Bangkok Tourist Scams
In common with many other popular tourist destinations around the world, there are many Bangkok tourist scams. Thailand has its fair share of crooks waiting to scam you and relieve you of some of your hard earned cash. When you travel you often leave your common sense behind and are easy prey for well rehearsed scammers. The scammers mostly work in teams and can be found lurking around Bangkok?s most famous attractions & hotels. We?ve listed the 13 worst Bangkok scams below.
- Tuk Tuk & Taxi Scams
- The Gem Scam
- The Grand Palace is ?closed? scam
- The Bird Feed scam
- The friendly, helpful local
- Ping Pong Shows
- Seafood restaurants
- Fake Tourist Surveys
- Wrong Change
- The litter police
- Drug scams
Keep reading for the full details and how to avoid becoming a victim.
Tuk Tuk ? Taxi Scams
Taxis & Tuk-Tuks are involved in nearly all Bangkok tourist scams. Avoid using Taxis or Tuk-Tuks that park outside hotels or major attractions. They don?t use meters and will overcharge you by several times the normal fare. Avoid taxis that hang around at each end of Khaosan Road and their touts for the same reasons. Always hail passing taxis on the street. NEVER ask Taxi/Tuk-Tuk drivers for recommendations as they will take you to places that pay them a commission.
The Grand Palace is Closed
Ignore people who approach you when you are walking to the Grand Palace or Wat Pho who tell you they are closed for some reason. They will then redirect you to a waiting taxi or tuk-tuk to take you to see the “Big Buddha” or another temple. (See the gem scam below). This can also happen if you get into a taxi or tuk-tuk outside your hotel. The driver will tell you the same story. This is one of the most famous Bangkok tourist scams.
To avoid this scam, always check opening times before you leave your hotel. The Grand Palace is actually closed on some occasions for royal & state events. You can check here to see if the Grand Palace is closed.
Bangkok Tourist Scams – The Gem Scam
Don’t be tempted by free or cheap 50 baht tours offered by Tuk-Tuk/Taxi drivers or friendly locals. These will always involve stopping at dodgy gem shops where high-pressure sales techniques will be used to persuade you to buy worthless gems at inflated prices on the premise that you will be able to sell them at a big profit in your home country. No, you won’t. They are worthless. Tuk-Tuk drivers get commissions if you buy anything and even fuel vouchers just for delivering you to the shop. This is the longest-running of the Bangkok tourist scams!
This also applies to souvenir and tailor’s shops. The souvenirs are overpriced. At the tailor’s shop, you will see good quality examples and materials but will end up with an inferior product made from poor quality materials. An invitation to see the “Big Buddha” is another variation of this scam which drivers around Wat Pho and the Grand Palace use. Drivers offering the dodgy tours like to intercept visitors heading to the Grand Palace just opposite the entrance next to the pigeon fountain.
The Bird Feed Scam
Opposite the entrance to the Grand Palace is a small area with a few trees and a lot of pigeons. You may notice a Thai man or woman feeding the birds from a bag. He will approach you and offer bird food to you to scatter. After you?ve done it he will aggressively ask you for 100 baht for the bird food. This is also where the 50-baht gem shop scam Tuk-Tuk drivers harass visitors heading for the Grand Palace. Feeding pigeons in Bangkok is illegal and punishments are harsh.?
*This scam has now disappeared from opposite the Grand Palace as tourist police are now stationed there. It is still operated around the city in locations that attract pigeons*
The Friendly/Helpful local
Beware of people who approach you on the street particularly near major?tourist attractions, are very friendly, ask you where you are from, strike up a conversation and offer to show you around or recommend something. They may describe themselves as students, tourist guides or business people. Their objective is to get you to visit some shops or businesses where they receive commissions. They may show you a fake official ID to gain your trust. Watch out for this around Khaosan Road, Wat Pho & The Grand Palace. They are likely to be Thai, Chinese or Indian.
There is a gentleman who speaks perfect English and targets tourists leaving Wat Pho. He will greet you and ask you where you are from etc. Then he will recommend a place for you to visit. He may take you there himself or sends you in a tuk-tuk. There you will meet his friend who will recommend somewhere with a ?special? sale that you cannot miss. I think you can guess the rest. A lot of people are taken in by this as they tend to ?trust? the information of a local. This scammer hangs around on either side of Maha Rat Road between Wat Pho and Museum Siam. Best to ignore him or just say ?hi? and walk on quickly.
Bangkok Tourist Scams – Gambling
This is a famous worldwide scam with the bottle tops set up on a table in the street. Looks easy to win and you will first time, then you will lose big. Ignore invitations from Thai men to join card games at a friend’s house. The cards are marked. If playing pool with a Thai, reject any requests to play for money. You will always lose even if you are the best player. If you attend a Thai boxing match you could be offered the chance to bet on the outcome. One fighter is winning easily at the halfway mark. At this point bookies will target the foreigners, offering attractive odds on the leading fighter to win. After the restart, the fighter who was losing will stage a miraculous recovery and win the fight easily!
Ping Pong shows
If you go to Patpong there are many touts trying to entice you to see so-called ping-pong or super pussy shows in upstairs bars. They will usually have a board offering cheap drinks or free admission. When you eventually get, your bill, do not be surprised to find various charges added on making the experience not so cheap and not free. Extra charges can be added for, any drinks or popcorn placed on your table that you didn?t order, letting a girl sit next to you or interacting in the performance. If you buy a girl a drink it will be ultra-expensive. Refusal to pay will result in you being prevented from leaving the bar or worse. In Go-Go bars, always check your bill and change. Try not to pay small bills with large notes. Bill padding and short-changing are common in some bars.
Bangkok has a legendary seafood restaurant, but not for the quality of the food. Seafood Market Restaurant or Somboondee in the Phaya Thai area on Sri Ayutthaya Road is famous for presenting vastly inflated bills to foreign tourists. It?s probably the most popular 1-star review restaurant on Trip Advisor. The quality of the food gets the thumbs down too. Taxi drivers love this restaurant because they receive a 30% commission on the total of your bill. Even if you ask to go?to another restaurant your driver may try to persuade you to come here. Never ask a taxi driver for restaurant recommendations. Do your own research online. If you want to eat Seafood in Bangkok, take a look here.?
Always check your change when paying for small value items with large notes. This applies to bars, restaurants, shops and in 7-11. This is common in tourist areas and is not done in error.
Fake Tourist Surveys
As a tourist, you may well be stopped in the street and asked to complete a tourist survey, usually by attractive girls. This is common on Sukhumvit Road near Terminal 21 and outside tourist attractions. At the end of the survey, you are asked for the name of your hotel, room number, and mobile number. Later you will receive calls to your room, mobile and even get people knocking on the door of your hotel room trying to sell you a dodgy timeshare in Pattaya, Phuket or Bangkok. Official tourist authority surveys are usually carried out at the airport and not on the streets.
Bangkok Tourist Scams ? Beggars
Bangkok?s tourist areas have more beggars than policemen patrolling the streets. Many have severe deformities; female beggars usually have babies or small children and puppies. It?s difficult not to feel sorry for them but the money you give doesn?t end up with them. The babies and puppies are not theirs. When the puppies get too big they are dumped and replaced with younger ones.
Mafia gangs control the Bangkok tourist scams and in this case give the disabled, homeless and trafficked with a place to sleep at night and some basic food in exchange for begging from early morning till late at night. They then pocket the money at the end of the day. Professional western beggars can also be found on the streets and patrolling bars and restaurants usually selling the story that they need money to buy a ticket back home. Don?t believe them.
The Litter Police
Not a scam but certainly an annoyance to smokers are the Thetsakij or Bangkok?s litter police. Littering is an offense and rightly so, but Thetsakij only targets tourists while ignoring Thai litterbugs who are the worst offenders. Thetsakij is not policemen but works for the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA). Their method of operation is to look out for pedestrians who are smoking and stalk them to see how they dispose of their cigarette butt. They pounce on anyone dropping their cigarette butt and issue them with a fine.
This is 2000 baht but is usually negotiated down if you don?t need a receipt. Thetsakij is most active outside Benjasiri Park (pictured) and on Sukhumvit patrolling between Nana and Terminal 21 as well as in other tourist areas. If you?re a smoker you should carry something with you to dispose of your butts in as rubbish bins are almost non-existent on the streets.
Bangkok Tourist Scams – Drug Scams
This is one of the longest-running Bangkok tourist scams. Tuk-Tuk drivers will often offer to sell you cannabis. After the transaction, is complete, police will magically appear to arrest you. You will then be taken to an ATM to get funds to “buy” your way out.