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An office where tourists fresh off aircraft are offered accommodation

Phuket Scam Rips Off Tourists on Arrival

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
PHUKET: Scammers are hijacking just-arrived tourists near Phuket International Airport and persuading them to go to different accommodation on Phuket.

The tourists are sometimes taken to a travel centre not far from the airport and questioned intently about where they are staying on Phuket.

The slightest hesitation on the part of the newly-arrrived tourist usually leads to them being taken to different accommodation, either at greater expense or to a lower standard.

Most of the victims are travelling south from Phuket airport by mini-van but others have been scammed in taxis.

The scammers get paid commission by the people who gain the guests.

Guesthouse proprietors and travellers have contacted Phuketwan in the past two weeks to complain, indicating that an increasing number of rip-offs are occurring as high season draws near.

Giovanni Mazzolini, 28, a helicopter mechanic from Brisbane, said this week that he had booked a place to stay in Phuket City.

But when he and a friend arrived on November 21, they were scammed and taken to Patong, on the other side of Phuket.

''The lady at the tourist centre told us the driver didn't know they place we were supposed to be going and gave us advice to go to another place in another part of Phuket.

''We ended up paying the taxi driver an extra 150 baht and he still dropped us off some distance from the accommodation.''

Niku Krog, who runs the Niku Guesthouse in Patong's Paradise Complex, believes virtually every min-van at some times stops off at the travel centre.

One customer, Melinda, had a booking at his guesthouse and took the trouble after being scammed to get in touch via email. here are some excerpts:

Melinda: Sorry it wasn't a good arrival experience for us the taxi did not know your hotel and we insisted on calling you, he didn't have any phone credit so at midnight we just went to a guesthouse he did know. Sorry we didn't message you earlier.

Niku: Of course he did not know the address when he could score 300 bath a day for you staying in his companion's guesthouse, and you really believed that he did not have access to a phone?

Melinda: I couldn't just grab the guy's phone and force him to let me use it, might look like stealing or possibly put me in a situation where I might be physically abused!

Niku: I realize now that you have done everything possible trying to reach the destination of your own choice. We don't have a car or a taxi license, so we need to rely on the existing local taxi service. Besides private pick ups can create problems with the taxi drivers around the airport.

Unfortunately the people providing taxi service here have the bad habit of making extra income, so they prefer to bring their customers to places where they can get commission. The fact that you showed him the map written in Thai and that he refused to call us on the phone proves this.

It is not the first case of taxi drivers cheating customers. This time it even seems worse since there have been an open conflict about what to do.

GIO MAZZOLINI told Phuketwan that in the end he'd had ''a really good time'' on Phuket. But he was not sure whether he had lost his deposit, paid by credit card, at the place he was initially supposed to stay.

''The experience leaves a bitter taste about Phuket,'' he said. ''You don't expect to be ripped off quite so fast.

''I guess a lot of people arrive like I did, pleased the flight is over and not really prepared for the likelihood of being ripped off like that.

''Most places I've been to have the right kinds of controls to prevent this kind of thing happening.''

Guesthouse proprietor Niku said he usually instructed arriving customers to print out a map in advance so the taxi driver would know where to go.

''In any case, if there's a taxi driver operating at Phuket airport who doesn't know where the Paradise Complex is in Patong, he really shouldn't be working as a taxi driver,'' Niku said.

None of the people in the cases reported to Phuketwan could remember names of firms or numberplates of vehicles, or the precise location of the ''travel centre.''

Years ago, a centre lke this one operated in the bypass road but the present centre is thought to be just a few hundred metres from the airport.

Controlling the behavior of mini-vans and taxis at Phuket International Airport is the responsibility of the managers, Airports of Thailand.

Deputy general manager Suteep Sansiriphan said today the airport team would respond to any case brought to their attention where the name of the mini-van firm or the taxi driver could be provided.

The lesson for arriving tourists on Phuket is clear: be prepared to be ripped off from the moment you land on Phuket.

The best advice is to have a map showing where you want to go (although it shouldn't be necessary) and the capacity to say No.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


That's not a new scam it's been happening since we started coming to Phuket 15 years ago. Fortunately you only sucker for it once

Posted by Anonymous on November 28, 2012 16:02


I travel in and out of Phuket frequently. Usually I take a minibus home.
Every time I have taken the minibus, without exception, it has stopped for 20-30 minutes at a travel agent en route while passengers are given the hard sell.
I flew in last night. When I bought my minibus ticket I said "I want to go direct to Patong, not stopping at the travel agent". The lady at the taxi minibus desk said "if you don't want to stop, then take a taxi".
Each of the two 'limousine'/minibus groups has a separate travel agent. The agent for the Maikhou Bakhu is immediately after the turn from the Airport Road on to Thepkasattri Road.
To be hijacked like this is extremely annoying. It's been going on for many, many years despite many complaints. Like so may scams, no action is ever taken.

Posted by jonas on November 28, 2012 16:56


These scams have been going on for years at every airport, bus station, and train station in Thailand. Chumphon train station has a scam artist at every arrival.

Posted by titima on November 28, 2012 17:05


Since it's obvious local authorities have no intention to stop these scams, the best advice for those being "taken for a ride" would be to make a video of the whole event and post them on YouTube. Open up a Facebook group against these scams.

Evil Man from Krabi -video sure caused a reaction both in Thailand and abroad. The key is to spread the news about these scams and eventually the international embarrasment will force the reluctant authorities to act.

If an investigative TV crew like 60 minutes or Stern TV were to come to Phuket, they would certainly have no shortage of subjects to expose.

Posted by Andrew on November 28, 2012 17:37


As everyone states, this scam has been going on for years. I have been coming to Phuket since 1995 & have lived in the same rented bungalow with a pleasant landlord who takes care of me well. When this scam was tried on me last year, I refused to listen to their hard sell. They became quite abusive, which could terrify a tired, first time visitor. When I eventually got home, the taxi driver became even more abusive when I refused to give him a tip!

However, it is not just Phuket. I watched a very interesting documentary on sat TV a few nights ago, about mafia style scamming of tourists in Rome. It is the way of this sad old world nowadays.

Posted by Logic on November 28, 2012 17:53


@titima. The scam going on here is much more organized and continuous. Correct in many Thai airports and bus/train stations you will meet walking agents, who try to sell something.

But here it is people working in the official transport system, who rip of new coming tourists at arrival.

If you take a taxi from the airport in Bankok then you will be brought straight to your chosen destination and pay fare measured by a meter.

But on Phuket you have to insist very strongly if you want to reach the destination of your own choice and the fare will be several times higher then any meter would show.

This behavior certainly do no good for tourism on Phuket.

Posted by Niku on November 28, 2012 18:05


Chumphon? Never seen anyone there.
Could be I look unapproachable.

Posted by Remarkable on November 28, 2012 18:09


Who have they been paying off in the local officialdom to allow this scam to continue because nothing happens here unless officialdom gets a cut it's that simple.

Posted by Scunner on November 28, 2012 18:39


yes i agree. it is a old scam. 3 times i had to stop there as well with a taxi from the airport. actually the first time i arrived in phuket (8 years ago) i experience this. mafia island....

Posted by mike on November 28, 2012 19:15


Welcome to the LOS - Land of Scams

Posted by larry on November 28, 2012 19:28


Happened to me before I moved here. Stopped about 1km from the Tesco Lotus light on the left. I already had a villa that my mates were waiting for me at. Kept beeping the horn on the mini-van until the guy came out. He wasn't happy, but neither was I for stopping.

Posted by GiantFan on November 28, 2012 19:30


One persons scam is anothers blessing. Been there seen that and have seen it help many new arrivals who make reservation in Phuket city not knowing about patong being the hot spot and when told are happy to change there reservations. I use to use the service when I knew of two or three places I would like to stay and they would take care of it and the price was good even if they are making a little out of it. However since I got a home here it is a drag to have to stop and explain to them I don't need any help just drop me on a corner and I will make my way from there. Their insistance I tell them were I am going past a drop of point has been a real headache at times. By the way as a world traveler I have seen these type of operation in most if not all heavy tourist destinations.

Posted by mike on November 28, 2012 19:43


Yup, happen to me too, 2 yrs ago.
I just tell them straight, I have a place take me to it. They say the driver doesn't speak English good.
Well the one phrase I learned was Cha Cha " Slowly "
Crazy Taxis drivers.

Posted by John on November 29, 2012 01:19


Just wondering about the folks that live in Phuket and take these vans home from the airport? Why not just use the Meter taxi service and avoid the delay of the van service and it's tourist stops? Also good point about the van service possibly HELPING tourist find better accommadation than staying in phuket town for vacation...

Posted by Jimmy Rawai on November 29, 2012 06:32


As Anonymous said, in 1995 it already exists, they try hard to persuade you to book that time I already thought "amazing Thailand isn't it "

Posted by serge on November 29, 2012 06:59


At Kellys hotel we do not book a room unless they book our taxi, no exceptions, success rate for arrivals went up 90%, just give all your work to one taxi company cures the problem.

Posted by Dan Daly on November 29, 2012 08:02


@ Jimmy Rawai: The above tourist Gio and his friend were in a taxi and were still scammed, so your solution isn't a solution.

Posted by Joe on November 29, 2012 08:56


This being a "Tourism Newspaper" why dont you tell us tourists what to do about this rip-off.? Give the phone number of the tourist police? yes its been going on for 20 years so what the hell is to point of your newspaper.if your not going to help the tourist!!!

Posted by F.N. on November 29, 2012 10:21

Editor Comment:

Thanks, FN. This is your first publishable comment. We are not a newspaper, and you are definitely not a valued reader. If you need a nanny, go hire one.


Ed, this probably wont appear, but I need to say it anyhow. Your response to FN simply indicates what a giant size prick you really are. Yes this blog is most certainly not anything like a real news service.

Posted by Tom on November 29, 2012 11:08

Editor Comment:

Thanks, Tom. Size doesn't matter.


Ed, forgotten to take your meds today?

Posted by Eric on November 29, 2012 12:57

Editor Comment:

Strangely, some readers seem to be more concerned about my welfare than the articles, Eric. There are probably courses that can teach you and them how not to lose the plot. Please take one, two times daily after meals.


Dear Ed, please don't kid yourself, it's just normal people who see you for what you are, a self indulgent, loud mouth. Nobody gives a rats arse about your welfare.

Posted by Tom on November 29, 2012 14:05

Editor Comment:

I wouldn't expect a reader like you to show concern for anyone, Tom. I just feel sorry for you. Let me guess: you're dealing with customers all day, and they are always right. So you have to take it out on somebody.


This also happen to myself and wife 6 years ago when we first came to Phuket and must be the islands longest running scam.
Its a wonder why the Tourist Authority of Thailand allow this scam to continue while the risk of being hijacked and ripped off upon arrival remains hidden from vulnerable tourists.
No doubt hotel accommodation providers and tourist operators alike have also had many unnecessary cancellations, loss of revenue and trade over the years as a consequence of this scam.

Posted by Mark on November 29, 2012 15:13


Obviously this scam has the backup of everybody involved, otherwise it would have been stopped years ago.
But as all other other murky stuff flourishes around here, some light casting might prepare first comers a little better of the difficulties to reach their chosen destination.

@F.N and ed, the number of the tourist police is 1155. No secret, just Google it, so why the big fuss about that?

Posted by Sherlock on November 29, 2012 17:43

Editor Comment:

As you know, Sherlock, we respond politely to polite criticism or requests. Our policy in response to text missiles fired in our direction is to take the Israeli approach. I haven't a clue why some readers display instant aggression. Is there an anger management course on Phuket? One thing is certain: we ain't abandoning our promised land.


After exiting the airport building, immediately turn right and go till the extremity of the quai. You will be asked by touts/scammers to go with them, but ignore them totally. The REAL taxi booth is at the extremity of the quai. They have their prices shown on the booth. E.g., to Patong it costs 500 baht + 100 baht airport fee. You will be given a receipt for the ride at the booth. The lady or man in the booth speaks English and will translate the exact address and hotel name to the taxi driver. Used that service several times, was never disappointed, nor scammed.

Posted by Bullseye on November 29, 2012 20:31


+1 Good Post
Posted by Bullseye on November 29, 2012 20:31
Same as me, I use this taxi service twice a month every month with no problems or scams at all. The scam taxi's is mainly the vans and black taxi touts that attack you when you first depart the airport.

Posted by Jimmy Rawai on November 30, 2012 01:47


@Sherlock: where do you live ? your nickname does not apply to your skills. You will improve them by dialling 1155 to find out that the number has gone... since long time ago (trust me). This is thailand my friend: what appears is not what reality is.
@F.N.: I join Bullseye. Just follow that advice and forget everything else.

If PW wants to contribute a little bit more than just answering in poor style to its readers, a simple tip would be: now taxis have yellow signs placed outside with name and phone where to complain. Start by that and let's see where it goes

Posted by cekipa on November 30, 2012 13:00

Editor Comment:

As we've reported, this issue is the responsibility of the Phuket airport management. However it would certainly do no harm to try calling the taxi/bus complaint number.
I assume that, as you don't like the answers we supply, you'll go looking elsewhere for the article you can only find here.


@cekipa. Just dialed 1155, it works fine. Try it yourself. A vice person once said "never trust people who says trust me".

Posted by Sherlock on November 30, 2012 13:48


Why not make a boatservice from the airport to the beaches? Make a pier at the end of the runway, take a boat to Patong, Karong, Kata, Nai Harn etc. Can they scam you for anything there?;)

Posted by Alex on December 1, 2012 00:44


Sad that these people do all these things to scam tourists. Even the jet-ski scam is a sad thing as people come off with having to pay for all this and it makes gives the genuine ones a bad rep.

Posted by Phuket Scene on December 2, 2012 16:10


Ha - this same scam was tried on me on my first and only trip to Phuket 17 years ago. I didn't fall for it then even though I didn't realize at the time that it was a scam. But I also haven't returned to Phuket again since then - even though I've been living in Bangkok for the past 17 years.

Posted by Henry on December 2, 2012 21:31


The few times it got close to this being pulled on me, I mentioned ( lied) that the hotel I was being taken to ( one I requested) I was staying at for free. Seems the scammers don't have a plan to deal with that situation.

Posted by mikey on December 3, 2012 00:05


I have now sent an email to 5 friends that offered to take a taxi to come to our house, one after the other in December, January, February and March. I will have to meet them, which I happily do, but at late hours or early hours it is nicer to receive the guests with a welcome drink or breakfast at home, than taking two or more hours for travelling to and back to the airport. The arriving guests should receive a Sim card with money on to call right away upon arrival as in when I arrived.

In Chalong for some years now

Posted by Anonymous on December 6, 2012 19:51


I think there was a similar problem at Dulles airport in the USA. Now, when a visitor gets a taxi, an official gives the visitor a card with a trip reference number, and a phone number. The official notes the (licenced) taxi identification, and the passengers destination on a form.
If the driver does not take the passenger straight to their destination, the passenger can call the number, give the reference number, and the taxi is then prohibited from picking up from the airport for a specified period.
A little bit of administration required, but a B50 fee or similar would cover this.
Very simple, and would go a long way to preventing rip offs, and tourists getting a bad taste of Thailand.

Posted by GP on December 8, 2012 06:49


@ GP. Brilliant suggestion, now two more steps to do:

1. Inform the relevant authorities about that this model would do good for Phukets tarnished reputation.

2. Convince the same authorities to implement the suggestion into real life.

Who can do that?

Posted by Niku on December 8, 2012 20:37


Good idea from GP.years ago, I spent a very ugly 30 minutes in one agency near tescos.i witnessed two young girl tourists reduced to tears by nasty menacing Thais.I was personally too afraid to stick up for them, but did my best to calm them down.This is still going on which is one of the reasons, among other rip offs, why I left Phuket!

Posted by Elizabeth on December 9, 2012 11:46


I thought this was going to be about the taxi touts. Arriving on a late evening flight these taxi touts were almost overwhelming with their aggressive attitude. I ignored them but my wife mentioned Kamala. 700 baht he kept repeating. It was 400 baht at the metered taxi window 25 meters away. It was a third world experience and should be an embarrassment for Phuket.

Posted by Pinot on December 21, 2012 08:39


Phuket airport is really not that bad. Anyone who has ever caught the hydrofoils from Saigon to Vung Tau can tell of much more aggression than anything on Phuket which I can also vouch for. In March I caught a Taxi from Ben Tahn markets in Saigon back to my hotel. I had previously only caught Vinasun tax's as I knew these were legitimate. This one night I had drank a few beers and walked out to a taxi which had Vinasoo written on it in very small writing and jumped in. Immediately he locked the rear doors and put up the windows (The windows were blacked out). I then instructed him "no no no down please" which he did. Now the trip with Vinasun going the other way cost me 65000 dong, I noticed this guys meter half way back to the hotel and it read 485,000 dong. I flipped out and started yelling at him and telling him he was joking. He told me I catch cheap taxi before and he is real taxi. Anyway a few minutes passed and he pulled me up at the back of my hotel (as he did not want them to see a scene) and the argument continued. As I had my 10 year old daughter in the car I was mindful that this should not escalate to anything physical and offered him 150,000 dong and that is it. Meter read 740,000 dong. He took it and we got away. Thailand is a dream in comparison.

Posted by Ty on December 28, 2012 06:29


Have to agree with you Bullseye , although on one occasion the driver told me the meter wasn't working,so I promptly told him to take me back to the taxi stand and get me a taxi that has a meter that works. We agreed on a price. Have had no problems with taxi meter ever since,3yrs now.

Posted by Mungo on February 28, 2014 23:26


Have to say this has never happened to me because before my first visit to Phuket I did some basic research and now only book with accomodation that provides a pick up service from the airport. Same as jet ski and other hire scams, a little research and some responsible decision making would go a long way towards eliminating these scams.

Posted by Arthur on March 3, 2014 06:15


@Mungo, you must have woken, like Rip Van Winkle, from a long sleep, you seem to go back a long way with a few of your posts.

@Arthur, you always have something to say, considering you do not live here, you are wiser than most. Having said that, what you say will not stop the "scams" these will only be reduced, hopefully stopped, when the responsible authorities support the tourists and NOT the Thai scammers. Their should pursue the Thai scammers with the same vigour as they do the foreign scammers.

Posted by Laurie Howells on March 3, 2014 10:34


@laurie .Are foreign scammers in general actively pursued by the Thai authorities?
Regular reports about the misdeeds of various foreigners in Pattaya suggest it may be otherwise.
Disappointing that some of these scams survive.

Posted by spud67 on March 3, 2014 13:40


yes on jan 2015, the 180baht minivan did the same thing to all 7 of us. pulled us into some small parking lot and started taking out our suitcases. fortunately i have a thai sim card and googled the tourist police Phone#, and called...driver got nervous and put our suitcases back in minivan and was mad;but got us to the city. he will try to drop you off anywhere, he doesn't care! i had google maps so i told him to keep driving. what a bitter taste i have for phuket airport.

Posted by dan on January 29, 2016 08:39

Monday March 4, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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