Burmese blue collar worker earn less than 2 dollars per day, so 20 to 30 dollars is quite generous already).

    Another possible scam is the hotel will try to charge you ” a foreigner fee “. That will easily happen if you don’t book before you go there.

  • We were stopped at a checkpoint, on the way from the train station to the hotel, asked to pay 20$ or 25.000ky each. We said we don’t have cash money with us and want to be brought to our hotel right now. After resisting to pay for some minutes, we got out of the trap. The “officer” said, to cross up on the hotel for cashing in, but never did. We were lucky, cause I followed my principle not to pull dollars from my stash outside a safe place.

    Unfortunately we we got trapped just hours before, ordering food at the train attendant of the sleeper train from Yangon to Bagan. While placing us at our seats in the compartment, he asked for our orders from the restaurant wagon for Dinner and Breakfast. We ordered 2 fried veggie rice, sliced chicken, a beer and two coffees for the morning, all came and was actually delicious, but the bill served in the morning, was very delicious too: 21000 kv, roundabout the double price compared to the restaurant wagon menu. It is in fact our very own mistake and we learned: never ever order anything without negotiating and tight fixed price! Besides these experiences we met warm hearted smiling helpful people in a wonderful country. Greetings Tom and Hannah

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