Avoiding Scams in Bangkok – 3 Easy Steps to Follow
Being scammed in Bangkok is one the most avoidable things about the country. Although on first appearance it may seem as though everyone’s out to prize your cash from your paws, that’s not actually true; there are some genuinely friendly people in Bangkok, capital of The Land of the Smiles.
However, due to those seemingly greedy tuk tuk drivers and the over abundance of suit makers trying you rip you off, it’s imperative that you’re away of what does go on around you and the motives behind certain people’s actions.
Luckily, however, unlike Hanoi, scams in Bangkok are all too recognizable. It’s rare to come across something too intelligently put together or original and if you do, you find yourself wanting to give them a handshake for their ingenuity. Like all scams, the ones in Bangkok are aimed to trick you out of money through deceitful ploys and time-consuming tuk tuk rides.
From the outset, it’s vital that you understand a few key basics surrounding scams. In order to reduce your chances of losing that all too precious backpacker budget, you’ll want to make sure you have these few tricks up your sleeve.
1. Don’t believe it until you see it
Bangkok’s most notable ‘scam’ is over-friendly tuk tuk drivers offering you a cheap day out. Usually they’ll park themselves between a famous tourist attraction such as the Grand Palace and the form of transport that gets you closest to it (say the canal boat near Victory Monument), and then they wait like sitting ducks. When an unsuspecting tourist gets off the boat, they’ll make up a simple lie.
Sorry, Grand Palace is closed for the day.
Sorry, you can’t go in with flip flops on.
From there, they’ll kindly offer to take you to various tourist attractions around town for as little as 20 baht. BARGAIN.
Unfortunately, along the way, they’ll fit in a few suit-making shops or restaurants where the owners will pressurize you into to purchasing a product. As much as you think you can just walk out without paying, sometimes things can turn a little nasty. Some tourists have reported being locked in shops until they buy something. Not a nice place to be.
To avoid this, just don’t take tuk tuk drivers or taxi drivers for that matter, on face value. Go and see for yourself. If they’re right, you haven’t lost anything, but if they’re wrong and you go off with them, you’ll have a whole different day to what you scheduled.
2. You get what you pay for
If you approach a tour operator and they’re offering a price well below anyone else for the same package, back away quickly; they’re going to scam you later. Quite a common example of this is present with tour operators on Khao San Road providing bus rides to Phuket or Krabi.
Any reputable agency is going to charge between 800 and 900 baht. However, say you find a bargain for 500 baht, surely that’s a deal worth jumping on. No. These people will charge you further along the line. They may stop outside the town centre and force you on to private taxis, or they’ll stop half way and make you charge vehicle and charge you a second time. In the middle of nowhere at 4am, trying to argue with a possibly violent bus driver is not an option.
To avoid this, understand the competitive prices around you. Read reviews and find recommendations and trust the most reasonable price combined with positive feedback. Alternatively, avoid Khao San Road tour operators as they’re usually out to make a quick buck and may just set up an overnight ‘pop up shop’ to do just that. Lastly, and most advisably, use public overnight sleeper trains instead. You’re more likely to prevent your luggage being stolen, having to change vehicles at a ridiculous hour and you’ll get a better night’s sleep!
3. A deal is a deal
As with bartering, you have to agree transport prices before travelling. Of course, if you take a taxi, always choose the option of meter, but if you’re daring tuk tuks then agree your price before you set off.
Tuk tuk drivers will often try their luck by taking you an alternate route due to supposed ‘traffic’ or will try and renegotiate at the other end. Always refuse and only pay the money you agreed at the beginning. As tuk tuks only go short distances, this should NEVER be more than 200 baht (which is an extortionate price anyway, but it’s a novel tourist commodity).
If you don’t agree a price first, expect them to rip you off when you get to the other end. You’ve left the ball in their court and you’ll pay for it.