14 Tourist Scams in Thailand that You Should Be Careful about
You’d probably heard about Thailand as tourist paradise that can give you anything, but don’t forget about the many tourist scams in Thailand too.
Sure, Thailand can be a paradise for tourists, but it doesn’t mean that all of the locals are honest. Some of them are shady and may target tourists to earn money, so always have your guards up and never let it down.
Because Thailand is considered one of the world’s best tourist destinations (with all of their islands and places of attractions), it isn’t surprising if such scams are flourishing.
After all, there are always people trying to get money the easy way. You shouldn’t worry about coming to this country, really.
As long as you are careful and you easily trust anyone (or anything), then you should be okay. I have been there several months and not falling to a single scam.
If you know how to spot these scams, avoiding them is pretty easy.
Let’s say that you want to go to the Grand Palace, so you hail a taxi or even a tuk-tuk to take you there.
But when you are close to the place, the driver suddenly says that it is closed for a ceremony or something, leaving you clueless.
There you are, with a plan of spending the whole day at the spot and not it is closed. Now you don’t really know where to go.
Then the driver offers you to take you elsewhere and you don’t have to pay a lot of money for his service. In the end, you may end up in a place that you don’t really want to visit or see, or buy souvenirs that you don’t want to buy.
And it is also likely that you will have to pay more for the driver for taking you there despite their claim that you won’t be spending a lot of money.
First of all, this is one of the most common tourist scams in Thailand. It can happen to everyone, involving different places of interests, such as the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, or other places.
Although it is possible that the Grand Palace is closed for a ceremony, it’s not happening very often. So, when a taxi or tuk-tuk driver says that it is closed, demand them to drop you off.
Tell them that you are about check it on your own. Never take their offer to take you elsewhere. Simply drop off and check.
If the place so happens to close, then you can explore the area around calmly and hail another tuk-tuk or taxi. If the place doesn’t close, well…at least you are free from being tricked and scammed.
The point it: remain calm and don’t easily get frustrated. Remember, you are on a holiday and you are supposed to enjoy every moment.
So, relax and enjoy everything. Whatever you do, DON’T accept their offer and go elsewhere.
You will only end up losing more money and missing one of the best explorations in this country.
Broken Meter (on Taxi)
It can be quite difficult to find a taxi with an honest driver
because they have so many tricks on their sleeves. First of all, when you hail a taxi, they may pull over.
But when you say that you want to use the meter, they may say that it is broken so both of you need to negotiate. Feel free to negotiate if you believe in your negotiating skills.
Don’t forget to record the process, so you can have a proof when things go wrong. And don’t forget to record the ID and plate number of the taxi.
Make sure that you have reached an agreement of a certain amount before you get into the taxi. And make sure that the driver agrees to the amount and clearly states that in your record.
The second one is the driver may agree on using the meter, but once you get inside and drive, you notice that the meter runs super fast.
If this is the case, record the suspicious movement of the meter and then get off. Don’t continue your trip with that shady driver.
Whatever you do, don’t get into a taxi before negotiating (about the price, about the destination). Not every driver would agree on your destination.
If you already hop into the taxi and you state your destination, and he doesn’t agree on it, he can demand an exorbitant rate for the trip. It would be your lost.
It is also a good idea to use online taxi service like Grab. Most drivers would be straightforward from the beginning. The online service can be an ideal option than the regular taxi service.
Expensive Bills at a Bar
The scheme usually involves innocent and unsuspecting tourists
being lured to shady bars – which are usually upstairs and dingy.
They are usually promised by promoters to get free shows (like the ping-pong shows) and cheap drinks. If you follow the promoters to the appointed bars, don’t be too surprised if you are charged a very expensive bill.
It turns out that the shows aren’t free at all and the drinks are far from being cheap. You want to confront the promoters? Forget it; they are already gone and nowhere to be seen.
If you want to avoid such a scam, go to bars that are open and can be seen from the street. There are actually a lot of bars like this – and they are mostly reputable.
Avoid bars that are hidden away or dingy – no matter how good the offer is. Choose bars on the ground floor or the ones that are open – preferably facing the street or the busy road.
Another method is to avoid such offer altogether. When someone approaches you, simply say ‘no, thanks’ and walk away.
If you are interested and then you see that the bars are located in hidden spots, just walk away. You still have your chance to go as far as you can.
Fake Tourism Staffs or Officials
This one of the most common tourist scams in Thailand
usually happens when you are trying to get a trip by a bus or a train.
If someone approaches you, claiming that he/she is an official from Thailand’s Tourism Authority, keep your guards up.
They may tell you that the trip or train or bus that you want is fully booked, but then they offer you another alternative with very low discounted price. Say no and keep on walking.
Never fall to such a trick. Tourism officials don’t have any shops selling to tourists because they are government workers.
They don’t need to make any extra money since they are paid by the country. Just keep on looking for a trip that you want – don’t easily trust anyone’s words.
Not many tourists would be familiar with Thai baht,
so make sure that you know all of their bills – from 20 baht to 1000 baht.
And be sure to know the small changes to, from 1 baht to 10 baht. Familiarize yourself with the bills, the colors, and the images.
If you have just arrived in Thailand, it’s best to go to reputable and authorized currency exchange service. You can find them at the airport.
Don’t trade your money with someone you see on the street, no matter how promising the rate it.
The rate is too-good-to-be-true because they are going to give you fake money.
It’s better to go to the reputable exchange only and not elsewhere.
The Wrong Change
The best way to get smaller changes is to go to minimarkets or convenience stores.
They usually have enough changes. Let’s say that you buy something that is worth 120 baht.
You can pay for 500 or 1000 baht and expect them to give exact smaller changes. You can use those smaller changes to pay for your other purchases – such as souvenirs, street snacks, etc.
Keep in mind that most establishments only accept cash, so always make sure to have cash handy.
Only hotels or big restaurants accept debit or credit card – and not all of them would accept cards.
If you want to pay for a service like buying street snacks, paying for the bus, or paying the tuk-tuk, make sure to pay in smaller bills.
Aside from the fact that they may have enough change for you, the possibility of wrong change would be bigger if you pay them with big bills.
If you want to have a tailored shirt or suit while in Bangkok,
make sure to do it at a reputable establishment. Don’t go to just about tailor places that you can find, especially the ones in shady and hidden spots.
If a tuk-tuk or taxi driver asks you whether you want to have a suit tailored, then simply say no. They are often commissioned by the tailors (the not so reputable ones) to bring customers to them.
If you come to these places, there are many possibility of scams to deal with. It’s most likely that they will charge you high for a product that is low in quality – totally not worth it.
So, if you want to escape this one of the tourist scams in Thailand, make sure to do your research carefully. Don’t easily trust anyone, especially not a tuk-tuk or taxi driver.
This is almost similar to the tailor tricks where you ask a taxi or tuk-tuk driver’s suggestion.
There are several schemes for this scam. First of all, you may want to go to a shopping mall or a gem market, and then the driver would appoint you to a store that they claim to be their friend.
When you get there, you will be shown the gems that are claimed to be the best and the most precious. Then you are offered low prices and they claim that you can sell those gems again in higher prices.
Well, don’t easily fall on this because it is highly likely that those gems are worthless.
Second, your tuk-tuk driver may say that your destined shopping mall is closed or something like that, and then take you elsewhere. And in this place, you may be offered beautiful gems (which are actually worthless).
Or you may be pressured to buy those gems. If you are already involved in this situation, it’s better not to buy anything.
Remember, you aren’t obligated to buy anything even though you may be pressured to do so. If you haven’t been involved in such a situation, it’s better to avoid it.
Once the driver says that the place is closed, ask them to drop you off at the nearest shopping area. Just say that you want to explore the area on your own.
If the driver offers to drive you to their friend’s place or gem store, just say no. Go to the shopping mall or center. Avoid quiet places.
If they don’t want to take you there, just get off. They don’t deserve your time or your energy.
When you want to rent a motorbike, always go to the reputable ones.
If they demand you to leave your passport instead of the copy, walk away.
They are up to no good. If the rental company reasons that they are doing it for security reason, they can always demand for a deposit instead of a passport.
Moreover, always check the condition of the bike before signing anything. Check whether the bike has any defect or damage.
Make sure that it runs (the bike, the lights, the horn, the brakes, etc). Record it while performing the checking. You don’t want having to pay for a repair cost that you didn’t do. And after you rent it, have an extra lock or something like that.
Whenever you leave the bike, you are sure that it is securely safe and protected. In some cases, the rental company may work together with other people to ‘steal’ the bike. So, when it is lost, you will have to replace it and end up paying a fortune.
Check the contract too. Make sure to read all the terms carefully and thoroughly. If any of the term hurts your rights, then you may want to re-think about using the company as your rental service.
In short, never leave your passport or any other valuable documents. Don’t sign the contract before you read it thoroughly.
And always check the condition of the bike while recording it. It will give you a solid proof in case something happens.
Bracelet or Bird Seed
The scam usually involves someone approaches you and suddenly takes your hand.
Before you know it, they have a bracelet around the wrist or put bird seeds into your palm.
Returning them would be impossible. You need to break the bracelet. You may spill the bird seeds when you want to return them.
They then demand money – and a lot of it, considering that the bird seeds or the bracelet is actually worthless.
The best way to avoid this one of the tourist scams in Thailand is not to get involved at all. You should be able to spot someone approaching you. Never let them take your hands.
If someone approaches you, don’t stop. Just walk past by and ignore them. This is not the best time to be courteous, so don’t worry if they consider you rude.
Sometimes, a bit of rudeness can help you save up money.
Jet Ski Scam
This scheme is similar to the motorbike scam.
Not only the schemes are probably the same, but the ways to avoid the scam are similar to the motorbike scam.
Whenever you rent something, always check the condition before signing the rental contract.
You don’t want to be blamed for the things that you didn’t do and having to pay for the damages that you didn’t make.
Someone may spill a liquid that looks like a bird poo on your jacket or shirt,
and then another person will tell you and try to help you clean it up.
While you are being distracted and be thankful of the good Samaritan, others may try to steal your valuable, such as wallets or bags.
First of all, keep your guards up at all time. Don’t let anyone distract you; let alone come close to you. In the event that someone tells you that you have a bird poo, move away from a crowd place and look for a corner where you can be on your own and clean up all by yourself.
But choose not too quiet place – just to step away from the crowd. If someone is adamant in trying to help you clean up, simply push him/her away.
Don’t let strangers come near you. And after you are able to get into the corner, check your belongings.
You need to have hidden wallet or hidden compartment in your pants or shirts or even in your underwear. Use only small changes in your wallet and keep the bigger bills in hidden compartments.
A hidden pocket in the shoes or the hat would be ideal. Make sure to keep the passport in a safe place or anti-theft bag. It doesn’t hurt to have theft insurance too.
Be careful if you are interested in having black henna.
Some places may offer the service. You spend money (which is quite a lot) for the claimed high quality henna.
But the henna isn’t made from the regular henna plant. The fake henna would be made from PPD or chemical Paraphenylenediamine which is actually used as a hair dye.
In most cases, the fake henna will create allergic reactions and chemical burns whose symptoms will appear after several weeks.
You will suffer from allergic reactions and you lose money too. Be careful of places like Patong Beach in Phuket or Khao San Road in Bangkok.
The best way is to avoid it, especially if the place is shady and not convincing.
The real henna isn’t black per se, but it is more like orange brown in natural color.
So be careful if you are about to get the henna. If the offer is too-good-to-be-true, always trust your guts.
Asiatique is a center of attractions in Bangkok.
You can reach it by land (with a taxi) or by water (with a boat from and to Saphan Taksin).
Generally, there are free boat services and the paid ones. But to get the free boats, you will have to deal with the long lines.
The paid boat services don’t have long lines as the free ones. Be aware of anyone trying to sell you tickets for as low as 30 baht.
There is no such a thing – the ticket costs more than 30 baht. If you are offered the ticket, simply say no and stay on your line on the free services.
The same thing also happens to the taxi service. Be aware of taxi drivers offering you low price. You may end up having to pay extra for their service.
I found out that using the boat is quite convenient – that is, if you aren’t in a hurry. While in Asiatique, be aware of scammer who pretends to be a restaurant staff. He/she may offer you help to order the food, often time offering discounted price if you pay them right away.
There is no such a thing as ordering staff. Avoid anyone trying to buy you food or souvenir. By the time they get your money, they will be out of your sight right away.
Asiatique is a fun place – taking memorable pictures is definitely advisable if you are coming to this spot. But it can also be a paradise for scammers targeting unsuspecting and innocent tourists.
Always ask for the price if you are about to eat in Asiatique. Ask for the menu, and the menu should have the price list.
Don’t trust anyone to order you anything, including buying you the cabaret show.
Those are some of the most common scams to find in Thailand.
The country itself is quite fun to explore and roam – and it can be enjoyable if you know how to spot (and avoid) tourist scams in Thailand.