Thailand Tourist Information: A Guide to Laws in Thailand
By Jennifer Patin
11 May 2011
Examples of Tourist Scams
- Tuk Tuk Scams – It goes similarly to the anecdotes above. Tuk-tuk drivers lurk around major tourist attractions, tell you that the attractions are closed, and then offer to bring you on a city tour for a very cheap price. Some even have a colorful map of the selected destinations. This scam tends to go hand in hand with Gem Shop/Tailor Shop/Antique Shop/Travel Agency scams because the driver will usually drive you to one of these places where you will be pressured to make a purchase or pay for a package. It is best to check for yourself whether an attraction is closed or look for the official hours of operation in a tour guide or official website.
- Motorbike Rental Scams – Cheap motorbike rental shops will ask to hold your passport for the duration of your rental and then close down or move before you can retrieve your passport. Since most motorbike rental shops will ask you to leave your passport as a deposit, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) recommends seeking a reputable shop recommended by a guidebook, website, or helpful hotel/guesthouse staff
- Travel Agency Scams – A travel agency claiming to be approved by TAT will sell a travel package and require the money upfront. On the scheduled departure date, tourists who purchased the package will be stranded at the departure meeting point. Travel agents might also show you a picture of a room or hotel that is a false representation of the actual site. The Nation Multimedia did an article on travel agency scams in early 2010, indicating that TAT will try to organize legal advice for victims of travel agency scams.
- Gem Scams – The Gem Scam is popular and comes in many forms. Locals might offer advice on where to buy gems at a discounted price and then wave over a tuk-tuk driver to bring you to the recommended shop. Both the tout and the tuk-tuk driver usually receive commission from the gem factory or shop, and once you reach the shop you are pressured to purchase over-priced jewelry or gemstones. The Embassy of New Zealand designates the Erawan Shrine area and larger Chitlom area as hot-spots for this kind of Gem Scam. Another Gem Scam comes in the form of shop-owners selling fake or low-quality gems for high prices. TAT recommends buying from gemstone dealers that are members of the “Jewel Fest Club,” or simply going with dealers that have the best Internet, travel guide, or word-of-mouth reputations.
- Real Estate Scams – If you are interested in purchasing real estate in Thailand, it is a good idea to seek the advice of a Thailand real estate lawyer as the regulations and safeguards for buying real estate in Thailand are much looser than in most Western countries.
- Fortune Teller Scams – Beware of people complimenting you on your “lucky face” or the “look of luck” that you possess. These people are usually very friendly at first and begin by asking you questions about yourself and offering to tell your fortune. If you allow them to keep speaking for a couple of minutes, they will demand money from you and claim that you owe them for their services. These people can get pretty nasty and are common along Khao San Road and the Sukhumvit strip around Nana BTS station, as well as other tourist-heavy locales throughout Bangkok and Thailand.
- Taxi Scams – Unlicensed taxis waiting at Thailand’s major airports and tourist destinations can present another scam. These taxi drivers will often offer you a fixed price instead of using the meter. These prices are exorbitant and should be refused. The meters in most taxis labeled “TAXI METER” are accurate; however, if you find a taxi with a meter that does not begin at 35 baht, then you have found another taxi scam. It is important to know that authorized taxis traveling from the airport charge an additional airport taxi fee and fees for any toll-ways. These are normal fees of authorized airport taxis, and it should not be considered a scam if the driver requests money from you for those reasons.
- Food and Beverage Scam – Perhaps the most dangerous scam is the food and beverage scam, whereby your food or drink is drugged and your personal belongings are stolen. The victims of this crime are often tourists involved in Thailand’s sex industry, but this scam can occur anywhere; even amongst other travelers.
Unfortunately, there is not much recourse available for scam victims. You can report the wrongdoing to the local police or contact the Tourist Police of the Royal Thai Police at telephone hotline 1699 or visit their local offices. If you have what you think is sufficient evidence against the offender, you can seek the legal advice of a qualified Thailand Lawyer.
State of Emergency and Martial Law
Thailand’s political climate has been unstable since the coup d’état of September 2006, which unseated Thaksin Shinawatra’s government. Since then, the demonstrations and violence by groups labeled the “red shirts” and “yellow shirts” have resulted in emergency decrees issued on and off in some of Thailand’s provinces. Persistent violence in Thailand’s Deep South provinces has kept that region under ongoing martial law.
Information Resources and Curfew
It is not uncommon for a curfew to be set in place during periods of unrest in Thailand. English language online newspapers, such as The Nation and The Bangkok Post, will announce the hours of curfew and breaking news on the political situations in Thai provinces during states of national or regional emergency. During the most recent period of violent demonstrations in 2010, foreign embassies, newspapers, Thai citizens, and foreigners visiting and residing in Thailand provided news and insights through social networking websites, like Twitter and Facebook. These sites have become useful and fast resources. Hotlines and websites for foreign embassies in Thailand also provide instructions and news to their citizens during crises. Many embassies open 24-hour hotlines if the embassy building is ordered to close for safety reasons. In the worst-case scenario, foreign governments will evacuate their citizens from the country. It is advisable to carry a copy of your passport information page and a copy of your Thai visa page with you at all times.
Tourists in Thailand are obligated to follow regional curfews enforced by emergency decrees or imposed through martial law. Means of public transportation, such as taxis, motorbike taxis, the BTS and MRT, are not operational during hours of curfew. It is important to arrive at your final destination before curfew begins, as you will be arrested and/or fined if you are found outside of a residence or accommodation after the start of curfew. Arrest and/or fines are issued even if you violate the curfew unintentionally. While prison sentences are less common for curfew violations, it is not uncommon to pay a fine of at least 2000 baht for violating curfew.
Most embassies and state governments advise foreigners to stay away from public demonstrations and large crowds or gatherings during times of political violence or unrest in Thailand. A place with large crowds or gatherings could be any of the following: BTS or MRT stations, malls, markets, popular nightlife areas with numerous bars and clubs, etc. Bans on public assembly can also be enforced during a state of emergency.
Thailand has various penalties for anyone who instigates insurrection or supports oppositional groups. A foreigner was jailed and deported in 2010 for inciting violence in Bangkok and identifying himself with the “red shirts” group.
Foreigners planning to visit Thailand are advised to check some of the resources mentioned in this section, or at least the webpages of their embassy in Thailand and/or their government website, both before traveling to Thailand and while within Thailand in order to stay abreast on the country’s political situation and safety advisories.
    
18. http://www.bangkokscams.com/ is an independent website which collects claims from alleged victims of scams in Bangkok. Some scams from the Examples of Tourist Scams were taken in from the stories collected on this website.
21. Tourism Authority of Thailand
22. Bangkok Residents, Taxis in Bangkok