What will a 20Baht tuk tuk ride get you in Bangkok?

a tuk tuk on Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand

On my first day in Bangkok I was a stupid tourist.

The first time in a new city and in a new country is when you are at your most vulnerable. You don’t know your way around, you don’t know the way that things work, you don’t know how much things should cost, basically you know very little even if you’ve done some research. I knew about people getting scammed in Bangkok, tuk tuk drivers that take you to illegal travel agents and jewlery and tailor shops. I had heard a lot of stories and rumours and I was cautious about what I was doing, as I always am when I am in a new place.

What I didn’t know was the depth that they go to and the amount of people involved in carrying out the scam. Sometimes you have to get scammed to know what to look for. You learn from your mistakes.

It began on our first day in Bangkok. After arriving the night before, my wife and I awoke in the morning and had some breakfast at our guesthouse. We were ready to explore the city. The first thing that I like to do in a new place is Β to go for a walk and try to get my bearings. Staying in the quieter area between Khao San Road and the Chao Phraya River, we walked to the river front and made our way to the Phra Summain Fortress. We were sitting there on a bench with our map out, figuring out where to go next when the scam started.

Phra Sumain Fortress in Bangkok, Thailand

Phra Sumain Fortress

 

So far all of the Thai people that we had met had been lovely and so, when a lady that apeared to be walking past stopped to help us, we thought she was just being nice like any Thai person would. She asked where we were trying to get to and I stupidly said that I’m not sure. She explained that she is a teacher and likes to practice her english, which she spoke quite well and I thought it was quite possible that she could be a teacher.

She began telling us that today was a big Buddhist holiday and that the Grand Palace is closed until 1pm, but that some temples in another certain area have free entry for tourists today. She also said that the government is giving tuk tuk drivers special coupons for the holiday to take tourists around for only 10baht each. The last thing she told us was that T.A.T (Tourism Authority of Thailand) was giving out free information today at the office that she pointed out on the map.

The way that I have written it doesn’t sound so convincing, it was the way that she said it. She talked so honestly and made it seem like it was our choice, at no point did it seem like she was forcing anything on us. She seemed to be honestly trying to help us.

She called a tuk tuk over that appeared to simply be driving past at the time, he got out and came over. “You want tuk tuk?” he said. She spoke in Thai to him pointing out the points of interest on our map and also spoke english to us. He said that it’s no problem and that he can take us around to those places for only 20baht for the two of us, because the government will fund his fare for the day.

We hadn’t caught a tuk tuk yet and it all sounded very ligitimate. I was still sceptical but I felt comfortable enough to take the chance and we accepted the offer.

Our first tuk tuk ride ever was good fun and the driver took us straight to our first destination, Wat Indraviharn with it’s 32m tall standing Buddha. He hadn’t asked for any money yet so we explored the temple, but didn’t know whether he would be there when we got back or not. Surely enough he was there waiting for us patiently.

The Standing Buddha at Wat Nopanat  in Bangkok, Thailand

The 32m tall Standing Buddha at Wat Indraviharn

He then took us to the T.A.T office, which was located near the train station. When we got there it seemed like every other travel agent that I had seen so far. I had began to become more sceptical.

The travel agent was also very convincing and I needed to book our onward journey to Chiang mai in the coming days. I booked our tickets, not knowing whether we would actually get them or not.

There didn’t appear to be any communication between the travel agent and our driver, so I still wasn’t sure if I was being scammed or not. Our driver then took us to our next temple, Wat Sommonat with it’s “Lucky Buddha”. This is where the next person in the scam came into play.

We were greeted by a man at the entrance to the small temple, where we were told to remove our shoes and enter. We were the only tourists there, but that didn’t bother me. The man began conversation with us and he seemed genuinely friendly and I believed that he was there helping with the temple, as I saw him sweeping outside when we arrived. He told us about the “Lucky Buddha” and showed us how to pray for good luck.

The Lucky buddha at Wat Sommonat, Bangkok

The “Lucky Buddha” at Wat Sommonat

He then asked us where we were going next and we told him that we were going to the Golden Mount. He confirmed what our driver had told us earlier, telling us that it is closed from 12-1pm, so while we are waiting we could visit a factory near by where we can buy cheap clothes. Our driver had mentioned this before and this man had made it seem ligitimate. We went along for the ride.

In a tuk tuk in Bangkok, Thailand

Riding a tuk tuk through Bangkok

I didn’t know what to expect from this “factory”. I was sceptical and I was right as we arrived at a tailor shop. The driver told us that we must look so that he can get his coupon. We entered and spent about 10 minutes going through the annoying process of explaining that I don’t need a suit and getting out of the shop. The man in the shop just couldn’t understand why I didn’t need a suit.

When we got back in the tuk tuk I told the driver to take us straight to the Golden Mount, he agreed and did what I asked.

We spent some time exploring the Golden Mount, climbing to the top and taking in the excellent views of Bangkok city. By this time though we were hot, hungry and tired. We wanted to go back to our guesthouse.

the golden mount, bangkok

view from the golden mount, bangkok, thailand

View of the temple and Bangkok city from the Golden Mount

When I told the driver that we want to go back to the guesthouse, he agreed but said that we have to go to one more shop. I said no and that I don’t need a suit. Still politely he said that he needs us to just look so that he can get his coupon. I was getting very frustrated and said that I will look at the shop if he takes us straight back to the guesthouse afterwards. He agreed and took us to another tailor shop.

By this time I was extremely annoyed, hot, hungry and tired and not in any mood to put up with anyone hassling me. I walked into the shop, told them that I don’t want to buy a suit and walked out. I might have been rude, something that I would not usually do at all, but I was done with being polite when I was clearly being scammed.

The tuk tuk driver was almost apologetic and said thankyou to me about five times. He took us straight back to our guesthouse, I gave him the 20baht that we had originally agreed on and it was over. I had learnt my lesson.

To be honest, when I think about it now, we actually had a good day out and it basically cost us nothing. All it really cost us was 20baht and about half an hour of our wasted time.

For 20baht we got a half day tour of Bangkok, a fun tuk tuk ride and visited three temples. Were we scammed? Yes, absolutely, but at no time were we in any danger, we didn’t lose any money or belongings, even the travel agent turned out to be ligitimate, we got our tickets no problem at all. The tailors would have probably been the same if I had ordered something. So in a way I’m actually glad that it happened, I saw and learned a lot about the city.

Here’s a video of my tuk tuk ride through the streets of Bangkok.

If the video doesn’t show, click here.

Have you ever been scammed in Bangkok or any other city around the world? I’d love to hear about what happened.

 

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35 comments… add one
  • Wow! Believe it or not, I was victim to the exact same scam. Literally each of those sites in the exact same order. I didn’t realize the first guy in my ‘scenario’ was a scam until just now, although I did figure out early on how to play the game as good as them. I just pretended to be interested in the suits as if it was my job, my payoff being a cheap tuk tuk ride.
    Thanks for the memory!

    • Dean Wickham Sep 7, 2011

      I don’t feel like the only idiot now, thanks Brock ;). Yes i think in the end it worked out pretty well. It was a good experience and we know what to look for now.

  • Greg Goodman Sep 7, 2011

    Great story/recap. Sounds like all things considered you had yourself a pretty good day for pennies. I remember getting that same shpeal from the guys outside the Grand Palace. They took our guidebook, started marking up the whole thing, got an “uninvolved” tuk tuk driver to agree and my wife and I were just about to go along when we realized that what was happening to us was EXACTLY what someone had warned us about just hours earlier.

    A few months before, in India, we didn’t have that same warning and took a very similar trip around Banglore. And we also avoided a Rickshaw/hotel scam in Puna.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing….cuz you know someone is getting fed that line right now outside the palace.

    • Dean Wickham Sep 7, 2011

      thats funny. It goes to show that you really need to have your mind on the game at all times. at the grand palace I even had people dressed as “tourist police” trying to tell me that it doesnt open until 1pm so I should go to some other places. the grand palace is open all day! thanks Greg.

  • Neil Sep 7, 2011

    I’ve been the ‘victim’ of that exact same scam too. For 20 baht i didnt feel too hard done by though, on reflection I got to see a lot of the city very cheaply.

    Our driver didnt sound as nice as yours though. When my friend and I point blank refused to go to our 3rd suit/jewel shop in a row the driver just drove off and left us. It was pretty hard to work out where we were, but we eventually worked it out and found our way back to our hostel.

    • Dean Wickham Sep 7, 2011

      Yeah I think we were lucky with our driver. I could tell that he felt guilty for misleading us. That’s why he ended up just taking us back to our hotel. I was kind of expecting that he might just drive off and leave us there, like what happened to you. I agree though, it turned out to be a pretty good (and cheap) day out! Cheers Neil.

  • Reena Sep 12, 2011

    You’ve gotta love Thailand… even when you’ve been scammed, you come away thinking “that wasn’t so bad” πŸ™‚

    • Dean Wickham Sep 12, 2011

      Exactly Reena, it’s all part of the experience πŸ™‚

  • Siameasy Dec 21, 2011

    This scam can get a bit tiresome. I remember one place they took us, an Indian tailor quite a long way from anywhere. The tuk tuk guy disappeared for 20 minutes and the guy in the shop literally did not stop asking me to buy suits, shirts and all the other junk he was selling.

    Ok, it may not be junk, but I would refuse on principle to buy anything from the shops who encourage this stupidity.

    In the end I pushed past him, as he was standing in the door way blocking my exit, and got a meter taxi.

  • Dean Wickham Dec 21, 2011

    I agree it does start to get quite annoying, mainly because you didn’t actually want to go there in the first place. I’m lucky that my tuk tuk driver stayed right outside, I think if he had left like yours then I would have done the same thing and grabbed a taxi. Cheers!
    Dean Wickham recently posted..Visiting the Doge’s Palace in Venice, ItalyMy Profile

  • Shaun Feb 22, 2012

    Maybe i’m a bit slow, but how is this a ‘scam’? Basically they are just subsidising the cost by taking you to places they have affiliations with?

    Its not as though they stole anything or ripped you off, so i dont see how it can be called a scam.

    http://www.WeRoamAround.com

    • Dean Wickham Feb 23, 2012

      Hey Shaun. I have had a few people say something similar, and I guess maybe I used the wrong term to describe my situation. The main thing to note is that it is something that you need to watch out for, as although my day turned out to be fine and I was in no time in any danger or ripped off any money, many people aren’t so lucky. I have heard from people who have been taken to these places and threatened until they buy something, while others have simply been left in the middle of no where because they refused to buy anything.
      Maybe scam isn’t the right word to use, but you certainly get lied to and put in potentially dangerous situations. Not something you want while on holiday.
      Cheers
      Dean Wickham recently posted..A Dream Come True: Trekking the Milford Track in New ZealandMy Profile

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  • stephen Sep 29, 2012

    Hi Dean, seems like you had a good day out for your 20 Baht and although you got a little frustrated towards the end when you were hot and tired you at least didn”t get left in the middle of nowhere.

    Some of these scenarios can be really sophisticated with multiple people being involved. The problem with Bangkok is that you never know whether what you are being offered is genuine or along the lines of your experience.

    For example I got off the ferry from Koh Samet and was approached by a man in the street asking if I needed a taxi. Immediately I have my scam guard up and actually I was heading to the bus station to go back to Ekkamai so I asked how much and he said 1400 Baht and pointed out the car over the road.

    It wasn’t a standard taxi it was like a large sedan and fairly new. I asked two other people if they wanted to split a car back to Bangkok and they agreed so off we went and we got home in 1.5 hours instead of the 3 hours by bus and it only cost an extra 250 Baht.

    On the way back to Bangkok the driver basically said that he had to pay the owner of the car 900 Baht for the return trip, so if he could get a passenger to cover that then he could keep the difference.

    There are often great deals to be had in Bangkok, the trick is knowing which ones are on the level and which one are just going to waste your precious holiday.

    • Dean Wickham Oct 9, 2012

      Hi Stephen. You’re right, there are some really great deals and not all people are trying to rip you off. I found it very hard to differentiate between the two when I was there. Some people are that convincing. Cheers!

  • Ole Bull Jul 18, 2014

    The same thing happened to me! I am usually so skeptical, but they had quite an elaborate scheme involving many people. The tailor called Dusit Collection is a scam!!!, Beware!

    • Dean Wickham Aug 12, 2014

      Thanks for sharing your experience. It is quite involved and easy to get caught in it if you’re not aware.

  • Emmanuel Sep 4, 2014

    Email me so I can tell you about my scam experience today. I had a feeling it was a scam my story is similar to yours

    • Dean Wickham Sep 14, 2014

      Hi Emmanuel. Why don’t you share it here in the comments? It will be good for other travellers to hear your experience and give them something to watch out for.

  • Rajiv Jain Dec 15, 2014

    Sometimes getting into scam does not matter a lot if the journey is so memorable to make one happy.

  • Pauline Jun 19, 2015

    Hi! So funny to read this!
    We are in Bangkok now and got ‘scammed’ yesterday. I simply googled this to see what was going on and if other people had done the same thing!
    We were walking down a big street with big picture of probably important people. I was curious and asked a local about them. He was so nice and asked about are day, the rest you know πŸ˜‰
    In the middle of the ride we got out. But we had a nice and cheap tuk-tuk ride!
    It felt like a scam, but as you mentioned, we had a fun hour in a tuk-tuk!

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