Bangkok Scams: New Bangkok Airport Scam – Taxi Meter Rigging

Bangkok’s main airport, Suvarnabhumi, received a fair bit of negative press last year for allowing scammers to operate within its grounds. The dishonest airport was thrown into the limelight with the emergence of the zig-zag scam, a scam that involved popular Bangkok duty free shopping company King Power. Customers were being accused ofbangkok airport scam shoplifting after deliberately not being given a receipt, or charged for products they presumed they had legitimately purchased at the counter. Unwitting customers were then searched and questioned, and even though no real proof was presented, the notion of doubt was aroused and the accused were asked to pay an extortionate fine to the conspirators, which included members of staff and a dubious liaison officer named Tony.

One couple in particular made the BBC headlines in the UK. Mr. Ingram and Ms. Xi were told they had to pay £8,000 to be released without further charges relating to theft from the prestigious Bangkok duty free store. Video footage apparently showed Ms. Xi putting a wallet in her bag, the search proved her innocence. The couple’s passports were withheld, and they were moved to a squalid hotel within the airport perimeter until the demanded fee was transferred to Tony’s bank account. A local lawyer said they should fight the notorious Tony in the courts, although he also explained that this could mean months in prison while the trial was prepared. Mr. Ingram decided to pay the money, instead choosing to return home in time for his mother’s funeral.

Aside from watching out for the zig-zag scam, there are a few other things to be aware of when arriving at Bangkok airport. For a start you need to watch out for the taxi touts that offer you a fixed fee ride in an unlicensed taxi for triple what you would pay in a public taxi. You should also refrain from using the unscrupulous hotel agents who show you flattering pictures of awful hotels at silly prices. I myself had a tough old time a few years agobangkok scams getting my money back after booking a hotel at the airport, only to arrive and find a hotel room that resembled something more like a hostel. I was told I would have to get my money back from the agent at the airport. Of course I didn’t budge until I had a full refund.

Because I am fully aware of how vulnerable Thailand newbies are to Bangkok scams, I always tell friends flying into Bangkok airport to turn left out of arrivals and follow the signs for a public metered taxi without deviation. However, this bullet proof way to avoid a scam was shattered this week when a friend arrived from the UK. Being his first time in Thailand he followed my advice. He got in a metered taxi avoiding all the “where you go sir” questioning. However, 45 minutes later he arrived at my apartment block explaining that the journey had cost him 1000 Baht instead of the usual 250 Baht. “How is that possible”? I said, baffled. “You had the meter on, right”? “Yes”. “And he took the toll way?” “Yes”. “So WTF”? My friend hadn’t a clue and neither had I.  All he could say was that when he handed over that crisp 1000 Baht note the driver was beaming from cheek to cheek.

Later that day we got in a taxi to go to the Grand Palace, and after a few minutes all became apparent as my friend remarked, “The meter on my taxi from the airport wasn’t going that slow, in fact it was more like triple the speed”. He went on to explain that even in traffic the meter was moving like a cheetah and the controls on the top section of the meter were covered up for some reason. All I can think of was that the meter had been tampered with, or had been fitted with two settings; the legit setting and the “fresh off the plane farang” setting.

This entire affair really got to me. Okay, I know taxi drivers don’t make a packet, but most expats I know and friends on holiday always tip on long drives and most do on shopping trips, too. Yet it seems every time a friend comes to see me here they get ripped off in the first couple of days, often more than once. My last visiting friend back intuk tuk scam March was duped by the 20 Baht Tuk-Tuk scam. The driver said, “Anywhere you want to go 20 Baht”. Great she thought, telling him she wanted to meet me at Asok Station, to which he replied, “Which one”? The long and short is, he drove her and her boyfriend around in circles and eventually charged them 200 Baht for the pleasure.

The Thai authorities need to tighten up and cut out all this scamming, or maybe visitors need to be more aware and a little bit smarter. That said, it isn’t nice to visit a country and have to constantly be on guard presuming every native might be a rip-off merchant. These scammers do no favours for the image of the country, and many people are put off coming back for good. Okay, tourist scamming isn’t exclusive to Thailand, but it is rife here and unethical to say the least. Just because foreigners may have more money doesn’t mean it is okay to rip them off. It only makes visitors want to tip less, and that means the honest people working in the tourist industry make less money.

Of course I don’t blame those who deceive to achieve, no taxi driver grows up thinking, when I grow up I want to rip people off. No, chasing a lifestyle that will always be beyond a person’s reach drives people to steal and become dishonest. These horrible happenings are a by-product of a system we are collectively responsible for. It can’t be easy watching all these foreigners shop till they drop after jetting in from their luxurious lifestyles abroad. Yet it still doesn’t make it right.

Luckily my friend has met a couple of my Thai friends and has seen what pleasant, generous people Thais generally are, and I am glad he isn’t the type to go back home and spout negativity regarding all Thai people being money hungry scammers…but, that said, I can often see why people do, and, unfortunately, our day of encountering Bangkok scams didn’t stop there. Make sure you read my next post concerning the latest Grand Palace scam.

Comments

  1. serife says

    As ever- a tree of knowledge! Will make sure I remember all these nifty tips when I do manage to travel Far East! And equally, will remember the true hearts of the majority.

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    • patricia.barker says

      My son and i arrived at Bangkok airport and jumped into a taxi to take us to pattaya for 2500 baht We handed over 3000 and he gave us a 100 back and told us we had given him it instead of 1000 baht. Being so tired just off an 11 hr flight plus more travelling etc from home to airport we changed it for a 1000 note. On arriving at hotel for some reason counted money and realised we had been conned of 900 baht as had not used money for anything else. BEWARE

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      • TheThailandLife says

        that is a horrible scam! Thank you for posting that experience so others can beware. I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip.

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  2. Bangkok Airport Hotel says

    Great blog, I have been living in Thailand for a while and want to do something similar but just can’t find the time. I really like your personal approach. Will be checking back…

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  3. Di says

    When catching a meter taxi at the airport, it’s important to keep a hold of the slip of paper the counter gives you. This has the details of the taxi (driver name, license plate number), so that if you get scammed, you can report them to the Transport Department.

    Another rule of thumb when catching taxis or tuk tuks is to avoid the ones hanging around outside hotels and tourist spots. Always flag your own taxi down, and ignore any driver who approaches you first.

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    • TheThailandLife says

      Sound advice Di, thanks for contributing. Whenever exiting a hotel or restaurant I always walk for a taxi because I know the ones waiting will try and give me a fixed charge!

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    • TheThailandLife says

      Glad to be of help. I have only heard of this happening to my friend, but either way, make sure you take a public taxi from the airport. Go don to the first floor and turn left.

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  4. says

    I think that is one of the so much vital info for me. And i am happy reading your article. However wanna remark on some common things, The web site style is ideal, the articles is in point of fact nice : D. Just right activity, cheers

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  5. george says

    ye what well the weather be like in aguest /
    the full moon party where is it ?
    r there lost off beer english breakfast out thre 2

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  6. Gilles S. says

    I have just been victin of a similar tampered meter scam – from Suvarnabhumi to Silom the meter measured 68 km for a total price of 457 baht (in other honest taxis, the distance was as predictable 38 km and the price around 250 baht).

    Interestingly, the driver asked us the paper slip given by the airport counter as soon as we were in the taxi, and kept it.

    Strangely enough, the meter was not located at the usual height, just behind the windscreen, but much lower.

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    • TheThailandLife says

      Hi George. What do you mean the airports are metal? If you mean do they have metal detectors, they sure do! You don’t need to wait at the border, you just fly in, clear immigration and then go wherever your next destination is. August is a good time to go depending on where. The rain hits different parts of Thailand at different times. Do a Google for “rainy season thailand”, there is lots of info on line specific to particular areas. Thanks

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  7. george says

    i gonna go to patta auguest so we gonna 2 c girls in walking street but not al the girls r reaily girls some of them r lady boys

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  8. Jim says

    I am in th United States, and want to take a tour of Thailand. Looking for about a 10-14 day, do you know of a good tour company?

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    • TheThailandLife says

      Hi Jim, I only know of Trailfinders who are a very reputable company. I organised a tour of the states once through them.

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  9. Kazzy says

    Was in bangkok for a day business trip. I paid $2580 baht from sheraton hotel to the airport. The hotel stuff help us to call the taxi and it goes by the meter. Ridiculous! :(

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    • TheThailandLife says

      Big scam. You should have summoned the airport police. That’s extortionate. Rigged meters is becoming a bigger problem, it seems.

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  10. Johanathon says

    I am travelling to Bangkok in November and of course….try to be vigilant and the taxi scam seems one which is worldwide…. I am considering to take either the BTS or MRT from the airport to Silom…. As a general rule, is it more convenient by BTS or MRT. Secondly;…. WHere can i find the BTS or MRT stations at the airport. THX
    JJ

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  11. Clive says

    Hi, have been to Thailand 6 times over the last few years & am hoping to retire there in the next couple of months. Yes taxi’s will rip you off but this worldwide, £50 from Heathrow to central London is quite common on unsuspecting travellers & BKK is no different. First time at BKK paid 1500 baht from airport to Nana, for 4 of us for a 30 minute taxi ride which we all thought was cheap. It should have been 300 baht + tolls 45 baht. Thailand is a big learning curve. Rule No 1, Thai’s are always right & farangs always wrong & don’t argue because they loose face & call the police & they will always take Thai side. If you have a road accident it will always be your fault, pay up & look big. Rule No 2 always agree a price before you get in a taxi or tuk-tuk, if you don’t they will charge what they want & you haven’t got a leg to stand on. It’s a Thai national pastime to rip off farangs, if YOU let them, there is a tourist price & Thai price. I have a Thai girlfriend & she has saved me a fortune. Remember Thailand has it’s very own culture [has never been colonised by any western power] so RESPECT IT & don’t treat the Thai’s like ‘shit’ like most tourist do. I’m ashamed to be English when I see my fellow westerners in the tourist resorts behaving like animals on heat. Thailand is a beautiful country with generous beautiful people, get out off the flesh pots & get to know the real Thailand.

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