Tuk Tuk Tours
Explore Bangkok by the iconic tuk tuk
Thailand is a favourite destinations for many tourists from around the world for many good reasons: attractions, nature, food, culture, and people. However, there are some people in Thailand that try to take advantage of unwitting visitors. Unfortunately such scams in Bangkok and across the country creates a bad reputation.
Among some locals there is a mindset that all foreigners have money. This leads to some scams or being charged significantly more than the normal price.
While in reality such scams are not that common, if you do experience one it will ruin your visit. To help you be able to notice and avoid them, here are some common tourist scams in Thailand that you should know before coming and some tricks to avoid them. Some of these scams are connected.
Before we discuss tuk tuks scams we will share our personal view that the majority of tuk tuk drivers are great people and trying to make a legitimate income!
The Tuk Tuk, would probably pop up in your mind when talking about Thailand. But unfortunately there are some bad tuk tuk drivers who see foreigners as an opportunity to gain money as well. For this reason, tuk tuks have gained a bad reputation even though the majority of drivers are amazing people.
At it simplest form tuk tuks are known to try to overcharge foreigners and even charge 4 or 5 times the local price. As they don’t have meters it is hard to know what the real price is, and you should at least bargain. If not sure you can see if it is possible to find other drivers at a lower price, but ones parked together will usually work together to charge the same price. Often it is best to stop one as it drives by.
In some cases a driver may actually offer to take you to places you ask for or that they suggest (including some places worth visiting) and at a very decent rate. However, if it is at a very low rate they will likely encourage you to stop at some shops on the way, and may even tell you don’t need to buy. Some shops with gas vouchers for each customer they bring (even if you don’t buy) and give the driver commission if you buy!
At the more organised scam level, tuk tuks have a reputation of waiting outside key tourist areas such as The Grand Palace or Wat Pho and telling you the places are closed. Instead they offer to take you somewhere else. More on this below under the “The Grand Palace is Closed Scam”
If you are interested in a day trip, you should tell the driver the exact places that you would like to go and refuse any extra offers. As you might end up visiting weird places and be overcharged. If you do not know where to go and want to feel secure you can check out our Tuk Tuk tours.
Just like the Tuk Tuk scam, some taxi drivers especially in airports or at attractions will try to charge you overprice but this case is different in the point that taxi has a meter but they will not use it. Instead, they will offer you the price which is often 2-3 times higher than a normal price or even more. We recommend you tell them to use the meter no matter what. If they refuse then just find a new taxi, simple as that.
On the other hand, using the Grab app – a ride-hailing app is more convenient and safe, but also will end up costing a bit more than a normal taxi! You can choose either Grab a taxi or Grab car (like Uber) with an option of various types of cars and estimated cost.
Near the entrances of famous attractions like The Grand Palace and other temples, you may get approached by some locals (usually associated with Tuk Tuk drivers or an individual who has a driver waiting near by), who generously inform you that the place is closed due to whatever reasons.
They are quite creative in their reasons! Sometimes they will conveniently claim it is currently closed just for a few hours, but they can take you on a small tour to another famous temple and bring you back in the afternoon when it is open again.
Never ever believe them until you go check by yourself. Assuming you are inside the normal visiting hours the Grand Palace rarely closes. You can just smile, thank them, and politely walk away. Go to the ticket office of where you want to visit and check for yourself.
It is likely they will try and persuade you to go on a mini tour which they claim to be more beautiful and “very close by”. The most common place they offer to take you is the beautiful “Lucky Buddha”, which in fact is not a famous temple that any local will know. In fact they may only offer to charge a very low price for the tour as this is just the start of the scam.
The scam works on many levels with several people involved. Once you have agreed to go on a mini tour with them, you will soon discover the tour involves stops at a gem store or jewellery shop or tailor shops. These shop owners will make out their items are high quality and sell you low quality items at extremely high prices. In the shop you are likely to have actors commenting on how good a deal it is. The driver will get commission and even if you don’t buy, they will get gas vouchers.
In some versions of the scam you get approached by 1 or 2 friendly people at the temples they take you (e.g. Lucky Buddha Temple) before you even get taken to a jewellery shop. They will act just as if they are a friendly local and advise that “today is a special day”, the government has announced a tax free days on gems or gold …… If the driver then stops at a gem shop you should not be surprises – you can guess what is going on!
If you are lucky with these scams (and refuse to buy anything) you will get a few hours riding around in a tuk tuk at a very low price even if you don’t visit famous places. If you are unlucky you will end up spending a lot of money. The key is don’t randomly make expensive purchases!
While walking around a touristy area, you may be stopped by a group of people carrying a photo book of tour packages. They will offer tour packages – city tours, boat tours, temple tours, floating market tours, etc, at a bargain price or with big discount. Do not fall for it! The initial price is highly inflated and the tour is low quality. You will get taken to places that they get commissions and many people end up being very disappointed.
Often they may speak great English (perhaps claim they are a teacher) and appear like they just want to chit chat. Just smile and refused. If you are interested in tours, book them with a reliable tour agent that you can check their reviews from the real customers or at the piers for boat tours.
If you go on a sea trip to Thailand (especially at Pattaya and Phuket) and would like to rent a jet ski, there is something you need to be aware. Be aware of tricky jet ski owners and staff. As when you rent a jet ski normally they will ask you to leave your passport as a deposit and this can turn to a very big issue later on.
After having fun and getting back to return the jet ski, you probably get fined which might cost 10k+ Baht for jet ski damage! They will show you a scratch or a huge crack and incriminate that it happened after you took the jet ski out. And you can not get the passport back if you do not pay for the damage. Even though you are confident that you did not do anything to damage the jet ski, no insurance or contract to protect you.
Therefore, every time you rent a jet ski make sure you recheck and do not forget to thoroughly take pictures of every damage that is already on the jet ski. At least you have such pictures to claim when there is an issue. If the situation seems to get worse, get a tourist police officer on spot asap. If possible, you better not rent a jet ski at all. Avoid handing your passport to anyone!
Renting a motorbike in Thailand especially when you are traveling out of Bangkok seems to be a good option as it is convenient and cheap for transportation. However, like the jet ski case, you can be fleeced for “damages” when returning it. Do recheck the breaks, lights, mirrors, gear, everything even a helmet. Also, take pictures of every existing scuff on the bike. And again “do not hand your passport to anyone!”
This scam also happens to locals. There was a time when there were a lot of fake bills were spreading throughout Thailand. Until now some of them are still in Thailand’s market. Every time you use a banknote (especially 1,000THB note) to pay for goods, you need to keep your eyes on it.
Sometimes tricky shopkeepers will take your banknote to look at it closely, as if checking it is the real one. In fact, they might secretly change your banknote with the fake one. If you cannot remember your banknote then it is your bad luck. Hence, try to keep your eyes on it. Also, ensure that you exchange money at an authorised currency exchange shop not at somewhere offering a super special rate.
As a visitor to a new country it can be hard to get used to the notes and coins. This can turn to an opportunity for some minority groups of people who will intentionally give you the wrong change and if you do not notice you will just easily be scammed. Therefore, every purchasing make sure you know how much you are paying and recheck how much you receive before leaving the counter or the store. If you notice later and then go back to claim, they will not listen.
This scam sometimes happens at Hua Lamphong Railway Station. When you are looking for a train to a remote area in Thailand, you can get approached by strangers asking where you are going. They will tell you that the train is fully booked and instead offer you a bus or a van ticket.
Do not believe them and just politely walk away. If you want to experience a train trip, you can book it online on the official website: Thairailwayticket.com. Do not easily believe any strangers approaching you with too good intention.
Overall the above represents a minority of the experiences people have. This article is intended as a source of information that helps you be able to avoid such situations in Thailand. Bad and good people are everywhere in the world, right? Just be aware but do not worry too much. We hope you keep travelling as much as you can and have lots of good memories with great people!
Photo Credits: DreamWP, Saranya Chawanrattanasakul, Natasia Causse, Aimaimyi, Harsha K R, Ilya Plekhanov, Artem Beliaikin
At Expique our mission is to help people discover the real Bangkok (and beyond) and the local cultures. We do this through a combination of offering our own award winning tours and through producing informative content.
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