Bangkok can be pretty overwhelming for first-time visitors. The crowds, the people, the smells… It’s so different from what you’re used to, which means that often you’ll need some time to adjust. Some inhabitants will take advantage of that by trying to scam you out of your hard earned travel budget. Though most scams are relatively innocent and the odds you’ll end up somewhere that’s unsafe are slim. Still, it would be nice to leave the city with all of your cash in your pocket. Which is why, below, we listed a few times that we got scammed so that you’ll know what to look out for.
1. An expensive taxi ride
After a twelve hour flight, you finally land at Bangkok’s airport. You’re tired, you smell and would like nothing more than to load your luggage in the trunk of a taxi. Taxi drivers seem to have a sixth sense for spotting first-time visitors. They’ll readily take advantage of this by “forgetting” to turn on the meter, so they can ask for any price they like.
A simple solution for this is asking the driver, before you get in the car, to turn on the meter. If he refuses to, just take another taxi. Also, make sure you receive the correct amount of change; many taxi drivers are prone to give back too little. Make sure you always pay with coins, which makes it easier to notice if there’s anything missing.
2. Tuk-tuk tourist route
When you hop onto a tuk-tuk or a tour bus, sometimes the driver won’t take you straight to your destination but will choose to go past the “tourist route”, along the way stopping at jewelers, tailors, souvenir shops or tourist offices all eager to sell you something. If you buy something there, the driver will receive a commission from the shop owner. Of course, you can refuse to buy anything, but it’s still annoying. What’s the solution? Remain calm and expect to arrive at your destination a little later than expected. You can also take a taxi (with the meter turned on) or travel by public transport.
3. Too good to be true
If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Many shops around Khao San Road will try to sell you things for far too much. At first glance, something might seem like special and exclusive, but, in hindsight, more often than not, it turns out to be a scam. The most common (and priciest) example is the so-called “gem scam”, in which people are offered a piece of jewelry for a seemingly amazing price. Often, however, the quality of the jewelry is questionable. The same scam is applied with brand clothing and electronic devices. Pay close attention when buying something.
Compare prices or ask other tourists how much it was they paid. You can never entirely eliminate the possibility that, being a tourist, you might be charged a little extra. So, remain calm; keep in mind that chances are that these retailers are not as well off as you are. Besides, in the end, it’s only about a few dollars more.
4. The temple is closed
This scam is easy to fall for and is most prevalent near popular tourist attractions such as Wat Pho, the Grand Palace, and Khao San Road. When you arrive at the attraction in question, there will be an “official” looking employee or guide there, who seems really friendly and talks great English, to tell you it’s closed for any plausible-sounding reason. For instance, we were once told that a national park was closed due to a “mosquito alarm” – which proved to be a lie.
These people can be incredibly convincing, so it’s hard not to fall for it. They’ll make you get on a tuk-tuk that will take you to another temple or attraction. The best thing to do is to check yourself at the entrance if the attraction is open or not. This is also the best place to buy the tickets since the ones sold outside are often a lot more expensive or fake.
5. A very expensive drink
You’ve seen them around: people on the street trying to tempt you into their establishment with free drinks and other perks. On Khao San Road they’re everywhere, holding flyers often advertising some very special, largely x-rated, events, such as ping pong shows or the infamous “smoking pussy”. We never went, but heard from other travelers that the deal often isn’t as good as it seems. During shows, you’ll often be offered drinks you didn’t order, which then turn out to be insanely expensive.
Refusing to pay often leads to a heated situation which is best avoided. The only thing you can do is pay and make sure that next time you ask for the drinks menu which shows prices straight away. Or just stay away from these kinds of places altogether, which is what we do…