Ah, the Land of Smiles -- amazing food, mystical temples, bargain shopping, nightlife catering to, ahem, every taste, and some of the trickiest taxi drivers you’ll ever meet. There is so much to enjoy in Bangkok, but navigating your way around the city can be a bit of a pain. I’ve been to Thailand’s capital a few times over the last decade and it remains one of my favourite cities. But of course, scams exist in every country and getting ripped off is annoying, so keep an eye out for the following:
“The Grand Palace is closed”
The oldest trick in the book. Around the Grand Palace or some other monument, a tuk-tuk driver will approach and tell you it’s closed today because it’s a Monday/the King’s birthday/a religious holiday, and offer to take you to a different sight instead. You will, pretty much without fail, be whisked into a gem store en route, where you’ll be given the hard sell on some “precious jewels”.
“The train is full”
Beware of official-looking agents hanging around outside Hualamphong Train Station, offering to help you book seats. They’ll steer you to a nearby travel agency and supposedly call the booking office, who will say the train is full and the best way to travel is -- surprise, surprise -- on one of their buses.
The long-distance bus scam
A few times I’ve set off on a “VIP” long-distance bus service only to get a few miles down the road and then be told there will be a change of transportation. Some clapped-out, tin can of a minibus then pulls up alongside and the passengers are asked to change vehicles to continue the journey. Really, it’s all in the spirit of adventure and it’s not so much of a scam as an inconvenience. Actually, the last time this happened, we just refused and the driver eventually agreed to continue in the original bus.
To & from the airport
If you take a taxi from the airport, beware that there is a 50-baht (about £1) surcharge -- this is the standard airport policy, not a scam. On the journey into town, you will pass through two or three toll gates, which the passenger has to pay. This will probably add about an extra 90 baht to your metered fare. The tolls will still apply for your journey back to the airport, but not the 50-baht surcharge.
The meter is broken
Taxis can be a really cheap way of getting about Bangkok, but do insist they use their meter. Sometimes they even tell you that they don’t have one, although the taxis are all emblazoned with “Taxi-Meter” on the side.
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