Visiting Thailand? Here are my top tips to avoid getting sucked into the Lucky Buddha Bangkok scam…
If you want to swerve the Lucky Buddha Bangkok scam on your trip to Thailand then keep reading.
Have you ever been scammed? If you’re a travel blogger you’re supposed to look like you’ve got your shit together, right? Especially if you’re dishing out advice to others. None of that being an idiot abroad stuff. Well, unfortunately I’m not that cool.
I’m saying it loud for the people at the back: I’ve been scammed a few times on trips. In New York, in Paris, and in Thailand. The latter is what I’m going to talk about today.
This is my experience of the Lucky Buddha Bangkok scam, which happened to me during a trip to Thailand with my sister and friend a few years ago. It’s definitely something we laugh about now but tbh we got away pretty lightly. Not everyone is so lucky, and I’ve heard some tales of some tourists being aggressively pressured to buy in gem stores. Yikes.
That’s why today I’m giving you a complete overview of our Lucky Buddha tour from start to finish: from the things that we did wrong to some of the key lines in the script that you need to watch out for. Are the monks really sleeping?!
I’ll also sharing my top tips and busting some of those Lucky Buddha Bangkok myths.
So let’s do it!
Want to read more about my adventures in Asia? You might like these…
- Tips for visiting the Taj Mahal
- What moving to Shanghai taught me
- Varanasi travel guide: essential dos and don’ts
The Lucky Buddha tour
I think we were on day one of our trip to Thailand when we decided to go and see the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It’s one of the most iconic landmarks in the city so we wanted to tick that off our to-do list straight away. We looked at it on the map and it didn’t seem too far from our hotel so we decided that instead of ordering a taxi or a tuk tuk… we would walk.
Well, that was the first mistake.
Walking about in Bangkok is not fun. The streets are busy, noisy, crowded, and three women who were obviously tourists walking along the street are always bound to warrant some sort of attention. We didn’t get very far before we were hollered at by tuk tuk drivers asking us if we wanted a ride anywhere. We batted off the first few, but it was when we’d paused to look at our (printed) map in the middle of the street that they got us.
That was our second mistake. Nothing says clueless tourist more than a map, right?
Two men approached. Where are you going they asked. The Grand Palace we told them. Oh, you can’t go there now, the Grand Palace is closed until later. The monks are sleeping. It won’t be open until 3pm. Oh, we exclaimed, so delighted that these strangers were sharing this key information with us. How silly of us for not checking before we left.
“The Grand Palace is closed”
Not to worry, they assured us. Why not do the Lucky Buddha tour? We’ll take you to see lots of other charming Buddha temples around the city and by the time we’re done the monks will no longer be sleeping and Grand Palace will be open. He basically offered to drive us around the whole day – and to the Grand Palace and back – for a flat fee. Considering that we’d been walking for about 10 minutes and were already dripping with sweat, we didn’t take much convincing.
It all sounds a bit silly writing it now. We were so green! We were also quite disorganised and hadn’t done much in the way of research since we’d booked the trip. Hence, we were just thinking: how kind of these people to help us out like that. Ha!
Anyway, off we went on our tuk tuk tour. I can’t remember how much we paid but it wasn’t a lot – that’s another way they get you in. We pulled up at one temple to see a buddha, then onto another, and another. It was only in retrospect that it all seemed a little off. These were not grand temples or beautiful ornate palaces. Some of them were pretty ordinary to be honest. But as we hadn’t been anywhere else at that point we didn’t have a point of comparison.
At this stage in the trip, we thought this was great. I even have some pictures of us kneeling to pray in front of this tiny buddha in this temple, not realising we were in the middle of a scam. Looking back, it always makes me laugh.
The Thai gem scam
You can probably guess the next part. The gem store and the tailor shop, right? Ding, ding, ding. In all seriousness, I don’t know if we lucked out with our driver as he wasn’t overly pushy at this part. Or maybe that was part of the scam, who knows? He did actually say to us at some point that he got paid if he took us to these places, but he wasn’t badgering us to go in and buy stuff. I remember browsing the Thai gem store but there was no way in my mind that I was going to be buying anything.
It did get a little more pushy at the tailor shop. It was tiny and with just the three of us in there being talked through all the fabrics by the owner, we did feel more under pressure to buy. I guess that’s the point, right? However, there was no way any of us were buying anything substantial, we just didn’t have that kind of money. In the end I took one for the team and bought a silk tie for my boyfriend, which seemed like a good compromise. It wasn’t expensive, but it least it meant we could get out of there.
After the tailor and gem shop tour in Bangkok we were finally off the hook and driven back to the Grand Palace. I think it was when we walked into here and took in the scale and the grandeur that everything kind of levelled. However, we didn’t really have that much time to think about it as we were so busy rushing around taking everything in. It was only when we got back to our hotel later that afternoon that we had time to reflect.
The not so Lucky Buddha tour
I just remember typing in ‘Lucky Buddha tour Bangkok’ into Google as we were sitting around the rooftop pool and it all just coming to life. We’d been scammed. We had a good old laugh about it. In all seriousness, I was just glad that we hadn’t been seriously ripped off. Some of the stories on the thread were awful and some people had ended up being pressured to buy at the gem or tailor shops. Yikes!
For me, it makes for a good story, but it was still annoying to have wasted our time. If you’re only in a city for a few short days you want to make sure you can make the most of every moment. I feel like we would have enjoyed the Grand Palace more if we were fresh – rather than sticky and sweaty after our lucky buddha tour. It was also crazy busy by the time we got there!
In light of that, here are some of my tips to help you from being suckered like I was…
How to avoid the Lucky Buddha Bangkok scam
Do your research
If we’d paid a bit more attention to our guide books I’m sure we would have read up on some of the common scams in Bangkok. We failed to prepare and, well, you know the rest. Don’t be like us – make sure you’re up to speed on the scams!
You might think that people approaching you are just being friendly and helpful, but don’t be too trusting. You may walk into stage one of a scam without even realising! Some reviews I’ve read of the temples on the lucky buddha tour don’t even seem to have twigged they’ve been scammed, which just goes to show how convincing the scammers can be.
Cut yourself some slack
We could’ve been really mad at ourselves for getting suckered but the scammers here really have it down to a fine art. It’s hard not to get sucked in. Scams happen to the best of us and at least we got a good story out of it, right?
Busting those Lucky Buddha Bangkok myths…
“The Lucky Buddha”
Even the name is a scam. All Buddhas are lucky!
“Today is Buddha Day”
Buddha Day – known as Vesak – is celebrated in late May or early June. I’m mentioning this because this is often an ‘in’ in the scam: “Today is Buddha Day and all the temples are free” yada yada. However, they can’t con you if you know when the real Buddha Day actually is!
“The Grand Palace is closed”
This is the line that was used on us. The Grand Palace is closed because the monks are sleeping. It’s just another lie. Having done a quick google I can tell you that the Grand Palace is open every day to tourists. The only time the Grand Palace is closed is when it’s used for state functions, which are rare at best!
“The Lucky Buddha temple is only open twice a year”
Is it though? This is something you may hear from the person who’s trying to entice you on a trip. You may think how incredibly lucky you are to have timed your trip so well with the Lucky Buddha temple being open, but this is all just part of the scam.
“The government has decided to pay for fuel for the day”
You might be told that the government has launched an incentive to promote tourism in Thailand and are paying for fuel for all the tuk-tuk drivers for the day. This is the reason given for the Lucky Buddha tour being so cheap. This is all part of the scam.
Grand Palace key information
Finally, here are some details on the Grand Palace so you can fact-check before you fall for a scam…
Grand Palace address
Grand Palace Na Phra Lan Road, Grand Palace Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand
Opening hours of the Grand Palace
The Grand Palace is open every day. You can double-check Grand Palace opening times on their website here
Grand Palace ticket price
Entry to the Grand Palace is 500 baht for tourists.