Travel in Thailand Scams & Problems

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General problems

Thailand receives a large number of foreign tourists every year, in excess of 15 million, and the vast majority enjoy themselves and return home without any problem. There are however a small number who have problems. Being aware of some of the common scams and potential problems can help you avoid becoming a victim.

Please do not forget that Thailand is, compared to most Western countries, far from wealthy. Many Thais earn less than 10,000 baht per month. When Thais see foreigners throwing around more in a day than they earn in a month it can create resentment and jealousy, and that may manifest itself into crime.

Personal Safety

In terms of personal safety, most Westerners feel that Thailand is very safe. I would question this notion. The areas where most Westerners go, being central Bangkok and the most popular beaches and destinations as well as Chiang Mai in the north, are very safe. The odds of someone hitting you over the head, grabbing your money and running are fairly slim. That is not the usual type of crime perpetrated against tourists. What is much more common is tourists being tricked to give up their hard-earned.

The one area in Thailand where there has been quite an increase in violent crime is in Pattaya. More and more people are being mugged or attacked and their valuables taken. Again, most people who go to Pattaya have no problems at all, but you do need to exercise caution. Most problems of this nature happen at night, usually very late, often after midnight, so be aware of your surroundings if you find yourself out late.

Despite the warning notice on the right here, the problem of pick pocketing is not great. Sure, it happens, and one has to exercise caution in large crowded markets like the Patpong night market and Chatuchak Market, also known as the Weekend Market. MBK (aka Mahboonkrong) is another shopping centre where pick pocketing is a problem. Stories from the '70s and '80s of people's day bags or jeans being sliced with a razor blade and their wallet or cash removed without them knowing seem to be a thing of the past.

As mentioned already, tourists are often tricked to part with their money, a crime where greed of the victim is exploited. Tourists are approached by well dressed Thais in popular tourist areas or by tuktuk or taxi drivers and are taken to a gem store or a jeweler store. They may be offered fake jewellery at inflated prices with the promise that the sale of this jeweler or gem stones in one's own country could make the tourist very rich indeed. Some incredibly silly tourists have gone on to spend a fortune, thinking that they could return to their own country and get rich overnight, only to later find out that the stones they bought were imitation and pretty much worthless.

Some tourists have also been told that the day they are there is a special holiday or there is a "government sale" or some such other nonsense. This is all a scam and what is offered is knock off junk jewellery that may not even be worth 10% of what is paid for it. I have heard countless stories over the years of people putting down a couple of thousand dollars for this crap. An article in the Bangkok Post a few years back mentioned that the Tourist Police get about 20 complaints a week from people who have bought this rubbish. Frankly, anyone who falls for this scam is stupid and deserves what they get. But what really bothers me is that while complaints are made to the police about this issue, nothing is done, at least long term. The same shops have been pulling the same scams for years and years and continue to do so. Hmmm, is someone in on it?!

The Tuktuk / Taxi driver scam

A similar type of scams occurs with the tuktuk drivers and to a lesser extent, taxi drivers, in Bangkok. As a foreigner you stand out in the crowd and you will be constantly approached by taxi and tuktuk drivers inviting you on a "tour of Bangkok". They might even off to take you on a tour for anywhere between 1 and 3 hours, all for a silly fee, like 10 or 20 baht. They are not about to take you around the temples, museums or places of historic interest, but around a bunch of stores where the sales assistants will put pressure on you to buy something. Many of the goods are for sale at high prices and the tuktuk or taxi driver who takes you to the establishment will get a significant commission on everything you buy. These shops can be really sneaky. After battling the heat, you will be led into a shop with cool air-conditioning, often by a very pretty and charming Thai lady, well dressed, and who speaks very good English. In the more sophisticated operations you will be offered a choice of cold drink and a cool, wet towel to wipe away the sweat and dirt. But in no time the snakes will be all over you, pressuring you to buy something in their store. If they sense that you are going to buy something he charm will remain but if they feel you are going to get away without buying anything then expect their demeanour to change completely, for them to be cold, and for you to suddenly be made very unwelcome indeed. Don't worry, your personal safety is never at risk, but you will be shown the door quickly. Frankly, it is all a very unpleasant experience.

Various types of establishments pay commissions to tuktuk and taxi drivers, from large jewellery stores – some of which sell genuine gems and jewellery, and some of which sell fakes, through to tailors' stores, duty free stores, massage parlours and even some restaurants, particular seafood restaurants. The commissions made by the tuktuk and taxi drivers can be significant, often more than they would earn in an entire day if they were just driving passengers around, hence there is real motivation for them to get involved. A driver taking a customer to a massage parlour may get 500 baht per customer who indulges. At tailors' stores and seafood restaurants the commission is usually 10 – 15%. At stores operating the gem scams the commission can be really, really high, meaning many thousands of baht. In a country where people live on 6,000 – 7,000 baht a month, this is a very significant amount of money. Frankly, these establishments see that the drivers are richly rewarded for their efforts. A lot of the businesses are so keen to get potential customers in the door that even if that person doesn't make a purchase here, the driver will get a commission in the form of petrol vouchers.

If taken to a tailor's shop, a charming tailor of Indian ethnicity who speaks many languages well will put on a very convincing sales pitch. I have seen some tough characters give in to the wishes of these tailors and end up buying some suit or other tailored clothes that they really didn't want nor need. The quality of such tailored goods is variable – remember Bangkok tailors seldom make the clothes on the premises but rather send out the material to one big sweatshop where hundreds of tailors make all of the clothes to order. This means that it doesn't really matter which tailor shop you go to, the quality could well be the same as a place on the other side of town. BUT, if you get taken to such a store by a tuktuk or taxi, that person's commission will be built in to the price so you will be paying more than you would have had you gone there alone.

While I do not believe it to be a big problem, there were a lot of reports in late 1999 and 2000 regarding non licensed taxis. Basically, these just consist of people running their private car as a taxi. They will try to pick you up in heavily touristed areas and take you to the sites. While the regular taxi drivers don't really have any tests or anything that they need to pass before they can do the job, these other fellows are even worse. They will take you to all of the places offering high commissions as above. If you get really nasty, they might even try and kill you as happened to a number of unlucky punters… If it is not a regular taxi, steer clear!

Credit card & ATM Fraud

Thailand is one of the worst places in the world for credit card fraud. You give you credit card to a vendor and they somehow either take a copy of it or do something or other and then they can go on to run up huge bills. Obviously when you get your bill back home you will be able to successfully challenge it and will not be liable for it but it is a hassle and inconvenience and is not going to endear you with your bank. To try and avoid being the victim of such a scam, do not let your credit card out of your sight when using it to make a purchase. This is one of those scams that seemed to be very common in the past but we seem to hear less and less about it these days.

Personally I am less concerned about credit card fraud than I am ATM fraud. Just as in the West the ATM machines at some banks are tampered with so that when you insert your card into the machine it is retained, or the number is read, and can be used by the criminal later. One of the big problems of ATM fraud in Thailand, at least if you are a Thai bank account holder, is that the banks do not just automatically write the fraud off and re-imburse you for how much was lost. Oh no, not at all, you are now in a fight to get that money back. There have been numerous stories in the press over the years about unlucky people who have lost serious amounts to ATM fraud and had a fight to get it back, so to speak.

Driving standards and public transport

The standard of driving in Thailand is very poor indeed. Taxi and tuktuk drivers generally drive too fast, follow too close, and perform dangerous maneuvers. Thank God that traffic in Bangkok generally doesn't move that fast meaning that if you should be involved in a crash then with a bit of luck the vehicle was not going too fast.

You should also exercise great care and caution when getting in and out of taxis, or any vehicles for that matter. Motorcycles squeeze in and out of traffic and many a tourist has opened the taxi door to get out only to open it right in front of a motorcycle who hit it, causing damage not only to the taxi and the motorbike but possibly themselves too. In a case like this it is you who opened the door who is at fault and you will be asked for compensation right away. Failure to pay it and you'll be off to the police station where a settlement will be agreed AND paid before you are free to go!

There is a law in place that says that if you cause a traffic accident and someone else is injured or hurt, you must pay for that person's immediate medical treatment. In reality this means handing over a small amount of money, most likely between 200 and 1,000 baht. Even if you are not at fault, you may be asked to hand over money. If you have any problems, it would be best to contact the local tourist police – assuming that they are represented where ever you happen to be.

Intercity travel in Thailand can be nerve wracking because once out on the open road many Thais fancy themselves as the next Michael Schumacher and like to see just how fast their vehicle can go. The intercity buses in Thailand can be a bit hair raising and at times you start to question your immediate surroundings and wonder whether you are on a bus or a roller coaster. You read many reports in the newspapers of intercity bus crashes, and the carnage caused. The only way to avoid being a victim is to take the train or private transportation. While I do not travel intercity by bus any more, I can confidently say that the problem is not as bad as it used to be.

Another problem with the intercity buses concerns luggage stowed on the buses. Large pieces of luggage are stored in the luggage hold. Many people have found that upon reaching their destination, that their valuables have mysteriously disappeared. What happens is that a Thai may travel the journey down in the luggage hold and go through all of the luggage, looking for valuables like cash, cameras or other items that can be quickly turned into cash. Basically, when you travel on the intercity buses, be it the Government run bus service, or the private companies, take all of your valuables on board the bus with you.

A lot of Westerners suffer motorcycle accidents, particularly on the islands in the south of the country where it is popular to hire a bike as one's primary means of getting around. As already stated, driving standards may not be what you are used to at home and the surface of the road might not always be as good as it could be. There are often other problems like the camber of the road going the wrong way and confusing signs, all of which contribute to causing problems. I cringe when I see Westerners zooming around on a motorbike wearing but a pair of shorts and no shirt. Come off that bike and you're going to have all sorts of problems. I cannot re-iterate enough that many, many Westerners have bike accidents in Thailand, and a number die. Yes, people do die while riding bikes in Thailand so please, please, take care out there on the roads. No-one wants to go home in a box. By the way, the law states that you must where a helmet and there is a 400 baht fine if you're caught without one – and Thai cops love to catch Westerners out!

Motorbike theft is a problem in Thailand, although strangely, the theft of cars seems not to be such a big problem. One of the big problems is that there are some unscrupulous characters who directly target bikes hired by tourists. In a worst case scenario, when you hire a bike you may be followed by someone who is effectively working for the person who hired you that bike. When you have parked the bike and have disappeared down to the beach, gone to some tourist attraction or wherever, the person who followed you simply rides your bike away using e a spare key they had! After you have reported it stolen, you read the fine print of the motorbike agreement and see that you have no insurance and that you are in fact liable for a replacement bike. Bit of a nasty one this. What a lot of the folks hiring motorbikes do is to ask to hang on to your passport as security. My strong recommendation is that you do not give it to them and if hiring a bike, it may be best to not let them know where you stay as this way, if you do have an unfortunate mishap, you can quietly disappear and they will be none the wiser… Yes, I know this is wrong, but sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. Also, if they know where you are staying they might come and take the bike at night when you are sleeping. Most of the folks hiring bikes are fine so do not worry too much!

It should be noted that the condition of some of the bikes can be iffy so try and get someone that knows a little about bikes to check it out before you take it, especially if you plan on taking a bike for a few days. A lot of the bikes hired out to tourists are not what I would term road-worthy – little in the way of decent tread on the tyres, the breaks are not operating as effectively as they should be, the engine is running rough etc.

Drugs

Anyone travelling to Asia who has done their homework knows that drugs and Asia just do not mix. That said, there are still plenty of tourists who fail to heed the advice of every guidebook and use drugs while on holiday.

If you do drugs in Asia, you deserve what you get – it's as simple as that. I have never done, nor will I ever do drugs, but what you do is up to you. However, don't forget that the penalties in Thailand are VERY harsh if you are caught with drugs on your person. How harsh I hear you ask? Well there was the story of a Brit who was caught in Lumpini Park with drugs in person a few years back. The case went to court and if I remember rightly he got 50 years jail. 50 years!

I gather that drugs can be obtained easily in Thailand but while I know my way around Bangkok, I wouldn't have a clue where to get drugs from – and nor do I have any reason to know.

There are some tuktuk drivers and other Thais, especially in the backpacker areas, like Khao San Road, on Ko Phangnan and up in the far north, who will offer to provide drugs for you. But what may follow is the police knocking on your guesthouse door to bust your ass because they have been tipped off by Mr. Tuktuk Driver! Now Mr. Tuktuk didn't do this because he doesn't like farangs – in fact he loves them – but because he'll be getting a very nice cut of the money that you have to expend to pay off the cops to keep your virgin ass out of prison!

Yes, that's right, in the case of a small amount of drugs you may be given the option of paying your way out of it. As much as I am against drugs and corruption, my advice would be to pay whatever is asked. No-one wants to end up in a Thai prison.

Thais working in the tourism industry

Some of the Thais in the tourist industry have become jaded dealing with foreigners day in day out and all of the cultural nuances that go with it. While most Thais that you meet will be friendly, there are some rogues out there who think nothing of scamming the foreigner. With this in mind, you need to be aware of anyone that appears too friendly without a reason which is hard to do as Thais are extremely nice people. If the chambermaid in the hotel is friendly then that is to be expected but if a stranger approaches you in a public place and seems too nice without a valid reason, you have reason to be cautious.

One scam that has been around forever sees well dressed Thais with decent English lingering near the entrance to popular tourist attractions telling visitors that a particular tourist attraction is closed that day. The Grand Palace, Wat Po, the Erawan Shrine and Jim Thompson's House are popular venues for these scammers but the scam can occur at any popular tourist attraction in Bangkok. Basically, as you approach the destination, a well dressed Thai approaches you and tell you that due to <_insert some="" bullshit="" reason,="" often="" a="" government="" holiday_=""> the said attraction is closed. They (usually a he) will try and steer you elsewhere, often to a duty free shop, jewellery store, tailor's or in the direction of some venue for which he will get a commission, all in much the same way that some tuktuk drivers and taxi drivers do.

In extreme cases, it may even be suggested that you go to a gambling game and gamble money on his behalf with him citing another crazy story that for some crazy reason, he cannot participate. This is all a big ruse to part you with your money. It pays to be suspicious of people approaching you out of the blue. They can be polite and very smooth and well rehearsed.

While Thai people can appear to be very friendly and gracious when you first meet them, be aware that the Thai smile does not always mean the same as the farang smile. Thais don't jut smile when they are happy – the smile can show one of many emotions but for the uninitiated it can be hard to read.

Thai people are some of the warmest and friendliest people in the world and your experience will no doubt be invigorated by the Thais' constant smiles and happy nature. It is sad to say that the Thais that are in constant contact with foreigners can become a little jaded and some of the people that you meet in your travels may only be interested in being pleasant to you if they believe there will be something in it for them. You may meet some money hungry folks. If you get the feeling that someone is only interested in your money, then give them a wide berth. Don't be surprised if Thais you meet ask you for a loan, something which may come as a surprise from someone you barely know. They may give you some sort of hard luck story about how they have no money, or how their tuition fees are due, or their rent is due, or some other fabrication. Sadly, many Thais do not look at a loan as something that needs to be repaid, but rather as a gift. Only give money away that you can afford to lose and do not expect to see again. Simply think to yourself if someone asked you for money under those circumstances in the West whether you would assist them or not. Remember, this is often a ruse and the money may well be used for liquor or narcotics!

Be careful when making complaints about service failures in Thailand. An aggressive tone or attitude which may be considered justified or normal to many Westerners when they have been let down is not effective with Thais. It not only rubs them up the wrong way, it upsets them and even if you have a genuine complaint, the Thais may not be responsive if they feel that they are being threatened. Keep calm and simply outline what has happened, and what you would like to happen next, be it a refund, a replacement, or whatever. As crazy as it sounds, Western tourists who complain loudly may find that the person they are complaining to thinks that the complainant is in the wrong – and may refuse to help! In a worst case scenario, someone arguing or complaining too loudly might be set upon by others who perceive their behaviour as threatening.

Many Thais really don't understand Westerners and vice versa. With different expectations, you may experience what you consider service failures often. A basic example is when you order food at a restaurant in Thailand it doesn't necessarily all come at the same time. So a wife's food might come 5, 10 or even 20 minutes before her husband's! For Thais this may not be an issue because they often order rice for everyone and share the "main" dishes. But for Westerners who tend not to eat this way – or in the case of Western food where people usually only eat from their own plate – it can become an issue. Complaining about it may confuse the service provider who simply doesn't understand that there is a difference in concept!

Double pricing / Money scams

It is a sad fact that in Thailand dual pricing is very much present and tourists are the targets of the inflated prices. At many places from national parks to tourist attractions and even to some restaurants there are two sets of prices, one set for the Thais, and another for foreigners. Sometimes the price difference is small, but at other times it is huge and can make the foreigner feel like they are being taken advantage of and ripped off.

To give you a few tangible examples, at many national parks it costs Thais 20 baht to enter and foreigners 400 baht. Yes, you read that right, foreigners pay 20 times the price that Thais do! At the Ancient City to the east of Bangkok, foreigners pay 300 baht while and Thai national pay 100 baht. And at a small but popular Thai restaurant opposite Wat Arun on the Chao Praya River, most dishes cost Thais 25 baht whereas foreigners are charged 50 baht.

There seems to be no logic nor reason behind the price differences. It cannot be argued that the foreigners make more money than Thais and so should be charged more because in many cases it is wealthy Thais who are visiting these places – and these people are very wealthy. It also cannot be reasonably argued that Thais pay taxies in Thailand and foreigners don't so the Thais have already contributed to the cost of the venue – many of the places charging these fees are privately owned businesses. Really, there is no other reason other than to gouge the tourist. Sadly, what many Thais fail to realise is that many foreigners choose to visit Thailand for the very reason that most things in the country are cheap and affordable. The Thais fail to realise that if they start playing games with prices like this then they will put foreigners off visiting – and then they will make nothing at all!

My feeling is that there is no problem with a venue offering discounted pricing to locals, so everyone pays the "standard" price and the locals get a discounted price. Unfortunately this is not what happens in Thailand these days. The locals pay the "standard" price, which could be deemed as a fair and reasonable price to gain entry into a venue or attraction whereas foreigners are gouged. As an example, at the Lumpini Thai boxing stadium the price for Thais is 230 baht whereas foreigners are charged between 1,000 and 2,000 baht, depending where they sit. 2,000 baht is a lot of money so we're not talking peanuts. The crazy thing is that international kickboxing events featuring current champions and big names can be seen in much superior and far more comfortable venues around the world for about half this amount. It is quite simply price gouging with the asking price way, way more than you would expect to pay in the West.

Another venue which thrives on gouging tourists is Ocean Word within the Siam Paragon shopping centre in the heart of Bangkok. The family discount price is 1,500 baht but this is for Thai families only whereas you will pay 3,000 baht if you are not Thai. Again, this is an INFLATED PRICE. I strongly encourage you to refrain from visiting venues which encourage such pricing.

I guess what riles me most of all is that at virtually every place where this scam is practiced it is done in an underhand way, with the price for foreigners in English, using Roman characters, whereas the prices for Thai people are in the Thai script, a script which very, very few foreigners can read.

Thailand based expats are often able to get around this problem either by simply speaking Thai to the vendor or ticket seller, or by producing some local ID, be it a Thai drivers license, a work permit, or some other local official document.

Loosely related, but not a scam as such, you may find when shopping in markets that you will be offered a price much higher than a Thai would but this is just standard market practice and fair play. How well can you bargain?!

The picture here shows a price board from the Sukhothai Historical Park in Northern Thailand – all of the text in red was added by me. I have taken the liberty of translating the Thai numbers into characters readers can understand. I just wish they wouldn't be so sneaky about it. Why don't they just come out and say that it is Thailand and they are going to offer reduced rates to their nationals? That they go and hide this irritates many Westerners. It is annoying too that at some places the price difference can be up to ten times more for foreigners!

Another of my pet hates is the "I no have change" look that some vendors come up with. A favourite scam of anyone providing transportation to you, this is usually a ploy to extract "a tip" from you. If the driver / rider refuses to give you change, tell them that you will not pay which usually prompts them to suddenly discover that long last cache of change in their pocket or somewhere in their vehicle! Alternatively, if they do not have change, they will quickly find someone that does, usually the nearest street vendor or 7-Eleven store. Please do remember however that 1,000 baht is a lot of money in Thailand and that trying to pay for a 60 baht taxi fare with a 1,000 baht note is simply asking for trouble.

Noise

Thailand is noisy! This is not a problem that you will necessarily read about elsewhere online, but to me it is one of the fundamental issues I suffer when I try to relax in Thailand. It doesn't matter if I am at the beach, or in my condo, there is always some noise interrupting my thought process, and indeed my very ability to think, or to relax.

Noise does not seem to bother the Thais like it bothers Westerners. For Thais, smell is the sense that bothers them and if something smells really foul this can really upset Thais and they lose their balance, so to speak. Unfortunately they do not seem to understand that for Westerners, smell is less of a problem than noise.

The problem of noise manifests itself in many ways. Imagine sitting at the beach in Thailand, kicking back on a beach chair, all relaxed, your eyes closed and you can feel yourself drifting off to sleep when suddenly a nearby (or perhaps even not so nearby) establishment decides to turn the sound on their music system up to full ball. The tranquility is lost. Or the noise pollution of hoons on jet skis going up and down the beach at break neck speed with the awful sound the jet ski makes. Or what about my pet peeve. There you are, just about out for the count, totally relaxed, when you feel, but don't necessarily even see, the presence of a beach vendor standing over you. "Mister, you want buy <_insert name="" of="" some="" stupid="" trinket_="">".

Thailand is a great place for a holiday, but if you are after a really relaxing time at the beach, I strongly suggest you spend a bit more money and check into a quality resort where you do not have to put up with the awful noise pollution that mars the experience at so many Thai beaches.

Dangerous animals and other creatures

Thailand is located in tropical Asia and it should come as no surprise that in this part of the world, there are all sorts of tropical animals, bugs, insects, snakes etc. You're unlikely to see any in the big cities but if you go trekking in the countryside, it is more than possible that a scorpion, snake or poisonous centipede may cross your path. It's all part of the experience!

Many tourist sites in Thailand do not have the same safety controls in place that you might expect at similar such sites in the West.

I was at a snake show once and the crowd was encouraged to get really close to the snakes and their handlers to allow photos to be taken. One snake got away from the handler and made a beeline for one of the tourists there. A handler dived and grabbed it just before it got to the shocked tourist. The MC just chuckled when someone asked if the snake was poisonous. "Oh, it is deadly", he replied! Mai pen rai!

Then there was the elephant that ran through a fence in Pattaya and killed one member of a family there some years back.

And of course there was the time when I was riding an elephant in Phuket amongst a trail of elephants and the British guy on the elephant in front of me fell over and rolled about ten metres (!!) down a bank injuring himself quite badly.

And then…..you get the picture. Thailand is not so much dangerous but the Western safety features and controls that you may be used to are not prevalent here so sometimes you have to be aware and take responsibility for yourself. Further, if you do suffer any damage through negligence of the locals, do not expect to be compensated for it. If anything, you might be threatened with further harm if you start making claims for compensation.

In Bangkok I really think a trip to Lumpini Park is worthwhile if for nothing else than to see and photograph the huge, ugly monitor lizards that call Lumpini Park home. These ugly reptiles are called "hee-a" in Thai which is actually used as a swear word in the local lingo as well as being the word for the ugly beasts. I personally find these beasts fascinating and have spent many a Sunday afternoon in Lumpini photographing them. The big ones are actually quite scary! Don't get too close to them because they will bite and their mouths are supposed to be incredibly dirty and the treatment for a bite is a very long course of antibiotics. Thais tell me that some people bit by these vermin have ended up losing a limb. You've been warned!

The tourist Police

Realizing the importance of tourism to the country, the Thai Government had the excellent idea to set up a special division of the police force whose job it is to help tourists in distress. Known as the Tourist Police, officers from this department can be seen in most of the major tourist areas around Thailand. They have the same brown coloured uniform as the regular police with a badge that says Tourist Police on their shoulder. The officers are supposed to be friendly and helpful and as a bonus, are supposed to speak English too. If you have any problems at all, they should be the first people that you consult. In some centres the tourist police may have their own little police station but often they will be stationed along with the regular police force.

The reality is that readers have had mixed reactions to the tourist police. They often speak little or no English and they are not always that helpful in the instances of scams or rip-offs – which is that many foreigners thought they were there to help with in the first place!

In some centres, including Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai, there are volunteer tourist police. There are two types of volunteer police, Westerners and Thais. They will wear a uniform that clearly says tourist police volunteer on it. They do not have the same powers or authority of police but instead their role is to help anyone who may be in distress.

Women of night

A final note needs to be said about the infamous women of the night in Thailand. If you think you may indulge with the ladies of the night, then you should remember one piece of advice, what ever you do, NEVER fall in love with a bargirl because if you do, you'll be in for a hell of a ride!

These bargirls, or let's call them what they are, prostitutes, will try and treat men extremely well in the interest of separating the man from his hard earned money. They will say and do everything they can to do that but at the end of the day they are after your money.

Do be careful of drinks you are offered from some women who work as freelancers, that is prostitutes who work in discos and other bars where they can just come and go as they please. it is not unusual for them to drug the drinks of guys they meet so they can go back to the guy's room and relieve him of his valuables.

Please also be aware that Thai women do not necessarily believe in the concept of "free sex", something they see as an entirely Western concept. This means that if you meet a Thai woman in a bar, or a place where women of questionable repute hang out and you later end up in your hotel room, or elsewhere with her, that she might actually expect payment from her. This is a bit of a problem if you do not know the environment well because asking a woman if she is a hooker or not is getting close to be the ultimate turn off!

Terrorism

Over the past few years there have been very major problems with separatist insurgents in the deep south of Thailand. For the time being the problems have been isolated to the four southernmost provinces, where there have been all sorts of problems including countless gruesome murders with many of the victims being beheaded. For some time now there have been threats that the terrorists will take their fight to Bangkok and the likely targets are the very places where you find Western tourists including shopping centres and nightlife entertainment areas.

No-one knows what the future holds in this respect but most Westerners who have resided in Thailand for a long time think that it is just a matter of time before the terrorists blow something up in the Thai capital. The targets I hear most mentioned are Emporium and Paragon shopping centres as well as Khao San Road, Nana Plaza and Patpong. I'll admit that all of those places make me nervous at night. I personally think a big bomb going off in Khao San Road would be far and away the worst in terms of damage to the tourism industry.

What makes me mad about virtually all of these problems and scams that tourists face in Thailand is that they have been going on for years and years and neither the police nor the tourism authorities appear to be doing anything to stop them. That means that every day there are new victims of the scams, and the conmen behind them continue to get rich. Of course one can hypothesize why the scams continue…just who is in on them?!

The Thailand Jet Ski scam

In recent years there has been a massive increase in what is known as the jet ski scam. Jet skis are available for hire at 1,500 – 2,000 baht an hour at many popular beaches. The scam is simple. When you return the jet ski to the beach, the person or group who hired it to you will examine the jet ski and discover some damage that they will claim wasn't there when they hired it to you. They will then make claims for a large amount of compensation, usually 10,000 – 20,000 baht for damages and lost income for the time that the jet ski is supposedly being repaired. If you refuse to pay, they will make threats about how you will ultimately not only have to pay for the supposed damages, you will also end up in prison. The vast majority of people buckle, often negotiating the amount to be paid down. Still, few people caught up in this scam manage to escape without being extorted out of several thousand baht.

What is scary about this scam is that the police – and the tourist police – don't seem to take any interest even though many of us believe that they are fully aware of what is going on.

This scam is widespread in Thailand and particularly prevalent on Patpong Beach in Phuket and in Pattaya. It has been highlighted in newspapers, in YouTube videos and many tourists have returned to their country to warn others never to hire a jet ski in Thailand, or even never to visit Thailand!

The problem with the authorities is that despite past promises that they would do something about the problem, including compulsory insurance for all jet ski hire operators, now they will not even acknowledge that the scams happen – so there’s almost zero chance of assistance. My advice on this matter is simple, DO NOT HIRE A JET SKI IN THAILAND!