9 Scams in Thailand You Need to Watch Out For (And How to Avoid Them)

Nobody wants trouble in paradise, but scams in Thailand are all too common. Watch out for these nine tourist scams and ensure your visit is abundant with adventure and not rife with struggles.

Craggy coastlines of limestone cliffs engulf turquoise lagoons and white sand beaches, where people party to celebrate full moons.

Budget-friendly prices make the tastiest food you’ve ever devoured—Pad Thai, red and green curries, coconut soup and more—even tastier, and the pulsating nightlife that much more exciting.

Green jungles, mangrove forests and offshore islands characterize the south, and mountainous terrains make up the north. The culture is dense with decades of history, and the locals have stories to tell…

No, Thailand doesn’t leave a lot to desire. No matter who you are or where you’re from, Thailand is a paradise for most.

But we all know there is such a thing as trouble in Paradise.

Koh Phangan, Thiland
Koh Phangan, Thiland

Thailand has become a hotspot for travelers the world over, due to its Western-friendly culture and affordable prices (last year Thailand hosted more than 30 million foreign tourists).

And while Thailand is generally full of friendly, smiling locals (they call it “The Land of Smiles” for a reason!), some local Thais have made a business out of taking advantage of Westerners.

The good news is these common scams usually just affect your pockets (and your dignity). The bad news is, you might feel used, miffed, and, depending on how badly you got burned, out a serious chunk of change.

The best way to avoid getting deceived and departing with more cash than you bargained for is to be informed. Here are nine of Thailand’s worst travel scams—and how to avoid them.


The Rigged Taxi Meter Scam in Thailand

I jumped into a taxi and we agreed that I’d pay the metered rate. Unbeknownst to me at the time, some taxi drivers get their meters hooked up with a special button that, when pressed, charges—and properly displays—a fare up to 10 times the standard rate (or more!).

You’d hop into a taxi, thinking you’re getting charged the standard fare, but unwittingly you’d be getting charged a preposterous amount.

After about five or ten minutes, my fare was almost $20 USD—that’s even more than New York! Luckily, I already knew what taxis are supposed to charge, so I knew what was going on. I grabbed my bags and jumped out, waved him away, and hailed another cab.

By this point, I was in a very local part of town—not a tourist in sight—and therefore the cabbies were just regular Thais doing their job. I watched the meter increase at a much slower, more normal rate.

This can be a hard scam to spot unless you already know the average price for a taxi. If you see the price on the meter going up way too fast, and the price is starting to match—or even exceed—Western prices, you’re in a taxi that you need to get out of! Tell the driver to stop or simply open the door (he’ll stop then!), get out of the taxi and walk away (side note: don’t ever put your bags in the trunk of a taxi).


The Bangkok Tuk-Tuk Scam

Don't get scammed at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand
The Grand Palace is one of Thailand's most popular and exquisite temples, but is also rife with scammers nearby.

“I was headed to the Grand Palace in Bangkok and a tuk-tuk driver offered me a rate that was way too cheap. Regardless, I got in and went for it anyway.

Instead of taking me to the most popular attractions in Bangkok, he took me to a tourism agency! Once I realized that he wanted me to go inside I said, “no” and got out.

He didn’t fight me on it or demand money, but then I was in the middle of nowhere and had to figure out how to get to the Palace. As it turns out, I could have just walked there from my original location.

It’s pretty funny, I knew this was one of the most popular scams in Thailand and I still got duped!”

—Kristin Addis, Be My Travel Muse

“Don’t take tuk-tuks from Khao San Road.” Drivers get a commission for bringing tourists to travel agencies, so they’re quick to offer a cheap ride instead. “If it’s too cheap or even free, it’s probably just a scam.”


The Infamous Gem Scam

Riding in a tuk-tuk in Thailand
The tuk-tuk scam in Thailand is probably the most prevalent of them all.

“I was on the way to a shopping mall when a local man approached me. He told me he was a teacher and, since it was a holiday today, the mall was shut. His friend had a shop, though, and he was the only one open today. The man told me he could take me there. How lucky!

From where I was standing, I could see people walking into the mall. Obviously, I declined. From past experience, I knew that, if I were to accept his invitation, he’d drive me to a gem store where I’d be pressured to buy something.”

Similar to the tuk-tuk scam, drivers get a commission (or, sometimes, vouchers for free gas). They’ll often offer false information just to lure you into their cabin hoping for a commission or gas voucher.

“They usually hang around the mall and temples convincing tourists to grab a cheap cab or tuk-tuk, as long as you stop at the gem stores.”

—Erin Bender, Explore With Erin

“Avoid being convinced by “well-meaning” Thai people, especially in touristy areas. This man seemed so honest, but something just didn’t sit right in my stomach. Go and check the mall or temple first—if it’s shut, you can always leave afterward, rather than before.”


The "Local Price" Onward Travel Scam

Tonsai Beach, Thailand
Scams in Thailand are everywhere but if you make it to Tonsai, a chill beach in Krabi, you can get away from most of it.

“After the tuk-tuk scam looped us in, and taking a ride through a tailor and gem shop, our tuk-tuk driver’s friend came over for a chat. He asked us about our travels and made it seem like we were crazy for not having anything booked beyond our time in Bangkok. We were missing out on the best deals, he told us.

Luckily he knew a local travel agency that could book us all our flights and hotels for the next month—and not at tourist prices, but local prices!

Paying local prices instead of inflated tourist rates? Let’s do it!

We spent an hour in the travel agency and purchased plane tickets, bus tickets, and hotels.

The next morning, a bus that was supposed to bring us to Krabi didn’t show up. Upon further investigation, we realized that no one booked anything from our itinerary, but they had charged our credit card.

We should’ve already realized that the driver had scammed us when the same tuk-tuk driver simply disappeared while we were visiting a temple before we even paid him. He got a commission from the booking, so of course, he wasn’t going to wait for our 10 baht.

We had no idea where the travel agency was so had no way of going back to complain. This was an expensive lesson to learn.”

—Dani, Globetrotter Girls

“Always beware of tuk-tuk drivers offering all-day tours for prices as low as 10 baht, or other tours that seem too cheap to be true. Don’t fall for it, or you’ll be spending all day in tailor shops and gem stores. And someone may end up talking you into buying something at a much higher price than it’s actually worth.”


The Airport Security Theft Scam

How Traveling the World Will Change You
The Pai Canyon is a stunning place to watch the sunset in the north of Thailand.

“When we put our items through the X-ray scan we put a money belt on its own in the tray. They’d hurried us through and we lost sight of the tray for a few moments. In that time, one (or more) of the airport security staff went into our money belt and took all the big Thai baht bills (but they left the small ones).

We realized what happened while we were waiting for our flight and raised the issue with the security staff. We asked them to review the CCTV videos to find out what happened.

Before we boarded our flight the security manager acknowledged that one of their staff had taken our money, asked us to fill out forms for the theft, and gave us his contact details.

It was a strange series of communications, but eventually, we received our money back by bank transfer.”

—Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott, Uncornered Market

“When you go through security at the airport, secure all small items in a backpack or another bag behind a zipper or a lock.”


The Litter Bug Scam

“I had dropped a piece of litter outside the Skytrain (metro) station. A man dressed in camouflage approached and told me he was the tourist police—he took me to a small hidden card table around the corner.

He told me littering was a crime and that I had to pay a $150 USD fine. He showed me all the tickets he’d written to foreigners to prove he was legitimate. Then said he liked my watch and, if we traded watches, then we’d be friends and friends don’t give friends tickets.

Since my watch was worth $50, I made the trade and walked away with a lesson learned—and a fake Omega watch.”

—Matt Long, Landlopers

“First, always obey all rules and laws overseas. Second, know your rights in every country you travel to. The people who accosted me were intimidating but had no legal power to write me a ticket and were pro Thai scammers.”


The "Get Off the Bus" Scam

Tiger Cave Temple, Krabi
Photo: Jeremy Scott Foster

“All of a sudden, in the middle of nowhere, the bus stops and a bus attendant goes row to row yelling at you to get off the bus.

When he got to my row, he told me that the bus didn’t go to the new bus station but the old bus station—I needed to get off now. I decided to be combative and stayed in my seat, telling the man that I would be going to the bus station that the ticket showed.

The next day I met up with some friends who had taken that same bus earlier in the week. They said the same thing happened to them and that they got off the bus. The bus driver had told them that his friend would come get them and then left them stranded on the side of the road.

This is when the scam really starts. First, a taxi comes and the driver will say he can’t take you to the bus station since it’s too late in the day—you’ll have to stay at a hostel just up the road. In the end, you’ll (over)pay an exorbitant amount for the first taxi ride, the hostel rooms and then another taxi to the bus station where the original bus was supposed to take you in the first place.”

—Garrett Galvan, The Travel Human

“Stay on the bus until you get to your destination, no matter what. A bonus tip is to avoid tourist buses as they are often targets for vendors. Frequent stops to little gift shops along the way will make a 4-hour bus ride closer to 8.

Make sure you’re buying bus tickets directly from the bus station and riding the same buses Thai people use. They will be much cheaper and have fewer vendors board.”


The Drink Scam

“In the party areas of Bangkok, there are many shows on offer to tourists which, of course, have cover charges.

Many street vendors will say you can go in for free if you just buy one beer. But when the bill comes, the beer will cost a fortune and there will be extra charges for watching the show.

In our case, a large security guard blocked the doorway to leave and said they would call the police if we didn’t pay. We gave them the fair amount for our beers and said, “call the police.” We pushed past.

It was a little scary as I’m not sure what would have happened if they didn’t let us through!”

—Rachel Jones, Hippie in Heels

“Don’t fall into the trap of these Thai scammers on the street. If it sounds too good to be true (or “free”) it probably is! Go to bars and clubs you want to go to and always check prices before you order anything.”


The Fixed-Price Taxi Scam

Thailand's taxis are notorious for scamming.
Everyone's first scam in Thailand usually is with those pesky taxis!

“Often—especially in touristy areas—taxi drivers will insist on negotiating a rate for the trip rather than using the meter. This is one of the easiest ways for someone to scam you in Thailand.

They charge anywhere from double to five times the actual cost of the trip. In very touristy areas, many taxi drivers will outright refuse to use the meter and would rather pass up your business at the correct rate in favor of waiting for an unwitting tourist willing to pay an inflated fare.”

—Matt Gibson, Xpat Matt

“If you’re in a super touristy area, you may find that no taxis are willing to drive you on the meter. Walking a few blocks away will often enable you to find a regular taxi. But, I prefer just using Grab (Thailand’s version of Uber) as it bypasses the problem altogether.”

Thailand is a major backpacker hub of the universe. It attracts gutsy solo travelers who’ve traversed the globe and back. Most of them could smell a scam from a mile away. But because there are so many travelers flocking to the Southeast Asian cultural and spiritual haven. And some practiced locals have become quite the professional con artists.

If you keep yourself informed and keep a watchful eye on money-making schemes, you can enjoy Thailand for everything it has to offer, devoid of the swindlers.

Has someone ever scammed you in Thailand before? Let us know what happened in the comments below!

READ NEXT: The Cost of Travel in Thailand

Thailand Scams FAQs

How to avoid scams in Thailand?

The best way to avoid scams in Thailand is to learn about them ahead of time and be on the lookout.

What to do if you have been scammed in Thailand?

If you’ve already been scammed in Thailand, there is often not much you can do. You can report the scam to the authorities, but unless it’s very serious, they won’t be able to do much to track down the scammer.

How safe is Thailand?

Overall, Thailand is a very safe country, but you do need to be aware of some common scams.

Are scammers common in Thailand?

You do have to be on the lookout for scammers in Thailand, where some devious locals try to take advantage of clueless tourists.

What is the best time to visit Thailand?

The best time to visit Thailand is the dry season from November to April.

About the Author

Jeremy Scott Foster

Jeremy Scott Foster is an adventure-junkie, gear expert and travel photographer based in Southern California. Previously nomadic, he’s been to ~50 countries and loves spending time outdoors. You can usually find him on the trail, on the road, jumping from bridges or hustling on his laptop working to produce the best travel and outdoors content today.
  1. Thanks for sharing such an outstanding information and thanks for Waring us of all the scams.This is the best guide to Thailand Trip, I would say before leaving for Thailand everyone should watch out for such kind of stuff.

  2. Similar thing as #4 scam happened to us!! Only in our case the tickets and hotels were good to go, we paid at least double price than what we should have :/
    Here’s the story if you wanna read!

  3. I have another one for you which happened to me at the airport. I had a friend who needed a wheelchair in the baggage claim area. An employee of Thai Airways then came to us and pushed my friend out to the exit gate then asked us for 350 baht!!! After paying, we inquired with the airport and the airline and they both said that the wheelchair service is free.

    It’s terrible that now they target disabled tourists!

  4. While you are traveling to any destination, you should check the place and avoid the scam. Each and every destination is associated with scams. Thanks for sharing this post. It is very helpful for the travelers who are visiting Thailand.

  5. We fell for it!!! Our BKK trip was sort of a last minute thing and it never occurred to us to do some research (facepalm). Felt special for a few months until we learned it was a scam! LOL. Good thing we never really paid for anything. I guess the driver was just after the free gas. Anyway, I blogged about our entire experience, too. Here it is: https://whenaiblog.com/travel/we-got-scammed-in-bangkok/

    Thanks for the tips! I wish we read your blog before we went!

  6. 26 Nov 2018 – We were approached outside Pratunam Mall. A man told us that day is a special day in Thailand: Everyone heads to the temples to pray for their wishes to come true. That man, wearing a photo badge, claimed to be the traffic controller for the Princess motorcade passing through the road junction that morning. “Traffic controller” recommended that we visit a temple that is only open this day, once a year. What’s more, for that day only, there’s a special offer by the Thailand tourism board we must take advantage of: a two-way ride by tuktuk for 60 baht only.

    When we arrived at the temple, a young man greeted us and taught us how to pray. He then directed us to the other side of the temple to pray to the Buddha. There, we met a well-dressed man who claimed to be John Kwek, cousin of Kwek Leng Beng, Singapore’s billionaire businessman. He said he is leading the Hong Leong Group’s operations outside Singapore and Malaysia. “John Kwek” was very kind to tell us about the temple history, his life story and how he recovered from disease with the help of the red orange sapphire gem he’s wearing. He recommended that we get the same gem before the end of day in order for it to absorb the positive energy. If we miss this, we have to wait for the same day next year. “John Kwek” was very convincing with the photos and videos in his tablet.

    After leaving the temple, without any instruction, our tuktuk driver brought us to a local gem store. “Tuktuk driver” insisted that we enter the shop to have a look. My family of 7, with 2 seniors and 2 children in tow, quickly walked through the shop and bought nothing. To much displeasure of “Tuktuk driver”, we demanded to return to Pratunam Mall.

    We are fortunate not to lose any money, except our precious time. From this experience, we would like to urge all to be extra careful in tourist areas because that’s usually where con-men prey on unsuspecting foreign visitors.

  7. Gem Scam: Precious Gems Collection Co., Ltd. Chonburi Thailand. Referred by travel agent. They claim their Amethyst is genuine but pure hogwash! Recommend you don’t purchase their jewelry unless you are a gemologist with appraisal verification equipment.

  8. OMG, flash back! This actually happen to me in Bangkok. We got in and then got driven to every gift shop, rug shop, coffee shop and everything else inbetween! We made it to the Grand Palace but the day was a nightmare…. we ended up in a huge row and had to be exceptionally assertive…..

  9. Be especially aware of the scams and violence of ‘Midnite’ bar on Soi Cowboy Street in Bangkok.

    And be very wary of all bars on Soi Cowboy Street and in other parts of Bangkok owned by a person called ‘the Arab’.


    They have created elaborate scams that can involve multiple people. This prevents most BS, with one simple rule.

    There is NO SUCH THING as a “curious, helpful or friendly Thai stranger”. Just say “OK Thanks”. Do NOT ENGAGE. Keep walking and ignore them.

    ESPECIALLY do not trust any Tuk tuk or Taxi drivers. All they care about is the kickback they get from local businesses. EVERYTHING they say will be a lie – no exceptions.

    Also – do not trust Tripadvisor reviews with profiles with under 5 reviews – ESPECIALLY for Tailors, restaurants, jewelry shops, etc. They have an entire industry to create fake reviews.


    They have created elaborate scams that can involve multiple people. There is NO SUCH THING as a “curious, helpful or friendly Thai stranger”.

    If someone approaches you, regardless of their uniform or appearance, say “Ok Thanks”. Then ignore him and keep walking.

    NEVER trust anything from a Tuk-Tuk or Taxi Driver. They are paid by local businesses to scam you.

    Also DO NOT TRUST TripAdvisor Reviews. Profiles with less than 5 reviews are often fake, especially with reviews for a tailor or jewelry shop.

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