empty streets along Karon Beach in Phuket, Thailand

9 Phuket Scams To Watch Out For

Phuket is one of the most visited places in Thailand, and because of that, scams are prevalent to happen here. Scammers are well aware tourists from all over the world are visiting with money to spend.

Here’s a list of the most common Phuket scams you may encounter when visiting and how to avoid them!

If you’ve never been to Thailand, I’d like you to know that Thai people are very hospitable. In my experience of traveling to many countries, Thailand ranks #1 for me regarding the friendliest locals. After all, Thailand’s nickname is The Land of Smiles!

Anywhere in the world with high tourism will have at least a few scams; this is impossible to avoid.

While there are common scams in Phuket, the amount of scams happening here is lower than in Bangkok and Pattaya City.

TukTuk Scams

several tourists walking out and into the Karon Night Market in Karon Beach, Phuket, Thailand, tuk tuk scam is one of the popular scams in Phuket to watch out for

With Phuket being a large island, you’re bound to take a tuk-tuk here and there. Besides that, they’re fun to take and very fast/convenient when getting around Phuket.

Unfortunately, some Tuk-Tuk drivers are dishonest and are looking to take advantage of tourists visiting, making the tuk-tuk scam one of the most popular scams in Phuket.

There are two different types of tuktuk scams that take place not only in Phuket but all of Thailand.

TukTuk Scam 1

The first TukTuk scam goes like this; the TukTuk driver will suggest you visit a tailor, souvenir, or gem shop on the way that they highly recommend you visit.

Before you know it, you’re on the way to do some shopping you never intended to do, and on top of that, your tuktuk driver is taking a long detour route to the shops so they can charge you more for the ride. At times, the driver will suggest the drive to the shops is free, and it’s NOT free, don’t believe them.

By the way, the gem shop that sells “extremely rare cheap gems“, they’re scamming you also; these are just random gems worth nothing.

What’s going on here is the driver has a deal with these shops; if you buy anything at the shops they’ve brought you to, the driver will get a commission. Regardless if you don’t buy anything, the driver will suggest you pay for the drive to the shops.

TukTuk Scam 2

The second TukTuk scam goes like this; you spot a tuk-tuk and ask them for a ride somewhere you’d like to go. After speaking to the driver and agreeing on a price, they repeat a slightly higher amount for you to pay as you arrive at your destination. Drivers tend to do this more at night, especially if they notice you’re drunk.

TIP: If you want to take a TukTuk and are unsure what a fair price would be, download Grab and Bolt apps; they’re like Uber in Thailand. Check what these apps charge for your trip and then negotiate with the driver. Paying slightly higher than what’s on Grab/Bolt is okay because taking a TukTuk does have its convenience, and the red TukTuks in Phuket can fit six people!

How To Avoid: To avoid either TukTuk scam, if offered to go anywhere other than where you’d like to go, respectfully deny and politely be firm about where you’d like to go. Also, always make sure to confirm the agreed-upon price before going!

There are many other ways to get around Phuket, including public transportation options during the day. For more info on how to get around Phuket, I’ve highlighted all the different ways to get around Phuket here.

Taxi Airport Scam

plane leaving Phuket International Airport from tarmac
Credit: Oleksander Volos

You’ve just landed at Phuket International Airport; you can feel the heat as you exit the plane and are excited to get out and explore the island.

Time to get to your hotel in Phuket; there are a few different ways to do so, Phuket Smart Bus, book a Grab, Taxi, or minibus van.

If you’d prefer to take a taxi or minibus van, watch out for these two scams you might run into.

The first one is the most common, the price you’ve been offered to get to your hotel is relatively high, and the driver is trying to overcharge you. The second one occurs if you take the minibus van, and the driver stops halfway at a “travel agency,” they suggest your hotel is sold out and cannot take you to your hotel; decline and say you’ll figure it out.

The cheapest way to leave Phuket Airport is by taking the Phuket Smart Bus.

Otherwise, I’d recommend you use Grab or Bolt apps. You’ll need to leave the airport area and go to the main road to meet your driver. No unauthorized vehicles are allowed into the airport, and this is because there is a bit of a taxi mafia operating transportation at Phuket airport.

How To Avoid: Be prepared to negotiate with your driver, politely be stern on your price, or instead take the Smartbus or Grab/Bolt

Jetski Scam

several people sitting on their beach lounge chairs watching the beautiful sunset and a sailboat passing by at Kata Beach in Phuket, Thailand

One of the most common scams in Phuket is the jetski scam, which is very well-known locally and throughout Thailand.

This involves more intimidation than the actual jet ski, and it goes like this. You speak to a jetski operator and agree on a price to ride the jetski for some time. Once you’ve ridden the jetski and returned to shore, it’s time to pay.

The jet ski operator comes up with all sorts of claims about the damage you’ve caused to the jetski, and this can be as little as a small scratch on the jetski or saying the motor is damaged because you went too fast. They ask for a ridiculously high payment to fix the jetski. If you deny it, they can start to try to intimate you.

How To Avoid: Before getting on the jet ski, make sure you reconfirm the agreed-upon price. When renting a jet ski, try to rent one with a nearby friend if you can. If confronted, politely remind them you did nothing wrong and that you’re familiar with this scheme. Then, mention getting tourist police involved to resolve the matter.

Never put your passport as collateral for any sort of rental in Thailand.

Scooter/Motorbike Scam

several motorbikes parked on the side of a main road in Kata Beach, Phuket, Thailand

The motorbike scam in Phuket is relatively identical to the jet ski scam. Once you’ve rented a scooter or motorbike and it’s time to bring it back, you’re told about several vehicle damages you’ve caused and will need to pay for them.

As I said earlier, never give your passport as collateral to rent a scooter. Some tourists do so and, upon returning, when told about the damages they’ve done, are stuck in a situation where they either pay for the fake damages and get their passport back or they’re left without a passport.

If a scooter rental operator requests a passport as collateral/deposit, request that you’d like to pay an amount of cash instead. And if they don’t accept cash as a deposit for a rental, move on to the next scooter rental shop; plenty are around Phuket!

How To Avoid: Always take a video of your rental with detail; this shows confidence to the rental shop that you have footage of exactly how you received the scooter. Use reputable rental companies; I use Bike Booking when in Phuket.

Drunk Bills

plenty liquor bottles lined up at a bar under a red light in Patong Beach

Phuket is famous for its parties, and with that comes a bunch of drunk tourists, sometimes too drunk, in my opinion. And that’s exactly what some nightclubs and bartenders love to take advantage of.

The drunk bill scam goes like this: you’re at a bar having a few drinks, three turn into six, and before you know it, you’re a little tipsy. You decide to go elsewhere or return to your hotel and ask for the bill.

You’re handed the bill, which is much higher than you anticipated. You see a clear sign at the bar that states “150 baht for a beer”, yet you’re being charged much more.

These bars try to take advantage of drunk tourists, and if you deny them, sometimes they begin to tell you different pricing for different drinks to try and justify it in some manner.

This isn’t one of the common scams in Phuket, where it’s most common is on Bangla Road in Patong Beach. The famous nightlife road, which hundreds of tourists come to explore every night, is full of bars, nightclubs, go-go bars, and more.

How To Avoid: When you buy a drink or two, ask for the bill instantly and pay per drink. Another tip is don’t get too drunk.

Timeshare Scam

a busy extensive beach shoreline full of people at Kata Beach and a mountain range in the background in Phuket, Thailand, is Phuket expensive?

The timeshare scam is less of a scam and more of an absolute waste of time. However, once you’ve discussed it more, it may sound like more of a scam to you. This scam has been around in Phuket for over two decades now.

One or two locals, and sometimes a foreign tourist living in Phuket, will approach you pretending to work for a tourism research association, looking to ask a few harmless questions. To incentivize you, they say you may win a lucky prize or reward if you take the survey.

After telling you you’ve won a free t-shirt or small free souvenir, you must go to a timeshare club and watch a 90-minute presentation about timeshares in Phuket. The time this takes from your holiday is not worth a free random t-shirt or souvenir.

How To Avoid: When approached and if they mention timeshares in Phuket, please tell them you are uninterested.

Double Charge Card Scam

a plate of papaya salad being served in Phuket

The double-charge spend is most common at bars in Patong Beach, not so much in other areas in Phuket. But it’s still good to be aware of it and know it’s one of those scams in Phuket to watch out for.

This is how the double card charge scam goes: when you’re having a few drinks or dining at a restaurant, and you request to pay by card instead of cash.

The person working at the bar/restaurant will ask you to give them your card and tell you they’ll be right back if they take it. They will charge your card twice for the same transaction and profit from your visit.

Don’t give your credit card, no matter what.

How To Avoid: If this happens, either request to pay by cash or tell them you’ll come to the paying machine and pay yourself.

Ping Pong Show Scam

tourists crowd the nightlife street of bangla road in patong beach

The ping pong show is the most common scam in Patong Beach. I won’t go into descriptive detail on what a ping-pong show exactly is. You can Google it!

But this so-called “trick” is something many foreigners say you can only see in Thailand, so it’s become a popular activity to get crossed off your bucket list when visiting Thailand. It’s most popular in Bangkok, Pattaya, and Patong Beach in Phuket.

This is how the ping pong show scam works. You’re walking down Bangla Rd, and a few girls or a guy working at a go-go bar approach you with a pricing chart for a ping pong show, asking you if you’d like to come watch.

Once inside, most places will state that you must order a drink. After experiencing the show and having one or two drinks, you ask for the bill. Once the bill comes, the price is way inflated, and when you ask why.

They tell you that this price includes the drinks and the ping pong show price, and they put any price they’d like for the cost of the show. You’re confused because you thought you were only paying for drinks! Not the actual performance, as well.

How To Avoid: Honestly, avoid going to ping-pong shows in general. Most of the experiences end up in scams.

If you want to go, it’s best to go with a friend. Also, ask about pricing for the drinks and the show and confirm everything before sitting down.

TIP: Watch your pockets for pickpocketers when walking on Bangla Rd in Patong Beach.

Romance Scam

One of the most popular scams in Phuket is the romance scam, and in fact, it’s popular throughout Thailand.

Many bar girls or sometimes women right on the street will approach men and spark up some conversation.

Sorry to break it to you. She’s not interested in getting to know you or you know. She’s looking to gain financially from you. This scam is prevalent if you’re a Western man from Britain, US, or Canada.

This doesn’t mean you can’t find love in Thailand; many people do. But not this way.

How To Avoid: Politely deny their proposition and continue on your way. Your future self and your pocket will thank you!

the main beach area at Freedom Beach with several tourists and large rocks separating the main part of Freedom Beach and the hidden beach area

What to do if you fall victim? – Phuket Scams

It can happen; don’t feel ashamed if you’ve been scammed. Call the Thai Tourist Police from your phone at 1155. Explain to them how you got scammed and when, and they’ll help you further!

Well, those are the Phuket scams to watch out for; remember to be aware of these scams, and if you’re in the middle of being scammed, be patient and politely but respectfully deny it.

What you shouldn’t do is get into any loud altercations or any physical altercations. This won’t help the cause of the situation.

What scams to watch out for in Phuket?

There are a few scams in Phuket to watch out for: the Tuk Tuk Scam, Jet Ski Scam, Scooter rental Scam, Drunk Bill Scam, Ping Pong Show Patong scam, and more!

Are scams common in Thailand?

No, they aren’t common in most places in Thailand, but if you’re visiting popular tourist spots like Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, etc, scams in Thailand are more prominent.

Be aware, and if anything happens, report the incident to the Thai Tourist Police at 1155.

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