The Ultimate Newbie Guide to Thailand

Scams and Dangers in Thailand 

When traveling to a third world or poor country the chance that one may be subject scams is a reason for concern and so is exposure to dangerous situations.

This section will address some of these issues, but before one gets alarmed it is important to note that Thailand is generally a very safe country to travel in and although one may easily be subject to scams most scams are either completely preventable or not of a significant cost. Sometimes, what may appear to be, a scam may indeed not be one. An example would be what a Thai person is charge versus a westerner. Thailand does practice a dual pricing systems which may mean that the Thai can enter an attraction for less money and when haggling over a purchase the Thai may get a better price. When traveling to a third world or a poor country the chances are that one may be subject to scams or attempted scams of many kinds. There is a reason to be concerned and also, there is potential exposure to dangerous situations. Keep your wits about you at all times. This section will address some of these issues, but before you get overly alarmed note that Thailand is generally considered a very safe country to travel to. Although one may easily be subject to scams most of them are easily prevented. Others and smaller scams do not carry a risk of any real loss of money and so are not a significant worry. Sometimes, what may appear to be a scam may indeed turn out not to be one. An example of this is when a Thai person is charge less than you for entrance to some national parks or interesting tourist attractions. There is a rule that says some such things are more expensive for foreigners. Secondly, Thais are adept at bargaining for a lower price. Thus a Thai may often get things cheaper when haggling over a purchase. Serious travelers do not let stuff like this spoil their day. However, there are other things to be very careful about, as was mentioned above.

Jet-skis: One of the biggest scams in Thailand and likely the most expensive. You will rent a jet ski for some time and invariably you will be presented with damaged you have done and a demand for, say, 40,000 baht. Calling the police will only add one more stake holder to the settlement. Maybe the officer will make it look more official and legit when he negotiate a slight reduction. Remember the officer could advise you that failure to pay equals going to jail. There is only one good advise concerning jet ski rental: DON'T DO IT!!!. Do a Google search for Jet Ski Scams in Thailand and see how many results you get. There will even be several YouTube videos.

Jewelry and Money: Leave you gold, diamonds and fancy watch at home or in the hotel safe. Carry only as much money as necessary and if it is necessary to carry more than a couple of thousand baht, put excess money in a different pocket. Getting robbed is extremely rare in case of people who don’t look like they are loaded with money. However, nice jewelry can be a magnet that attracts thieves and crooks.

Be vigilant and use Common Sense
: In this sense Thailand is no different than any other traveling destination you are not familiar with. Stay away from areas that are poorly lit at night, whether that be the beach or certain streets. In Pattaya and Phuket/Patong simply walking on the inland side of Beach Road after dark is a lot safer. If you are going places at night then use a taxi. The small extra amount of money you spend on taxis at night is cheaper that being at risk of getting robbed or stolen from. A taxi will seldom charge over a 100 baht for shorter distances. Thought Phuket may be an exception as to the customary charges for a taxi ride the extra expense may still be a wise choice late at night.

Agree to the Price Before Receiving the Service
: Whatever service want to get, always ask About the price first. Transportation is a good example, have the driver agree to the fare before getting in. In case of taking a taxi in Bangkok, the so-called Taxi-Meter, make sure that the meter is turned on, ALWAYS. Otherwise, the driver thinks he is justified in overcharging you.

Attraction Closed: You are approaching some tourist attraction such as the Grand Palace or Wat Pho in Bangkok and a kindly man asks you this is the place you are going to. If you stop and talk with him, he will tell you that the place is now closed for 2 hours because of official government business or any similar reason. He will then tell you that while you wait for the place to open, he will take you in a tuk-tuk (a three wheel taxi) to a 40-food famous “Big Buddha Temple” or “Lucky Buddha Temple” and also to a genuine “government” fashion show for just 30 baht. If you go with him, he will then show you a temple But also several Indian tailoring shops. Then, you will magically meet some gemstone dealers. Needless To say, this is all one pack of lies aimed at getting you to buy things at exorbitant prices. Proceed to the official entrance of the attraction and get the real information from the ticket office. It does hardly ever happen in reality that major tourist attractions are closed in the daytime.

Tuk-tuk's: Tuk-tuk's are common in both Bangkok and Phuket, but different types and different scams apply with them. In Bangkok it is often along the lines mentioned above in the "Attraction Closed" part. The taxis in Bangkok often operate with partners, mainly Indian taylors and dishonest jewelers. If you want to try a tuk-tuk ride have the driver agree to the price first (rarely under 100 baht) and then make it clear "Straight to Point-B and no tailors and no gems". In Phuket the local scam is that the tuk-tuk's will charge an extravagant fee for a relatively short ride; say 200 baht for 200 meters.

Taxi Surcharge: When leaving Bangkok airport there is an official 50 baht surcharge. The dispatcher will issue an advance receipt clearly spelling out the charge. Going to the Airport there is no surcharge. Note that there are road tolls on the way and you can check the amount on the receipts the driver gets as he pays pay. Most road tolls in Bangkok range from 30 to 70 baht.

Solicitors: Accept no offers from people who approach you. In Bangkok, in particular, there are some very charming solicitors who will have you going in a heartbeat if you allow them to start their "selling job". A typical scenario is a nice middle-aged lady who ask you where you are from and magically she tells you he knows a lot about your home country, she may even have a sister living there. Soon the offer to buy gem stones at very low prices is on the plate. Simply resist from the very onset and don’t talk to people who approach you on the streets. Obviously there are also some genuine people trying to get you to buy their stuff such as general merchandize, with no scam involved. This is however both annoying and a hassle. A simple "Mai ow khlap" (see Language Section) will do fine in this kind of situation if you don't want to buy anything.

Survey Scams
: In tourist areas there may often be people stopping you and asking you to help with a tourist survey. They will approach asking where you are from or if they may have a minute of your time. In exchange for completing the brief survey you will have a chance to win a price. In completing the survey you are in fact be signing up for a time share sales scam. Unless you are looking to take advantage of a high pressure sales pitch, do not participate. A simple way to get them of your back is to say: "I live here".

Check Your Change: A simple scam which often goes unnoticed is the incorrect change. This may happen in reputable places like 7-Eleven and some gas stations are also notorious. Typically only a few baht, but do check.

Bars Padding Bills: If you drink several beers in one bar it becomes progressively easy to pad the bill with one, two or many more, especially as you may get a little more intoxicated. Most bars in Thailand use a bin system where a slip per order is put in to the bin and when the customer leaves all the slips are added up. This scam only happens on occasion, but a few tips to prevent it. Check each and every slip as it is added to the bin. The staff, when seeing you do that will be very unlikely to even attempt to scam you. Another option is to pay frequently, even if you continue to drink in the bar. If you are in a large group, keep separate bins, even if one person at the end is paying for it all.

Settling the Bar or Restaurant Bill: This may not quite qualify as a scam, but something to be mindful of. When you pay your bill and receive your change, complete the transaction ASAP. If you care to leave a tip do so, but remove any additional change from the folder or change-tray and consider the transaction complete. Leaving the change for any period of time could result in the folder or tray being removed while you are not paying attention.

The Bar Girl Runner: There are various ways a bar girl may cut you rendezvous short. One is to push you into barhopping and eventually disappear. After you get to the room and have done one round with her she will get a surprise phone call from her “room-mate” who needs a key to get in to the room. You will be requested to pay all or at least some of what you agreed upon and then she is gone for good.
More information here as to how to handle a situation like that: Barfine Gone Wrong

Disagreement About the Final P4P Price: This is not at all uncommon and not necessary a scam. Two typical scenarios are worth the mention.
1. The girl wants to leave early and demand a disproportionate portion of the agreed upon compensation.
2. No specific compensation was agreed upon and the girl wants more than what seems reasonable.
In either case this likely is a no-win situation. In short she is on home-field and has an advantage. She can call the police who likely will side with her and who will ask you for "a tip" as well. She can also call some of her Thai "friends" who, in her support, will gladly rearrange some of your limbs.
Sounds harsh? Sure it does and it is also (somewhat) rare. That said, if you ever encounter a situation like this you need to weigh the value of your "rights" and well being versus a relatively small sum of money.
From this guide the recommendation is to lean towards taking a "small" financial loss as this most often is a battle you cannot win. See also Barfine Gone Wrong.

Sponsor Scam: This one is also covered in the P4P - Relations Section, but worth repeating. The bar girls are masters at pulling all the emotional strings and you will feel like a king in a fantasy, but often the feeling is too real to raise a red flag. The bar girl will often continue to work in a bar while collecting money from a “sponsor” – a man who has agreed to pay her a fixed amount of money for staying away from the bar scene - and to make matters worse, she may even have a local boyfriend or husband. Frequently, gullible westerners gladly pay 10-30,000 baht per month for nothing to bar girls for the sole and imaginary privilege of having a Thai “girlfriend.” Those who have been around the block a few times in the Thai P4P arena can give many accounts where they have witnessed a girl communicating with multiple westerners in Internet cafe's and answering phone calls from obvious sponsors or makeshift boyfriends. Girls have been known to have up to five sponsors, all arriving in Thailand at different times, and also to work in a bar between their visits. Be careful with believing everything bar girls tell you.

Well, there are more scams of various kinds but I hope you get the general picture. Except for the Jet-ski and sponsor scams the others are unlikely to seriously affect your trip. With some Background knowledge and realistic expectations you should be able to avoid most of this.

The Ultimate Newbie
Guide to Thailand

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