Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Top scams in Thailand

Most countries have their fair share of con-artists and swindlers but Thailand has a particularly bad reputation. Despite the growing number of complaints from duped farangs, the Government and Police have refused act. This is often because they are directly involved in the scams!!!!

The aim of this post is to give you a run down of the top scams you are likely to encounter and how to avoid getting ripped off.

There are charlatans, confidence tricksters and petty crooks around every corner trying to seperate gullible tourists from their hard-earned, so travellers beware!!!!

The scams will start as soon as you disembark at Suvarnabhumi airport, so it is imperative that you keep your wits about you and don't fall prey to these vultures!!!

1) Airport Taxi Scam - Official looking representatives (who are normally touts working for the mafia or a local criminal gang) will pretend that they are metered taxis and tell you that it is 500-1000 baht to go to central Bangkok.

My advice is......ignore them!!!! It should only cost between 300-400 baht (plus expressway tolls) to get to the Sukhumvit Road/Nana Plaza area of Bangkok.

If you exit the airport at Level 2 - Arrivals, near entrances 3, 4, 7 and 8 you will find the genuine taxi counters. These taxi meters usually charge around 400 baht (plus expressway tolls) for a journey to Sukhumvit Road.

The police have tried to crack down on these illegal operators, and recently arrested over 1,000 unlicenced taxis drivers and tour operators. However, after paying a pitifully small fine of around 1,000 baht, these dodgy operators are back at the airport and free to deceive the next unwary holiday maker.

The Bangkok Post ran an article about this in July 2009, so for more information please click on the following link..........

http://www.bangkokpost.com/breakingnews/149836/crackdown-at-suvarnabhumi-from-july-28

2) Wrong Change/No change Scam - Even the official metered taxis are likely to try and pull this trick on you!!! When you arrive at your destination and give the driver a 500 or 1,000 baht note, he will say he doesn't have enough change in the hope you will give him the large note. If this is the case, change some money in your hotel or at a local shop but make sure you have all your bags with you, as you don't want the driver disappearing with your luggage!!!! In order to avoid this scenario altogether, ensure that you have plenty of small change before arriving in Bangkok; 10 baht coins and 20, 50 and 100 baht notes are perfect.

The wrong change scam is common at places like 7-Eleven and Family Mart in tourist areas. They give you change as if you gave them a 500 baht note instead of a 1,000 baht note. Many tourists are not familiar with Thai money and often give the wrong notes or don't notice that their change is incorrect.

Most reputable shops will say out loud the denomination of any paper money you give them. To avoid this scam please familiarise yourself with the money and check your change before you leave the shop!

3) Grand Palace is Closed Scam - This scam can happen near any tourist attraction but it is most common outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok. This scam has been going on for many years and often happens with in full view of the local constabulary!!!!

As you approach, someone (normally a tuk tuk driver or "friendly and helpful" local) will tell you that the palace is closed for various reasons; renovations, religious holiday etc. They will then offer you a "free tour" of the city or offer to take you "sightseeing"!!!

My advice is......ignore them as they are probably lying to you!!!

Under no circumstances should you go anywhere with them, as you will end up in either a gem store or a tailors shop being giving the hard sell and your "friendly" tuk tuk driver will be getting a generous commission.

If you are at any of the main tourist sites in Thailand and someone tells you they are closed do not believe them and go and check for yourself!!!! It is better to take 5 minutes of your time to check the facts than end up at a dodgy gem store and being 100's or 1,000's of baht out of pocket!!!!

If the site or attraction is genuinely closed, find out when they will be open again from the ticket desk and go to visit the next site on your list!!!!

N.b For anyone looking to visit the Grand Palace the following information will be useful for you:

- Admission to the Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace compound is 200 Baht for foreigners, and free for Thais
- The temple is open daily from 08:30 until 15:30.- In order to enter you need to be wearing a long sleeved t-shirt, long trousers or skirt and shoes or trainers
- Shorts or skirts are not permitted, nor are flip-flops or sandals. (However, appropriate clothing is available for hire at the entrance if you are not dressed correctly when you arrive)

4) Thai Gem Scam - Tourists are tricked into visiting gem stores, often in the manner I discussed in the previous paragraphs and then duped into belieivng that they can buy precious stones for a bargain price and re-sell them in their home country at a huge profit. There will often be another foreigner in the store, posing as a customer, who will tell you that he regualry buys gems from Thailand and makes large amounts money buy selling the gems when he returns home.

Do not fall for this trick

This is one of the oldest scams in the book and many a tourist has fallen victim to the glib patter of the gem store salesman!!!!

Unless you are a jeweller or an expert on precious stones, I strongly urge you not to take the word of other people on how much money you can make if you sell these gems on return to your home country. The gems are of low value and not worth the money you will pay for them!!!! People are losing a lot of money on a daily basis so don't give in to greed!!!!

5) Jet Ski Scam - This scam is so common that it should make the Thai authorities blush and hang their heads!!!

This can happen at any beach resort but it is most prevalent in Pattaya and Phuket. When you return the jet ski after your hour of fun, the owner will point out scratches and dents in the jet ski and will then demand large sums of money by way of compensation!!! They can often be very agressive and confrontational if you refuse to pay!!!!

What they fail to mention is that the jet ski was already dented and scratched and that a dozen other customers have already paid the "compensation".

If you rent anything, be it motorcycle, car or jet ski, make sure all scratches and dents are documented. If possible take photos of any existing damage/dents/scratches to the vehicle!!!!

When renting a vehicle never leave your passport/ID cards with the company as it will be very difficult to get them back without paying a hefty price, if they claim you have damaged their vehicle. Should they need a photocopy of your documentation, make sure they do it in front of you and that they return your documentation immediately!!!!

6) Blackjack Scam - This usually starts with you being approached in the street or in a restaurant with someone, usually a Filipino, asking you where you are from.

If you say, London, he will then say he has a sister/niece/cousin etc who will be going to study or work there. He then asks if you can go to their house and meet her as she has some questions she would like to ask you. At the house, they then ask you to help cheat someone out of their money by playing blackjack. Don't get tempted as it is you who is being scammed and as gambling is illegal in Thailand you will have no recourse to the law.

I have also heard of people being drugged and then taken to ATM's or currency exchange outlets and made to make large withdrawals or change large sums of money!!!!!

Penfold's best advice is as follows...if anyone approaches you, walk away!!!!!

7) Patpong Sex Show Scam - Don't believe the touts outside the venues, particularly at the upstairs venues, who say there are free sex shows and drinks for only 100 baht each.
Your bill will end up being in the thousands!!! Be very careful if you are travelling alone as they can turn violent if you refuse to pay.

Should you encounter any problems please call the Tourist Police on 1155

8) Hualamphong Station Scam - Outside the train station you will meet official looking individuals who will say they will help you book the seats.

They then take you to their nearby travel agency and pretend to ring the train booking office. You will be told that the train is full and your only way to travel is on one of their buses.

Do not believe them......go to the station and check for yourself!!!!!!

9) Long Distance Train/Bus Scam - Many tourists have reported that they have had their belongings stolen from their bags on overnight bus and train trips. When using public transport always keep a close eye on your luggage and please also be mindful that many thieves will drug their victims in order to steal their valuables.

Don't accept food or drink for strangers, don't wear expensive watches or jewellery and make sure your valuables are out of sight!!!!

10) Double Pricing - I know this is not strictly a scam but double pricing is common all over Asia and upsets a lot of visitors when it is done in an underhand way.

At a lot of attractions, musuems and national parks there will be one price for Thais and another price which is often 2 or 3 times more, for foreign tourists.

My opinion on this matter is that tourist attractions are welcome to charge visitors as much or as little as they like. However, they should do it in such a way that there is no deceit. It should be made clear what the different prices are so that foreign tourists can choose whether they want to visit the attraction or not.

If they want to charge me 400 baht to visit a cultural centre or national park then that is their prerogative!!!! But, if the pricing seems extortionate, I am more than likely to decline a visit and go and spend the money in my favourite bar or go to an attraction that doesn't rip you off!!!!!

Can you imagine the uproar there would be if we started double pricing in England?!!!!

£1 for Brits.....£2 for blacks......£5 for Chinese.........and £20 pounds for Arabs!!!!

The Commsion for Equality and human Rights would be choking on their fairtrade coffee!!!!

My general rule of thumb when travelling in Thailand, is this.....

If a Thai person comes up to you and starts speaking excellent English then it pays to be wary. Usually Thai people are very shy and wouldn't dream of approaching or talking to a foreigner that they didn't know!!!!. However, if you are in any doubt, please do not be rude to them, because this person may genuinely be trying to assist you!

Please don't be put off visiting the Kingdom, because despite the scams, Thailand is one of the nicest, friendliest and most interesting countries tovisit in the whole world and Thai people are, on the whole, welcoming, warm and very generous!!!!

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