Thailand is a beautiful country. Lovely beaches, mountains, people, temples, culture and massages. Thailand is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world for a reason. However, like any other place, there are a few things a tourist needs to be careful of in Thailand. Especially if this is your first trip to this country.
However, don’t let this spoil your enthusiasm for your Thailand trip. It’s an amazing country, pretty safe and friendly as well. I bet you will fall in love, if you exercise a teeny-weeny caution.
Stay away from Thailand Touts.
As a tourist, you can’t really escape Thai Touts. They are going to find you. Just one word of advice – Be stern and walk away. Do not show interest or they are going to be behind your life. You will find touts here for everything – from sightseeing cabs to selling goods to offering discount on massages to touts selling, ahem, extra services. Almost all of them are trying to con you one way or another. They might even pretend to be helping you and not interested in selling anything. But in the end, it’s always about some deal – a cheap tuk tuk (which is actually expensive) or a restaurant recommendation (where they get commissions) or worse, a trap where you have to shell out money to leave.
Don’t fall for the perfume scam.
If the deal is too good to be true… you know it. Perfume scam is pretty smart if you got to see. And.. ahem.. even I fell for it. It’s basically fake perfumes (or water mostly) but, wait for it, original Testers. Now, that’s smart. But you already know the scam now.
Don’t experiment with your hotel.
Hotels are pretty cheap in Thailand. Even though there are some great local properties, if this is your first time, stick to your regular Marriotts, Holiday Inns or Radissons of the world. Not great but safe. And like I said, not very expensive either.
Don’t travel without a local Sim. And don’t rely on public WiFi.
Assume there is no public wifi. Get your own 4G SIM as soon as you land unless you have one of those Asia roaming Sims. You need a SIM card for directions, train timings, translation and what not.
Take an Uber or a subway.
I am not a big fan of UBER. But when you want to avoid bargaining or unnecessary long routes, Uber is a saviour. Local Subway metro trains is another option if you don’t mind public transport.
Be respectful of their culture.
Don’t be seen in Buddha tattoos or anything else that can be seen as a disrespect to Lord Buddha. Don’t visit temples in skirts or sleeveless tops. And be respectful towards others, especially girls. Every girl is not a masseuse or a bar girl. In fact, Thais are pretty shy, reserved and a bit conservative society, even though the growing adult tourism might suggest otherwise.
Don’t fall for girl scams.
Well, there is no denying the fact that Thailand is an attractive destination for all kind of things. However, your perception can land you right in middle of several scams. A guy approaches you with a catalogue and asks you to choose a massage therapist with extra benefits. He agrees to your price, you follow him and before you know it you are mugged. Or worse, asked for several thousand Thai Bahts before they allow you to leave.
Another popular scam is at bars where they invite you to shows you should never go to. They say it’s just 100 Bahts. You go there, spend some time and get a bill. Yes, they were lying. You have been scammed. And so on…
All I can say is, mind your steps when you wander into dark alleys.
Research before you go for a massage. And try to avoid that swanky Spa in your Hotel.
Thailand is a country, and probably the only country, where you can get a massage daily without breaking your bank. However, it doesn’t mean every spa is great. Many spa run illegal activities. So ask your hotel manager or research online for a good spa near you. You are sure to find one. There will probably be a good spa at your hotel itself. But you don’t pay a lot for a massage in Thailand. That’s just not acceptable. 😛
Avoid seedy areas.
Seedy areas are seedy areas. Any part of the world. If you sense it is not safe, get out. Especially after sunset.
Even more so if you are drunk. Thailand is notoriously famous for street muggings.
Be HIV aware.
Thailand has one of the highest STDs and HIV infection rates. Be careful.
Don’t support Animal Cruelty.
The Tiger Temple is thankfully shut. But there are several elephants and other animals that are being exploited for foreign dollars. Avoid shows that employ animals. They are most likely not treated well.
Ah, the scams of Thailand. There’s one for sightseeing too. You are happily following directions on Google Maps, when a person tells you the place has been shut. Then another. It’s actually like saying that Statue of Liberty has been removed. And why would they do that? Of course it’s not a meaningless prank. They want you to spend time, and your money, at the stores or tour cabs they guide you to. So that you can be overcharged and they can earn a commission.
Package tours shopping areas scam.
You might have heard about the GEM Scam. Where you are sold ordinary gems with the promise of making big bucks at your hometown by selling it there. Well, the interesting part is many tour guides will also take you to such shops. But that’s not the only place they take you to be overcharged. Several shops that sell expensive and low quality products are on their list. For commissions, of course.
Strangers are not here to help.
Thai people are generally shy and reserved. So if anyone approaches you to help, most likely there is some malicious intent. In fact, if some stranger highly recommends a place and insists you go there, I would suggest stay clear. Politely refuse and walk away.
Don’t leave or deposit your passport with anyone, even permanent shops.
It’s better to avoid renting a bike or a car or a jet ski or a boat or anything else. It’s pretty common to threaten to pay for scratches or defects that were already there. Worse, if your passport is deposited with them. It’s a simple scam.
Forget traffic rules you have learnt.
If you are a pedestrian, or driving in Thailand, there are some traffic rules you need to forget. Vehicles might come from wrong side. Look both ways before crossing or driving through a street. Cars, bikes or even trucks might not stop at a signal that clearly looks like a bright Red Light. And that’s pretty much common throughout Asia.
Carry cash but not too much.
Thailand still depends a lot on cash. And it’s better than risking your credit card at unknown places. However, carry smaller denominations and not too much at a time. Some people don’t return proper change so check carefully.
Get your card blocked and replaced as soon as you are back.
This one is stepping into paranoia category. But it’s not. Trust me. Tourists are an easy target for credit card frauds. Already traveling, home mobile phone that gets the bank alert probably switched off and high credit limits. What more can a con ask for? I get my card blocked and reissued after every international trip. Especially in Asia.
Never put anything valuable in bus hold.
There have been several cases of valuables disappearing from bags in the bus hold. Never keep anything valuable there. Also, make sure your bag is not in the front row. That makes it easy for scamsters to just grab and go instead of their own bag.
Don’t use agents for anything.
Roaming agents are bad news. In any part of the world. Bus, hotels, trains, parks, taxis, tourist attractions, you want to book anything, book it online or at the respective offices. Or if you are staying at a good hotel, as for concierge to help you out.
Know what is ++
Not necessarily a bad thing, but you must know what ++ in prices means. ++ basically means taxes and service charge extra. Normally 7% Tax and 10% Service Charge.
Stay away from Politics and never talk about the King.
Never ever speak of the royal family with any disrespect or sarcasm. There are people in jail for it.
Drugs are illegal. The prisons are quite bad. And the bribes are pretty high.
Do I need to explain?
You need an export permit to take a Buddha statue or an image out of Thailand.
It takes approximately 2-3 days and ~200 THB to get a permit. You might be able to bring them without anyone noticing, but it’s kind of illegal smuggling.