What are some common scams to watch out for in Bangkok?

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Bangkok is a great city to visit, blessed with a very high level of safety compared to any other capital city in the world. However, just like anywhere, some unscrupulous individuals specialize in the art of taking advantage of new visitors. Despite their tricks being rather obvious, people who are a bit lost, a bit jet-lagged, and maybe also a bit naive still fall into the bad guys’ net every single day. It happens to the best of us, from time to time. However, forewarned is forearmed, and knowing what to look out for (and applying a healthy dose of common sense) will help you dodge the more common scams.

Here are some scams to watch out for in Bangkok:

1. Tuk-tuk Scams

Similar to the Grand Palace scam, but in a more straightforward manner: Tuk-tuks parked in front of landmarks, hotels, shopping malls, and other touristy places ask for a ludicrous fare for a short distance and/or serve you lines like, “Can you please help me get free gasoline by just stopping few minutes at the gem shop? You don’t even have to buy something, you can just look around and leave.” Because you are a very nice person, you won’t mind, just doing your random act of kindness for the day. Thanks to the high-pressure sales tactics, most people end up buying something. In the best case, the driver will get his kickback; in the worst case, you buy a superb piece of worthless colored glass.

2. Gem Scams

Be cautious when approached by friendly strangers who claim to offer great deals on gemstones or jewelry. These scams often involve low-quality or fake gemstones, and unsuspecting tourists may end up paying inflated prices.

3. Grand Palace Scam

This is one of the best-known scams and yet dozens of tourists fall for it every day. You’re walking around one of the Bangkok landmarks, let’s say the Grand Palace (Wat Phra Kaew) or neighboring Wat Pho, when a smiling Thai stranger approaches, asking where you’re from. Following a little small talk, the guy will ask where are you going and by doing so will quickly analyze who you are and if this is your first time in Thailand. If it is, the story starts. “Oh, you want to see the Grand Palace today? Such bad luck – it’s closed for the whole day for a special royal event!” Of course, this kind of scam occurs far from the gate, making sure you can’t see the huge crowd walking in. Instead, he will offer to show you other great temples around Bangkok in his tuk-tuk for only 20 to 40 baht, and he can even be your guide to a wonderful day you’ll never forget. In a way, he is right about that.

4. Ping Pong Show Scams

We’d say just stay away from seedy places in general, but we can’t blame you for wanting to check out Bangkok’s infamous nightlife. Especially when Patpong Night Market is also there to whet your appetite for shopping. However, the streets of Patpong are not just littered with cool bars and great buys – seedy establishments are also a dime a dozen. That means that scammers also abound. Touts will often hang around this area in search of gullible tourists, then offer them free sex shows and cheap drinks (100Baht). If you accept the offer, you’ll soon find yourself stuck inside a shady bar, where you’re forced to tip performers and end up paying thousands of Baht just to get away.

5. Tourist Information Center Scams

The Tourism Authority of Thailand is the government agency that’s in charge of promoting Thailand as a tourist destination. That makes it well-known to tourists, which is why scammers often use TAT as a cover for their seedy crimes.
These include the Hua Lamphong train station scam, which involves fake TAT officials lying to tourists that the train is fully booked. They’ll offer to send you to wherever you want to go on one of their buses or taxis for a discounted rate. But, when you arrive at your destination, that’s where they’ll whip out the big guns (not literally) and demand more payment.

6. Jet Ski Scams

This one is extremely common in Pattaya and has been known to happen in Phuket and some smaller islands as well. The way this one works is this: after you’ve been out enjoying yourself on a jet ski, you return it and some minor cosmetic damage is pointed out by the renter. You are blamed even though you both know it wasn’t you who caused the damage, and extortionate repair fees are demanded. If the situation escalates at all, a cop will show up to help you… just kidding, the cop will be in on the scam and he’ll drive you to an ATM and probably threaten you with arrest or violence if you don’t pay up.

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