Like any country, Thailand has its share of scamsters and conmen. Staying alert, using common sense and being aware of the below points will keep you safe and free from scams in Thailand.
(After reading this article friends have asked us: Is Thailand safe? Our response is at the bottom of this page).
6 Common Scams in Thailand: How to Avoid Them & Staying Safe
1 – SCAMS INVOLVING VEHICLE HIRE:
- When renting vehicles (cars, scooters or bikes), check that they are not scratched, dented or damaged. If they are, take a photograph and ask the owner to make a note of it. This way, on returning the vehicle you cannot be held accountable for pre-existing damages.
- Consider using an additional lock to lock your vehicle. Although very rare, at times the person who has rented you the bike follows you. When you park, he uses his spare key to drive off with it, leaving you responsible for its “theft”.
Take special care to inspect jet skis and motorboats before hiring them. When you return from your ride you could be told that you damaged them, and need to pay for their repair.
This is an elaborate scam, common on the beaches of Phuket and Pattaya. A team, including a smartly dressed bystander, who claims to be a policeman, work together. (This person will casually walk down and get involved. Don’t trust him – he will most likely be in cahoots with them).
If this happens do not pay – stay calm and call the Tourist Police. Dial 1155.
- Vehicle shop owners will either ask for your passport or a cash deposit as security. It’s not safe to leave your passports with them in their small, unguarded, and, at times, unattended stalls.
Pay the deposit and take a receipt. If they lose your cash, they will have to refund you, but if they misplace your passport, you will be in serious trouble.
- Bikes and scooters available for hire are rarely serviced on time. You’ll either be riding in chaotic traffic or in hilly areas so don’t simply take the vehicle you are offered.
Select the one you think is best. Check the brakes, lights, indicators, air pressure in the tyres, wheel alignment and its overall condition. Always wear a helmet.
- Drive safe and be careful, accidents are common. Even though the government is taking strict action to better driving conditions, there are nearly 70 road accident deaths each day in Thailand, making Thailand’s roads the second most lethal in the world.
Get insurance. If you don’t know where to begin, try World Nomads Insurance. You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from World Nomads is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
2 – SHOPPING SCAMS:
- While Thailand is a great shopping destination, it is also famous for counterfeit goods.
If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You get what you pay for – the quality of the fake determines its price.
- Touts and sometimes tuk-tuk drivers are on the lookout for gullible shoppers. They invite tourists to places for special bargains and unbelievable deals.
These are scams that invariably get them a commission from your purchases.
- When requesting a tuk-tuk driver to be taken to a shopping destination, you may be told that it is closed. The driver then offers to take you to another place which is cheaper and better.
Do not fall for this trick, it is a scam. The driver is taking you to another place so that he can claim his commission from the shop owner.
- Another variation: A tuk-tuk driver says the Grand Palace (or any other popular destination) is closed for, let’s say, a Buddhist ceremony. He says that there is another place, more interesting, which you should visit instead.
This is a common scam in Thailand. If you agree, the driver will most likely take a diversion and you will end up in a shopping location, pressurised to make a purchase.
Do keep in mind – on purchasing goods from shops that display a ‘VAT return for tourists’ sign, you are permitted to claim VAT refunds of up to 7%, provided you leave Thailand within 60 days from the date of purchase.
3 – BAR/SEX SHOW SCAMS:
- Local Thai women approach single male travellers at bars and ask for drinks. After sharing a few drinks, they leave. When the bill arrives, you are charged an exorbitant amount, which you must pay or face the consequences.
- Do not go for sex shows. Touts approach you with menus displaying tricks and sex acts being performed. If you agree to go with them, once inside, you will realise that you have been fooled. You will not be able leave unless you pay a hefty sum.
Remember that it’s your money and not you that they are after.
4 – CAUTIONS FOR FULL MOON PARTIES:
Behind the crazy atmosphere at Thailand’s infamous Full Moon Parties are criminal predators out to make hay while the sun shines. It is very easy to be mesmerised by the carnival atmosphere to overdo things and wake up the next morning in trouble. Remember to behave sensibly and keep in mind the consequences of indiscretion.
- Do not take drugs. To be found under the influence of drugs, or in possession might lead to very serious trouble and imprisonment.
- Do not accept drugs or snacks from strangers. You can never be sure if the stranger is being friendly or working in cahoots with a criminal team.
- Avoid carrying valuables.
- Beware of sharp pieces of glass from broken bottles on the beaches. Do not go bare foot.
5 – DEALING WITH MONEY:
- Don’t change money simply because the money exchange rate sounds great. If the offer sounds too good to be true, you’ll probably have to pay additional charges later on.
Before changing money check that you will not be charged a commission. (You should not be).
- The usual rule to watch out for pickpockets in public places applies in Thailand, too.
Distribute your money in separate pockets so that it is not necessary for you to take out all your cash to make a small payment. Avoid displaying large amounts of money in your possession.
- Make sure that the entire cash and card transaction takes place in front of you.
You don’t want the shopkeeper returning with a different 1000 Baht note, saying that the one you gave him was a fake.
Be attentive while handing over your credit or debit card. Make sure that it is not copied.
6 – TUK-TUK SCAMS:
- Tuk-tuk scams in Thailand are very common. It is best to fix a price before getting into a tuk-tuk. Ask your hotel or a trusted source for the approximate price to know what to quote to the driver. You can use Google Maps to check the distance and that will give you an idea about how much it should cost.
Once the price is set, your driver will be sure to take the shortest route (instead of actually ‘taking you for a ride’ and demanding more payment).
RIDE-BY BIKE BAG SNATCHING:
- Bag snatching is becoming common in Thailand and Southeast Asia. A motorbike rider suddenly zooms by close to you and his pillion rider snatches your bag.
Use good quality backpacks, ones that have an additional attachment that fixes around your chest. Only carry what you need.
USE COMMON SENSE TO AVOID BEING SCAMMED IN THAILAND
- If someone acts too friendly, be careful.
- When you sense that someone suddenly starts ‘pretending’ not to understand English, they are likely to make a quick buck at your expense. (If caught, they will simply plead innocence by saying that they didn’t understand you).
- Always keep your valuables locked when leaving the hotel. Use your hotel safe if your room doesn’t have one.
- Avoid going to dangerous areas, especially late night.
- If you feel that someone is trying to pick a fight with you on purpose, take it as a red signal and leave.
- Don’t accept food or drinks from fellow passengers while travelling. The items might be drugged and the offer, a prelude to robbery.
- Never surrender your original passport at the hotel or any other non-official site. If they insist, you can pay an advance in cash, and take a receipt.
- In case you have an ailment that needs monitoring, stay in an area that has hospitals. The chaotic traffic of Bangkok can leave you stuck in case of an emergency.
- Purchase tickets only from authorised points.
- Lock your bags when you leave them in the hold of a bus.
- Dress appropriately. In spite of its acceptance and openness, Thailand is still quite conservative.
- Don’t drink and drive.
So – Is Thailand Safe?
Though this list of scams in Thailand is long, we have always felt safe in Thailand.
In over 20 Thailand visits we have travelled to remote destinations, stayed in basic places, we have been out partying late night (many times), hitchhiked, hired bikes (on every visit), rented jet skies, and travelled cheap. Nothing bad has even happened to us. For this we are very thankful.
We must add, however, that we are always careful wherever we travel. Some people haven’t been as fortunate as us. Few have been scammed in Thailand. And, we know someone who lost absolutely everything (wallet, passport, medicines, bags) – and then got bitten by a dog.
All said, we believe that Thailand is a relatively safe country. Crimes of violence are infrequent, and women are safer here than in other countries. Thai’s (Buddhist’s, in general) are peace loving people. They keep to themselves and stay happy.
As long as you exercise caution while dealing with strangers and travelling alone, you should be free from scams in Thailand. However, if things go wrong, please note the below:
IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY
- Your country’s embassy or consular office will help you in times of distress. Note your embassy contact number and carry a copy of ID proof, if not the original. Though authorities will insist on a production of the original passport, the copy will suffice for the time being. You will also need to contact your embassy in case of a lost or stolen passport (having a copy of your passport will help here).
Important Phone Numbers
- Police and General Emergency: 191
- Medical Emergency: 1669
- Tourist Police: 1155