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The Scams You Should Avoid When in Bangkok

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Thailand is full of tourists all year round, and that makes them an easy target for scammers and thieves. Even worse, the playing field has gotten incredibly big, and some scams are kind of difficult to spot if you’re a first-timer. So before your trip, take a look at this guide to the scams you should avoid when in Bangkok!

The Red-Light District Scam

When it comes to scams you should be aware of when traveling in Bangkok, the red-light district scam is possibly the most common one. There are several types of this scam. Many inexperienced tourists can fall for it.

See how red light districts operate during this pandemic

Fortunately, if you know how to spot it, you won’t get into any trouble. Generally, this tourist scam starts off with men approaching tourists. The man will come up to you and offer you a sexy “menu” for a free erotic show (i.e., ping-pong show).

However, once you follow the man, he will take you to an obscure establishment (often upstairs). Inside, there will be some performers who will actually give you a free show of some sort. However, the owners or bouncers will try to get you to pay for the next show, or they will overcharge you for the drinks.

They might try to take thousands of baht from you just for a beer or a drink for the lady. In the worst case, the bouncer could threaten you with a beating until you pay up. You will usually encounter this scam in the Patpong red-light district.

‘Tourist Attractions Are Closed Today’ Scam

Yet another con that almost always works with inexperienced tourists is the “closed attraction” scam. Tourists are often targeted right when they exit the airport or arrive in town.

In this scam, the taxi or tuk-tuk driver will tell you that a famous tourist spot like the Grand Palace is closed for the day. They might say that there’s a royal ceremony or similar private event. Instead, they will offer you a ride through town to visit other destinations that aren’t so well-known.

Then, they will take you to some destinations and temples that are actually impressive and quite decent to see. Plus, the driver’s fee will be acceptable. However, the scam will occur in the middle of the trip. The driver will ask you to see some “government” expos or promotional agencies. He could even take you to a duty-free jewel shop or an “authorized” travel agency.

Then, you could get bombarded with offers to buy some gems or a new travel package. Usually, the tourists will pay up, but the fake agency will take a large sum of money without giving anything in return. It’s also possible to encounter this scam on the street where random strangers could approach you and try to swindle you in the same way.

Transportation Scam

The next big scam to avoid in Bangkok is the tuk-tuk or taxi scam. The tuk-tuk scam in Bangkok is easy to spot. Simply watch out for vehicles parked in front of tourist spots and hotels. Drivers who park in front of shopping malls, temples, and landmarks could ask you to enter a gem shop. In return, they might say that you’re helping them because the shop will give them free gas. But there’s a catch.

Once the tourist gets inside the shop, it’s likely that they will buy some fake jewels. After the purchase, the driver will get a cut of the sale. The shop will also take some high-pressure tactics to get you to spend money.

Another way the taxi scam in Bangkok could play out is that you could hop into a taxi and get a ride with the meter off. The drivers that park outside famous attractions will almost always do this. They will tell you that the meter is running while it’s actually turned off. Then, they will overcharge you for the ride.

Fake Tourism Officials Scam

Tourism officials and boards are common and legitimate in Thailand. However, you should be wary of “tourism authority” badges, and strangers in uniform will approach you out of the blue.

You could encounter some fake tourist police who are just scam artists in disguise. The scam often works because not everyone is familiar with the local police uniforms. Usually, a fake officer will approach you. They’ll warn you that your district or area is full of counterfeit bills. They’ll ask to inspect your wallet and say that they will do this for your safety. If you give them the wallet or purse, they’ll check out the contents and return it to you. Next, you will hear that everything is in order. However, they will quickly take some money from the wallet without you noticing. When you get your wallet back, you’ll believe that everything is okay until you open it again and find that some money is gone.

There are some variations of the scam. You could bump into some fake officers during roadblocks, at bus or train stations, tourist hotspots, and other places. Some could also try to sell you fake discount vouchers for non-existent hotels or tours.

Gem Scam

When it comes to tours, they could also include some big scams to avoid in Thailand. Some tours could make short stops at gem stores, jewel shops, souvenir stores, and other similar establishments.

The scam is actually quite similar to the tuk-tuk ride con. When you enter the store, you will be swamped with offers on “valuable” gems and jewels, which are actually fake. The store owners will tell you that the gems have amazing value. They will say that you can resell them for lots of money when you get back home. In reality, when you buy those gems, you’ll see that they’re nothing but pieces of fake painted glass. In one scenario, the store could take your money and send you on your way.

However, if you run into a duty-free gem store, you could get a seemingly fantastic offer but only if you order the stones to your home address. The store employees could tell you that the stones are cheap because you will not pay any taxes. But the stones will never arrive at your home, and the store will simply steal your cash.

How to Avoid Scams

So what are the best tips on how to avoid scams in Bangkok? The first step is to get acquainted with the most common scams, such as the ones we’ve outlined today. You can find lots of information about big and small scams online using forums and travel sites.

Also, when you get there, you can ask the hotel staff about popular scams in the area. They will give you the correct information. If you stay in and visit well-regarded establishments, they will not try to scam you or take your money because they have a reputation to uphold. It’s also clever to look up the color and design of the Thai police uniforms to avoid fake officer scams.

Another great tip is to watch out for strangers who approach you. Simply don’t talk to them. Just walk the other way or tell the scammer that you are not interested. Also, it’s clever to ask a tuk-tuk or taxi driver for the price first and even demand to see the meter before you enter a vehicle.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know about the most common scams and how to dodge them, you won’t fall victim to them and lose your money and nerves on your trip to the Land of Smiles! Good luck!