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Getting Hustled in Thailand: Tourist Traps and Scam To Watch Out For

Meet Shawn & Katie: two twenty-somethings from Canada who decided to sell their crap and travel the world!  Now running their own blog aptly titled The Lucky Couple they have generously donated their wisdom from living in Thailand to Travel Teez and we hope you visit their site and learn something as well.  In the following article, read their amazing tips on how to avoid getting scammed in Thailand!


Authors:  Shawn & Katie     

We rave about how cheap life is and how good the food tastes. We throw pictures of beautiful beaches in your face every single post. We freakin’ call ourselves ‘The Lucky Couple’. We are bragging, little jerks.

So this post is for you.. “A ha! I knew Thailand wasn’t that perfect”. We know that’s what you’re thinking.

Thailand’s scams have become infamous, and unfortunately, somewhat synonymous with travel here. They are blatant, yet believable. In our first few months here, we debated weekly whether we were overcharged for something; shopping at a market, eating at a restaurant or bar that doesn’t have an english menu, or visiting any tourist sights. We’re all about travelling without plans, but we also believe in being prepared where you can be. Our pockets just can’t afford to get hugely ripped off too many times – And luckily we haven’t been duped for more than a couple of bucks yet.

Here are the scams that we’ve come across so far:

1. The Airport Taxi

Before we moved to Thailand, we had done research online and knew that a taxi from the airport to downtown should cost about 300 baht ($11 CAD), and we knew to make sure that the taxi driver used the meter. We met 2 friends on our flight from Canada (our old bartender happened to be on our flight!), who we saw looking overwhelmed outside the airport in Bangkok. They were told by a taxi driver that it would cost them 1200 baht ($44 CAD) to go to their hotel RIGHT beside the airport! We told them what we saw online and got our own cab to downtown, which did come to about 300 baht. Always make sure they use the meter!

2. “That Wat Is Closed Today, But..”

We were standing near the Grand Palace aka Wat central, and a tuk tuk driver approaches: “Where you go, where you go?” Us: “Uh, we’re heading to the ferry to go to Wat Arun” Driver “Oh, that’s closed. Come, come. I can take you to an even better Wat! And it’s free today!”

Wat Arun is a big, tall Wat across the river from the Grand Palace. As the driver is explaining this to us, we are watching a boat load of people cross the river over his shoulder. We didn’t take him up on the ‘free’ Wat this time, but we’re sure it would have included a stop at 2 jewellery shops and a hefty entrance fee, if we even made it to a Wat.

3. A Landing Fee

There is a ferry that connects the BTS (Bangkok Subway) Saphin Taksin to the Grand Palace, for 30 baht ($1.10 CAD). While we were waiting for the boat to head back to the BTS (the same day that we met the oh so helpful tuk tuk driver), a man came up and was offering to take us by ‘private’ boat back to the BTS for 200 baht ($7.35 CAD). He told us that the regular ferry wouldn’t be leaving for an hour. If this was true, it might have been worth it.. But it wasn’t. A Dutch couple standing behind us told us to ignore this guy, because he had already scammed them once! When they arrived at the Grand Palace pier that morning, he had charged them a 20 baht ($.74 CAD) “landing fee”. In return, they were given a blank, neon green post-it as ‘proof’. Hustled.

 4. The Too Cheap Tuk Tuk Ride

On one of our first days in Bangkok, we headed to Chinatown and met some other foreigners along the way. Since we were all heading in the same area, we stopped a tuk tuk to see how much this would be. The driver said it would be 100 baht ($3.68 CAD), which seemed very reasonable for the 5 of us. As we were jumping in with excitement (this would have been our first tuk tuk experience!), one of the other foreigners asked how many stops it would make. The driver then admitted that before heading to China town we would be making 1 stop, probably at a gem or tailor shop. We got out and walked the 10 mins instead. The drivers make commission when they bring you to one of these shops, so if you don’t buy anything, they will leave you there or charge you more to take you to your original destination.

Other Common Scams We’ve Heard About:

5. Renting A Jet Ski Or Motorbike

When you rent one of these vehicles, they will request a huge deposit and/or your passport. When you return the vehicle they will say you have done some damage to it, and keep your deposit, or try to keep your passport until you pay a large sum! Never give up your passport – let them take a copy if they are insistent.

6. The Gem Scam

One of Thailand’s most popular, and lucrative, scams. This will usually involve a crooked tuk tuk or private tour driver, taking you to a great little gem shop so you can buy quality goods at prices much lower than back home. But really, people end up buying a beautiful coloured piece of glass for way more than it is worth.

7. Animals

Don’t pay to get your picture taken with the illegal, endangered animals that are on leashes or ‘happily’ dancing in routine. Yes, we’re saying avoid riding the elephants, visiting Tiger Temples, feeding the baby elephants chained to the trees, getting your picture with the gibbon monkeys (on leashes) on Phi Phi, or posing with a hawk on your arm at Karon view point.

8. The Overnight Bus Scam

Many people have had things stolen from their bags that are safely under the buses on overnight trips to Chiang Mai or Phuket. There are rumours that they even put sleeping gas in some of the trains – We have never heard any first person encounters of this. Keep all of your expensive items (phones/cameras) on you, and don’t flash them around.

If something is too good to be true then it probably is. Most of the scams in Thailand are successful because they play on the greed of their victims. As kind as Thai people are, they are also very shy. If you are approached by a well spoken Thai person on a street near a busy tourist attraction, then there’s a good chance this person might be a scammer. Be wary of any unsolicited help. Foreigners are also participating in scams to make a few bucks, so always use common sense and trust your instincts.

And now back to being bragging little jerks..

Visit Katie & Shawn online!

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