How to avoid common scams in Bangkok

Some tuk tuk drivers target tourists fresh in town

Some tuk tuk drivers target tourists fresh in town

By Crystal Wilde

Whether you are staying Bangkok for the first time or are a veteran visitor to the city, if you look like a foreigner someone will no doubt try to scam you. Whether it’s just a few baht or a thousand, it’s the principle that will really get your goat when you’ve been had, so here’s a few of the most common Bangkok swindles and how best to avoid them.

A ‘scam’ is described in the English Dictionary as a ‘fraudulent business scheme’ or to ‘deprive of by deceit’. Whichever you fear the most, make sure you are clued up on the most common deceptions in Bangkok before you arrive in this fun but threatening city. While it is perhaps true that it’s a rite of passage for tourists to get ripped off at least a little bit in Bangkok, some scams are worse than others and if you don’t get the wool pulled over your eyes for the little fiddles you might just escape the big ones.

The two prices trick
This is one of Thailand’s most minor indiscretions so you shouldn’t feel too aggrieved if you come across it. For many services in Thailand, such as transport or admission into national attractions, as a foreigner you will be expected to pay more than the locals. This is a fairly commonly-accepted practice but the problems arise when there is an attempt to hide it.

Often the real price is written in Thai numerals and a second inflated price is written in Arabic numbers. For most popular tourist attractions, however, the foreigner price and the local price are usually clearly displayed, even when the increase is of 100 per cent or more. If someone charges you a price that you don’t think is right, it is up to you whether you want to argue the toss. If the two prices are clearly stated, however, you should decide before you partake it whatever it is whether you are prepared to pay the foreigners’ price.

The tuk tuk trick
As a tourist in Bangkok you will often be approached by a smartly-dressed and smiley tuk-tuk driver offering you an all-day tour of the city at a price as low as 10 baht. As you may have been told before, if something sounds too good to be true it’s usually because it is, so be careful not to be tempted by this con. As one of the most common scams in the city, this tour will normally consist of you being shipped to numerous fake gem shops and tailors while the both the driver and the shopkeepers pressure you to buy.

The tuk-tuk driver will be rewarded with gas tokens just for taking you into the shops and a much larger commission if you part with your hard-earned cash. If this happens to you, refuse to enter the shops and insist that the tuk-tuk driver takes you only to your desired destinations. There is also no such thing as the ‘Lucky Buddha’ or ‘Lucky Buddha Day’. For more information on transport in Bangkok.

The standard of buses in Bangkok varies wildly

The standard of buses in Bangkok varies wildly

The taxi trick
Taxis in Bangkok can be a tricky business as although they should be very cheap, tourists often get scammed. If you can persuade a taxi driver to put a journey on the meter, it will normally costs little more than the equivalent journey in a tuk-tuk, but of course will the added benefit of comfy seats, windows and air conditioning.

Most taxi drivers will however try and charge you a set price and tell you that it will be cheaper than the meter. Refuse this and find one who will do as you ask. Often when you walk away the driver will come back with his tail between his legs and offer to take you on the meter after all. Once inside, try to keep your bearings on a map of the city as often the driver will try and make up the difference by taking you on a rather round-about route to your destination.

The ping pong con
If experiencing the delights of the sex shows in Patpong, beware of touts on the street. Many will try to lure you inside their seedy establishments by offering you a show with ‘no cover charge.’ Always be sure to check the menu first, however, as the drinks in these places are often extortionate. Even a small bottle of water can cost you up to 500 baht.

If you don’t get pinched by this scam, you may be caught by another. If they think you are wise to the ‘no cover charge’ trick, the touts will often offer you ping-pong shows with beers for 100 baht. While the beer may be only that much, the show will, however, be a lot more and many tourists even find when collecting their bill that they have been charged extortionately for every time they glanced towards the stage. It is best to avoid bars that can’t be seen from street level. For more on Bangkok go-go bars.

Not very VIP Buses
Just because your ticket says VIP on it does not mean you’re going to have a comfortable ride. Many private bus companies offer services from Bangkok to other big cities. Some tourists will find themselves having to change vehicle countless times throughout the night and forced to pay extra charges along the way.

Worse, some even have their luggage stolen from the bus’s holdings as it makes its way slowly through central Bangkok. Always try and book BKS buses from the main bus station and keep your luggage as close to hand as possible.

Credit card fraud
Thailand has a bad reputation for combating this credit card fraud and if you do lose your card you may find your bank is reluctant to send you a replacement while you are in the country. Keep your card and your pin number out of sight as much as possible and report any losses to your bank straight away. If you are banking online while away, find an internet cafe with anti-spyware software.

If you are a victim of any scam in Bangkok and Thailand as a whole: Contact the Tourist Authority of Thailand on: +66 (0)2-6941222 or the Tourist Police on 1155.

Travel insurance: If you should fall prey to any scams in Bangkok it can be a great help to have decent travel insurance arranged. This accompanied with a police report can help you get compensation for any mishap. We recommend the online travel insurance site Travel Insurance Discounts for visitors from the UK.

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