Most tourist destinations around the world have their scammers. Thailand is no different. However, what is more tragic here is that Thai people are naturally very hospitable. They love playing the host and welcoming guests to their country. I am sure many of us have seen this generosity on long train journeys when families share their meals with you. But, it is unfortunate that once they start to have prolonged contact with foreigners, some of them begin to change. It is no longer “be our guest”. They will lie, cheat and even blindly rob you into order to get as much money from you as they can. But, to be clear here, this is still a minority of Thai people.
Despite the warnings in guidebooks and in websites like ours, these scams are still happening every day. It is really tragic because some tourists get hurt so much that they will never return to Thailand again. Even worse, they will tell their friends to avoid our adopted country like the plague. I really feel sorry for the tourists who go to the Grand Palace on their last day only to be told by scammers that the palace is closed. I was there the other day with some friends and we were told several times that the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun were all closed on that day. They said that it was our lucky day as they knew a temple called the Big Buddha which was open. What they didn’t mention was that they would drag us to a gem store where we would get a hard sell to buy worthless gems.
To help you be more street savvy on your next holiday in Thailand, we have decided to put together a top 10 of scams in Thailand. It is by no means definitive. If you have any scams that you would like to report, then please post them in the comments below.
1. The Grand Palace is Closed Scam – This scam can happen near any tourist attraction but still happens a lot outside the Grand Palace. As you approach, someone will tell you that the palace is closed for various reasons. Ignore them as you will end up in either a gem store or a tailor shop.
2. Thai Gem Scam – If you are not an expert on gems then I strongly urge you not to take the word of other people on how much money you can make if you sell these gems on return to your home country. People are losing a lot of money every day. Don’t make the mistake that you are different.
3. Wrong Change Scam – A common scam at places like 7-Eleven and Family Mart in tourist areas is to give you change as if you gave them a 500 baht note instead of a 1,000 baht note. Many tourists are not familiar with Thai money and often give the wrong money or don’t notice that their change is incorrect. Most shops will say out loud the denomination of any paper money you give them. Check your change!
4. Jet Ski Scam – Many people in Pattaya and Phuket are being scammed after renting jet skis. When you come back after your fun, they will point out scratches and dents in the jet ski and they will demand large sums of money. What they fail to mention is that a dozen other customers have already paid for those scratches. If you rent anything, be it motorcycle, car or jet ski, make sure all scratches and dents are documented.
5. Patpong Sex Show Scam – Don’t believe the touts outside who say free sex shows and drinks for only 100 baht each. You will end up paying a bill in the thousands. Stay clear if you are alone as they can turn violent if you refuse to pay.
6. Hualamphong Scam – Outside the train station you will meet official looking people who will say they will help you book the seats. They take you to their nearby travel agent and pretend to ring the train booking office. They then say the train is full and your only way to travel is on one of their buses.
7. Long Distance Bus Scam – Many people have had things stolen from their bags on overnight bus trips. Some have even reported they were drugged and found their money missing when they woke up.
8. Airport Taxi Scam – Official looking touts will pretend that they are meter taxis and tell you that it is 500-1000 baht to go into town. The meter taxi outside is less than half this. The police have tried to crack down on them but they are back. Ignore anyone who asks if you want a taxi. The real taxi drivers are waiting outside by their cars.
9. Blackjack Scam – This usually starts when someone asks you where you are from. If you say, New York, then he will say he has a sister who will be going to study there. He then asks if you can go and meet her as she has some questions. At their house, you somehow end up playing blackjack with them. They then ask you to help cheat someone out of their money. Don’t get tempted as it is you who is being scammed.
10. My Girlfriend is Pregnant Scam – A popular scams these days is your long distance girlfriend writing to you to say she is pregnant with your baby. She either asks for help to pay for the abortion or for money to raise the baby. What she doesn’t tell you is that she has already written to five other foreigners telling them that they are the father too. The latest gimmick is some medicine circulating in Isaan that swells their belly to make them look pregnant in case you fly in to visit them. The only way to know for sure is to go with them to the doctors to get an ultrasound.
Please remember, most scammers are successful because they play on the greed of their victims. If something is too good to be true then it probably is. As kind as Thai people are, they are also very shy. If you are approached by a well spoken Thai person on the street then the chances are high that this person is a scammer. Thai people are not normally so forward. However, please give them the benefit of the doubt unless, of course, they give you the codeword “Big Buddha” or “Lucky Buddha”. This is then their admission of guilt. Finally, it is sad to report that there are now foreigners praying on helpless tourists. So, be weary of any unsolicited help.