9 Most Common Tourist Scams in Thailand

Thailand is a relatively safe country to travel, but like everywhere else in the world, there are still some people wanting to earn more from tourists with several scams being applied here. If you don't want to be a victim of a scam and ruin your vacation, get familiar with the most common tourist scams in Thailand.

9 Most Common Tourist Scams in Thailand

There is actually not much to be afraid of, you just need to be aware of the scams in order to minimize the risks. The most popular tourist scams in Thailand and the ways to avoid them are detailed below.  

1. Taxi Scam

Taxis are often the first mode of transportation you would use for getting into the city center after landing in Thailand. The use of taxis for getting around sometimes is unavoidable, especially in Bangkok. Taxi drivers are usually friendly to tourists but there are some trying to take advantage and make you pay more than what the ride actually costs.

Broken taximeter

The use of the taximeter is very common in Thailand so if the driver is telling you that the taximeter is broken, you can be sure that he is trying to fool you. The meter most probably is working well but the driver doesn't want to use it because he wants to charge you a lot more than the ride is actually worth. Even if you insist on using a meter, some taxis might still have reprogrammed meters to run a lot faster than they should to make you still pay a lot. However, it is very difficult to prove that the taximeter is not working properly. In other cases, the driver simply turns off the meter in the middle of the road and try to go into the negotiations for their high price so you need to keep an eye on the meter price. It is possible to agree on a fixed rate but it is advisable to write it down clearly on a piece of paper to avoid misunderstandings.

Road closed

Some taxi drivers warn customers that the street is closed and that they cannot take them to their destination. They might leave you there and ask you to pay the fare you’ve agreed before. You just need to look for signs that the road or street is actually closed and check if other cars are driving down the street or not. You should not pay the full price if the driver does not take you to your final destination. Some drivers even drive in circles just so you have to pay more. In this way they take advantage of the fact that you don't know the area. Tracking the route online is always a good idea and google map is now smartly convenient to use.

Baggage theft

You should not get off the car before the taxi driver. It is suggested to wait for the driver to unload your luggage and then settle the bill.

Wrong change

It is also advisable to always have small bank notes to pay the taxi driver. Many drivers don't give you change and expect you to leave them the change as tips. In addition, you should check your change a little more carefully, especially in the first days in Thailand, when you are not used to the new currency.

If taxi scam happens to you, it is best to get out from the car immediately and take another taxi who is not a scammer. Not everyone is a cheater and there will be another driver who will happily take you to your destination. The taxi driver can be reported as violating the law. You should check and remember the driver identification and license plate number which is displayed in the car.

In case you don't feel safe enough to drive a taxi in big cities, you can always check the possibility of booking a private transfer or using transportation app such as "Grab" as they rely on driver data and ratings, although they are unavailable in certain areas. This application is also popular between local people.

2. Tuk Tuk Scam

A ride with a Tuk Tuk is fun and is part of your Thailand travel, especially in Bangkok. However, it is important to negotiate the price before starting the trip and not to accept the first price that the driver is offering. In general, the price for Tuk Tuk trips starts from 50- 200 THB, depending on your destination and distance.

A row of Tuk Tuks parked next to hotels, tourist attractions such as the Royal Palace and shopping malls is often a sign of a traditional Tuk Tuk scam. Tuk Tuk drivers who approach boldly and speak good English might be a good reason to suspect a scam attempt. The famous Tuk Tuk scam is that the driver will ask what you already know about Bangkok or what you want to know in the city. In the end, after a pleasant conversation, he will offer to take you to see some sights of the city for a friendly price. In fact, they will take you to the tailor, gem store or expensive antique shops and pressure you to buy things you don’t even need, just to earn a commission before dropping you at your destination.

3. Closed Attraction Scam

One of the most common scams that takes place in Thailand is “It is closed today”. In front of Bangkok’s most famous tourist attractions, especially Grand Palace, museums and temples, you can meet friendly people in formal wear or even in uniform who are telling tourists in good English that "Now it's closed", then informing you about another place that is better and can take you there for a good price to visit instead. In reality, the attraction is open. The aim of this scam is to get you a city tour to the places such as clothing stores, cafés or gem stores with pushy sellers where drivers can get commission. This scam is basically the same scam as the Tuk Tuk scam.

To avoid falling for this, you should not believe anyone without seeing the door of the place you are looking to visit. Some Thais do not just scam, they use foreign people in these jobs to fool the crowd of tourists. To make sure, you can check the opening hours and closing times of the attraction you want to visit online or ask at your hotel or hostel before you go.

4. Gemstone Scam

Gemstone scam is very common in Thailand. For decades, tourists have been offered possibility to buy gemstones cheaply and then sell them expensively in their home country. In fact, it has been revealed to be stained pieces of glass and worthless at your home.

In some cases, if you decided to buy gemstones, the seller even might promise you that the precious stones can be sent to the home country or to the next destination, so that you do not have to carry in the luggage. However, usually the goods never arrive at your home.

If you want to buy jewelry, gold and gemstones in Thailand, the best advice is to go to one of the large and well-known shops. You can simply search through the reviews on the Internet to find the real store. You shouldn’t trust the advice given to you by a taxi driver or Tuk Tuk driver who are looking to bring you to a gem shop and offer a great opportunity to invest in gems. You can be sure it’s just a great opportunity to lose money.

5. Money Exchange Scam

In some touristy places, it is common to find unofficial currency exchange establishments and even people who offer to exchange money in the middle of the street, often at a price better than the official one. It sounds like a great deal but the risk to be deceived is high.

You should only exchange money in local banks or at certified exchange booths that give you a receipt. Also, most of them charge no commission for such a transaction.

6. Motorbike Rental Scam

Renting a motorbike is absolutely idealistic when you travel in Thailand as it is easy and very cheap. There are some points you need to know before driving on two wheels. Tourists without a proper license cannot drive motorbikes in Thailand. Despite this, many tourists rent motorbikes to travel around, especially on the islands and in Thailand beach regions like Phuket and Pattaya. So, if you're going to risk it anyway, be careful. In the event of an accident, the insurance may refuse to pay hospitalization expenses and you can be legally charged.

A common motorbike scam that can be seen in Thailand is faulty motorcycle parts. After you’re done with your adventure on two wheels, the owner might try to charge you with some compensation for damaging the motorcycle, even if it wasn't your fault. You should check the motorbike carefully before renting to make sure there are no damage parts and take pictures to confirm existing scratches.

There are reports that motorcycles were stolen by the rental company and the renter demands the entire amount of the vehicle value as a replacement. This issue is less common in Bangkok, but can still be met on the islands. If you will be renting a motorcycle, it would be best to use your own lock so the vehicle couldn’t be stolen later. We recommend renting your motorcycle or car from trusted companies so that you don't run any risk.

7. Jet Ski Scam

In Thai beach resorts, especially in Phuket and Pattaya, you should beware of a very common jet ski scam. When you rent the jet ski there, they will ask for your passport and sometimes a sum of money as a security deposit. When you return the jet ski, they will inspect and tell you that they’ve found several defects so they will demand the cost of all the scratches and damages that you didn’t make. Of course, if you will end up not giving them money, you might not be able to get your passport back. Calling to the police in case of any problems is rarely helpful as often the police get their share of scammers.

If you are renting a jet ski, it is always smart to check it carefully and document any possible scratches before you drive away. The scam is best avoided by renting jet skis only from trusted companies.

8. Bird Shit Scam

This bird shit scam might be the most creative of all. Some pickpockets work well with this trick as they are splashing a liquid that looks like a bird shit. You get scared at first, then you try to clean it up and, coincidentally, someone with a cloth appears to help you, then your wallet or cell phone goes away with the dirt. You need to be careful and do not allow anyone to have physical contact with you, including handshake. You should remember that in Thailand, culturally, there is no physical contact, even for greetings. If you want to know more about Thai customs, just take a look here: Things About Thai Culture You Need to Know.

9. Excursion Scam

In the major tourist cities, you might find someone offering excursions and activities at prices way below the average. What they offer may not correspond to a quality service or to what is promised. You should check the price of the service and the reviews of the supplier online.

To avoid this kind of scam and make your trip easier, you can use Klook or Get Your Guide that are both great activity booking platforms with great deals for activities in Thailand.

What to do if you’ve got scammed in Thailand?

If you fall into any of these scams mentioned in the post, it is important not to lose your mind or go into physical aggression. You can get in touch with the tourist police as soon as you can by phone number 1155. They can speak English. You can also go to file a complaint or look for a tourist service center.