As a farang who has spent some years in the country, I have a few bits of advice I'd like to pass on to new visitors … No, it is not just to stop paying these vastly inflated bar fines we now find in a few bars in Bangkok (200 should still be enough),
nor is it to tell them to get things into perspective and stop paying huge amounts to the girls they take from the bars (1,000 should still be enough for a good night – many respectable jobs earn them no more than 6,000 – 9,000 baht a month).
Here I perceive a problem, over recent months, which has made life more unpredictable, and costly, for those who are not just holidaying here. The custom now is to raise the price by 50% over last year and ask for at least 1,500 to start with.
Of course, everything is negotiable. No, to come back from my digression, the piece of advice I must now give is, when you go to a restaurant and are given a menu, ask first of all for the clearest confirmation that the charges shown on the menu
are what you are actually going to be charged.
Sounds silly? Farang expect to pay what is written down on the menu and no more, unless we feel there is good service which warrants a tip. This is no longer the universal view in Thailand.
I am not just complaining about Gullivers. I went there last week, in Khao San Road, and having ordered a bacon burger and fries I was presented with an almost warm, uncooked burger and just six small fries which actually were cold. To heap dismay on to my disappointment the bill had 10 per cent added as what appeared to be a compulsory charge for the poor service I had received and then a further 7% tax on top of that. Gullivers will not see me again!
No, that is not the real danger for farang, as a result of which I recommend making clear at the outset of each restaurant meal you have exactly what you are prepared to pay. More than six months ago I took my Thai girl to a restaurant and when the bill came I KNEW it was too much. I told her to sort it out. She said they explained to her that the prices on the menu were last year's prices and what I had been charged was this year's. No, she said, there was no copy available of this year's menu as yet. And, she added, I must be jai dee and exercise jai yen and pay what was being asked.
Rip-off number two came just a few days ago in Kata (Phuket). My girl friend ordered fish. (Beware ordering fish by the kilo – it becomes very expensive that way.) I saw the price on the menu. It was not cheap, but it was reasonable. And the fish filled what we could see was the usual sort of dish they cooked fish in. When the bill came, I noticed I was being charged for the fish a price 25% higher than that on the menu. When we queried this we were told that the fish they had cooked for her was bigger than the fish they usually cook when someone orders this item. So the charge was more. Irrespective of the fact that we had not asked for a bigger fish. Again, my girlfriend told me not to make an issue of this, nor complain that not all the vegetables had been clean.
Sometimes, I think, we may be more at risk of being ripped off if a Thai girlfriend is with us than if we are alone. Anyway, now I am always asking for confirmation of the menu prices before I sit down in a restaurant.
Yes, I can afford the extra charges. But I think it would be a disservice to other farang, and indeed the prospects of Thailand building a better tourist industry, to let rip-offs like these go unchecked and ruin the good image which Thai reasonableness and hospitality has built up over the years. What do you think?
We (at least the sensible ones) no longer go to Turkey because they kill football supporters – especially if you come from Leeds – and they throw things at visitors to their country who play football (for example, the Swiss). I would not like to see the Thais getting a similar reputation.
By the way, talking of rip-offs. Have you noticed that since oil prices went up (was it by 10 or 15%?) the taxi drivers down south have raised their charges by 25% or more on account of it. AND don't overlook the other rip-off in Samui, Phuket etc by those advertising themselves as "taxi-meter". They are NOT. Even in Bangkok some are not: you may get some taxi-meter drivers quote you a price as much as 3 or 4 times higher if you open their door and check they are taxi-meter. For example from the airport – 500 baht to Sukhumvit was quoted to me last week by a so-called taxi-meter, for a daytime journey off-peak, whereas often the meter does not clock up more than 120 baht for that journey.
Are things getting worse? Or am I just getting wiser?
I think some of the places that predominantly serve tourists are pushing things to the max. Here in Bangkok, most places you are free of menu price / actual price irregularities. The ++ prices so many venues charge infuriates me, but generally it is not hidden, and says clearly on the menu. What DOES piss me off though is when they then expect a tip on top of the service charge. That is highly questionable in my book.