In every country around the world there will be scams or areas and situations where you can be ripped off or lose money. The following advice on how to avoid losing money by steering clear of pitfalls that may strip your wallet bare are all based on first hand experiences of the bangkokexpatlife.com writing team.
Not So Hungry Elephants in Hua Hin
First on our list is feeding the elephants in Hua Hin. If you do go to feed the elephants by buying bananas from the elephant enclosure salesperson, don’t be surprised if they tell you that you can’t feed the elephants because they are not hungry. ‘Wait a minute? When has an elephant ever turned down a banana?’ you may think . . . well, you’ll then be told that you must have a ride on the elephants to make them hungry which will set you back around 1000 THB per person. If you want to go on an elephant ride then that’s fine, but if you are looking to just feed elephants bananas you may encounter this situation.
Another little long time running money making gig at tourists’ expense is the horse riding along Hua Hin’s beach. At the time of writing it is about 40 THB that a fellow Thai tourist will have to pay for 30 minutes, compared to 400 THB for anyone foreign. That’s a whopping great x10 rise in cost.
Gems and Jewelry show scam
If you go down to visit The Grand Palace you will find people dressed well and saying that The Grand Palace is closed due to a Buddhist lent day (or any excuse) and instead ask you to go see a Gems and Jewelry show where you could find gemstones at a good price. Tempting isn’t it….It is one of the worst sales pitches but there are many instances where people do end up buying.
If you agree to go they will take you to a Gems and Jewelry shop (Not an exhibition first of all) where you will be scammed with either low quality gemstones or even fake items. This is a well run scam by the mafia where Tuk-Tuk drivers, taxi drivers, people in The Grand Palace are all involved. Everyone gets commission, Win-Win situation….not really!
Work Permits at The Grand Palace
If you have a work permit you will usually be able to escape the double+ pricing that is sometimes aimed at anyone non-Thai in tourist areas. As for gaining entry into The Grand Palace however, your work permit will more than likely have no effect. This is not a scam, it is just a fact that you will be charged around 400 THB at the time of writing, but if you are Thai it is free. In The Grand Palace you will have to dress respectfully, but also make sure you wear shoes and socks, otherwise you will have to pay to rent socks and/or shoes. This is a confusing thing to have to do as you’ll see in every other temple people taking off their sandals/footwear when they enter a temple anyhow.
Be especially aware when outside the Grand Temple as a handful of tuk-tuk drivers will often tell you that The Grand Palace is closed. This is so they can take you to another temple and charge you for the fare, without any guilt of you coming all the way to Thailand without seeing the beauty of The Grand Palace.
The Bird Seed Scam
This scam was experienced outside the entrance of The Grand Palace in Thailand near the park area. What happens is that a seller of bird seed will approach you surrounded by a feeding flock of pigeons. The cost of the bird seed will be unusually high, but if you refuse someone in the background will startle the feeding pigeons. The seller will then ‘accidentally’ drop the seeds they are trying to sell you, amidst the flurry of pigeons flying all around you and then claim that you startled the pigeons and that you should pay 400 THB + for the dropped seeds. Here your kindness will be taken advantage of as well as the fact that you are in a different country and are not streetwise.
Buying a House
If you don’t own a business in Thailand with a Thai partner, you cannot legally own a house. If you meet a Thai partner and buy a house then please bare in mind that if you split up the house will then become your partner’s house. As a foreigner you are entitled to buy a condominium as long as it is on one of the upper floors at the time of writing. If you buy a house with a Thai partner it is a far safer bet to take out a mortgage in your partner’s name. When you have payed off the mortgage it will still not be yours, but the mortgage payments could be thought of as the same money you would pay in rent. Thereby lessening the sting of losing an entire house bought with your savings in one foul swoop.
Paying the Price
If you go to a market outside a tourist area or tourist frequented town there will be prices labelled on everything. Therefore, if you are at a market stall with no prices showing you should ask yourself why. A sure-fire way to avoid being overpriced is to just walk past any stalls not displaying a price and only stop at stalls displaying a price openly. If you barter in a tourist area where the price is not shown, you will usually end up bartering down from an originally overpriced product anyhow, thereby not saving a thing and expending time and energy for nothing. For example, in Cha Am they are very good as sellers usually display a price, whereas in Phuket for example you have to be more careful and aware.
The Expensive Meal Tactic
If you go to Amphawa floating market the people are friendly and you will have a great time, if you haven’t yet already visited Amphawa. In this sleepy quaint market town you would not expect to come across a tactic to extract money from your wallet. However, if you go on one of the fantastic boat rides along the river you may encounter what we’ll name ‘the food scam’. In ‘the food scam’ you’ll initially pay a very fair price for what will be a fantastic trip along the river. Around half way through the trip you will then stop to eat. In the restaurant where you will stop you may notice that there are no prices in the menu. You may also notice, if you are very aware, that the person running the boat trip will pop in and get a free takeaway meal from the same restaurant as a kickback. Needless to say, after having your meal you will be presented with a bill almost twice as high in cost than usual.
The Mindset on Two-Tier Pricing
Refreshingly, many Thai people now see the over-charging of foreigners in places with a two-tier pricing system as being bad. Thais who have travelled abroad to Lao and have been over-charged because they were not native Lao people will have had first-hand experience with the unpleasant aftertaste of being treated this way for example. However, there are still a large number of Thais who think that because tourists are carrying money and are seen to be ‘rich’ then why not overcharge them. The good news is that two-tier pricing is losing in popularity and in Thailand many scams are being cracked down upon.
Above are some situations where you can lose money with an unpleasant feeling left over as a bitter aftertaste when visiting Thailand. However, most Thai people are very honest and kind and every country has areas where you will be ripped off. In general, Thailand is a place that looks after tourists and values the tourism industry. Some other countries have far more pitfalls than Thailand.
Not All About the Money
Most importantly, when visiting a different country it is not so much the fact of losing money that bothers people so much. Instead, the feeling of being taken advantage of is often far worse, which leaves you with a low opinion of the country that you were initially excited about flying to in the first place. That being said, in Thailand, if you use your common sense to avoid any rare tourist trap scams you may come across, you will return home with Thailand being one of your favorite countries to visit again and again.