Survival Guide: Beware of these common scams in Thailand

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Who wouldn’t like to visit Thailand? It’s warm, affordable and has everything you want, from exotic beaches with beautiful women and national parks full of wildlife, to the exciting nightlife of Bangkok’s concrete jungle. Most Thais are typically friendly and helpful, but there are some who like to take advantage of foreign tourists for their own benefit, especially ‘farang,’ or white Westerners. So you know what to watch out for, we’ve made a list of the common scams here in Thailand.

Taxi & Tuk Tuk Scams
This is the most common scam in the country. Most taxi drivers will claim that the meter is broken and you have to pay them at a ridiculous rate, just because you’re a foreigner. We recommended downloading Grab, a popular rideshare/taxi app similar to Uber. You can choose the vehicle of your choice, including a normal city car, a premium car, an SUV, or even a motorbike if you’re in a rush and on a budget. What makes it so great is that you’ll know the fixed price before booking and the duration of the ride. Along the same lines is the tuk tuk scam. We know most wide-eyed travellers want the tuk tuk experience. But most of the time, tuk tuk drivers will ask for an unreasonably high price, when you could probably ride the same distance in a safe air conditioned taxi for less than half the price. As you might expect, tuk tuks can be found at tourist attractions or near hotels. Bargain hard, but do be careful; drivers are notoriously manipulative. The best way to deal with them is to stand your ground. If you’re not happy with the price, it’s best to walk away. If you’re lucky, they might give in. If not, try again with another driver.

Temple Scam
This is another popular scam in the country. Believe it or not, many tourists fall for this more often than they should. So we’re here to save the day. You can thank us later. As you stroll down the street to one of the great temples in Bangkok, such as the Grand Palace or Wat Pho, a kind Thai individual will approach you and strike up a conversation. Once the foundation is laid, he will tell you the temples are closed and he can take you someplace else. If you believe him, he will invite you to visit another temple. Once there, you will be greeted by another friend of his, which is the second part of the scam. Similar to what you experienced earlier, he will ask you if you heard of an event that sells gems at a “very affordable price.” If you decide that you want to take a look at “the beautiful and affordable gems,” then he will be more than happy to take you there. The store will look like an authentic business, but remember, they’re in it together. The staff will claim that “today is the last day for the deal” which is not the truth. Nothing here is worth the price or below market value. This is where they reveal their true selves. They will become pushy, urging you to buy things so they can earn more money. Tricky enough? Once you’re distracted, they will vanish out of sight, having completed their mission.

Scooter Scam
This scam is often found on beaches like Pattaya or Phuket, but it doesn’t mean it won’t exist at other destinations in Thailand. It would be best not to rent a scooter; but if you really have to, let us spill the beans. When you rent one of their scooters, they will ask for your passport and/or deposit fee. Once you return the scooter back to them, they will tell you that you damaged their property and won’t give back your passport until you pay a fine. If you’re unlucky, some places have a spare key, which they will use to “steal” the scooter away, so you can buy a replacement. The ball is in their court, whatever the situation. Your best option is to rent from a place that is reputable and trustworthy. Also, just to be safe, inspect the scooter before you take it for a ride and snap photos of it for good measure.

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Bar Scam
If you’re travelling alone or with your guy friends and a girl in a “revealing” outfit approaches you, keep an open mind. It might be hard at first, no pun intended. It’s better to keep walking, as the beloved Johnny Walker. If her charms manage to win you over and she lures you into her bar, chances are the drinks are going to be very expensive. Plus, she will want to drink with you, too — at your expense — doubling the bill.

Tailor Scam
This is similar to the gem scam that we tackled earlier. A taxi driver will ask if you want a new shirt or suit and offer his assistance. This is a big no-no and chances are, he will take you somewhere that is neither cheap nor more affordable than tailor shops you could easily find yourself.

Fake Baht
Occasionally, Thai news is gripped by a report about an invasion of counterfeit baht flooding the market. If you’re a traveler who isn’t familiar with how the banknotes look or feel, you’re likely to be offered these fake banknotes. To prevent this from happening to you, familiarize yourself with the look and feel of Thai baht banknotes before roaming around the country. Make sure that you exchange money only at an authorized currency exchange business.

What’s your take?
Thailand is a country that loves tourists, which also makes it fairly easy for some unsuspecting travellers to get scammed. Most of the scams in Thailand start the same way. A random person approaches you or someone offers you something. This should be a red flag. Keep your eyes open for anything unusual while you enjoy your time in Thailand. So what’s your take? Have you been scammed in Thailand before? Or is there a scam you know of that didn’t make our list? Let us know your thoughts in the ThaigerTalk comments section down below!

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Pete is a writer for The Thaiger, and he writes various topics from news, travel and property. His main focus is writing about Thai news, and what is happening in Thailand.

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