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Tourist traps and scams in Thailand come in various different forms. Some are straightforward and involve shortchanging guests, while others are more elaborate and involve strangers posing as credible tourist officials who try and trick tourists into buying overpriced merchandise and services.
Asia Highlights aims to give you the best possible experience of Thailand's attractions by providing you with this guide on how to identify – and avoid – common scams and tourist traps, so you are not left disappointed during your visit. With over 12 years of experience in the industry and 10,000 satisfied customers, we really know how we can help our guests avoid feeling cheated.
A tourist attraction is a place of interest that tourists visit due to its natural or cultural value, historical significance, natural or man-made beauty, and one which offers leisure and/or amusement to visitors. Tourist attractions are places of genuine interest, and very much worth the visitors' money and time.
Tourist traps, on the other hand, aren’t places or services of genuine interest to tourists. They are designed to exploit tourists. You can think of them as being “fake attractions,” the main purpose of which is to attract as many tourists for as much money as is possible. Save your time, money and sanity and refrain from letting your guard down and getting lured into any such attraction.
Some scams in Thailand are easy to identify and involve cashiers trying to shortchange tourists at mini-marts and other small shops. Others, however, are more elaborate in that they often involve people posing as credible experts who lie and mislead tourists into buying overpriced goods and services, so they can make quick and easy money.
When on holiday, tourists often let their guard down, and this makes them especially vulnerable to scams. So again, caution and common sense are the key.
Get acquainted with the local currency as quickly as possible. Many tourists often find themselves shortchanged and taken advantage of by cashiers, as they may not be familiar with Thai currency (1 USD = 32 Thai Baht).
A version of this scam involves a shopkeeper accusing you of paying with a counterfeit note. He or she would go to the back of the store, away from your sight, swap the banknote you handed over with a counterfeit one, and return. Handing over the fake note to you, he or she would demand another payment, leaving you to pay twice the original amount.
To avoid such a situation, Asia Highlights recommends all guests always to keep an eye on your Baht banknotes and take a note of the serial numbers of larger bills, if possible. This may prove to be a mild inconvenience, but it'll end up saving you a lot of trouble, should such a situation arise.
This scam is usually encountered near major tourist attractions in Thailand. The majority of cases reported by victims have taken place outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok. A stranger will usually approach you and inform you that the attraction is "closed" for various reasons, and will proceed to recommend alternative locations, usually a gem store or a tailor shop, and offer cheap discounts in an effort to entice you.
Unsuspecting visitors that end up accepting the offer will have transportation to the shops arranged for them via taxi or tuk-tuk (the drivers of which are also in on the scam). Once at the shop, you will be bullied into buying overpriced goods. There have been extreme cases of tourists being locked up in the shop until something has been purchased.
If you’ve booked a tour with us, your guide will know the hours of operation of the attraction before you visit. They won’t take you somewhere that is closed. However, these scammers often look and talk convincingly, wearing formal shirts with "tourist police" tags. They may even be inside the attractions, so always be on your guard.
This is one of the more popular tourist traps in the country. It usually begins with the scammer claiming that gems are easily harvested in the country, and can be purchased in bulk for low prices. He or she then tries to convince you into buying, by telling you that you can make a lot of money by selling the bought gems back home. Accomplices acting as tourists around the store, may also attempt to verify this story.
Many tourists have fallen victim to this scam out of love for profit. If one could truly make a fortune, selling Thai gems in other countries, why would he or she let you, a random tourist, in on such a secret?
It’s one thing to be genuinely interested in purchasing such products, but if you’re not, you’re in safe hands with us. Asia Highlights will not waste your time by taking you to such shops. If, however, you have a particular product in mind that you are interested in, please let us know beforehand, so we can arrange to guide you to the best places to buy them.
When a local stranger offers to sign you up for a tour package, courtesy of the ‘Tourism Authority of Thailand' travel agency, consult your guide who is part of the Asia Highlights team, as he or she will know exactly what to do.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) does NOT operate travel agencies. They are a government agency responsible for promoting the country's wonders and attractions to foreign countries but do not possess their own agencies. However, many scammers misuse the stellar reputation of TAT for their own ill deeds. A popular example would be individuals who target tourists at Hualamphong, Bangkok's main rail terminal, and falsely present themselves as an employee of TAT.
They then mislead the unfortunate victim by telling him or her that the tickets for the train journey they wanted are sold out. The scammer would then go on to offer alternatives "provided" by TAT. This includes taking an overpriced private van or taxi, usually set up for further scams along the way. As such, always be careful of anyone who claims to be from TAT; they hold no authority.
If you ever decide to rent a jet ski in Phuket or any other coastal city in Thailand, do take a careful note of all the major scratches and dents that are already on the vehicle before setting off. There are renters who will falsely claim that you have damaged their jet ski upon return and demand compensation for repairs. Such scams are usually common in tourist hotspots such as Pattaya and Phuket.
If you are interested in renting a jet ski (or any other vehicle, for that matter), do let us know beforehand, so we can contact the best service providers on your behalf.
This scam involves a “police officer” walking up to you and requesting to check your passport. They will then go on to say that there is something wrong with your visa and ask you to pay a fine on the spot.
If your guide isn’t with you when this happens, call 1155, the 24/7 hotline that has been set up for foreigners in distress.
The tailor scam is common in Bangkok. Either a tuk-tuk driver, or a random stranger, will come up to you if your guide is not around. He or she will tell you about a value-for-money tailor shop that only locals know about and offer to take you there. You will get fitted a suit that is of high quality but when it arrives (after having paid the sum in full), you’ll find that it wasn’t the suit you ordered, or is of very low quality.
If you are interested in getting a tailor-made suit in Thailand, you can let us know beforehand, so we can arrange a guide to take you to one of the best tailors in Bangkok that are known for making excellent, high quality, clothes.
Thailand's Tourist Police Division has recently introduced a 24/7 hotline for foreigners in distress. Should you find yourself in a scam, dial 1155 for police assistance. Do not worry about the language barrier, as there are interpreters on hand to translate calls.
We at Asia Highlights would be remiss if we did not take time to mention that the majority of Thai people are honest, hard-working people who do not seek to exploit tourists. Most tourists in Thailand have not had any negative experiences, but some, unfortunately, have.
Thailand is a beautiful tropical getaway all year round, and you are bound to have a good time whenever you visit. Asia Highlights takes everything, including the weather, into consideration when designing the best possible itinerary for guests.
Tours typically start and end in Bangkok and last approximately 13 days; visiting Bangkok, Khao Yai National Park, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.
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