1. The Drivers Over Charge Scam
Always negotiate the price before getting in the car or tuk-tuk. Otherwise, they’ll charge what ever they like. Another trick (more specific to Thailand) is the tuk-tuk driver will offer to show you some of the attractions around town at a discount price. The catch? Before each attraction the driver takes you to a suit or gift store and instructs you to “act interested” so he can get rewarded by the store for bringing a prospective customer.
2. The Travel Agencies Scam
In Thailand, you can go to the travel agency to score some great adventures off the beaten track. They’ll even offer to pick you up from your hotel. The catch? The agencies determine their own bonus/commission based on how much they can rip you off. I remember the drivers always picked up the travelers that got the cheapest deal first, so they could warn them not to tell the others how little they paid in comparison.
3. The Overnight Bus Theft Scam
Overnight buses are often the ideal way to get from point A to point B. They’re affordable (cheaper than flights) and you save money by not needing to book a hotel. The only problem? Once you’ve boarded the bus and drifted to sleep, a friend of the driver sneaks into the storage cabin and rummages through everyone’s’ bags looking for electronics, passports, and other valuables. The best way to avoid this is to always keep your valuable items on you.
4. The Bird Seed Scam
Imagine, walking around and exploring a new city, when you notice an old lady feeding a group of birds further down the road. As you pass, she insists on sharing this moment with you and implores you to take a handful of bird seeds, going so far as to grab your hand. Reluctantly, you take the seeds. She gestures for you to throw them toward the birds. So, you do. The next thing you know you’re being surrounded by a group of guys, saying “you pay now,” in reference to the seeds you’ve just thrown. You hesitate. They start to get aggressive… and so the story goes. The easiest way to avoid this one is to accept that nothing is free, especially from strangers (even more so if they’re old, cripple or children because you’re less likely to have your guard up).
5. The “Let Me Help You” Scam
I’m not sure about you, but I always get nervous when crossing the boarder or landing in a new country; even more so when the security guards are patrolling with rifles and shouting in a language I don’t understand. Then, someone comes along. A local. “Where you go?” they ask, “I help you, come.” And so they take the lead. Your anxiety eases up as you follow someone who clearly knows where you need to go. They hand you the correct forms and take you to the correct terminal/bus stop. Then, just as you’re parting ways, they ask, “you tip?”. Five dollars later and you’re on your way, having probably saved only a few minutes of your time had the helpful local not “assisted” you (Doh!).
6. The “It’s Closed” Scam
I have almost had to jump out of a moving tuk-tuk to avoid this one. So, today you’ve planned to go to this ancient temple. You hail a tuk-tuk, negotiate a price, and jump in. “Just one stop,” he says, pulling over to the side of the road. “This temple very famous. You go, look.” You look over to where he’s pointing. You see the cracked head of a golden statue over the top of a worn-down wall. Despite your better judgement you exit the tuk-tuk and walk over. They try charging $10 entry-fee. “Yeah, I’m good.” You get back in the tuk-tuk. “Okay, let’s get going to [original destination].” He forces a look of concern. “Oh, my friend just tell me,” he pauses for effect, “[original destination] is closed today, but I take you somewhere better.” Gah!
7. The Upgrade Scam
Spoiler: it’s the same bus/car/service/product, you’re just paying the “dummy” tax.
8. The Police Tax
Not wearing a helmet? Give the officer money or receive a huge fine. Caught without the correct license/paper work? Give the officer money or receive a huge fine. Additionally, if you purchase anything illegal, don’t be surprised if it turns out they’re an undercover police officer and they begin demanding that you either give them money or receive a huge fine. You can start to see the pattern here…