Common scams in Bangkok and how to avoid them

Unfortunately, scams are common in Bangkok. But don’t let that deter you from missing out on exploring this bustling city! Luckily, by the time we reached Bangkok, it was the final destination of our year-long trip around the world and we had the knowledge of full-time travelers to help us avoid scams. We’re sharing our tips to help you avoid them too!

Chinatown at night in Bangkok Thailand

Scam: Road “closed”

While in a cab/tuk-tuk, the driver will pull over and tell you the road is closed so he can’t take you any further. He will tell you to get out and pay whatever fare you agreed on when you got in the cab (and if you didn’t he will likely overcharge) even though he didn’t take you to your destination. This happened to us, see the following tips to avoid being scammed and keep reading for our full story below.

How to avoid this scam: 

  • Look for signs that the road is actually closed. Are there still cars driving on the road? Does it look open? It probably isn’t closed. You are being scammed.
  • If the road isn’t closed but your driver insists it is, don’t get out of the vehicle, and be firm as you tell him you won’t pay him unless he drives you where you agreed to go, or that you’ll pay a reduced rate for the reduced distance. The driver probably won’t like this answer because that means you have caught on to the scam.
  • Use an offline maps app (we use Maps.me) with directions to your destination so you know where your driver is taking you and how far away you are. Suggest a route to get to your destination, pointing in the direction you need to go (likely down the “closed” road, or an alternate nearby).
  • Be persistent! Your driver might continue to tell you the road is closed when it is clear it is not. Keep telling him it isn’t closed and urge him onward to your destination, following along with your maps app.
  • When you reach your destination (or close enough for your approval) pay but no need to leave the change as a tip (this driver tried to leave you in the middle of Bangkok and scam you after all).
  • How can you tell if the road is actually closed? If there is a roadblock with police presence, construction blocking the road, or are people walking in the middle of the street, then your driver likely isn’t scamming you. But there should be an alternate route, so use your offline maps app to determine if you can continue to drive or if you are able to walk from where you are. And you shouldn’t pay the full price if your driver didn’t drive you to your final destination. Use your maps app to determine how much of the route he drove and pay accordingly. Explain if they only drove you halfway, that you will only pay half the fare you agreed on (or whatever the amount is).

Our experience:

We took a cab (that was our first mistake – we recommend taking tuk-tuks over cabs because they are cheaper, plus they’re more fun!) from our hotel near Khao San Road to Wat Pho. We negotiated on the price beforehand (as you always should- read our tuk-tuk tips here) by offering the same price as what an Uber was to the same location. The wait for an Uber was long and we wanted to get to Wat Pho as soon as it opened to avoid crowds, which is why we opted for a cab in the first place.

We got in the cab and after only a couple minutes the driver pulled over. He told us the road was closed to Wat Pho so we had to walk the rest of the way. We told him we wouldn’t pay since he didn’t take us where we wanted to go, which he did not like. We saw other cars continuing down the road so we urged him to keep going since the road clearly wasn’t closed. Matt was using Maps.me so we knew exactly where we were and that we were not close. Matt told him which streets we needed to go on and pointed in their direction, as we doubted all of these roads could be “closed” too.

The driver then agreed to continue onward although he kept insisting the road was closed. We were persistent in telling him it wasn’t and we wouldn’t pay full price for a fraction of the ride we agreed on. When we were within a couple blocks, he pulled over and since we were close enough we decided to get out as we were sick of his ongoing phony road closure story. We paid him the amount we originally agreed on and were at least grateful we got to our destination and didn’t get out when he first pulled over.

Scam alert Temple Closed Wat Arun

Scam: Temple “closed”

If you are headed to a temple (or arriving there) a cab or tuk-tuk driver will ask you where you are going and then tell you wherever your destination is closed that day, but they know of another location that is better anyway and can take you there for a good price. If you go with them, you will likely end up a shop owned by one of their friends that will attempt to hustle or guilt you into buying things.

How to avoid this scam: 

  • Do your research online before heading out to find out temple hours and any holiday closures (see the regular hours for Wat Pho, Wat Arun, and Wat Phra Kaew here).
  • If you are already arriving at your destination, ignore the driver and keep heading to the temple to see for yourself. A simple “no thank you” should work and continue to move on.
  • If you are heading out to your destination, don’t go with a driver that is urging you to make a stop at a location other than your desired destination. Find another driver or be firm with your driver about your destination. Use an offline maps app to follow along with the route and make sure he is taking you where you want to go.

Our experience:

We didn’t personally experience this false temple closure scam but have heard of it happening to other travelers we’ve met and through blogs/social media. Fellow travel couple @theNYCcouple had this happen to them while they were outside of Wat Pho planning to head to Wat Arun but thankfully did not fall for it as they remembered they had read about the scam earlier.

Scam: Overpaying for Thai milk tea and coffee 😉

Thai milk tea
Thai milk tea from a market stand at shuttle boat stop

Okay so this isn’t exactly a scam but if you want to avoid being “scammed” into overpriced Thai milk tea, we have a budget tip for you! We recommend getting Thai milk tea or Thai coffee at market stands (like the one you pass through to reach the shuttle boat from Wat Pho to Wat Arun)! Don’t be lured into the coffee chain Gloria Jean’s, which will be advertising the same drinks but for triple the cost of what you can get in the market. Although, if you need a moment to chill in some AC and pick up wifi, the extra cost might be worth it to you. 

As a broad budget travel tip, purchasing food and items in local markets is always cheaper than buying food/clothing/souvenirs at chain stores.

 

 

 

Have you been scammed while traveling before? Let us know in the comments below!

Make sure to read our temple guide to discover the 3 temples you can’t miss in Bangkok!

Wat Phra Kaew

 

 

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