Dual pricing, or two tier pricing, is alive and well in Thailand and it drives tourists and expats crazy. Dual pricing, if you don’t already know, is charging a low price for a Thai and a much, much higher one for anyone who isn’t Thai. Common practice all over Thailand, many tourists don’t realize it exists as the price for westerners and other foreigners will be written in Arabic numerals but the lower price for Thais will be written in Thai numerals.
Unless you read Thai, you will have no idea you are being discriminated against because you’re a foreigner. If dual pricing exists though, why does it, how can you avoid it and which places in Thailand should you avoid if you do want to avoid dual pricing?
Why Does Thailand Have Dual Pricing? – It’s hard to say as Thais really don’t like to talk about it. Most expats however think dual pricing exists in Thailand for two reasons. The first is the obvious – Thais make much less money overall than tourists or expats so it’s a way of making sure they can still do or see the things foreigners can. Secondly, many places that have dual pricing are places housing national treasures, national parks, historic buildings and, in that respect, the Thai government wants to make sure Thais have the opportunity to experience their culture.
For both of these reasons for dual pricing, most foreigners think “Fair enough”. When the dual pricing becomes annoying though is when the difference in price is enormous (40 baht ($1.20) for Thais and 600 baht ($18.10) for tourists and expats. There’s no excuse or rationale for that kind of price difference, if anything it’s just pure greed.
The other reason expats find it annoying is when we have to pay ‘farang price” (farang being Thai for ‘westerner’) even though we live here. Some expats don’t earn much more money than average middle class Thais, yet they’re still expected to pay upwards of 10 times what a Thai will pay for doing the same thing. Even with a Thai wife in some places, the wife will pay 40 baht and the western husband will have to pay 800 baht. No wonder many resent it.
How Can You Avoid Dual Pricing in Thailand? – Unfortunately, it’s difficult to if you’re a tourist. Dual pricing is at national parks, most tourist attractions, museums, the National Gallery, places like Siam Ocean World, Dreamworld amusement park, Safari World etc. You can try to argue for the Thai price if you can figure out you’re getting the higher of the dual prices but it’s very rare they’ll back down for a tourist. To many Thais, tourists have more money than them (at least that’s what they think!) so it’s perfectly natural to want to get some of that money for themselves.
If you’re an expat living in Thailand, in many cases, you can get Thai price. You just need to show your work permit, or a Thai bank ATM card, or a Thai driver’s license and 90% of the time, you’ll get Thai price. If you’re with a Thai spouse, you’ll likely get it 100% of the time, especially if your spouse argues with them before you pay.
Which Places To Avoid For Dual Pricing? – Of course, any of the tourist areas are likely to charge dual prices. As you get outside the larger Thai cities and towns though, there’s often less dual pricing or, even if there is, the difference in price is minimal.
Some places to avoid that charge high dual pricing for expats, westerners and tourists are:
Siam Ocean World and Madame Tussauds – An aquarium in the basement of Siam Paragon department store, and of course, the famous Madame Tussauds wax museum. For some reason, the owners think it’s fine to charge 350 baht ($10.25) for Thais and 850 baht ($26) at Siam Ocean World, and even more money at Madame Tussauds, and of course, the Thai price is in Thai so you wouldn’t even know.
Avoid Siam Ocean World and Madame Tussauds if you don’t want to pay the exorbitant ‘farang price’.
National Parks – Where Thais usually pay 40 baht ($1.20), everyone else pays 400 baht ($12.25). Unless you absolutely must see a Thai national park, don’t visit one.
Human Imagery Museum in Samut Prakarn – Farangs pay around 10 times higher than Thais.
Hotels – Unfortunately, many hotels, even the large ones charge one price for tourists or westerners and a much lower price for Thais. Try to get a Thai friend or girlfriend/boyfriend who’s traveling with you to book the hotel and pay for it as that will reduce the price markedly. If it’s not paid for up front, the hotel will try to charge you a higher price when you get there saying they “made a mistake”.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Pattaya – Thai price is in Thai numerals, the price for everyone else in Arabic numerals. Avoid it if you don’t want to pay the much higher price.
It’s a pity Thailand continues to practice dual pricing as it angers tourists and other foreigners and makes them want to spend less money in Thailand, not more. Particularly in the current bad economy, it certainly doesn’t help Thailand’s financial stability or its reputation either.