Best known scams in Phuket
There are a few scams in Phuket, just like in most tourist destinations around the world, and you should be able to recognise them if they ever happen to you. Don’t worry too much: while most are not frequent, they are easy to spot and avoid. Only the first scam can have serious consequences; the others are more of an annoyance, a waste of money and time. Read these, and you will come armed and ready. See also ‘10 Tips for a Safe Holiday in Phuket‘
1. The Jet Ski Scam
The Jetski scam was always very well-known locally, but it started to be shared in international news recently. It’s pretty severe, so be aware of it as it will ruin your holidays if you are the unlucky victim. The scheme is simple and involves intimidation. Tourists rent jet skis quite casually, not knowing about the scam and that most jet skis are not insured.
You go for your little joy ride on the sea and return 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 is not being insured; some cash 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.
2. Ping Pong Show Touts
The tout scam is not a big deal, but it can be annoying. You can’t miss those guys (or girls) walking down Bangla road on Patong beach. There are dozens of them. They will wave their little laminated 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 very easy to find, and you are probably standing next to one (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 bad, but it’s often a waste of time and feels like being tricked. We experienced it while walking on the beach road when two 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 in a lucky draw and we could pick a ticket right here and 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 listening to a pushy salesperson. Stay away if you value your holiday time!
4. Drunk Bills
You are on Bangla road, having a party with friends at one of those many bars. There are hundreds of them in Patong! 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 drunk; and very happy too! You may notice that more girls are keeping you company than when you started. They will ask you for a drink, which is nice to offer initially as they are 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’ is worth. As it’s time to return to your hotel, you ask for the bill: the total on the bill might shock you. You won’t remember how it reached that considerable amount! The bar didn’t inflate the bill, you didn’t realise how many times you bought a drink, and to whom! Everyone was so lovely and friendly! Next time: pay each bill as it comes or keep enough clarity to say no 🙂
Luckily this scam is getting rare. While on the beach or walking in 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 does is illegal. Don’t encourage it by accepting it, no matter how cute the animal is! Read more