Whether you love it or hate it, Bangkok is almost a necessary stop you must make when flying into Thailand or traveling around the country. It is the heart and central hub to transit to virtually any destination in and out of the country. For this reason, Bangkok has become one of the most popular destinations in Asia, and along with the crowds, come the scams.
Bangkok has an elaborate selection of scams that have evolved over the last thirty years. Some of them are so well developed that even seasoned travelers fall for them when visiting the main sights of the city. But, to help you stay safe and save your money, I’ll share with you some of the most common scams, how to detect them, and how to avoid them.
It often happens that taxis will line up in front of your hotel. They often portray themselves as being part of the hotel or collaborating with them, when in fact they are just regular taxis waiting to fish an unsuspecting tourist. They tell you to hop in, and once you’re on the way, you notice that the meter is not on. Since you’ve left already, he will deny turning the meter on and charge a ridiculous amount of money to take you to your destination.
How to avoid it?
Avoid hopping in the taxis waiting in front of your hotel and just call any taxi passing by on the street. Those taxis in front of the hotel are only interested in scamming, so they’ll give you a hard time to turn on the meter, if they do at all. When hopping in any other taxi, make sure to mention “meter?” to the driver, so he knows you want to pay what’s appropriately charged by the meter.
Tuk-tuks are fun, traditional small vehicles to swiftly move around the city. They are quite convenient, but unfortunately, they are not as cheap as they used to be due to their touristy popularity. Drivers know this, so they take unsuspecting tourists and either avoid discussing the price until the end of the ride – when they can charge a ridiculous amount – or charge you ten times more of a reasonable price before you hop in if they know you are unsure of the price. Once, a driver tried to charge me 800 Baht (Thai currency) for a ride I knew wasn’t worth more than 40-60 Baht.
Tuk-tuks are not metered, so you need to settle the price before hopping in and be very assertive with the driver as they’ll often ask for more money at the end of the ride. Familiarize yourself with average rates from point A to point B by asking your hotel. In any case, short rides should be around 50-100 Baht while longer rides within the city shouldn’t go over 200 Baht, at most. It is common to charge more when you have more passengers but never double the price. Just 20-40 extra if more than two or three passengers.
This one is a popular scam. When walking around to see the Grand Palace, a random guy will approach you in a friendly manner and ask you where are you from and other typical “tourist questions.” He will speak decent English and even know a few fun facts about your country. He’ll probably gain your trust with that conversation, and then he’ll ask you where are you going. If you say you’re going to the Grand Palace, he’ll tell you the palace is closed for the day for some “royal ceremony.”
You’ll get a bit disappointed, and he’ll offer you a ride on his tuk-tuk to take you around to see other stunning temples and sights. And since you’re “his friend,” he’ll offer it for only 20 Baht. He’ll take you to some lovely temples, and on one of them, you’ll meet another guy (which could be a Westerner too). He’ll talk to you about some government jewelry promotion where you can buy jewelry at a fraction of the price, and it’s just ending today. Whether you’re intrigued or not, your driver will then take you to a “government-authorized jewelry shop,” where you’ll either look or buy. They will show you real jewelry, but should you buy something; they will exchange it for something of almost no value before packing it to be shipped to your country (to avoid “paying taxes”). After that, the driver will disappear.
How to avoid it?
If anyone says the Grand Palace is closed, ignore them and continue your way. The palace is open every day from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm unless it is closed for a state function, which is relatively rare. You can find more information about the palace here
If anyone talks about a jewelry promotion or tells you they’ll take you to any store to buy X product for a fraction of the price, just ignore them too. They are looking to scam you.
Wat Arun is one of the most stunning temples in Bangkok and one you shouldn’t miss. One thing, though, is that it is located on the other side of the river from where most people stay and most sights are located. Since many tourists are unaware there’s a ferry that takes you from behind the Grand Palace and Wat Pho directly to Wat Arun, tuk-tuk drivers approach them and offer a ride to the stunning temple, at a “cheap rate” of 500-1000 Baht (because they have to cross the bridge to the other side). This price, of course, is incredibly inflated.
There are two ways to avoid this. The cheapest way is to just walk to the pier behind the Grand Palace and Wat Pho and pay the 3 Bahts (yes, just 3) to cross the river each way. No need for a tuk-tuk or taxi if you’re already by the Grand Palace. Alternatively, you can take a taxi and cross the bridge, which will cost you anything from 70-120 Baht, depending on traffic. It’s a decent ride.
Maybe this sounds a bit scary to you, but trust me, Bangkok is a wonderful city to explore. You just need to be smart about it and know the game before you set foot there. Once scammers know you are aware of their game and will not fall for it, they leave you alone and continue to their next prey (unfortunately).
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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