Scams and rip-offs

Double pricing policy

In a lot of touristic places, like natural parks, amusement parks, or any place that you pay to visit, there is a double price policy: a lower price for the Thais, a higher price for the “Farangs”. Of course this is one of the rare occasions where the prices for the locals are written with the original Thai alphabet, so that the tourists can’t read the figures. Some say it’s a rip off, some say it’s normal, as tourists usually have a much stronger purchasing power than the locals. I let you be the judge! If you’re an expat working here, showing your work permit or your driving licence and speaking Thai usually gets you the local price.

Bargaining

To bargain or not to bargain

The tourist guides always say that you should bargain the prices, that it is expected from you and that it is part of the fun. This is true for street markets and especially in touristic areas. In shopping centers, you can sometimes try to negociate a discount, depending on what you are buying. Of course supermarkets and hypermarkets have fixed prices. Some people like to bargain like crazy, some people don’t bother. Whichever category you belong to, please try to be moderate and keep in mind that sometimes you’re bargaining for the equivalent of just a few cents. I have seen some tourists having the poor shopkeeper open and unfold all his stuff, then bargaining for unrealistic prices and just going away, leaving the poor guy frustrated and angry.

Tourist scams

Your first experience of local harassment will probably take place at the airport, as there is always a lot of people making a nuisance of themselves, asking where you’re going and offering private taxi or limousine services. If you need a taxi, just ignore all the touts and go straight to the public taxi counter.

The other local scams are usually well known. The most classic one: a taxi driver walks up to you and asks where you’re going, then says ‘Sorry sir this temple is closed, I take you to a beautiful temple instead…’ and then you find there is a jewel shop on the way, where the driver earns a commission each time he brings in a tourist. In touristic places, especially in Bangkok, you can also be approached by middle aged people, well dressed, who will chat with you for a while and be very friendly. It always ends the same way, they propose you to buy jewels and sell them for a higher price when you are back in your country. It is of course a scam. If you’re not sure, ask your new friend if you can take a picture together and if you can post it on your blog. See how they react.

Some Indian guys are also running a scam of some sort in Bangkok, on Sukhumvit near Nana station. They will stop you and tell you that you have a beautiful face, or that you remind them of someone, of whatever. Then they pay you a drink and pester you until you buy whatever it is that they are selling. The best thing to do is of course to ignore them (or tell them they have a beautiful face too and you want to take a picture of them for your blog!).

So far it’s not that bad, really. These last few years though, things have turned nasty, especially in Pattaya and Phuket, where some mafias are at work with impunity. We won’t go into the details here, but if you go to Phuket, make sure you do your homework, especially concerning tuk tuk and taxi drivers. If you are asked to move your bike or car because it is parked on a taxi space, don’t look for any sign indicating that it is a taxi space and just move your vehicle. In Pattaya, make sure you don’t rent a jetski, as you’re most likely to get scammed (just read what happened to an Irishman or watch the scam in action on Youtube).

Finally, avoid booking a bus seat from a Khao San road travel agency. Some thieves hid in the luggage compartment and will go through all your personal belongings. Yes, it’s been going on for years. No, nothing has never been done about it. If you travel by bus, take a government bus from an official bus station and keep your valuables on you.

Conclusion

All this being said, you don’t need to get paranoid either! There are indeed some scams, but most of them are concentrated in touristic areas, and if you are well informed you shouldn’t have any trouble avoiding them.

There would also be a lot to say concerning nightlife, girls, love, money and relationships… 😉

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