Thailand is generally a safe country, but scammers who are happy to cash in on tourists can also be found here. The Tiger published a memo for tourists, which listed in detail the “risk zones” where the tourist runs the risk of meeting dishonest “entrepreneurs”, as well as the main tricks of scammers. Especially now – after the removal of covid restrictions, a whole bunch of various scams have literally blossomed in Thailand.
For the most part, the most risky areas are a variety of transport, from tuk-tuks to buses, as well as areas of specific entertainment, like the Red Light District.
In general, the memo for tourists lists the following types of fraud typical for Thailand:
- Bangkok tuk-tuks and their owners: almost every driver of this well-known three-wheeled vehicle in the Thai capital overcharges, and this publication warns tourists first of all. Never use them without first agreeing on a tariff and haggling. To check a fair price, tourists are advised to estimate the cost of a trip to the desired point by taxi through the Grab app (Uber of Southeast Asia) – and “throw” over half to a third of the price. That is, if Grab costs 100 baht, then a tuk-tuk should cost from 150 to 200.
- Significantly worse are those tuk-tuk drivers who are trying to deceive tourists directly. “Hunting” is usually carried out in tourist areas, such as Khaosan Road or the Royal Palace, and is carried out as follows – wherever a tourist asks to go, they assure that this place is closed for repairs, and offer to go to another place – sometimes even for free . Naturally, a tourist will be taken to shops that pay the driver a percentage for each tourist – this can be a sewing workshop, a gem and jewelry store, as well as a restaurant. “Moreover, the goods there range from simply low quality to outright fakes,” experts say. The tourist's restaurant also expects overpriced and low-quality food. So tourists are advised to use tuk-tuks only for trips from A to B, noting that they are basically more expensive than taxis. And never believe if the driver says the destination is closed.
- Jet ski scams are widespread in Pattaya, but occasionally occur in Phuket and some smaller islands. The mechanism is this: after the tourist has used the jet ski and returns it, the renter points out some minor cosmetic damage, the tourist is accused of damaging the equipment and exorbitant repair fees are demanded. Tourists are warned that even a “policeman” may appear if the situation escalates – this is an accomplice of a scammer, whose task is to scare a tourist with a fine or arrest and take him to an ATM so that he can withdraw money for scammers. “This is so common in Pattaya that we would advise against renting a jet ski there. Elsewhere, check online reviews and ask your hotel for a recommendation from an honest rental company,” the reviewers recommend.
- Those who have already fallen for the scam are advised to be polite, but insist that they did not cause any damage and will not pay. And also – do not move away from the brawlers, including the “policeman”, from crowded places. Experts remind that in fact, according to the law, the maximum that threatens a tourist in this case is a fine, about “arrest” – this is only pressure from scammers. “Sometimes it might be better to pay, but at least try calling the tourist police on 1155,” they also advise.
- Motorcycle rental scam: This common vehicle also serves as a breeding ground for all sorts of scammers. The scheme is the same: they will try to collect money from the tourist for damage that the tenant did not cause. “Some stores seem to be so used to this extra income from charging damages that they are trying to squeeze it out of the tourist anyway,” the experts add. Considering that either a passport or a significant amount of money is pledged, scammers have such an opportunity. In this case, it is best to check the rental point – the authors of the guide advise using either a hotel rental, or checking a dedicated point by searching for “motorcycle rental” on Google Maps and reviews. Another tip: take detailed photos or even a video of the moped the first time you rent it, to prove that the existing damage already exists and was not caused by a tourist. By the way, it is recommended to inspect the underside of the moped – tourists almost never check there, and the damage can be significant and threaten not only with a fine, but also with possible troubles on the roads.
- Buses. Yes, here the tourist will also have to be vigilant. “Some of the cheap buses that run between Khaosan Road and the southern islands are able to keep their prices so low by stealing from their passengers,” the authors of the memo say. Everything is done simply: while passengers are sleeping on a long journey, the luggage compartment is carefully combed for valuables. Advice to tourists – firstly, if possible, avoid these buses, they have more convenient alternatives. And if, nevertheless, the tourist decides to save money, then they are advised not to leave any valuables in the suitcase in the luggage compartment.
- Red light districts: Go-Go bar and ping pong show scams: here the most common scam is street promoters to invite you to a free preview of a ping pong show (the show, remember, includes women performing various tricks with their sex bodies). As soon as the tourist is inside, they will demand a rather large amount from him. “Be aware, you are already in the dark of the bar, and the bouncers will only be happy to beat you up,” the authors warn. So the main salvation here is not to be fooled by “freebies” in any case.
- Counterfeit banknotes: carefully read the local currency, the authors of the memo warn. Always keep an eye on and check banknotes as soon as you leave the exchange office. Petty scams are possible even at mini-marts like 7-Eleven and Family Mart in tourist areas, where they usually announce out loud the amount that the tourist pays at the time of purchase – it's worth making the effort and counting the change. The worst situation is when the seller-swindler assures the tourist that he paid with a fake bill. The mechanism is as follows: when a tourist is distracted, the banknote issued by him is changed to a realistic support and even a scandal breaks out. Further, at best, a new payment will be required from the tourist, at worst, they can connect a “fake policeman”. Tourists are even advised to memorize the numbers of their bills, especially large ones. This may be a slight inconvenience, but it will help save money from scammers.
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