Bangkok is an amazing city to visit, and compared to most other capital cities, it is incredibly safe.
However, no trip to Bangkok is complete without falling prey to at least one of the notorious scams in Bangkok.
Perhaps because Thailand attracts so many naïve, first-time travellers, the capital of Bangkok is rife with scammers trying to make a buck out of unsuspecting tourists, and while not dangerous, Bangkok scams are certainly annoying, and they really put a dampener on my first few days in the Thai capital.
Luckily most scams in Bangkok are extremely easy to spot when you know what you’re looking for.
With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of the major Bangkok scams to avoid, so that you can be one step ahead of the tricksters and make the most of your time in the Land of Smiles.
Here are the worst scams in Bangkok that you should keep your eyes open for.
12 Scams in Bangkok to Avoid
1. Tuk Tuk scam
Perhaps the most common of all scams in Bangkok is the Tuk Tuk scam.
Most of the Tuk Tuks that you’ll see parked up outside hotels and major tourist attractions are on a mission to make some extra cash, and they have an interesting way of doing this.
Once you’ve told them where you want to go, they’ll happily drive you to a shop selling tourist tat, insist you get out of the Tuk Tuk, and refuse to take you to your destination until you’ve gone inside and had a look around.
The shops actually pay these drivers to bring tourists to them, and while you’re not obliged to buy anything, many people feel pressured to do so, and even if you don’t end up parting with any cash, you’ve still wasted a large chunk of time.
2. Tuk Tuk scam #2
In addition to their little detour scam, all of the Tuk Tuk (and taxi) drivers around Khao San Road are paid by local businesses to bring them custom.
This means that if you have somewhere specific you’d like to see a Ladyboy show, for example, you can forget it because the Tuk Tuk driver will simply drive you to whoever is paying his commission.
If you try and argue about this, he will tell all kinds of lies to convince you that his venue is the better choice.
He might say that a certain road is closed, or that the place you’re trying to get to is closed or in a dangerous area. He might even drive around in circles just to try and confuse you!
An example of this scam is the Somboondee Seafood Restaurant, which presents tourists with hugely inflated bills (while giving a 30% commission to the Tuk Tuk driver who brought them there).
This is a particularly annoying Bangkok scam because not only do you end up late to wherever you want to be (if you get there at all!) you also end up paying an extortionate amount for the driver to take you where you want to go in the first place!
3. Ping Pong shows
So whilst in Bangkok, my friends and I went to see one of the infamous ‘Ping Pong’ shows.
You don’t have to look hard to find one – all you have to do is wander down Khao San Road or through Patpong and you’ll find eager touts presenting you with a ‘menu’ of lurid acts that you can go and see for a fixed price.
However, the truth is that none of the acts are actually included in the ticket price.
Not even close.
My friends and I had been of the impression that after paying the 300 THB club entrance fee, all we would have to pay for was our drinks.
However, after each girl had performed her 2 minute trick, she would come and ask for a further 100 THB from each of us.
Of course, this quickly mounts up when you’re expected to part with it every 5 minutes, and suddenly the 300 THB entry fee didn’t seem like such a good deal after all!
Ping Pong shows are sold to tourists as ‘300 THB shows’ where all of the acts are included.
We’d had no idea that the women were working solely for tips, and so it got very awkward, very quickly.
Plus, the drinks were very VERY expensive.
Not only that, but it was as clear as day that the women working in the club did not want to be there.
Their sullen attitudes, dead-behind-the-eyes expressions, and defeated postures reeked of sexual exploitation, and my whole friend group and I felt really icky the whole time we were at the Ping Pong bar.
Honestly, the Thai Ping Pong shows are exactly like the Krakow strip club scams, but with some sex trafficking thrown in for good measure.
4. Tuk Tuk scam #3
Are you seeing a pattern here yet?
You should be, because most of the scams in Bangkok definitely involve Tuk Tuks in one way or another!
Another Bangkok scam is a very simple one, and it happens in every country – if you don’t agree on a price beforehand, you’re going to get overcharged when you reach your destination.
The biggest culprits of this are the Tuk Tuk drivers parked around the major attractions and landmarks, and the ones that speak excellent English, but given the opportunity, most Tuk Tuk drivers will take advantage of this one.
5. Friendly strangers on the street
On my first day in Bangkok, my friends and I overslept and missed our pre-arranged transport to the floating markets.
We decided to go and see some temples instead, and hadn’t got far from our hotel when a friendly local struck up conversation with us.
On learning that we had missed our trip to the floating markets, the man told us that they were too touristy anyway, and pulled out a map to show us an ‘alternative floating market’.
He explained that we could take a boat there, and that the boat would visit every major temple in Bangkok where we could take photographs, before culminating at the floating market.
Thinking he was just being helpful, we allowed ourselves to be bundled into a Tuk Tuk that he’d flagged down to drive us to our boat trip.
On arriving at the harbour, we were told that the trip was 800 THB (this was back in 2014), and while this sounded expensive, we paid it anyway – we couldn’t exactly turn back!
We were then sent on a 60 minute boat trip through what I can only describe as the slums of Bangkok.
We saw the temples from behind, at a distance (and our driver refused to slow down for pictures), before heading to a ‘market’ that consisted of a lone woman selling soft drinks.
The ‘sights of Bangkok‘ turned out to be ramshackle houses on the riverside.
This ‘friendly stranger’ scam can take many forms, but almost always involve you paying an extortionate amount of money for something that has been really misrepresented.
These people are con artists who make vast amounts of commission by ripping off tourists, and they can usually be found hanging around outside hotels, Khao San Road, and major attractions.
6. The Grand Palace is closed!
This is another version of the ‘friendly stranger’ scam, but this one is so common that it deserves its very own section!
The Grand Palace scam is one of the best-known scams in Bangkok, and yet still hundreds of unsuspecting tourists fall prey to it every day!
Much like the previous scam, a friendly local will approach you on the street near the palace (but not so near that you can’t see the crowds queuing up to go inside), and tell you that unfortunately the palace is closed for a Thai holiday or royal event.
They will recommend some ‘unmissable’ temples to see instead, and before you can even respond, they will flag down a Tuk Tuk driver and try to send you on your way.
Luckily, my friends and I just walked away rather than getting in the Tuk Tuk, but I know that if we had done, we’d have been taken to an overpriced and underwhelming temple, where dozens more ‘friendly strangers’ would be waiting to scam us even further.
7. The hotel taxi scam
In front of every nice hotel in Bangkok, there are always a few cabs parked all day long.
These drivers will wait for people to leave the hotel before kindly offering their services.
They’re polite, convenient, and they seem like they might even be official taxis assigned to the hotel, so you take them up on their offer.
However, you soon notice that the meter is off, and when you ask them to turn it on, they’ll start bargaining with you, offering you prices way above the average, claiming that their taximeter is broken.
You can’t force them to turn the meter on, or bring their prices down, and as they’re already driving, you’re kind of screwed.
The best way to avoid this scam is to flag a taxi down from the street, ask your hotel receptionist to call one for you, or use a taxi app like Grab.
8. The gem scam
This scam typically involves an elaborate series of people, ‘meeting’ you (much like the way scams in Marrakech operate), with the aim of bringing you to a jewellery store.
This might begin as a ‘friendly stranger’ hailing you a taxi to visit a certain temple, where you’ll meet another ‘friendly stranger’ who brings you somewhere else, and then the final ‘friendly stranger’ will take you to a jewellery store, where you’re promised top-quality jewellery at a duty-free price, that you can sell for a profit.
Because these people don’t seem connected, you don’t see that you’re being led strategically in a certain direction, and because they’ve all likely drip-fed you bits of information about the ‘incredible’ gold and silver jewellery available in Bangkok, by the time you get to the jewellery store, you’re primed and ready to buy.
These unscrupulous vendors will send your purchases directly to your home address, and by the time you get there, you find that you’ve been sent fake or bad quality jewellery and have no way of getting your money back.
9. The tailor scam
Thailand is a great country for buying affordable, tailor-made suits, but as always, not every suit shop is a good one.
If one of those infamous friendly locals or Tuk Tuk drivers insist on taking you to a suit shop, do not buy anything from the store.
It will be overpriced and low-quality.
If you’re travelling around other countries in Southeast Asia, you’d be much better off waiting until you get to Hoi An, Vietnam.
10. Pickpocketing/bag theft
This is a common scam all over the world, and of course it exists in Bangkok.
Be very cautious when in crowded places, always keeping your hand on your belongings, and never putting anything in your back pocket.
If a gang of small children surrounds you, begging for money or trying to sell you something, they may well be trying to distract you so that their friend can steal from you.
You should also hold on tightly to your bag when in a Tuk Tuk, as people speeding by on motorbikes commonly snatch bags in this way.
You will see many people begging for money on the streets of Bangkok, and while many of them are truly in need, the majority are victims of human trafficking, forced to beg by criminal gangs who pocket the money (sometimes in exchange for a bed for the night).
Many of them have puppies or babies, but the puppies and babies are not theirs, and are taken away and dumped or forced to beg themselves when they get too old.
You will also find professional Western beggars in Bangkok, who will feed you a line that they need money for a plane ticket home, when actually, they just want to fund their travels.
12. The Bangkok bird feed scam
One of the most innocent-seeming Bangkok scams is the so-called ‘bird feed scam.’
These scammers usually hang around outside popular landmarks and anywhere that pigeons can be found.
They will be alone, feeding the pigeons from a bag. They will offer you some so that you can feed the birds yourself, seeming like – you’ve guessed it – just another friendly stranger.
Of course, you only find out after you’ve taken a handful that it costs the same as it would to feed a family of 4.
Scams in Bangkok | Final Thoughts
Although tourist scams like these can be annoying, we have to understand that it’s human nature to try and make the best for ourselves, and if these people are being offered extremely high rates of commission in exchange for ripping a few Westerners off, then can we really judge them?
For the most part, all of these scams can be avoided with a little know-how, and the longer you spend in Bangkok, the better you’ll be at sniffing them out.
I hope that this article has been useful, and as always, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below if you have any questions!
Until next time
8 Practical Safety Tips for Backpacking Southeast Asia
Visiting a Long Neck Hill Tribe Ethically
The best things to do in Bangkok (at night!)
3 day Bangkok itinerary
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Had a good chuckle at this ! Spent a couple of days in Bangkok and avoided some of the scams thanks to the Lonely Planet guide. However, I did meet a friendly English speaking taxi driver, who became a tour guide and pulled the Grand Palace is closed trick. He took us to another temple on a boat trip past some really run-down areas, but he did at least show us around the temple afterwards !
Later he took us to an over priced restaurant to eat, but when I challenged him about the price he offered to take us to the airport as we paid for his food, including some to take away for his kids. And to be fair he turned up on time and took us to the airport !
So overall scam rating 1 or 2 out of 5, could have been worse and we did see a temple and got a ride to the airport :))