PHOTO: Thai Travel News
Firstly, I should say that just about any hot tourist spot around the world is going to attract people, sometimes greedy locals, who will be specialists at extracting dollars from your pockets. In Thailand the main difference is that they will usually do it with a smile. There are scams awaiting tourists who come to Thailand and you are best served by spending a few minutes reading articles like this and saving yourself a lot of financial pain, inconvenience or even a trip to hospital. Or jail.
This is by no means a definitive list of scams awaiting you but these are, at least, ten popular scams that you will have to negotiate if you move about Thailand. They’re real, they happen every day and you’ll have a much better time during your trip if you know about them first.
In all cases, a bit of homework beforehand will save you being tricked during your holiday. Here are our Top 10 Scams in Thailand.
1. The jewellery scam
If you want to buy jewellery or luxury goods in Thailand, don’t ask you taxi or tuk tuk driver or take advice from the nice man who offered to take you a store who stopped you in the street. Jewellery stores in Thailand seem to exist for one purpose… taking money from tourists as part of one of the oldest scams in the Land of Smiles.
Yes, there are reputable jewellery and gem stores but you can usually source them and their prices online before you arrive.
There are plenty of jewellery stores that have been specifically constructed to cater for Chinese bus tour groups. You will see the buses lined up, any day of the week, with hordes of hapless Chinese tourists being guided through these grand shops, many several stories high and designed to part the tourists from their money. Many of these buildings are much grander than any other buildings around them – they weren’t built like that to provide you with a really good deal.
(Many Chinese tours include visits to these stores as compulsory items in their itinerary and the tour groups and bus drivers can get up to 50% commissions. The whole system is a well-oiled machine.)
If your driver taxi or tuk tuk offers to take you to a jewellery store just be firm, but polite, and refuse their generous offer. If you actually do want to buy jewellery, don’t go to the stores they recommend.
The concept of the jewellery scam could also be used with the local ‘export centre’, ‘factory outlet store’ or ‘I have a friend who has a shop’. Caveat emptor!
2. Tuk Tuks and taxis
The Tuk Tuk is different things in different parts of Thailand. In Bangkok the three wheeled tourist tuk tuks are no so much a scam, rather just expensive. But as part of the fabric of Bangkok’s tourist machine they’re worthy of at least ride. Most of this section is about the Phuket Tuk Tuk and taxi scams.
Phuket’s Tuk Tuks are the ubiquitous (usually red), three cylinder Daihatsu open mini-vans that are completely the wrong design for having to drive over Phuket’s many steep hills. Somehow they stutter and creep their way over the hills. Most of the time you’ll just use them for a quick hop from your restaurant or ‘night out’ back to your hotel or from your hotel to a local tourist attraction.
If you ever thought things in Thailand were cheap, using a tuk tuk or local taxi will quickly change your mind. Even a short journey from one end of Patong to the other is going to cost you 200 baht+, usually more. They don’t have meters. Most taxis do have meters but they never seem to work (if your taxi does have an operational meter please take a photo and send it to the ‘Believe it or Not Museum’).
The taxis ones that do have meters are frequently ‘turbo-charged’ so they tick over much faster than they’re meant to, especially the taxis from the airport. Doing town to town journeys will cost you 500 baht+. Going to the airport from Patong is going to cost you 600 baht+.
Taxis from the airport are really expensive when compared to taxi prices almost anywhere in the world This doesn’t apply to Bangkok, just to Phuket. There will no shortage of shouts of ‘taxi’ as you emerge from the arrivals area at Phuket Airport. If you do want a taxi, head to the Taxi counter, at least here it’s semi-organsised although no-less expensive.
Even better, get your hotel to organise a pick-up for you – someone will be waiting for you with your name on a sign. If it’s a really flash hotel they’ll usually have your name on an iPad or tablet these days. Many hotels include the cost of the pick-up in their reservation fees – check when you’re booking.
The taxi and tuk tuk services in Phuket are not technically a scam – more of a minor case of extortion. Most of the time the drivers know where they’re going and are polite and friendly enough. But they’re a law unto themselves and have been fighting successive government attempts to regulate them. In Phuket they’re described as the ‘taxi mafia’ for good reason.
Feel free to barter your price before you get in a tuk tuk for your journey. But make sure you DO agree on a price before you get underway.
If they offer to take you to a jewellery store, attraction or market on the way to wherever you’re going, politely decline.
And then, more specifically….
3. The ‘attraction’s closed’ scam
More likely to happen in Bangkok. But it goes something like this….
You roll up to any well-known attraction and, before you can get to the gate, a friendly, affable local will kindly inform you that the attraction is closed. This may be despite there being long queues waiting to get in or the fact that your hotel and taxi driver already informed you that the attraction is open. If you know, for a fact, that the venue is open politely thank them for their advice and that you’re just going to check for yourself. Smile and say goodbye.
If you do end up in a conversation with them you’ll be advised about an alternative attraction that is older, bigger, more spectacular and ‘very close by’ (which usually means 30 minutes away). On the way to this completely unheard of attraction you’ll be taken to jewellery stores and markets and offered any number of ‘real’ bargains – a guarantee that you’re paying well over the market price, plus commission. If you do ever get to the ‘alternative’ attraction you’ll be paying them the entrance fee, magically about twice the entrance fee you see on the gate.
These are just straight out scams designed to part you from your money and to sell you things you had no intention to buy.
Plan your day’s trips ahead, check Google, TripAdvisor and ask your hotel for advice.
4. Sex shows
Now, officially, they don’t exist anywhere in Thailand. In reality, they do. And those ping pong shows your friends have told you about? Yes, they’re real. (For the younger people reading here, the ping pong shows are excellent displays of table tennis skills).
So you’re walking down Bangla Road in Phuket, Walking Street in Pattaya or Patpong in Bangkok. You will be approached by ten, twenty… more, people with cards and the big sales pitch “Sexy Girl”. That’s sure to get you in.
You’ll be taken to a seedy, dark, usually upstairs venue. Downstairs the drinks are at set-prices. In these dodgy upstairs venues the prices are ‘variable’ (read: VERY EXPENSIVE). You will indeed see a show, probably a lot briefer and less explicit than you imagined, and also asked to buy the girls a few drinks. Then you’ll be ‘invited’ to pay large tips to the performers (‘invited’ means coerced/forced by a few large gentleman with poor hygiene).
And if you DO get invited to a ping-pong show you won’t need to take your own table tennis paddle.
5. The jet ski rental scam
So you’ve never been on a jet ski before and here you are on a tropical beach with warm, inviting waters. And a row of jet skis along the shore with helpful, suntanned guys in their bright coloured shorts eager to rent you a jetski. You’ve never ridden on a jetski? No problem. You don’t need a license or any of that nonsense. Just pay the guys and GO.
The jet skis are easy enough to ride and, most of the time, you’ll have plenty of fun. But the smile will be taken off your face when you get back to the beach and a cursory inspection from the previously-helpful staff turns into accusations of damage to their jet ski.
It could be a simple scratch to a huge gouge and it’s going to cost you 10,000, 20,000…. more, to get it fixed. You didn’t check for damage before you got on the jet ski? Bad luck. You didn’t take a photo of the jet ski before you blasted you way into the tranquil blue waters? Bad luck?
No contract, no insurance. It’s a scam. Most of the time the situation can get very heated and a group of intimidating fellow jet ski owners will gather around and harass you, sometimes with threats of violence if you don’t pay up. Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Hua Hin are the most likely places you’ll confront the jet ski scam.
A few guidelines if you insist on renting a jetski.
1) Inspect the jet ski with the owner and take photos before you pay over your money. If there are marks take photos and point them out to the owner.
2) Ask them if there is insurance cover or a contract. If not, walk away. By law they’re required to cover you with basic insurance (which may or may not be a valid contract anyway).
3) If you do get into a situation where they are demanding money from you beyond what you agreed for rental get a tourist police officer on the spot ASAP, not the local boys-in-brown, a tourist police officer who will usually be dressed in a white shirt with black pants.
4) Don’t rent a jet ski.
Here’s their website. Their phone number is 1155.
If there are no tourist police around demand that you are able to contact your local consulate. DON’T leave the beach and go to the local police station.
DO NOT hand over your passport for any reason at any time! Never.
6. Motorbike rental scams (and a few other problems)
Not so much a scam but a list of potential problems you may confront with the rental of a local motorbike.
Renting motorbikes in Thailand can provide you with a convenient and cheap means of transport ‘just like the locals’ or can get you in all sorts of trouble. You can end up in an accident, you can end up with your hotel room robbed, you can end up having to pay for damage to the bike you didn’t cause.
Here’s the basics. Most motorbike rental is a fairly routine and well-organised affair. There are many reputable bike-hire places around and many hotels will have they own bikes to rent or have an arrangement, usually (hopefully) with a local reputable company who will deliver the bike to your hotel and even show you the basics of how to drive it.
If you’ve never ridden a motorbike before, please, just don’t bother renting one. There are plenty of other modes of transport to get you anywhere you need to go. And just DON’T rent that shiny red Ducati or 500cc ‘whatever’ brand motorbike. Bigger bikes, bigger problem, bigger cost if you fall off and damage the bike.
Here’s the problem. Most people, in fact the vast majority of motorbike renters, have NEVER ridden a motorbike in their life in they home country. In many cases they wouldn’t even consider renting a motorbike back home. But the visa stamp in their passport gives them permission to do really reckless things whilst in Thailand.
There are a few situations to watch out for.
1) You should sign up for some insurance when you sign the contract. It may or may not be worth the paper it’s written on but at least it’s an ‘understanding’ that you have entered into a contract, in good faith, with the company. No contract? Walk away.
2) Problem with the bike? Flat tyre? Something’s fallen off? Engine won’t start? There are bike repair places ALL over Thailand. With so many motorbikes on the road it’s a thriving business keeping them all running. If you call the company you rented the bike from they will have their own, preferred, bike repair shop. One of the scams is that it’s a co-operation between the bike repair staff and the bike rental company.
The bike contract will have your hotel details listed. They will come and steal the bike during the evening and you front up to the bike shop the next morning saying your motorbike’s been stolen. Of course you’ll be required to reimburse them for the cost of a new bike. So buy a cheap bike lock of your own and use that instead of the one provided by the rental company.
3) Wear a helmet. Apart from being the law in Thailand it’s also a very easy way for the local constabulary to stop you at the many checkpoints around the island, usually just before lunchtime, and hit you for an on-the-spot 500 baht fine. It’s also a great way to save smashing your head on the road if you do end up falling off or in an accident! WEAR YOUR BIKE HELMET.
4) If you do have an accident (remember Thailand is the fifth most dangerous place in the world for driving on the roads) you need to have all your ducks in a row. Do you have travel insurance covering treatment and a stay in hospital (bet you don’t)? Do you have an international drivers license covering the riding of motorbikes in a foreign country (probably not)? Does you insurance cover an accident on a motorbike in Thailand?
Motorbike accident do happen, sadly quite frequently, and the consequences can be dire if you’re 1) in the wrong at the accident scene 2) your insurance doesn’t cover you.
Here’s what you need to do so you have the minimum inconvenience in the eventuality of a motorbike accident (the same goes for car accidents but you’re more likely to get badly hurt if you have a crash on a motorbike).
• No matter how you fall off a motorbike its probably going to hurt. Keep your wits about you. People will come to your aid but LEAVE the motorbike where it is – and insist the other bikes and cars in the accident do the same. Contact, if you can, the motorbike rental shop, the tourist police and your consulate. The local police will usually turn up in this sort of situation and, despite the occasional horror stories, won’t automatically side with the locals. Keep calm, accept help from the local paramedics – they know their job and attend many, many bike accidents every day. (There are a lot of private emergency services that get a fee from a hospital when they deliver a paying patient – hey, at least you know they’re keen to get to your accident scene quickly and ‘win’ your business)
• If you don’t have insurance ask to be taken to a local public hospital. The Thai medical system is quite efficient and provides free medical care for all Thai citizens and expats working for a company – again, the hospitals will know how to treat motorbike accident injuries; they see them every single day. If you DO have valid travel insurance ask to be taken to one of the private hospitals. You’ll have to pay the medical bills but they will be a lot less than at a Thai private hospital.
• Whilst your immediate medical situation may require you to get to hospital urgently it’s best, if you can, to wait for the police and make sure you have provided your side of the story. It will be REALLY helpful if you have a representative from the Tourist Police there to assist with translation and knows the system.
• Don’t lose your cool, start shouting or blaming anyone. That simply won’t help at all. And don’t accept liability either. That’s for the police to determine.
• Always carry your passport or a copy of your passport and copies of all your insurance papers when you move around the island.
• Never, ever, hand over your passport. If the renters want a copy (and they’re well entitled for a copy of your passport), keep your passport in sight whilst they’re copying it. DON’T leave your passport with the rental company as a bond. Even better, have a photocopy of your passport with you at all times and a digital copy (take a photo of your passport front page) on your phone.
7. The fake consulate scam
This scam targets tourists and expats crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia in a taxi or tuk tuk. It can also involve just about any other border crossing from the Kingdom if you are being driven in a taxi or tuk tuk. You will pass signs reading “Cambodian Consulate” or “Insert-border-name-here Consulate” and you’ll be dropped out the front of an imposing and important looking building with very friendly and helpful people offering you simple and convenient visas… for a large fee, of course.
The danger in this situation is when you merrily head back to wherever you were staying and then end up in all sorts of trouble when you depart the country through a proper immigration channel and find you’ve over-stayed your visa.
Do your homework before you head to a border for a visa run and know where the consulates are so you don’t fall for this scam.
8. Time Shares
The time share scam is different from the legitimate time share schemes offered around Thailand. But here’s some things to check before you sign up for ANYTHING. Do not sign a document in Thailand until you’ve consulted a proper Thai lawyer.
The time share ’theory’ is that you’ll become a member of a larger group of people owning a share of a ‘title’ in a property or yacht.
Usually foreign back-packers end up as the ones in the street politely stopping you and asking you to pick a card with the promise of a prize. Amazingly YOU always pick the card with the prize which is a free visit to a nearby, or sometimes not-nearby, resort or showroom – no obligation of course – where you will be courted with the ‘financial opportunities’ and ‘convenience’ of time share.
99% of the time it’s just heavy-handed sales and you could have spent the three hours on the beach or browsing the shops instead. Just ask straight up if it’s a time-share offer and then walk on by.
9. Bar girls
If a lovely young lady in a pair of hot pants and high heels approaches you in the street and invites you to her bar, keep walking. Of course if you’re a single guy and an attractive lady approaches you you’re going to stop and listen, right?
But a few things might happen. 1) The drinks are going to be really expensive 2) the young girl is going to invite you for few drinks – and one for her too – and then she’ll be gone to find the next victim with you left having to sort out the over-priced drinks bill with the older, fatter and less attractive male owner. 3) They’re not actually girls.
Is this a scam or just good marketing? Whichever way you look at it you’re going to end up with expensive urine and perhaps a few other adventures along the way.
If you do see a lovely lady with breasts that appear to be larger than you would normally find on the frame of a 5’2” girl, and in hot pants, and you do want to have a drink with her, suggest you both go to a bar of your choice and you’ll soon see how keen she really is.
Also, if you’re 65, overweight, haven’t had a shave for three days and are wearing a 20 year old floral short-sleeved shirt, NO young girl is ever going to want to have a drink with you.
10. The tailor scam
Can you purchase well made shirts and suits in Thailand? Yes. Can you end up paying more for them than you’d pay back home? Absolutely yes.
If your taxi or tuk tuk driver has to stop off for a quick visit to the toilet and a friendly man approaches you and asks ‘where are you from?’, you know you’re about to be sold a suit.
The ‘where are you from?’ is an age-old, tried and tested way or eliciting a response from you. To ignore it you seem rude, to answer it you already talking to them.
The bottomline is that you’ll be told a story about an amazing tailor they know who makes suits better than Armani, etc, etc. You should already know that you’re talking to the middle man, or the friend of the middle man, so you’re in high-commission territory before you even get your inside leg measurement taken.
There are many good tailors everywhere in Thailand, most of Indian or Nepalese origin. There is a thriving community of expats from these countries who do, indeed, have excellent skills as tailors. If you find one, tell us about it and we’ll pass it on. The rest, however, are just ways for them to take your money, the clothes are made off-site at virtual sweat-shops and the workmanship often sub-standard.
If you do want a suit or clothes made (mostly you will NEVER need a suit in Thailand!), then ask around and get recommendations for a reputable tailor.
Next time you get asked ‘where are you from’ just say you’re from ‘Thailand’. Whilst they’re thinking of a quick come-back you’re already gone.
We welcome you to Thailand and hope this quick read may have given you a heads-up on some of the more popular scams you’re likely to confront.
Top 5 reasons why Aussies choose medical tourism in Thailand
“With more than 15,000 Aussies travelling to Thailand each year for medical tourism, the country is a burgeoning market for cosmetic procedures. There are numerous Thai doctors who already have more than a 90% Australian client base. The landscape is certainly changing when it comes to price, surgical quality, convenience and post-recuperation.”
Darren Lyons from medical information site MyMediTravel has seen an influx of Australian medical patients flocking to Thai destinations; from Bangkok to Phuket. And the facts don’t lie.
Australians are now spending in excess of US$300 million on a variety of diverse treatments from rhinoplasty and facelifts to breast augmentation and even cardiology. Due to an ageing population and long waiting lists, many Aussies are turning to Thailand to help them achieve their healthcare goals. So, what are the five main reasons Australians are heading all the way up to South East Asia for their medical and cosmetic requirements?
1. Exclusive Hospitals
Groundbreaking technology across Thai hospitals and clinics are a real attraction for medical tourists. Heavy investment into Bumungrad International Hospital and Bangkok Hospital Bangkok in the capital makes them two of the largest private medical facilities in the country which has seen an influx of Aussie patients.
The latter utilizes Specialist Beam Surgery to treat cancer patients whilst open heart surgery is becoming popular thanks to Off-Pump Coronary Artery Bypass or OPCAB. Meanwhile, an entire sports injury rehab wing exists where a host of Australian sports stars from soccer, Aussie Rules and boxing have been successfully treated. There is even an on-site shopping center and a McDonalds!
Across the 60-plus JCI-accredited hospitals, hotel style amenities also attract Aussie patients looking for state-of-the-art medical services. Since 2013, Bumungrad Hospital has treated more than a staggering one million patients including more than 10,000 from Australia.
Catering to international patients’ needs, hospital wards have transformed into plush buildings filled with luxury amenities. These feature dedicated check-in, complimentary lounges, travel agents for arranging visa extensions and boutique style rooms. Accommodation comes complete with separate living room, en-suite, kitchen and WIFI providing the opportunity for family and visitors to stay.
2. Healthcare Standards
Adhering to US international standards of care, Australians have realised the potential for quality healthcare in Thailand. The patient to nurse ratio is also another key factor with Australian patients receiving one nurse per eight patients compared to Thailand where it is one nurse per four patients.
Travel has never been easier and more cost-effective for Australians benefitting from direct routes to the region. Thai Airways provide non-stop flights daily to Bangkok from major cities including Sydney and Melbourne. There’s also direct flights into Phuket from the east coast cities (with JetStar). Once in Thailand, international patients can select a range of affordable internal airlines offering flights to stunning beach resorts and tropical locations such as Koh Samui and Phuket.
Enticing prices on treatment sees Australian patients save around 30%-40% across a wealth of procedures with identical medical care and drugs. With increasing competition to keep prices low, this fiercely-competitive market is a haven for patients. For example, a facelift in Australia costs around A$10,000 whilst facelifts in Thailand are priced around A$4,200.
5. Global Destination
Thailand has recently established itself as a global medical tourism destination turning over more than US$5 billion in the last five years alone. Australian patients are seeing the advantage of combining top-notch, price-busting cosmetic treatment with an unforgettable vacation that has seen half a million plus patients visit the region already.
Top 10 things NOT to do in Thailand (2019)
There are hundreds of things to do in Thailand and you’ll be spoiled for choice during your visit. But there are a few things that may be worth avoiding, despite being available, during your time in the Kingdom. If you also want a list of basic cultural faux pas, check this list out HERE.
So, in The Thaiger’s opinion, don’t…
1. Swim at the southern Andaman beaches in the low season
Every year about 50 or so people drown along Phuket’s west coast. Mostly in the wet season with the south-western monsoon kicking up the waves washing onto the island’s Andaman coast beaches. Sadly, it’s mostly Chinese and Russian tourists who end up getting into trouble. Krabi, Khao Lak, Phang Nga, Trang and southern islands also have their share of drownings and near-misses each year.
There’s a complicated litany of reasons for this carnage – many Chinese and Russian tourists, for example, can’t swim, the lifeguard patrols on many of the beaches are ‘patchy’, not enough information is provided to tourists about the dangerous rips along the west coast during the monsoon and whatever signage and flags that actually exists do little to deter tourists who seem determined to go swimming.
Most of the beaches have the red flags on display when the surf’s up but many of the flags are not new and the colour red, which in some western countries denotes ‘danger’ isn’t as effective in being a deterrent colour for the Chinese. In fact it’s the lucky colour for Chinese.
There is a clear and present danger of swimming on Phuket’s west coast during the May – November low season (which is also the most popular time for Chinese tourist arrivals).
For the Gulf of Thailand coastal areas in Hua His, Samui and other southern Gulf beaches, the windy weather is usually later in the year from October to December.
2. Hire a motorbike
You get off the plane, catch your passenger van to your hotel, check the minibar and then head out to find the nearest motorbike hire shop – there are hundreds around the main tourist spots anywhere in Thailand.
In most cases a passport will suffice (NEVER let your passport out of your sight, even when they’re taking a photocopy of your passport front page) as ID to allow you to hire a motorbike and take it out onto Thailand’s roads.
The roads in Thailand are some of the most dangerous in the world. If you’re under 30 years old, male and riding a motorbike your chances of having an accident are astonishingly high.
Have you ever ridden a motorbike before? Probably not. Do you have a motorbike driver’s license? Chances are slim. Were you taken for a short test to see if you can ride or handle a motorbike? Doubtful. Does your travel insurance cover you if you have an accident without having a valid motorcycle driver’s licence? I bet it doesn’t.
Still, it happens hundreds of time a day around the island and tourists, like lambs to the slaughter, head off into the craziness that is Thai traffic – sometimes shirtless, sometimes after drinking and sometimes without even the basic protection of a helmet.
Then we hear that the tourists have had some sort of horrific accident, end up in an international hospital, their insurance won’t pay for their medical care and we have another report on our website.
Bottomline, if you don’t have a motorbike driving license, have never driven a motorcycle or have been drinking just DON’T hire a motorbike in Phuket. Just don’t!
3. Go to tiger or animal shows
Reptiles, birds, crocodiles, tigers, dolphins and plenty of others. There are hundreds of shows where animals are performing for tourists. These aren’t zoos and usually cater for one particular type of animal. Is it OK to visit these shows. Well, in Thailand it’s absolutely legal to do so and the attractions are all licensed to operate under Thai law.
The question as to whether you SHOULD visit is up to you.
Tigers, of all wild beasties, are not born to sit, half drugged-up in chains, to have tourists patting them for selfies. Tigers are critically endangered everywhere in the world. Specifically, the Indochinese Tiger, the species we see in Thailand and surrounding south east asian countries, is a hunter and can inflict fatal injuries with a single swipe if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
An Australian was mauled at the Tiger Kingdom in Kathu, Phuket in 2015. He survived his injuries which opened up the front of his chest. The only upside about these tiger zoos is that they conduct (for all the wrong reasons) breeding programs to keep the species alive but the gene pool is very shallow so, in the long run, is not a sustainable method of breeding tigers.
Here’s an interesting blog from a westerner who volunteered at one of the Tiger shows.
4. Go to zoos
Many of Thailand’s zoos are not up to international standard and, like the elephant rides and tiger shows, have gone out of fashion with many western tourists. But ‘animals for entertainment’ is still a popular concept for many Asian and eastern European tourists – it’s a cultural thing.
The Thai zoos come up for constant criticism especially on platforms like Trip Advisor where pictures of poor conditions, lonely and skinny animals keep getting attention.
Voted by many Trip Advisor readers as one of the worst tourist attractions in Phuket – it routinely scores either one or two stars with comments that sound like the visitors have just come from an abattoir rather than a modern zoo.
Visiting a Thai zoo is like visiting one in the West in the 1950s when animals are crammed into unsuitable enclosures or cages with little care taken to keep the facilities clean. Many of the zoos smell, the animals don’t appear to be in the best of health and it’s simply a relic of a bygone era whereas modern zoos have changed dramatically to provide true educational opportunities and vastly superior, and more natural, enclosures for the animals.
5. Ride an elephant
Riding elephants in Thailand whilst you’re on tour here is just one of those things tourists have on their bucket list. In Phuket there are many, many elephant camps where you can see these wondrous mammals and, if you want, ride on their back through the forests. Generally frowned upon by western values, it’s still hugely popular in Asia and all the camps do a roaring trade.
The problem with elephants in Thailand is vexed with a well cared-for pachyderm living up to 60 years – the average age is 48 years. They used to work in the rainforests as beasts of burden but that work has now dried up with the banning of logging in most parts of Thailand so the elephants and their mahouts have gravitated towards the cities and tourist industry to make a living – elephants require quite a lot of food.
To say we should simply ‘set them free’ is an absurd suggestion and unpractical so a longer term solution needs to be found.
There are now new elephant ‘sanctuaries’ and retirement parks opening up around the country. They provide a more natural environment for humans and elephants to interact. Although these are really just an alternative pay-to-visit ’zoo’ (albeit a huge step up from the majority of elephant camps), we applaud their efforts and hope there’s more available soon.
There’s now also an even stricter code of conduct gaining popularity in wildlife circles whereby any contact between beast and human would be banned, even feeding and washing the elephants. We will see if this becomes a new norm.
6. Go running during the day
You like keeping fit, you run regularly in your home country and you’re on holiday where you can get a few extra kilometres under your belt as you explore. Except that it’s hot, really hot, most of the year, especially in the south. And humid.
In northern regions it does get a lot cooler in the ‘winter’ (around December and January), otherwise most of Thailand is just HOT most of the year.
All the marathons and running events held around Thailand start at 4 or 5am in the morning for good reason. It’s the only time of the day where you can run in relative safety. If it isn’t abundantly obvious that running in the heat of day is just plain dangerous you are going to learn the hard way.
Keep fit, by all means, but try your hotel’s gym or get up really early if you want to pound the pavement.
Same goes for any other types of sport where you’re going to exert yourself. You can get sick quite fast if you’re not used to the heat, and tourists do regularly.
7. Get in a taxi or tuk tuk before negotiating your fare
This is probably mostly important in tourist hot spots like Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Samui or Phuket. There are variations with taxi and public transport options – some locations do it better than others. Pattaya, for example, has the excellent ‘baht bus’ where you hop on and off and pay the driver 10 baht.
Bangkok too is generally taxi-friendly except that the traffic can be hideous around tourist traps around the city.
Meanwhile, getting a taxi or tuk tuk to go anywhere around Phuket is expensive, compared to anywhere else in Thailand and even some western cities. There’s a long history as to why taxis and tuk tuks are expensive and that’s a report for another day. The words ‘cabal’, ‘mafia’ and ‘extortion’ could be used in such an article, but we’ll leave all that for another day.
Your best bet if and when you’re going to use a taxi is to negotiate the fare before you get in. By all means bargain the stated price down as much as you can but make sure there is a firm understanding with the driver about the price before he turns the key.
By law, all taxis in Thailand are meant to use a meter. In Phuket it never happens. Never. ‘Meter not work’, blah, blah. In other parts of Thailand the meters appear to work a lot better, must be the humidity.
There has been decades of efforts by Government authorities, the Army and any number of well-meaning officials that has had precisely ZERO effect of the notorious taxis and tuk tuks in Phuket.
All you can do is accept that the prices are high and negotiate a fee, BEFORE YOU GET IN, wherever you are.
8. Sign contracts without advice from a qualified Thai lawyer
DON’T SIGN ANYTHING in Thailand without getting it checked over by a trusted and qualified Thai lawyer and advice from a western lawyer. You are conducting business in a foreign country, in a foreign language and there are thousands before you who have fallen foul of hastily or poorly prepared legal documents.
The list of stories over the years reporting on foreigners getting burned over contractual problems has filled Thailand’s newspapers and websites.
Guy meets girl. Girl and guy move in together. Guy decides he wants to buy a villa. Guy buys property under Thai GFs name (because foreigners can’t ‘own’ land in Thailand). Relationship goes sour. Thai GF vanishes and sells the house without telling ex-BF. And it gets worse from there.
Even if you’re signing a basic rental lease, get it checked by people who know the ropes of the Thai legal system. Check, check, check. And then check again.
9. Get in an argument with Thai police
You will always come off second best if you decide you’re going to challenge the boys-in-brown. Thai police have a job to do and, in most cases, do a sterling job given that a lot of the time (especially in places like Patong) foreign tourists do some REALLY stupid things.
Police in Thailand are, generally, poorly paid and there is a generation of police who still work their way up the system ‘buying’ higher positions in the police ranks so they can get a larger proportion of the ‘tea money’ (bribes) that are still rife in the system.
Whilst there are many, many efforts, made with the best intentions, the ‘system’ has been in place for many generations and corruption will still be around long after you’ve left the country. With all that said, if you get stopped for a minor indiscretion – not wearing your helmet or not carrying a valid license with you, etc – just pay up and go on your way.
Yes, you are feeding the pyramid of corruption but your other option is not paved with happiness. Ramp up the situation by insisting that you ’speak to the superior’ or go to the police station to voice your objection. You will come off second best, every time.
In a more serious situation, like a traffic accident or where someone’s been injured, you are best keeping your cool and insisting that a member of the tourist police or a consular official come to the scene before you do anything. At least make sure you call them before agreeing to ANYTHING.
DON’T get angry or get into an argument with the local police. Their English-language skills will probably be limited and they represent a system that can get you into a mountain of trouble, costs or jail if you don’t play your cards right.
10. Get your gear off
It’s hot and humid and you’ve come to Thailand for a swim. You’ve seen photos of bar girls in skimpy hot pants and a size-too-small singlets. You’re used to western values where topless bathing is acceptable.
Forget all this – you’re in Thailand and, despite the outwards acceptance of showing some flesh, it is still a deeply conservative country when it comes to what you wear and where you wear it.
There are plenty of double standards when it comes to this issue and you only really learn the subtleties after living here for a few years. The Thais will generally tolerate you wandering around shirtless in tourist zones but you don’t have to wander too far from the tourist hot-spots before the idea of ‘acceptable’ clothing changes quite quickly.
This becomes acutely apparent when it comes to visiting temples or anywhere there are images of members of the Thai Royal family or Buddha.
If you’re in any doubt about what the dress code is in any particular situation, ask a local.
Don’t, for example, wander down to the local Immigration office in your shorts, sandals and singlet and expect to get service – you won’t.
Going topless on a Thai beach will draw undue attention from the local constabulary, most likely resulting in a fine.
1. Have a quick read about the places you’re visiting and Thai customs on the internet. There are hundreds of sites that will spell out much the same mantra about behaviour, dos and don’ts. Here’s our LIST.
2. Do some homework about the places you want to visit, chat to other tourists and your hotel concierge about suggestions (although they’re usually on commission too)
3. If you are going to get into any business transaction consult a local lawyer plus a lawyer who speaks your language with experience in the transaction. Especially buying property.
4. Think before you act in most situations. You are in a foreign country and they truly do things differently in Thailand. The longer you live here, the more confusing it can seem. Turn your brain on before you hand over your money.
5. If you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it in Thailand, even if you can.
If you are looking to book a hotel in Thailand check out THIS link first.
Fish sauce excluded from Thailand’s proposed tax on salty foods
PHOTO: Cook’s Illustrated
Thailand’s Excise Department and Public Health Ministry is considering a levy on salty foods in an attempt to tackle the sodium-rich diets of Thai citizens, and the health consequences.
The director general of the Excise Department, Patchara Anuntasilpa says the tax would be calculated based on the amount of salt in a product, with the proposal being sent to Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana by year end.
Fish sauce is a liquid condiment made from fish or krill that have been coated in salt and fermented for up to two years.:234 It is used as a staple seasoning in East Asian cuisine and Southeast Asian cuisine, particularly south east Asia and Taiwan. Following widespread recognition of its ability to impart a savoury umami flavor to dishes, it has been embraced globally by chefs and home cooks.
“If the tax is approved, we will allow entrepreneurs one or two years to reduce the salt content and launch a less-salty version of their product.”
The World Health Organisation and the UN both recommend taxing foods with a high salt content, saying increased sodium intake leads to high blood pressure, cancer and kidney and heart disease.
The Nation reports however, that while the proposal is to levy the tax on frozen and canned foods, along with processed items such as instant noodles, seasoning such as fish sauce and snacks like potato chips would be excluded.
The Federation of Thai Industries has pledged to cooperate with the government’s effort to improve the health of Thailand’s citizens, but its head Wisit Limluecha says he is not in favour of taxing popular seasonings, snacks, frozen or instant foods.
“Research has found that these foods represent only 20% of what we eat each day, and everyone has different eating habits, so the better solution would be to advise consumers on how to eat healthily.”
Wisit warns that the tax may damage the country’s competitiveness in the food sector both overseas and in Thailand, where imported products are easily available. He also voices concern that small businesses will suffer if unable to afford ingredient and packaging changes.
SOURCE: The Nation
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