Who knew you could lose your passport and Baht roll over a can of coke?
Unfortunately, the Land of Smiles may sometimes double as the land of scams. From the infamous “drugging bus robbery scam” to the less creative tour operator shuffle you’re apt to fall prey to a scam or 2 in Thailand. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been caught unaware a few times. And when this does happen, you can do 2 things; whine endlessly about how unfair life is or you can laugh about your “Siam Scam” experience and share your Thailand tale with friends and fellow travelers to help them avoid the same fate.
Thailand Scams to Avoid and be Aware of:
Bus Robbery Scam
One of the most notorious and common scams in Thailand involves buses, little people, drugs and narcolepsy. OK, that’s a bit of a reach. But not too far off. Tourists are herded onto a bus and served drugged cans of coke. As the tourists fall into a deep sleep, passports and wallets are then snatched from the sleeping Farang. One variation of this scam even has kids hiding out in the bowels of the bus, rifling through the luggage to snatch the valuables of unsuspecting tourists in the cabin above.
The Lesson: pay the extra 10 or 15 USD to travel with a reputable, trusted bus company. Secure your passport and wallet under a few layers of clothing on your body and hide your money in hidden compartments. Thai buses are known to be Arctic-like environments, with endless air conditioning blasting for the entire trip, so you’ll have plenty of layers of clothing to stash your valuables.
False Bus Claims Scam
Tourist scams in Thailand come in many shapes and sizes. This one is less colorful but oh so annoying. Some tourist operators tout a premium experience by traveling on a pimped out, fully furnished bus. The agency guy or gal points to a picture of a gleaming, dreamy bus on the wall and you happily pay the extra 400 Baht for the ticket. Then, the truth slaps you in the face! When it’s time to check in for your road trip the bus is an absolute piece of shit, probably seeing its heyday when King Bhumibol first took the throne (For those not in the know, the King is in his 80’s).
Anyway, not all Thailand scams are particularly creative but they can still be all the more annoying when you’re stuck on an old, disgusting bus with no air conditioning, ratty, dirty carpet seats and a bathroom so horrifying that you’d rather eat off of the floor of the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City versus using the bus porta potty.
The Lesson: this is a tough one to avoid at times. Just never go back to the agency of course and share this story with all of your travel buddies. The agency where this particular scam transpired is located on Chang Klan Road in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Buy your bus tickets at the Arcade Bus Station if you’re in Chiang Mai. Most of the buses rolling through there are newer, with tour operators in the hub almost always on the up and up.
Lively Meters or Lying Taxi Drivers
Note: many taxi drivers in places like Bangkok or Phuket are honest. The feared Tuk Tuk Mafia was wiped out in Phuket after the military coup of 2014. But unfortunately, some crafty, shady drivers still play games.
Before you step into a cab demand that the driver uses a meter. If you don’t, you’re at their mercy. Stories of drivers in Phuket charging 500 Baht – about 15 USD – for a 4-minute tax ride are not uncommon. Nor are ridiculously ballsy drivers who ask for 1000 Baht for a normally 300 Baht or so ride from the airport.
Lively meters? Some cars are rigged so when drivers tap on brakes, the meter amount soars. This practice is less common these days due to astute tourists. Still, be vigilant.
The Lesson: Rent a motorbike. It’s cheap and easy to drive if you need to get around town for a few days or weeks. Or, demand metered taxis. Keep an eagle eye on the meter. If you’re in the Khao San Road area of Bangkok, schedule a 120 Baht shuttle pick up service for rides to the airport, as these operators are generally reputable and reliable.
Phuket Jet Ski Scam
This one’s native to Patong, especially. Rent a jet ski and after you return it the jet ski operator notes signs of damage – which you missed before taking the bad boy out to sea – and watch said operator charge you 3000 Baht or more to cover the “damages”. You refuse to pay it and the local corrupt police show up, forcing you to pay the fine, of which they get a cut.
The Lesson: Don’t rent a jet ski in Patong! I’ve heard of this scam being pulled so many times, it’s just not worth it.
Do you have any Thailand scams to share?
Note: The Thai people are beyond awesome, and incredibly friendly. Like most places in the world, there will always be a few desperate, unhappy individuals who are going to do anything they can to scam, squeeze and steal money off tourists. Common scams can be avoided. Be cautious, exercise travel safety techniques, and practice situational awareness. And if all else fails, at least you’ll have a great story to tell!
Latest posts by Carey (see all)
- Travel Hack Friday: #DIY Orange Peel Oil Candle #travelhacks - October 16, 2015
- Hanoi Vietnam, The Photoscape! #Hanoi #Vietnam #Southeastasia - October 5, 2015
- Travel Hack Friday: How to Find Edible Bugs - October 2, 2015