A Quora user asked about tourist traps in Thailand. Here’s how I answered:
Thailand is very tuned in to the importance of tourism, and of it having a good reputation to keep people coming back. But, like everywhere, there are people trying to make a quick buck at tourists’ expense. The main problem is that a lot of tourists don’t realise the true (low) price of things, or they are so overwhelmed by the favourable exchange rate that they may not realise they are paying over the odds.
Here are some pointers:
Taxis with the “Taxi – Meter” sign (they are usually pink, or green and yellow) are obliged to use the meter. It is illegal for them to quote a flat fee, but many still try it on — especially late at night and around popular tourist areas. There are local “mafias” with a ringleader who’ll try to push you into a cab charging up to four times the legitimate price. I usually walk half a block away and hail one from the street, ensuring that the driver knows where I am going and will use the meter before I get in.
Taxi drivers are not supposed to knock back a fare, but they will and there’s not much you can do about it.
Although Thailand is making efforts to crack down on fakes and copies, you can not be sure that your purchases are authentic. The rule of thumb is that it won’t be a genuine brand-name item if you’re at a street market. Buy by all means, but accept that it’s not the real thing.
It doesn’t hurt to try to bargain at markets. The first price can sometimes be as much as twice what they vendor is prepared to sell for. There are lots of stalls selling similar items, so you probably won’t be missing out if they ask more than you’re prepared to pay.
Accommodation ranges in price and quality. If you want cheap digs, check them out before you book. The pictures online may not match what you’re getting. It’s worth noting that there are cheap brand-name hotels (Ibis, Holiday Inn Express, Travelodge etc.) where there’s an implied minimum level of comfort and safety.
Legitimate bars will have a menu with prices, including discounts for happy hour drinks. Many bars, not just the go-go bars in the known “red light” districts (including Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza in Bangkok, and Pattaya’s Walking Street) will have girls who come and sit near men and ask for drinks. If you decide to do this, find out first how much they are charging and what you are paying for (it’s usually a lot of money for a soft drink). Don’t get conned into buying for a lot of ladies at once, unless you really want to. Keep track of your bill as you go.
Not all girls are girls in the strictest sense. Many people don’t have a problem with this, but if you do, make your polite excuses, pay your bill and leave. Do not ridicule, be rude to or angry at katoey (“lady boys”). They are an accepted part of Thai society, and rightly so.
You won’t get a bargain on a big-ticket electronic item like a computer or mobile phone (cellphone). The prices for these goods are pretty much the same around the world. You may get an obscure brand cheaply, but it may not work properly or may be locked into the Thai language or have some other inhibiting feature. On the upside though, almost all the phones on offer are dual SIM, which is great for travellers.
This advice is appropriate everywhere: Don’t be drawn down dark alleys; don’t trust people who want to befriend you for no apparent reason. Don’t argue with a person in uniform, even though …
Corruption is rife. It probably won’t affect the average tourist, but it might. Those in positions of power are not immune from demanding backhanders. It is not unheard of for a uniformed officer to demand you pay an on-the-spot “fine” for some indiscretion. You can go along with this, or cause a scene and demand to be taken to the police station, where things may be resolved or the situation may escalate.
Bearing that in mind, there are genuine laws that can be enforced at any time. For example, it is illegal to drop cigarette butts in the street and you can be fined for that; and you are supposed to carry your passport with you at all times. People uncomfortable with that may choose to carry a photocopy, which will probably get you out of a scrape.
Thailand is a great holiday destination, and generally very safe. The people are overwhelmingly welcoming. Remember that the pace of life can be a little slower than you are used to, so go with the flow.
Thailand is a fascinating destination with its exotic food, majestic mountains, white sandy beaches, tropical climate, and modern luxury shopping centres. The wide-ranging qualities of Thailand make it one of the top tourist destinations in SE Asia.
But, with the ever increasing influx of tourists looking to experience the Thailand holiday there has been a rise in the scams that target tourists.
Here are some of the scams and tourist traps in Thailand that you may want to know before travelling to this part of the world:
Major attraction is closed
A typical scam taking place in Thailand is to claim a major attraction is closed. This is very easily pulled off by taxi drivers, tuk-tuk drivers, or even random locals near a popular tourist destination like the Grand Palace.
One way to pull this off is when a tuk-tuk drive will say the Grand Palace is shut for the day because it is hosting a special religious ceremony. The tuk-tuk driver will make an alternative suggestion such as the Marble Temple, Lucky Buddha, Sitting Buddha, etc. which can sound an acceptable alternative.
For the tourist that accepts the alternative suggestion, they will likely find themselves first taken to a tailor or jewellery shop and strongly pressured into buying the high-priced goods.
How to avoid: Most of the people will attempt to look official and wear formal type shirts and sound quite convincing, but it is best to not engage too much on the streets. They may even be active on the grounds of the temple. This scam doesn’t only involve the Grand Palace, but also any other popular tourist attraction in the region.
Also, make sure to check the opening times at your hotel before planning the day’s activities to ensure it is operating.
Jet Ski Issues
The jet ski scam is quite common in some of the popular resort destinations in Thailand such as Phuket and Pattaya. It is simply the rental operator saying that the rented jet ski has been damaged on its return. This leads to the request for a quite substantial fee for repairs. If you decline to make the payment, there may be “uniformed” men that coincidentally pass by and make further threats.
How to avoid: Firstly, it is never practical to use your passport as collateral in the process of hiring the jet ski. Before accepting a jet ski, give the machine a basic examine to look for signs of damage, dents or scratches. In the event of the rental operator demanding a repair fee, your best course of action is to call 1155 for the local tourist police. To stay safe it may be wise to avoid hiring jet skis in the worst areas, such as Pattaya. It may not always be possible to leave without paying some form of compensation, even with the police involved. The best action in this situation is simply to attempt to negotiate a much lower fee to simply get away.
The gem scam is common in many different countries, including Thailand, Sri Lanka and India. The basic principle of this scam involves a gem shop owner who claims local gems are widely available and can be bought for the relatively inexperience prices. Also, they say that on returning home, you will be in a position to make a significant profit. The gem shop may also suggest you are getting a government sponsored sale, which is entirely nonsense.
The gem shop may even have other accomplices present who are pretending to be other interested shoppers. They claim to have just bought a magnificent piece of jewellery at a very cheap price.
How to avoid: it the price quoted for a gem seems too good to be true, there is certain to be some type of scam going on. In many cases, the so called gems at low-cost prices are in fact worthless synthetic or glass materials. No legitimate trader will sell the real thing at low and unrealistic prices.
If you are a victim of this type of scam, you may want to get in touch with the tourist police to report the incident and make an insurance claim if possible. Also, a credit card payment can be reversed if necessary.
There are plenty of low-end hotels in Thailand that rely on the reputation of the high-quality hotels and guest houses and trade using their name. The copycat hotels try to deceive the tourists by thinking they are staying at top hotel when in fact they may end up staying at a very poor alternative. This type of scam is really effective when the copycat hotel works in cahoots with a taxi driver to take you to the wrong destination.
If the tourists don’t notice straightaway, they could find themselves stuck in the wrong place and often unable to get a refund once paid in full.
How to avoid: always make sure to check the hotel name and address is correct on arrival to minimise the risk of disappointment. To avoid any misunderstanding with the taxi or cab driver, you can write the name of the hotel on a piece of paper or card and have this handy. Also, you can use your phone GPS to make sure you are travelling in the right direction.
The hotel scam is used just as effectively when it comes to restaurants and bars. A typical scam takes place in Bangkok with errant cab drivers or tuk-tuks taking tourists to the Sombondee Seafood Market with its low-quality food at very inflated prices instead of the much more popular and similar sounding Somboon Seafood Chain which is appreciated for its delicious dishes at very affordable prices. The cab/tuk-tuk driver gets a commission for every unsuspecting foreigner they deliver to the restaurant.
How to avoid: use your hotel, guest-house, or online resources to find the reputable eateries and be cautious of suggestions given by cab drivers.
December 20, 2010 4budget travel, Southeast Asia, travel inspirationavoid a scam, barter in thailand, haggle in thailand, hostels in thailand, how to barter, taxi in thailand, thailand, thailand gem scam, thailand scam, thailand tourist traps, tuk tuk in thailand
Thailand. It’s the definitive backpacker locale – just as much a party purgatory as a bargain paradise, an exotic sideshow and assault on the senses.
On a 24-hour basis, the road-wide rave is omnipresent, with suggestions of drugs and licentiousness, bribery and scandal occupying every street corner. A montage of multicultural merrymaking, young explorers from London, Tokyo, Switzerland and Australia make up a tableau of anonymous street wanderers in search of the best quality pirated DVDs, the cheapest ‘Chanel’ charlatans and the most toxic alcoholic beverages.
For the most part, the scene is innocent enough. Indeed, those steady cries of ‘very cheap price for you!’ that ricochet through the air are typically quite accurate (at least by any western department store standards).
And yet, in a country like Thailand, complacency is the ultimate travellers’ demon.
So, by all means, get into a tuk tuk, try a sweet banana pancake, indulge in a cocktail and chat to the locals. Just remember: while the vendor may be smiling, a scam is typically on the menu.
So, how does that old saying go? Be alert not alarmed (oh goodness, we really don’t mean to sound like national security there!)
To help you out, we’ve put together some top tips on how to barter, book a hostel in Thailand, master the tuk tuk and avoid those dreaded tourist traps lurking on every street corner.
How to Barter
Oh, the art form of bartering! It’s the bane of many a travellers’ existence – that telltale activity which effortlessly distinguishes the naïve backpacker newbies from those less civil veterans who have been jaded by experience.
First up, do not (repeat: not) go anywhere with a bulging wallet. Put the exact amount of cash you are willing to spend on any single item in your pocket. If you let a shop owner see that you have money to burn, they will expect you to do just that. In their shop. On as few items as possible.
Wander a street stall, work out what you want, but make sure you never appear interested in an item. Your best bet is to appear idle, treating the products as if they were merely distracting scenery.
When the seller asks if they can help you, respond with ‘gee baht?’ – that’s ‘how much?’ in Thai (because of course you speak Thai, you seasoned veteran haggler you). Whatever price they offer, step back and look at the item doubtfully. Don’t complain, just appear uninterested.
At this point, the seller will generally ask how much you want to pay for it. Look like you’re thinking for a minute, then offer 25% of what they asked for. Ultimately, plan to pay around half of the price (this can vary, being slightly higher in big indoor markets but lower in the villages).
If you’re having trouble getting the price down, flash a few notes around then try walking away from the stall. The seller will often follow you into the street.
Finally, remember you don’t necessarily have to get the cheapest price possible. While the Thai locals may bargain a better deal, you’ll find the majority of them are earning less than €6 a day.
Getting a Tuk Tuk or Taxi
Tuk tuk: The ubiquitous Thailand tuk tuk is certainly a unique transport experience, being a good option for travelling over short distances (anything longer than 30 minutes and you’ll start to get pretty uncomfortable!) Remember to bargain a set price with the driver before you hop onboard, keeping in mind that the initial fee stated will be well over the going rate.
Taxi: Do not bargain or haggle with taxi drivers in Thailand. Rather, open the door, tell the driver your destination and wait until he starts the meter. If he refuses to do so, get out of the cab at the first opportunity (or, if you’re feeling rebellious, merely lean over and switch it on for yourself!) Taxi rides within central Bangkok will rarely cost more than 100 baht, while the average price from the airport should be around 350 baht (that’s 200-250 on the meter plus 50 airport surcharge and 70 in highway tolls).
Due to a relatively low cost of living, you will find that the average price of hostels in Thailand tends to be very low. Regardless, in order to get the best deal, it is essential to do your research and book a room in advance, particularly so if you’re travelling during the November-February high season.
Try to avoid any hotel or hostel that doesn’t promote itself online. While these may be incredibly cheap (sometimes less than €4 a night!), they can also be incredibly dirty, crowded and all too willing to rip you off. Keeping this in mind, your best bet is to check out a range of traveller reviews before making a booking. If you’re staying in Bangkok, for example, the Lub D Bangkok is a popular budget option ideally located in Siam Square. Rooms are available from only €8.21 per night.
Other Tourist Traps and Scams
Don’t believe anyone who tells you that the ‘Grand Palace is closed today!’ It’s not. Nor are any of the other temples they inform you have remarkably shut down. This is actually a common tourist scam used by tuk tuk drivers before they kindly offer to take you on a tour elsewhere…for a price of course.
Speaking of which, we suggest you avoid impromptu tour guides in any circumstance. It’s just as easy (and much cheaper!) to explore temples and attractions with a guidebook in hand.
Do not listen to anyone who invites you into a jewellery store. They will often try to force you into a sale on a gem that is worth a fraction of the price. Just remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Ask where to go shopping at your hostel. Unlike tuk tuk drivers and street vendors, they will generally not get a commission and will hence be more objective when directing you to the best places.
Know when His Majesty the King’s birthday is! Scammers will often try to take advantage by claiming it’s the King’s birthday in an effort to direct you to a certain area, stall or event. Just for the record, the present monarch was born on 5 December 1927.
Table of Contents
Krabi. The rock faces at Railay Beach near Ao Nang attract climbers from all over the world. They also attract bored, flabby Westerners looking for something to tell once back home from their once in a lifetime exotic trip to Thailand. Every year those paradisiac places host The Rock and Fire Festival. In such occasions, I usually stay home and try to see the least amount of people possible.
“Do you think it is a good idea?” The guy with alopecia from the Netherlands starts to be scared. The mountain, his walls, the rocks hanging everywhere with tiny bits of vegetation growing on them annihilate his poor and much-civilized thoughts. Those natural pillars seem like massive tears on the various mountain faces. We are usually too scared to take into account Ms. Nature and her emotions.
The other guy without alopecia from the Netherlands agrees, and complains because their Thai guide didn’t tell them to put on sports shoes. Their guide is 165cm, dark-skinned, with long dreadlocks that come down to his butt, barefooted and probably didn’t wash himself for a couple of days. Minimum.
The Thai guide smiles at them because he really thinks there’s no need for shoes, and he’s been doing this for 13 years already, almost every day and without wearing anything but his own skin. He smiles again and takes the guys higher on the climbing wall. Western safety standards mean almost nothing in this country. Hobbes himself won’t be considered that much, and Machiavelli could be a noodles soup name.
They are now on the top of the mountain, all red and sweaty, scared as fuck, dirty and angry with their Lonely Planet because it didn’t tell them how to deal with the random, idiotic, Thai guide they found in the first shop selling excursions. They fear they can’t go back to their common and safe lives, the everyday routine life feels so sweet sometimes. I laugh to myself and glance at the guide.
At the restaurant, the owners taught the waiters that the tourists like to see and receive their traditional Thai salute. Those rich and chubby farang are not going to salute you back or anything, but their ego will feel good and honored by receiving that, and they’ll feel part of the culture for a little moment.
Before complaining about the food. Before asking for a glass without ice because their doctor told them not to have the ice from random restaurants. Before getting upset with the waiter that couldn’t understand their accent, speaking with a less than scholastic English. Before thinking for half an hour to give the staff a 50 cents tip.
The guy with the tattoos ordered pizza. He’s trying to get the European girl with the squared jaw. A little bit masculine for sure, but it’s only the first night, and he could have the chance to get laid, saving the flag for the entire vacation. In the meantime, on the little stage, the guy with the guitar plays “Wonderwall” by Oasis.
Live music hasn’t changed for more than 15 years. Music covers are always the same, like a blurry looping video clip from the 90s. I was there in the 90s; I was waking up minutes before the alarm rang, telling me that it was time to go to school, just to fuel myself up with MTV video clips. Beastie Boys, U2, Tom York from the Radiohead following a poor redneck with his car in order to hit him. Tom York from the Radiohead singing underwater, a song that I always liked more in its acoustic version. Limp Bizkit with their crossover and red Adidas long sleeve shirts. The Korn, occasionally some Green Day singing in a sanitarium. Easy life, that of the 90s, and we still play the same songs. Rock bars and pubs have disappeared, and those few that remain never changed their playlist.
The guy now has a hand positioned on the girls left leg, she is uncertain if she should say something or not, and waits for a sign from her body, a sign of enjoyment from the contact. She could tell her friends back home that she met this very interesting guy, a little crazy wearing all those hipster tattoos, one that approached her on the first night abroad, during one of her very much extreme trips. She waits a little bit more, orders another beer, then as sometimes happens, the good feelings in both parts suddenly go away, the chemical attraction disappears instantly. The guy backs off and starts looking away. He is so skinny, he looks like he could break any second. His tattoos like blue veins on his arms and legs glow in the soft and yellowish cheap – wannabe-ethnic lights of the restaurant. His pizza arrives. Too bad there’s no ketchup on that salami-pineapple masterpiece. The guy with the acoustic guitar is singing “The time of your life” with some pronunciation mistakes that would never feel more appropriate to the situation.
Cambodia is a beautiful country that is well established on the tourist trail in SE Asia. A major attraction to Cambodia is the world-famous temples of Angkor and the historical and moving sites like the Killing Fields. Other worthwhile reasons to experience the Cambodia Holiday is the lively and colourful markets, the delightful food, and taking a river cruise on the Tonle Sap.
In view of the relatively low costs of travelling in Cambodia, there has been a significant influx of tourists visiting the region. However, a consequence of this is the increase in scams that target the tourists.
Here are some of the most common scams and tourist traps in Cambodia:
The visa scam is likely to take place at the land borders with Cambodia/Thailand. Even though you may not even be in the country yet, this scam is definitely related to Cambodia.
When waiting in the queue to speak to the Cambodian immigration authorities about obtaining a visa, there is the risk of being approached by individuals who claim to be real Cambodian immigration officials. They try to offer assistance to speed up the process of obtaining the visa and avoid the queues. But, this is certain to cost a lot more than waiting in line to buy the normal visa on arrival.
Also, this scam can include fake officials approaching you while in the queue and saying that you do not hold the right paperwork to apply for a visa. They may also say it is necessary to have immunization certificates and medical documents. If you don’t have these documents with you, they will offer to get the visa for you, but the price will be a lot more expensive.
How to avoid: If you do have someone approach you while in the queue, they aren’t likely to part of the official Cambodian Immigration staff. It rarely benefits to engage with these people and much more sensible to wait in line until able to talk to the immigration officials at the counter. A simple strategy to avoid unwanted attention is to say you already have your visa, but just in line to get it stamped.
The coin collector is a simple scam act that is common in the tourist hot spots in Cambodia. This scam starts with a local talking to you and saying how much they love to collect coins from around the world. They will act friendly and try to find out your country. Once, this is known they will say their collection doesn’t have any coins/notes from your particular country. This leads to them asking to exchange their local Cambodian currency for your foreign currency at a fair rate. If you do go-ahead with this you will likely find that once they have left you alone, the exchange rate received was very bad.
How to avoid: the simple solution to this type of scam is to say you only have local Cambodian currency. This is usually enough to get the scammer to stop pestering you and move on elsewhere.
Angkor Wat touts
The world-famous Angkor Wat is the #1 attraction in Cambodia and for this reason attracts a significant number of touts. They are readily available to sell souvenirs, food, water, maps, guidebooks, etc. While it is not a scam itself to sell this type of merchandise, it is the actual prices that they ask. For instance, a map/guidebook is likely to cost $1 at the official shop, but the touts outside will be asking 20 times that price or more. Also, they say it isn’t possible to buy food or water inside the Angkor Archaeological Park, but it is and at much cheaper prices.
How to avoid: Just ignore the touts outside the park and buy everything you need once in the compound.
Tonle Sap floating village
Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in SE Asia and is home to three floating villages. A typical tour in the region is a visit to the Chong Khneas floating village which isn’t too far from Siem Reap. But this is more of a tourist trap with little to really see and plenty of other boats pulling up and asking for a $1 or more. Also, the boat driver may start saying the local community is unable to afford safe water and proper food to encourage you to give a donation. A further way to get more money from the tourist is to claim it is necessary to buy entrance tickets, but this isn’t actually true.
Also, the tour can include a stop at a local shop with very high prices for pencils, books, noodles, etc. and you get pressured to buy stuff for the local school. But, the goods are rarely past onto the school with the money shared among those involved in the scam. Also, at the end of the tour when you arrive back at the pick up point, the boat driver is likely to demand a tip for his services.
How to avoid: the most practical step to avoid this tourist trap is simply to avoid this type of trip. There isn’t really much to see here and if you are on the Indochina tour, the most interesting floating villages are found in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.
Begging scam with children
The begging scam with children is rife in certain parts of Siem Reap and aims to attract sympathy. A local woman with a baby or small children will approach tourists on the street and say she doesn’t have money for baby milk, medicine, food, etc.
Many visitors will want to help and offer to hand over a small amount to help cover the cost of the essentials, but in most cases this is simply a scam being played out. The local will try to get you to visit a nearby shop and buy food/milk at very high prices. Once this is done the person pulling the scam will return the goods to the shop and split the proceeds with the shopkeeper.
How to avoid: In most cases, it is best to firmly reject any requests for money on the streets. If you do wish to help, it is a lot more practical to donate direct to a local reputable charity or organization.
Nothing sours the mood of a rewarding travel experience quite like having your expectations shattered as you realise the attraction you were so excited about was actually nothing but a glossy show for the tourists’ benefit. Your time on the road in Thailand is limited, so you need to make every single moment count. Here’s how to avoid giving Bangkok’s tourist traps the chance to get you, and how to rescue the situation if you do get let down.
Know what’s out there
If you’re going to avoid the tourist traps – which include anything less than close to an authentic Thai experience as well as areas with big crowds – then you need to know ahead of time what and where they are, as well as some alternatives.
Armed with this knowledge, you can make the right choices to ensure you come away with the kind of memorable experience you are looking for. Planning on a visit to a floating market? Some quick research will show you Damnoen Saduak is a meat factory with more tourist-laden boats colliding with one another than any actual vendors trading. Meanwhile, easier-to-reach Khlong Lat Mayom is a foodie paradise that is heaving come lunchtime, yes, but only because it’s hugely popular with in-the-know Bangkokians out for some weekend fresh air.
See what’s right in front of you
Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees. The truth is even in the worst of Bangkok’s tourist traps, there’s likely a way to rescue the situation, meaning there’s almost always a more authentically local and enriching scene hiding in plain sight just nearby. Hunting out local food markets can be a great way to achieve this. (Perhaps the one exception is on exclusively tourism-geared islands with no local resident population whatsoever.)
If you find yourself regretting spending another day in the midst of Khao San Road, for example, then know you’re a 30-second walk from some of Bangkok’s most celebrated local Thai street food. On neighbouring Tani and Kraisi roads, there are fabulous khao mok gai chicken biryani and beef satay, amazing tom yum kung hot and sour soup of giant river prawns, and heaps more. All you need to do is get off that path you’re on and head to the one filled with hungry Thai office workers instead.
In a tourist trap? Delve deeper
Even when it feels like you’re in the deepest, most tourist-y rabbit hole imaginable, there’s sure to be a way to turn things around. It’s often the case that what seems like a thorough tourist trap is in fact only superficial on the surface. Sometimes that means all it takes is a cursory scratch just beneath to reveal local communities waiting to be discovered.
Take the on-trend Soi Nana street of bars over in Chinatown (no, not that other rather more racy Soi Nana on Sukhumvit!). This is by no means an area that’s overrun by visitors from abroad – the best of the bars like Teens of Thailand and Asia Today have their share of expat regulars plus a handful of well-researched tourists, sure. But overall, Soi Nana’s clientele remains overwhelmingly Thai. It’s also true that the street’s transformation has been done considerately. Nevertheless, sometimes you can’t help but shake the sense that, in reinventing itself as a bar hub, it has lost a little of the local Chinatown neighbourhood vibe you imagine it had by the bucket-load before.
Thankfully, the slightest scratch at the surface really is all this takes to fix. Stepping into the unknown down an admittedly dark side alley reveals a whole second row of homes hidden along a path running behind the shophouses that face the street. Here, a few artists have studios, and an old woman alternates between washing clothes and drying herbs on a tray outside her front door. “Take it, take it!” she cries jokingly as I stop to pet her cat, “we’ve got too many anyway!” We share a moment of laughter before I continue my walk. Suddenly any notion of a tourist trap is non-existent.
Trust your gut
This tip is admittedly more for avoiding landing in tourist traps in the first place rather than getting yourself out of one – but then, if you’re not proactively avoiding tourist traps, then that’s exactly where you’ll find yourself. Of course, whenever you can, saying ‘yes’ to new experiences and opportunities that come your way is always a good idea – but trust yourself and your instincts, and don’t hesitate to say ‘no’ when something doesn’t feel right.
Some people just give off a bad vibe. If you’re offered an opportunity for local exploration, but get the sense that it might involve something closer to trailing the same circuit that countless travellers have been dragged to before you, then now’s your chance to nip it in the bud and politely decline. You’ll save yourself the hassle and disappointment of wasting half a day being dragged around fake gemstone dealers or poor-quality tailors, or even simply being driven around Bangkok on a ‘free’ tour of attractions you had no interest in seeing.
Treating people with a healthy dose of scepticism will help you avoid potential pitfalls. There’s no need to go overboard, but applying that scepticism to everyone – until they give you a reason not to, that is – will help protect you from wasted time and bad experiences. In addition, don’t make yourself a target by, for example, walking around with a huge paper map in your hands, marking yourself out as lost and easy prey.
Nor is it wise to accept offers of help from overly forthcoming strangers, or to believe that those umpteen shops around Bangkok labelled as ‘tourist information centres’ are actually anything of the sort. If you do need to ask for directions or other advice while you’re out and about, turn to someone with no conflict of interest or reason to spin the truth – a noodle vendor, say, rather than a tuk-tuk driver or loitering tout. Even better, make friends with local, trustworthy Thais before or on arrival – whether online or by visiting places popular with locals – and use their advice to insulate yourself from the dangers of tourist traps.
By Keyframe5 Thailand in Tips 2019 年 12 月 10 日
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Planning a trip to Thailand? Here are my top 6 areas of Thailand you might want to avoid.
Thailand is one of my favourite places to visit for my holiday.
Twenty old years ago, not too many people would consider vacationing, living or retiring here, but as of now. Thailand is no longer off the beaten path as its popularity among foreigners fit all budget and lifestyle. From backpackers, budget minded people, couples, young millennials, retirees, travel lovers to the high rollers seeking the ultimate 5-star treatment or anyone who seek 5-stay treatments without going broke.
There is something for everyone here.
In recent years, Thailand is now rank top 10 most visited country in the world and Bangkok is ranked the most visited cities in the world, according to reports.
My definition of a tourist trap is a place that is catered and attracts foreign tourists for making money. Tourist traps provide services, food, souvenirs, attractions and other products for the only purpose for making money from tourists. Tourist traps attract massive hordes of crowds and often lack the authentic Thai experience.
With that said, here are my top 6 tourist traps in Thailand. Along with the alternative attractions, in case you visited one of Thailand’s tourist traps, and they turn you off.
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Where to stay in Bangkok
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Things to be careful of in Thailand
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Bangkok, the bustling capital of Thailand that has a population of more than 11 million, is world-renowned for its electrifying atmosphere, raunchy nightlife, world class hotels and high rise buildings. It is a true cosmopolitan city that has maintained a unique identity, mainly because of its places, temples, canals and street markets.
For tourists who want to explore the wonders Thailand has to offer, they most often begin their journey in this capital. Bangkok is not merely a place for the big flights to land, but it is a place filled with interesting attractions that usually convince visitors to stay a couple of days.
Like other highly visited cities in the world, Bangkok has its own fair share of tourist traps. And seasoned travelers know that one of the most disappointing things about traveling is when you realize you have fallen right into one. If you’re a budget traveler or a tourist with strong principles, learning the common tourist trap-tricks and the ways to avoid them will certainly make your trip to Bangkok less of a hassle.
Avoiding Airport Touts
The Suvarnabhumi Airport is one of the biggest and most advanced airports in Asia and it is around 30 kilometers from the city center. Most of the international and domestic flights land at this airport. However, Bangkok has another older airport called Don Muang Airport, which is used by airlines like Air Asia, Orient Thai and Nok Air.
There are many ways to get into the city from the Suvarnabhumi Airport. One option is the train service called Airport Rail Link, which is considered to be the quickest way to downtown. But if you seek convenience and do not mind a longer travel time, getting a taxi is a good option. You can find ordinary metered taxis lined up Level 1 of the passenger terminal. There is a ticket counter that accepts a set payment for the taxi, and the rate depends on the distance of your destination. Tolls and expressways fees are not included.
It is important that you go straight to the official taxi stand. Avoid the touts lurking around Level 1. They frequently claim that they are legitimate and try to lead you to their taxis usually parked across the road. These touts will try to give you a highly overpriced rate instead of using a standard meter, giving excuses like “heavy traffic” and “long distance.”
There are plenty of public transport options around Bangkok, including the BTS Skytrain, buses, metered taxis, MRT, express boats, and tuks-tuks. A tuk-tuk is a fast and loud three-wheeled transport option that is supposedly traditional and cheap. Because of their uniqueness in design, they easily attract tourists. Unfortunately, tuk-tuk drivers are notorious for overcharging foreigners. Their asking rate is usually 3 or 4 times as much as the real price. If you really can’t resist the allure of weaving through the city’s congested traffic with an open-air tuk-tuk; make sure to agree on a price before getting on.
Take note, there are some tuk-tuk drivers that are willing to lower down their rate but there’s always a CATCH, and that is bringing you to a travel agency or a jewellery or clothing shop . By taking you to these establishments, a driver can get a fuel coupon and even a commission. If you have an itinerary or you are pressed for time, this tourist trap can occupy useful time and put a damper on your travel mood.
What is a tourist trap exactly? It’s a heavily advertised attraction that lures unsuspecting tourists away from their time and money without providing any insight or authenticity to the destination they’re visiting. There are, of course, legendary landmarks and experiences that every traveler should see and have, but then there are obvious tourist traps that act as conveyor belts to separate the unsuspecting visitor from their hard-earned cash. We don’t want you to waste a second or a cent on less-than-worthwhile travel experiences, so we came up with these smart ways to help you recognize and avoid tourist traps.
1. Research before and after you arrive.
The easiest way to avoid a tourist trap is to get the inside scoop on your destination before you arrive. If every guidebook and website has an advertisement for a specific beach restaurant, it’s likely going to be filled with tourists and high prices. A good rule of thumb is that if you and everyone you know has heard of a specific place, it’s likely mostly for tourists. After you arrive in your destination, ask the hotel concierge or any local friends where they like to eat and what they like to do. You might get a touristy answer at first, but try phrasing your question differently. For example, you can ask: Where would you take a first date? Where do you shop for birthday presents?
2. Look for locals.
The number one sign that you’ve stumbled into a tourist trap is the complete lack of locals. The only New Yorkers in Times Square are the ones hurrying through as quickly as possible to get to work. You likely won’t see any actual Thai people haggling for knickknacks at the Damnoen Saduak floating market. And the few Jamaicans at Dunn’s River Falls are the guides who hustle for tips. Instead of choosing activities based on what you think you shoulddo on vacation, ask yourself what it is you like to do. Then, find a museum, bookstore, concert, surf lesson, or restaurant that isn’t advertised to the visiting masses or sold as a package deal.
3. Ignore hawkers and touts.
Think of your favorite restaurant at home. Does that restaurant employ people to roam the street, rounding up visitors and bringing them back to eat a three-course prix fixe? Probably not. That’s because your favorite restaurant isn’t a tourist trap. If an unsolicited stranger is insisting that you eat somewhere, this person gets a cut from the restaurant. And most restaurants that depend on tourists don’t truly care about providing a quality meal, since tourists don’t generally return for a future visit. Stick to reading restaurant reviews and asking locals where they eat before choosing a restaurant. Another good rule of thumb is to skip restaurants right near major landmarks. For example, the restaurants around the Acropolis in Greece are notoriously overpriced and serve low-quality food. (We got a cut up hot dog with pancakes at one restaurant.) The same common sense goes for booking tours. We were once convinced by a tout to visit an animal sanctuary in Thailand. After shelling out our cash, we stood in line with 50 other tourists who all got one minute to have their photo taken with a baby elephant.
Venice is the second most visited city in Italy after Rome, reaching approximately 28 million tourists per year! so, the question is…what happened to real Venice? Before you get into real Venice, learn how to avoid tourist traps in Venice! Fast, easy and tasty solution is joining a Venice Food tour with Streaty! And for the rest of your time…follow our tips. Here are some useful tips about how to avoid tourist traps in Venice.
Touristy Cafes and restaurants
- Stay away from places with large menus written in capital letters and translated in different languages. The colored menus with photographs have been clearly designed for tourists: don’t you think that a local would know how a local dish looks like? This is the most common bait to fish disoriented tourists!
- If the waiter steps out to tell you “Come in! Eat with us!” and will try to draw you inside the restaurant, well, then you know, you are already in the trap.Usually those places provide low quality food, food that comes our the refrigerator straight into the microwave and finally your table! This is not how Italian cuisine works!
- The menu of a typical Venetian restaurant (osteria or trattoria) is very simple, short and with few courses that can change according to seasonal ingredients.
- A quick look at the personnel and owner will also tell you a lot. With all respect for all Venetian citizens, the Restaurant host must be a Venetian for few generations. Many cafes, wine bars and restaurants have been recently bought by Chinese. Don’t get us wrong! We actually know a couple of good wine bars run by Chinese. However, the traditions stays where Venetians are. What I mean is.. .to avoid tourist traps in Venice, follow the locals.
- A wine bar that asks you whether you want the Spritz with Aperol or Campari…hmmmm…rethink your drinking stop. Real Venetian spritz does not include any of those. Select is the right secret ingredient.
How to find a good Venetian restaurant?
Everywhere you travel, the trick is always the same: just get lost around the alleys! But in Venice there is a man who has the key of taste, the gondolier! In fact, it’s a popular belief that gondoliers know the best places where to eat and drink well in Venice. Another wake-up call is the price list, pay attention to the price of spritz. In Venice, the spritz is not considered a cocktail, it’s a common drink, therefore prices start from 2,5€ to 5€ in the fanciest places. If you see that the price of the sprtiz is higher than 5 € and you are not sitting on the Gran Canal or inside a 5 stars hotel, well, that’s a tourist trap! In this case the only exception is Saint Mark’s square: the price for a coffee in the square will start from 8€ and more. But c’mon, you are sitting in San Marco’s square, at same cafes that hosted Casanova, Byron, Dumas, Proust…it’s an experience that you have to try at least once in your life!
The most typical souvenirs that you can buy in Venice are masks and Murano glass, but you have to be very careful because falsification is very common! Avoid tourist traps in Venice like the shops that sell a bit of everything. If you see a place that sells masks, glass objects, magnets, postcards, bracelets and necklaces that have the same style; those items will not be made in Venice. So you want to kindly say “arrivederci” and step out.
“Reliable” shops will only sell one kind of items.
If you are into masks, must know that mask shops will only sell masks. Prices will start from 15/20€ for a small mask and will be higher according to sizes and precious decorations. Every mask will have a certificate of authenticity that states quality and origin. Some mask shops even organize workshops, if you have good manual skills you can create your own mask! Check out Ca’Macana since 1984
As regards the purchasing of Murano glass, you can go directly to Murano island where you can visit furnaces and see the glass masters at work, usually prices in Murano will be a bit cheaper and you can find special deals because you can find discounted items or end-of-production offers. To spot an authentic glass shop in Venice, you have to follow the same rules that were applied for the mask shops: they will only sell glass items. The trick to spot real Murano glass is to look at the color and transparency of the object: Murano glass is shiny and transparent, if it looks opaque it will not be made in Venice and it was made with poor materials. If you notice some flaws such as: little bubbles, ripples, different details that means the item was handmade; on the other side, if you see itmes that look the same, they are industrial products. A good tip to find authentic beeds: if you throw them on the ground they will bounce like a little ball, they don’t break because they are produced with special tecniques and high temperatures that made them very resistant…unfortunally you can’t always try this inside stores!
In conclusion, if you want to enjoy real Venice, avoid tourist traps and save money, just get away from the crowd and wander around the beautiful maze of alleys and squares, you won’t be disappointed, Venice cannot disappoint.
How Do You Avoid Tourist Traps In Bangkok, Thailand?
Gem scams and other tourist traps abound in Bangkok, Thailand. Just like in any other popular tourist destination, there are predators lurking about in the Land of Smiles, waiting for the next ignorant tourist or “farang.” You can avoid them if you know what the signs are and how to deal with them. Learn the Thai language. Learn to speak basic Thai phrases before you even board the plane. The biggest handicap for a tourist in Bangkok (or anywhere else for that matter) is not being able to speak the native language. If you can give directions like “Go left” or responses like “I don’t believe you” you make a harder target for scammers. Keep a notepad of important phrases in your pocket or purse. Know when His Majesty the King’s birthday is. Thai people adore their king – that’s one of the first things a tourist will be told. Touts and scammers try to take advantage of that by claiming it’s the King’s birthday so there’s a big jewelry or arts & crafts sale going on at so-so store. The pre
Over on a recent post, we asked readers to tell us the worst tourist traps to avoid while travelling in America — and we learned several important things. For one, don’t visit the “overrated” Space Needle. Second, don’t go to Georgetown Cupcakes because there are better dessert options elsewhere in Washington. And lastly, don’t visit the Mall of America because it’s only another shopping centre.
We also learned that no matter where you go, crowds of tourists at many popular attractions are unavoidable. That’s the typical experience at many tourist traps. They lure you with the promise of an unforgettable cultural experience (which they absolutely can be), but fail to prepare you for crowds of people and long lines to get to, say, the top of the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty.
Worse, you can’t always trust reviews on popular travel websites like TripAdvisor. If you want to avoid crowds of slow-moving tourists with selfie-sticks, here’s our advice: Push them out of the way. (Kidding.) Just do a little bit of research before your trip, cast a critical eye on those “reliable” reviews, and avoid major landmarks if you can. And always talk to the actual locals for useful advice.
Do your research and look out for red flags
Before any holiday, do your research online — but carefully examine reviews of highly-rated attractions on websites like TripAdvisor. Look out for any mention of lines, “skip the line” passes, VIP tickets, time slots, package deals or reservations. Chances are that if these words are repeated again and again in reviews, it might be a tourist trap worth running from. Always filter for more critical reviews to get a better sense of what to expect.
You should use community forums on websites like TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet or even local city or country subreddits to find which attractions to avoid at all costs. You’ll also find recommendations on how to find less popular, but equally worthy attractions or a better way to view a busy one. (Instead of visiting the Statue of Liberty and waiting through long lines, for example, you can view the Statue of Liberty for free from the Staten Island Ferry, as u/Rav99 wrote on this Reddit thread about avoiding crowds at popular attractions.)
7 Spooky Abandoned Amusement Parks You Can Visit Around The World
Amusement parks are completely fascinating to me. I’m not sure whether it’s my lack of exposure as a child, their weird, dark underbellies, or the fact that so many of them go out of business and leave rotting, decaying husks on the surface of the Earth.
And talk to friends who’ve been to your destination, research blogs or guides written by actual locals or ask strangers you come across — like hotel and restaurant staff or friendly bartenders — if they have any tips on where locals go.
Don’t book a hotel in tourist areas
The easiest way to avoid tourist traps is to avoid booking a hotel in bustling, crowded areas. “Most city and beach destinations that depend on tourism have a hotel zone or popular neighbourhood filled with affordable chain hotels (think Midtown in Manhattan or the Hotel Zone in Cancun),” Megan Wood writes for Oyster.com. “So it makes sense that the restaurants and shops around the hotels cater heavily to tourists with chain stores, fast food restaurants, and hawkers selling tours.”
Again, do your research and find a breakdown of your destination that describes where you might like to book a hotel stay. Find the area that’s referred to as “quieter” or away from “main areas” — assuming public transportation isn’t a problem, these are the areas you might want to book a room in.
This might also mean avoiding larger chain hotels in favour of smaller, boutique ones or even renting an Airbnb property. (Obviously, you should weigh the costs and carefully vet each before booking.) If you’re booking an Airbnb, look at reviews that mention the surrounding area and any mention of noise or proximity to crowded areas.
And the same goes for restaurants, too. As GoJourney recommends, you should avoid restaurants with old plated food on display and those with hosts hounding you to eat there — both common tale-tell signs of tourist restaurants that’ll probably charge you more than you’d like. Also, avoid eating near major landmarks.
Instead, before you travel, research local specialty dishes using websites like TasteAtlas and restaurant favourites using city guides from places like the New York Times, Bon Appetit or Eater if you’re travelling within the U.S.. And don’t be shy about asking locals about their favourite spots.
“Ask where to try a certain type of food,” the Times’ Rebecca Holland writes. “[…]Discuss your price range and the atmosphere you’re looking for, and convince them you really, truly do want to try local dishes, regardless of ingredients.” As the Times also recommends, don’t be afraid of street food or even signing up for a food tour — led by a local, of course.
Carefully vet tours before booking
Always reconsider booking a group tour if you want to avoid crowds. It’s likely some part of the itinerary will include a stop (or several stops) to tourist-ridden attractions. Depending on the type of tour you booked, again, consult reviews. Ask your guide what to expect concerning crowds and for a detailed itinerary.
And if you want to view these sights in spite of our advice, go at it alone, you can visit during off hours so you can enjoy them with relatively few tourists around. Or just book your trip during the shoulder, off-peak season or during certain holidays, depending on your destination. And as we’ve written before, research some common scams at your destinations to avoid getting caught in a racket played on tourists.
If you still can’t escape the throngs, avoiding booking a trip at tourist hot spots altogether — find a city close to your destination and book a stay there, for instance, and take advantage of the peace and quiet you long for.
- Chloe Khadijah Iman
- 19 March 2020
Keep a lookout for this list of common scams and tourist traps in Bangkok, Thailand during your next vacation – keep your money safe from scammers!
Bangkok is a popular vacation spot for many people, and for good reason. Their majestic temples and landmarks, unique shopping spots, and divine Thai food are hard to find anywhere else! The majority Buddhist nation is also one of the friendliest around – most locals are more than happy to chat or give you directions.
However, Bangkok’s popularity with tourists also means that there are people who are willing to take advantage of a tourist’s unfamiliarity with the country. It may not be as bad as losing S$9,000 in Japan , but losing money is still losing money. Here’s a list of popular tourist traps and scams to look out for on your next Thailand holiday.
1. The Grand Palace is Closed
There are plenty of tourist attractions with locals milling about the entrance. In the case of The Grand Palace, one of Bangkok’s most famous landmarks, you may even be fortunate enough to find a guide in front of the palace!
However, when your newfound friend brings you to enter the palace, you’re denied entry by the guards. He tells you it appears the temple is closed. Well, this is because there are separate entrances for locals and tourists, and he deliberately brought you to the wrong one.
A real wrench in your plans right? Well lucky for you, this guy knows a secret little spot to bring you to. There’s a few places your kind “guide” might take you to and the most common is a jewellery shop. Once inside, you’ll see numerous “tourists” such as yourself buying gems from the store. Your guide and the store owners are better acquainted than you’d think – to be frank, they’re in cahoots!
This is exactly why their stories are so similar, that this is a once in a lifetime deal, and that you can make a small fortune selling these gems back home! Unfortunately, they’re not gems. In fact, they barely qualify as trinkets.
To avoid being a victim to this scam, make sure to do your research on the attractions including opening times, admissions tickets, and the like.
Last but not least – don’t panic if the attraction you planned to visit is genuinely closed. There’s always so much more to explore. Unexpected adventures when things don’t go as planned are the best part of taking a holiday!
2. Animal Cafes
We all love cute, cuddly animals, especially the wilder variety that you may not get to see that often. Much to your relief, Bangkok has a bunch of animal cafes that brings you up close and personal with these exotic animals in a cozy cafe setting. Alpacas, fennec foxes, and meerkats await – and doesn’t that just sound lovely?
The thing is, it isn’t. Prices are often exorbitant and some even have a cover charge on top of their inflated prices for drinks and food. The surroundings are often less than clean too. The worst part? Multiple cafe goers have attested that the animals appear to be listless, sedated, and kept in cramped conditions.
Save yourself the money and spare these animals from being poked and prodded at any further. If you absolutely must get your dose of cute animals, cat cafes would be the place to go, since cats are meant to be kept indoors anyway!
Ah, the good ol’ tuk-tuk tourist trap in Thailand. While tuk-tuks are great fun and an experience to be had, we would have to recommend against taking them as a regular means of transportation.
They’re overpriced, pretty dangerous, and it’s easy for the tuk-tuk drivers to take advantage of you. Be it dropping you off at shady places where they earn a commission from your purchases, going the long route and charging you extra, or just straight up overcharging you. Take a private hire instead to save you all that trouble.
4. Somboondee Seafood Market
In conjunction with tuk-tuk scams, Somboondee Seafood Market is perhaps one of the most popular tourist trap in Bangkok.
You get into a Tuk Tuk or cab after agreeing upon a price, and request that the driver brings you to Somboon Seafood, a famous restaurant in Bangkok. However, the driver brings you to Somboondee Seafood Market instead.
As they say, “same same but different”. Somboondee is a restaurant operated by a mafia member (according to the locals in several Tripadvisor reviews) which serves subpar seafood at incredibly inflated prices. There are also reports that the bill will have mystery food added to the bill that you never ordered or received.
5. Fake Bills & Wrong Change
This is a common scam around Southeast Asia in tourist hotspots like Bali, Phuket, and (surprise, surprise) Bangkok.
This scam often takes place in smaller, mom-and-pop shops such as convenience stores or night market stalls. The premise of this trick banks on the cashier knowing that you’re unfamiliar in handling Thai Baht, and shortchanging you. For a more dramatic twist, sometimes the cashier swaps out your real bill for a fake one and asks you to pay again.
When shopping in Bangkok, ensure you keep track of your money when making payment. This scam only works if you’re unfamiliar with the currency, so it may be helpful for you to memorise the first few digits of your bank note serial number when making large payments. If possible, we’d recommend using your YouTrip card instead (wherever possible) to minimise the instances of this happening.
While we know that this may make you a little more weary on your travels, it’s important to remember that most people you’ll meet in Thailand are great, friendly people – you’re in the land of smiles after all!
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While there may be certain places on your dream backpacker route that you’ve seen on a blog or Instagram, it’s important to do a little research before you travel to make sure these picture-perfect destinations actually have some cultural merit that makes them worth visiting. This ensures you don’t arrive somewhere that looks amazing on the ‘gram but is actually just a tourist trap with foreigners taking photos rather than an authentic experience. Whether it’s a mall, market, bar or beach, you’re sure to come across both local wonders and tourist torture! Here we give you some top tips for avoiding Bangkok’s tourist traps and a guide for seeking out more authentic spots instead.
Do Your Research
It’s great to read around before any trip abroad to get some top tips on where to travel and what to see. However, if you really want to find out the best details about a city or destination, you’re better off seeking out local blogs, expat diaries or hotel/hostel articles that aim to give you the whole truth, rather than beauty bloggers searching for the most photogenic spots (even if that means complete inauthenticity!) or influencers selling you something they’ve been paid to promote.
It’s amazing to find bars that are loved by locals, shopping malls and markets that offer genuine Thai produce at bargain prices and roadside shacks and eateries that serve up traditional dishes that you may not find elsewhere.
Go Where The Locals Go
An obvious tip that many of us often forget is: go where the locals go. We might feel drawn to a restaurant or bar that has a buzzing atmosphere full of travellers, but this isn’t going to give you a taste of Thailand. You’re probably much more likely to find a quirky place that will give you a night to remember if you spot some locals sharing a bottle of whiskey in a small bar or a family dining together on sharing platters of Thai food. This is definitely the case when you’re at popular food markets, where tourist gather at the well-put-together stands and restaurants, while locals sit down on a mat on the floor and share tender meat cooked over a make-shift barbecue, or one-pot dishes that can feed a whole family. This is where you want to eat!
Another place where locals enjoy spending time together is in parks and squares across the city. If you allow yourself to wander around Bangkok’s parks (especially on weekends) you’re likely to stumble across a fun catwalk or competition, a local Tai Chi lesson or simply groups of families and friends enjoying each other’s company. This will give you an authentic look at Thai life that will add to your travel experience.
Feel Free To Say No
While it’s always good to be open-minded while travelling in new countries, it is also worth following your gut when someone offers a ‘cultural experience’ that sounds too good to be true. A trip to unknown monasteries and a local family shop or restaurant may sound authentic and charming, but it’s probably more likely to be a classic tourist trap that leads you traipsing in the same footsteps of the previous traveller who came before you. This is especially true if someone has come out of nowhere to offer you this amazing experience. If you have been chatting to a local for some time and they want to show you something (and you feel comfortable in their company and get a good feeling about it), by all means go ahead – you never know, it might be the best thing you do on your trip! Just be careful, and don’t feel pressured to say yes.
Even if you find yourself in a tourist trap in Bangkok, which is bound to happen at some point, either embrace the show of it all, or venture a little further, wandering down side-streets or steps to find something a bit more authentic. The likelihood is, if a spot is famous for shopping or a food market, this probably stemmed from an original version that was loved by locals. Even if the main area is overrun by tourists, there’s probably a smaller version nearby or certain stalls that still offer traditional meals, materials or merchandise that offer a true taste of Thailand.
Over on a recent post , we asked readers to tell us the worst tourist traps to avoid while traveling—and we learned several important things. For one, don’t visit the “overrated” Space Needle. Second, don’t go to Georgetown Cupcakes because there are better dessert options elsewhere in D.C. And lastly, don’t visit the Mall of America because it’s only a mall. (“Do you enjoy going to the mall where you live? If not, you won’t enjoy going to the mall-ier mall we have here,” Sethersm wrote in the comments.)
We also learned that no matter where you go, crowds of tourists at many popular attractions are unavoidable. That’s the typical experience at many tourist traps; they lure you with the promise of an unforgettable cultural experience (which they absolutely can be), but fail to prepare you for crowds of people and long lines to get to, say, the top of the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty.
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Worse, you can’t always trust reviews on popular travel websites like TripAdvisor; reviewers might claim it’s an attraction for “locals” despite being riddled with tourists, for example.
If you want to avoid crowds of slow-moving tourists with selfie-sticks, here’s our advice: Push them out of the way. (Kidding.) Just do a little bit of research before your trip, cast a critical eye on those “reliable” reviews, and avoid major landmarks if you can. And always talk to the actual locals for useful advice.
Do your research and look out for red flags
Before any vacation, do your research online—but carefully examine reviews of highly-rated attractions on websites like TripAdvisor. Look out for any mention of lines, “skip the line” passes, VIP tickets, time slots, package deals or reservations; chances are that if these words are repeated again and again in reviews, it might be a tourist trap worth running from. Always filter for more critical reviews to get a better sense of what to expect.
You should use community forums on websites like TripAdvisor , Lonely Planet or even local city or country subreddits to find which attractions to avoid at all costs. You’ll also find recommendations on how to find less popular, but equally worthy attractions or a better way to view a busy one. (Instead of visiting the Statue of Liberty and waiting through long lines, for example, you can view the Statue of Liberty for free from the Staten Island Ferry, as u/Rav99 wrote on this Reddit thread about avoiding crowds at popular attractions.)
And talk to friends who’ve been to your destination, research blogs or guides written by actual locals or ask strangers you come across—like hotel and restaurant staff or friendly bartenders—if they have any tips on where locals go.
Don’t book a hotel in tourist areas
The easiest way to avoid tourist traps is to avoid booking a hotel in bustling, crowded areas. “Most city and beach destinations that depend on tourism have a hotel zone or popular neighborhood filled with affordable chain hotels (think Midtown in Manhattan or the Hotel Zone in Cancun),” Megan Wood writes for Oyster.com . “So it makes sense that the restaurants and shops around the hotels cater heavily to tourists with chain stores, fast food restaurants, and hawkers selling tours.”
Again, do your research and find a breakdown of your destination that describes where you might like to book a hotel stay; find the area that’s referred to as “quieter” or away from “main areas”—assuming public transportation isn’t a problem, these are the areas you might want to book a room in.
This might also mean avoiding larger chain hotels in favor of smaller, boutique ones or even renting an Airbnb property. (Obviously, you should weigh the costs and carefully vet each before booking.) If you’re booking an Airbnb, look at reviews that mention the surrounding area and any mention of noise or proximity to crowded areas.
And the same goes for restaurants, too. As GoJourney recommends, you should avoid restaurants with old plated food on display and those with hosts hounding you to eat there—both common tale-tell signs of tourist restaurants that’ll probably charge you more than you’d like. Also, avoid eating near major landmark s .
Instead, before you travel, research local specialty dishes using websites like TasteAtlas and restaurant favorites using city guides from places like the New York Times , Bon Appetit or Eater . And don’t be shy about asking locals about their favorite spots.
“Ask where to try a certain type of food,” the Times’ Rebecca Holland writes . “[. ] Discuss your price range and the atmosphere you’re looking for, and convince them you really, truly do want to try local dishes, regardless of ingredients.” As the Times also recommends, don’t be afraid of street food or even signing up for a food tour—led by a local, of course.
Have you ever felt like you are paying too much to see something worthless. Perhaps you have been invited to a restaurant and didn’t get the service you expected? Or maybe the famous Mona Lisa was not worth all the waiting in line? Welcome to the Worst Tourist Traps in Europe and how to avoid them.
Restaurants with tourist traps
Some tourist traps are pretty common and could be found in almost any country in the World. For example, have you ever seen waiters standing outside nice looking cafes and inviting people in. Well, next time you see that – walk away! Why? Because it’s a tourist trap! Don’t be surprised if you see that only in crowded, touristy areas (e.g. near famous sightseeing). The service in such restaurants will most probably be quite moderate and the prices much overrated. The reason for that is simple – after visiting a famous monument, most people get hungry and will pick the first available place to sit down. While staying close to famous sights has it’s advantages, you will get much better service few hundred yards down the road, away from tourist traps.
Hotels with tourist traps
Many hotels, especially in the resorts, offer so called “all inclusive” service. The idea is to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner in the hotel. For families with children this might look like an ideal situation. Just imagine all the energy you’ll need to get your big family together and go look for a place to eat. However, experienced travelers will probably stay away from all inclusive option. Hotel food is mostly unhealthy, tasteless and doesn’t really change much over days. It’s the worst idea if you came to explore the culture and local food.
Best travel tips that are no longer useful Whenever it’s time to plan another trip, most of us start looking for best travel tips for a given destination. Internet is full of great advice how to plan your perfect holiday. However, you should be cautious about what you read online.
Tourist traps in Europe
Let’s look at some popular European destinations and find out which tourist traps to avoid during your next visit.
Barcelona has bad reputation due to high amount of pickpockets. Areas to be particularly vigilant are around Las Ramblas, Sagrada Familia and other modernist buildings. If you are looking to try Paella, stay away from places advertising it (brands like Paella d’or). Remember – that any place with paella for under 15€/dish is suspicious.
The same goes for Sangria – don’t risk buying it in a touristy area. Chances are, they will serve you bad wine with juice and a lot of sugar, so you will wake up with a nice hangover. Many places advertise flamenco shows, but these are typical tourist traps – if you really want to see real flamenco, you should travel to Andalusia. In Barcelona, locals recommend place called Jazz Si in El Raval.
Famous tourist scam involves taxi fares. Some travelers recommend being beware of taxi fares. That goes for rides both to and from the airport. In the past, there have been reports of drivers demanding obscene fees to tourists. How they do it? They either are not running the meter or taking a ridiculously long route to your destination.
Paris is paradise for scammers, you will meet all sorts of the here. Some are just selling cheap Chinese souvenirs, others will try to cheat you into paying them. If you visit Montmartre, be prepared to see famous trick with “friendship bracelet”.
Some African guys will approach you with a thread and tie it around your hand. You will then be asked to pay 20€ for it. Rose scams are also common, although they are quite obvious and easy to spot. You will given a rose as a token of friendship and then asked to pay for it.
Old port – one of the main attractions – is considered a rip off by the locals. Most bars and cafes are overprices, however you might find some decent spots as well (in particular on the Cours Estienne d’Orves). Terrasses du Port is another overrated place – lots of shops and not a very good view of the sea.
Just like in any other European capital, you can find tourist traps here as well. One of the most popular ones are the costumed models, who will first tell you one price and once you start taking pictures, the price will rise astronomically. Best advice – just stay away from them or only take one picture and walk away. They are annoying, but not dangerous. Be careful in the metro – a lot of pickpockets around! Best advise is to hide your valuable belongings, such as mobile phones and DSLRs, in the bag.
Experienced travelers recommend staying away from restaurants with signs “traditional Czech kitchen” or offering “goulash soup”. Generally, any restaurant with costumed promoters outside should be avoided. Beer prices is another tourist trap – avoid places with beer costing more than 30–35 for 1/2 liters, (unless it’s a Pilsner). Might be slightly more expensive at on-site microbreweries. Lat but not least, skip marionettes and marionette theater.
How to avoid tourist traps?
- Research about the destination before you go. Check local forums, ask expats, ask locals if you know the language. If you don’t know anyone to ask, search for expat blogs on Google.
- Avoid places advertised in tourist brochures. These are most probable overpriced, low quality places.
- Always try to find a place to eat where locals go. Also, avoid chains. Small, family owned restaurants are the best!
- Don’t dress like a tourist! Hide your expensive camera. Nowadays, even iPhones make decent pictures.
- If you can, rent an apartment. You will have a better feel of being a local this way. Airbnb is a great alternative!
- Stay away from tour buses and organised tours. You will only get minor information and the amount of participants will make it hard to see the beauty of the place.
- Go out early in the morning, before it gets crowded.
- Walk everywhere or rent a bike. If the place is big, take the local transport. This way you will feel more like a local.
- Visit other cities, away from the famous attractions. You wouldn’t believe how much more beautiful they can be!
- Travel Off season! You will save a fortune and spare yourself from hot, crowded and overpriced madness!
Have you ever been scammed? How did you get out of it?
So you are finally at your dream vacation destination, it might be Paris, Buenos Aires or Singapore. You’re eager to taste the local cuisine and eat your way through the city. But wait! There is an ocean of information online. Your destination has numerous restaurants all competing for your attention with their menus and food. How do you know that you will not end up eating tourist trap food?
Finding authentic food on our travels is what we do for a living. After years of moving to new countries and cities, tracking down local food specialties, we launched Authentic Food Quest. Our mission at Authentic Food Quest is to inspire people to travel through authentic food and enjoy the local tastes and flavors.
Don’t be disappointed by the food on your travels. Savor the local specialties. Avoid the catered food designed for tourists. Getting an authentic food experience is not a simple task. Here are 5 tips to get you off the tourist trap food path.
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1.Visit The Local Farmers Markets
Farmers markets are a vibrant mixture of sights, colors, sounds and intoxicating aromas. No matter what’s for sale – fresh produce, food, crafts, or antiques, you get a sense of the local culture. If you really want to see what locals are eating and buying, get off the tourist path and get to know the more authentic side of a destination.
Wherever your travels take you, there will be some sort of market that will give you an authentic experience. When we were in Lima on our quest to discover the authentic food of Peru , we stayed in a local neighborhood or barrio called Lince . Little did we know when we picked this barrio, that it would be in the heart of several local markets and a very popular foodie destination for locals.
About four blocks away from where we were staying, was one of our favorite local farmers market. In addition to having fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables, they also had amazing lunch specials. For less than $5USD per person, we could get an appetizer, a main meal and unlimited amounts of fresh juice. The way the system worked was simple. Walk around the food stalls, find a menu that appeals to you and then pull up a stool to the counter. Here, we had some of the best ceviche (raw fish) that we could have imagined.
Eating raw fish terrifies many travelers. Eating raw fish at a local market for some is asking for trouble. What we enjoyed instead was fresh fish from that morning and a chance to chat with the cook, while watching her prepare our meals. Savor the delights at the local market, and taste the authenticity on your travels.
2.Take The Streets Less Traveled
You know the feeling on your travels, when you are so tired after visiting the museums or cultural sites and all you want to do is sit down and let your legs rest. Maybe you are a little hungry or you just want to quench your thirst and look at your maps or guide books and plan for your next stop.
Resist the temptation to grab a sit in a beautiful square of plaza close by. Walk as far as you can from the main tourist attraction sites. The further you go, you will find better and cheaper food.
Our quest to discover the authentic food from the desert took us to San Pedro De Atacama in the north of Chile . San Pedro de Atacama is a small touristy town with an endearing charm and slow pace. The main streets are dusty and lined with adobe brown colored building and they all lead to the main plaza. This area is filled with many restaurants with servers standing outside inviting you with tourist trap food.
Claire’s birthday was approaching and we were looking for an authentic restaurant where we could celebrate. We decided to get off the main tourist area and just walk and explore what was on the outskirts. No map and no guide book. Just curiosity and a sense of discovery.
It was by taking the road less traveled that we stumbled onto Baltinache . Baltinache is known for serving indigenous fusion cuisine – a mix of Mapuche (indigenous Chileans) with local ingredients from San Pedro de Atacama. Here, we had one of the most creative cuisines we have ever had. We also had the opportunity to meet with the chef and learn about her Mapuche upbringing. Click here to read more about this unique cuisine: Exploring Creative Cuisine From The Atacama Desert in Chile.
No matter how tempting the nearby restaurants may seem, keep walking and you will be rewarded with amazing meals and cherished moments.
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How to Avoid Tourist Traps in Europe
Europe is home to some of the world’s best restaurants… and the world’s worst tourist traps.
Whether you’re in Paris or Rome or Barcelona, there are some truly incredible local restaurants, as well as some overpriced tourist traps that will leave you feeling ripped off.
Luckily, it’s not too hard to avoid tourist traps in Europe if you know what you’re looking for.
Here are the top five signs of a tourist trap restaurant to look out for:
1. Menus with pictures of the food.
If you see a menu outside the restaurant displaying pictures of the food they serve, it’s a tourist trap. A real, decent restaurant won’t need picture menus to convince you their food is appetizing.
2. Menus in English displayed outside.
When a restaurant has menus written in English (or multiple other languages) posted outside, it’s probably a tourist trap too. While some authentic restaurants will offer you an English menu if you ask, the best restaurants typically don’t.
3. Hawkers trying to get you to come in.
By far one of the most annoying signs of a tourist trap! Some restaurants will have hawkers standing outside on the sidewalk trying to get you to come in. No matter how tired or hungry you are, ignore them and keep walking if you want to enjoy a decent meal!
4. Located near a popular landmark or tourist area.
Be wary of restaurants located right near popular tourist landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, or in crowded tourist areas like St. Mark’s Square in Venice.
Most of the time, these are going to be overpriced tourist traps. You can usually find better options on side streets or further away from touristy areas.
5. No prices on the menu.
Always take a look at the menu before you order and make sure you see prices listed. A common scam at tourist trap restaurants is giving you a menu with no prices, then drastically overcharging you on your bill, and there’s nothing you can do about it then.
These are the biggest red flags of a tourist trap… now how do you figure out what’s actually good?
- Do your research before you go: Research a few great local restaurants before your trip and add them to your itinerary so you won’t end up stumbling into a tourist trap because you’re just too hungry/tired to find somewhere else to eat.
- Ask a local: Get recommendations from a local, like a barista at a coffee shop near your hotel or a local tour guide for the best places to eat in the area.
- Take a food tour: A great way to try authentic local food is through a food tour run by a local guide. There are all kinds of food tours out there, from street food to local delicacies. You can find a lot of great tours on Airbnb.
- Get off the beaten path: You can easily avoid tourist traps by getting off the main tourist trail. Once you walk a few blocks away from a popular tourist landmark or busy street and you’ll find better deals and better food.
More Travel Tips
For more practical travel tips, be sure to read the following: