Brendan Gara Photography

Paranoid times


Tourist scamming- big business if you believe the reports on the web and travel sites.  It’s statistically likely to happen, so do everything you can to minimize your risk.

“Wear a money belt, don’t carry your camera in your hand, lock up your valuables”.

It’s enough to stop you from going, or at the very least make you think twice about walking out unprepared.  We were scammed a few times, we got to know when it was happening, and we’re still here, and we didn’t lose everything.

Tuk Tuks:  Apparently there are 3 different coloured badges on tuk tuks, gold are official, the other two colours are unlicensed.  So says the well appointed manager of the building just behind us, who saw us struggling with our map and came over to help us.  Handily he locates an “official” tuk tuk quickly and writes our desired destination on the map for the driver to see.  Good price too.  So we get in, say where we want to go (the grand palace) and away we go.

Driver heads off and goes off in a direction we know is the wrong way, even accounting for traffic conditions.  I tapped him on the shoulder and showed him my tourist map, he shrugs and carries on.  Next set of lights I repeat the tapping and indicating, he repeats the shrugging, only this time he shakes his head and points to another temple on the map.  Next thing we pull into a narrow lane which opens up onto the back of a small temple.  He stops the tuk tuk and two people come out of the temple and start walking over to us.  They want us to come in, look at their gems after which the driver will take us onto the Grand Temple.  We decline politely, to which, they get a bit more insistent.  At this point I climb out of the tuk tuk, tell the driver to go fuck himself and we walk quickly back down the lane, onto the main road.  We flag down the first tuk tuk we can see and pay over the odds to go to the grand temple

Second time- walking out of the hotel we were pleased to meet a well dressed teacher who kindly informed us that Bangkok’s main train station, Hua Lamphong closes its ticket desks on Saturdays, so we would be far better going to this other travel agent across town.  Who knew?

Luckily he could negotiate a great tuk tuk fare to get there, which he would have no problem in writing down on our map.  We parted company with this well-appointed teacher telling me to fuck off this time.  I suppose I had it coming as I was laughing when we shook hands to say goodbye and no thank you very much.

I’m not saying everybody is out to scam you, and certainly not all tuk tuk drivers or well appointed teachers are, but it pays to be aware.  It pays to have some knowledge of where you are going (work it out before you set out), don’t walk around with a map in front of you all the time.  Walk with purpose, with confidence and stay calm and be polite.


The alternative is to always assume the worse and that just gets tiring.


I really wish I’d asked the teacher for a quick portrait though, that would have been a good shot I’m sure.   For the record none of the people shown in this post tried to scam us.




  1. From my experience in Bangkok, its just roulette and pretty much everyone is going to take you some where. Its not really a scam because you should always negotiate your price before hand and the just dont buy anything at the gem store/ suit shop / lottery store. Just scamming your time

    When in Rome right?

  2. Very true, and you can always walk away from the negotiation. Knowing when you should comes with experience. Tourists pay more- accept that and life is a bit easier.

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