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Being Careful in Thailand Part 1

No matter where you go on vacation you always want to be aware of your surroundings and not do foolish things like flash a wad of cash around or party too much in an unfamiliar place without friends around. Thailand is no different in this regard. I’m not saying Thailand isn’t safe for the tourist because it is…these are just the times we live in.

On my trips to Thailand I have been out and about at all hours day and night in unfamiliar areas and alone but I never felt unsafe and indeed I had no problems. Even though Thailand is moving along quite nicely on the world scene it’s people for the most part are poor. The majority of Thais are very hard working but then there are some that work very hard at parting you from your money. The money you spend in Thailand on a two week vacation is usually more than the average Thai makes in a year, and while most are content earning your tourist dollars there are those that will try and take advantage of you.


The first place you might notice this is at the airport. After you’ve landed, gathered your bags and headed through customs you will see a sea of people as you walk out the door from customs and most will be looking to give you a ride. The usual price to get to Bangkok from the airport is 800-1200 baht and that includes tolls. The standard price to get to Pattaya is 1200 baht and also includes tolls. If you haven’t made arrangements to be picked up at the airport then you have a few options from a private limo to the bus. The most favored option is the meter taxi. If taking a private limo ( usually a sedan ) ask up front what the total cost is and if you feel it’s too much move on. There are many drivers about to haggle with. The meter taxi of course won’t give you a price up front but you need to make sure of a few things before you agree to a ride. A lot of taxi drivers will tell you their meter is broken to try and get an inflated price. If using a taxi demand that the meter is turned on and tell them you’ll pay the tolls as they arrive.

Tip: avoid the sea of cheap taxi touts outside of customs at the airport and head straight to the taxi rank outside. Make sure the taxi driver uses the meter and check the meter occasionally during your drive so you’ll be able to gauge if the fare has suddenly changed. Remember that all meter taxi’s start the ride off at 35 baht on the meter.

Another problem with taxi’s that comes up is their incentive to take you to any place other than your destination. Many hotels, massage parlors, and or merchants have a deal with the taxi drivers to get customers to their place of business. The taxi driver in turn receives baht or gas coupons for his part. The hard sell turns on as soon as you pull away from the airport asking if you want a woman or have a place to stay or need a new suit. If you have booked a hotel ( which you should have ) they may try to tell you it’s not good or they know of a better deal. Be firm and tell them to just take you to your hotel. Even then they will still try and get you to other places. For the most part it’s harmless banter and the driver is just trying to make a few extra bucks. Tell them no and they will get you to your hotel.

tuk-tuk.jpgThe main modes of transportation in Bangkok is the meter taxi followed by the tuk tuk ( a three wheeled trike for two ) and then the motorcycle taxi. They all have incentives to get you to other destinations. The average tuk tuk ride should cost you 20-30 baht but you’ll hear anything from 50-400 baht. The tuk tuk driver will tell you he will show you bangkok for 400 baht or so for the day. The problem is these guys have heavy incentives to get you to other places because they make their money that way. On your sight seeing tour of bangkok they will stop at gem stores, tailors, and massage parlors. Some will tell you what they are up to and will tell you up front if you go into the establishment only for a few minutes they will get a much needed gas coupon or money for gas. There have also been stories of more nefarious tuk tuk drivers driving you to an unsavory part of town where you are relieved of any personal belongings you might have.

In my experience tuk tuk drivers are to be avoided at all cost. Their main objective it seems is to become your personal driver and to that end I have seen them follow their prey around bangkok, even waiting outside a hotel for you to show up.

Meter taxi’s in Bangkok have the same incentives but usually when you tell them no they stop the hard sell but being unfamiliar with the territory they may take the long way to get you back to your hotel or out to dinner at night. I had been in an area of bangkok long enough to get my bearings and caught one driver doing this. Another time I shared a taxi with a Thai woman and she told the driver off for trying to rip me off. He thought since she was Thai she would let it slide and help him out. They may also try the broken meter scam and if they do move on to the next taxi.

Tip: You can get across the whole of Bangkok for a few hundred baht. Only use taxi’s with working meters and check the meter during your drive. If you are told it’s a few hundred baht for a few minutes drive somewhere don’t be afraid to speak up and let the driver know it’s not right.

If you are ever in a position where you feel you are being taken advantage of let them know you will contact the tourist police. This alone will usually stop the problem but if it doesn’t do call the tourist police and they will take care of any problems you have.

Remember to keep your cool and never raise your voice if you find yourself in a situation where you feel taken advantage of. Calm and collected always wins out. If tempers flare you could get yourself in for more than you bargained and that will make for a very bad trip. If we are only talking about a few baht you may want to just take the loss and get out of the situation at the least you had a learning experience. If it is a significant amount of money or you feel you are in danger contact the police immediately and if it falls into a minor category for them they will bring in the tourist police to handle the situation.

Tourist police information Bangkok:

In an emergency dial 191 for bangkok police or 1155 for tourist police
Tourist Police Centre (Section 4 ),

Crime Suppression Division,
29/1 Unico House Building,
Soi Lung Suan,
Ploenchit Road, Bangkok
Tel : 6521721-6 ext. section 4,
or call the TAT Helpline at Tel : 2815051, 2828129 Fax: 2815051

We aren’t talking about big money here just a few baht but it can add up over the length of your vacation. Likewise not everyone is on the take and out to get you. In part 2 I’ll tell you about baht buses ( Toyota pick ups fitted with canopy’s and benches ) and the motorcycle taxi’s. I’ll also tell you how to go about securing a personal driver for the day to sight see and other scams to look out for.

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