Expats and visitors to Thailand urged to avoid scams

Published:  19 Sep at 6 PM
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Whether you’re a tourist to Thailand or a newly-arrived expat, you should take care not to be caught by scams as well as remembering to behave with respect when visiting temples and historic monuments.

Thailand is still a favourite tourism destination for visitors from first-world countries due to its warm, sunny weather, low costs and interesting culture and history. Tourism is one of the Kingdom’s most important industries, but occasional bad behaviour by visitors and newly-arrived expats can spoil the experience by setting local people against foreigners. In addition, those not familiar with the country need to watch out for a number of scams perpetrated by workers in the tourism industry.

For example, wearing revealing clothes whilst visiting national monuments and sites of religious interest can cause offence, as can climbing on ancient walls or the ruins of early Buddhist temples. Understanding the local culture can avoid the dreaded ‘losing face’ syndrome, either yours or the ‘face’ of Thais with whom there’s a problem. ‘Jai yen-yen’, roughly translated as ‘cool heart’, is the best way forward if there’s a dispute, and the Western way of shouting louder than your adversary won’t get you anywhere in Thailand. Before aggression turns physical, leaving is the thing to do, as foreigners always come off worst when local police get involved.

As regards scams, tourists are the most likely to get caught, as the scams are normally linked to well-known tourist sites of interest. The best-known is the ‘attraction closed’ scam, applied to famous temples and palaces and involving a friendly local who suggests alternatives including another temple as well as recommending a wholesale expat store where bargains can be had on jewelry, precious stones, gold and other luxury goods. It’s all a scam, with walking away the only answer.

The Jet-Ski scam is world-famous by now, and also applies to rental bikes and motorbikes, with renters claiming damage on return and demanding massive compensation. Threats of violence can follow, and the way round is to carefully inspect or even photograph the rental as proof of its condition. Other well-known attempts to part new arrivals and tourists from their cash are the perfectly legal dual charges for attractions, with Thais charged a fraction of the entrance fees foreigners must pay. Most expats simply avoid the attractions, with tourists recommended to do the same.

Nightclubs offering karaoke are best avoided, as massive overcharging for drinks can wreck your night out, as can bouncers if you refuse to pay. For newly-arrived expat retirees, one avoidable disaster involves your new best friend who just happens to be an independent financial advisor with an investment plan that sounds too good to be true. It isn’t true, and losing your pension pot can wreck your retirement in the sun.
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