The Truth About Tuk Tuk Scams In Bangkok

Avoiding Tuk Tuk Scams in Bangkok

Introduction

Tuk tuks, the iconic three-wheeled vehicles, are a common sight on the bustling streets of Bangkok. While they offer a unique and adventurous way to explore the city, it is essential for visitors to be aware of the notorious tuk tuk scams in Bangkok that can tarnish their experience. Contrary to the perception created by the minority of tuk tuk drivers involved in scams, most drivers are decent hardworking people simply trying to make a living.

In this blog article, we shed light on the prevalent scams in Bangkok involving tuk tuks, ensuring that you stay informed and prepared during your visit.

Understanding Tuk Tuk Pricing: Normal Charges vs. Scams

Normal Pricing Practices

Tuk tuks don’t have meters like taxis and no regulated rates, which leaves room for drivers to get creative in their prices. Tuk tuk drivers in Bangkok often quote higher prices to both locals and tourists, expecting a negotiation. It’s a standard practice and part of the local culture. Tourists are generally expected to bargain, and agreeing on a fare before beginning your journey is the norm. This is not a scam but a typical interaction. However, reality is drivers will ask tourists for more money than locals as they generally don’t know the usual rates for common routes to negotiate effectively. Of course this may leave the feeling you are being ripped off!

Typically tuk tuk rides will start at approx. 50 or 60THB for a short journey but can quickly get up to 150THB if going 15+ minutes. Also, in general drivers will try and charge more when it is raining (higher demand) or bad traffic (as they know will take a long time). The reality is that tuk tuks practically always charge more than taxis!

Recognizing Scam Pricing

On the other hand, some fares that are quoted are outright scams. Drivers might offer an unusually low initial fare (e.g. 40THB or less for 1+ hours) or even a free ride. This may be a ploy to attract tourists but then take a longer route or make unscheduled stops at shops where they receive commissions, thus inflating the total cost significantly. These deceptive practices are distinct from merely quoting higher initial prices and are part of the tuk tuk scams discussed below.

Common Characteristics of Tuk Tuk Scams In Bangkok

Below we will describe some of the characteristic of a typical tuk tuk scam in Bangkok.

Temple and Attraction Closure Scams

A frequent tuk tuk scam in Bangkok, involves drivers informing tourists that a popular attraction, like the Grand Palace or Wat Pho, is temporarily closed for the next few hours. They then offer to take you to another famous temple or on a tour. Usually they will quote a very low price. Often they say they will take you to “The Lucky Buddha Temple”, which is not a famous temple! Most drivers do not speak great English but people involved in scams do!

The reality is that the Grand Palace and Wat Pho rarely close without notice and closures will be published. Always verify such information independently through official websites or local tourist information centers. If a place is closed it should say so at the main entrance.

Free Ride and Or Extremely Low Fare Scams

Some drivers might simply lure tourists with offers of free or very cheap rides (e.g. 40THB), either as part of “The temple is closed” scam or simple because they see the opportunity. However, these often involve multiple unscheduled stops at shops where the driver is given fuel vouchers for simply taking people and earns commissions if you buy something. Typically these may be gem and jewelry shops, gold shops or tailor shops. What starts as a cheap journey can turn into an expensive tour of shops rather than the city’s sights.

Today is a Special Day!

Part of the above tuk tuk scams in Bangkok is that you will be told by the driver and perhaps 1 or 2 other people that “Today is a special day”. For example the government is waving tax on all gem sales, or special prices for export of tailored clothes. This is all part of the plan to get you interested in buying something and thinking you are getting a good deal!

There Are Several People Involved in The Tuk Tuk Scams

If you get taken to a temple, you may find yourself getting chatting with a local who often has great English (perhaps they say they are a teacher). Eventually they will mention the “Today is a special day!”, which the driver or someone else may have already mentioned. This is all part of making you believe that you are getting a great deal when you eventually get taken to a shop.

When you finally get to a shop, you may hear people and happy customers in the background talking about the special deals or how they just purchased something at a great deal.

Eventually You Will Be Taken To One Or More Shops

Some drivers tell you at the start they may stop quickly at a shop, while others may leave it as a surprise. Drivers might take unsuspecting tourists to specific shops, restaurants, or gem stores, claiming these places have exclusive merchandise or have a special offer in line with the “Today is a special day” that you will already have heard.

The reality is that these shops are not selling the high quality and genuine items that they claim and you will not be getting a good deal. If you get persuaded to buy something for more than $100USD, then do not believe it!!

While you may feel intimidated to walk away without buying anything, this is exactly what you should do and while the shop may pressure you to buy something they are unlikely to stop you!

In reality, the driver receives fuel vouchers for every tourist they bring in, even if you do not buy anything. On top of that they get commission if you do buy anything!

Alternatively: Restaurants, Massage and Long Tail Boats!

Not all tuk tuk scams in Bangkok end up with you being taken to a shop. There are several other businesses who offer drivers very good commissions if they bring them customers and typically they will not be the businesses offering the highest quality service!!!! For example if you tell a driver you are looking for a restaurant, some drivers will take you to places which charge more for average food but pay drivers commission. Likewise this may be the case for massage shops and people offering long tail boat tours on the river.

Tourists talking to Tuk Tuk Driver in front of a temple in Bangkok

Tips to Avoid Being Scammed

How to Negotiate with Tuk Tuk Drivers

Always negotiate the fare upfront before the ride begins. If possible, ask your hotel or local residents about reasonable prices for your intended route to ensure you have a baseline for negotiation. Specify that you wish to go directly to your destination without any detours.

Verifying Information Independently

For any unexpected information about closures or special events, double-check using reliable sources. This can include checking official websites, asking staff at your accommodation, or consulting a reputable local guide. For example, if the Grand Palace is closed there should be a sign by the main entrance.

If In Doubt Stop Another Tuk Tuk Which is Driving By

Tuk Tuks that are involved in scams are often waiting around for tourists. This does not mean a tuk tuks waiting outside a tourist attraction are going to scam you, but if they are and you detect the above characteristics then it is best to be cautious. Walk away and try and stop a tuk tuk or taxi that is passing by.

Don’t Buy Anything Expensive!

Ultimately if you end up being taken to a shop you never intended to go to, and someone tries to sell you something expensive, just don’t buy it. This is the safest way to avoid being scammed!

Using Reputable Booking Services

Most people have no issues when taking tuk tuks in Bangkok. Ultimately if you are worried, to minimize the risk of getting caught in a tuk tuk scam in Bangkok, consider booking your tuk tuk rides through reputable apps or services known for their reliability and fair pricing. This not only ensures a set fare that is often more reasonable but also provides a record of your journey and driver details, enhancing safety. You can find out more about tuk tuk services in Bangkok on our Bangkok page. Some examples of great companies are Expique (for tuk tuk tours and rental) and Muvmi (who run an app based Hop-on-hop-off tuk tuk service).

Safety and Security While Using Tuk Tuks

Protecting Your Belongings and Personal Safety

Keep your belongings secure during rides, especially in crowded areas. Tuk Tuks are open vehicles so be cautious to ensure bags and valuables can not be snatched by people on passing motorbikes. Some tuk tuks have a netting on the side to prevent against thieves snatching as they drive past. Keeping valuables out of sight can help prevent opportunistic theft. If a situation doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts and decline the ride.

Understanding Local Laws and Customs

Knowing a bit about local customs and the basic legal framework regarding tourist rights can be helpful. This knowledge can empower you to handle disputes confidently and ensure fair treatment.

The Majority of Tuk tuk Drivers are Decent

It’s important to understand that the majority of tuk tuk drivers in Bangkok are honest, hardworking individuals simply trying to earn a living. These drivers provide a valuable service, navigating the chaotic streets with a smile. Outside the touristy areas they get most of their income from locals. Unfortunately, the reputation of tuk tuk drivers has been tarnished by a minority who engage in tuk tuk scams in Bangkok, primarily targeting tourists in popular areas. This small group’s actions should not overshadow the integrity of the countless drivers who offer genuine and fair services daily.

Sadly, in the touristy areas many of the tuk tuks are owned by powerful people and the drivers rent them knowing that if they get “lucky” they will pay the rental fee and have a very good day! The tuk tuk owners have the power to ensure that the tuk tuk scams in Bangkok go on and are not stopped.

By staying informed and cautious, tourists can enjoy the benefits of this unique transport method while supporting the local economy.

You Can Enjoy A Cheap Ride Knowing It May Be Part Of Tuk Tuk Scam in Bangkok

For the more adventurous, if you do get into a situation where you are offered a very cheap ride, then in most cases it is still safe to take it, but knowing all of the above you can prevent yourself from being fooled into buying something expensive. We have actually heard more stories of people who enjoyed a cheap ride but bought nothing at the places they stopped, that of people who ended up being scammed into buying something at rip off prices.

Conclusion

While tuk tuks in Bangkok can offer a fun and authentic way to see the city, being aware of common tuk tuk scams in Bangkok and knowing how to avoid them ensures a more enjoyable and stress-free experience.