Tuk-tuk scam in Bangkok, Thailand — what to expect if you’re targeted

Before I explain about a typical tuk-tuk scam in Bangkok, Thailand, let me point out few scams in the city or the country are dangerous.

In most cases, scams in Bangkok are just annoying as they are either carried out to take you to a tourist attraction you do not want to visit, or to relieve you of some of your hard-earned cash.

Here is what to expect from a typical tuk-tuk scam in Bangkok, most of which are very similar and can usually be dealt with in the same way.

What to expect if you are a Bangkok tuk-tuk scam target

While this type of tuk-tuk scam occurs in many tourist areas in Bangkok, it is particularly prevalent in the Grand Palace area of the city. To the extent that I have had tuk-tuk drivers attempt to perpetrate the scam on me at least 10 of the 15 or so times I have visited the Grand Palace.

Being a long-term resident of Bangkok, however, I just respond in Thai, laugh and walk away. As a visitor to the kingdom, however, you need to know what to look out for and how to respond if a typical tuk-tuk scam is about to be tried on you.

  1. A tuk-tuk driver will approach you as you are either attempting to visit the Grand Palace, or a similar tourist spot, or leaving it. They may even approach you outside your hotel. They will often tell you the government is giving free gas to tuk-tuk drivers that day in an attempt to help the tourist industry. They then tell you that means they can take you to some excellent tourist spots for much cheaper than normal.
  2. If you take them up on their offer, they will take you to the tourist spots they mentioned, but they will also drive you to either a gem shop or a tailor’s shop or both. Places that are far more expensive than other similar businesses, and where you will be pressured to make a purchase.
  3. Not dangerous, especially if you try to leave, just annoying as the pressure can be quite heavy.

How to deal with the Bangkok tuk-tuk scam

Smile politely, say “No thank you” and walk away. If they follow you, which a few will, insist again you are not interested and continue walking. At this point, the vast majority will give up and head for another target.

If you get the rare one that is a bit too pushy, just walk into a store or a nearby restaurant. That will immediately send them back to their tuk-tuk and off looking for the next easy victim.

Under no circumstances should you ever take a tuk-tuk ride that has been unsolicited by you, as these are always the ones that are part of a scam.

How to safely ride in a tuk-tuk in Thailand — it’s not that difficult

If you do want to ride in a tuk-tuk while in Bangkok,  give the driver your destination and then negotiate a fare. The only time you should pay more than the negotiated fare is if the traffic turns out to be horrendously bad, and you get stuck.

At that point, paying extra is expected as the tuk-tuk driver cannot control Bangkok traffic.

If you are still not sure how to take a tuk-tuk in Bangkok, or what constitutes a scam, watch the excellent video from Bangkok-based Co Van Kessel below.

Related reading: The tuk-tuk in Thailand, and how to ride in one