Scams and Tourist Traps in Thailand and How to Avoid


Thailand is a fascinating destination with its exotic food, majestic mountains, white sandy beaches, tropical climate, and modern luxury shopping centres. The wide-ranging qualities of Thailand make it one of the top tourist destinations in SE Asia.

But, with the ever increasing influx of tourists looking to experience the Thailand holiday there has been a rise in the scams that target tourists.

Here are some of the scams and tourist traps in Thailand that you may want to know before travelling to this part of the world:

Major attraction is closed
A typical scam taking place in Thailand is to claim a major attraction is closed. This is very easily pulled off by taxi drivers, tuk-tuk drivers, or even random locals near a popular tourist destination like the Grand Palace.

One way to pull this off is when a tuk-tuk drive will say the Grand Palace is shut for the day because it is hosting a special religious ceremony. The tuk-tuk driver will make an alternative suggestion such as the Marble Temple, Lucky Buddha, Sitting Buddha, etc. which can sound an acceptable alternative.

For the tourist that accepts the alternative suggestion, they will likely find themselves first taken to a tailor or jewellery shop and strongly pressured into buying the high-priced goods.

How to avoid: Most of the people will attempt to look official and wear formal type shirts and sound quite convincing, but it is best to not engage too much on the streets. They may even be active on the grounds of the temple. This scam doesn't only involve the Grand Palace, but also any other popular tourist attraction in the region.

Also, make sure to check the opening times at your hotel before planning the day's activities to ensure it is operating.

scams and tourist traps in thailand

Jet Ski Issues
The jet ski scam is quite common in some of the popular resort destinations in Thailand such as Phuket and Pattaya. It is simply the rental operator saying that the rented jet ski has been damaged on its return. This leads to the request for a quite substantial fee for repairs. If you decline to make the payment, there may be “uniformed” men that coincidentally pass by and make further threats.

How to avoid: Firstly, it is never practical to use your passport as collateral in the process of hiring the jet ski. Before accepting a jet ski, give the machine a basic examine to look for signs of damage, dents or scratches. In the event of the rental operator demanding a repair fee, your best course of action is to call 1155 for the local tourist police. To stay safe it may be wise to avoid hiring jet skis in the worst areas, such as Pattaya. It may not always be possible to leave without paying some form of compensation, even with the police involved. The best action in this situation is simply to attempt to negotiate a much lower fee to simply get away.

Gem scam
The gem scam is common in many different countries, including Thailand, Sri Lanka and India. The basic principle of this scam involves a gem shop owner who claims local gems are widely available and can be bought for the relatively inexperience prices. Also, they say that on returning home, you will be in a position to make a significant profit. The gem shop may also suggest you are getting a government sponsored sale, which is entirely nonsense.

The gem shop may even have other accomplices present who are pretending to be other interested shoppers. They claim to have just bought a magnificent piece of jewellery at a very cheap price.

How to avoid: it the price quoted for a gem seems too good to be true, there is certain to be some type of scam going on. In many cases, the so called gems at low-cost prices are in fact worthless synthetic or glass materials. No legitimate trader will sell the real thing at low and unrealistic prices.

If you are a victim of this type of scam, you may want to get in touch with the tourist police to report the incident and make an insurance claim if possible. Also, a credit card payment can be reversed if necessary.

scams and tourist traps in thailand vivutravel

Hotel scams
There are plenty of low-end hotels in Thailand that rely on the reputation of the high-quality hotels and guest houses and trade using their name. The copycat hotels try to deceive the tourists by thinking they are staying at top hotel when in fact they may end up staying at a very poor alternative. This type of scam is really effective when the copycat hotel works in cahoots with a taxi driver to take you to the wrong destination.

If the tourists don't notice straightaway, they could find themselves stuck in the wrong place and often unable to get a refund once paid in full.

How to avoid: always make sure to check the hotel name and address is correct on arrival to minimise the risk of disappointment. To avoid any misunderstanding with the taxi or cab driver, you can write the name of the hotel on a piece of paper or card and have this handy. Also, you can use your phone GPS to make sure you are travelling in the right direction.

Restaurant scam
The hotel scam is used just as effectively when it comes to restaurants and bars. A typical scam takes place in Bangkok with errant cab drivers or tuk-tuks taking tourists to the Sombondee Seafood Market with its low-quality food at very inflated prices instead of the much more popular and similar sounding Somboon Seafood Chain which is appreciated for its delicious dishes at very affordable prices. The cab/tuk-tuk driver gets a commission for every unsuspecting foreigner they deliver to the restaurant.

How to avoid: use your hotel, guest-house, or online resources to find the reputable eateries and be cautious of suggestions given by cab drivers.