Scams, confidence tricks and rip-offs are very common in the tourist parts of Thailand. Watch out for these well known scams and save yourself from being a victim.

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The Thai people are overwhelmingly polite, honest, and friendly. But scams, confidence tricks, and rip-offs are very common in the tourist parts of Thailand. Here are some of the most common scams to look out for and avoid:

Tuk Tuk Driver Scams

Most scams rely on a steady stream of gullible tourists being delivered to their doors. Some tuk tuk drivers can make more money in kick-backs delivering 'targets' than from fares. The friendly driver will find out the purpose of your trip - shopping, sightseeing or finding accommodation, then tell you:

  • The shop you are heading to is expensive and a bargain can be had elsewhere 
  • The wat (temple) you want to see is being repaired or closed (often the Grand Palace), but there's another big Buddha or temple close by
  • Your hotel is closed or no good, but there's a better one available 
  • He knows a nearby jeweler or tailor who has amazing special prices.

It's a lie, he gets paid for delivering you to the over-priced shop, unspectacular temple or shoddy hotel.

There's even an entire fake tourist center not far from Bangkok airport, where the travel agents will say they've never heard of your booked hotel, but can happily arrange a room at another establishment.

The best protection from being ripped off by dodgy drivers is to check out our guide to riding in tuk tuks, pre-book your accommodation and look like a local.

The Sombondee Restaurant Scam

Ask a Bangkok tuk tuk or taxi driver to take you to a good restaurant and without saying exactly where you want to go, you may find yourself at the notorious Sombondee Seafood Market. 

This establishment is not to be confused with the popular Somboon Seafood restaurant chain. The Somboon Seafood chain serves good food at a reasonable price and is very popular in Thailand. But the Sombondee Seafood Market offers sub-standard food  at hugely inflated prices. The driver gets a kick-back for delivering you there.

The Gem Scam

This is a classic Thai scam. The intricacy and depth of its execution, the number of people involved in it and the effort required are remarkable.

You learn from a series of seemingly random strangers you meet that there's an incredible bargain to be had buying precious gems. Your own greed gets the better of you and you agree to take a look, but of course all the strangers were in on the game, and you've paid thousands of baht for some nice pieces of glass. 

The Timeshare Scam

Who wouldn't want to holiday in Thailand again and again? It's warm, cheap and beautiful. So when the chance of buying into a timeshare scheme is offered, you're tempted to have a look.

The scam varies; at the low end you're delivered to a remote location and bombarded by a high-pressure sales pitch. If you want to leave, the taxi fare back will be exorbitant.

At the upper end, you may hand over tens of thousands of dollars to opt-in to a scheme that doesn't exist.

Bird Seed or Bracelet

A local approaches you and places a bracelet around your wrist as a gift, or hands you a bag of free bird seed and encourages you to spread it around to feed the birds. They then demand payment from you and if you refuse, handing back the item or refusing to take more, they make a scene to attract attention.

Avoid getting caught out by refusing anyone wanting to put something on you, offering a gift or accepting anything that's free. Be firm but polite and keep on walking. Saying Mai Aow (don't want in Thai) with a smile can also help.

Fake Baht

This is a scam on a scam. When you attempt to pay for goods with a banknote, the shopkeeper will claim it is counterfeit.

The 1000 Baht note (about US$33) is most notorious for this. The shopkeeper takes it out the back to inspect more closely, but that's where they swap your genuine note for a counterfeit. You put the counterfeit away and pay for your goods with another note.

You just paid double the asking price AND you got stuck with a counterfeit note.

Never let banknotes out of your sight, or if you're handing over big denomination bills, have a look at the serial numbers first and let the shopkeeper see you do it.

Find out if it's safe to go shopping with credit cards and use ATMs in Thailand.

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  • Nik said

    Thanks for the 5th tip, I really didn't consider that such kind of a scam is also possible. I'll be careful now.

  • Tammy Witherspoon said

    All in all. COMMON SENSE should prevail.

    If it sounds too good to be true it usually isn't

    Its good to trust BUT BETTER NOT TO. *** PERIOD***

    Especially if your traveling.

    NO said firmly is an amazing vernacular. It is definitive. Good people DON'T say it often enough.

  • Ra said

    You also forgot how nearly every taxi driver tries to scam you by not reseting the metre or not turning it on at all or my personal favourite takes you some place far and isolated (no taxis in sight for miles) and says hes out of gas probably has his buddies waiting for you, when some one does anyof this you can take foto if ghier liscence and taxi number then report them

  • We Are Not Tourists said

    This list is missing one of the most notorious scams: the TAT travel agency scam!

    We got ripped off 900€ because of being too naive.Here's the whole story!!

  • Ross Mason said

    This place should be a tropical paradise, but I'm not wanting to go. Too many rip offs. The latest was the Rock hotel in Bangkok scammed 4350 baht for damage to towels and linen. Stuff was worth a tenth of that. I don't want to go to a place where westerners are hated and ripped off.

  • Tina said

    I also had a towel situation at the hotel where it was a bit more dirty due to the elephant sanctuary and they tried to charge us a lot per towel instead of washing it. I had to take it to a local laundromat to wash it myself and sure enough it came right off. We were also ripped off by the taxi drivers here in Phuket.

  • Owen said

    26 Nov 2018 - We were approached outside Pratunam Mall. A man told us that day is a special day in Thailand: Everyone heads to the temples to pray for their wishes to come true. That man, wearing a photo badge, claimed to be the traffic controller for the Princess motorcade passing through the road junction that morning. "Traffic controller" recommended that we visit a temple that is only open this day, once a year. What's more, for that day only, there's a special offer by the Thailand tourism board we must take advantage of: a two-way ride by tuktuk for 60 baht only.

    When we arrived at the temple, a young man greeted us and taught us how to pray. He then directed us to the other side of the temple to pray to the Buddha. There, we met a well-dressed man who claimed to be John Kwek, cousin of Kwek Leng Beng, Singapore's billionaire businessman. He said he is leading the Hong Leong Group's operations outside Singapore and Malaysia. "John Kwek" was very kind to tell us about the temple history, his life story and how he recovered from disease with the help of the red orange sapphire gem he's wearing. He recommended that we get the same gem before the end of day in order for it to absorb the positive energy. If we miss this, we have to wait for the same day next year. "John Kwek" was very convincing with the photos and videos in his tablet.

    After leaving the temple, without any instruction, our tuktuk driver brought us to a local gem store. "Tuktuk driver" insisted that we enter the shop to have a look. My family of 7, with 2 seniors and 2 children in tow, quickly walked through the shop and bought nothing. To much displeasure of "Tuktuk driver", we demanded to return to Pratunam Mall.

    We are fortunate not to lose any money, except our precious time. From this experience, we would like to urge all to be extra careful in tourist areas because that's usually where con-men prey on unsuspecting foreign visitors.

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