Bangkok: Rip-off tip-offs
Be aware of the major scams and pitfalls to ensure you have the best holiday in the 'Land of Smiles' as possible.
Spot a scammer
Scammers come in all shapes and sizes but usually they are well-dressed, aged 30 to 50, and will approach you from out of the blue to offer assistance you probably don't need. Scammers like tourist zones, particularly around the Royal Palace and Sukhumvit Road.
The scammer will try to build a relationship with you, usually by asking where you're from and then talking about a relative (daughters and nieces seem to be common) who happens to be studying at university there. Don't be fooled if they seem to know a lot about Australian universities they've done their homework. Another giveaway is if they have a map, as the vast majority of Thais don't really dig on maps and certainly don't carry them around to help random tourists. The whole idea is to make you trust them and feel indebted enough for their help that you're willing to ignore the warning bells that would normally steer you clear of a scam. Some of the most common scams include:
An oldie but a goodie, this one is so infamous it's spawned two dedicated websites, Bangkok Scams and Thai Gem Scam Group. The best gem scams take a while to build up, often starting with the scammer telling you the Grand Palace is closed, taking you to another wat, where you "meet" another person (often a Westerner) who tells you about a too-good-to-be-true gem sale, or the like. When you reach the jewellery shop, you'll be fed some unlikely story about massively discounted gems, or students being allowed to sell family jewels so they can study abroad. The gems are real, but they're poor quality and usually worth less than half what you will pay (the average scam is more than US$2000).
The 10-baht tuktuk
This one falls firmly into the "if it's too good to be true ... " category. It's pretty simple: a tuktuk driver, usually in or near a popular tourist zone, will offer to take you "anywhere you want to go" for 10 or 20 baht. Once you're on board, he'll set off for one or more shops, most commonly merchants of jewellery and bespoke clothes. The tuktuk driver gets a commission for bringing you into the store, whether you buy anything or not.
As far as scams go this one is pretty low rent, and the only way it will cost you anything is if you choose to buy (note that reputable vendors don't need to resort to such schemes). I've met several tourists who have, in essence, scammed the scammer by encouraging the driver just enough to get a free ride all over town.
It's important to remember that most visitors to Bangkok don't get scammed, so there's no need for paranoia. Just remember that:
- if it sounds too good to be true, it is
- everyone who ever got ripped off (not robbed) handed over the money of their own free will. Keep the money in your pocket, no matter the provocation, and you won't get ripped off.
Know any other rip off scams in Bangkok? Have your say using the comments form below.
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