Are taxis safe in Bangkok?
Scams in Bangkok: 10 Common Scams And How To Avoid Them
Bangkok offers a super easy entry point for beginners. But wherever there are tourists, there are con artists. Be careful not to let any of these 10 scam attempts happen to you.
1. Scam: Expensive tuk tuks
Wherever there are tourists in Bangkok, you will be approached by Tuk Tuk drivers. The cute means of transport are so ubiquitous, they are already part of the cityscape. And how expensive can a ride with such a two-stroke be?
"Where you go my friend?
Need Tuk Tuk? "
The answer is: 2 or 3 times more expensive than a modern air-conditioned taxi.
For locals, tuk tuks are cheaper than taxis. But because you are a foreigner, you pay extra. A taxi within the old town rarely costs more than 60 baht. The tuk tuk drivers don't even start their engine for less than 150 baht.
Even if you know the fair price, you won't find a tuk tuk in a tourist area that will take you for it. They prefer to wait for the next tourist to pay exorbitant prices.
In other cities and in the suburbs of Bangkok, tuk tuks are not necessarily a bad idea, but in Bangkok's old town and city center they are pure tourist rip-offs.
How to avoid
Avoid tuk tuks in the city center. Better to take a taxi, a motorbike driver or local public transport, be it boats, trains or the largest bus network in the world.
Stay away from the city maps at the end of tourist areas like Khao San Road, Rambuttri Road, and Sam Sen. These are fly traps. As soon as you look at it, you come out as unfamiliar with the area and a tuk tuk driver speaks to you and won't leave you in peace.
2. Scam: Cheap Tuk Tuks
"You very lucky!
Thai Tourism day!
City tour 30 Baht only! "
Worse than expensive tuk tuks, ironically, cheap tuk tuks are. A city tour for 30 baht (less than € 1)? The tour leads to three temples, but also to at least one tailor, a jewelry store and a travel agency with hopelessly overpriced prices.
The tuk tuk driver is on the commission from the shops, your 30 baht doesn't really matter.
Even if you think you can get a cheap city tour this way, you better leave it. The staff in the shops are super aggressive and the tuk tuk driver may just leave you standing after the last shop because he then got all the commissions.
I fell for this scam myself on my first day in Bangkok. That was more than 7 years ago, but the scam is still there.
How to avoid
Avoid tuk tuks, especially if the offer sounds way too good. Better to take a taxi, a motorbike driver or the very good bus, train and boat system.
If you really want to drive a tuk tuk in Bangkok, don't let me stop you. It is best to tell the driver in advance that you know about the commissions and to scam the shops with the driver. Even if that sounds funny, it's still stressful.
3. Fraud: no meter in taxis
“Grand Palace? Very far!
Fuel very expensive, 300 Baht! "
Taxis in Bangkok are very affordable even for backpackers and world travelers. A taxi meter ride costs approximately:
- 60 baht or less within the old town
- 80 baht from Khao San Road to the center of downtown Siam Square
- 300 baht to one of the airports, a good hour outside
Taxis must all be metered. If a taxi driver does not want to use the taximeter or it is supposedly "broken", then that can only mean one thing: you are being sold for stupid and you are supposed to pay extra. Fixed price is always bad for you.
Every taxi driver in Bangkok with a license is obliged to use the taximeter, fixed prices are illegal. Most of them do that too, but the black sheep all frolic in tourist areas.
How to avoid
If the taxi driver doesn't want to use the meter, just take the nearest taxi. There are more than 100,000 taxis in Bangkok.
Avoid standing taxis, especially in tourist areas. Stop a moving taxi with a glowing red LED behind the windshield, which means "free".
If you really want to cause trouble, you can try to intimidate the taxi driver:
- You're threatening the Tourist Police, No. 1155
- You threaten to use the DLT Check App, a special smartphone app to report cases of fraud to taxi drivers in Bangkok
Uber and Grab are also a stress-free alternative, see Rideguru. The two services cost about the same as a taxi.
4. Fraud: Royal Palace has closed
"It's Buddha Day
Grand Palace is closed! "
It is "Buddha Day" and the Royal Palace is closed. Or unfortunately there is a ceremony in the morning and you have to come back in the afternoon. Fortunately, your new friend the tuk tuk driver knows a few other beautiful temples and is happy to show you around.
There is no Buddha Day and the Royal Palace is never closed!
All right, the great palace is closed on a handful of days a year, e.g. New Year's Eve, King's Birthday, and Songkran. Follow Richard Barrow on Twitter to see if the Royal Palace is closed and to see what's going on in Bangkok.
If the great palace has actually closed, that's sometimes good news. Then access to Wat Phra Kaeo on the Royal Palace grounds is free and opens until 6 p.m. instead of just 4 p.m. Wat Phra Kaeo is the most photogenic part of the palace anyway.
Similar scams also happen in front of Wat Pho.
How to avoid
Ignore anyone who approaches you in front of the Grand Palace or Wat Pho. These are two of the most touristic temples in Bangkok.
Take the main entrance to the palace at Sanam Luang directly to the ticket office. Come as early as possible, no later than 8:30 a.m. Otherwise you have a number of Chinese tour buses ahead of you.
5. Fraud: approached by strangers
"You are from Germany?
My friend works in Germany! "
To be approached in front of the Royal Palace or Wat Pho is always suspicious. But what about that nice older gentleman near Khao San Road or in front of the National Museum who is supposed to be an English teacher and who has his day off today? In addition, his brother or sister or an acquaintance works in your hometown!
That sounds exactly like the cultural experience you're looking for. As sorry as I am, tell the "English teacher" you don't have time. Otherwise he will soon want to sell you jewels or he will know a travel agency for you. Or he wants to invite you to play poker or some other scam.
A real English teacher will never speak to you on the street. This does not correspond to the nature of Thais. The residents of Thailand are as friendly as their reputation, but also very reserved. You almost never take the first step towards foreigners.
Every time a stranger in Thailand speaks to you in English on the street in a tourist area without your having provoked it, the fraud alert is red.
It is of course something different if you explore the khlongs in Thonburi far away from the tourist areas and are spoken to there. Bangkokians outside the tourist zones see a farang every few weeks or months and are then very curious.
It is very possible that you will be invited for tea or a beer in e.g. Thonburi and that is really the typical Thai hospitality. Learn some Thai or bring a no-dictionary * with you, otherwise the conversation will be very short ...
How to avoid
Do not talk to strangers who speak to you in unprovoked English in tourist areas and want to engage you in a conversation.
6. Fraud: longtail boat instead of express boat
No have! "
You know that Bangkok's top mode of transport for tourists is the River Express boat. But when you arrive at the pier, the boat should suddenly cost 1,500 baht instead of 15 baht.
You ended up at a private pier that is right next to the official pier. Here river and canal tours are offered by longtail boat. They don't tell you here, of course, that the official River Express boat is right next door.
Of course I don't want to prevent you from booking a tour through the canals of Thonburi for sightseeing. Much cheaper and just as beautiful is the public khlong boat in Thonburi from the Skytrain station Bang Wa.
If you just want to get from A to B on the Chao Phraya, then take the super cheap and reliable express boat next door.
How to avoid
The official river boats are large and have a flag on the stern (orange, yellow, green or blue). You can also recognize them by the low prices (15 to 40 baht). The official piers are marked on the Bangkok maps, as well as here on an online map.
Attention at some piers like Prachan the express boat really doesn't stop. The next river boat pier is not far, see map.
7. Fraud: Book buses at a Thai travel agency
"Where you go?
Ko Tao? Ko Samui? Phuket? "
Do you want to go to Phuket or Chiang Mai? Maybe even a combined ticket with the ferry to Ko Tao? Please do not book bus tickets on Khao San Road or any travel agency in Bangkok. In addition to poor organization and long waiting times, luggage is regularly stolen from the hold in the backpacker buses.
Thailand has a first-class long-distance bus network with so-called government buses. They are regulated, comfortable and no more expensive than the backpacker buses. They go to all destinations in Thailand and many even every hour. You don't have to reserve a ticket in advance, just go to the bus station and take the next bus for shorter distances or arrive before 7 p.m. for night buses if possible.
Thailand is the easiest country in the world for bus travelers and flexible backpackers. You don't have to plan or book anything. Check your bus connection on Wikitravel. Don't worry about planning, just look at the bus station when it suits you.
- in the south, go to Sai Tai Mai Southern Bus Terminal (from Khao San Road City Bus No. 35, 79, 201, 511, 516), about 30 minutes
- in the north or east, go to Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal (from Khao San Road City Bus No. 3, 157, 509, 524), approx. 60 minutes
- in the East, drive to Ekkamai Eastern Bus Terminal (from Khao San Road city bus No. 2, 511), approx. 60 minutes - at rush hour in Ratchathewi change to BTS, Ekkamai stop
For destinations less than 5 hours away from Bangkok, e.g. Hua Hin, Pattaya, Kanchanaburi, Ayutthaya, Lopburi, Aranyaprathet or Trat, you can also take a minibus. They're super fast, but you can't take much luggage with you.
Alternatively, you can conveniently book long-distance bus tickets at 12go.asia *.
Trains are an alternative too, but either slow or expensive or both.
How to avoid
Please do not book buses in a Bangkok travel agency. It doesn't matter if the TAT is licensed, it doesn't mean anything. Please do not book any flights, accommodation or a tour there either, all of which is overpriced.
I have already met backpackers who booked 3 weeks in Thailand on the first day at the travel agency in Bangkok: accommodation, transport and tours. Not only did they lose their flexibility, they also paid three times the price and, among other things, “were allowed” to ride elephants for 3 days at a time. 3 days on an elephant, that's how I imagine hell! (and the elephant too)
An exception are tours in Bangkok itself, e.g. to the Damnoen Saduak floating market.
8. Fraud: Tour operators stop at a factory outlet
Cheap Cheap Cheap! "
This scam exists in many tourist countries, especially in Vietnam. Like the tuk tuk drivers, tour operators and tour guides receive commissions when someone from the coach buys something in a shop they are heading for.
The prices may sound cheap, but you pay at least the surcharge that the tour operator receives. Feel free to get inspiration, but buy elsewhere later.
How to avoid
The Chatuchak market is ideal for all kinds of souvenirs, even during the week.
If you want to avoid this waste of time entirely, book well-rated Bangkok tours online at Get Your Guide * instead of at a travel agency. Or you can check out my tips for Bangkok day trips on your own.
9. Tourist menus in restaurants
"Tom Yam aroy mak mak!
only 180 Baht "
This is not a typical Bangkok scam, but happens in every tourist place worldwide. That happened to us all the time in Rome. There is an English tourist menu and prices for normal meals in local restaurants suddenly cost a lot more for tourists.
I don't mean you pay more for the ambience of an expensive restaurant or the view of a skybar. I also don't mean prices that depend on the location, e.g. prices in the Sukhumvit and Silom business districts are higher than in the old town.
But sometimes you run into a corrugated iron restaurant in the old town for ten times the price. At the foot of the Golden Mount there are actually noodle soups for 300 instead of 30 baht, no joke. The Sombondee Seafood Market in Sukhumvit is also known for its high prices. Of course, the Royal Palace and Wat Pho are also proliferated, especially at Chang Pier and Thien Pier.
Even the so-called backpacker street Khao San Road has been gentrified for many years. There are no tourist menus there, but half a block from Khao San Road, the same food and drink in the same ambience is half or a quarter as expensive.
How to avoid
It helps to know the prices. For street food you rarely pay more than 1 euro per dish, i.e. 30 to 40 baht. This applies to Chinese noodle soup as well as to curry or fried noodles. Seafood and fish are usually a bit more expensive, 50 to 60 baht.
Incidentally, this applies to all of Thailand with the exception of tourist beaches and islands such as Ko Phi Phi or the Gulf Islands.
I would stay away from shops that advertise Thai food. In tourist areas you will find the "best Pad Thai in Thailand" on every street corner.
Street food in Thailand is as good as its reputation. That means the old Thai ladies on the street have much better food than tourist restaurants.
10. Fraud: Ping Pong Show in Patpong
"Ping pong show?
* Plop *
* Plop *
* Plop * "
Ping pong shows are sex shows that usually end with a bill that is way too high. Keep it simple and skip the description below. Or read on at your own risk:
A ping pong show has little to do with table tennis. Prostitutes who are too old to woo suitors perform tricks with their genitals and table tennis balls on a stage.
Ping pong shows are illegal and from what you hear pretty off-putting. After you've had a few beers, it might sound like a good idea anyway.
At the entrance of such a shed it is said that a drink costs 200 baht. In the end, however, you suddenly get a bill for several thousand baht and a beefy doorman insists on immediate payment.
How to avoid
Just leave it. Almost no one who has seen a ping pong show thought it was nice. Bangkok has been my adopted home for years and I haven't seen a ping pong show and haven't felt like I'm missing out. There are at least 555 other things to do in Bangkok.
Bangkok generally has a bad reputation as a red light center. But if you stay away from the front Sukhumvit Sois 1 to 33 between the Skytrain stops Phloen Chit and Phrom Pong and the Patpong night market at the Skytrain stop Sala Daeng in Silom, you won't notice anything.
If you really want to see the exotic ping pong show, instead of going to Patpong, take a look at the other two red light districts, Nana or Soi Cowboy in the front of Sukhumvit. There you probably have a better chance of not being scammed. The Patpong Night Market is one big tourist trap, not just the ping pong shows there.
These were 10 common trick scams you may come across in Bangkok. If you are now afraid of Bangkok, I can reassure you: With common sense you have nothing to fear.
Please do not feel obliged to be polite or talk to strangers. Say no in a friendly but firm manner and nip any discussion in the bud.
If you want to have a cultural experience, you have to get out of the tourist areas. A “cultural exchange” in the tourist area is always aimed at your wallet.
Regardless of how it happens. Please always be very skeptical if you suddenly have to do the following things even though you didn't want to:
- Buy gemstones
- Buy a suit from a tailor
- Book a tour in a travel agency
- Play poker / blackjack
Buying a suit is actually a good idea in Bangkok. Tips on making bespoke suits in Bangkok.
The Tourist Police tries to help: Call 1155.
Bangkok is extremely safe
Bangkok is known for its scams, especially the cheap Tuk Tuk City Tour. The capital of Thailand is still extremely safe from other forms of crime such as theft and violent crime.
In Bangkok you can basically walk around with your thick SLR camera at any time of the day or night in any area, no matter how bad. No problem!
You don't have to worry about pickpocketing in markets and crowds either. You have to expect even less violent crime.
So don't be put off. Bangkok is extremely safe, especially for a 9 million metropolis.
Have you been betrayed in Bangkok before?
No false shame, I've come across all these attempts at fraud myself and fell for the 2nd and 7th.
Also avoid these tourist traps in Bangkok.
07.05.2015: First published
06.06.2017: Comprehensively updated, scams number 8 and 10 have been added
The travel camera for my photos is a Canon professional compact *
* Affiliate advertising link: If my information helps you, please use it to buy - nothing extra!
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