Home to some the world’s best beaches, tastiest food, and most epic parties, it’s no surprise Thailand is a hugely popular destination for travellers.
Sadly, like most tourist towns in the world, it also shares the more sinister reputation as being a hotspot for holiday scams, with unsavoury folks targeting unsuspecting visitors’ wallets.
But there’s no need to let scam fears turn you off a visit to this stunning pocket of the world.
The fact is, you’re likely to be ripped off somewhere along the tourist trail in Thailand, even if it’s just the hefty mark-up on bottled water and souvenirs, according to Michelle.
It’s important, then, to be aware of the most common shake-downs, so you can recognise the signs.
“If you do get caught up in something, don’t forget to file a police report as soon as possible. This will help you with an insurance claim, should you be able to make one.”
Here are five of the most common scams in Thailand you need to know before you travel.
1. The ‘Grand Palace is closed’ scam
Named after the Grand Palace in Bangkok, this scam is also perpetrated at other attractions around the country.
“Typically, this scheme involves a person accosting tourists as they are walking towards a popular attraction.
The scammer then tells the visitors that the attraction is closed – for example, for a Buddhist holiday – and hails a nearby tuk-tuk who agrees to take them to another temple where they will typically be charged an exorbitant entrance fee.
Of course, the attraction was never closed and both the scammer and the tuk-tuk driver receive a cut from the entrance fee paid by the tourists.
A way around this is to research open hours ahead of your visit.
Cross-referencing a few sources and sites to be sure. Extra points go to knowing about national Thai holidays and special days where attractions may well be closed.”
2. The jet-ski scam
This old chestnut is particularly popular in Pattaya and Koh Samui and involves the rental of a dodgy jet-ski by unsuspecting tourists.
When returning the jet-ski, a crack or a bump in the hull is suddenly discovered by the owners, who promptly accuse the renters of having damaged their expensive watercraft.
Unbeknownst to the tourists, the crack or bump was already there before they rented the jet-ski, covered by a thin coat of water-soluble paint.
Unfortunately, this scam can be a very lucrative one for the owners of a shady rental business, with damages as high as $2000 being charged to their victims.
Due to the prevalence of this scam in Thailand, it is recommended not to rent jet-skis while on holiday in the country.
If you do insist on renting one, however, make sure to fully inspect its hull beforehand and take pictures of it with your smartphone, trusting it’s a waterproof phone.
3. The taxi scam
In Bangkok, taxi drivers targeting tourists sometimes conveniently forget to turn on their metre. Scratch ‘sometimes’ – this one is pretty much a guarantee.
The taxi metre scam is most common at the airport or when taking a cab that is waiting in front of a hotel or shopping mall.
Before entering a taxi, always ask the driver whether he is willing to turn the metre on. If they refuse, simply wait for another cab.
Just six little words — ‘can you turn your metre on? — can save you a lot of money and headaches, so it’s definitely worth asking before you hop in.
4. The gem scam
After a long day under the hot Thailand sun, a tourist decides to hail a tuk-tuk or a taxi to go back to their hotel.
On the way, the vehicle stops in front of a small jewellery store. As it happens, the driver knows the owner of the store and he can get his passenger a great price on emeralds, rubies or even diamonds.
After buying a couple of gems, the tourist goes back to her hotel, dreaming about the amazing jewellery she’ll be commissioning back home.
Unfortunately, that tourist is now the proud owner of some rather expensive pieces of coloured glass. Don’t be that person.
5. The fake consulate scam
This elaborate scam targets tourists wishing to cross the border from Thailand to Cambodia by land.
As travellers make their way from the bus station to the checkpoint by tuk-tuk or on the back of a motorcycle taxi, they suddenly see a large road sign in the middle of the road pointing to a “Cambodian Consulate.”
The driver then stops in front of a large house in front of which a group of overly enthusiastic employees greet tourists and ask them what type of visa they would like to get.
It is, of course, a fake consulate, with no affiliation whatsoever with the Kingdom of Cambodia.
If you agree to get a visa at this fake consulate, employees fill out the single-page application form for you – for a fee, of course – and hand it over to the border checkpoint, which is about a mile away.
In short, you’re paying for something that you can do yourself in five minutes.
To avoid getting scammed at the Thai-Cambodian border, simply refuse to leave the vehicle if your driver stops at the fake consulate. After a minute, he will resume the journey and take you to the actual border.