21 Most Common Scams in Thailand

Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket, Patong, Krabi, Khao Lak, Hua Hin, Koh Samui, Chonburi

Thailand

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Before even going through the scams, the best advice to avoid these scams in Thailand is to avoid engaging strangers.

And the better their English is, the more you should avoid them.

If you must engage, LIE. E.g. make it seem like you have been to the city many times even when you’ve been there for only 5 hours.

Also, if something sounds too good to be true, such as “if you don’t like, you don’t need to pay”, it is.

 

A. TOURIST SPOTS/ACTIVITIES

1. The Grand Palace is Closed/This Place is Closed

thailand grand palace

This scam is so common, because it is so easy to pull off on unwitting tourists. It can be perpetrated by random strangers around the vicinity of the Grand Palace/tourist areas, tuk tuk drivers and even taxi drivers!

One variation is that taxi drivers or tuk tuk drivers will tell you that the grand palace is closed today for some special/Buddhist ceremony while you are still on the cab/tuk tuk. They will then advise you an alternative location such as the Sitting Buddha/Lucky Buddha/Marble Temple and claim that it’s only open once a year today (sounds too good to be true eh?)!

Listen to them and you will end up at some jewellery or tailor shops where you might be coerced into buying overpriced crap. Some of them might lock you in the shop until you start buying.

Another variation is where you get approached by strangers near the temple. They can simply say that the temple is closed (e.g. could be for lunch), or lead you to an entrance which only Thais can enter. When the duty officer stops you, the strangers will help to translate and bluff you that the palace is closed now for some special ceremony and to come back only at 3pm.

In the meantime, they will advise some alternative locations which you can visit that sound really good. Should you agree, they will help you flag a tuk tuk (in cahoots with them) which will eventually bring you to some gem stores or tailor shops..

By the way, the temple operates from 8.30am to 3.30pm. By the time you make it back, the temple would be close to closing or closed by then.

Some of these strangers can look (wearing formal shirt with “tourist police” tags) and sound really convincing, so do not even engage if someone approaches you on the streets.

Note that these scammers even operate in the temple! So do not assume that you are safe even when in it.

Finally, the Grand Place is just an example and any place can be conveniently used in its place. Thus, it is safer to always check out the operating hours of the places you are visiting in Thailand.

 

2. Jet Ski Scam

This is a very painful scam as many have found out.

It is very simple, in that the company which you rented the jet ski from will claim that you have damaged the jet ski and demand a substantial repair fee. Should you refuse, there will be men in “uniform” who coincidentally passes by and threaten to arrest you (they can’t).

To protect yourself from this, the first thing you should do is never give your passport as collateral when renting the jet ski.

Next, examine the jet ski. Document/remember any scratches, dents or potential damaged parts. If they demand payment from you, call the local tourist police at 1155.

Don’t vex yourself up when trying to talk sense to these crooks, because it will not work.

This is pretty common in areas such as Pattaya and Phuket. To be really safe though, avoid all jet ski activities especially in Pattaya. Even the police will not be able to help. At best, they can only help you negotiate a lower fee, as they have a cut in the money as well.

 

3. Tailor Scam

tailoring

This can happen anywhere, but is more likely at tourist locations and also at the locations where tuk tuk drivers send you to (if you have fallen for the tuk tuk scam).

For instance, the tuk tuk driver might have told you to wait for a while as he take a toilet break. Coincidentally, some stranger approaches you, claiming that he is a lawyer from the US and he is back in Thailand to visit his dad or some other nonsensical story..

He will then tell you about some bargain he found at a tailor shop which only Thai people know to make you feel privileged. Next, he will get more specific (persuasive) such as talking about Armani suits and how he use them for work everyday. Or he may have found out which country you are from and claim that some celebrities from your country have been a customer there.

These scammers are shrewd and they all have a template set of anecdotes for different countries. Having been on the receiving end before, it works pretty effectively in building trust.

As most unaware tourists will do, they will enquire about the location. If they don’t, by now the tuk tuk driver will be back and the stranger would have “helped” you tell the driver the location to send you there.

Over at the shop, you pay everything upfront as the prices seem like a good deal and high pressure sales tactics are used. They even promise you home country delivery!

However, what you get in return is poor fitting polyester crap, not cashmere or higher quality threads as initially promised.

To prevent yourself from being exploited by this scam, firstly never pay upfront. Come up with a story/excuse for wire transfer. Then search online for reviews of the shop you are at. Next, do not take advice from random strangers, this includes even the tourist police! Finally, if what the tailor says sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

 

4. The Gem Scam

This scam preys on your greed, which is a very powerful force.

The modus operandi is that the owner will tell you that gems in Thailand are abundant and so you can get them for cheap, wholesale prices. You can make a killing by reselling them back home. They might even throw in some “government sponsored sale” which is absolute nonsense.

There might even be other accomplices in the shop who pretend to be tourists, claim that today is indeed the Thai Tourism Day and claimed that they have just bought a beautiful piece of jewellery.

If something seems too good to be true, it is. The gems sold are worthless pieces of glass or synthetic materials so don’t waste your time. Legitimate traders would also not operate in such a way.

If you have fallen for the scam, contact the tourist police and file a report which you can try to submit for insurance claims. If you have used a credit card, also contact your credit company to either reverse those charges or to dispute them.

 

5. Bar/Café Scam

Perpetrated by young, local girls, they target single male travellers by approaching them and getting them to go to a local bar or café.

They get you to buy drinks and by the time the bill comes, they will be gone. Now, you check the bill, and HOLY..

 

6. Sombondee Seafood Market Scam

somboondee-seafood-restaurant

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Very similar to the hotel scam mentioned earlier.

The Sombondee Seafood Market is a play on the Somboon Seafood Chain which is very popular in Thailand for good food at affordable prices.

However, the Sombondee Seafood Market serves crap at inflated prices. Widely perpetrated by errant tuk tuk and cab drivers in Bangkok.

Look at the reviews and you will know: http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g293916-d1675970-Reviews-Somboondee_Seafood_Restaurant-Bangkok.html

 

7. Patpong Sex Show Scam

Patpong

At the red light district of Patpong, you will be approached with “The Menu”, a list of all the fun acrobatic prowesses you can see.

You will be led to some shady, nameless bar upstairs (ground level ones have fixed prices for drinks, those above are likely scams) and made to pay for a couple of “lady drinks” for the girls at your table.

Now, the show begins. A meek and simple trick is performed and you are asked to tipped generously. Should you suspect something amiss and request to leave, you will be smacked with a check of crazy sums. Pay you will or the bouncers standing around will give you a good lesson.

For those travelling alone, avoid such areas as you will be easily bullied and coerced.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Tuk Tuk Scam

thailand tuk tuk

Tuk Tuks in Thailand prey on your greed with super low offers of all day tours. They justify this by claiming that it is the Thai Tourism Day and that the government is sponsoring free gas. On this day, there happen to be some bargains somewhere that they know of..

And so it happens, on the tours, what they do is they send you to jewellery or tailor shops along the way where they earn commission should you make any purchase! In those shops, many tactics could be used to make you buy something, such as locking the shop or simply by wasting your time.

Of course, they do not just bring you there without you saying so, they do it in a smart way.

First, they will find out the purpose of your vacation, is it to shop? To sightsee? Then, they enquire about your itinerary and began making suggestions to “better places” or places with more “bargains”. They will even claim that this or that place is closed but there’s another which they can bring you to.

If they discover that you are new to the city, they may bring you to a travel agency and offer to help you plan the rest of the trip. A famous one is the TAT – Tourism Authority of Thailand. It’s bullshit, avoid at all costs unless you do not mind paying exorbitant sums for fake bus tickets, hotel bookings and even plane tickets.

The more scheming ones will bring you out of town/city/to somewhere secluded and then demand an exorbitant amount to send you back.

To top it off and make it even more authentic, sometimes the tuk tuk drivers don’t suggest the places. Rather, they send you to a location, go for a toilet break, and a well dressed stranger will approach you from nowhere, chat with you to build trust and then share “insider tips” for where next to visit.

Avoid them totally, unless you get a kick from exposing scams or from playing along.

 

2. Gang at Hua Lamphong Train Station Scam

Thailand train

At the train station, an “official” looking person will approach you and ask where you are going. He will then go to the counter, pretend to look through the computer and tell you that your train has been fully booked.

Surprise surprise, he then offers you a great deal in that he knows a taxi driver who can get you to your location for a minimal cost instead.

Of course, it is not minimal cost and when you reach your location, the driver will turn aggressive and demand more money. The more scheming ones will drive you to an out of reach location and then demand more money.

Another variation is that the “official” looking person will offer to help you book train seats outside the train station. They bring you to a nearby travel agent, pretend again to check with the train company via phone only to find that the train is fully booked. They will then tell you your only option is to use a cab as mentioned earlier, on or one of their buses.

 

3. Taxi Scam

thailand taxi

Obviously, avoid taxis without meters, especially those with “broken” meters. If you are left with no choice, negotiate the price first.

For those taxis with meters and yet try to negotiate a flat rate price with you, never do so.

Beware of the taxis in airports as well, as they cost more than taxis outside.

Also be wary of the final location which you end up in, as they might send you to a wrong place with a similar sounding name to fleece you of your cash.

Also, do not reveal much info and definitely do NOT take up advice or offers from the driver.

 

4. Motorbike Scam

motorbikes in thailand

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The first variation is similar to the jet ski scam, but could be a whole lot more troublesome.

The second variation is much more treacherous. When you leave your motorbike parked and locked somewhere, the company will send someone with a spare key to unlock it and steal it back.

Then, you will be forced pay up for losing your motorbike.

Again, do not hand over your passport as collateral when renting the motorbike.

A simple turnaround to this problem is to use an OLD passport and also to use your own lock, no matter how troublesome it is. Better to be safe than sorry.

 

5. Overnight Bus/Train/Private Bus Scams

Honestly, this happens anywhere, be it in Europe or Asia.

Your belongings are at risk of going missing on overnight buses or trains unless you secure them with a lock. Some have been reported of being drugged and losing their wallet when they woke up.

Note that you can be a victim of theft even in the day, not just overnight!

Do not expose your valuables in the public unnecessarily. Beware of private bus companies with VIP buses. Theft is normal on these VIP buses and travel time takes longer than advertised.

 

C. ACCOMMODATION

1. Hotel Scams

Always check that the hotel you’ve arrived at IS the one that you intend to stay at.

There are hotels which trade on the names of popular ones and cab drivers which are in cahoots with them to send you to a wrong hotel which you think is right.

By the time you realise, you might have already paid in full for the hotel and also a number of tours that you have signed up for.

 

D. MISC

1. Bird Shit Scam

Somehow, even bird shit can be a scam.

This works surprisingly well, because when you get hit by bird shit, your emotions take over, logic fails and you become distracted.

How it works is very simple, you get hit by bird shit miraculously, some stranger appears out of nowhere, helps you clean up and in the confusion, clean up your valuables as well.

Note, it can be anything else besides bird shit! It could be a clumsy waiter who spills water on you, a random jogger who bumps into you, etc.

 

2. Fake Police (sometimes even real ones do this) Scam

A scam as old as human history, it is still common and not easy to detect.

You will be approached by the police who then ask to see your passport. Something wrong will be found with your visa and you will be asked to pay a fine on the spot.

To solve this, first do NOT let emotions get the better of you (fear), stand your ground (I’m sure you would have done your visa properly) and then offer to accompany them to the police station.

This is a simple and effective solution but not easy to carry out if you are easily intimidated.

 

3. Timeshare Scam

Again, ANOTHER stranger (you should know by now to avoid strangers :p) approaches you with a FREE scratchie card (free is the most expensive!) or questionnaire.

Since there’s no harm done, or so you thought, you proceed to scratch the card or do the questionnaire and next you know you have won a prize!

But to claim that prize, you would have to head to a hotel which may or may not be nearby. Anyone sane would probably have said thanks but no thanks and rejected the offer. However, the stranger will play the sympathy card and claim that if you don’t go, he would not be paid for doing his job.

So you go.. And you end up in a room with other tourists, listening to a presentation on timeshare apartments. At the end of it, you are presented with a very special discounted price and pressured into buying it.

The timeshare scheme on offer probably does not exist by the way.

 

4. Wrong Change Given Scam

This scam can happen anywhere as tourists are usually not familiar with the local currency and some do not even bother checking their change.

There are also of course, honest mistakes, so the onus is on you to check.

 

5. Cards/Poker/Blackjack Scam

A stranger will approach you and try to befriend you.

For instance, he may ask where you are from. It does not matter what you say, as he will say that he has a relative who is going there soon (for any reason such as studying) or share some other anecdotes (they all have a template).

Then, he will ask if you are willing to come over to his house as his relative has some questions, or he might outright invite you for a game of cards.

Over there, somehow you will end up playing poker or blackjack with them.

They WILL let you win the first few rounds. Then, the real fun begins as the stakes get higher. Your losses start piling up and should you refuse to pay, gang members will appear and threaten your life.

 

6. Fake Baht Scam

1000 baht

This is how it usually goes.

When you pay for an item, the shopkeeper may claim that your note is counterfeit, bring it to the back/out of sight to swap with a counterfeit note!

He comes back, gives you the counterfeit note and demands for new payment.

This is a double or triple whammy as you had to pay more than the original plus you get a counterfeit note! The solution to this is to never let any note get out of your sight.

Also, be wary of the 1000 baht note as it is most commonly used. Take note of the serial numbers of the large notes as well.

 

7. Bird Food Scam

This scam is simple.

First, the stranger approaches you with a bag of bird seeds. He then forces you to take the bag and to scatter the seeds on the ground.

When you are done with a bag, the scammer might give you even more bags or demand 100 baht for that bag. Refuse and he will get aggressive.

Note: you must forcefully stand your ground as the scammer is likely to be rather aggressive.

 

8. Laundry Scam

Your (expensive) items might just go missing and you get no recourse besides an apology. But that’s just the first part of the scam.

The second part is that the laundry company will assist you by bringing you to a shop to buy the set of clothes/pants that you lost, which they earn a commission from.

 

9. Pickpockets

What is a scam article without pickpockets?

Besides the bird shit scam as mentioned earlier, there are pickpocket pairs as well. One person will knock into you and the other will pickpocket you from behind.

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18 Comments

  1. Hello, my wife and I recently got scammed by Nakorn Sawan Tailor trading as Dusit Collection. We took a Tuk Tuk to the Grand Palace where we were approached by a man who claimed that he was a government worker employed to protect tourists. He told us that the Grand Palace was open but as it was a Buddhist holiday, he recommended that we come back after 12pm (lunch time). He then asked if we had a map so that he could point out a few local temples that we could visit while we were in the area. We didn’t have a map so he kindly provided us with one and circled a few temples. Then he told us that we should hire a government Tuk Tuk which we could identify by their yellow number plates and that we should only have to pay about fifty bht fare for two hours. He asked us if we had heard about a special sale on television last night as, this week only, Thai export quality cashmere was available for purchase by the public. He circled a place on the map and said that he would tell the driver to take us there too. So we went to the temples one by one and at one of the temples we started talking to a budhist monk who seemed like a nice gentleman who told us that he was a banker and that he was here on his day off (it being the 8th day of the week and he, being Buddhist, would spend his time at the temple). He told us that just yesterday he had bought four suits as the cashmere was only available for purchase this week. We then went to the tailors, ordered two winter coats on the promise of an international deliver which never came. Our bank said that as we had no evidence of a non-delivery agreement, we could not get a refund of our purchase. So as a heads up, if you buy anything from Thailand on the promise of a delivery. Get a written non-delivery agreement(!) and pay with Visa.

    Reply
  2. So, just how do you pick a taxi?

    Reply
    • I was scammed by taxis in Bangkok as well as in Phuket the first couple of times I went to Thailand.

      When choosing a taxi:

      1. Ask politely if s/he will use the meter. If s/he says no, find one that will. Or, if you know the price to where you are going, negotiate it before getting in.

      2. Beware of highway charges. One taxi driver insisted on taking the highway with me one time despite my wishes to take the local roads. At every toll gate, he shouted at me “100BAHT!!” (the actual toll was 20BAHT as shown on the sign).

      3. If you are backpacking and do not have a hotel reserved, NEVER tell the driver so. This happened to me in Phuket. I was taken off the highway (from the airport on the way to Patong beach) and into the jungle (seemed so at the time as it was night) to a tour agency. I was forced to take one of their expensive hotel packages in order to proceed.

      4. At the airport, only take the taxis that are at the taxi rank and where you buy the taxi ticket from the girl at the desk. I made the mistake of being impatient and flagging a taxi who was sitting on the road just away from the taxi rank. Once on our way, he proceeded to try to charge me triple the charge to downtown BKK from the airport or else drop me and my wife in the middle of the highway. I had to negotiate only paying double the real fare of 300BAHT at the time. (But, I asked my wife for all the coins she had and paid him with a large handful of coins, which I dropped on the ground in front of him when we got to the hotel 🙂

      Reply
      • Thanks for this. We will be travelling to Thailand in December. And will be needing to take a taxi from the airport to our hotel. We will now known to be patient and wait for the rank taxis.

        Reply
  3. Someone attempted to scam me at the airport, but thanks to this list I was wary and caught on fast. I’m very grateful, because it as late at night and could have been a real hassle! I arrived from another part of Thailand into Bangkok, exhausted, at the airport at 10:30 pm. The last buses (2 airport buses and one city bus) from the airport to my hotel area were at 11pm, according to the website, which, if you have traveled in Thailand much, you knows means diddly-squat. Small window to catch a ride on a bus, especially when new to the area, the buses, and not speaking Thai, and likely being misled by the website. I followed the signs to public transportation, but there was no clear bus stop. A friendly looking woman approached me and asked where I needed to go (she was talking loudly with many people, appeared to be directing tourists, and was wearing “official” looking clothing). When I told her my destination, she said the was no more public bus, only the airport bus. She said it would come at 11:30, and pointed the opposite direction from where the signs had pointed. I asked her 2 more times: where is the airport bus stop? She smiled and pointed at the far end of the terminal. I began walking that direction, but sought out more opinions. I chose a couple passengers, and a real traffic cop, and a security guy. The woman had pointed me in the wrong direction on purpose. I was standing at the bus stop when I asked, and she tried to get me to walk away, telling me the bus came at 11:30 so I would feel I had plenty of time. Obviously she was with the cab companies. By misdirecting me, I would have missed my 11pm 30 baht airport bus, and would have been forced to take a cab to the tune of 800 baht. I didn’t even get annoyed, because thanks to reading this, I had seen it coming and had not been inconvenienced. I turned around, walked back to the correct stop where I had been 2 minutes before, and the bus arrived shortly, and I made it to my hotel. Ask around! Be wary of people who approach you! Don’t take one person’s word for anything ( sometimes they are quite honest but just don’t understand you). Leave plenty of time when you are booking your transportations and connections. Have a backup plan. Make sure you have a smartphone and download maps and all your emergency info and have a good SIM card with data and calli so you can reach your hotels and get assistance if needed. Write down or memorize the Thai 911. Be smart, act savvy, and things go smoothly!

    Reply
  4. Just been approached in mbk centre. Firstly by a woman who said she loved my wifes dress. She then went on to say that some great shopping centre was having a tax free day. She asked what hotel we were staying in. We walked a bit further down and was approached by another guy who said he worked at our hotel and recognised us. He had an hour to spare as his wife was getting her hair doneand would we like to go to the same shopping centre that the girl mentioned earlier. This was a scam and i picked up on it immediatly. The girl had phoned him and told him which hotel we were staying in. He did not work for the hotel and was somehow going to rip us off. It was funny that he would not let me take his picture. Take care in thailand if someone approaches you and tries to be friendly its usually a scam.

    Reply
  5. Just back from bkk on 6th jan. My family of 4 uber everywhere we go. Rates from hotel in pratunam to JJ weekend is 113 baht, to union mall is only 93 baht, from central world n mbk back to hotel is only 65 baht! We totally gave up opening taxi doors to ask for metered fare which never seems to exist!

    Reply
    • That’s a brilliant alternative as well, thanks for sharing Karen!

      Reply
    • Were Uber drivers available very late at night? My plane lands at 3am and I was planning to use Uber, but I was unsure just how much of a chance I had to catch a ride around 4am!

      Reply
  6. The van driver stole my JBL Charge 2+ speaker from my unlock luggage. The situation was simple, there were few luggages loaded to the van especially they should keep at the back but mine was keep close to the driver at the front seats where there were no passengers in front, one the way he complained this and that to make us focus on his problem, traffic but we lost focus than can be one option he could steal my speaker, second, he ask all passengers to take a rest for 15 minutes out of the van, that was also the time when they can easily steal our thing.

    Careful, please lock your luggage at all time when travel
    Do not buy bus/ van ticket or any kind of service from ” Tourism Information” wherever if it’s located in the hotel or whatever ! http://www.richardbarrow.com/2013/05/when-is-a-tourist-office-not-a-tourist-office/ Scame!

    Reply
    • Hi Sovann, thanks for sharing! Sorry to hear that, but this is a great reminder for us to always remain careful even for such kinds of “routine” situations

      Reply
  7. Well I will like not to go there anymore lot of options in the world now. If we all start doing this it will send a great reminder to authorities and a simple strong action against such people look like to be long due.

    I know after reading lot of articles but issue is does not look like to be safe for family or friends you travelling with. I will prefer to travel locally than to go to Thailand now.

    Reply
  8. I WITH MY FRIENDS WENT TO PAT PONG night market.on 22 april 2016..ONE PERSON APPROACHED US to watch sex show for 50 BAHTS PER PERSON WITH A FREE DRINK….AND SAID.. IF U DON’T LIKE, DON’T PAY. WE WENT IN A SHOW AND DRINK 4 BEERS BY 4 PERSONS. AND DURING THE SHOW, THEY DEMAND TIP..WE PAID. AND WE were not FEEL Comfortable WITH THE GIRLS. AND THEY DEMAND 6600 BAHT INSTEAD OF 200 BAHT. THEY ANGRY AND SAID WRONG WORDS. WE IMMEDIATE PAID 6600/-.. SO BE AWARE..DON’T GET INVOLVE IN PAT-PONG SEX SHOWS..

    Reply
    • Hi Rajiv,

      Thanks for sharing! Totally, these scammers love to promise something and not honour their word, be in at the red light district or even in everyday life, such as when dealing with taxi or tuk tuk drivers.

      Reply
  9. Credit card fraud is a major worry for anyone using their credit card online. You may be booking your hotel over a bogus or unsafe wifi network, or even a bogus hotel booking site. So it’s best to use it as little as possible.

    It is possible to completely book your hotel without a credit card, via a reputable and globally recognized booking site. If that interest you, read this guide . http://www.pattayaunlimited.com/thailand-hotel-booking-without-credit/

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing Darren!

      Reply
  10. I hear the Grand Palace is closed scam every time I go there. They play announcements about this scam near the Grand Palace now. One scammer tried telling me it was closed while the announcement was clearly playing.

    Taxis refusing to use their meters happens sometimes in Bangkok too. I had one pick me up, and tell me it was 100 baht minimum charge as he drove off. I told him no meter 35 baht minimum. He argued with me for 2 – 3 miles before turning on. So I got the first 2 miles free that day.

    Bangkok is a safe place, and I never felt threatened, or in danger, but you do need to be street smart.

    Never tell anybody that it is your first time there. Always say you have been there many times, and have many friends that live there when asked.

    Happy Travels

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing Khun!

      Reply

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