Safety in China
Overall China is very safe for travelers. Violent crimes are rare, and it’s safe to walk alone on the streets any time of the day or night. Women travelers can also rest assured that they can walk the streets freely, use public transportation without any concern, and take cabs without incident. In cities such as Beijing there are police booths on almost every block and security guards everywhere.
Chinese people generally avoid confrontation and are more than willing to help foreign travelers even if they speak little to no English. However, one thing to keep in mind is not to get involved in any sort of physical confrontation with the local people. This is a golden rule that applies to almost every country, including China. If somehow you see two locals ensnared in a fight, don’t get involved.
It’s also worth noting that China is loud and Chinese people love to talk loudly. This doesn’t mean they’re having a verbal confrontation; it’s just the way they speak.
As with many other tourist destinations, the best defense is to use your common sense. Don’t leave your belongings unattended; don’t keep your phone where someone may easily grab it. Pickpockets are uncommon but not unheard of, so keep your wallet or purse where only you can reach them.
Some other useful tips are: drink only bottled water only; buy a mask to protect you against pollution; and bring any over-the-counter medicine you might need.
It’s important to know that China has harsh penalties for people who possess or sell illegal drugs, and the rules and punishments apply to foreign citizens too. China may refuse entry to a foreigner caught trying to smuggle drugs inside the country. Depending on the amount and the drug, people can expect to spend anywhere from one to seven years in prison, as well as a financial penalty.
Don’t take unnecessary risks
Most scams in China amount to little tricks. One of the most common scams consists of replacing a 100 yuan bill for a fake one. This normally happens when paying cab drivers. Some of them keep a fake 100 yuan bill hidden among original banknotes. What they do is take the bill you hand them, quickly replace it with the fake one, then they tell you that you gave them a fake bill. If you’re unaware of this petty scam, you may hand over another 100 bill, and apologize. The cab driver may try to cheat you at least one more time. Don’t fall for it. Always make sure to see what’s happening with your bill the moment you give it to the driver. Though rare, it happens mostly with tourists, so be aware of this!
Other kinds of scams involve young people asking you to come with them to drink tea. This is especially common around Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, where large amounts of tourists gather. Another variant of this scam happens around the popular bar street Sanlitun at night. A local person will pretend to befriend you to bring you to a nice bar or nightclub. The end result is an excessively priced cup of tea or drinks, in each case. Don’t accept their invitations no matter how friendly or insistent they are. If you refuse them, they will quickly move to try to find another unsuspecting visitor.