Tips for travelling in Phuket: Classic Travel Scams, Etiquette Etc

Phuket has become a world class, go-to holiday destination for tourist wanting sun, sand, great nightlife and of course in some cases to let their hair down and party. But, with this comes it’s fair share of travel scams, rip offs that are all aimed to fleece tourists out of their hard earned holiday dollar. Be warned it happens all the time and you should take precautions against this by knowing the scams and what to look out for. Also the Thai culture is very unique and visitors find they do offend locals without even knowing about it.

So following is a guide to those scams in Phuket as well as some tips on Thai etiquette. This way you can mingle with the locals, chat with them and be sure that you are aware of all Thai idiosyncrasys. Last thing you want to do is make any social miscalculations, foibles or blunders while on holiday.

Make sure you know how to greet people the Thai way: The Wai

The ‘wai‘ – is seen all the time all over Thailand and this is when 2 people meet and bow to each other with their hands in a prayer position in the front of their chest. Like with most cultures age deserves respect so if a younger person is greeting an older person, the former has to bow first. As you bow you maintain eye contact.

thai greeting

When visiting religious sites and temples you should know this:

When you are visiting a Buddhist temple:

This probably should be known but show respect and wear appropriate clothing. If you are going on a tour and have just been on the beach know that you cannot wear shorts (for men) of short skirts (for women). Also, sandles and thongs are not on. You need appropriate foot wear and clothing that covers you body at all times. Also, it’s rude to point your feet and any Buddhist statue and all shoes will need to be removed when entering the temple. If you are going to be taking photos in any holy area do so with respect and don’t do silly selfies that may offend the resident monks.

Talking and engaging with Buddhist monks:

Again, like with all religions the monks should be treated with the respect they deserve. If you are there to learn about Buddhism let them do the talking and avoid monopolising the conversation with your daily life dramas or personal issues you think they may be able to resolve. Females cannot touch the monks – this is a really important point to note. You cannot even touch them as you pass them by. If you need to give them something place it on the floor in front of them, move away and let them take it. Simple as that.

buddhist monk phuket

What to do when dining Thai style

Make sure you

…Try not to leave any food on the plate as this may offend your Thai host. A finished plate shows you enjoyed the meal and is a sign of gratitude.

…Let the older people order the food and do not make any suggestions. They are Thai and they will know what to order. If you are a vegetarian you can however tell them

…Do not rush into the meal when it arrives. Be patient and wait for your host to invite you to start.

…When it comes to paying the bill, if it comes to you then you pay it. In Thai culture the wealthiest person is expected to pay for the bill. If it comes to you by mistake they will know and pay. Don’t make a fuss about this. Relax and let them handle it.

What ever you do make sure you don’t

…Put your chopsticks in an upright position on the plate – this is bad luck.

…All dishes at a communal meal are shared and do not expect to order 1 dish for yourself.

…Do not rush through the meal and eat in a hurry. Relax and enjoy yourself as a Thai dining experience is a time consuming affair.

Transport: How to get around in  Phuket

There is zero public transport on the island so if you need to get anywhere it will have to be by Taxi and please make sure it’s a metred taxi as others will quote a much higher fare as they know you are a tourist. If you cannot get a metred taxi then flag another driver down and make sure you agree on a price before hand. You can bargain here as they will start at an inflated price for sure! Always have small change and never ever show them that you have larger denomination notes. If the driver gets aggressive and demands more money simply walk away and look for he nearest police. You do not want to get into any kind of fight in Phuket with a driver.

When it comes to Money: Watch out for your cash card

Watch out for any ATM scams. They always happen at the machines. Look out for any scanning device on the machine. You will know it when you see it. Unfortunately many tourists fall victim to this scam after a few drinks when they need more money and are not paying attention to the ATM – happens frequently.

Another big scam is when you are paying for something with your credit card. Make sure any swiping is done in front of you and NEVER let them take the card away from your sight. This is a sign that they may be looking to scan your card on another machine.

Here are some tourists scams: 

Phuket is legendary for scams as it’s a popular tourists destination – you have to be vigilant or you may end up loosing a hell of a lot of money.

  • The minivan driver scam

When you arrive at the airport you are going to need a taxi or a driver and there are going to be heaps of them approaching you. Many divers will stop at an imagined hotel or villa management agency and say the place you have planned to stay out is booked out and it’s just bad luck. Here’s where the driver takes you to their mates place and they get a percentage. So rule of thumb here, if your driver attempts to stop anywhere (other than to fill up with petrol) get out and grab another taxi.

  • The classic photo-taking scam

If you are going to get your photo taken with an lady boy especially in the Bangla Road area you will have to pay them – nothing is for free when it comes to photos and they can hit you up for quite a bit of coin. This is the same for any guy holding a snake, monkey or other exotic animal. You want a photo with them, then pay up!

lady boys phuket

  • Jewellery, gold and diamond scams

If your friendly taxi driver want to show you where the best gold and jewellery shops in Phuket are be warned – it’s a scam. Do not buy and precious metals, stones or gems here and expect to come out a winner. They could be fake and chances are they will be. Save your purchases for back home or at an international duty free out let.