Nov 21 2012

Being streetwise on Samui

Published by at 3:12 pm under Health & safety


In the first of this two-part story, we advised you on staying healthy  and safe on Ko Samui. Here we offer some advice to newbie travellers on keeping out of trouble, and avoiding scams and ripoffs.

Getting into monkey business will see you carted off to jail.

When it comes to drugs — don’t be stupid. A few moments of hallucinating bliss are not worth a lifetime in a Thai jail, or worse. Thailand, as with most Asian countries, has strict drug laws and foreigners are treated no differently to locals when it comes to breaking the law. As in most tourist areas, drugs are readily available; but places such as the Full Moon Party are policed by undercover officers. Don’t accept cigarettes or drinks from strangers, and never leave your drink at the bar when dancing at nightclubs, as you stand the risk of having it spiked. That mushroom shake at a reggae bar? Mmm, maybe best to leave it well alone.

If you do head to the Full Moon Party over on neighbouring Ko Pha Ngan only take the money you intend to spend, and don’t take anything you mind losing. Although it’s on the beach, it’s best to wear flip-flops due to the risk of stepping on broken glass. Pickpocketing on Samui is rare — however, the party is mostly attended by foreigners, and drunken revellers are easy targets. Do you really want to take that expensive camera? It may be worth buying a cheap disposable one just for the night.

They probably won’t be at the Full Moon Party, but back on Samui, don’t be surprised if at some stage you are approached by timeshare representatives. Don’t be fooled. You’ve won a prize? REALLY? Remember that in order for you to claim that prize, you need to attend a presentation first. This presentation is about a current timeshare development, and the staff are experts at convincing holiday-makers that this is exactly what they need to buy. Don’t be sucked in to the hype, unless you are actually in the market for timeshare, of course.

It’s easy to sell this view, but don’t fall for the pitch!

Still on money, be warned that Thai ATMs deliver their cash to you before ejecting your card, which means that absent-minded tourists often forget to take their card from the machine, leaving them later stranded without access to their cash. It costs 150 baht to withdraw from a foreign card – besides what your own bank charges. So it is best to withdraw more at a time to save on costs. Be sure to leave this extra cash in the safe at your hotel along with any other valuables. It’s also wise to leave your passport and other travel documents in your hotel safe, but keep a copy on you. Never leave your passport at car or scooter rental agencies as security.

When renting any vehicle, be it a car, scooter or jet ski, be sure to look it over well and make notes of any defects, on the rental agreement, maybe even attaching a photo or at least taking one. Many an unsuspecting tourist has ended up paying for damages caused by previous customers. Renting directly from your resort is usually a safe option.

Best not to use the rental bike during Songkran, accidents are too common.

Taking home souvenirs is great, but a sexually transmitted disease should not be one of them. Do we even need to tell you to use protection and practise safe sex? Do you really believe that gorgeous woman at the bar when she tells you, while batting eyelashes, that you are her first love? She is paid to sell more drinks, and she can make herself some money on the side – you are unlikely to be the first, nor will you be the last. Best to know too, that not all those gorgeous girls are actually girls… but possibly one of Thailand’s infamous lady boys.

Although the advice above may seem obvious, there are still countless tourists who fall victim to their own stupidity. Here’s hoping Travelfish.org readers are a little more travel savvy.

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