Thailand 7 Travel Scams to Avoid while in southeast Asia

Date: 7th Sep 2017
Author: Kimberly Austine

As amazing as Asia travel is, scams are frequent.

As amazing as Asia travel is, scams are frequent. Language barriers, cultural differences, and unfamiliar surroundings mark tourists as easy prey for travel scams. While many locals are sincerely friendly, some see tourists as stacks of cash, and hundreds of tourists have fallen prey to their trickery. The first step towards avoiding scams is to be aware; as a little foreknowledge can keep you one step ahead of the scammers. Here's a rundown of prevalent scams along with tips on how to avoid them.

1. Pickpocket

Pickpocketing is very common, especially in crowded areas and at night. While it can occur anywhere, it’s more common in big cities. Pickpockets work in groups and come up with unlimited creative diversions to distract and filch your personal belongings. Their tricks include peddling trinkets, tying friendship bracelets on your wrist, cleaning “supposed” splashed liquid on your body, posing as beggars, posing tourists wanting you to take their photograph and so on. Be specifically careful of your belongings when you take sleeper buses. The best bet is to leave valuables locked in your accommodation but if its compulsory you take them with you keep them in a bag with zipper and carry it across your chest.

2. Motorbike Rentals and Jet Ski Scam

If you travel to Asia especially the south eastern part there are chances that you’ll rent your own motorbike at some point, because they’re the easiest and cheapest way to explore the region. However, when you return your bike, the rental company often find a “new” scratch and other damage and you’ll be charged with exorbitant repairing fee. Before you rent or buy a bike, carefully inspect it for any damage and put it down in writing. Another motorbike scam is such that when you leave your motorbike parked and locked somewhere, someone is sent from the company to steal the bike back with a spare key and you will be forced to pay for losing your motorbike. Use your own lock to avoid this.

Just like in motorbike, Jet ski scams common in Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico etc. The operators usually claim to find a new damage when you return a rented jet ski and a substantial repair fee is then demanded. Never give your passport as collateral when renting the jet ski or motorbike.

3. Taxi scam

Rogue taxi drivers strip travelers of cash in various ways. Claiming meter is broken and asking for an exorbitant flat fare. Shortchanging through sleight of hand or claiming no change. Taking you through a longer route in order to charge higher. Giving you a VIP option. Claiming the fare is only for one person; claiming a fare for luggage in the boot. Avoid taxis without meters, especially those with “broken” meters. If you have no choice, negotiate the price first before getting inside. Do your research and know roughly what price to pay for taxis even the ones with meters. Take only official taxis at the airport.  Never use tuk-tuks as they are not popular for scamming travelers and if it's compulsory, do not reveal much info and definitely do NOT take up advice or offers from the driver.

4. Hotel scams

Some hotels trade on the names of popular ones and they work with cab drivers which will send you to a wrong hotel which you think is right. You might have already paid in full for the lodging and numbers of tour before you realized. Always check that the hotel you are taken to is the one you intend to stay at. Use the GPS on your phone to be sure you are being taken to the correct hotel. Short-stay apartments are a reasonable way to save money. But unless you book through a reputable agency, your apartment might not actually exist nor the airport pick-up you were promised. In hotels, ensure luggage lockers are actually locked. Some appear locked but if lifted or pulled away from the wall some is bottomless or backless and completely accessible.

5. Money exchange

Only exchange money in banks or in licensed exchanges. It is always a risk to exchange money on the street, especially near borders. Even in authorized places, know the current exchange rate beforehand and count the money you are given before leaving the shop. It’s common for them to discreetly remove some of the money before being handled to you. Never accept damaged, worn out, torn bills because you may not find anyone that will accept them later.

6. Adorable kids.

While the kids in Southeast Asia are innocently cute and loveable, some of them have unfortunately been trained to rob unsuspecting tourists, so learn to be a little more cautious around them. Some will distract you while their cohort steals your belongings or through the infamous “I don’t want money, I just want milk,” line. These kids get you to buy them milk from a shop, and as soon as you leave they’ll give it back to the cashier and split the profits.

7. It's Closed Today

Don’t believe attractions are closed until you check it out yourself. Many times when you enter a tourist attraction the locals tell you it's closed before you even have a chance to see for yourself. Don't fall for this scam. They usually divert tourist to another attraction claiming it’s better where they will actually get a kick back from or take you to a shop where you will be forced to make purchases. Always look and see for yourself, this is common in South East Asia.

Most scams are centered around either gaining tourist trust, or simply on the basis that most tourists don't yet know local customs and provide easy targets. While sometimes you can smell a scam unfolding from the start, many are much subtle. Even the most seasoned traveler falls victim every now and then. The best way to avoid getting ripped off is to make your research well and be familiar with the locality scams.




Comments (1)

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Jan Machač
Jan Machač on 9th Sep 2017, 14:40:36

Thanks. Good to be cautious! :-)

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