You’ve been travelling for over sixteen hours; you’re tired and irritable. You step off the plane and feel the surge of heat on your skin. You’re excited; you just landed in Bangkok, Thailand, ready for the holiday of a lifetime! You rush to collect your bags; you make it through security and out of the airport, into the hustle and bustle of the city. There’s so much going on and you’re not sure where to go, then you hear someone ask – ‘ Tuk-Tuk?’…
Those who have visited Bangkok will be familiar with this scenario. Whether they want you to travel on their tuk-tuk, rent their jet-ski, or buy a suit from their ‘Hugo boss’ outlet store, Thai locals will flock to tourists, in the hopes of getting a sale. Tourism is Thailand’s main industry and so the streets are saturated with people trying to sell you something. It’s easy to feel manipulated in the panic, and whilst many offerings are genuine, there are a lot of scammers on the streets, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting traveller.
The risk of being scammed should not put you off visiting Thailand. The ‘land of smiles’ boasts beautiful beaches and scenery; raw culture; and vibrant nightlife – it has become a rite of passage for any aspiring traveller! Saying that, it’s important to be prepared when visiting any foreign country, so we’ve come up with four top tips to help you avoid those infamous Thai scams.
- Avoid the Tuk Tuk’s
Unless you really want to purchase a suit; or your keen to get your hands on some ‘precious gems’, we’d advise staying away from Tuk Tuk’s. Drivers will insist on taking you all around the city, initially stopping off at temples, and then continuing on to their uncle’s suit shop and various other fronts. Whilst the experience is novel and the price is cheap, the pressure from salespeople can make the experience uncomfortable. You’re better off travelling by bus, or taxi. Bangkok even has Uber, which is reliable and familiar.
If you do choose to ride on the Tuk-tuk, be warned – it’s not a Thai national holiday where petrol is free; the nice man at the temple who tells you about the suit shop is not legitimate; and you most certainly do not have to make any purchases from any of the stop off points!
- Book excursions through legitimate sources
If you do choose to embrace the tuk-tuk experience; you may be taken to the tourist information Thailand booking office, or TIT (and believe me, you’ll feel like a bit of a TIT should you choose to book with these guys). In the TIT, you’ll be sat down, offered a beer, and the lady behind the desk will pull out a calendar in an attempt to plan your entire trip. Whilst you will get everything you pay for, the price will be way over the odds! It’s a much better idea to book your excursions yourself, using legitimate travel comparison websites, like Compare and Choose. This way, you know that you’re getting the best deal possible, you’ll be able to read other travellers reviews, and you’ll know exactly what you’re letting yourself in for.
- Don’t rent Jet Ski’s or scooters
It’s the oldest trick in the book… After the adrenaline rush of your first Jet Ski experience or the trip of a lifetime, exploring off the beaten track on your own scooter, you’re told you’ve damaged said item upon your return. You’ll be faced with a huge bill to pay, your Passport will be withheld and they may threaten to call the police – not nice ways to kick-start your holiday!
The best way to avoid this scam is not to rent these items, however, we know the temptation is high, so if you do choose to embrace your inner daredevil, follow these tips:
- Safety first – check your insurance will cover you in the event of any injuries.
- Take pictures of the bike/ jet ski before you leave, focusing on any damage, as evidence.
- Never leave your passport with anybody – if they request ID, offer a photocopy. If they aren’t satisfied with this, take your business elsewhere.
- Have a note of the tourist police phone number – it’s 1155, in case you didn’t already know!
- Don’t let anyone take your money out of your sight
Known as the ‘fake Baht scam’, shop workers may inform you that your money is counterfeit. They will then either swap your real money for a counterfeit note, or confiscate the apparent fake note, and demand that you pay again, using ‘real Baht’. If this happens, leave the store and abandon your items, even if you lose the so-called counterfeit money, you should never pay twice for items.
To avoid this scenario, exchange your money at legitimate travel shops (or, before you leave) and never carry all of your money in one place – that one might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many tourists do this!
Thailand is a hot-spot for tourism and is a great destination for first-time travellers, but it’s vital that you aren’t naïve to potential threats. Being a savvy traveller will ensure that you have a safe, but happy trip!