The 7 Most Common Travel Scams in Thailand

Scams can occur in any country, but there are certain schemes that are more prevalent in Thailand. Read on for the most common scams that befall tourists in Thailand, so you can be sure to avoid them and instead enjoy all the beauty, culture, and delicious food on offer. 

1. The Temple Is Closed Scam

Reclining Buddha Wat Pho, Bangkok

One of the more prevalent scams in Thailand -- and specifically Bangkok -- is when travelers are told that the famous temple (or shopping mall or hotel) they wanted to see is closed. Generally, individuals will approach tourists to make conversation, ask where they're going, and then insist that the temple is closed for a special holiday. They'll then say that there's another great temple that they can take you to. While they may actually take you to another temple, the ride always includes a visit to a gem store or tailor shop where you'll overpay and they'll get a kickback. Do your research beforehand and know the hours for the temples you're visiting, so you can ignore these individuals. Additionally, if anyone offers to give a guided day tour on their tuk-tuk for a suspiciously low price, like 100 baht (roughly $3), know it's a scam.

2. The Gem Store Scam

This scam involves locals claiming they know of a "one-day" or "government-sponsored" sale at a gem store. Some of the scams are so elaborate that they involve multiple strangers -- tuk-tuk or bus drivers and temple-goers -- coincidentally bringing up the gem store (often called the Thai Export Center). Tourists are told they'll be given huge discounts on gems (typically made of glass) that could be sold in their home country for double the price. One of the strangers may even be a tourist who says they always buy gems here to sell for a profit in their country. Many tourists are then convinced to spend up to thousands of dollars on something that's worth a tiny fraction of the price. 

3. The Jet-Ski and Scooter Scam

Patong Street, Phuket

Scooter and jet-ski rental shops are ubiquitous in Thailand, but they can come with a scam. After bringing back the scooter or jet-ski, the vendor may claim that it has been damaged and a hefty fine is required. If the tourist refuses to pay, they'll threaten to bring over an official (or someone dressed like one). The practice is so common in Phuket that many websites recommend avoiding renting jet-skis altogether. To avoid this, ask hotel staff or do online research for reputable vendors. Additionally, don't hand over your passport as collateral.

4. The Bird Seed Scam

If a stranger walks up and tries to put a bracelet around your wrist or bird seed in your hand, don't accept it. They may say it's free and good luck to spread the seeds on the ground, but will then demand payment. 

5. The Broken Taxi Meter Scam

Bangkok Street

In Bangkok, taxis are legally required to use their meters. If you get in one and their meter isn't on, politely ask them to turn it on. If they refuse and try to negotiate a fixed price (likely for much higher than the meter would read), just hop out and find another one. If you'd like to avoid this altogether, download the Grab app (similar to Uber) to get a taxi (you can pay by cash or credit card). Additionally, you can plug in your starting and ending destinations to get a sense of how much your ride should cost. Unfortunately, places like Phuket have few metered taxis and generally operate on a fixed (and expensive) price. The Grab app is helpful here in determining how much a trip should cost.

6. The Tailor Scam

Night Market in Chiang Mai

This one is like the gem store scam, but with a tailor shop. Tourists are persuaded to buy a custom-made suit or dress, and pay handsomely for a low-quality and ill-fitting garment in a material such as polyester -- and that's if they receive their clothing at all after paying upfront. Salespeople are pushy, if not downright aggressive, so it's best not to step foot in a tailor shop you haven't researched beforehand if you do want to buy clothing in Thailand.

7. The Wrong Change Scam

Patpong Night Market in Bangkok

Some shopkeepers may give tourists the wrong change, as if they had been given a smaller bill. As with any country using a different currency than your own, become familiar with the various bills and know how much you're giving and the amount owed when handing over money.  

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