Scams in Thailand are all too usual. Nobody likes to cause problems in paradise, yet scams are all too common in Thailand. Watch out for these nine tourist traps to ensure that your trip is full of excitement rather than hardship.
Limestone cliffs encircle blue lagoons and white sand beaches, where people dance to celebrate full moons.
Budget-friendly rates make the most delicious cuisine you’ve ever eaten—Pad Thai, red and green curries, coconut soup, and more—even more delicious, and the throbbing nightlife much more exhilarating.
The south is defined by green jungles, mangrove forests, and offshore islands, while the north is defined by rugged terrain.
The culture is rich in decades of history, and the residents have many tales to share…
Thailand, on the other hand, does not leave much to be desired. Thailand is a paradise for most people, regardless of who they are or where they come from.
However, we all know that paradise has its share of trouble.
Thailand has become a popular destination for travelers from all over the world due to its Western-friendly culture and low rates (last year Thailand hosted more than 30 million foreign tourists).
And, although Thailand is typically full of kind, smiling locals (it’s called “The Land of Smiles for a reason! ), some local Thais have created a profession out of exploiting Westerners.
Thai people are generally courteous, honest, and pleasant. Scams, confidence tricks, and rip-offs, on the other hand, are frequent in Thailand’s tourist areas. Here are some of the most typical scams to be aware of and avoid when visiting Thailand.
Table of Contents
Tuk tuk driver scams
Most scams depend on a continual stream of unsuspecting visitors being brought to their homes. Some tuk tuk drivers may earn more money in kickbacks for delivering ‘targets’ than they do from fares. The courteous driver will inquire about the aim of your trip – shopping, sightseeing, or locating lodging – and then inform you:
- The store you’re going to is pricey, and you may get a better deal elsewhere.
- The Wat (temple) you wish to visit is being restored or closed (usually the Grand Palace), but there is another large Buddha or temple nearby.
- Your hotel is either closed or inadequate, but there is a better option available.
- He knows a nearby jeweler or tailor who offers incredible specials.
It’s a deception; he gets paid to drive you to the overpriced store, unremarkable shrine, or shabby lodging.
There’s even a bogus tourist center near Bangkok International Airport where travel agents would claim they’ve never heard of your booked hotel but will cheerfully arrange a stay at another establishment.
The “It’s Closed” Scam
Another popular one is in Bangkok. The taxi or Tuk-tuk driver you contacted will inform you that the location you like to visit is closed due to a ceremony or Thai holiday. Of fact, this is a deception; your targeted location will very certainly be open. Then they’ll offer additional locations to go that are just as wonderful, if not better, and whip out a map with several destinations marked on it.
Don’t fall for it; once you’re in the cab or tuk-tuk, it’s the tuk-tuk scam – see above. Never trust someone who tells you that a place is closed; instead, go check for yourself and save yourself a lot of trouble!
For Example” Grand Palace Closed”
This is a scam that is not limited to the Grand Palace – or even Thailand – and may leave you dissatisfied and perhaps out of cash. If you’re walking near to the Grand Palace or seeking a cab to take you there, you may be informed that it’s closed for a special occasion. However, this is not always the case. Instead, you’ll be given the option to go to a different place at a reduced rate. Not only will you miss out on viewing one of Bangkok’s most popular tourist destinations, but you may also wind up spending too much for the taxi/tuk tuk or being persuaded to purchase a memento you don’t want or need.
Thailand's Rigged Taxi Meter Scam
It would be incorrect to assume that all taxi drivers in Thailand are dishonest; they are not.
However, as a visitor, you will almost certainly come across several people that wish to overcharge you. The most usual method for this to occur is for the motorist to refuse to use the meter, stating that it is broken when it is not. Invariably, the flat rate they wish to charge will be twice or even triple that of the meter fare. Refuse any cab that refuses to turn on the meter.
Although this is far less prevalent, some taxi drivers have their meters modified to either start at a greater sum or to tick up much faster.
If you suspect a taxi driver of defrauding you, take a picture of his ID, which must be displayed in front of the passenger seat, as well as his license plate, and report it to the tourist police at 1155.
The Sombondee Seafood Market/Restaurant scam
If you ask a Bangkok tuk tuk or taxi driver to take you to a fine restaurant without specifying where you want to go, you can end yourself at the famed Sombondee Seafood Market.
This restaurant should not be confused with the well-known Somboon Seafood restaurant franchise. Somboon Seafood is a prominent Thai restaurant chain that delivers superb meals at an affordable price. However, the Sombondee Seafood Market serves subpar cuisine at exorbitant costs. The driver is compensated for transporting you there.
The gem scam
This is a typical Thai scam. The complexity and depth of its implementation, the number of individuals involved, and the work needed are all impressive.
You discover through a succession of apparently odd acquaintances that there is a fantastic deal to be obtained when purchasing rare jewels. Your greed wins out, and you agree to have a look, but of course, all the strangers were in on the game, and you’ve spent thousands of baht for some lovely pieces of glass.
The Tailor Scam
Anyone who has visited Thailand would be annoyed by the sheer amount of persons who inquire if you want a tailor-made suit or shirt. While there are many trustworthy tailors in Thailand, there are also those that will either not deliver you with your items at all or will offer you a product that is well below the level of quality you anticipated. If you want to purchase a suit in Thailand, do your research beforehand – and don’t buy it off the back of a tuk-tuk ride.
Birdseed or bracelet Scam
A local approaches you and gifts you a bracelet, or delivers you a bag of free birdseed and encourages you to scatter it about to feed the birds. They then demand money from you, and if you refuse, either by returning the item or refusing to accept more, they create a fuss to draw attention to themselves.
Avoid being taken off guard by denying anybody who wants to put anything on you, give you a present, or receive anything for free. Continue walking while being strong yet courteous. A grin and the words Mai Aow (don’t want) might also assist.
The timeshare scam
Again, this is not a Thai-specific scam. An attractive young girl may approach you in a hotel lobby, at the airport, or on the street and ask if you can spare 5 minutes to answer some questions.
She will be pleasant and friendly, and if you answer yes, she will go through the questionnaire with you before giving you a free scratch-card to enter to win a reward. And, guess what, you will “win” on the scratch-card, generally with a $200 coupon for a high-end resort in the vicinity.
To claim the reward, you must attend a presentation someplace nearby, but the presentation will be yet another hard sell attempting to coerce you into purchasing a worthless timeshare at a nearby property; it is a complete hoax.
The presentation will take many hours, if not the whole day, and if you spend all of that time listening, you will be awarded your vouchers at the conclusion. However, the coupons will be worthless since they will either indicate when they may be used or the establishment would raise its costs by $200 to compensate for the voucher. Answer the young lady’s inquiry, but refuse the scratch-card and refuse to sit through any type of “presentation” when you’re meant to be enjoying your vacation.
The Clip-joint Scam
This scam is not unique to Thailand. Someone will entice you into a pub with promises of cheap drinks or a free concert, and the bar will always be upstairs, out of sight of any passers-by. The entertainment will surely be terrible, and the menu from which you purchase your beverages will be devoid of pricing, assuming there is one at all. After 1-2 drinks, you’ll want to leave and ask for your bill, which will be something ridiculous like $500+. Most individuals will not have that much cash on them, but they will accept card payments or escort you to an ATM to make a transaction.
If you refuse to pay, the door will be shut and you will be threatened with physical assault by many Thai guys who have suddenly come. You may be able to negotiate a smaller price, but don’t bank on it; these thugs won’t let you go until you’ve paid them off, at which point you’ll have to go to the police. Use common judgment, avoid drinking in dark, deserted places, and ignore touts on the street. The only way out of this fraud is to pay by credit card and immediately phone your bank to cancel the payment once outside.
This is a scam on top of a scam. When you try to pay for anything with a banknote, the merchant will tell you it’s a fake.
The 1000 Baht note (about US$33) is particularly known for this. The merchant takes it out back to check it more attentively, but here is also where they exchange your legitimate note for a counterfeit. You put the forgery away and pay for your purchases with a different note.
You just paid double the asking amount AND received a bogus note.
Never allow banknotes out of your sight, especially if you’re giving over large denomination bills, check the serial numbers beforehand and show the store.
Find out whether it is safe to use credit cards and ATMs in Thailand.
Price Discrimination Scam
It seems that paying regular visa fees and spending a lot of money on contemporary accommodations, western-standard items, and high-quality meals isn’t enough. This even demands larger admission fees from foreigners than they do from indigenous Thais.
The Grand Palace in Bangkok, for example, is free for Thais but costs 500 Baht for visitors.
Foreign students pay at least 30% more in university tuition than Thai students across Thailand.
And, without a doubt, the most egregious pricing discrimination I’ve seen thus far: While Thais may get a ticket to a Muay Thai bout in Bangkok for 180 Baht, foreigners must pay 2,000 Baht. What do you think about that?
The Train Ticket Scam
This scam starts when someone approaches you at a railway station and asks where you want to travel. They will then inform you that all tickets for that train are sold out, but they know a local travel agency that has some tickets reserved and will assist you.
Then you’ll be routed to the agency to purchase the necessary tickets. You will subsequently discover that you have paid twice or even triple the face value for your tickets, which may also turn out to be fraudulent. You won’t be able to receive a refund, so don’t even attempt, but you may call the tourist police at 1155 to report it.
Always purchase your tickets at the railway station counter, and disregard anybody who approaches you, even if they are dressed in an official-looking outfit.
As of 2019, several places in Thailand are suffering a tourist slowdown. This implies that when more pubs and restaurants struggle to stay afloat, they may turn to shady measures to extort a few additional dollars from you.
Random items may show on your bill, which will be written in Thai. If you are unable to understand it, you may request an English bill, but they may reject it. They expect you to just pay your tab, particularly if you look to have had a few drinks. If you persist and raise a commotion, they may relent and claim it was an “error,” but it was everything but.
Unfortunately, this has always occurred and is growing increasingly widespread in locations like Pattaya and Phuket.
The Jet Ski Scam
This is a rather regular occurrence that might spoil your trip. You’re having a good time on the beach and decide to rent a jet ski; after all, the pricing seems to be extremely affordable. You agree to give over your passport as a security deposit to the merchant, who will be quite courteous and helpful. After a half-hour of fun on the jet-ski, you return to the beach and the jet-ski is returned to the seller, who inspects it and discovers that you have damaged it in some manner. Following that, certain allegations will be leveled against you, and you will be requested to pay for the damage. If you refuse, you will not only lose your passport, but the man will also contact the police. Some of his pals may also attend, and when the cop arrives, it will be clear that they are working together.
You may be threatened since these folks are terrible pieces of work. You may be able to reduce the amount if you debate and bargain, but they normally demand $1000+ for non-existent damage, and the policeman will also insist that you pay him. They’ve got you over a barrel here, and you’re going to have to pay up or face getting beaten up, brought to the police station, and jailed up, or both. But you arrive at the police station, the amount requested will rise as you begin to accrue “admin costs,” when in fact, more individuals will be in on the fraud, and more people will want to take your money.
The only way to prevent this fraud is to never rent a jet ski, or to snap lots of photographs of the jet ski ahead of time and make sure they see you doing so — this will almost surely dissuade them from attempting to swindle you, but don’t bank on it. A few images and a video tour should be enough, and never give out your passport as a deposit.
Cheap Online Ticket Scams
Thai Airways International Public Company Limited has cautioned its clients of a travel fraud while purchasing a cheap ticket online, after some customers were duped into purchasing low-priced tickets for London-Bangkok flights, only to have their trips rejected.
Thai Airways maintained that it had no affiliation with such ticketing companies. Passengers are encouraged to exercise caution when purchasing tickets from a third party.
Passengers may verify the validity of their airline reservation online at thaiairways.com or contact the THAI Contact Center at Tel.02-356-1111 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Thai Dating Sites Scam
Some Westerners send gifts and sometimes money to females they meet on Thai Online Dating Sites without ever seeing them in person. My ex-student girlfriend informed me that she once got a large parcel full of candies from a man in the United States, and she hadn’t even had a video conference through Skype with him before, they simply texted each other for a few months, and then he asked for her postal address.
Where are the online dating site scammers now? Some Westerners urge their Thai girlfriends to establish a profile on dating sites and react to messages from males promising to see them, but she is poor, so she asks him to pay for the bus or airplane ticket from her region to Bangkok. The man wires the money to her bank account and then disappears.
The Motorbike Scam
Despite the risks, many people hire motorbikes on Thailand’s islands. When you rent a bike, you must provide all of your information, including where you will be staying. Some unscrupulous rental businesses will show up in the middle of the night and steal the bike away with their extra key.
When you return to the store to inform them that the bike has been stolen, they will charge you the entire price of a brand new bike, and if they have your passport, you will be unable to leave.
If you do not agree right away, go to the police station and report the event; your bike may be miraculously “discovered,” and you may be able to get your passport back.
This is a well-known scam, and on a tiny island, the authorities should have no trouble finding the bike, thus involving them should terrify the business into quitting their scheme. If you’re concerned, an inexpensive padlock on the wheels should keep it from occurring, and park someplace apparent to CCTV, ideally somewhere well-lit.
The Card Game Scam
There are several variants on this, but the basic idea is as follows. You meet someone who seems to be at random, generally a local who speaks decent English, and they begin up a discussion.
Surprisingly, it seems that this person’s sister, brother, daughter, or whoever it is is planning a trip to your home nation or even home town to study at university or visit friends. As a result, the talkative individual wants you to return to their home to offer them some information in exchange for a complimentary genuine Thai supper or some other incentive.
When you get to the apartment, the traveler is usually not there, so you opt to wait, during which time you are asked to play some card games. You will be taught a playing method by collaborating with the dealer that allows you to win every hand, and after playing for free, another player will join the scene who they tell you is wealthy and foolish and that you can earn a lot of money if you utilize the tactic on them. They will seem to be blind to the obvious cheating and will begin to lose little quantities of money to fool you into believing the ploy is working.
To make a long tale short, the previously unbreakable strategy will collapse at a critical point, putting you in debt by hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars and stranded in someone’s house.
This one is simple to recognize, and the whole setup seems suspect, yet it still occurs.
So, never gamble in Thailand, and never return to someone’s residence whom you have just met.
The “Bait and Switch” Scam
This happens in many countries throughout the globe and is typical when purchasing gadgets and the like. If you know what you’re looking for, you shouldn’t fall for this one. What occurs is that a seller will show you high-quality goods, such as a phone or a camera, and after going through the sales pitch, they will give you a low price on the item. When you purchase, they don’t sell you that model at all, but rather one that looks similar but is several rungs down the ladder, and suddenly that price isn’t a deal anymore.
Consider the current iPhone 11 Pro: the top-of-the-line 512GB device costs $1750, while the bottom-of-the-line 64GB model costs $1300, a significant difference. However, they all look similar, and the package is always labeled 512Gb, so you don’t realize you’ve been duped until a few weeks or months later.
The Drugs Scam
Using drugs in Thailand is a terrible idea. Nonetheless, many tourists are lulled into a false feeling of security in destinations like Koh Phangan each year and end up purchasing illegal narcotics in the mistaken notion that they would be alright.
Thailand has some of the most stringent drug laws in the world, as well as some of the worst jails in the world, and your foreign passport will not get you out of trouble; you might be imprisoned for a long time or forced to pay a “fine” of up to $200,000 to make everything go away.
In this scam, someone approaches you and offers you drugs, which is far more likely to happen on one of the islands where drug use looks to be more prevalent. If you decide to purchase anything, a police officer will appear 1-2 minutes later and request that you be searched. Of course, he will locate the drugs, which are then returned to his partner (so the dealer receives your money as well as his drugs), and they will make sure you are aware of how much trouble you are now in. The swindle for as much money as they can obtain from you will now begin – and the longer it goes on, the more individuals will be engaged, and the “bill” will balloon.
If you are found with anything and are provided the opportunity to pay a fine, pay it as soon as possible or the situation will worsen very rapidly.
To avoid this, never use or purchase illicit substances in Thailand. Please keep in mind that having these substances in your blood or urine is equally unlawful in Thailand, and you will be handled the same way if you are inebriated on drugs as if you had them in your pocket. So be wise and stay away from drugs, as well as anybody you know who is using them, since innocent bystanders might be dragged in and accused, which increases the number of police convictions.
The “Get Off the Bus” Scam
“Suddenly, in the middle of nowhere, the bus comes to a halt, and a bus attendant walks from row to row shouting at you to get off the vehicle.
When he came to my row, he informed me that the bus did not travel to the new bus station, but rather to the old bus station and that I needed to get off right away. I chose to be aggressive and remained in my seat, assuring the guy that I would be heading to the bus stop indicated on the ticket.
The next day, I ran into several friends who had ridden the same bus earlier in the week. They said that the same thing occurred to them and that they alighted from the bus. The bus driver had informed them that his buddy would come and retrieve them, only to abandon them on the side of the road.
This is when the con truly begins. First, a taxi arrives, and the driver informs you that he cannot take you to the bus station because it is too late in the day; instead, you must stay in a hostel just up the road. In the end, you’ll (over)pay for the initial taxi journey, the hostel rooms, and another cab to the bus terminal where the first bus was scheduled to drop you off.”
—Garrett Galvan, The Travel Human
“No matter what, stay on the bus until you get to your destination.” Another recommendation is to avoid tourist buses, which are often targets for sellers. Frequent stops at little gift stores along the route will bring a four-hour bus journey closer to eight.
Make sure you purchase your bus tickets straight from the bus terminal and ride the same buses as the Thai people. They will be substantially less expensive and have fewer suppliers on board.”
The Airport Security Theft Scam
“When we placed our stuff through the X-ray scanner, we put a money belt in the tray on its own.” We’d been rushed through, and we’d lost sight of the tray for a few minutes. During that time, one (or more) airport security personnel went through our money belt and seized all of the large Thai baht notes (but they left the small ones).
We became aware of what had occurred while waiting for our flight and brought it to the attention of the security personnel. We requested them to go at the CCTV footage to figure out what occurred.
Before we boarded our aircraft, the security manager admitted that one of their employees had stolen our money, urged us to fill up theft paperwork, and provided us with his contact information.
It was an odd sequence of conversations, but we ultimately got our money returned by bank transfer.”
—Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott, Uncornered Market
When going through airport security, keep all tiny objects in a backpack or another bag behind a zipper or a lock.