Top 7 Tourist Scams You Should Watch Out for in Thailand

Top 7 Tourist Scams You Should Watch Out for in Thailand

Be extra careful and avoid these tourist scams when travelling around Thailand.

Thailand can be a land of excitement and wonder for a new visitor, but it also comes with its own share of risk and danger. There are those among the jovial crowd who are looking to make a quick buck from an unwary tourist, by hook or by crook. Keep a wary eye out and don’t let these Thailand tourist scams spell the end of your hard-earned holiday!

Also read: The Ultimate Guide to Avoiding Scams and Theft in Europe

1. Jet skis

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The beautiful coastal beaches in the country are a local attraction for water sports, but should you ever decide to rent a jet ski, do keep in mind all scratches and dents that are already present on the vehicle before setting off. There are vendors who will falsely claim that you have damaged their jet ski after returning and demand compensation for repairs.

Many people have fallen for such a scam, especially in tourist hotspots such as Pattaya and Phuket. These tourists are often intimidated by “police officers”, usually accomplices pretending to be so, who would threaten to arrest them should they not cooperate.

It would be wise to avoid all jet ski activities to prevent yourself falling as another victim. However, if you really feel the need to experience the thrill in the water, never hand over your passport as collateral when renting one.

It is also important to note that this scam is not exclusive to jet skis. Other tourists have reported the same situation upon renting motorcycles and cars, so be extra cautious when you decide to rent a vehicle in Thailand!

2. Wrong change!

Get acquainted with the local currency! Keep track of the different types of baht notes you possess and their appearance once you leave the money changer. Many tourists often find themselves shortchanged and taken advantage of by cashiers as they are not familiar with Thai money.

Places like 7-Eleven and Family Mart in tourist areas usually declare out loud the amount of baht you pay during your purchase, so take the effort to double-check and ensure that the change you receive is the correct one.

A variant of this scam revolves around the shopkeeper accusing you of paying with a counterfeit note. He or she would go to the back of the store, away from your sight, swap the note you handed over with a realistic counterfeit one and return. Giving the fake note to you, he or she would demand new payment, leaving you to pay twice or thrice the original amount.

To avoid this, always keep an eye on your baht notes and roughly remember the serial numbers of the larger ones. The latter may prove to be a mild inconvenience for some, but it can end up saving you and your tight budget.

3. “This place is closed”

thailand tourist scams

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This scam is often encountered near any tourist attraction, but the majority of cases reported by victims usually happen outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

A stranger will usually approach you and inform you that the attraction is “closed” for various reasons. He or she will then recommend alternative locations, usually a gem store or a tailor shop, and dangle cheap discounts to entice you.

Should you unwittingly accept the offer, they will arrange transport via taxi or tuk-tuk who are in cahoots with the shops. Once there, they will attempt to bully you into buying overpriced goods, with extreme cases locking you in the shop until you decide to purchase something!

These strangers often look and talk convincingly, wearing formal shirts with “tourist police” tags. They can even be found inside the attractions as well, so be on your guard.

The solution to this would be researching the place before heading over. Remember to check out the operating hours and visiting times to avoid being misled.

Also read: Top 6 Hipster Hangout Spots in Bangkok

4. Sex shows

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The red light districts in Thailand are often well-known for their ping pong shows. The claim of cheap drinks and entry by the friendly promoters outside the bar could pique your innate curiosity.

But as they say, curiosity kills the cat. Once you step in, you’ll be led to a table where the girls will put up an underwhelming show. You will, then, be pressured to generously tip the performer despite being satisfied or not.

If you request to leave midway, the bill that comes along will demand that you pay thousands for the few drinks you just had. Refusing it will usually incur the wrath of the bouncers hanging around the bar, so it’s best to just concede and pay up to avoid further harm.

So steer clear of these shows, if you would rather not be left both disappointed and broke at the end of the day. This warning goes double if you are travelling alone, as lone tourists are easily ganged up on and are favoured targets by the scam.

5. Thai gems

thailand tourist scams

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When someone tells you that you can make a huge profit by reselling gems from Thailand, it sounds too good to be true.

In fact, it’s not true at all. You could be targeted for a gem scam, one of the more popular ones in the country. It usually begins with the scammer claiming that gems are easily harvested in the country, and can be purchased in bulk for cheap prices. He or she then continues to tell you that you can make lots of money by selling the bought gems back home.

This scam can be made further enticing when they throw in discounted prices, convincing you that you were the only few that they have decided to share this precious insider trade secret with. Accomplices acting as tourists around the store may also attempt to justify his or her story.

Do not make the mistake that many people have already fallen for due to greed. If you can indeed make huge sums from selling Thailand gems in other countries, why would he or she tell such a powerful trade secret to a random tourist who chances into the store? Politely refuse, and walk away.

6. Airport taxis

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When you exit from the airport, you will undoubtedly be harassed by official-looking taxi drivers who would offer a flat fee of 500 – 1,000 baht to head to town.

Not only do the real taxis with metres charge less than half of what they offer, but the scam drivers will also often attempt to persuade you to sign up for overpriced tour packages and bundles. The more extreme ones would purposely drive you to a wrong place with a similar name to your destination, and demand more cash for the proper journey.

Even if they use the meter, keep track of whether it is running throughout the journey. There are horror stories of where the taxi meter jams halfway during the trip, prompting dishonest drivers to charge exorbitant prices for a ride that would have cost far less in the meter rate.

It is important to note that taxi drivers are required by law to use the metre, so do not be intimidated if a driver requests a flat fee for his or her service. Firmly refuse and exit the car, there are thousands of other taxis in Thailand that would happily take you to the places you need to go.

7. Fake tour packages from “Tourism Authority of Thailand”

thailand tourist scams

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When a local stranger offers to sign you up for a tour package, courtesy by the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s travel agency, turn him or her down and walk away.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) does NOT operate travel agencies and sell anything to tourists. They are a government agency and are responsible for promoting their local wonders and attractions to foreign countries. They are also responsible in licensing travel agencies and guides, but do not actually possess their own agencies.

However, many scam companies have taken on the guise of TAT’s name and used its stellar reputation for their own ill deeds. A popular example would be individuals who would intercept tourists at Hualumphong, Bangkok’s main rail terminal, and falsely present themselves as an employee of TAT. They would then mislead the unfortunate victim by telling him or her that the tickets for the train route they wanted are sold out.

The scammer would go on to offer alternatives “provided” by TAT, such as a private bus or taxi that overcharges for the trip, and are usually the setup for further Thailand tourist scams.

Thus, always avoid anyone who claims to be from TAT, they hold no authority over you. No employee of TAT would be found walking around train stations or taxi stands to help out lost travellers.

Thailand’s Tourist Police Division recently introduced their 24/7 hotline for foreigners in distress. Should you find yourself in a middle of a scam, dial 1155 for police assistance. Do not worry about the language barrier as there will be interpreters on hand to translate your call.

Also read: 10 Best Destinations in Thailand for Culture and History

But of course, not every person and place in Thailand is looking for an opportunity to steal your hard-earned cash. There are a lot more friendly locals who genuinely love and welcome tourists to their country, so do not go around treating everyone with hostility and suspicion because of Thailand tourist scams. Just exercise a little caution and common sense in your adventures in the Land of Smiles, and you should be perfectly fine!

About Author

Youliang Teo
Youliang Teo

When he’s not caught up with the real world, Teo Youliang dreams of simply grabbing a rucksack and setting off on an adventure of a lifetime. Whether it means venturing through unknown places, meeting new faces, or frustratingly figuring out a travel map for hours, you can be sure that there isn’t any other place he’d rather be. He’s also content with a hot cup of tea, and writing stories at the comfort of his home.