Thailand is, quite deservedly, a very popular holiday destination with travellers the world over. However, anywhere that attracts throngs of tourists will unfortunately offer rich pickings to con-artists, with Thailand being no different. Places like Patong in Phuket, and Khao San road are still popular with locals trying to take advantage of naive tourists. Here are a few of the main scams to be wary of:
- The tuk-tuk scam. Tourists love tuk-tuks, they are a novelty not seen in the West and are a fun way to get around. However, if your driver insists that your destination is closed today, and that he can take you somewhere just as good for a ridiculous fee like 20 baht for the whole day, then look for another driver. Your intended destination will in fact be open, but if you believe the driver you will spend the whole day being driven to jewellery shops, tailors and travel agents, and at every stop they will give you a very high pressure sales pitch and basically force you to buy something which will probably turn out to be worthless.
- The jet-ski scam. It is crucial that you avoid this one or it could cost you thousands of dollars. A tourist will rent a jet-ski from an unscrupulous gentleman on the beach, having taken their passport as security. However, when you return the jet-ski, he will claim that you have caused serious damage to it and refuses to return the passport until an exorbitant amount of cash is handed over. Things can get nasty quickly, and the con-man may even call down one of his policemen friends who also insists that you have to pay. Best way to avoid it is to not rent a jet-ski unfortunately.
- The bird-seed scam. A tourist is walking through a park, and hundreds of birds have flocked to an old lady who is feeding them. When she sees the tourist, she will quickly approach and force a small bag of seed into their hand and encourages the tourist to feed the birds. However, once you’ve finished, she will demand several hundred baht, or even more, and if you refuse other people suddenly pop out of nowhere and things can get nasty. Don’t accept things from others unless you are willing to pay for them.
- The Somboondee seafood scam. You head out for dinner, but don’t know where to go, and you speak with your taxi driver, who recommends the best seafood in Bangkok – Somboondee. When you arrive, you will find that there are no Thais eating there, but you decide to eat anyway. The food is very poor quality, and with very small portions. The menu has no prices, and when the bill arrives it will be several hundred dollars! There is an excellent seafood restaurant called Somboon Seafood – do not confuse the two, or you will pay dearly. Remember that Thais are crazy about their food, if they are eating somewhere you can be sure that it is good, so always look for locals when choosing somewhere to eat.
In general, when in Thailand, if a Thai person approaches you speaking excellent English, it is likely to be the start of a scam, and don’t accept anything unless you’re willing to pay for it. Also, never let someone else keep your passport! Unfortunately, if you are constantly worried about being scammed, then you won’t enjoy your holiday, so just try to relax but be sceptical of anything which seems too good to be true – because it almost certainly is.