There are a few scams in Phuket, just like in most tourist destinations around the world, and you should be able to recognize them if they ever happen to you. Don’t worry too much: while most are not frequent, they are easy to spot and easy to avoid. Only the first scam can have serious consequences, the others are more of an annoyance, a waste of money and a waste of time. Read these and you will come armed and ready 🙂
The Jet ski scam was always very well-known locally, but it started to be shared in international news recently. It’s pretty serious so be aware of it as it will ruin your holidays if you are the unlucky victim. The scheme is simple and involve intimidation. Tourists rent jet skis quite casually, not knowing about the scam and the fact that most jet skis are not insured.
You go for your little joy ride on the sea, and come back to the beach once your time is up. That’s where the nightmare begins. The beach boys in charge of renting you a machine will point at some scratch on the hull you didn’t notice when you left, accusing you of damaging the jet ski. The jet ski not being insured, some cash money will be requested. Of course you will refuse because you know it didn’t happen, but more beach boys will surround you and use intimidation to extort money from you, up to 40,000 baht or more. The best way to avoid it is not to rent jet skis, they are loud, dangerous and known for the trouble they create.
The tout scam is not a really big deal but it can be annoying. You can’t miss them if you are walking down Bangla road in Patong beach, there is dozen of them. They will wave their little card at you and invite you to a Go Go Bar to see the notorious ping-pong show. If you want to see a go-go bar, they are actually very easy to find and you are probably standing next to one (they are mostly on Soi Seadragon). The trick? You will be charged extra for your drinks at the bar so the tout can get his commission. If you walk inside a bar on your own, you will pay the regular price per drink.
The timeshare scam has been around for two decades. It’s not really bad but it’s often a waste of time and feels like being tricked. We experienced it as we were walking on the beach road when 2 girls on a motorbike approached us, pretending to work for some tourism research association, asking if we were on holiday.
She told us we were entitled to participate to a lucky draw and we could pick a ticket right here and right now. We did. Lucky us we won a tee-shirt! But here is the trick: you must collect your tee-shirt at their office… after watching a video promoting timeshare and listen to a pushy salesperson. Stay away if you value your holiday time!
You are in Bangla road having party with friends at one of those many bars… there are literally hundreds of them! You know, those tiny beer bars with stools and smiling girls, sometimes with poles where girls dance in tiny outfits. Nothing wrong with that, enjoy your party! Now as it gets late, you are getting a little tipsy and very happy too! You may notice that there are more girls keeping you company than there was originally. They will ask you for a drink, which is nice to offer at the beginning as the first ones are really here to keep you company.
But as the night goes on, girls from less successful bars might join, knowing that you are losing track of reality. Often you don’t even know what ‘Thai baht’ worth. As it’s time to go back to your hotel, you ask for the bill: the total on the bill might shock you. You won’t remember how it reached that huge amount! The bar didn’t inflate the bill, you just didn’t realize how many times you bought a drink… and to whom! Everyone was so nice and friendly! Next time: pay each bill as it comes or keep enough clarity to say no 🙂
Luckily this scam is getting rare. As you are on the beach or walking on Bangla, you might meet a guy walking with a lovely animal on his shoulder. It can be a gibbon, a slow loris, an iguana or a Brahminy kite (a local eagle). He will invite you to carry it so he can take your photo with the lovely creature, with your mobile probably as the time of Polaroid is long gone. Don’t worry, he won’t run away with your phone, but those animals are protected and what he is doing is illegal. Don’t encourage it by accepting, no matter how cute the animal is!