Many people who have traveled to Thailand know that there are many scams that can be pulled on the unsuspecting tourist. I’m sure some have even fallen for them, myself included. Sadly I think that some people get so paranoid about being ripped off that they are constantly worried, and can get very emotional, sometimes angry and frustrated. I just had something happen on my way from Railay Beach to Phuket that I thought was a little strange, and feel like it could be a scam, so I thought I would warn other people about it. This might help to take away some of the stress of the journey and help people be more prepared to handle this type of scam.
First off, I decided to take a ferry to a minivan to get from Railay to Phuket. This was mainly because the minivan left early in the morning, allowing for a little more time in Phuket. Also, while I love the idea of taking boats, I can get pretty nauseous out on the water, and had spent the previous two days getting on and off boats. So I decided a break from the boats would be a nice change.
The first ferry from Railay to Krabi peer was a nice ride. It was still cool, being early in the morning, and there were views I hadn’t seen yet. Railay is really beautiful, and I am so thankful that I decided to make a stop there. Once off the ferry things weren’t as smooth as I felt they should have been.
Maybe I should back up here and tell you that when I booked this trip, the lady had me show her the address and telephone number of the hostel I was staying at in Phuket. She wrote it down on a piece of paper and called someone telling them the name of the hostel. She assured us we would be dropped off at our hotel. Awesome, easy door-to-door service…or so we thought.
When we got off our ferry from Railay, a guy took our receipt from us (the one with the hotel address, name and phone number, which we would never see again). We were crammed into a van with about a dozen other people and were off. I thought to myself that it was probably going to be a terrible ride and was feeling incredibly claustrophobic. Then I heard from one of the passengers that we were switching minibuses soon. Ok, maybe the next one wont be so bad. So we come to a weird transfer center seemingly in the middle of nowhere and were told to grab our things and get out of the van.
Again, we were asked our destination. They found our names on a sheet of paper, wrote our names on a sticker, stuck it in our shirts, and told us to wait. Ok. Many other people were waiting, being dropped off, and boarding various minivans. We waited around forty minutes before finally being motioned to a new minibus. When we arrived, the driver seemed agitated that the lady was trying to get three more people on his bus. So he shuffled people and luggage around for a while before I ended up in the same crammed corner in the back, this time on the sunny side. I started to feel like I might panic because of the space and the heat. But I calmed down when a little argument ensues with two of the other passengers over where some luggage needs to go. People are already on edge, and we haven’t even started. The driver opens the door, angrily puts the luggage in place saying it’s “same same” and slams the door off to make jokes with the employees. He only seemed happy when taking the numerous calls during the drive, and talking with the employees at our stops.
About halfway we made a toilet stop. Everyone got out, ate some lunch or ice cream or grabbed a cold beverage. This stop actually ended up being one of the best parts of the trip. There are these weird statues everywhere, Winnie the Pooh (or Pooh San as they call him in Japan), Santa Clause, and many other random statues. All together it made for a strange addition to this roadside gas stop. It was funny to look at and a nice break from the cramped van. After about ten minutes we were back in the van, the driver speeding, me hoping we make it safely.
We slowed down and the passengers that were up front and behind the driver start to argue about something. All I could make out was, “We were supposed to be dropped at our accommodations…we paid to be transferred to our hotel.” To which the driver responded “I drop you here, you get taxi, I don’t take you to hotel” There was a lot more back and forth before he drove through a sandy parking lot, pulled back onto the road over to the side, and the two passengers got out. I can only hope for their sake that they were somewhat close to their hotel, or there was a taxi nearby.
Then the driver started yelling at a group of Korean guys traveling with us “I drop you at bus stop ok?” The Korean guys were confused. I realized we will not be getting dropped off at our hostel. So we drove a little more and he keeps yelling various things, confusing all the remaining passengers. Then we stopped and a lady comes out and tells us to get out and tell us where we are staying. Ok, maybe we will go to our hostel? Instead we are led inside, only for her to tell us we are getting dropped off at a bus station where we can get a taxi or a bus. I reiterate that we were to be dropped at our hostel. She says “same same.” Well, not really, but instead of getting upset, we decided we would just figure out how to get to our hostel. Now this is when we realize we are being scammed.
We all got back in the minivan and drove for about a minute or so. The driver pulled over again, crossed the street to get a beverage, then opened the back door and told us he would take us to our hostel for some extra money. Everyone was confused. I looked at my husband and said lets just get off at the bus station and he agreed. The driver was so rude and obnoxious and was just trying to get us to pay more money to get what we were already supposed to have paid for.
So out we jumped and walked a short ways to the bus station. It actually turned out to be very easy getting to our hostel from there. A woman at the information desk told us where to go and within five minutes we were on a bus that took us two blocks away from our hostel. It was just 15 baht per person, and was one of those cool buses that have benches in the back of a big truck. I don’t know why I think they are so cool, but I do.
Anyways, I was so happy to be off the minivan with the wind in my hair, but things got a little dramatic from there. A very friendly ticket guy was collecting money from everyone when one young kid got really upset. He kept yelling that he wasn’t going to pay and that he had already had to pay double what he was initially told. Like us, he was supposed to be dropped off at his hostel. The ticket collector looked confused and the kid got into it with another women who had been traveling with him. After some heated words he got off the bus. Sadly, I think he ended up paying a lot more for a cab to get to his hostel or hotel than he would have by just staying on the bus. So always remember to try and keep your cool, even though it can be difficult.
I think this is common in Thailand, and it’s a shame. I know how frustrating it can be to feel cheated and taken advantage of, especially when you are on a budget. I really want to believe that for the most part people are good, but also it is important to make sure you are paying attention when purchasing things. Its possible I wasn’t careful enough when buying our tickets. Maybe the lady who we bought our tickets from wasn’t legit. It’s possible she was in on the scam from the beginning. I guess everyone is looking to make an extra buck. I also think there are a lot of people who panic and decide to pay the extra money to just have the minibus driver take them to their hotel. I’m glad I didn’t. It was easy to figure out where to go on our own.
So what did I learn? Maybe it’s better to take the ferry from Railay to Phuket, although its possible that I would have had the same problem once we got to Phuket, with someone asking for extra money. I think something that everyone can learn from this story is that is might be best to ask around at a few different places and ask questions before deciding on what company to choose and what method of transport you choose. It might even be better to check out the reservation desk at a fancier hotel, in hopes that they are connected to more reputable companies. Above all, try to stay calm, as being angry and frustrated might end up costing you more in the end.
Just for reference we bought our tickets from Krabi Modern Tour and Thai Massage in Railay East very close to Last Bar. The woman we booked with was very friendly and helpful so I’d like to think she was unaware that we weren’t actually being dropped off at our hotel but you never know.
Have you been a victim of a scam in Thailand? Or have you taken this same trip and had a similar outcome?