Thailand is a Buddhist country and to a large extent this encourages honesty in those with a devout following of the philosophy. Stories of tourists losing bags or wallets only to have them returned with all of their contents intact are not uncommon, nor are incidents of generosity or kindness on the part of locals.
This is not to say that the country doesn’t have its share of scoundrels. Recognising that miscreants the world over employ similar methods when exploiting the vulnerability and naivety of tourists is half the battle in avoiding becoming victim to their ruses.
Taxi drivers are perhaps the most well-known for their devious exploits and it is wise to deal with them with an attitude of suspicion. The single most effective action you can take to avoiding taxi rip-offs is to have a good idea (or a rough one at the very least) of the usual cost of the journey you are taking. This way, when you approach your proposed driver you can appear confident and convey the appearance of a savvy tourist and not a gullible, walking-wallet. This kind of information can usually be gleaned easily from other tourists, or hotel staff.
Under no circumstances should you accept service from a taxi driver who tells you the meter isn’t working. This is the oldest trick in the book and will undoubtedly relieve you of a hefty sum if you fall for it. Even with cabs with fully functional meters, it’s wise to establish a ballpark figure before you embark on the journey. This way the driver is less inclined to take you around the same block a half-dozen times in order to bump up the distance travelled.
Be wary of any local taxi drivers offering to show you the sights of the area for rock bottom prices. Invariably, such characters have deals with local businesses in which they receive fuel coupons for bringing you to their establishments. You may well get to see all the sights they promise, but only after visiting a number of suit and jewellery shops along the way.
The final caveat to observe with taxi drivers is the issue of payment. Be sure to have something close to the correct change for your journey, else you risk a common scenario in which you tender a 500 baht note for a 200 baht journey and the driver will tell you he has no change, forcing you to leave a tip in figures you hadn’t bargained for.
Shopping in Pattaya has the capacity to see you taken advantage of if you are not sharp. Any establishment that does not offer fixed prices may well choose to view Western visitors as fair game and attempt to procure the largest possible sum for an item. You can engage in the whole haggling process and think you’ve walked away with a bargain, when in reality you’ve paid considerably over the odds.
The best approach as a consumer is to shop around, test the pricing with a variety of vendors and see if there is any consistency. If prices come back in a similar range then chances are that is the general asking price for that particular item.
If possible, have a Thai friend or acquaintance ask the price of an item while you keep a respectable distance. This way you might get a more realistic idea of the true value of your desired purchase. Finally, when buying anything, examine the product for defects before accepting it and check your change before leaving the scene.
Pattaya has a large sex industry. Punters wanting to take girls out of bars for the night are required to pay a fee to the establishment, known as a ‘bar fine’. What takes place after that and at what cost is entirely at the discretion of the gentleman and his escort.
Visitors indulging in these services are wise to keep all cash and valuable items in places well beyond the reach of their temporary bed partners, else risk waking up to find themselves relieved of such articles and their partner long gone. Victims of such scenarios are generally loath to inform the police, as prostitution is technically illegal and they run the risk of indicting themselves in the process. Usually, however, all unregistered guests in a hotel are required to leave their ID at reception as a safeguard against this. Be sure to inform reception anyway if they don’t ask.
Time-share touts parading the Pattaya Beach area can be something of a nuisance and scams are not uncommon. Avoiding any fraternisation with such characters is advisable. Watch our for other characters on the same strip who, while diverting your attention with their charms, will light-fingeredly relieve you of your wallet or other items of value.
Restaurants are generally problem-free areas, although be sure to double-check the reckoning on your bill to be on the safe side, just in case some ‘enterprising’ worker has sought to slip in an ‘accidental’ error into the mathematics. This is most important when dining in large groups and paying the total sum in one go as opposed to each party member settling their own bill individually.
The majority of holidaymakers enjoy their time in Pattaya without incident. To head for the resort with the idea that all locals are frauds, cheats, thieves and vagabonds is certainly doing them an injustice and will likely impair your ability to fully appreciate your holiday. Try to relax while remaining cautious and you will have a great time.