A few things and scams to look out for when in Thailand.
Remember Common Sense.Credit: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/maps/asia/thailand/
Thailand is a beautiful country. A place full of wonders, saturated with kindness, good food, and a climate to kill for. That is if you like the tropics. But like any place in the world which attracts a flock of tourism, con-artists are there ready to take advantage of you in a miss-represented guise of hospitality.Credit: http://www.visit-chiang-mai-online.com/visit-thailand.html
And it’s difficult. Difficult to tell the difference from the genuine and the ill willed. I remember the first time I stepped through the doors of Bangkok’s International Airport. This wall of heat hit me, stepping from the cool air-conditioned airport. Awestruck I stumbled along with my little back-pack clutching an address scribbled on a piece of paper in one hand, already getting damp from my sweaty palm, while sipping on a can of beer from the other. I refused to take a taxi, but wanted to take the route like the locals via a bus. I was to meet my best friend, who had arrived a few days earlier, at a guesthouse somewhere in the deep of Bangkok’s Concrete Jungle.
Friendly smiling faces pointed and pulled me in the right directions. Five hours later, I arrived at my destination with high fives, hugs and a cold beer from my friend. For the better part of the day I was in the hands of a foreign culture. I could have been plucked and done with like an overripe fruit. No communication other then the exchange of smiles and the showing of this sweaty address.
Generally this is how you will be treated. I swear. Every time I step foot on Thailand I get amazed by how open and helpful people are there. You get used to it. You find yourself easily trusting everyone. And this is where many, myself included find them selves in situations that just don’t seem right.
Credit: http://www.bangkokrealestate.co/The truth is, when beauty and magic of Thailand is set aside, everyone is trying to make a living. Be it selling fruit, t-shirts, or the old grandmother selling rice and chicken on the street. Some do it honestly while others do not. We tourists are a walking ATM machine. We come from our home countries, with money saved up, to throw at those who convince us of the value of their services.
So here are situations I found myself in that in-retrospect you can avoid:
Airport Taxi Scam
Upon arrival at Bangkok’s International Airport you might come across folks that try to use their taxi services charging anywhere from 500-1000Bht. You should know:
1. There is a Taxi stand that will charge half of that depending where you are going in Bangkok.
2. There is a bus at the very bottom of the airport which takes you close to Ko San Rd. every hour or so. If memory does me right the price is around 150Bht. If you have to wait, there is a food mart next to the stop. This makes sense if you are alone. If there are two of you or more a Taxi will be cheaper.
3. The Sky Train recently finished the construction of their Airport Station and will take you pretty much anywhere to down town Bangkok. Busses and Sky Train only run during the day. If you arrive at night you’ll have to take a Taxi.
Taxi-Meter is broken
You’ll notice in Bangkok that there are thousands of Taxis- called Taxi-Meter. They are cheap, air-conditioned, and a great way to get from A to B. You’ll wave one done, sit inside, and all of a sudden the driver will say 200Bht for the ride. You’ll tell him to use the meter, but he’ll either repeat the amount or tell you the meter is broken. Easy enough, smile, say thank you and get out of the cab and wave another one down that has a “working” Taxi-Meter. I’ve been in situations where I’d step into five different cabs only to get out again. I’m a slow learner. So now I open the door and the first thing I ask is “Taxi-Meter- OK?”. If he nods, bingo, and off I go.
Credit: http://www.thailanddaddy.com/Most notoriously are the Tuk-Tuk’s who offer to take you to all the sites in Bangkok for 10Bht or some ridiculous low amount. They will take you there and you will spend a good day looking at temples and stuff. But along they way you will also make little stops where you visit jewelry shops and tailors for suits, shirts, dresses, etc. The drivers get a commission from the shop owner for any customer they bring in. Not an awful scam. (And if you have a sense of humor well worth the experience. You spend a day sightseeing and do the guy driving you around all day a favor.)
Also, I want to point out that not all Tuk-Tuks are like this. Most are regular alternatives to the Taxis or the Motor-Bike Taxis. You’ll notice they will charge you more then Thais, but that is because you have more money. There is nothing you can do about that, so no need to get flustered by that one.
Black Jack or Gambling
Oh boy, did I feel like an idiot after this one. I was hanging around this main street close to Ko San Rd. when this guy walks up to me asking in perfect English where I was from. We spoke for a few minutes and then asked if I could help him translate a document. Immediate Red Flag, but I was blinded because he had this cute girl next to him- silly me. So off we go. End up at this house where I’m being offered food and drink. Being told that the guy with the document will arrive soon and in the mean time “How about a game of cards”. I kindly thanked him for the hospitality, smiled at the girl and was out the door walking briskly looking for a cab. If I had stayed and played, I would have lost a lot of money and if I wasn’t able to pay, most likely told to help with the next scam. Moral of the story: Don’t walk away with strangers. Same rules apply when you were in kinder garden.
Free Sex or Ping-Pong Shows
Yes I know, but I have to point this out. There is a sex industry in Thailand (like anywhere else in the world). Thailand just has it more in the open then other countries. If you are walking around one of the few red light districts and you are being told that the show is for free. It probably is, but you’ll end up paying for overpriced drinks. Unless you have lots of cash to drink away, I’d avoid them. If you do end up at another establishment of similar nature, be sure to pay as you drink. You wouldn’t want to be surprised by a bill that is way more then what you had. Happened to friends and me at a strip club. Not a lot of fun.
My heart weeps too. I see the “blind” man, singing, his helper guiding him along. I see the little kids Credit: http://www.stickmanbangkok.com/living.htmlout and about selling flowers at two in the morning. “Shouldn’t they be home sleeping getting ready for school”, I think. The woman breast-feeding a sleeping child while sitting on the side walk, asking for a little change. The deformed beggar humbly stretching out a cup to fill with coins. To give or not to give. I don’t know. Up to you. I used to give and still do, but now I know that there is a tight knit community of beggars who do well. It hit me when, many years ago, I bought all the flowers from this little girl in the morning hours of the night, with the promise she would go home and get some rest. “Yes, Yes” she said with her big eyes and silly smile. Twenty minutes later I saw her again with another bunch of flowers selling them at the other end of the street. Up to you.
Obviously a common sense thing, make sure you get the right denomination back when paying for things. Not really likely to happen. But had to throw it in here.
Train Station – Hualamphong Station
This is the main train station that will take you north, west, south, or east in Thailand. Buy your tickets at the counter. Avoid people offering they can get a better deal at the travel agency across the street. They will then say the train is fully booked and only busses are available. There is Credit: http://reisetafel.com/staaten/die-reise-nach-thailand/always the local way, for example like Heading to Koh Samui.
For the last couple of years, the Hualamphong Station put up a booth in front of the entrance, with English speaking Thais. They will ask you where you want to go, and will take you by the hand to the proper counter to purchase a ticket. Great service. (On the train, keep your valuables close to you – remember that thing called: common sense).
Credit: http://thailandlandofsmiles.com/2011/03/04/followup-pattaya-jet-ski-scam/Ok, you are now at the beach, having an awesome time and there they are: Jet Skis. Lined up and ready for you to take for a ride. Well, be careful if you do. There have been numerous reports from Phuket, Pattaya, and Koh Samui, of people having to pay for damages done to the Jet Skis upon returning. The guys will point out scratches and ask for compensation. Hasn’t happened to me because I don’t ride them. But I’ve heard and read that there is a Jet Ski mafia of sorts. Anyways, just be careful, look at the Jet Ski before hopping on, and point out any existing damages.
That’s about all I can think of right now. I am sure there are plenty more out there. But regardless of these few scams, Thailand is an awesome place. Great people. Great Food. Great Weather.
Credit: http://manonthelam.com/shysters-shams-bangkok-scams/Don’t forget to look at the bigger picture. If you happened to be scammed out of a few Baht, lesson learned, smile and keep looking forward.
There is a saying: If one can honestly rip you off, you probably deserved it. So, be smart, and have fun while there. Respect the culture and the same will be done to you. Simple as that.