Taxi Scams Guangzhou

5 Taxi Scams to Avoid in Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou doesn’t have a lot of scams going on, for a city with such a high level of poverty. There are however a few scams that can take place when taking a taxi. Most of these scams can easily be avoided if you’re prepared for them. I have listed the most common taxi scams below, so you won’t have to lose any money when they occur.

Taxi scams in Guangzhou do happen during the daytime but they are more frequent in the evening hours. The favorite targets seem to be tourists enjoying the nightlife. Most of these scams are just for a small amount of money though and not to the extent to which taxi scams take place in most big European cities.

You can reduce the risk of being scammed, even before getting in a cab. It’s a good thing to pay attention to the color of the cab because each cab firm has their own color. The most common ones are yellow, dark red, blue and green but there are several others. Some taxi companies use the same colors so it’s easy to confuse them.

Guangzhou Taxi ColorsThe most common taxi colors in Guangzhou: yellow, dark red, blue and green


The best taxi companies in Guangzhou are the yellow, blue and red ones, with the yellow ones as the most reliable. To be protected against scams, it’s always good to take the receipt at the end of the ride. This way you can track down the driver taking and make a complaint to his company, when necessary.

You could also make a picture of the taxi driver’s license, which is always shown on the dashboard or you can write down the license plate number if a driver seems dodgy. There’s always a phone number of the taxi company on the taxi itself that you can call for complaints or you could call the police emergency number if you want to talk to an English speaker. It can be reached by calling 110. There’s also a taxi hotline available at 96900 but they don’t speak English.

Taking the long routeThis is a classic scam and for anyone not familiar with the city, or with the Chinese language, very hard to avoid. The taxi driver will know the fastest way to the destination but chooses to do a detour. Sometimes this can be as obvious as driving completely in the wrong direction or taking four lefts in a row. At other times you can’t really tell this is going on without being familiar in the area.


How to deal with it

Know how much the ride will cost before you get in the taxi. You can tell the staff of your hotel where you are going so they can make an estimate of a reasonable taxi fare, or you can ask a local. You could also use the website to get an approximate price.

If you know what the price of your taxi ride should be, bring this exact amount with you and give this to the driver at the end of the ride. They will mostly accept this instantly, even if they brought the meter to a much higher price. In case they don’t accept this, don’t be hesitant to call the police.

Pretending to be lostThis happened to me a couple of times but most of the drivers are so bad at acting that it’s very obvious they are pulling a scam. If it happens when you’re going to a well known destination, it’s very clear that you’re getting scammed because they could probably drive you there with their eyes closed if they had to.


How to deal with it

Always have a map with your destination on you, or on your phone, or a detailed description of the address in Chinese. In this case it also helps to know what the fare should be and have the exact amount of money on you. Don’t pay for the unnecessary mileage.

Not giving the correct changeWhen you take a short taxi ride and pay with a 100 RMB note, some taxi drivers will take this opportunity to pretend they only have a lot of small bills. They will give you a bunch of 5 and 10 RMB notes back but it’s 1 or 2 notes short. They hope you will miscount them or just take it and leave. You could also feel pressured to just take it, because many times, new clients are already waiting to get in the cab.

I’ve had one occurrence where this happened and I had to return the incorrect change 4 times before the driver seemed to realize his ‘counting error’ and gave back the correct change.


How to deal with it

Take the time to count all your change and don’t feel pressured by the taxi driver or new clients coming in. If you stand your ground you will eventually get the correct change. Just don’t walk out before you got it.

Fake money switchThis one is a bit tricky and unpleasant. If you’re not prepared for this trick it will probably cost you some money. It happens mostly when you pay with a 100 RMB or sometimes a 50 RMB note. The driver will take your money and through a little sleight of hand, switch it with a fake bill. He will then accuse you of giving him a fake bill and will demand a new one. If you give him another 100 RMB note he might do the same again. You could end up with a bunch of fake 100 RMB notes.

Although this scam happens more often in the bigger cities like Beijing and Shanghai, it does occur in Guangzhou too. If the cab driver insists on everyone sitting in the back and doesn’t want anyone sitting in the passenger seat, he is likely going to pull this trick. They don’t want you to sit too close because then you might see the bill switch happening.


How to deal with it

When this happens you should call the police right away and don’t give the driver any more money. Calling the police in China is not something to be intimidated of. By calling 110, you will get an English speaking police officer who will handle this situation for you.

The 100 RMB note is the largest bill in China and you will most likely have gotten it from an ATM machine or through a money exchange agency. The chances of it being fake is infinitely smaller then the chance of the taxi driver scamming you.

When you don’t trust the taxi driver or just want to be safe, you can choose to make a photo of your bill before handing it over. This way you have proof that he switched the bill. It’s also a good thing to familiarize yourself with the signs of fake RMB notes. More information about this can be found here.

Faulty meterSome taxi’s have faulty meters that go up way too fast. This scam obviously works best with people that are unfamiliar with Guangzhou taxi’s so it happens most with tourists around the airport or train stations.


How to deal with it

If you stick with the reliable taxi companies, this shouldn’t happen to you. Another thing you should always do is find your own taxi’s by holding them down on the streets or at designated taxi stops. In popular tourist areas, such as the airport, many people will approach you and offer a taxi but they are not to be trusted. You will end up in fake taxi’s this way, with meters that are rigged.

A normal taxi meter should start out at 10 RMB and not go up until after 2.5 kilometers. If you find yourself in a taxi with a meter that goes up too fast, just leave it as soon as possible and find a new one. Calling the police seems a little risky in this situation as these scammers aren’t genuine taxi drivers and you could be dealing with aggressive criminals.



Getting around in Guangzhou by taxi is very cheap and generally a comfortable way of travelling. If you are aware of the several scams, you shouldn’t have to experience many problems. Just stick to the reliable companies that use a meter and you will be fine generally. If something does happen it’s good to know that there is a police emergency line available by calling 110, ready to assist in the English language.

5 thoughts on “5 Taxi Scams to Avoid in Guangzhou, China

  1. Sarah says:

    Good article! I’ve lived in GZ for the past 2 years and I suppose I’ve been pretty lucky, until tonight. A taxi ride that I’ve taken several times before wound up costing 25RMB more, and the meter seemed to climb by the second! He definitely had some sort of rigged meter targeting foreigners. So frustrating.

    1. Eric says:

      That does seem to happen every now and then in GZ, unfortunately. If you know the price you could just give him this amount of money, if you have it exact. He will probably accept it anyway and you could also call the police helpline for foreigners.

  2. Brenda says:

    The biggest problem I’ve found is that the drivers won’t use their meters. They want a large amount of money to go a few kilometres. Has happened ever time (6) in the last 2 days except when in front of our hotel. We have another 5 days here and it definitely is an issue…..haven’t had this problem other Chinese cities. It will deter me from coming here again.

    1. Eric says:

      Yes, I’ve had this problem also. It happens in some areas more than in others. It can help sometimes to walk a few meters, away from popular pickup spots and to flag taxis down the road instead of asking those waiting for customers.

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