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Who doesn’t love Bangkok? With its ever-changing shopping scene and abundance of unique eats (just how do they come up with those?), this vibrant city is nothing short of a perfect weekend getaway.

But, as it is with travelling, no country is completely safe. Bangkok has its fair share of problems with scams.

Also read:

20 awesome free things to do in Bangkok you probably didn’t know existed

18 unique themed Bangkok cafes and restaurants that will enchant your palate

Where to stay in Bangkok: 6 best areas and 12 budget hotels near BTS (under $40!)

11 Bangkok hotels with amazing infinity pools and bathtubs with a view

10 shopping hotspots in Bangkok where your friends won’t be bored

And if you’re imagining “scams” to be simple tricks like ‘beggars’ pretending to have no money for lunch, you’ll be surprised at how elaborate these things can get.

That’s why we’ve gathered up some of the biggest and baddest scams you may (have) run into in Bangkok, along with a handy skill book for your scam slaying adventures.

The next time you come across a shady situation, you’ll be able to see it coming from a mile away.

1. The massage shop scam

Massages are almost a must in Bangkok, but sadly, not all massage experiences are completely stress-free.

In many touristy areas (usually in alleys in Sukhumvit), you’ll find massage shop “managers” roaming the area, looking for their next customer (read: victim).

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Photo via Cherepanova Elena

They’ll tell you that they’re out looking for customers because business hasn’t been so good, and offer you attractive deals of half the usual rate (e.g. 250Baht/pax per hour instead of 500Baht/pax per hour).

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Once you reach the front of the shop, they’ll ask you to pay them for the massage first, because they have to return to where you were earlier to continue looking for customers.

Sure, what’s wrong with that? You’re right in front of the shop and the masseuse at the counter is watching as you pass the money to the “manager”; what could possibly go wrong?

Well, here’s what – after you complete the massage, you’ll be asked to pay again by the staff of the shop. The painful conversation that follows will probably be something like this:

You: But I already paid your manager!
Masseuse: What manager?
You: You watched me pay that man just now!
Masseuse:

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That man you met isn’t the manager at all, and you’ll end up paying even more than you would have if you had paid the original rate.

How to avoid this:

The key to avoiding massage shop scams is to do your research; only go to reputable massage shops that have good reviews, and go directly to them.

Unless you’re in front of the shop counter, never give money to anybody! Your fortune is yours to guard.


2. The bird food scam

Wait, what? How do you scam someone with bird food?

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That was our reaction when we found out about this scam, but looks like the Thais’ creativity extends far beyond snazzy themed cafes.

These Bird Food Scammers can be found outside the Grand Palace with bags of bird food in their hands. Usually, they’ll pass a bag to any tourist standing around, and demonstrate feeding the birds.

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Photo via Richard Barrow in Thailand

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Photo via Richard Barrow in Thailand

The unsuspecting tourist will just do the exact same thing, because they haven’t got their head in this game and have no idea what’s going on.

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Once all the food is spent… that’s when you’ll be asked to pay exorbitant prices of up to 300 Baht (100 Baht for each packet)!

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Photo via Richard Barrow in Thailand

How to avoid this:

These scammers walk around stuffing bird food into random tourists’ hands.

Stay alert and guard those hands!

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3. “The Grand Palace is closed today” scam

This is probably the biggest and most well-known scam in Bangkok, but for some reason, it still works.

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Photo via TripCanvas

You’re walking up to the Grand Palace, excited to see one of the most impressive structures in Bangkok, when a well-dressed stranger comes up to you and tells you that the Grand Palace is closed.

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Photo via Richard Barrow in Thailand

Thankfully, you’re also the luckiest person on Earth, because they can take you to the Lucky Buddha Temple, a mega special temple that’s only open once a year. This is all too good to be true – is Lady Luck finally shining her face upon you?

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Photo via Richard Barrow in Thailand

When it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In most cases, you’ll find yourself stuck in a gem or tailor shop, where you’ll be forced to buy stuff in order to leave. Some people have even been locked inside the shops until they cough up money to buy things!

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This scam is carried out in a pretty ingenious way – did you know that there are separate entrances for Thais and tourists at the Grand Palace? The touts hanging around the area trick tourists into going through the door for locals, and when the guards stop you (in Thai), they lie to you that the palace is closed.

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Photo via Richard Barrow in Thailand

How to avoid this:

This scam doesn’t just happen at the Grand Palace, it could happen anywhere. Ooookay, that’s pushing it a little. But we’re serious about this –

1. Take note of the official operating hours for all the major tourist attractions that you are planning on visiting (MBK, Khao San Road, etc.).

The Grand Palace is open from 8:30am to 3:30pm daily. While it is true that the palace is sometimes closed due to a royal procession, please check with a guard or official in that case.1-6-grand-palace-opening-via-lvyou

Photo via lvyou

2. Don’t trust random strangers that come up to you on the road, even if they’re radiating a halo of kindness.

These scammers may even come wearing “tourist police” tags, so it’s always good to be more cautious. You’d be better off clarifying your queries at official information counters instead.

4. The gem scam

This scam is somewhat of an extension of the previous one, and actually sounds like it could be part of an espionage drama.

After you’ve fallen for the “it’s closed” Biggest Lie of All Time, the scammer will offer you a free Tuk Tuk to take you to another temple (most likely, it’ll be the Lucky Buddha Temple again). Once you arrive at the temple, you’ll run into a stranger who will be so kind that he divulges to you a top-secret deal of buying gems wholesale in Thailand (sometimes a one day only offer). You could resell those gems in your country for a huge profit – or so he says.

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Photo by Travel and Escape

But guess what…

This is all just an elaborate plan that the first scammer, the Tuk Tuk driver and this “kind stranger” have cooked up. If you agree to join in, you’ll be taken to a gem store (that’s also in on the trick), and see tourists like you (who are also in on the trick) “buying gems”, validating the stranger’s claims.

As the only one there who has no idea what is going on, you’ll dish out some big bucks to buy the jewels that are going to make your fortune. But, these gems are in fact worthless trinkets – and you’ll only realise that when they are shipped to your home a long, long time later.

How to avoid this:

Refer to Scam No. 3 to not land yourself in this mess in the first place.

Be realistic. If there really was such a great money-making opportunity available, why would Temple Guy share it with a complete stranger that he met at a temple?

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Also, no, there are no government-operated jewellery stores that open specially for tourists. If you hear the words “Thai Export Center” or “Thai Export Jewellers”, run – the only thing these places will be exporting is your money.

5. The taxi/Tuk Tuk scam

It’s practically a whole new world with the amount of taxi and Tuk Tuk-related scams that you could run into in Bangkok.

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The most common form of taxi scam would be refusing to turn on the meter, and forcing you to pay a flat rate that’s much higher than the actual metered cost. It’s even worse for Tuk Tuks, as the drivers only accept flat rate payment.

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But that doesn’t mean that the meter guarantees your wallet’s safety. Meters can actually be modified to jump at a faster rate than regular ones (2Baht per 400m), or start at a higher rate than the usual 35 Baht!

Many taxi drivers also take advantage of tourists’ lack of knowledge about Bangkok’s roads, and deliberately go the long way. Think it’s weird that it’s taking reeeaallllyy long for you to reach your destination? Chances are, you’re morphing into a scam victim.

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This may sound like an exaggerated conspiracy theory, but taxi and Tuk Tuk drivers often work in cahoots with local businesses (hotels, restaurants and gem shops, as you already know) to cheat you of your money.

They deliberately send you to similar-sounding places, but these places will never be where you want to go. For instance, Sombondee Seafood Market is always mixed up with the famous Somboon Seafood, but actually sells crap seafood at inflated prices!

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Photo via wooramier, imchiasoon

These dishonest drivers get free petrol vouchers and hefty commissions in return for your misery, while you end up with a lighter wallet and a ruined day. Not fair, we say!

How to avoid this:

Fortunately, while you probably can’t avoid taking taxis, you can refrain from taking Tuk Tuks and paying attention to the kind of taxi that you board.

Here are our golden tips to shoving Bangkok’s Taxi/Tuk Tuk Terrors out of your perfect holiday:

1. Never get on an un-metered taxi unless you’re a millionaire, or just really generous.

2. Keep an eye on your GPS/Google Maps so you always know where and how you’re going!

3. Don’t trust drivers who stand on the roadside waiting for customers, and offer you ridiculously low prices to take you somewhere. 20Baht to head into town? There’s no free lunch taxi this cheap in the world, mate.

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Photo by Kalboz

4. Make sure you know the exact name of the place you’re going; don’t just settle for a place that sounds similar!

5. If you call for a taxi through the taxi counter at the airport, keep your ticket and never ever give it to the driver. Taxi scams often occur at the airport, and if instances of overcharging occur, you’ll need that ticket to report it to the authorities. (the complaint form is at the back of the slip)

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Photo by Motoharu Nochi, asiahopping

If you are arriving at night or when traffic is expected to be smooth, you can tell you driver to avoid the toll way or highway to save 75 baht toll charges.

6. Never leave your luggage in the car with the driver if you’re not planning to participate in the Luggage Chasing Marathon. There should always be at least one party of the group in the car to safeguard your stuff.

7. Try to take taxis/Tuk Tuks from the roadside, or through the Grab/Uber app, instead of boarding those parked in front of tourist attractions. Scammers tend to wait outside these places, such as MBK, the Grand Palace and other cultural attractions, and the Siam area etc.

8. If your driver offers to make a stop at “a place with a good deal”, or anywhere else other than your destination, flatly decline.

And there you go – you’ve been vaccinated from taxi/Tuk Tuk scams!

6. The Thai Girl/Ping Pong Show scam (Patpong)

We’d say just stay away from seedy places in general, but we can’t blame you from wanting to check out Bangkok’s infamous nightlife. Especially when Patpong Night Market is also there to whet your appetite for shopping.

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Photo by Ewe Paik Leong

However, the streets of Patpong are not just littered with cool bars and great buys – seedy establishments are also a dime a dozen.

That means that scammers are also abound. Touts will often hang around this area in search of gullible tourists, then offer them free sex shows and cheap drinks (100Baht).

If you accept the offer, you’ll soon find yourself stuck inside a shady bar, where you’re forced to tip performers and end up paying thousands of Baht just to get away.

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How to avoid this:

Once again, the golden rule holds true: if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

You’ll only need to keep in mind these few things to keep yourself safe as you explore the fascinating culture in Patpong:

1. Don’t believe it when you’re offered free or super cheap things, for that’s merely an entryway for the scammers to suck you dry.

2. Be extra careful when you’re alone and don’t give these people the time of the day. The scammers here tend to target lone travellers more as they’re assumed to put up less of a fight.

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Photo via justinviolini

3. Avoid bars that are not on the ground level, and watch out for ladies who proposition you to buy them drinks – most of the time, these situations will just lead to you being scammed.

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Photo via catatanbackpacker

7. The Tourism Authority of Thailand scam

The Tourism Authority of Thailand is the government agency that’s in charge of promoting Thailand as a tourist destination. That makes it well-known to tourists, which is why scammers often use TAT as a cover for their seedy crimes.

These include the Hua Lamphong train station scam, which involves fake TAT officials lying to tourists that the train is fully booked. They’ll offer to send you to wherever you want to go on one of their buses or taxis for a discounted rate. But, when you arrive at your destination, that’s where they’ll whip out the big guns (not literally) and demand more payment.

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Photo by Andy Hoare

There are also multiple travel agencies that claim to be “TAT-operated”, and use that to lure tourists to them. They’ll pretend to be having a special sale that’s ending on the day that you’re there, and pressure you into signing a tour with them.

You’ll sign, and what you’ll get won’t be a safe, high-standard “government-endorsed” tour. Instead, you’ll get late/missing drivers, 2-star hotels
instead of 5-star ones like promised, and zero responsibility on the agency’s part.

How to avoid this:

TAT is a government entity; they do not operate any retail or travel organisations, whether it’s an agency, gem store or tailor shop.

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So if any shop comes up to you claiming to be operated by the government, this is probably what they would say:

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Some well-known scam agencies are Unseen Travel and Blue Asia Travelseeker, but the general sentiment is that it’s better not to do business with agencies in the Khao San Road area.

8. The fake police scam

If you’re not a particularly brave person, this scam could be pretty scary.

A “policeman” will walk up to you and request to check your passport. Oh okay, you’ll think, there’s nothing wrong with my passport anyway.

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But wait – there is a problem with your visa, and you’ll have to pay a fine on the spot. Or so they say.

What do you do now? You fight it out, of course. How dare they malign you of some imagined error in your spotless passport?

But that’s easier said than done, especially when you’re faced with who you think is a person of authority.

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Photo by wbtuffin

Most tourists would simply agree to pay the fine in order to avoid more conflict. The worse thing is, real policeman may attempt to scam you with this trick as well!

How to avoid this:

Refuse to pay and insist on settling the issue at a police station. It’s important to stand your ground in these situations – if you’re timid like us, just imagine all the shibuya toasts you could eat with that fine money!

9. The wrong change scam

7-11 and Family Mart stores in touristy areas often try to scam tourists by giving you the wrong change. This scam capitalises on tourists’ lack of knowledge about Thai money.

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Photo via paperblog

Employees may also switch your real note with a fake one and then accuse you of trying to pay with a counterfeit note!

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How to avoid this:

Pay attention to your notes while paying, and try to remember the serial numbers of the notes with a larger value. Always count your change before leaving the counter!

We know it sounds like a pain, but it’ll still be lesser pain than when you get cheated out of your cash.

10. The laundry scam

Laundry companies in Bangkok have been known to deliberately “lose” clients’ clothing items.

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Photo via langeasy

They’ll then pretend to know nothing about it, and even kindly offer to bring you to a shop where you can get a replacement, but…

Just know that a part of that price tag is going into their pockets.

How to avoid this:

Check reviews and only patronise shops that have a good reputation. You can also choose to make use of self-service laundry shops if you’d prefer to handle your clothes yourself.

11. The litter scam

If any tissue paper, cigarette butt or the like come flying out of your hands around the Sukhumvit area, you may very well be stopped by a “policeman”.

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Photo via thebigchilli

These “cigarette police” will tell you that you have to pay a fine for littering , and honestly, what can you say to that? You did litter after all. If you don’t pay, they will threaten you with an arrest.

The fine amount will be sizeable enough for you to make a trip to the ATM, and when you do… bam, it happens.

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Once you access your bank account, these frauds will gain access to your bank account and start withdrawing money from it!

How to avoid this:

Long story short… don’t litter in any country.

12. The tailor scam

The tailor scam is a common one in Bangkok, and often occurs as a consequence of being duped by shady Tuk Tuk drivers.

Either your Tuk Tuk driver will bring you to the tailor shop as a “bonus”, or a random stranger will come up to you while your driver is off peeing. He’ll tell you about a value-for-money tailor shop that only locals know of (hmm, gem scam, anyone?) and offer to take you there.

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Photo by zawelski

You’ll get fitted for the same suit that David Beckham supposedly ordered, and leave happily after having paid the sum in full. When your suit arrives, however, what you’ll get is a suit that David Beckham would never be caught dead in.

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Photo by Trashed Tuxedo

Maybe it won’t be this dramatic, but loose seams, thread showing… this won’t be no suit that lives up to the price you paid.

How to avoid this:

When it comes to big transactions, and in situations where you won’t get to see the finished product, never pay in cash. If you insist on paying via credit card or wire transfer, you’ll at least have a chance to get your money back!

Or, just be more careful when it comes to strangers’ recommendations. Always go to places that you are confident in. Once again, research is key!

Note: Two infamous scam tailor shops are Glorious Tailors and Voglee Export Tailors.

13. The motorbike scam

Fancy renting a motorbike in Bangkok? Watch out for motorbike theft – by the very company that rented it to you!

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Photo by pattayunlimited

Some motorbike rental companies will “steal” your bikes when you leave it parked by the roadside, then accuse you of losing the vehicle and demanding payment.

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How to avoid this:

Don’t leave important documents like passports and IDs as collateral for motorbike rental. Also, if you don’t have to, don’t use the lock that the company provides you with. Invest in your own bike lock – it’s worth it, rather than paying for a bike.

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Photo via yanchor

And now for the final and most important tip: if it sounds too good to be true, don’t go for it!

We know we’ve been repeating this phrase, but it really is the most important thing to keep in mind if you want to avoid getting scammed in Bangkok. It’s all too easy to let down your guard (too much) when you are on holiday, so don’t let it happen to you!

If you ever get scammed (even with our guide? Surely not!) in Bangkok, the Tourist Police hotline is 1155. Don’t let these scammers get away scot free!

Are there any other Bangkok scams that we haven’t covered in this article? Feel free to let us know!

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PLEASE NOTE: All the above information is correct at the date of publication. If you come across any changes or updates, please let us know and we will update the information accordingly. Thank you!
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