Thailand is a tourism-country, but that doesn’t mean it’s 100% tourist friendly. Hundreds of thousands of travelers flock to Thailand each year, and more than half of them have witnessed some form of scam — with or without knowing. But why are there so many tourist traps in Thailand?
Thailand’s economy has been in poor shape for a long time. As a result, the struggling locals will do anything to get their hands on money to survive another day. And they choose to abuse tourists with scams. After all, tricking foreigners generates more cash than a low-level job in Thailand.
But despite the many scams in the country, Thailand is still among the top tourist destinations. So, can you avoid these traps when traveling the country? Read on to find out more about the dark side of Thai tourism.
Why are there a lot of traps in Thailand?
As mentioned, Thailand has been struggling economically for many years. And that is one of the reasons for the many tourist scams in the country.
To see why Thai people rely on tourist traps, you must first understand the Thai income issue.
The jobs for the poor
You see, getting a job is extreme in Thailand — especially for first-jobbers.
Despite many open positions in companies, not all of them are worthwhile. The average pay of a low-level job in Thailand is around 300, which is way too close to the average daily expenses of Bangkokians (300 THB).
Food prices in Bangkok are considered nasty for anyone growing up in the countryside. The cheapest dish can be twice as expensive as the same menu in other areas. So, office workers pay extra for at least one meal a day — lunch.
Commuting to and from work can be hell as well. Not all workers can afford to live near their workplace. So, they live far away and take a train or Taxi. This results in even more daily expenses.
And to make matters worse, these jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
This might sound easy. However, not every family can afford education in Thailand. Whether it’s because of household wealth or college locations.
In short, working a low-level job can cost you more than it pays. Some Thai even joke that it’s better to stay unemployed.
So, their only way out is to find other ways to generate cash. And this is where the trickery comes into play.
It’s all charisma… and a little abuse.
As you may know, you don’t need the education to establish a scam scheme — especially when your targets are foreign tourists.
All you need is basic broken English (which you can learn on the fly) and the ability to lie. The former might take some practice. The latter, however, is acquired the moment you’re born.
Most scams in Thailand take advantage of the language barrier and double standards. Since most foreigners don’t understand Thai, the scammers can charge them extra for the “service” while keeping the standard price for locals.
For instance, a bowl of noodles’ standard price is 40 THB. When a Thai customer comes, the shop will charge them 40. But when it’s a foreign tourist, they might charge 50 or 60.
It’s a simple high-risk-high-reward formula that takes minimal time and budget to learn the trick. You don’t have to invest more to increase the profit. All you need is guts and cunning.
So, many poor Thai opt for scamming rather than getting a proper job.
What are Thailand’s tourist traps?
You can fall prey to hundreds of scams in Thailand. And some can even get you unnoticed. So it’s better to go in prepared.
One thing to remember: the core of most scams is to force you to pay more than you should have. There might be thousands of ways to accomplish that, but the results are the same.
With that said, here are 6 examples of the most common tourist traps.
#1 Transportation scam
Let’s start with something waiting for you right at the airport exit: taxis.
Most tourists would need a way to get from the airport to their destination. Of course, taxis might appear to be the most convenient way. However, beware of the pricing and choose the car carefully.
If your destination is outside Bangkok, some taxis might tell you they will charge you a fixed price — not what the meter says. They might claim that it will be cheaper this way or that the meter is broken. Of course, those are all lies.
And believe it or not, many tourists — even locals — fell for this.
So before you get a taxi, it’s recommended to research the average price first. Or else you could end up paying extra.
Moreover, this scam isn’t exclusive to taxis. It applies to Tuk-tuks, minivans, and buses too. The difference is that these vehicles don’t have a meter. So they generally go on a fixed price in any situation.
The safest way to avoid these transportation traps is to take the trains. They are operated by official authorities. It’s difficult for the officers to scam you. But unfortunately, trains in Thailand are limited. Many areas don’t have any train stations, so you have to get there the other way.
#2 Jet-ski scam
If you’re a fan of Thai beaches or water motorsports, you might have heard of this scam before. After all, most expats in the seaside area know not to rent a jet-ski.
The core method of a jet-ski scam involves fraud and intimidation.
The owner of the Jet-ski would rent it out to you for whatever hours agreed upon. After you return the vehicle, the owner would come to you and say, “you have damaged the jet-ski. So, pay up for the repair.”
Of course, this claim is (often) false. However, the owner would act hostile and aggressive, forcing you into submitting. And it doesn’t help that several mechanics (or whoever they are) will group up as the conversation proceeds.
Sometimes, they might even show you a photo of the damage you have dealt or the before/after condition. Even though they are fake, they will mess with your mind. And as a result, most tourists pay up to avoid escalating the matter.
▸ Find out what to avoid in Pattaya here: Why Is Pattaya so Bad? (6 Things to Avoid in Sin City)
#3 Red-light district scam
Some tourists go to Thailand for so-called sex tourism. The country has a reputation for it, and the industry keeps expanding.
But as businesses expand, competition also rises. And with high competition, many players decided to rely on scams.
Red-light district scam comes in many forms. Here are some examples.
First: the false accusation. This scam happens after you enjoy the service of a prostitute. Once it’s time to pay, the manager will say that you have violated the regulation of the place by abusing their workers with excessive violence or other extremes.
Of course, their words are hostile, and their faces are fueled with fury. They wouldn’t let you talk to the prostitutes you slept with, claiming they were emotionally unstable. So, what else can you do but pay up, and stop this from getting out of hand?
Another infamous trap is the fake ping-pong show. The real show would make you go “Holy cow!” with what vaginas can do. The fake, however, will make you go “Eww” or “That’s it?”
The biggest problem about the fake show is that they will force you to pay extra. They might lure you in with a fake discounted offer. But in the end, they will find excuses to make you pay full price. Intimidation is, of course, utilized.
#4 Restaurant scam
Thai cuisine is world-famous for its taste. However, Thai restaurants are infamous for tricky pricing. You can divide restaurant scams into 2 big groups. The double standard and the fake promotion.
The double standard, as previously discussed, will charge foreigners extra while keeping the fair price for locals. The restaurant might accomplish this by using Thai numbers on the price tag of the menu. This way, foreigners would never know the original price of each dish.
The fake promotion is as simple as it sounds. Announcing a massive discount that comes with numerous conditions or straight-up non-existent.
The former can be annoying since you might not even know you are scammed. So, try to eat at restaurants where you know the price.
#5 Driving license scam
This scam should be obvious, but numerous foreigners are falling for it.
Driving license scam involves advertisements of driving schools claiming “you can receive an international driving license without taking any test. Just contact us.” This is, of course, a straight-up lie tricking you into paying thousands for hot air.
Most victims saw these advertisements on social media or on questionable websites. They didn’t know that the only way to obtain a driving license in Thailand: was through the Department of Land Transport (DLT).
So, if you need an international driving license, go to DLT and do a proper test.
▸ Find out how to replace your passport in Thailand here: Lost Passport in Thailand: What to Do & Where to Go (Embassy List)
#6 Tourist attractions scam
When talking about tourist traps, you have to discuss tourist attractions. Why? Because they are inseparable.
Many tourist destinations, like temples, ruins, or museums, have an entrance fee. And you guessed it. They charge foreigners extra, using the same double standard trick as in restaurants.
Some places might even go further by selling you souvenirs that look valuable but are made from rubbish. These souvenirs can be accessories like gems and colored stones or decorations and furniture. The price is, without a doubt, inflated.
Current Thai scams situation and how to avoid them
The thing about Thai scams is that they have been decreasing for the past decade. This is thanks to the growth of technology. People can now find and share information more easily. And some tricks are rendered useless by translation apps.
However, some scams also evolve with better tech. They become more subtle and harder to spot in the dense jungle called the internet. But this only applies to small numbers of tourist traps.
So, it’s time you learn how to avoid these scams. And the methods can be easier than you think. Here are 2 simple ways you can keep these tricks at a distance.
#1 Use technology
As mentioned, some tricks are rendered useless by translation apps. The best example is probably the restaurant and tourist attraction scams. They both abuse the language barrier. And you can solve this problem with google translate.
The Transportation scams can be countered with ride-hailing apps like Grab, Bolt, inDrive, and much more.
Nowadays, if you are unsure of anything, you can Google it. So, read restaurant reviews or articles about others’ experiences in Thailand. Use the information to your advantage.
#2 Find a Thai friend
Having a local friend is like having a scam barrier. They know what to do and avoid, so let them handle the tricky part for you.
Of course, this is not 100% protection. As mentioned, there are thousands of ways to scam a tourist, And your friends can’t know all of them. So, please forgive them if they can’t do anything in some situations.
Another way to resolve scams… not recommended, but works.
Now, there is one last thing about the scam that you should keep in mind. “Sometimes, just pay it.”
This is not a statement for you to support or promote scammers. However, some of these people are desperate. Thailand’s poor economy has driven them to a corner. It’s their only way out of starvation.
And there’s no need to take it personally. After all, it’s all part of the Thailand experience. A story to tell the grandkids.
So, if you happen to be tricked in Thailand, think of it as an education fee. The scammer has taught you something, and you pay them in return. But it’s a one-time course, though. No more next time.
Like always, if you want to learn more about Thailand, stay with ThaiGuider. You might discover something you never knew about this unique country.
▸ Learn more about weird laws in Thailand: Strict (& Strange) Thailand Laws You Should Be Aware Of
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