Although it's nice to think that we are all smart enough not to fall for travel scams, even the most seasoned travelers are bound to get caught up in one sooner or later (I know that I have!)
Arriving in a new country with new customs, new currency & unfamiliar surroundings is enough to get anyone a little flustered, & with these new territories come a brand new set of scams as well. Some of these scams you may recognize from other countries & others may be brand new, but knowing what they are before you arrive will significantly reduce the chances of getting scammed yourself.
Scams in Thailand (& around the world) are changing all the time & in fast-paced tourist hubs like Bangkok there seems to be an endless list of scams to cheat you out of your cash & leave you feeling silly. Here is our list of the top five most common scams in Bangkok that you should be aware.
THE CHEAPEST TUK TUK SCAM
Tuk Tuk drivers in Thailand deal with tourists all day & know that each will barter for the lowest price to their destination. This scam involves promising a cheap trip (the equivalent of just a dollar) provided that you make just "one quick stop."
This may sound harmless enough, but where they send you to is an overpriced jewelry shop or suit tailor (where they will earn a commission should you buy something) & force you to waste your time there for at least 30 minutes; this is all part of their deal with the retailer. Many of these shops are far from where you are trying to go & the worst part of all is that your tuk tuk driver will charge you even more for your ride should you attempt to leave the shop early or make arrangements with another driver.
TL Travel Tip: If it sounds too cheap to be true, it probably is.
THE "CLOSED FOR THE DAY" SCAM
In this scam, your tuk tuk or taxi driver will ask you where you're going & then tell you that (regrettably) that place is closed for the day for a special holiday or private ceremony. They will then convince you to take a city tour with them instead where they will show you "other popular tourist spots" that are still open & are "much better" than what you had originally planned to see. Once in their care though, they will drive you around the city stopping at jewelry shops & tailors in the hopes that you will buy their goods & earn them a commission. All the while, the place that you were hoping to see was open after all.
TL Travel Tip: If you have any concerns about a temple or tourist site being closed during your stay, simply google their hours before departure or ask your hotel concierge.
PRECIOUS GEMS SCAM
When you are walking through the streets & markets in Thailand there always seems to someone there trying to sell you their goods at the "best price around." While tailors seem to be the most abundant, gems & jewels are another that you will see often & are 99.9% likely to be a huge scam.
For this scam you will be stopped on the street or outside a jewelry store by someone selling "precious gems". They will explain to you that these valuable stones are so common in Thailand that you can get them there for cheaper than anywhere in the world & at lower, wholesale prices. I have known many travelers to get caught up in this scam & I will tell you right now; these gems are worthless & typically made of glass.
THAI "POLICE" SCAM
This scam is another common one & often hard to walk away from for fear of disobeying the law. You will be approached by the "police" on the street & after requesting to see your ID or passport, they will explain to you that there is a problem with your ID/ entrance stamp/ Visa & that you will have to pay a fine. Of course these people are not police (or are, in some cases, corrupt police) & will play on your fears, take your money & run.
TL Travel Tip: To determine the legitimacy of this encounter, simply keep your cool & request that they escort you to the closest police station where you will pay your fine on arrival there. If the fine is not legitimate they will decline to do so & leave you alone.
MISSING MONEY SCAM
This scam is most common in local markets where there are a great deal of distractions & crowds. While it can happen anywhere in the world, I have found it to be most common in Bangkok where there are a large number of tourists around.
In this scam, after paying for a souvenir (let's say it cost you 100 Baht) the store owner will switch out the bills using slight of hand & tell you that you only paid them with a 20 Baht bill. While you may be sure that you paid them 100 Baht, you can't be 100% sure because you are so unfamiliar with the new currency & to avoid confrontation you will pay them an additional 80 Baht & walk out having paid almost double.
TL Travel Tip: Do your best to always pay in exact change & pay close attention to the exchange of money from your hands to their "till." Merchants using this scam will only target tourists who seem distracted by their surroundings.
Have you been the victim of a tourist scam in Thailand or anywhere else around the world? Tell us about it in the comments below & help future travelers avoid the same fate.