Bangkok never sleeps. Each year millions of travelers visit Thailand’s capital, as it’s a popular and easy starting point for travels through Southeast Asia. Sadly, it’s also the city where hundreds of tourists get scammed every day. Some for just a couple of bucks, others for a few hundred – or more. In this article we’ll tell how you to recognize Bangkok’s biggest scam, so you (probably) won’t get ripped off.
Scammed in Bangkok
Let’s be honest for a moment: you might think of people who get scammed as naïve or perhaps not very smart. You yourself would never fall for something like that… Or would you?
Unfortunately, we receive messages from distressed people at least once a week, usually with one very urgent question: “Help, have we just been scammed?!”
However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that these scams are easy to prevent. You see, they all start out in the same way: with a very friendly man…
The friendly man
It’s your first day in Bangkok and you decide to have a quick look around at some of the sights.
Then, entirely unexpectedly, you bump into a man who seems very kind. He talks to you about life in Bangkok, about a certain temple or about the area, and you listen to him, intently. He’s a local, after all.
After a few minutes, he’s gained your trust, he’ll show you his badge and tell you he works, or has worked, for the government.
He’ll proceed to tell you about some special market, some made up public holiday called Lucky Buddha Day, the opening of some new temple, or other. Conversely, he might also say that certain sights are closed that day.
Whatever the problem may be, he has the solution. He’ll arrange a tuk tuk to take you to a very special temple, one that most tourists don’t know about. And because you’re new in Bangkok, the ride is free. Of course you’re not going to refuse a free ride. You thank the kind man and hop in.
Wow! Such hospitality and it’s just the first day!
Some friendly travel advice
Up until now you won’t have spent any money yet. You feel good. The driver smiles kindly at you, swooshing his way past the busy Bangkok traffic. Your first time in a tuk tuk. How cool is that?!
Then suddenly he stops and you’re kindly but firmly requested to enter a shop/travel agent. That’s strange.
“Oh well, why not?”
Once you step into the office, you’re greeted politely and offered a seat. A well-groomed Thai person, who speaks perfect English by the way, asks you what your plans are while in Thailand. It’s your first day, you have a vague idea of some things you might want to to see but nothing’s set in stone yet. You just want to go with the flow!
And before you know it you’re swamped with (false) information:
- Traveling through Thailand is very dangerous;
- It’s the high season so all hotels, boats, buses and airplanes are fully booked;
- Because of a mosquito alarm, that national park you were planning on visiting is currently off-limits;
- We work for the government and we try to help tourists in a fair manner;
- Today is a special day so you pay less than normal.
And before you realize what you’ve gotten yourself into, they’ll have made arrangements for hotels and transport for each day of your holidays.
Deal or No Deal?
Then the doubts start creeping in. They’re probably right, you think, having everything arranged beforehand is pretty handy…
The price? Well, it’s just a couple of hundred dollars; you saved up for it, after all.
The agency staff are becoming noticeably more impatient. It’s a one-time-only offer. They offer to take you to the nearest ATM or, even better, you can pay by credit card.
Meanwhile, you can hear the plane tickets with your name them on them being printed out and your first hotel reservation in Ayutthaya has just been confirmed.
The morning after
Back in your hotel room, more and more doubts enter your mind. What did I actually pay for?
You just spent a couple of hundred bucks, but on what?
You Google the company name only to read one bad review after another.
What to do when you’ve been scammed in Bangkok
Many people write to us about their own their own experiences, which are very similar to the one described above.
You can do one of two things:
- Accept the fact you’ve been scammed and use the “services” provided to you by the travel agent. The tickets, the transport arrangements and the overnight stays are real. They’re just way above the normal price.
- Don’t accept it and demand your money back.
Call the tourist police
Going back to the travel agent accompanied by the police is obviously not what you had planned for your holiday. However, we do recommend it. These are the three steps to take:
- If you’ve paid by credit card, call the credit card company, explain the situation and find out if there’s any way for the transaction to be reversed.
- Call the tourist police. The number is 1155. They speak good English and will help try to help.
- Go back to the tourist agency (accompanied by the tourist police) and demand your money back.
Thankfully, we’ve heard that in many cases people have gotten back 80% to 90% of the amount they’d originally paid. The only thing they do charge are the cancellation costs. Which is questionable, but very probably the best you can hope for.
Agencies we know of that are 100% bogus:
- TIT (Tourism Information Thailand);
- Golden Mountain;
- Tiger Travel Group.
Let us know if you know any others, we’ll add them to the list.
After reading this article, at the very least, you’ll know that the kind gentleman who approaches you might not be as kind as he seems. Taxi and tuk tuk drivers are also known for such practices.
For more information on this subject, we recommend reading the following blogs as well:
- The 5 Most Common Scams in Bangkok: How to Recognize and Avoid Them
- 10 Tips for a Safe Trip to Thailand in 2017
- Tips & Tricks for Taxis and Tuk Tuks in Bangkok