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Thailand forum

Thai Price vs. Tourist Price

Posted by exacto on 18/9/2006 at 03:27

Does anyone else think this problem is getting worse? I'm not talking about a street vendor or taxi driver trying to get a little extra spending money at your expense, but rather official Thai Government stuff having this two-tiered pricing system.

As a few examples from our last trip, we were asked to pay 250B per person to enter Wat Phra Kaeo while Thais pay nothing; 50B each to enter Wat Pho while Thais pay nothing; and 40B each at the National Museum while Thais pay only 20B. Typically, these signs are in Thai, so tourists might not even know they are being asked to pay far above what locals pay.

The problem seems to be spreading too. The train from the Bangkok Noi station in Thonburi to Kanchanaburi has now been designated a tourist train. Tourists are required to pay 100B for this trip, while Thais pay only 25B. The most offensive example is on Ko Samet, where Thais pay 20B to the 200B entry fee extorted from tourists. Worse, this fee is increasing to 400B in October!

I remember standing in line many years ago waiting to get into Wat Phra Kaeo, when a few people behind me were complaining about tourists being charged to enter while locals were not. A man in front of me commented that compared to what he'd paid for his airfare, the fee to get into what he came to see seemed minor.

I always thought that was a great way to look at it. But the fee in those days was 50B, not 250B, and Wat Phra Kaeo was one of the few places practicing this systemized descrimination. I've never travelled to another country where the two-tiered price system was so prominent.

On the one hand, I've always said that this is just part of the cost of doing business in Thailand. But I also worry that the Thai's are being short-sighted here, and by treating tourists as cash cows, they are killing the geese that lay golden eggs, since tourists may very rationally choose to visit Laos or Vietnam or other places instead.

Does anyone else have experience or insights about this? Cheers.

#1 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,759
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Posted by steviej on 18/9/2006 at 05:09

Yo exacto,

I think I tend to agree with your 'encounteree' in the queue. Whilst I don't condone fully the 'Two Tier' system, I do see the rational behind it. It would be interesting to see where the extra funds generated actually end up.

I'm led to believe that the minimum wage in Bangkok is around 200B per day. Forking out 10% of your daily pay to visit the National Museum seems far more of a whack when compared to coughing up 10% of the UK's minimum hourly rate for the same privilege.

Incidentally, here in the UK, we also pay into a 'Two Tier'* system; the Government call it Income Tax. The more you earn the more you pay.


*It's actually a three tier to be quite honest but the lowest rate is very low.

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Posted by neeners on 18/9/2006 at 11:41

I agree that the price difference is too high. However, having different prices for tourists and locals actually makes sense for me.

Tourists will usually be in Thailand for a limited time, and will probably only go to a certain tourist spot only once. The locals, given the lower admission fees will be encouraged to go back to visit that attraction.

It's the same here in the Philippines. Resorts offer lower fees for Filipinos and residents, and a slightly higher fee for tourists. This is done to promote domestic tourism, since sometimes it *is* much cheaper to travel overseas than to travel within our country.

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Posted by somtam2000 on 18/9/2006 at 14:32 admin

I hate the double pricing system and think it is absolutely unfair, ill thought out and poorly conceived. It works on the outdated premise of tourist rich local poor -- sure there's still a lot of poor Thais, but there's an awful lot that are rich too (or richer then me anyway!)

I'd grumble and bear it it foreigners were asked to pay a little more - say 30B vs 20B for locals, but having to pay 200B vs 20B every time you go to a national park it outregeous in my opinion -- and we almost chose not to cover the national parks on this site because it bugs me so much. Outside of National Parks if is it some attraction that we find is double pricing for no good reason other than playing a race card, then we do not list it on the site.

The upcoming National Park increase is just another gouge -- in the vast majority of parks, there has been no increase in standards of services, yet somehow they've figured out the fee should be jacked up 100%.

I think in a couple of cases where the attraction has particular "national" value (Wat Phra Kaew in Thailand, Angkor Wat in Cambodia) then letting the locals in for free is ok-- but they should be made to pay admission the same as everyone else to National Parks and so on.

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Posted by Tilapia on 19/9/2006 at 03:00

This isn't intended to be a lecture, but just my experience with this issue.

I lived and did volunteer work in Thailand for 2 1/2 years a while back. At the time I never paid a "tourist" price for anything. If asked to pay more than the Thai price, my volunteer card would see to it that I paid the Thai price if I paid at all.

This was because they knew I likely made about as much money as the average Thai (which at the time was around $1400 US per year). In fact, I earned just slightly more (with my per diems) than police officers in Bangkok (!!!), school teachers, the average social worker, most government workers, vendors, bus and taxi drivers, and so on. My per diems and rent money added up to twice what the average farmer or weaver or fisherman earned, and I didn't have to pay for my children to get an education. I didn't have to cloth anyone but myself. I didn't have to live with my parents, wife and kids and buy food for all of them. I didn't have to work 6 to 7 days per week without holidays to make ends meet.

Yes, the upper and middle classes are growing in Thailand and the wealth is being spread around a bit more. More Thais not only have more money, but they also have time for spending that money. Hence the boom in Thai tourism over the last 10 years, or so. But it is also true that the majority of the population is still considered very poor, and will continue to be poor. Most farmers are born into debt and will die that way. Why shouldn't the foreign visitor, who likely paid for their flight what the farmer makes in a year, pay a little more for something than a farmer and his family who manage to get away for a day or two between plantings to visit a sacred Buddhist site? Especially if it is for a good reason ... which is the sticky issue here. What is the increase in price for? What is the logic behind it?

Does the money we pay go towards conservation? Restoration? Protection? Education? Does it go to the locals? Does it go to a Vietnamese petroleum company or a Japanese holding company? Does it go to Thaksin? We don't know. Likely, we'll never know. We only know what we see, and we all know that what's on the surface rarely, if ever, tells the whole story. Just because a museum's displays are dusty and looking kind of derelict doesn't mean that museum fees aren't being used for the museum.

Here's a question that goes along the same lines, but it doesn't deal with Thailand ...

Being a resident of Ontario, I often wonder ...

"Should a non-Ontario resident visiting Algonquin Park pay more to get in than an Ontarian, who pays through our high taxes for the upkeep and administration of the park?"

OR this ...

"Should the impoverished Tibetan who makes the once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to the Potala Palace be made to pay the same price as the Chinese tourist who arrives by plane (and now the train)?" The place needs to be maintained afterall, and the money has to come from somewhere (it ain't gonna come from the Chinese gov't).

To the first, I'd say "yes", and to the second I'd say "no". One answer comes from my wallet, and the other comes from my heart.

So, I don't see it as a black and white issue. Two things do seem definite to me, though ... 1) No Thai rice farmer will ever earn enough money to be able to take the time to come and visit Algonquin Park. 2) The system, like many things in Thailand, as Somtam2000 says, is ill thought out and poorly conceived. It's that damned "living in the moment" thing. Bangkok is the perfect example.

Again, that's just my opinion.

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Posted by exacto on 19/9/2006 at 10:11

Thanks for the comments and feedback guys. Even though we've never met, I feel like I know you from your posts and I absolutely respect your opinions. These types of issues are what flavors my experience in southeast Asia. It must be why I keep going back. Regards.

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Posted by steviej on 19/9/2006 at 16:22

Hey no prob, it's what makes this crazy old world go round.


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Posted by shakester on 20/9/2006 at 11:30

i think both sides have been covered, pretty much ,here- but its not something new to me.
On the face of it, a tourist is coming to see a certain thing, and he needs to pay for it. In particular for places like temples, a locals purpose of visit is not to take photos and take in the architectural beauty- there is little comparison between his visit to a Wat and mine.

Of course, if everything undergoes this treatment *indiscrimantely*, it doesnt make sense.

On a tangent (and with little relevance)- the fees I see when I read about stuff in -say- a London, have me gaping- I know I cannot afford to see more than a handful of 'sights' when I go West, purely because they are so expensive- the fact that its one price for all doesnt make me feel much better! :)


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