With millions of tourists coming to Bangkok each year, it’s inevitable there are a few con-artists trying to pull scams on them. Here’s some tips on avoiding getting scammed in Bangkok
It’s not a problem unique to Thailand by any means – anywhere you get lots of tourists, you also get a few unscrupulous people trying to con them out of their money. There is quite a variety of scams in Bangkok, but they are all easily avoided with a little bit of thought.
One classic Bangkok scam involves being sold gems at supposedly a fraction of their real value… only to find out they are fake or very poor quality stones when arriving home. Another, much more common scam is being sweet-talked into buying a tailor made suit at a supposedly bargain price – and then, after paying up front, getting something that doesn’t fit properly and is made of polyester rather than the promised cashmere.
Another common Bangkok scam is being approached by a well-spoken, well-dressed gentleman outside the Grand Palace and being told it is closed for a prayer ceremony. The well-spoken gentleman will then suggest a tour of nearby temples and, oh look, here’s a tuk-tuk that will take you. Inevitably the tour turns into a succession of gem and suit shops trying to sell you something that will waste your entire afternoon if you’re not careful.
All these and several more Bangkok scams are documented on the excellent BangkokScams.com website. It’s definitely worth scanning through the different con-tricks to try and recognise when someone is trying to pull a fast one.
I’d say there are five golden rules to follow:
1) Never accept a free ride or very cheap tour in a tuk-tuk. These guys are almost always after your money and you are somewhat trapped once you’re in the backseat.
2) Don’t buy gems or suits or anything else of large value off the street. If you want a suit, head to Sukhumvit and go to one of the established tailor shops rather than being pressured with a load of smooth sales patter. Know what you want before you go and ensure you have plenty of time for several fittings. If you want to buy gems, go through an established retailer unless you are professionally able to tell whether an offered stone really is good value or not.
3) Possibly the most important – don’t be blinded by greed. If it seems too good to be true, then it very probably is.
4) Remain polite at all times when talking to strangers, even if you think they are a con artist. You may well be wrong. The language barrier can sometimes cause confusion. If in doubt, politely decline whatever’s being offered. A few words of Thai can really help. If you say “Mai aow, kap”, it’s the polite Thai way of saying “I don’t want it, thanks”. (Women would say “Mai aow, ka”). I’ve found that people leave you alone very quickly if it seems like you speak Thai.
5) Watch out for shoddy fake goods, like the fake iPods that have been seen in Bangkok markets. IT shopping malls like Pantip Plaza and Fortune Town have lots of stalls selling pirate software and movie DVDs, so be careful of what you install or use on your computer.
After reading that lot, you probably think Bangkok is a den of thieves. It’s not – it’s the same hustle that goes on everywhere. It’s just that at home in familiar surroundings you can spot a hustler much more easily than when you’re travelling and your brain is already trying to cope with being in a new place. Just keep your bullshit detector switched on and keep smiling, and you’ll be able to sail past Bangkok’s scam merchants.