Thailand Scams

November 3rd, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

I just happened to run across articles about the “jet ski scam” today and realized I have never said anything about the scams here. Overall, things are safe in Bangkok and the rest of Thailand. Sue and I go to many areas of Bangkok both alone and together and never have any problems. Of course we have been approached by people as described below, but we blow them off quickly and go on our way without incident. There is no beach or city in Thailand, except the southern three provinces with Muslim unrest, that we would hesitate to go to. We have never hesitated to eat from any street vendor or street restaurant that sells what we want.

I suppose there must be some danger here, but it may be less than in the past because ATM machines allow the average tourist to travel around with just a bit of cash rather than the amount for his entire trip. It is extremely unlikely that any of the situations described below will become physically dangerous unless you let them evolve past your first encounter. Overall I am much more concerned in a US or European city than I would be here.

While you are not in danger, you will certainly feel bad if someone wastes your time and gets a bit of your money. Other than the jewelry, jet ski and airport duty free situations described below, whatever money you lose won’t be much, but it still ruins the good feeling of the day to get taken.

If someone who speaks pretty good English approaches you on the street or in a public place watch out! They may be a Thai, an American or a European. For example, they ask you where you are going, then tell you that place is closed today due to a special holiday, the king visiting, or whatever. Then they offer to take you somewhere else. Chances are 99% that the place you are going to is open.

If you are standing around looking perplexed, or looking at your map for a long time, a Thai who speaks good English may come over and be genuinely helpful. Do they let you ask a question and then try to answer it, or do they suggest you go somewhere you’ve never heard about? So evaluate before you act. There are good people here.

Wall and gateway to the Grand Palace, Bangkok. Want to meet a scammer? Just stay outside this wall. Stand around looking perplexed. Maybe look at a map. Should only take a few minutes. Or, get along the wall out of sight of the gate and someone can come and tell you the palace is closed…

You just left the Holiday Inn and someone comes up behind you in a Holiday In uniform says he saw you in the hotel and suggests something, don’t believe them. They try all kinds of things to earn your trust.

If you are approached by a security guard or police officer who speaks good English you should be wary. Few police speak English, and those that do not very well. If you haven ‘t done anything, a normal police officer will not approach you. Rare indeed is it that a low paid security guard will speak English. Even though they may hang around and be friends with the regular security guards someplace, they are probably working a scam of some sort. If they say you can’t go into an area, OK, go somewhere else. If they want you to go with them, don’t.

Some of the “red light” areas of Thailand, such as Patpong near the Silom tourist area, are becoming popular street shopping areas. They are perfectly safe if you do not go anywhere with anyone who approaches you. Don’t go into a bar with them. Especially don’t go into an upstairs restaurant or lounge where you get away from the crowds. If you want to get into a dangerous situation in Bangkok, this is a great way.

Don’t ever rent a jet ski anywhere in Thailand! When you get back they will find damage that was already there and charge you for it. They’ve been known to use water soluble paint to cover defects, so if the machine is out of the water before you take it, you may still miss the “damage”. The amounts they charge can be in the thousands of dollars and you may find it very hard to refuse twenty or more Thais on the beach as they get very agitated by your arguments. It is common for them to actually restrain tourists from calling the police. If you do get to the police they may not help you at all. This scam is so widespread that you should never, never rent a jet ski anywhere in Thailand.

Never, never hand over your passport to rent a motorbike. It is common for them to ask for it, but your passport is really not your property, it is your government’s. If some guy on the street has your passport he has total control over you. When you return the motorbike and he wants 10,000 baht ($300) for a few scratches you may or may not have put there you may be stuck. Better to leave a cash deposit you can afford to lose. Unfortunately again, the police will usually side with such people.

Best to rent a motorbike from your hotel or guest house. The price should be the same, at least if it is a less expensive guest house. I have never had them ask for even a deposit.

You may need to give the hotel desk clerk your passport when you check in. They make a copy of a few pages in it and give it right back. Otherwise, except for some government agencies and embassies here, I have never given my passport to anyone.

If you rent a car, use a known brand company. No telling what kind of “pay for damage” or other problems you could have otherwise.

If an old lady or other non threatening person puts something in your hand or on your bag, such food for pigeons, give it back immediately. If they won’t take it put it on a bench or the ground and walk away. She will often have a partner who may be less “non threatening”. If worst comes to worst start raising your voice, make a scene. This is the height of bad manners and impoliteness in Thailand, but they should not arrest you for it. Attracting attention is a good way to rid yourself of scammers.

If you smoke, don’t throw your cigarette butt on the ground. The police watch for that and can ask for a 2000 baht (about $65) fine. Often it is a scammer and not a police officer, but it can be hard for you to tell. This applies to other litter as well. If they really are police (wearing a real gun) you can often talk them down by a factor of five or more. This can be a tough one, since in Bangkok and major cities there are no trash receptacles. The only ones I have seen are sometimes at the top or bottom of an escalator and in restrooms in the shopping centers.

A number of people have reported being charged thousands of dollars in fines for shoplifting they did not commit in the upscale duty free shops in the Bangkok airport. The police come and search them and no goods are found, still they are charged and cannot leave the country until they pay, often in the $10,000 range. I think any of the other areas in the airport are quite safe, but I stay out of the duty free shops or any airport shops with high priced goods.

I want to talk about taxis in Thailand (mainly Bangkok) and related issues and scams. That is for another post.

Categories: Thailand & SE Asia Travel Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.