Scams to Avoid in Thailand

Top 3 Scams to stay away from during your amazing Thailand holiday
Paradise Cliffs in Thailand
Paradise Cliffs in Thailand / Power Sport Images/GettyImages

Thailand is an amazing country full of incredible food, friendly people, and a vibrant culture. Every year, millions of tourists flock to this Southeast Asian country to embark on the trip of a lifetime. However, when traveling to Thailand, or really anywhere in Southeast Asia, you have to keep in mind that there are a large number of locals who still live very simple lives and won’t hesitate to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists on their first trip to Thailand.  Here are the top 3 scams or traps to avoid:

Number 1: The Meter is Broken

This is a very common scam that does not just exist in Thailand but many other countries around the world.  Taxis will many times jump at the opportunity to make a quick buck off the unsuspecting foreigner.  Even as someone who has lived in Thailand for many years, I still face this issue when dealing with taxi drivers in Bangkok. 

By law, the taxis are required to turn their meter on for every journey.  However, many will claim the meter is broken, there is too much traffic or complain about the price of petrol in order to quote an absurdly high fare.  These quoted prices will usually be at least 3 times, sometimes as much as 5 times higher than the metered rate.  Some things you can do to avoid this problem include: insisting on using the meter and not getting in the taxi if they won’t use the meter.  Never be afraid to walk away from a taxi if the fare they give you is far more than what you think you should pay.  There is never a shortage of taxis in Bangkok that are honest drivers and will use the meter or give you a good price.  Another option is to download the Grab app (Thailand’s version of Uber) and use this to get around the city.

Number 2: The Grand Palace is Closed

For this scam, you can substitute virtually any attraction in Bangkok, and drivers, mainly tuk-tuks, will tell tourists that whichever attraction they are looking to visit is currently closed.  They will then try to take you on a tour around to various shops in which they receive cash commissions or petrol tokens. 

I never believed this scam was real until my Mom came to visit last year.  While we were going to the Grand Palace, 3 different drivers tried to tell us it was closed for lunch and they would drive us around for an hour before it would reopen.  The Grand Palace is never closed unless for some select public holidays. This information can always be found on the Grand Palace website.  To avoid this scam, check the website before going and walk away from any driver claiming the attraction is closed.

Number 3: Jet-Ski or Motorbike Scam

Many travelers visiting Thailand will take the opportunity to rent a motorbike or a Jet-ski during their time on the beaches or islands, particularly Phuket, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui.  While I would never recommend anyone to drive a motorbike in Thailand unless they have experience in their home country, thousands of tourists continue to do this every year. 

How this scam works is the rental shop will demand that they keep your passport as a deposit on the jet-ski or bike and upon returning the rental, they will claim you have damaged their property and demand large sums of money for the return of your passport.  My advice is to never, under any circumstances, allow any rental shop to keep your passport.  They all have the ability to make a copy instead and allow you to place a cash deposit on the rental instead.  Another thing you should do is take a detailed video of the rental with the owner, highlighting any scratches, scuffs or dents that already exist. This will not allow them to claim you did any damage to their property upon returning. 

Even with these scams and tricks being well known and discussed throughout the world, many people still fall victim each day due to the welcoming and friendly nature of the Thais that are operating them.  While these are some things to avoid, Thailand is still a fantastic country to visit and should be a top destination for any first-time travelers, solo backpackers, and families alike.