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6 Scams in Bangkok that you really want to avoid.

First of all we’d like to state that this article is in no way meant to discourage you from travelling to Thailand, it is meant to help you avoid scams and have an even better holiday. 

Thailand is very safe, but when visiting Bangkok, please do so informed. It will happen to every traveller sooner or later. You get caught in a local tourist scam. There is no reason to get upset about it. One learns from the experience and helps other tourists not fall into the same trap. And that’s exactly why we’re writing about it here. We got scammed, were bummed for a bit, laughed about it and moved on with our trip.

A scam often occurs when foreigners are trying to find their way to a specific location and some friendly Thai comes out to help you by offering a better ‘solution’ or directing you in a specific direction. We were also scammed, even though we have visited Thailand before and know about various scams.

This being said, the Thai are generally speaking very friendly people, and we certainly don’t claim that all locals are untrustworthy. Quite the contrary, Thai people are probably one of the friendliest people around the world you’ll meet. Keep reading on how to avoid common tourist traps in Bangkok or Thailand in general and save yourself money, frustration and bad experiences.

Tuk Tuk scam Soi Rambuttri Bangkok Thailand

The Grand palace is ‘closed’

When planning a visit to the grand palace in Bangkok, you’ll meet many ‘friendly’ local Thai men. They’ll most likely tell you that the palace is closed for a few hours because of a special occasion, like the King’s nephew’s birthday. Be aware, the stories are very sophisticated and the men very convincing. You are told it is a way better idea to engage in a touristic route on a tuc-tuc across the city, in which the ‘guide’ will show you some highlights of the city. It will only cost you 20 Bath ( around €0,56).

Seems too good to be true? IT IS! This price is of course way too low, which should ring an alarm bell right away.  The driver stops at a number of his friends’ shops where you will be forced to buy expensive gems, suits or other souvenirs. The driver then receives a fee from these shop owners, and if you don’t buy anything, gas coupons. Chances are you will be brought to other tourist attractions (which are ‘open’) at which you will pay a lot of money for something which is not worth it. Don’t be fooled, the palace is open daily from 08:30 am – 3:30 pm, seven days a week. The entrance is 500 baht for tourists. For Thai people, the entrance is free. You’ll find the palace at Na Phra Lan Road, Phranakorn (Rattanakosin).

Grand Palace scam Bangkok Thailand

Floating Market ‘in’ Bangkok

This is the scam we fell for. For the people that think: ‘this won’t happen to me, I’m not that stupid’, think twice. We’re experienced travellers and managed to dodge scams in countries like India, Tanzania, and Mexico. The worst part is that it wasn’t even our first time in Bangkok.

That day, we were heading to the Chatuchak Market. Trying to find our way on Google Maps, wandering the streets, deciding which local bus to take in the right direction. Very soon, a Thai man with a decent English accent approached us and told us we had to go to the opposite side of the street in order to take the bus in the opposite direction (which was, spoiler alert, a lie). He told us: ‘why visit the indoor weekend market in the heat of the day when you can also visit the floating market in a boat in the shadow’. He told us normal tourists pay at least three times as much as local Thai for this floating market, so he told us to ask for the ‘Thai ticket’ at the pier. We told him we would think about it and would walk to the pier. But we didn’t get a chance to make up our minds. He had already stopped a tuk-tuk driver and told him where to bring us. Even at this point, instead of feeling alarmed, we felt relieved because we really felt an honest Thai helped us out. Perhaps naive, but it all happened really fast. In fact so fast, that we’re still trying to wrap our heads around what happened exactly.

We were brought to the pier and had to pay 1,400 Bath (€37) per person. Being in Thailand for only one or two days, we did not realize how much that was in Euros. The boat ride through Bangkok canals was about 1.5 hours, and it stopped at the ‘Taling Chan floating market’ for half an hour. It was definitely not worth it, and we felt scammed. We were embarrassed, felt stupid and angry. The best thing about the trip was probably seeing a couple of Komodo dragons. We were also forced to buy drinks for ourselves and the captain, which made it even worse. Later we were informed by others the actual floating market is located 100 kilometres South of Bangkok.

Floating market scam Bangkok Thailand

Taxi- and tuk-tuk drivers Khao San Road and Soi Rambuttri

If you’re in the more touristic or busy areas, a bunch of taxi and tuk-tuk drivers will be waiting in front of your hotel every day. You may wonder how a cab driver waiting all day to offer city tours (visit the grand palace, various temples, or indeed, the floating market etc.) for just 20 baht each person, makes enough money for a living. But here’s the deal. They’ll take you to the highlights as promised, but as well to befriend shop-owners, where they will politely force you to buy the overpriced tourist stuff you don’t want or need. This scam shows many similarities with ‘the grand palace is closed scam’ in example one. You’ll end up spending way more money than planned and will be gone the whole day, while the tuk-tuk driver got a commission from every store he brought you to. Better think twice before you do a city tour for just 20 baht with a tuk-tuk.

Instead, we recommend booking this bike tour that will take you around the city’s highlights without trying to scam you. Not in the mood for biking with 30°C or just a fan of organising your own trip? Read here about apps to download that can help you avoid getting scammed.

‘No-meter’ Taxi

A golden rule for every newcomer in Bangkok. In case you decide to grab a cab, ask the driver to turn on the meter. This is a device installed in all cabs and is mandatory use for cab drivers, although, in practice, they often refuse to put the device on. If this is the case, say ‘no’ and try another cab. You can also bargain a specific price for your ride, but, in any case, never get in a taxi without agreeing on a price beforehand. In case you leave the price of your ride undecided, you will end up paying way too much without having the ability to negotiate any longer on the price.

Right from the start when arriving at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, taxi drivers will try to charge you a great amount of money for taking you to the city centre. To avoid having to negotiate after a long exhausting flight, book your private transfer to Khao San Road or Soi Rambuttri in advance.

Another tip when taking a cab is to make sure the cab driver understands your destination. The address in Google Maps is often only written in English, a language most local taxi drivers can not speak let alone read. A solution for this problem could be using Google Translate or showing the location on a map. Read here for more about apps to download that solve the language barrier.  Often hotels provide their guests with visiting cards on which the location of the hotel is written in Thai.

Taxi scam Soi Rambuttri Bangkok Thailand
Tuk Tuk scam Soi Rambuttri Bangkok Thailand

Unexpected ‘Gem’-stores

In case you do get tempted to go on an extremely cheap taxi or tuk-tuk ride, be aware in case the driver stops at a gem store. Shop owners will persuade you to buy worthless gems at inflated prices. Apart from the fact they probably sell you cheap material glass, very often these shop owners will tell you tourists are not allowed to bring these gems back to their home country. Lucky you! Because these goods can be delivered by mail. Tourists have to pay up-front and won’t receive anything on their home address, often deliberately spelt wrong. The gem scam is one of Bangkok’s longest-running scams. This scam also applies to tourist and tailor shops, where you are promised high-end Kashmir silk suits but walk out of the store paying way too much for a low-quality piece of clothing.

‘Booking’ trips

This scam also often starts with a friendly stranger on the street or a tuk-tuk driver promising to take you on a tour around the city. First, some temples will be shown to you. The tuk-tuk driver mentions that he will only need to bring you to the TAT – Tourism Agency Thailand. In this agency, you will be offered an extensive trip all the way through Thailand for between 500-1000 euros. Interesting fact, the TAT does really exist, however, it has no physical offices.

Probably at this moment, you will tell them you want to book your own trip, and they back off for a moment. After this, the still over-friendly tuk-tuk driver will bring you to another temple, still having paid nothing. Inside this temple, another over-friendly person who happens to be there ‘accidentally’  will approach you saying: ‘’don’t be stupid to book with a tourist agency, I know a place where only local Thai people buy their tickets.’’ Be aware, this is the same method that is used in the floating market scheme in example two.

At this point, it becomes really interesting, because you think you get a front-row ticket for a discounted price. Before you know it, you sit in another travel agency, just like the one you rejected an hour ago. This time, you hand over your credit card to someone who is booking you flights from Bangkok down to the island and up north to Chiang Mai. After having not received printed tickets but a promise to send them to your e-mail or hotel, you are being brought to another temple. At this point, most likely, the over-friendly tuk-tuk driver is gone, never to be seen again. In the best case, you have actually booked an over-priced trip to see the rest of Thailand. In the most common scenario, no real tickets are booked, and you just lost hundreds of euro’s.

These are the most common scams in Bangkok. Now you’ve read about them and are well-informed, start looking forward to visiting this amazing city. We’ve hardly ever felt safer in any city around the world than in Bangkok. It is one of our favourite cities in the world with its beautiful temples, delicious streetfood and vibrant nightlife. You won’t regret going.

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