The vast majority of taxi drivers in Thailand are honest. You might be unlucky and get into a cab with a driver who tries to make a better profit on your costs.
What we do:
- Always insist to use the meter. The driver does not want to turn it on, tell him to stop and get out. There are plenty of other taxis around.
- When you arrive from the airports, go to the official taxi counter on the ground floor, even if you have to queue up. Tell the staff at the counter where you want to go. They usually understand English and know a lot of places and hotel names. Keep in mind that for every ride from the airport you have to pay the airport-fee of 50 Baht on top of the price shown on the meter. When the driver asks you if you want to take the toll-way you can agree. It will save you some time to get quicker to your destination. The fee is always below 100 Baht in Bangkok, so hand him a bank note when the cab approached the tollway booth. He will pay and give you the change, together with a receipt (if he got it from the booth). Tollway and airport fees come on top of the meter price.
- When you arrive at your hotel ask for their business card. Keep it in your wallet with you, so you can stroll around in the big mango without worrying you could get lost. Showing the card to a taxi driver will always get you back to your room and makes conversation with local drivers much easier.
- Über & Grab Taxi have mobile apps that can be very helpful when you are in a part of town where taxis are not that often seen. They are slightly more expensive, but help to avoid problems, e.g. if you need a ride to the airport at 4 o'clock in the morning. Allow about 30 minutes for the driver to arrive and make sure you give them your exact location.
- If you experience problems you can report the driver to the government. There is a mobile application called DLT Check-in which was made especially to report bad taxis. Every taxi has a small yellow label on the side of both doors in the back, showing the license number of the taxi. And in the front you should see the driver's name and picture. In case of trouble it helps to make a photo of the licenses, the car and to note where and when the incident happened. Be aware that the driver will not like this action and it might cause aggression and anger that can further escalate to violence. Avoid getting into this kind of trouble at all times! If the situation seems to get out of control call the tourist police immediately under 1155 (free call from every phone).
Never take a tuk tuk. They charge fantasy prices, you might get stuck in the heat and exhaust gases of a traffic jam, they will bring you somewhere, even if they do not know the place you want to go to. Most often you end up at a tailor or gem shop or they will drop you in the middle of nowhere when they get frustrated enough not finding your place. Taxis are cheaper, safer and come with air conditioning. Some even have seat belts.
7-eleven / Family Mart
When tourist appear to not know the banknotes they are using to pay it might happen that they get wrong change. You pay with a 1,000 Baht banknote and you get change for 500 Baht instead. This can happen everywhere, not only in the convenient stores.
Be aware that the fine Kashmir you will see could be cheap polyester from China. To test you can ask for a small sample of the material to be burned. If it smells like burned hair, it's good. If it smells like burned plastic or the shop owner does not want to do this test, you know...
If you want to get a tailor-made suit please check the prices before, so you will have an idea about how much you will have to pay. 70 to 250 US$ seem to be a reasonable price for a suit with at least one shirt, probably with two trousers and maybe with a vest. It depends on the material. If you want a perfect fit make sure you go for the fitting at least two times. Never do it last minute. The more time you have, the better is the chance you get an excellent suit. You should calculate at least three days. If they ask you when you leave, tell them a date one or two days before your actual departure. This gives you time to check everything properly in case there is a delay and they want to deliver the things to your hotel or meet you at the airport before you depart.
If you feed it, it grows. Don't give money to them! Like in most parts of the world many beggars in Thailand are controlled and organised by some kind of mafia. No matter how heart-breaking the lady with the baby looks at 22:00 hours on the walkway near a busy intersection. Don't do it. The man sitting at the entrance to the MBK miraculously stands up at the end of his 'shift' and walks home, perfectly using the 'missing limp' which was hidden under his clothes.
It sometimes happens that tourists are approached by foreigners who tell that they lost their passport / wallet / credit cards / everything. They say their embassy would not help them and they only want to return to their country or travel somewhere to get a new visa. New stories pop up every now and then and these scammers are quite innovative when it comes to new stories. They usually speak good English and appear educated. They might start with some small-talk and will get aggressive if you refuse to pay anything.
Grand Palace / Wat Po
Always be careful when somebody approaches you and offers to help. Thais are shy and would never actively talk to a stranger / foreigner on the road. Everybody who comes to you and offers 'help' or information without you asking for it is a potential risk of losing money. When these people sense that you are on the way to the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew or Wat Po they will inform you that unfortunately it is closed today. And then they will tell you alternatives, which you should never trust. Lately we have seen a new version: the Palace is closed in the morning. The scammer will quickly tell you how to spend the time useful and get a tuk-tuk to bring you to some other interesting place, then to the palace in the afternoon. You will end up either in a gem store or at a tailor shop. Or as it was reported recently in a travel office, where they try to scare you that at the place where you want to go everything is fully booked already, except the totally overpriced places they offer. Never book in an office that somebody brought you to.
If you google 'Unseen Travel Thailand' for scams you will find a couple of reports about this travel agency. People report they were over-charged, buses did not depart on time or at all and much more. If you plan to use a travel agency in Thailand you should ask fellow travelers about their experiences, visit a proper shop on a main road and check online sources for more detailed information.
As a tourist and being most probably not an expert when it comes to precious stones please do not buy any jewelry in gem shops. Do not trust the words of people telling you how much money you can make by buying here and selling later in your home country. It does not work and you will be sad to find out that the stones, bracelets, rings or whatever has only a fraction of the value you paid. And any kind of 'certificate' you get with them has the value of the paper it is printed on.
In front of the Grand Palace and several other places scammer will demonstrate how to feed the animals, give you bags of food to try and force you to feed birds/fish. When the bags are empty you are presented a bill for the food that you did not want in the first place.
Please note that medicine sold on night-, street- or border-markets might be fakes with nothing but a placebo effect. Or even worse, come from back-yard factories and the concentration of the active ingredients varies. Don't risk your health. If you need medication get it from a regular pharmacy or consult a doctor.
The extremely cheap bus tickets sold at Khao San road often result in loss of valuables from your luggage in the luggage compartment or expensive visa handling fees.
Children at Wat Doi Suthep
Be aware that the children in hill-tribe clothes sitting at the lower end of the stairs from Wat Doi Suthep sit there every day. The mother sits around the corner and collects the money from them every few minutes. Do not take pictures with the children, do not give money to them. You can watch others doing so and simply calculate the income this family gets from abusing the child to work for them every single day. When asked why the kids are not at school you will hear that 'only today' the school is closed.
Metered taxis are hard to find in Chiang Mai. Much more common are the red song-taeows - pick-up trucks with two benches in the back. They will bring you to the place you want to go, but you have to negotiate the price before. Keep in mind that the way up to the temple Doi Suthep is usually much cheaper than the way back. Better negotiate the price for the return-trip and don't pay in advance.
While the night-life in Chiang Mai is much more conservative than it is in Bangkok, Pattaya or Phuket, it exists. One re-occurring problem is that tourists do not understand the way the local Karaoke bars work. If you plan to visit them please keep in mind that you pay for everything. You pay for the room, the equipment, the songs you sing, the drinks etc. If you wish to have a female employee of the bar to sing for you, you pay for that, too. And for what the girls drink. The bill can easily rise to over 1,000 US$ per hour and you will be forced to pay. Calling the police is not helpful, because the police know the prices and might be shareholders of the venue. Karaoke bars are not brothels and the girls will not leave their work before their shift is over.
Zoo / Night Safari
The Zoo and the Night Safari in Chiang Mai are examples for 'dual pricing'. Locals and Expats (that holding a work permit or driving license and can speak Thai) will enter these places at a significant cheaper price. The 'normal' prices shown at the entrance are in Latin letters for tourists, while the signs in Thai language (where tourist can not read the numbers) show the discounted price.
Scams on the beach
The jet ski scam is well known and Youtube is full of video clips about the poor victims of this scam. The tourist rents a jet ski and signs documents that guarantee his payment of any repair costs for damages caused. The jet ski is in the water and can be inspected. When the tourist returns after his ride the jet ski is taken out of the water and surprisingly damages appear that were previously hidden under the water. With the paperwork in hand and the police on their payroll the poor tourist has to pay substantial amounts to escape the situation. Denying payment may most probably end in violence.
Similar to the jet ski scam on the islands in the South it was reported that when tourists return their motorbikes they were charged for old damages or scratches. It helps to make pictures of the bike from all sides before you take it over.