Beware of the Tea House Scam in China!

Before I go into detail about the tea house scam that is popular in China, I want to make it very clear that this post in no way suggests or encourages you not to visit China just because there is a chance of being scammed. You can be scammed in any city in any country.

China is an amazing country with a long, rich history and culture. It should be considered as a travel destination for any traveller who is looking to explore a new region and experience a unique culture.

The tea house scam is quite popular in China, but you will be able to avoid it once you know about it! Please don’t let this scam deter you from visiting China. You simply have to be diligent and aware of your surroundings!

What Exactly is the Tea House Scam?

The tea house scam is an incredibly popular scam that is most prevalent in Beijing and Shanghai.

You are approached by a young person (or two) saying they either want to practice their English or are a student who is practicing their English. You are likely to be approached by either one young man or two young women.

The people who approach you will be incredibly friendly and charismatic, which makes it difficult to say no to helping them practice their English. It seems like an innocent enough request and a great way to meet locals and learn about their experiences in China.

Once you agree to helping them with their English, they will suggest going to get tea. They take you to a cafe of their choosing and order tea and/or soda without showing you the menu or prices. The owners of the cafe are in cahoots with the people you’re with, and they inflate the prices on the bill.

Your new friends will keep ordering drinks and being friendly. When the bill comes, they will either ask you to pay or say they will pay half the bill.

The bill will be hundreds of dollars.

If you’re new to China and don’t know what things should cost or the exchange rate, you could easily pay the bill without realizing how much it actually cost.

Your new friends will get a cut of the extra money you paid. The cafe and the scammers profit off of you.

Beijing China Tea House Scam

Everything You Need to Know About the Tea House Scam

Once you know about the tea house scam, it is really easy to avoid. You can recognize the signs and be able to identify who may be trying to scam you.

Where is the Tea House Scam Most Popular?

Knowing where the tea house scam is most popular will help you be aware in certain parts of China. The two cities this scam is most popular in are, unsurprisingly, Beijing and Shanghai.

In Beijing, Wangfujing (the main shopping street) and Tiananmen Square are the two places you will most likely encounter tea house scammers.

In Shanghai, Nanjing Road (the main shopping area) is the most popular place for this scam to take place.

How Does the Tea House Scam Work?

You will normally be approached by one or more locals saying that they are learning and ask if they can practice their English with you. Sometimes people they are a student when they approach you.

A solo traveller will normally be approached by a single scammer, and a group of travellers will normally be approached by two people. In my case, I was a solo female traveller who was approached by two young women asking if they could practice their English with me.

After you agree to help them practice their English, they will take you to a cafe and start ordering tea and pop without letting you look at the menu. The drinks arrive, and you start chatting. You have a great time and enjoy speaking with the locals.

Then the bills comes, and it is outrageously expensive. Literally hundreds of dollars for a pot of tea and a pop or two.

And that is when you realize that these lovely locals aren’t your friends at all and actually scammed you.

What to do After You Realize You’ve Been Scammed

There are number of things you can do once you realize you’ve been scammed.

If you realize before you pay, you can refuse to pay. However, you will most likely be met with resistance. A credit card reader will be brought if you say you don’t have enough cash, and the entrance will be blocked by a staff member if you claim you don’t have a card.

You can try bargaining with the cafe staff. You can offer to pay for the actual cost of the tea that you have consumed rather than the inflated, scam price. This way the cafe still covers their expenses, and you don’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a pot of tea. I’ve heard a few people say that this has worked for them, but it isn’t a guarantee.

Beijing China Temple of Heaven

Can You go to the Police After You’ve Been Scammed?

You try to negotiate with the cafe staff, but they don’t accept your offer. You end up paying the full amount of the original, scam bill for one reason or another. What now? A lot of people think going to the police will help you get your money back.

That’s what I did, and it worked for me. But I’ve read a lot of stories on the internet saying that the police don’t help. It could be because they are aware of the scam and get a cut from the tea houses. That’s one theory that has been thrown around, but there is no way to know whether that is true or not.

It appears that the Shanghai police are more willing to help tourists than the police in Beijing, but who knows. The police in Beijing helped me get my money back (I was scammed out of $800 my first night in Beijing when I was severely jet legged and wasn’t aware of the exchange rate or how much I was paying for some tea and pop).

I guess the takeaway should be that the police will potentially help you, but it is better to not get into a situation where you need their help.

How to Tell What Locals Genuinely Want to Talk with You and What Locals are Looking to Scam You

One inevitability for (white) tourists in China is that people are going to approach you to take pictures, etc.

The truth is that most people that approach you in China are kind and don’t want to scam you.

There are some warning signs to look out for that will help you recognize the scammers:

  • People who approach you within a tourist sight that has an entrance fee normally aren’t scammers. Scammers tend to hang out in free tourist sights (as listed above).
  • Scammers will insist you go to for tea even if you suggest something else. They also make you go to a cafe they suggest because the cafe staff is a part of the scam.
  • Most Chinese locals will take a picture with you and a have a brief interaction with you then move on with their day. The scammers tend to hang around longer and are more aggressive in trying to get your attention.
  • Scammers tend to say they are from a different city, but they have a suspiciously in depth knowledge of the city you are in.
Tiananmen Square Beijing China

Of course these are only generalizations. There are locals who want to speak with you and practice their English without scamming you. There are ways you can still take precautions and ensure you aren’t being scammed.

The best way to test whether someone wants to speak with you versus scam you is to suggest your own tea house.

You suggest a different cafe you want to try. If they agree, they probably aren’t trying to scam you. A scammer will insist that you go to the cafe they suggest. There really is no better test.

Conclusion

The tea house scam is something you have to be aware of , but you shouldn’t let it stop you from visiting China. The scam is very easy to detect and avoid.

You simply have to know that the scam exists, where it is most common, and how to recognize it. It is so easy to avoid once you are knowledgable of it. It is also easy to test whether someone who approaches you is genuine or not. Meeting locals is a great travel experience, so you shouldn’t be too weary of it. Just make sure they aren’t scammers!

I recommend you share this information with anybody you know visiting China.

The more people who know about the scam, the fewer people scammers can take advantage of and the less money they make.

The Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

Shanghai Disneyland is the newest Disney park in the world. It is the only Disney park in mainland China. Planning a Shanghai Disneyland trip can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. This guide gives you all the information you need to make your Shanghai Disneyland trip magical.

Chinese Visa

The first thing you need to know when planning a Shanghai Disneyland trip is whether you need a visa to be allowed entry into China or not. Most people are required to have a visa. If you are a citizen of one of these 53 countries, you are able to enter China visa-free and stay for 144 hours. That is the equivalent of 6 days.

You have to fly into certain airports to be eligible to stay for 144 hours. If you land at an illegible airport, you will only have 72-hours visa-free.

People that are not citizens of the 53 eligible countries are required to apply for and receive a Chinese visa before they land in China. You need to check with your consulate to see what the visa requirements are. The requirements are different for each country, so make sure you do your research before applying.

I always recommend getting a visa before you arrive in China because it makes the entry process much smoother. Check out my 20 Things to Know Before You Visit China post to learn more about why I suggest having a visa before arriving in China.

How to Get to Shanghai Disneyland

You should fly into Pudong airport in Shanghai. This will give you the easiest commute to Shanghai Disneyland.

Taking a Taxi

If you want the easiest and quickest commute, you should take a taxi. Taxis from Pudong to Shanghai are relatively inexpensive. The ride should cost you between $15-25USD. The ride should take approximately 35-40 minutes depending on traffic.

You can get a taxi at the airport. You need to have the address of where you’re staying written in Chinese characters to show your driver. Your driver will probably not be able to understand where you want to go if the address is written in English.

Taking the Metro

It will take you about 2 hours to get it Shanghai Disneyland if you take public transportation.

You start by taking Line 2 on the metro for 4 stops. Get off at Chuanshan Road Station and take exit 2. Next you get onto bus 50 for 7 stops and get off at Beifu Road Station at Guanghuang Road.

You will be at Shanghai Disneyland after you get off the bus. You can either walk to Shanghai Disneyland or the Shanghai Disneyland shuttle bus.

I recommend you take a taxi. It is way easier and doesn’t cost much more than taking public transportation.

From Shanghai

If you are travelling to Shanghai Disneyland from Shanghai rather than the airport, you need to take metro line 11 to the last stop. You need to figure out how to get to line 11 from wherever you are staying. You will probably need to transfer once or twice, but once you’re on line 11, you ride it all the way to the end. After you get off the metro, you can either walk or take the shuttle bus after you get off the metro.

Shanghai Disneyland Shanghai China Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

Where to Stay During Your Shanghai Disneyland Trip

On Shanghai Disneyland Property

I always recommend staying at a Shanghai Disneyland hotel. You can stay at either Toy Story Hotel or Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. The Toy Story Hotel is the less expensive option, and the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel is the expensive option.

Staying on property during your Shanghai Disneyland trip comes with a lot of advantages and conveniences. It will cut down on your commute time and allow you to get extra sleep, which might be the best benefit of all.

Benefits of Staying at a Shanghai Disneyland Hotel

  • Free transportation from the park to the hotel and back
  • Exclusive hotel guest only entrance
  • Can pre-book fastpasses
  • Guaranteed entrance even on busy days
  • Disney-level guest service
  • Cute Disney in-room souvenirs to take home

Staying Off Disney Property

You should book a hotel along metro line 11 or bus 50’s route if you are not staying on Disney property. This will make your commute to and from the park easy because you will not have to transfer lines.

There are not many hotels along metro line 11 near Shanghai Disneyland because the area is newly developed. You will have a fairly long commute if you choose to stay off property. It can take 45-60 minutes to get to Shanghai Disneyland from many hotels.

You need to give yourself extra time to get to the parks if you are taking the metro because it is a long walk from the metro exit to the park.

You will also be standing in the general entrance line, which is normally really long. If you are standing in the general entrance, you need to arrive at the park at least 1 hour early. This will give you enough time to get through security and be one of the first into the park.

Hotels with Public Transportation to Shanghai Disneyland

Tickets

You can purchase either 1 or 2 day tickets for your Shanghai Disneyland trip. You need to purchase a 2 day and a 1 day ticket if you want to spend three days in the park. It is inconvenient, but Shanghai Disneyland is still a new park and is still figuring everything out.

You can also purchase an annual pass if you are planning to visit the park multiple times during the year. There are multiple types of annual passes that cost varying amounts of money. You have to purchase an annual pass either through the official Shanghai Disneyland WeChat or at the entrance to the park.

If You’re Staying on Property

I recommend purchasing your ticket directly through Shanghai Disneyland if you are staying at a Disney hotel. You can purchase it either when you are booking your hotel or when you arrive at the hotel. You need to purchase your tickets directly though Disney in order to use some of the benefits like the exclusive hotel guest entrance.

If You’re Not Staying on Property

I still recommend buying tickets directly through Disney if you aren’t staying on property. This will ensure you are getting legitimate tickets and not counterfeit tickets.

If you choose to purchase discount tickets from someone other than Disney, do your research to ensure it is a reputable company.

Klook is one site that sells discounted Shanghai Disneyland tickets. I have never used this company, but TDRExplorer the ultimate guru on all Asian Disney parks recommends them, so they must be reputable.

Shanghai Disneyland Shanghai China Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

How Many Days in the Park

You need at least 2 days at Shanghai Disneyland to experience everything. If you’re a huge Disney fan, you will want to spend 3 days in the park.

You will be able to experience nearly everything and ride your favourite attractions multiple times in 2 days. Having 3 days will allow you to take your time as you explore.

Shanghai Disneyland App

You need to download the Shanghai Disneyland app before you enter the parks.

You can make fastness reservations and check wait times directly from the app, so it is extremely useful. In order to make fastpass reservations, you need to scan the ticket of everybody in your party after everybody enters the park. When all the tickets are scanned, you are able to make fastpass reservations for everybody in your party from a single phone.

The app is a must-have item on your Shanghai Disneyland trip. It helps you maximize your time and plan your day.

What to See and Do

You will have lots to see and do on your Shanghai Disneyland trip. The park isn’t huge, but it has a number of unique attractions and shows that you don’t want to miss.

The lines are often long- especially in the afternoon. You should get to the park right when it opens to make the most of your time. The afternoon is a great time to go to shows, meet characters, or explore Disney Town while the lines for attractions are long.

Must-Do Attractions

  • Tron Lightcycle Power Run: You will want to ride this multiple times because it is amazing!
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: This ride uses new technology and is incredible.
  • Seven Dwarves Mine Train: it is the same as the Magic Kingdom version but still a great attraction for the entire family.
  • Soaring Over the Horizon: This is also identical to the versions in Disney California Adventure and Epcot, but it is still a fan favourite.
  • Voyage to the Crystal Grotto: This is a boat ride that takes your through a number of fairytales and through the castle.
  • Once Upon a Time Adventure: This is a walk-through attraction that lets you go up the castle.
  • Camp Discovery: These are obstacle courses of varying degrees of difficulty.
Shanghai Disneyland Tron Shanghai China Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

Characters to Meet

There are a lot of characters to meet while on your Shanghai Disneyland trip. Most of the characters you can meet can be found in other Disney parks around the world, but there are a couple that are unique.

Mickey

You can meet Mickey in his Shanghai outfit. This is a unique meeting, and Mickey looks super handsome in his blue jacket and gold shoes. You should definitely make the time to meet Mickey while on your Shanghai Disneyland trip. His line gets long, so you should try to meet him in the morning.

Mickey Mouse Shanghai Disneyland Shanghai China Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

Star Wars

You can meet a number of Star Wars characters at Shanghai Disneyland. They are located in the Star Wars Launch Bay near Tomorrowland. The Star Wars characters normally have a short wait, so they are perfect to meet when the park is busy.

Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, and a number of droids are all waiting for you to meet them. There are even a number of interactive things to do in the Star Wars Launch Bay.

Marvel

You can meet Spider-Man and Captain America from the Marvel Universe. They are located in a pavilion near Star Wars Launch Bay, so you can see characters from 2 of the most iconic franchises of all time one after the other.

The Marvel characters tend to be busier than the Star Wars characters, so be sure to check your app to see how long the wait is.

Happy Circle

Happy Circle is located in Adventure Isle near Soaring Over the Horizon. You are able to meet more obscure jungle/animal characters here. There is hardly ever a wait, so it is a great place to go during peak hours.

Nick and Judy from Zootopia, Rafiki from the Lion King, and King Louis from the Jungle Book are frequent characters that are greeting guests. This is a great location for Disney fans that are wanting to meet characters that are more difficult to find in the US parks.

Woody and Jessie from Toy Story

Toy Story Land was the first Shanghai Disneyland extension. It has 3 attractions as well as a place to meet Woody and Jessie.

You can also meet the characters from Toy Story if you’re staying at the Toy Story Hotel. The characters roam around the lobby area throughout the day. Check with the concierge if you want to know when they will be out and about meeting guests.

The Princesses

What would a Shanghai Disneyland trip be without meeting a Disney princess or two? You can meet the princesses at the back of the castle. Different princesses meet at different times during the day, so you will have to go by the line to see who is meeting guests.

The line to meet princesses is always long. From park open to park close, there is always a line. You aren’t able to get a fastpass to meet them either.

If you want to meet the princesses, you should check the app to see how long their line is. Normally first thing in the morning and at the end of the night are when the lines are the shortest.

The princesses are not in any special outfits, so it you have already met them in other parks, it may not be the best use of your time to wait to meet them on your Shanghai Disneyland trip.

Characters on Mickey Avenue

Mickey Avenue is the equivalent of Main Street in other Disney parks. It is the part of the park that you first see when you enter through the main guest entrance. If you enter through the hotel guest entrance, you will be entering the park near Tomorrowland and will not see Mickey Avenue when you walk in.

Mickey Avenue is where you will be able to meet your favourite classic Disney characters like Minnie, Donald, Chip ‘n’ Dale, and Goofy. They meet at varying times throughout the day, so check your app or guide map to see when they greet guests.

The lines on Mickey Avenue can be long or short depending on the time of day and how busy the park is. If the character you want to meet has a long time, find something else to do for 30-60 minutes then go back to meet that character. The line should be shorter by then.

The classic Disney characters normally wear their standard costumes; however, during special times of the year like Easter, Christmas, and Lunar New Year, they wear special costumes. Getting a picture with your favourite character is a special outfit is an amazing memory.

Shanghai Disneyland Shanghai China Chip 'n' Dale Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

Shows and Entertainment

There are a number of shows and entertainment you can enjoy on your Shanghai Disneyland trip. Most of the shows are unique to Shanghai Disneyland, and you won’t be able to see them anywhere else.

Shanghai Disneyland Shows and Entertainment Options

  • Songs of Arbori: A 15 minute dance show
  • Tarzan Call of the Jungle: An acrobatic show and my personal favourite entertainment at Shanghai Disneyland
  • Frozen A Sing-Along Celebration: The most popular show
  • Baymax Super Exercise Expo: A exercise show for children lead by Baymax from Big Hero 6
  • Eye of the Storm Captain Jack Stunt Show Spectacular: I have never seen this show but have hear you stand for most of it, so it isn’t a good option if you are looking to rest your feet.
  • Fantasy Festival: A castle stage show featuring all your favourite characters
  • Tai Chi with Characters: Chip ‘n’ Dale lead guests through Tai Chi

The Parade

The parade in Shanghai Disneyland is called Mickey’s Storybook Express. It takes place at 12pm and 3:30pm most days, and it is 14 minutes long.

It starts by Toy Story Land, goes by Tomorrowland, around the castle by the Gardens of Imagination, and ends between Treasure Cove and Fantasyland.

You can normally get a good viewing location 5-10 minutes before the parade starts. The best place to get a last-minute viewing location is in Tomorrowland.

The parade has catchy music and a couple good floats, but it isn’t a great Disney parade. It certainly isn’t worth staking out a spot and waiting an hour to see. It is worth seeing if you are able to get a decent last-minute viewing spot though.

Shanghai Disneyland Parade Shanghai China Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

The Nighttime Show

The Shanghai Disneyland nighttime show is called Ignite the Dream, and it is 20 minutes long. It is a castle projection show that also has fireworks. It is a pretty good show all things considered.

Unlike the parade, the nighttime show is extremely popular, and you need to get a viewing spot early. I have seen people saving a spot 2 hours before the show began.

You should try to get a spot near the Gardens of Imagination. The nighttime show projects images onto the castle, so you want to have a good view of the castle. The further back you are, the more likely it is that you will have an obstructed view of the show.

Where to Eat

Your Shanghai Disneyland trip would not be complete without trying all the great snacks and meals the park has to offer. Many of the restaurants inside the park have a heavy Asian influence, but trying new foods will make your Shanghai Disneyland trip unforgettable.

Inside Shanghai Disneyland

Remy’s Patisserie is the best place to get breakfast. It has lots of delicious pastries to choose from. Most of the pastries are shaped like Disney characters, so they are delicious and cute. My favourite is the Mike Wazowski bun (I think is better than the Tokyo Disneyland version).

There are lots of great quick service restaurants to choose from in Shanghai Disneyland. Mickey and Pals Market Cafe is one of the most popular locations. It offers a variety of dishes including rice bowls, noodle bowls, chicken, and ribs.

If you’re looking for a unique place to eat lunch, go to the Royal Banquet Hall. You get to eat inside the castle and meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy in their royal outfits.

The best place to grab a sweet snack is Il Paperino. This is the only place in the world you can get Donald waffles rather than Mickey waffles! This location also serves a variety of ice cream treats and sweet pastries.

Shanghai Disneyland Food Shanghai China Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

In Disney Town

Disney Town is Shanghai Disneyland’s version of Downtown Disney or Disney Springs. It is a shopping and restaurant destination that is steps away from the park. It should definitely be on your must-do list for your Shanghai Disneyland trip.

Disney Town is where you are going to find more Western options. Most of the restaurants inside the park are Asian, but there are a couple of sit down restaurants in Disney Town that have classic American food.

My personal favourite is the Cheesecake Factory, but there is also a Wolf Gang Puck Kitchen & Bar. Both of these locations are normally busy, so you should try to eat during off-peak hours to cut down on your wait time.

There is a Starbucks in Disney Town, so if you are craving Starbucks during your Shanghai Disneyland trip, that is where you can find it.

There is a bakery in Disney Town located adjacent to the World of Disney store that sells great baked goods. The green tea cake pop is amazing, so you be sure to check it out if you have a sweet tooth.

Souvenirs to Buy

No Shanghai Disneyland trip is complete without purchasing a few Disney souvenirs to remember your trip by.

A lot of the merchandise at Shanghai Disneyland is standard and can be found at any park around the world; however, there is lots of merchandise exclusive to Shanghai Disneyland as well.

The merchandise at Shanghai Disneyland costs roughly the same as it does in every other Disney park, so I recommend only purchasing items that are exclusive to Shanghai Disneyland.

You can determine what is exclusive to Shanghai Disneyland by looking at the tag. If it exclusive to Shanghai, it should be marked on the tag and easily identifiable.

All the merchandise that is branded with the Shanghai Disneyland logo is exclusive. It is normally easy to tell what items are exclusive to Shanghai Disneyland because they tend to look more traditionally Chinese than the other merchandise.

Shanghai Disneyland Souvenirs Shanghai China Ultimate Shanghai Disneyland Trip Guide

Language Challenges

A lot of people are concerned that there is going to be a language barrier during their Shanghai Disneyland trip. This isn’t the case at all.

Many cast members speak English, and the ones that don’t will find an English-speaking cast member to assist you when you need help.

The signs are all in English as well as Mandarin, so you will be able to identify what the restaurants, attractions, and stores are easily. At quick-service restaurants, there are pictures of the food as well as English menus the cast members can give you. There are English menus at all sit-down restaurants. You will never have a problem ordering food at a restaurants during your Shanghai Disneyland trip.

There are also English guide maps you can get. You normally have to ask a cast member for one when you enter the park, but you will be able to get a map you can read.

The shows and attractions are in Mandarin, but you will still be able to enjoy the show or attraction even if you don’t understand what is being said. You will be able to understand what is going on by the context and visual effects.

All in all not being able to communicate or understand cast members is not something you should be concerned about when planning your Shanghai Disneyland trip. It isn’t much different than going to any other international park where English is not the first language.

Travel Insurance

Shanghai Disneyland is all fun and games until someone gets hurt. While it is unlikely that you will get hurt, you should always purchase travel insurance rel=”nofollow” when you travel.

Travel insurance is essential if you fall ill in another country, but it also covers you for unexpected things like toothaches, lost baggage, and having to cancel your trip before you leave because you’re sick.

It is an inexpensive investment that you hope you never need to use but are always happy to have if you ever need it.

Conclusion

Shanghai Disneyland is on of the most unique Disney parks in the world. It has lots of unique attractions and experiences as well as a lot of local, Chinese theming that cannot be found in any other Disney park in the world.

A Shanghai Disneyland trip should be on every Disney lover’s bucket list. Casual Disney fans will love it too! I have been to every Disney park in the world, and Shanghai Disneyland is my favourite park. I promise you won’t regret your Shanghai Disneyland trip and will want to go back again and again after you experience it!