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We avoided them in Mexico, outsmarted them in Central America and other than a bank card being cloned at an ATM in Panama, the first 18 months of our nomadic travels had been entirely scam free. Until we got to Bangkok, that is – on our first day no less.

SCAMMED! in BangkokOur egos are still bruised and it has taken us a few months to sit down and actually write about this because we still feel stupid about how it all went down. But the fact of the matter is – we got soft. We had just done our massive U.S. road-trip, landing safely in Chicago amongst friends and family afterward. Before that there were the three months in Europe and seven weeks in Canada. Surrounded by the safe and familiar, we had let our instincts do most of the planning during the past six months.

Not only did we get soft, we also got lazy. We’ve told a few friends about this scam ordeal long before we decided to write about it publicly, and everyone said the same sort of thing – that this could have happened to anyone. To a certain degree, they are right. Plenty of people fall for scams when arriving in Bangkok. Hell, there are even websites entirely dedicated to informing travelers about it – like and the chapter on scams on the Wikitravel Bangkok section.

Did either of us take the time to read those websites? No. What about the Dangers and Annoyances section of the Bangkok chapter in our Southeast Asia Lonely Planet? Nope.

So you want to know what happened? Fine, but be gentle with us…

Day one in Bangkok. With major jetlag and on edge about the floods set to hit the city in a few days, we set off for a full day of sightseeing. First stop: the Royal Palace. Not two blocks from the hotel, a friendly Thai man approaches us and asks us where we are from.  From Germany, I tell him, and his eyes light up. ‘Ah, Germany! I have friend in Frankfurt. Wonderful country! Football! Deutschland!’ We are immediately at ease with this smiling stranger and he asks when we arrived.


Oh, just six hours ago, we say, almost not believing ourselves that we have landed in Asia for the first time. Mistake #1! Now we have given him the ammunition to scam us – we’re brand new here, and we have now stepped, unknowingly, into a dense, complicated web of Bangkok scams with a cast of characters longer than the annoying Valentine’s Day movie.

bangkok tuktuk driverWhere you go now? He asks us this nonchalantly and we answer that we are going to the Royal Palace. Oh, no, Royal Palace closed this morning, he explains. Only open in afternoon

Wikitravel: Be highly skeptical when an English-speaking Thai at a popular tourist attraction approaches you out of the blue, telling that your intended destination is currently closed. Temples are open just about every day of the year. Anyone telling you otherwise is most likely out to scam you, especially if they suggest a tuk-tuk ride to some alternate sights to see until the sight re-opens.

Reacting to our sad faces, he assures us he knows some fantastic Buddhist temples that we should check out instead. Take a tuk-tuk to get around he said, and then, leans in and says – only tuk-tuks with blue license plates. These are government regulated, he explains, and only charge 20 Baht. 20 Baht, we think? That’s…60 U.S. cents. For both of us – all morning. Yay! We’re in South East Asia and travel is finally cheap again. Our new friend circles the temples on our Bangkok map and stops a tuk-tuk, explaining to him in Thai where to go.  We can’t believe our luck. What a nice guy.

Wikitravel: Always beware of tuk-tuk drivers offering all-day tours for prices as low as 10 baht. You may indeed be taken on a full-day tour, but you will end up only visiting one gem and souvenir shop after another. Don’t buy any products offered by pushy salesmen — the “gems” are pretty much always worthless pieces of cut glass and the suits are of deplorable quality. The tuk-tuk driver gets a commission if you buy something — and fuel coupons even if you don’t.

Before we set off in the tuk tuk, our new friend mentions that we should only stop at the TAT travel agency – the Tourism Authority Thailand – to book onward travel from Bangkok. He made sure to relay this message to our driver, too.

Off we went, ready to visit our first Buddha temples and happy to have that travel buzz back that we haven’t really felt since Central America. At this point, it might not be clear why we would trust a complete stranger like that. The thing is that throughout our travels, over and over again, we have learned that most people are good, and almost everyone who has offered to help us in the past has gone out of their way to make sure we got where we were going, pleased we are visiting their country. Up until that point, we had no reason to think that Thailand wasn’t exactly the same.

After a few temples, the smiley driver stopped at the ‘TAT’ tourist agency (later we would learn that the TAT does not even have storefront tour agencies at all). We hadn’t even suggested we might want to book anything, but hell, while we were stopped, we might as well go in and see how much the travel is going to cost us. The lady in the office tried to sell us an entire package for our month in Thailand, including transportation and hotels for 540 Euros. As independent travelers, we prefer to arrange these things ourselves, we said, so we thanked her for her time and said No.

Away we sped, this time the driver explained that, in order to get a free government gasoline credit, he had to take us to a jewelry store and a tailor. We didn’t need a suit, but were still plenty giddy, and so we walked in and out of both stores, thinking we are doing this guy a favor. Then, it’s on to the next temple. Inside, a man is sweeping up and starts up a conversation. Looking back now, it is the exact same conversation template from this morning. Where are we from (oh, Germany, my cousin…study in Germany, football, Deutschland!), how long have we been in Bangkok, where are we going to next. Then he lets us in on a little secret. Don’t waste your time at these tour agencies for tourists. He knows an office where only local Thais go to buy tickets – cheap cheap.

Well, now he has pushed our hardcore traveler button. Only locals go there? Cheap cheap? Forget the hunger rumbling in our tummies and our jet lag. We’re on our way there! He tells the tuk tuk driver where it is and off we go.

bangkok tuktuksIt is at this point in telling the story that we start to feel REALLY.DAMN.STUPID.

The guy behind the desk is well-dressed, with a big smile, and 100% American. You’re probably thinking something like…Why would an American be working at a place where only Thais buy their cheap bus tickets? Yeah, that would be logical. Did we think that? No! Mistake #2.

Somewhere between the temple and the tour agency we had forgotten that this was supposed to be for locals. And cheap cheap. Just like the other woman, he maps out a journey, but we are not interested. But he starts to go on about the floods, and this is something that is really starting to concern us. Before we know it, not only are we booking (expensive, very very expensive) bus tickets from him down to the islands, but now we are booking an Air Asia flight from Phuket up north to Chiang Mai, too. He insisted on booking them immediately as it was a weekend and in high season. We had just looked online at exactly those airline tickets, and it seemed to be the right price range. His Thai assistant handed us two bottles of cold water and we handed over our credit card for him to go in the back of his office to book our plane tickets. What happened to that whole, we’re independent travelers ride we were on at the last place? Totally, completely forgotten.

Why did he not make that phone call to Air Asia and the bus company right at his desk? Why the back room? Congratulations! You have asked another logical question, one we forgot to ask.

Okay, all done, he says reassuringly. Come on by tomorrow and you can pick up both sets of tickets. Great, we say, and hop back in the tuk tuk. We have booked hundreds of flights online in our lives, so why didn’t we ask the next logical question – where were the flight reservation print-outs?

We spend about twenty minutes at the next temple, and when we get back to where our driver let us off, we discover that our tuk tuk is gone. Did he go for lunch? Gas? Now we are just hanging around, and another tuk tuk driver offers to take us wherever we need to go. But we are loyal to our driver – after all he waited all day for us at all our stops and we haven’t paid him yet. He’s gone, the other drivers kept telling us. But we haven’t paid, we keep saying to which they reply: It’s okay, free gas credit, he doesn’t need you to pay him.

bangkok golden mount bellsAt this point we are hot, sweaty, jet-lagged and starving so eventually we allow another driver to take us back to our hotel.

In hindsight, this was a major warning sign – who doesn’t need money? Who doesn’t want to get paid for services rendered? Someone who is getting a kickback from a scam, that’s who. And right there, that is when we had now fallen for the Tuk Tuk Scam. Mistake #3. All that business about a gas coupon is, of course, a lie. If you, the tourist, make a purchase from the jewelry store, the tailor, or overpriced airline or bus tickets, the drivers get a commission on your purchase, a fact we later learned on

Our next driver also insisted to stop at these jewelry stores / tailor shops for the gas coupon, but by then we were fed up and Jess was shoveling buckets of attitude at the tailor when our tuk tuk driver practically shoved us inside. Once he realized we weren’t going to buy a suit the owner threw us out of the store. In the end, we were practically begging the driver to just take us home with no more stops, even offering to pay double. This was our last tuk tuk ride in Bangkok, although at the time, we were still blissfully ignorant and suspected nothing. Check out our Facebook status from that day:

facebook status bangkokOuch, that hurts to read now.

The next day we made our way to the travel agency to pick up our tickets and our American scammer hands us two envelopes – one with two bus tickets, the other with print-out flight reservations – with our names spelled wrong. This is now Mistake #4. How could an American, a native English speaker, someone comfortable with the Roman alphabet, spell our names Jessiea and Ganiela? We pointed out the mistakes, and he finally agreed to call AirAsia to amend the booking. He went to the back room again of course, and not a minute later was back assuring us that everything was alright. Deep down, I knew he lied to us at the moment (having spend hours on hold with airlines throughout the years), but pushed it away, telling myself not to be so suspicious all the time.

During the next two days we were there we were approached by these ‘well-dressed English-speaking Thai guys’ more times that we could count, and we began to ignore them as they told us of closed attractions and tried to sell us tickets to boat trips and floating markets. Now that tuk tuks were not an option, we battled with taxi drivers who refused to use their meters, instead quoting us insanely high set prices which we emphatically refused each time.

We were back in the independent traveler groove, jet-lag free and heads on straight. We were really looking forward to getting down to the islands on the overnight bus that night.

But the bus never came.

bangkok busThe a-hole in the travel agency had given us a number to arrange pick-up to the bus station, which we had dutifully done. But when the bus didn’t show after 10 minutes we called again. ‘Oh, driver coming, wait please,’ said the voice on the other end. Thirty minutes later, we called again. She hung up on us and never picked up again.

Our overpriced bus tickets were not even real bus tickets.

Near tears, we loaded our bags on our backs and prepared to hunt down an affordable hotel for the night, knowing we had missed all buses and trains for the night. Hanging our heads in shame, we almost missed a big bus driving very slowly by. It was filled with tourists, so I took the chance to ask the driver if he was going to Krabi, our last stop before the islands.

The dark cloud had a silver lining! The bus was going to Krabi and had room for us.

Our tickets looked nothing like what others had, but were accepted… and as other passengers handed over their tickets, we learned that everyone else had only paid $10. Let’s just say that we paid much more than that for a bus that never came.

As we sat for hours on the night bus, Jess pulled out our plane tickets and took a closer look. We found no reservation number, no evidence of payment, two misspellings in our names… and we lost it. We cried, we moped, we argued with each other. How could we be so stupid?!

Finally having passed out, we were woken a few hours later to an uproar on the bus: someone’s bag had gone missing and someone had seen one of the Thai helpers try to steal another passenger’s bag.

Great. Just what we needed!

Had we just read about scams before we left we would have known the following:Top Ten Scams in Thailand on 7. Long Distance Bus Scam – Many people have had things stolen from their bags on overnight bus trips. Some have even reported they were drugged and found their money missing when they woke up.

Wikitravel: Also beware of private bus companies offering direct trips from Bangkok to other cities with “VIP” buses. There are a lot of scams performed by these private bus companies. Instead, try to book public BKS buses from the main bus terminals. It’s worth the extra shoe-leather, as there have been reports of robberies on private buses as well.

Twelve hours later, we finally arrived in Krabi with all of our belongings – but with one more scam left to go.

The bus didn’t drop us off in town, as promised, but rather on the side of a highway where there was, conveniently, a travel agency with three minivans ready to take us in to town for an additional (high) price. Sure we argued back and forth, throwing dirty looks at the ladies behind the desk, but to be honest, we were worn out. We had been scammed left and right, cheated, lied to, and to top it all off, we would now spend the next five hours after a semi-sleepless night on the phone with the banks to cancel our credit card.

Now, months later, we are still fighting to get the money refunded from the fraud department of HSBC. We have been back to Bangkok since, and although every cell in our bodies wanted to go gangster on that weasly little American, we have decided to be gracious about it and not to get ourselves anymore involved in this underbelly of society than we already were.

Traveling to Bangkok?

Check out these sites beforehand to avoid getting scammed:

Tourist traps, scams and Conmen in Bangkok

Avoiding Bangkok scams

Scams in Bangkok: smiling Thais & dumb tourists

10 Lines that Say You’re Being Hustled

Top Ten Scams in Thailand

The Scams of Bangkok

Shysters, shams and Bangkok Scams

Stay alert while crossing borders as well. Scams are not just in Bangkok – they are all over Thailand. A particularly bad scam is the ‘fake’ (!) Cambodian embassy at the Thai-Cambodian border crossing between Aranya Prathet and Poipet. Check out what almost happened to the folks at Almost Fearless there last year. It is crazy how official this scam seems to be – luckily we didn’t fall for it since we had done our homework this time…

If you made it all the way to the end of our monster post…misery loves company. Have you ever been scammed while traveling? We want to hear all about it!


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Tags : bangkokscamsthailand


    1. Well it took us a while to be able to share this embarrassing incident with the world, but our bruised egos are feeling better now that some time has passed 😀

  1. Wow girls, this sucks. It’s true what others have said to you that this can truly happen to anyone, especially once you’ve travelled a while and have put trust in strangers so many times. It’s a shame that scammers can ruin peoples’ experiences in such beautiful countries 🙁

    1. Julia – it did suck, and we were sooooooooo angry… but mainly angry with ourselves for not having done any research. Even though we didn’t have any troubles during the rest of our time in Thailand, this incident left a dark cloud over our Thailand experience.

    2. I think thats what I find most disturbing about these scams: they prey on the trust of travelers who’ve received nothing but goodwill whilst abroad. It made me look back at all the good fortune I had on my trip that originated from a chat with a stranger. It made me value them all the more.

      I never got scammed myself and I’m glad I was exposed to it at the end of my trip as it would have drastically affected my behaviour for the year which would have closed off a ton of experiences I had. I think letting go is where the joy comes in life, trusting in others and the moment. All in all what I got from it was just an upgrade to my Spidey Sense and I’m pleased with that

      1. Totally agree with you here! We had learned so much about trusting people abroad and that’s how they got us. If we had our ‘game faces’ on, a much harder approach to strangers gained from living in large cities before we left for the trip, we wouldn’t have even talked to strangers. Ah, well. It’s a learning experience, right? 🙂

  2. Wow! So sorry to hear about all your troubles. I’ve been very lucky so far not to get caught up in any scams….but have come close multiple times.

    Money ‘found’ on the sidewalk in Peru….

    Jewelry ‘found’ on sidewalk in Paris….

    I’ll be traveling to SE Asia in 2013; I’ll be sure to review the scams before I go!!

    1. I hope you’ll be luckier than we were when we get to South East Asia – but like we say: it’s all about being prepared. Had we looked up scams in Bangkok we would’ve had a completely different experience!

  3. Really sorry to hear what happened. Sri Lanka is similar, we did our homework and knew what we had to look out for.

    And that knowledge on how to avoid to get scammed comes here on a daily basis.

    That said we still got scammed by our very own landlord who got an awesome review from for his house in Kandy but for some reason he thought he could get some extra money out of us for some reason.

    We will be writing about it on our blog! We also feel embarrassed but it’s better to share that knowledge with other travelers!!!


    1. So sorry to hear that you got scammed too!! I can’t believe he still did it after getting a great review from you! Some people just don’t have no conscience at all.

  4. Haha, this is familiar. Went backpacking in Thailand – Cambodia – Laos last year. We got scammed at the border of Thailand – Cambodia, in similar circumstances: jet lagged (just landed the day before), tired from a 6 hour train drive and well-organized scammers who put up a desk which looks like an embassy, but is really just someone selling very expensive papers as visa for Cambodia. We knew we were being scammed, but we were dropped of a tuktuk somewhere, with no idea where we were.
    And yes, we did read about the scam before we left, we were warned, but somehow we forgot when we got of the 6 hour train, took the first tuktuk we saw and got dragged in that mess. Luckily it was the only bad thing that happened during that trip. South east asia is generally a very safe place, especially when you avoid the more touristic areas.

    1. The Thai – Cambodia border must be the worst! Luckily we knew about the scam because our bus dropped us off right at that ’embassy’, too. While we were waiting to get our passports stamped (at the real border!) we met a guy who’d just been scammed in that fake embassy and he was SO upset.

  5. What a terrible start in a new country! I really feel for you. It’s so hard to try and keep an open mind when travelling, to believe in the good in people. Many times I’m guilty of being too sceptical and not believing that a local is not out to scam me… and that’s a horrible attitude to have. So, yes, you got scammed, but how often did it work out well instead? And how many great experiences did you have because of a good attitude? Hope you get your money back!! I didn’t think that would be a problem with a credit card purchase…

    1. It was a terrible start in our Thailand adventure indeed!! It couldn’t have started worse! But you are right – usually we have great experiences when we trust local’s recommendations – and most of the time they really want to proudly show their country. When the first ‘friendly’ guy approached us and told us about all these beautiful temples ‘off the tourist path’ we truly believed he wanted us to see some beautiful sights … oh well!

  6. Sounds like you both had a rough time. Thanks for the info though, i never heard of such scams and my brother is due to go to bangkok so will pass this info on accordingly.

    It annoys me to see that these go on in these places, it really puts you off as a tourist to visit these places and can truly dampen a trip that otherwise might have been amazing!

    1. I hope your brother won’t get scammed – we know so many people who visit Bangkok and nothing happens to them at all, but once we started to look up scams online we realized how many people DO get scammed in Bangkok every single day. It really did put us off Bangkok, but we felt better about the city when we returned and had a throughout pleasant experience 🙂

  7. Hi Girls,

    As I began to read this post, I remember how I got into the same scam outside the Royal Palace. I thought it was true since we were visiting during the New Year’s dates. However, we didn’t face the same consequences. We only lost a couple of hours and a little bit of self-control. We figured out we were lied to when we were taken to the second store. The tuk-tuk driver begged and begged us to continue with the scheduled “tour”. We paid him for his services and decided to take a taxi back to the Royal Palace. At that moment, the tuk-tuk driver agreed to take us back (but he was really pissed off). While he was driving us, the tuk-tuk stopped in the middle of the street. Apparently, we ran out of gas. I am not sure if this was real but it looked like he was really out of gas. We returned to the Royal Palace and forgot about it. However, we saw a lot of guys trying to scam people at different points. We also took some taxis and were dropped at incorrect locations. One taxi driver even asked us to get out of the car when we inquired him.

    Bangkok is a great place but if you plan to visit it should be a must to read about the scams encountered in the city. You should get informed in order to avoid these scammers who seem to be all over the city (or at least try to avoid them). I will also recommend to carry a good map of the city with you. You may need it more than you think.

    It really sucks to be scammed but I guess this is a reality (or may be) when you are traveling. Last year, I was also scammed in the Riviera Maya. Again, I didn’t loose money but a considerable amount of time. Like you, I feel ashamed to write about the incident but I will do it eventually. Don’t worry, you guys are wiser now.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Ruth! What happened to you at the Riviera Maya? We didn’t even go into detail about the discussions we had with several taxi drivers – some would absolutely not take us when we insisted on turning on the meter.. so annoying! Luckily we didn’t have any trouble with tuktuks or taxis on our second visit to Bangkok.. we stayed away from the areas where the scammers got us the first time.

  8. We too met a very nice man on the way to the Royal Palace who told us that seeing it was Thai New Year only buddhists were allowed in the Royal Palace that morning, but we could see it that afternoon.
    He asked what we had seen already and we told him. Oh you haven’t seen the happy buddha, why don’t you take a tuk tuk, see that and then come back to the Palace in the afternoon. He obligingly called over a tuk tuk and told the driver not to charge us more than a certain amount and in we hopped.
    We did get taken to the happy buddha, but then got taken to a gold jewellery place. When we refused to go in the driver drove us ouside turned off his engine, put his feet up and started smoking. At this stage we got out and started walking. He spat in our general direction and shouted abuse at us.
    He too told us that if we didn’t go inside the shop (for a long time) he would not be able to get a free petrol voucher.
    The embarrassing thing is we had read about similar scams and didn’t recognize it. Then when it dawned on us, we thought it was the tuk tuk driver who was the scammer, but had to admit reluctantly that the ever so nice man that approached us in the first place was the instigator.
    On our return to the Palace, another guy approached us and told us we couldn’t get into the Palace because Marty had shorts on. Thankfully we knew for a fact that they hand out long pants at the gate so that you can enter, so we kept on going!
    I am sorry you girls lost cash in your scam. We live and learn! But you must agree that they are damned good at it aren’t they.

    1. Jan, I can’t believe the same scam happened to you guys too! And you are right – we live and learn! Luckily we didn’t loose much money but it sure hurt our pride 😀

  9. Hi Girls!!!

    I am so sorry to hear about this. It all sounds so horrible. Frankly, no matter how many beautiful temples and beaches and good food Thailand has, it seems to me like with all these beautiful countries in the world, why should I go somewhere where people (not everyone I know, but many) are so horrible and dishonest? Do you think I’m exaggerating? It’s not like this is the only beautiful country in the world? I have just finished 2 months in Vietnam, and while there are some scams, they are rare and quite easy to avoid. Maybe its beaches are not as flashy, but I’d rather be here after hearing this and all the other hundreds of stories of scams.

    1. Thanks for your empathy! We felt the same way about Thailand after we got scammed, but we quickly discovered that there’s so much more to Thailand than just scam artists, and we would still recommend visiting Thailand! There are so many countries where tourists get scammed, and if I’d take them all of my list of places I’d like to visit… I guess there wouldn’t be much left. Even in Germany people get scammed – it can happen anywhere, that is why it’s so important to be prepared and always alert. Like we say in the post, that particular scam is not new at all and had we just done our research, we wouldn’t have fallen for it.

    2. There are scams in Barcelona, Istanbul and Paris too. Apart from being major tourist destinations i think the only other link is that they’re not native English speaker Countries..

      In other words the scam isn’t about a moral corruption within the population. Its just that the opportunity is there, I’m guessing the language barrier might be one of the key ingredients necessary for these type of scams.

      1. You’re right about a language barrier because you can’t pick up what the people involved in the scam are saying to each other, that’s the thing. Of course, we could always learn their language, that is a whole different way of looking at it…

  10. Ouch! That is nasty.
    I got scammed in Bangkok many years ago, caught by a lovely Thai gentleman early one morning when I went looking for an ATM. He told me he always recommended a particular boat cruise when friends and family come to stay with him. He called over a tuk-tuk driver and gave him directions to the office of this amazing boat cruise company.
    I’d flown in from Nepal the night before, where people had been so friendly and honest, and it didn’t occur to me that people could be any other way. And, I stupidly did the currency conversion wrong in my head, so agreed to the equivalent of US$80 for a half day boat tour. On a barge. With a guide and a driver that didn’t speak English. They didn’t take me to any attractions, just chugged up and down some slummy areas. When I asked to get off the boat, they suddenly knew enough English to tell me I had to pay to get off. I threatened to jump overboard and swim. They pointed to my camera and told me I couldn’t swim with a camera.
    But I told them that I was Australian and ALL Australians can swim with only one arm. And I was about 10 seconds away from actually jumping when they finally started up their boat and dropped me off in the middle of the slummy area, shouting something to everyone within earshot, probably along the lines of “this damn tourist just scammed us. Call the police.”
    I didn’t leave my room the next day. Thankfully I recovered … eventually.

    1. Oh that’s awful, Barbara! We were approached by several ‘nice’ Thai guys near the river who kept recommending river cruises – I guess that is the same one 😉
      P.S. I didn’t know that all Australians can swim with only one arm 😉

  11. Sorry to hear about your experience but don’t feel too bad. Even after living in Asia for years, the first time i was in Bangkok I fell prey to some of these same things. They do it because it works. Jet lag and a natural inclination to trust do not help things. Live and learn. Thanks for sharing so others can try and avoid.

    1. Thanks, Matt – I hope our post will help others to avoid getting scammed! I can’t believe how many people fall for these scams – and that we were two of them 🙁

    1. What scam did you fall for and in which country, Stephanie? So sorry to hear that it happened to you too 🙁 Getting scammed can totally ruin the first impression of a country, right? It took us a few weeks to re-gain our trust in Thai people, but we realized that there are actually many people in Thailand who are genuinely nice and don’t want to scam tourists 🙂

      1. This is actually the hardest part. I took us couple of weeks to figure out if someone wants to scam you or just is really nice to you and just curious.

        I bet we hurt some peoples feeling at the beginning but now there are certain things when someone is approaching you and you know instantly he just wants to rip you off.

        But still … we don’t like the idea to don’t trust people in general.

  12. Wow. That’s a pretty good scam. BKK is such an amazing city, but they really are the experts of the scam, so don’t feel bad.

    I’m sure you won’t get scammed via Tuk Tuk in Siem Reap 😉

    (if so, I’m in a world of trouble!)

  13. I am always in awe of these stories – of all the planning and co-ordination that must go on to make it happen. And how convincing these people must be! Don’t feel so bad chicas, I’m sure we would have gotten taken to some extent too.

    Remember how i just said today your Pad Thai pic makes me want to go there? This post is exactly one of the things that is a big detriment to wanting to visit that part of the world. I have no patience for that and I could just imagine being grumpy all day telling these people to f&%$ off!

    1. To be honest, we were pretty disappointed in Thailand at first – the so-called ‘Land of Smiles’ had turned out to be the land of fake smiles. It took us a while to regain our trust in the people but luckily we realized that not everybody was out to scam us. In our three months in Thailand we met plenty of really nice Thais who appreciated our visit and made us feel much better about the country. We’d still highly recommend a visit (for the food alone! 😉 ) and think it can happen anywhere – even in Europe! We’ve heard so many stories from people who got scammed in Latin America but we still love that part of the world and can’t wait to visit the countries we haven’t been to yet. Getting scammed really sucks though and it definitely made it impossible for us to ever truly enjoy Bangkok.

  14. Woah! OK. We fell for the tuk-tuk, which was embarrassing. but we didn’t buy anything anywhere, and were quite pleased when he drove off leaving us at a temple. For the record, the fake travel agency scam happens also in Hong Kong.

    I think it’s not so much the money but the feeling of stupidity that gets you so much…

    1. You are right, Theodora – it’s more about how stupid we (still!) feel rather than the money we lost. Hong Kong seems to be notorious – we knew about the tea scam but not about the fake travel agencies – thanks for telling us!

  15. Ah, the epic Bangkok scam post. 🙂 I can’t help but wince reading through it again – it’s just such a terrible string of events. The totally brazen thieves on the bus are the worst (okay, they’re ALL the worst) – I wonder if they ever get caught red-handed?

    1. Well there was one guy who caught one of the Thai helpers in the act when he was trying to pull down his bag. He yelled at him but the helper just shrugged and went back downstairs. The other girl who had something missing yelled at the bus driver to stop the bus & turn on the lights so that everybody could check their stuff but the driver didn’t care at all and the lights stayed turned off. So yeah, they got caught but they couldn’t have cared less and what could we really do in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere in Southern Thailand – everybody felt really helpless 🙁

  16. Oh geez, how horrible!!! I’m so sorry you guys got hit so many times! It sucks that there are so many people out there who are only out to take advantage of travelers. 🙁

  17. I went right along with the20 baht tours too .. luckily I didnt buy anything from the suit of gem stores. In the end my driver did me a favour and chucked me off because I refused to go to any more.

    It makes me sad that people can be so dishonest, I appreciate they need to make a living but at the expense of someone else really isnt on.

    Thanks for sharing and educating.

  18. Ahh it hurt me reading this. I hurt for yall. I know yall told me about this a while ago. Wow just wow… I mean I guess we are bound to get scammed and we know it happens when we least expect it. I’ll be there soon & will stay alert for sure. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Thanks Jaime. Well I hope that now we’ve ticked ‘getting scammed’ off our list it won’t happen again – one time is more than enough! 😀

  19. So sorry you had to go through this. it’s just like you said, when you let your guard down all the good people disappear and the bad ones rush in. I hope you will be able to recover most of the money!

    1. Thanks Rease! To be honest, I don’t think we’ll get the money back but luckily it wasn’t that much. Thank god AirAsia flights are cheap! 😉

    1. Thanks for sharing the link, Adam! Why does it surprise me that even the buses that go straight to Siem Reap stop at the ‘fake’ consulate?? Can’t believe it but I bet they’ll get their fare share from everyone who falls for it. I am still disappointed that the Thai government / Tourist Authority does nothing against these scammers – but we’re on better terms with Bangkok after our second visit.

  20. yeah i went along with a couple of those tuk tuk drivers but never got talked into buying anything! and once when looking for a tuk tuk i knew the price should be 60b but of course they start off at 160b! came down to nearer the real price but as soon as he said about calling into a couple of shops.. that was it! i walked off, and just down the road got a bus for next to nothing! but yeah there are some real rip offs!

  21. The level of scams in Thailand, especially Bangkok, made me not want to ever go back there (I now have almost two years of distance from the experience and would consider going back)…however, I truly feel bad for you guys. I know it must have been hard to write about your experience. I wish more people knew about these scams so they could be avoided. It really left a bad taste in my mouth…I hate having to always be on alert. I just wish I could trust people more. Thailand taught me that I can’t always believe people have my best interest in mind. So did India…but that’s another story. 🙂

    1. That’s exactly right. I would like to see the Thai government play a more active role in making these scams truly illegal. It leaves a bad impression of the country, especially when Thai people around the country are so wonderful and giving. It’s a shame about not being able to trust people, especially because throughout our travels we have really learned that the opposite is true for the most part. Now, we are curious about your India story – we are headed there in 19 days! Do tell!

  22. The version I got from the cab driver was that there were some politcal riots going on and that the streets were all closed off. My my these guys can be creative.

    My biggest mistake of all though was that I caught the cab from directly outside my hotel and then spent the next week trying to avoid him as he harassed and yelled at me every time I left the hotel.

  23. Ahh man, so sorry to hear about your experience. We’re currently in Thailand with Bangkok as our last stop. And even though we’ve been there before, I’m still paranoid of scams. Must be hard for you to relive all that but this is really a great post! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Kieu – I think as long as you’re vigilant in Bangkok, you’ll be fine. And your advantage: you already know about the scams, which we didn’t 😀 So just enjoy the city and stay away from any dodgy tuktuk drivers or ‘friendly’ Thai men 😉

  24. What a story! But kudos for sharing. We actually encountered the “this palace is closed today” line, and luckily didn’t fall for it (though I almost did, my boyfriend was the one who was smart about it) — and then when we got to the Palace, the guards at the gate told us the palace actually WAS closed that afternoon for some ceremony or something. Needless to say I didn’t want to believe them at first either, haha.

    My boyfriend and I got scammed in Saigon by some cyclo drivers — I think I’ll have to write about it now too, as embarrassing as it was, to warn others like you’ve done!

    1. Edna – happy to hear that you didn’t fall for that scam! That’s the first time I’ve heard about the Palace actually being closed 😉 It would be great to hear about the Saigon Cyclo scam – it sure will help others to avoid falling for the same scam!

  25. yikes. what an ordeal! scammers are the worst! and being long-term traveler, you are bound to run into one (or another, if you don’t learn your lesson the first time). the part i hate most about getting scammed is that they take your ability to trust the locals. and that’s one of the best part of traveling, meeting locals and really getting into their culture. at least that is what happened with me. sad.

    1. Thanks Paul – I guess we had to get scammed at some point, having traveled for such a long time … but it still sucks 😀 And you are right – we couldn’t trust any locals for a very long time after we got scammed, but at some point we realized that not everybody was after us to scam us and opened up a bit – Glad we did, because we ended up meeting some wonderful Thai people (even in Bangkok!)

  26. What a sucky experience!! I think it happens to all of us somewhere along the way. :/

    I’ve never been scammed in Bangkok. It always seems to happen to me in Hanoi though so watch out if you’re headed that way. Don’t trust any meter taxis that hover in tourist destination and don’t let anyone take your train ticket off you at a station to “go and get your actual ticket for you”. I locked myself in my room for a day with some street donuts and Gilmore Girls DVDs after getting scammed left, right and centre in Hanoi!!!!

    1. Thanks for the warning, Bethaney – we’ve heard that the scammers in Vietnam are apparently even more notorious than the ones in Thailand… so we’ll be on our guard. The scams you mention sound horrible – I hope you still enjoyed Vietnam?

      1. Actually, I didn’t like Vietnam the first time I went. I felt like I was getting ripped off and hassled constantly. It was my first trip to Asia so I wasn’t mentally tough enough and couldn’t spot the scammers coming. The second time I went I loved it! I think the South is much more relaxed than the North. I definitely found the further North I went the less “friendly” and more aggressive the touts got. I’m sure after your Bangkok experience your radar will be well tuned and you’ll have no problem! When are you planning on heading to Vietnam?

        1. Interesting Bethaney – we’ll not be in Vietnam for a while now (headed to the States via India this summer) so we will need to get that radar back on again when we finally do make it to Vietnam. Maybe we should start in the south for sure!

  27. That’s a great cautionary tale – I’m definitely the sort of person who can get a bit blase about these things. thinking I can’t get stung.

    But I think it’s pretty clear that anyone can get scammed at any time if they’re not paying attention

  28. I’ve been waiting patiently for this post! Girls… you got it bad, I agree. It sounds like a virtual mess of all the worst Bangkok scams! I’m so sorry that this was your first impression. A few comments…

    1. The “It’s Closed” tuk tuk thing happens to EVERYONE. When I came to Thailand alone at 19 I was approached by maybe 5 people as I walked to the Grand Palace. I was still luckily afraid of strangers and avoided them.

    2. Yeah, tuk tuks are just a bad idea. I never take them. Cabs can be tough, it sometimes takes me 5 times but I always find someone willing to go on the meter eventually. I always tip them too to thank them for being honest!

    3. If you are back in Bangkok again I highly encourage you to contact the tourist police about the fake tickets. You might be able to help more people in the future.

    4. For getting down to the Gulf side islands (a journey I’ve done maybe a hundred times?!) I will ONLY use the Lomprayah bus/ferry company. All the rest I hear too many robbery stories. If you’re really paranoid the train is better as your bags are right in front of you always.

    Again… so sorry to hear this was your first impression of a lovely country. I’ve always been lucky I think because I’ve avoided all scamming and cheating and negativity thus far in Thailand. However, I’ve definitely had my share of serious head slappers in other countries. I guess its just the luck of the draw.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Alex. We were actually thinking about reporting him to the Tourist Police but then we didn’t want to have to deal with this when we came back to Bangkok – we tried to enjoy our stay and not to think about that a**hole anymore. You are right though, he should be reported to the police and shut down. I am taking notes on the bus company you’re recommending – we’ll definitely use them when we head to the islands in the Gulf Of Thailand.

  29. Thanks for sharing this. I love Thailand and hope it didn’t put you off too much. It’s a shame you didn’t use tuktuks after as they’re one of my favourite things about Bangkok.
    I have been to Bangkok a few times and have had the same trick tried on me twice. Both times they said the palace was closed and they could take me to the happy Buddah. Luckily my boyfriend had been to the Grand Palace the year before and knew we weren’t at the main entrance, when we found the main entrance it was of course fully open.
    My parents are travelling to Thailand this year so I have sent them your post. They will now know what to look out for, thank you again.

    1. Hey Charli – you really have to be vigilant and know what you’re doing, and when you do, they can’t possibly scam you. Like you said, the front entrance was fully open, up and running. Let your parents know they can get in touch if they have any questions for us for their trip – info at globetrottergirls dot com – we’re happy to help!

  30. Wow, that scam really sucks! 🙁 I had the hassles with tuk tuks trying to take me places for really cheap, but after the first one which tried to take me to a silk shop, I just got out and found another one who was charging a reasonable fee. There’s cheap and there’s too cheap – I’d rather pay cheap and know I’m getting a transparent service. Lesson learned and thank you for sharing this on your blog, so hopefully others don’t make the same mistake.

    1. Izy – you are right, lesson learned! I remember that at some point we had a really hard time finding a tuktuk that would let us pay instead of asking us to go stop at ‘only one XX shop’ .. so annoying! Luckily, our second visit to Bangkok was much better and we didn’t get hassled as much 🙂

  31. Well done you for sharing. My husband and I got scammed in Bangkok a few years ago and I’ve still barely been able to admit it to myself, let alone share with others. But (deep breath) here’s what happened:

    Got to the Grand Palace. I had read everything going about Bangkok scams and was determined not to fall for them, so was on constant alert. As we walked towards the Palace, we were approached by an officer of the Tourist Police – had the official shirt, with phone numbers all over it etc, a badge, you name it. He told us that he was very sorry, the Palace was closed that morning, but there was another temple that we should see that was open to the public for one day only.

    HOW did I not notice what was happening? My husband even said to me ‘this sounds like a scam’ – but I think I must have thought it was ok because this guy was the tourist police – the very person we should be reporting scammers to.

    So, the helpful tourist police man summoned a tuk tuk and waved us off.

    First stop was a beautiful temple – I have no idea where it was and haven’t been able to find it, or reference to it, since. We pulled up and a lovely thai man came to greet us. He asked us how we’d heard about the temple, as it was only for Thais – and it was in fact the temple where the royal family privately worshipped. In fact, he said, the queen had been there that morning praying for the king (who was in hospital at the time). He showed us bits of wool which he said were left from the red carpet that had been laid for her up the steps to the temple.


    But here’s the weird thing. The lovely man spent about 2 hours of his time giving us a private tour of the temple, showing us everything there was to see. He said he used to be a monk at the temple, but now occupied himself with looking after the place, tending the garden etc. He was lovely and gave us loads of amazing stories, tales about Thailand etc, and asked uss loads of questions about Britain. Never once suggested we go anywhere else, just seemed genuinely delighted to speak to us.

    About 90 minutes into this amazing tour we were thinking we’d had the best luck ever to come across this amazing guy. At that point, however, his boss arrived. The guy got quite agitated and didn’t seem to want to speak to him, but the boss spoke right over him and in perfect english started asking us where we were from, etc. Having established that we were from Glasgow he named a thai restaurant in Glasgow and said his uncle ran it (!) – he then went on to give us a hard sell about visiting some jewellery show room. He showed us his expensive looking ring and said that for one day only we could get this at about an eighth of the price at this particular place. At this point, I think we twigged. We made our excuses and the boss seemed to accept those – he backed off, leaving us with the original dude. He seemed relieved his boss had left and continued with our tour, showing off the intricately painted doors that he said he had painted himself and so on.

    When it was time to leave, the boss appeared again and insisted we get into a particular tuk tuk. Surprise surprise, it took us to the jewellery store, where we sat through a short video, had a cursory look around, and left without buying anything.

    At the time we didn”t really feel that we had been scammed; we’d had such a brilliant experience with the guide at the temple and didn’t go round all the usual sites that come up in typical scams, there were no fuel stops etc. But the reality is, I’m sure the Grand Palace probably was open; god knows what temple it was we saw; and we did end up in the jewellery store. So, in retrospect, clearly a scam.


    1. That’s the thing! You just want to be able to trust people, and your instinct. Plus it all just seems so futile and silly to scam people to get them to these jewelry stores. Thanks for sharing this story!!

  32. uh oh, some of this sounds familiar to me!

    On my first trip to Thailand many years ago I too fell for a couple of the scams people have mentioned here.

    I’ve been back many times since, and I’m staying there right now but I no longer have any encounters with them.

    But when you visit Thailand for the very first time…

    it’s the fact that everyone seems so gentle and smiling, so different from the hard faces of people back home! Plus the fact that the weather is hot, the sun is shining, you’re on holiday, exploring an exciting and exotic place….

    All this makes you feel good about the world and people and you’re willing to believe that the world is a good and decent place.

    Well it is – sometimes… But Thailand is really just like anywhere else.

    The common factor in all these Bangkok scams is how they all happen around tourist locations and that it’s Thai people speaking good English who are approaching Western tourists.

    Thais do not go talking to talk to people like that. They smile and are polite (mostly) but they don’t actively start up conversations in good English with strangers.

    Think about it: would you stand around near tourist sights back home telling people that they were closed today and hailing them a taxi – unless you were up to something?

    Exactly the same here. Remember this fact and you’ll be fine.

    In such areas, you choose the people you talk to, not the other way round.

    And once you get out of the tourist areas of Bangkok the scamming and hassle vanishes. Even the tuc-tucs are tame! Amazing but true.

    Enjoy Thailand, don’t let it stop you visiting, and stay safe!

    1. Thanks for this, Kevin. You’re absolutely right that these kind of scams always happen with english-speaking locals (or, in our case, an American!!) near tourist attractions and for the most part only your first time there!

  33. Ack, this is horrible! Well done for sharing the story though, I’m sure it will help a lot of other people out. I’ve linked to this article from one I just wrote about also getting scammed in Bangkok, but luckily to a much lesser degree. I hope the whole thing hasn’t tainted your zeal for travel!

    1. Thanks for pointing us towards your article, Amanda! Reading how you got approached in the exact same way as we did made me cringe!! Luckily, we haven’t lost our wanderlust, but we sure don’t let our guards down that easy anymore 🙂

  34. Hi there, I really feel sorry for you what happened to you in BKK but Thanks for sharing your experience and helping others not to be scammed.

  35. Thanks for sharing your story. Just got home from a Bangkok-Siem Reap trip. We only spent one whole day in Bangkok and realized that we were scammed the whole day by the tuktuk drivers who brought us to the temples, jewelry stores, souvenir shops, etc. Our worse experience was when we went to Pat pong to watch the show for tourists, the guy who invited us told us that our entrance fee would only cost 100 baht per person (we were only 2). We thought it was a good deal as we didnt really plan on staying for long. They gave us drinks we didnt even drink. When it was time to pay, our bill was a whopping 2,300 baht! For the show, drinks and i dont know whatelse. I tried to not pay for it, but there were 2 girls from the bar who blocked us – there was no way we could have gone out without paying. We got scared, paid the bill and immediately got out of the place. I am still thankful though that at least, we were not hurt. It could have been worse. I’m never going back to Bangkok .Ever.

    1. Oh man, this is terrible!! Completely understand that you don’t ever want to return to Bangkok – this is just crazy, 2300 Baht!!! I hate how these scammers can ruin the entire travel experience 🙁

  36. Don’t feel embarrassed! It’s good that you can help warn others and also you have learnt from it yourselves!

    We also had the tuk tuk scam, but to a lesser extent. Getting taken to top ten fashions and a gem store (where the guy was really pushy) because the grand palace was “closed”. After telling our tuk tuk driver to only take us to the temples that were promised he started driving like a maniac. We left him at the next temple and jumped into a taxi back to town. Back in our hotel we noticed a sign warning us about such a scam that we had walked past several times before!

    Something to watch out for as well is travelling from Cambodia into Vietnam. We stayed overnight in phnom penn and the lady at the hotel offered to organise our Vietnam visa for us. We declined and later spoke to a guy who had ended up having to spend three nights instead of one at the hotel due to “delays” in processing. He could not leave as he did not have his passport.

    We went directly to the embassy to get our visas and we were still scammed – by security! I won’t detail the whole process as it would be very long, but just to say if the security guard in the both tries to say that he will have to take your passports into the embassy and that you cannot wait on the street due to security and cameras, do not believe him. We stupidly believed part of it and allowed him to complete our applications and take them to be processed (while we waited) he did come back within half an hour with the four visas, but it had cost us and extra $15 each. While we waited for him two of us walked further along the street into the embassy where we could have easily applied for our own visas in less time and without the “administration fee”. When we confronted the guy after getting our passports back he said that he earned very little money in his job and then closed the security booth until we left.

    Apologies for the long post, but hopefully it may help someone else out!

    I am going to bangkok again in a couple of weeks and will hopefully be scam ready this time!

    Happy travelling!

    1. Graeme – Don’t apologize, we appreciate it that you shared your scam story! I hope it will help others and I thought to myself ‘that could have been us!’ had we followed our original plan to travel to Vietnam from Cambodia. I can’t believe how many officials are in on the scams in South East Asia.. outrageous!!

  37. That is so unlucky girls…we’ve been south east asia for about six months and there are always people approaching you asking those questions!! You find yourself wary of everyone, feeling like everyone is out to make some money from you…but luckily there’s plenty of nice people too!! Unfortunately it’s very difficult to tell which is which…could happen to anyone, and has happened to many – but thanks for the warnings 🙂
    We avoided the scams going from Bangkok to Siem Reap thanks to some over-cautious researching, and I wrote about it here if anyone is planning that trip!

    I really enjoy the blog, look forward tot hearing better things about Thailand!!

  38. Hi Jess and Dani 🙂
    I’m from Indonesia and I just went traveling to Bangkok with my mom and brother last August.

    It was my first time visiting Bangkok and I took one day for me only to traveling alone by my self. A night before I read the about Bangkok basic info for tourist especially the scammers. It written to be extra careful with local people who come up everywhere with a cheerful and friendly face offering you a local tour.

    Right on the day I’m traveling alone and I stood up in the park in front of Grand Palace, with the maps all over my hand plus sunglasses, it’c clearly give a tourist look but actually I’m also Asian.

    And suddenly there’s a local people come to me offering for help and suggested not to go to Grand Palace, he said I must go to bla bla bla Buddha temple, it’s the famous one!! Hahaha even the same line like your story. That time, I remember what I read before last night and my heart said: it’s a scammers, just go!

    And I said : no thank you to him and just passed by without looking back. And I had a wonderful traveling day alone.

    It scary but it leaves me a lesson, and more for sure after read your stories, my instinct was right that time.

    Thank you for sharing and keep traveling 🙂

    – Nadia from Jakarta, Indonesia.

    1. Hi Nadia, see – all we would’ve needed to do was to read up some info on Bangkok, and the warnings are everywhere – in the guidebooks, on Wikitravel, etc… We had just gotten really lazy and didn’t do any planning before we got to Bangkok. Lesson learned!! 😀

  39. My friend and I were in Salvador da Bahia for Carnaval back in 2005. We had to purchase a special jersey in order to participate in the one of the blocos (street Carnaval bands) we had chosen. The girl who sold us the shirt said we had until 8pm to meet up with our bloco. Little did we know, that the bloco she sold us jerseys for marched about 30 min. after we gout our shirts. Needless to say we couldn’t find our bloco. Our eyes filled with tears and we drank Caipirinhas to soothe our anger. We still had a great time, though. A group of Brazilians invited us to join their party (they had rented an apartment that faced the parade). I still have the jersey as a memento.

    1. Oh my god, what a sad story, Brenda!! You must have been devastated! At least you didn’t let that ruin Carnival for you – I bet the caipirinhas helped to cheer you up 😉

  40. What a classic! Don’t feel to bad, could have been worse. It not just Thailand where these things happen, you’ll find similar things almost anywhere in the world.

    After years of traveling I have gotten to the point where I basically ignore ANYONE who hits me up on the street, no matter what the story is.

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