33 Most Common Tourist Scams in Thailand

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Koh Phi Phi Island

Koh Phi Phi Island

 

Also known as the land of smiles, Thailand has much to offer and has always been one of the top tourist destinations in Asia.

With a tropical climate, white sand beaches, majestic mountains, exotic food, luxury modern shopping centres and many more, the country is bound to delight.

However, accompanying this influx of tourists has been the rise of tourist targeted scams and petty crime.

So read on to learn how to protect yourself in the land of smiles!

 

 

A. TOURIST ACTIVITIES

1. The Grand Palace is closed / this place is closed

Grand Palace, Bangkok

Grand Palace, Bangkok

 

How it works:

This is a common scam in Thailand and globally (e.g. Brazil, Greece), because it is easy to pull off.

It can be perpetrated by anyone – strangers around the Grand Palace / tourist areas, tuk tuk drivers and taxi drivers.

One variation: being told that the Grand Palace is closed for a special / Buddhist ceremony:

  • They then recommend an alternative location (e.g. Happy Buddha / Sitting Buddha / Black Buddha / Lucky Buddha / Marble Temple / Export Centre), claiming it only opens once a year and that day is today!
  • Should you go along, you will end up at a jewelry / tailor shop and pressured into buying overpriced crap.

Another variation: strangers near the temple who bring you to an entrance only Thais can enter:

  • When the duty officer who only speaks Thai stops you, the stranger will pretend to translate, telling you that the palace is closed for a special ceremony and to come back later.
  • They recommend alternative places which sound cool, and flag for you a tuk tuk which they are in cahoots with.
  • Next, you will end up at gem stores or tailor shops.
  • To make matters worse, when you are back at the Grand Palace, it might have already be closed for the day (closes at 3.30pm).

 

What to do:

These scammers can look (wearing formal shirt with “tourist police” tags) and sound convincing, so do not engage if someone overly friendly approaches you on the streets.

Some of them even operate in the temple! So do not assume that you are safe even when inside the compound.

Finally, the Grand Palace is just an example and this can happen with any tourist attraction.

Thus, always check the opening hours before visiting any attraction.

 

2. Jet ski scam

 

How it works:

This is a common scam not just in Thailand (e.g. Pattaya, Phuket), but in other less developed countries as well (e.g. Indonesia, Mexico).

In short, when you return a rented jet ski, the operator will claim that you have damaged it. A substantial repair fee is then demanded.

Should you refuse, there will be men in “uniform” who pass by coincidentally and threaten to arrest you (they can’t).

 

What to do:

First, only engage a licensed, reputable tour operator which you can find via:

  • Klook: best day tours platform in Asia – excellent curation of tours, tickets and transport – e.g. a popular tour involving jetski:
  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, etc can be found here – e.g. most popular tour:
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operator: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

Next, never give your passport as collateral when renting the jet ski and examine the jet ski before usage.

Document / remember any scratches, dents or potential damaged parts. If upon return the operator demand an unwarranted repair fee, call the local tourist police at 1155.

 

3. The gem scam

 

How it works:

This is another scam which can be found around the world (e.g. India, Sri Lanka).

The modus operandi is that in a gem shop, the owner will tell you that gems in Thailand are abundant. Thus you can get them for cheap, wholesale prices.

They claim that if you resold these back home, you will make a killing, and that these are even cheaper today due to the “government sponsored sale”!

There may even be other accomplices in the shop who pretend to be tourists.

They will tell you that today is indeed the Thai Tourism Day and that they have just bought a beautiful piece of jewelry for a good discount.

 

What to do:

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

Should you fall for the scam, contact the tourist police and file a report.

If you used a credit card for payment, contact your credit card company to either reverse those charges or to dispute them.

 

4. Bird food scam

Bird food scam in Thailand

Bird food scam in Thailand. Source: thaitravelblogs.com

 

How it works:

You will find this scam around the Grand Palace.

The scammer will approach you with a bag of bird seeds, forcefully hold your hand, pour the seeds into your hands and then scatter them on the ground to feed the birds.

If you resist, he will claim this is free and done for good luck.

However, once a bag is cleared, payment will be demanded not just from the scammer, but from a bunch of accomplices who suddenly appear.

 

What to do:

Firmly reject.

 

5. Bird release scam

Bird release scam in Thailand

Bird release scam in Thailand. Source: Flickr – Shankar

 

How it works:

This scam happens in temples at Pattaya where someone offers you the chance to release a bird for good fortune.

In most cases, the birds are weak and will be caught after release anyway.

However, a big sum of money will be demanded from you.

 

What to do:

Firmly reject.

 

6. Sombondee Seafood Market scam

Somboo Seafood copycat

Somboo Seafood copycat. Source: wooramier, imchiasoon

 

How it works:

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, and errant tuk tuk and cab drivers in Bangkok will love to bring tourists here for the commission.

The reviews say it all: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g293916-d1675970-Reviews-Somboondee_Seafood_Restaurant-Bangkok.

 

What to do:

Do some research online for reputable food places to eat at, or check with your hotel / hostel staff.

Also, always check the menu carefully (prices, fine print), do not eat what was not ordered, and check your bill carefully.

Otherwise, you can also consider joining a food tour for an authentic, local food experience!

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, etc can be found here. The most popular guided food tour:
  • Klook: best day tours platform in Asia – excellent curation of tours, tickets and transport. Some of the most popular tours include:

Klook.com

  • BonAppetour: join locals over a meal for an authentic dining experience
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operator: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

 

7. Tailor scam

 

How it works:

This can happen anywhere, but is more likely at tourist locations and also at locations where tuk tuk drivers send you to.

For instance, halfway through a tuk tuk trip, your driver might ask you to wait as he takes a toilet break.

Coincidentally, a 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 boost his credibility, he will talk about Armani suits and how he uses them for work everyday.

Or he could ask which country you are from. and claim that some celebrity from your country have been a customer there.

At this point, your tuk tuk driver will be back and the stranger  will “helpfully” tell him where the shop is. Without hesitation, the driver will bring you there, even if you were to say no.

At the shop, the prices seem like a good deal and high pressure sales tactics are used to make you pay the full sum upfront. They even promise home country delivery!

However, what you get back home will be poor fitting polyester crap, not cashmere or higher quality threads as initially promised.

Some scam shops include: Nakorn Sawan Collection (name changed to Vasana), Ram Fashion International, B.B. Fashion (name changed to Thai Fashion), etc.

 

What to do:

Never pay upfront. Come up with a story / excuse to do wire transfer instead.

If you want to get tailored clothes in Thailand, check out online travel forums and only shop at reputable places.

Do not take advice from random strangers, sometimes even the tourist police!

 

8. Scam tour agencies

Rice fields tour in Thailand

Rice fields

 

How it works:

Watch out for scam tour agency touts at:

  • Streets (e.g. Khao San Road in Bangkok)
  • Tourist attractions (e.g. Grand Palace)
  • Those who proclaim to be affiliated to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)

These scammers will be dressed in official looking uniform and will be advertising low prices to get you to sign up for:

  • Tours where more time is spent on visiting shops (e.g. tailor shop, gem shop).
  • Poor quality accommodation.
  • A bus / train / plane ticket ticket at inflated prices.
  • Hidden fees such as service charge, tour guide fees, tips, etc.

Some infamous scam agencies include ITAT, Unseen Travel, Blue Asia Travelseeker, etc.

 

What to do:

If anyone claims to be from TAT, that is a scam as TAT does not operate or back any businesses.

All a legitimate tour agency can claim, is that they are licensed by the TAT.

You can find a licensed, reputable tour operator online via:

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, etc can be found here – e.g. most popular tour:
  • Klook: best day tours platform in Asia – excellent curation of tours, tickets and transport – e.g. most popular tours include:

Klook.com

  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operator: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

As for offline tour operators, ask:

  • Is the operator licensed and is there a professional website, physical office, business email and working telephone number?
  • Are there online reviews? Do they sound legitimate?
  • Is the price too good to be true? What does it cover (vehicles, guides, safety, insurance, hidden fees, etc)?

When paying:

  • Avoid paying in full upfront unless through a reputable platform / operator.
  • If using an online platform, do not make payment off the platform.

 

9. Massage tout scam

Massage tout

Massage tout. Source: Cherepanova Elena

 

How it works:

You will face this scam in the alleys of Sukhumvit.

These scammers pose as massage shop managers, offering a special price to tourists to come to their massage shops as they claim that business has not been so good recently.

Should you agree, once they bring you to the shop, they will ask for prepayment, as they have to go back out onto the streets to find more customers.

These scammers are obviously not affiliated to the massage shop, so should you pay, you will not be getting any massage in return.

 

What to do:

Never pay upfront to a stranger on the street. Only do so inside the shop.

To find a legitimate operator:

 

10. Patpong sex show / ping pong show scam

Patpong nightlife

Patpong nightlife. Source: gomadnomad.com

 

How it works:

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

You will be led to some shady, nameless bar upstairs (ground level ones have fixed prices for drinks, those above are likely scams).

You are then 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.

 

What to do:

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

Or do your research and avoid the shady / rogue operators and the nameless bars which not on the ground level.

Should you choose to go:

  • Leave most of your valuables in the hotel / hostel / apartment safe – secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Open a separate bank account just for travelling with not much cash in there – in case you are hit with a hefty bar bill and accosted to the ATM, this will limit your losses.

 

11. Bar / cafe scam

Payment dispute in Pattaya

Payment dispute in Pattaya. Source: bangkok112.com

 

How it works:

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.

Should you refuse to pay the exorbitant amount, you will find some burly men rounding you up.

 

What to do:

If you want to make new local friends, some questions for you:

  • Does the restaurant / bar seem legitimate? Are there customers?
  • Is the stranger reading from a script? Evasive about things?
  • Is he / she only bringing you to a particular restaurant or bar?

Some other tricks you can use:

  • Pretend that you have company by suggesting to go another place where you have a few friends at.
  • Ask for prices before ordering. Only drink what your waiter or you have poured.
  • Take a photo together.

If you fell into the trap:

  • Pay with a credit card but call the bank to dispute your charges immediately after leaving.

 

12. Extra bills scam

 

How it works:

This happens in Pattaya due to the way your bill is tallied.

Over here, every time you order a new drink, a bill is added into a bucket by your table.

So once you are distracted or get too drunk, some extra bills might be thrown in there without you realizing it.

 

What to do:

Request to pay upfront and not use the bucket method.

 

13. Spiked drinks

Beer in Thailand

Beer in Thailand

 

How it works:

Be it at the Full Moon Party or at a normal club along Bangla Street in Phuket, there is a risk of drink spiking that should be taken seriously by all travellers.

It might be an attractive lady, a ladyboy, a member of a crime syndicate, a staff or someone unassuming who drops a prescription sleeping pill into your drink.

Either way, you WILL pass out and your valuables will be gone when you regain consciousness.

 

What to do:

Do not accept any drinks that you have not seen made in front of you, or to leave it unattended.

Canned or bottled drinks are recommended as it is more difficult for someone to put a sedative inside.

 

14. Pickpockets

 

How it works:

Some pickpocket hotspots include:

  • Pratunam Market, in the alley leading to the Baiyoke Sky Hotel in Bangkok (two gangs here – one Thai, one African).
  • Chinatown.
  • the bus stops in front of Siriraj Hospital.
  • areas around nightclubs.

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelry / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they surround you and then work like this:

  • One keeps a lookout and blocks passer-bys from seeing the scene.
  • Another blocks, pushes or distracts you (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it).
  • A third steals your valuable / slashes your bag and then passes it on.
  • The last hides the loot under a jacket / coat / newspaper and then escapes.

 

What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

Make it impossible for thieves to steal from you with these methods:

  • Carry a photocopy of your passport instead of the actual one.
  • Keep wallets in the front pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Store large valuables in a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag.
  • Leave most valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe, secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Tuk tuk scam

Tuk tuk in Thailand

Tuk tuk in Thailand

 

How it works:

Tuk tuks in Thailand prey on your greed with super low offers for 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, they know of places with exclusive bargains which they can bring you to.
  • Some also claim that a place is closed but there’s a better alternative he can bring you to.
  • What really happens, is that you will end up at jewelry / tailor shops and subject to high pressure sales tactics to buy something.

Another variation is when they discover that you are new to the city, they will bring you to a travel agency to help you plan your trip:

  • An infamous scam agency is the TAT – Tourism Authority of Thailand.
  • You will be made to pay exorbitant sums for fake bus tickets, hotel bookings and even plane tickets.

Other set ups include:

  • Bringing you out of town / city / secluded area and then demanding an exorbitant amount to send you back.
  • Going for a toilet break halfway through a trip, with a well dressed stranger appearing from nowhere and sharing “insider tips” with you on where next to visit.

 

What to do:

Avoid tuk tuks, no matter how cheap or how sincere they seem.

 

2. Airport security theft

 

How it works:

Be it at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport or at the Phuket International Airport, there have been reports of theft both by luggage handlers and security staff.

 

What to do:

There are four key steps to protecting your luggage:

 

3. The khlong scam

Khlong in Thailand

Khlong in Thailand. Source: Flickr – Fabio Achilli

 

How it works:

You will be approached on the streets by a friendly local, who starts making small talk with you.

Once you guys are buddies, he has a great deal for you. Why not take his friend’s longtail boat to explore Bangkok’s famous khlongs, at a price for locals which he can get for you?

So off you go and you have a hell of a time on the tour.

However, on the way back, the boat stops in the middle of the river.

Your new friends hand you an official looking price list, which is a few times more than the initially agree upon price.

If you don’t want to swim back to shore, the only way out is to pay whatever they demand.

 

What to do:

Whenever you are approached on the streets by an overly friendly local, be wary, especially if he has a great deal for you.

If you do want to do such a tour, you can find a licensed, reputable tour operator via:

  • Klook: best day tours platform in Asia – excellent curation of tours, tickets and transport – e.g. most popular floating market tour:

Klook.com

  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operator: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

 

4. Gang at Hua Lamphong train station scam

Hua Lamphong train station

Hua Lamphong train station

 

How it works:

At the train station, an “official” looking person will approach and ask where you are going. He will then go to the counter, pretend to look through the system and claim 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 low fee.

However, should you accept the ride, more money will be demanded once you reach your destination. The more scheming ones will drive you to a secluded location and demand more money.

Another variation is that the “official” looking person will offer to help you book train tickets outside the station.

They bring you to a travel agent nearby, pretend 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 aforementioned, or on one of their buses.

 

What to do:

“The train is full” should raise red flags in your mind instantly.

Check with the real staff in the station instead of a random stranger who approaches you.

 

5. Taxi scam

Taxis in Thailand

Taxis in Thailand

 

How it works:

There are many ways rogue taxi drivers can scam you:

  • Claiming meter is broken and asking for an exorbitant flat fare.
  • Aggressive touts at airports getting you into unofficial taxis for a seemingly cheap rate. These drivers will demand more money midway through the trip.
  • Claiming the fare is only for one person.
  • Adding on a fee for luggage in the boot.
  • Shortchanging through sleight of hand or claiming no change.

 

What to do:

Avoid taxis without meters, especially those with “broken” meters.

If you have no choice, negotiate the price and make sure it covers everyone, not only for one person.

You can estimate the fair price of any route by checking:

  • With your hotel / hostel staff.
  • An online taxi fare estimator / online travel forums.
  • Taxi booking apps like Grab, Easy Taxi.

Also be very clear when communicating your destination, as they might send you to a place with a similar sounding name where they can get a commission.

To protect yourself, take a photo of the car plate and also of the driver’s license in case anything goes wrong.

You can also consider arranging private transport through your hotel / hostel or through day tours platforms like Klook (over 100 transport options).

 

6. Motorbike scam

Motorbikes in Thailand

Motorbikes in Thailand. Source: goingabroad.org

 

How it works:

The first variation is similar to the jet ski scam, where you compensation is demanded for (phantom) damages on the bike not caused by you.

The second variation is 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 to pay for losing your motorbike.

 

What to do:

Do not hand over your passport as collateral when renting the motorbike.

A simple turnaround to this problem is to use an old passport or a photocopy of your passport.

Also, use your own padlock to further secure the bike.

 

7. Overnight bus / train / private bus theft

 

How it works:

Your belongings are at risk of being stolen on overnight buses or trains if not secured.

Some have even reported being drugged after consuming spiked food or drink offered by a scammer and finding their valuables missing when they woke up.

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

 

What to do:

Beware of private bus companies with VIP buses. Theft is normal on these VIP buses and travel time takes longer than advertised.

To make it impossible for thieves to steal your bags, here are some steps you can take:

  • Keep your bag on your lap / beside you instead of in the overhead compartment.
  • Should you wish to take a nap, use a TSA lock / cable lock / cable ties to lock your bag and to lock the bag to yourself / your seat.
  • Or simply get a lockable anti-theft bag that comes with a mechanism to lock to yourself / your seat.
  • Hide small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Finally, get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) to cover loss of bags / valuables within.

 

8. Get off the bus scam

Buses in Thailand

Buses in Thailand

 

How it works:

While on the bus, a bus attendant will go to every row and shout at people to get off the bus.

He claims that there is a new bus station where the bus is heading to, not to the old bus station that you think you are going to.

Should you get off the bus, you will find a friendly taxi driver approaching you.

He claims that it is too late now to bring you to the bus station, but he offers to bring you to the nearest accommodation instead.

Should you do so, you will be paying an inflated price for the taxi ride there, the accommodation, and the taxi ride the day after to the bus station.

 

What to do:

Do not get off the bus, as you will be brought to your intended destination.

 

9. Cambodia – Thailand border crossing scam

Thailand - Cambodia border crossing

Thailand – Cambodia border crossing. Source: justapack.com

 

How it works:

If you take a tuk tuk or a taxi driven by a dishonest driver, you will be brought pass a large sign showing “Cambodian Consulate”:

  • You will be dropped at a large house to apply for a visa at an inflated price.
  • This “consulate” is fake – they simply hand your forms over to the border crossing a mile away.

Should you take a private minibusa litany of scams await:

  • Regular stops to refuel, for you to visit the convenience stores at the gas stations (commission for the driver).
  • Being brought to a restaurant to fill in the appropriate forms. An inflated fee will be charged. No pay, no go.
  • Next, you will be brought to an ATM and encouraged to withdraw Baht to change at the money changer at the border crossing, as they falsely claim that there are few ATMs in Cambodia.
  • At the border crossing, you will be encourage to pay more to get into the VIP queue. The queue is real, but the scam lies in claiming that the regular queue will take longer than in reality.
  • Once you pass the border crossing, you will be encouraged to change your Baht to Cambodian Riel at an unfavourable rate.
  • You will also be encouraged to take a taxi tuk tuk instead of the minibus, as they falsely claim that the bus will take longer than in reality.

 

What to do:

Alternatively, you can choose to fly, take the Thailand government bus (from Bangkok’s Mochit 2 Bus Station), a private vehicle and apply for a visa online.

If you find yourself at the fake consulate, refuse to apply for a visa there. Eventually, the driver will bring you to the real border crossing.

 

C. MISCELLANEOUS

1. Snatch thefts

 

How it works:

Generally, there are two versions of snatch thefts – strike and run, or distract and grab, in many possible contexts:

  • Bikes / mopeds riding past, with a pillion rider doing the snatch.
  • Snatching from behind you, then running into a getaway car to escape.
  • At restaurants, stealing unattended bags / valuables on the chair or table.
  • Hotels airports, where distracted / tired tourists carry all their valuables out.
  • The beach where tourists are relaxed, or when they head to the water.
  • Nightclubs, where “prostitutes” pretend to proposition tourists by grabbing them but are really trying to steal your valuables.
  • Seats beside a train’s doors where a thief gets out just before the doors close.
  • Stealing of bags on overnight trains / buses.
  • Valuables snatched through a car / bus window.
  • Thefts around ATMs.

 

What to do:

When seated / not moving:

While out walking / on transport:

  • Use a cross body anti-theft bag facing away from the road / windows of your vehicle.
  • Avoid carrying valuables in your hands when walking by the road or when beside a vehicle window / train door.

Other measures:

  • Leave valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.

 

2. Bird shit / spilled liquid scam

Streets of Bangkok

Streets of Bangkok

 

How it works:

The bird shit scam is common around the world (e.g. Argentina, USA), just in different forms (e.g. spilled liquid, mustard, sauce, etc).

This works surprisingly well, because when you are hit, your emotions take over and you become distracted.

While distracted, a stranger appears out of nowhere to help you clean up. In the confusion, he might steal your valuables, or let another accomplice do the job.

 

What to do:

If you find a liquid poured onto you, fend off anyone who tries to come near to help you.

Then quickly get to a safe space and in the process check that your valuables are still secure.

The easiest solution, is to use a money belt or hidden pouch and a lockable, slash resistant anti-theft bag which will make it impossible for thieves to steal from you.

 

3. Corrupt police

 

How it works:

It has been reported that there are corrupted police officers who hang around the Soi Cowboy area in Bangkok catching tourists who look high or motorists who look drunk.

They approach their target, ask if you have had drugs / have been drinking and demand that you do a pee test / breath analyzer test.

If you do not wish to do one, you will be hit with a fine of 20,000 Baht.

Most of the time however, if you are ever faced with one, it is for a traffic offence which you have probably not committed, such as driving too fast, changing lane too quickly, hogging the right lane, etc.

This can happen in Pattaya, Phuket, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, really anywhere where tourists go.

A third variation, is if you were to go to a tourist establishment (e.g. diving school, bar) that does not keep up a regular bribe payment to the local police (corruption is endemic here).

If you are unlucky, corrupted police officers may target the establishment on the day that you are there.

 

What to do:

First, don’t do drugs. Next, don’t break the rules.

If you are fined, there is really no way out, besides offering to pay a bribe that is less than the fine.

Avoid making these traffic offences which you can be fined for:

Image source: thaivisa.com

 

4. Fake police

How to spot a real police officer

How to spot a real police officer. Source: thebigchilli.com

 

How it works:

This scam is common around the world (e.g. Malaysia, UAE) but in different variations.

In Thailand, you will be approached by a fake police who will 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.

Another variation of this is the fake policeman targeting smokers at Sukhumvit Road and litterbugs at metro stations.

Should you be caught throwing a cigarette butt or basically any litter on the floor, even if by accident, the scammer will “issue” a huge fine of 2000 Baht to you.

 

What to do:

If you have not obviously broken the law, be very skeptical when a “police officer” approaches you.

Three steps you can use to shake them off:

  • Verify badges and identification. Threaten to call the police hotline (end of this article).
  • Never give your passport if asked. Show only a photocopy of it.
  • If they want to fine you or check your bags, insist to only do so at a police station (use your GPS to find it or check with a local) with a lawyer or somfeone from your embassy.

Next, you should have hidden your valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch and use a cheap spare wallet with not much cash inside.

This way, the scammers may simply let you go since you do not seem to have much cash.

 

5. Timeshare scam

Resort in Phuket

Resort in Phuket

 

How it works:

On the streets, you might find a stranger approaching you with a free scratch card or questionnaire.

Since it’s free, or so you thought, you proceed to scratch the card or do the questionnaire. Next thing you know you have won a prize!

However, to claim the prize, you have to head to a hotel. Most tourists would probably have said thanks but no thanks.

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, you are presented with a special discounted offer and pressured into buying. The timeshare scheme on offer probably does not exist by the way.

 

What to do:

Don’t waste your time.

 

6. Wrong change given scam

 

How it works:

This scam can happen anywhere as tourists are usually unfamiliar with the local currency.

Some do not even bother checking their change.

 

What to do:

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

 

7. Home gambling / cards / poker / blackjack scam

 

How it works:

A stranger will approach 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.

He will then invite you over to his house, hoping you can help his relative with some questions. Some may just invite you for a game of cards outright.

Either way, at the house, you will be pressured into playing poker or blackjack with them.

They will let you win the first few rounds, but 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.

 

What to do:

Never accept an invite to a stranger’s house, and be wary of over friendly local strangers.

 

8. Fake Baht scam

Thai Baht

Thai Baht

 

How it works:

This is how it usually goes – when you pay for an item, the shopkeeper may claim that your note is counterfeit.

He then brings it to the back / out of sight to swap with a counterfeit note!

He passes you the counterfeit note and demands another note. Should you pay, you will be paying double effectively !

 

What to do:

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 to ensure that your bill is not swapped.

 

9. Laundry scam

Laundry shop in Thailand

Laundry shop in Thailand. Source: bicyclethailand.com

 

How it works:

Be careful where you send your laundry, as your (expensive) clothes might go missing and you will not get any compensation.

But that’s just the first part of the scam.

The second part is that the laundry company will offer to bring you to a nearby apparel shop to replace the lost clothes, and that is where they get a commission from.

 

What to do:

Send your laundry to your hotel / hostel or ask them for recommended operators.

 

10. Hotel scams

JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa

JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa

 

How it works:

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

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

 

What to do:

First, avoid booking a hotel recommended by the driver – only book via legitimate platforms such as:

  • Agoda: leader in Asia with the best selection and rates here generally.
  • Homestay: if you are up for gaining genuine insights of Thailand by staying with a local host!

Next, always check that the hotel you’ve arrived at IS the one that you intend to stay at.

Even better would be to bring around a paper / card with your hotel’s name on it.

Along the way, use the GPS on your phone to check that you are moving in the correct direction.

 

D. KEY SAFETY ISSUES

This is not a fear mongering exercise, as most visits are trouble free as long as you exercise some common sense.

However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Information below has been compiled from:

                                                     

1. Violent crime, hazards, hotspots, terrorism, civil unrest

Map of safe and unsafe regions in Thailand.

Map of safe and unsafe regions in Thailand. Source: smartraveller.gov.au

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Violent crime: do occur but rare. Watch out more for petty crime and scams.
  • Hazards: unexploded landmines along Thai-Cambodia border.
  • Hotspots:
    • Domestic insurgency at the Thai-Malaysia border in the south (Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, Songkhla).
    • Occasional clashes along Thai-Burma border with criminal groups / drug traffickers.
    • Tensions along the disputed Thai-Cambodia border near Preah Vihear temple.
  • Terrorism: regular attacks in the south. In 2016, there were also small scale bombings at tourist areas across Thailand.
  • Civil unrest: demonstrations banned but sometimes still occur.

 

What to do:

Stay alert, avoid secluded areas, stick to the main paths and don’t look like an easy victim.

Monitor local media in case of any threats. Avoid the danger zones and demonstrations.

 

2. Medical care

Bangkok Hospital

Bangkok Hospital. Source: colorectaldiseaseinstitute.com

 

How it works:

In urban areas, private medical care is good and public hospitals are acceptable.

In rural areas however, there is only basic medical care.

Diseases to vaccinate against / watch out for include:

  • Insect borne diseases: chikunganya, dengue, zika, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, filariasis.
  • Food and water borne diseases: travellers’ diarrhoea, hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, melioidosis, leptospirosis.
  • Animal borne diseases: avian influenza, rabies.
  • Human borne diseases: tuberculosis, HIV, hand, foot and mouth disease.
  • Others: smoke haze in March to April.

 

What to do:

If you can’t afford travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads – our review), you can’t afford to travel, as:

  • Emergency health services can cost a bomb.
  • Insurance providers can make complex logistical arrangements to get you the best medical treatment fast.

Vaccinations to consider:

  • All travellers: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, flu shot.
  • Most travellers: Hepatitis A, typhoid.
  • Some travellers: Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis (if visiting rural areas), rabies (outdoor activities, activities involving animals), malaria.

Prevent insect bites:

  • Protective clothing.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Insecticide treated bed / cot nets.
  • Plug-in insecticides.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass.

Food safety:

  • Practise safe hygiene such as washing hands with soap.
  • Only drink bottled water or water that has been boiled.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, ice cubes, uncooked and undercooked food.

 

3. Natural disasters

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Earthquakes: prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.
  • Rainy season, which may cause flooding and landslides especially around lakes and caves:
    • May to October – north and central Thailand.
    • November to March – Koh Samui and southeast Thailand.

 

What to do:

Effective preparation and prevention involves staying at the “right” place, travelling at the “right” time and getting travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) that covers natural disasters.

Check the latest media reportsweather forecasts and sources such as:

Reacting to one:

  • Earthquakes: drop (to hands and knees), cover (head and neck with arms), hold on (to sturdy furniture); expect aftershocks.
  • Tsunamis: signs include abnormal ocean activity and load roars. Protect yourself from an earthquake first if there is one. Else, get to a high ground as far inland as possible.

 

4. Transport safety

 

How it works:

Thailand has one of the highest traffic related fatalities in the world.

Factors to watch out for:

  • Heavy traffic.
  • Speeding, reckless driving, failing to adhere to traffic rules.
  • For motorcyclists, not wearing helmets.
  • Drunk driving, especially during Western new year (January 1) and Thai new year (Songkran, mid-April).
  • Impassable roads during rainy season.

Other transport concerns:

  • There are accidents involving overnight coaches and train derailment.
  • Speedboats to and from Koh Phangan are usually overloaded during Full Moon parties.

 

What to do:

Before going out, check the latest media reports and weather forecast.

When on the road, stay alert, wear seatbelts, keep doors locked and windows up.

 

E. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Tourist police in Thailand

Tourist police in Thailand

 

  • Tourist police: 1155
  • Police (general emergency call): 191
  • Ambulance: 1554
  • Fire: 199
  • Medical emergency call: 1669
  • Tourist service centre: 1672

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