Don’t Fall for the “Grand Palace is Closed” Scam

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One of the scams in Thailand that annoys me the most is the “Grand Palace is Closed” scam. It is a scam that is most lucrative for them. In front of this one gate to the palace, there were a total of SIX scammers waiting for unwary tourists. When you were growing up, your mother probably told you never to speak to strangers. So, why do so many people ignore that good advice? If a stranger comes up to you in the street there is a high chance that he will scam you. Always be polite just in case they are genuine, but do have your wits about you. See the guy in the black shirt above? That is the start of the scam. He is telling the tourists to enter the palace through this gate.

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The problem is, this gate is only for Thais as they don’t need to pay an admission. All foreign tourists have to use the main entrance. An official on duty here tells the tourist in Thai that they cannot come in this way. The helpful guy on the right now lies to the tourists that the palace official said that the palace was closed for a ceremony and would open again at 3 p.m. Actually, that is about the time it starts to really close.

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What annoys me the most is that this scam is going down in full view of the palace guard and the palace official sitting at a desk. They must surely know what is going on but they don’t lift a finger to help the tourists. What is happening in this photo is that he is telling them about a temple called the “Lucky Buddha” that is only open on this day once a year. Of course there is no such temple.

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If they have a map he will mark the temple on it for them. He will then suggest that he calls a friendly tuk tuk for them as it will be cheaper if he negotiates the fare. Here he is hailing the tuk tuk. “Mr. Tuk Tuk, are you free to take these tourists to the Lucky Buddha temple?”. Of course the tuk tuk driver is in on the scam. There were about four or five of them waiting to “kidnap” the tourists. A strong word but that is what they are doing.

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Here you can see that the tourist is so grateful to this man for helping them that he shakes his hand. What they don’t realize is that at the Lucky Buddha temple they will meet another member of this gang and they will eventually end up at jewelry and tailor shops where they will be coerced into buying overpriced and shoddy products. By the time they have finished and come back, the Grand Palace is really closed.

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I feel sorry for the tourists who planned to see the Grand Palace on their last day in Thailand and they then got caught up in this scam. If anyone comes up to you in the street and says that the palace or anywhere else is closed, please don’t believe them. Always go and see for yourself. I reported this scam to the Tourist Police. I will write about what they did on my blog over at RichardBarrow.com

23 thoughts on “Don’t Fall for the “Grand Palace is Closed” Scam

  • September 24, 2013 at 7:56 pm
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    It’s amazing, this was first tried on me about 15 years ago!

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  • September 24, 2013 at 7:56 pm
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    Thanks for sharing this. This scam has been tried on me every time I have been in Bangkok and I never understood the reason behind telling people the palace was closed because I never got into the Tuk Tuk!

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  • September 24, 2013 at 7:57 pm
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    Last time I went there with a friend, a first-time traveller in Thailand. One of these guys came with his “palace closed” thing. I replied in Thai “No problem, I have the key”

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    • September 27, 2013 at 10:53 am
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      You, sir, are awesome.

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  • September 24, 2013 at 8:22 pm
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    Similar scams going on at the temple next to Central World offices. When I worked there and walked passed frequently I often helped tourists , thereby interfering with whatever plans the scammers had. Also here there are often officials (police?) looking at it and not doing anything.

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  • September 24, 2013 at 10:03 pm
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    I am Thai also don’t like this. Please forgive the soldier I think he wants to help but he can’t speak English I guess. If you ask I am sure he can help at least tell you the closing time or the gate that available for tourist. If you face this problem please tell that scam that “OK LET ME CALL THE TOURIST POLICE” hot line 1155 call them in front of that scam and tell them to wait let see what they will say. Or go straight to that soldier and ask in Thai “Pid kee mong” What time it close?

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    • November 19, 2013 at 5:21 pm
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      What is the point of asking the soldier (or official) a question in Thai, if you don’t speak the language?
      Most tourists don’t speak it.
      The official will give you the answer in Thai, but you won’t understand what he says.

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    • July 26, 2016 at 8:35 am
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      And when the soldier replies in a language you don’t understand…?
      What if the soldier is in on the scam too?
      Stupid remark young lady.

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  • September 27, 2013 at 10:22 am
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    If a stranger approaches me in Bangkok I just say “Sorry, I don’t want to go to your brother-in-law’s jewellery shop.” Similarly, in Istanbul it’s “No thanks, I don’t want to go to your uncle’s carpet shop.” I guess there are similar memes in Mumbai and Rio and Prague wherever. Hey, it’s nice that the scammers have pride in their local roots and keep their schtick site-specific and consistent year after year. 🙁

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  • September 27, 2013 at 10:28 am
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    Richard, here’s hoping Thais will join your campaign to stop the scams. My Thai friends are embarrassed about the scams but don’t know what to do about them. Thank you for giving them a voice.

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  • September 28, 2013 at 3:08 am
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    Went to the Grand Palace in 2011 for the second time. Took a Thai friend. She was horrified to see the scammers in action.

    Can’t understand why the authorities don’t take action – its pretty much a slap in the face of the monarchy – I struggle to think of something more insulting to the Thai King and his people.

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  • October 2, 2013 at 9:07 pm
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    This exact thing happened to me when I went. I couldn’t understand the guy very well, and I told him I thought he was mistaken and I would go see for myself. I’m glad that I did!

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  • October 4, 2013 at 4:51 am
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    Yes, the scam exists, but there’s no entry anywhere for visitors, whether Thai or non-Thai except for the Main Entrance. ALL visitors pay – Thais do not get free entry as stated, though they pay only a fraction of what non-Thais pay. The gateway in the photo is NOT an entry for Thais only, but for palace employees and goods delivery. There are several of these. I’m sure the “back shirt guy” does indeed lie about what the guard said, but the Thais couldn’t get in through this gate either. All the scams can be avoided by doing proper research first – it’s not like they are new, there’s plenty of warning info out there!

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    • October 4, 2013 at 8:42 am
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      Not sure where you got your information from but that is an entrance for Thais visiting the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Foreigners cannot enter this way as they have to use the main entrance. Also, last time I went, Thais could go in for free. There was a big sign that said that in Thai language. Are you saying that situation has changed?

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      • October 14, 2013 at 10:07 pm
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        Do you have a picture of the sign?

        Fyi, over the last couple weeks I’ve twice seen a tourist police van camped out at that gate. Somebody challenging the status quo?

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      • March 8, 2015 at 2:26 pm
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        Sounds like the Thai version of apartheid. One entrance for Thais, another for foreigners. Racist indeed.

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  • October 29, 2013 at 11:54 pm
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    I am heading to Bangkok and other Far East countries in January, for the first time and I am really grateful for this info and comments! Many thanks!

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  • November 9, 2013 at 11:44 pm
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    I will be traveling to Bangkok and Chiang Mai in early December, solo. I have traveled to a number of different countries solo, and the only place where they tried to scam me was in Beijing. I was the last passenger to be dropped off at 9:00 p.m. and the tour guide and driver tried to strong arm me for more money. I did not give them more money, I called her boss on her cellphone, the next day he stated that she was fired, and I was refunded for the tour. I make it a point to read up on the various places before visiting so that I can be aware of the good and the bad. So far, my doing this has worked out well for me. Though I am planning to see the Grand Palace as part of a tour, this information is definitely helpful.

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  • August 3, 2014 at 10:54 am
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    Here is my story..Myself,my old aged parents,wife and 1.5 year old baby went to visit grant palace.Then the same guy informed us that its closed and advised to take one hour long tailed boat and arranged tuk tuk too.The boat guy asked me 3200 thb for one hour.I neglected him and required with another boat person.Then the first guy shouted and miss behaved to me,even not considering the old aged and baby.
    The same tuk tuk guy was waiting outside and pretended to help us to go back,when I asked him to go to reclining budha he shouted us and expressed his feeling for not taking the boat.

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  • March 7, 2015 at 2:04 am
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    New version: the palace is closed. Visit the Thai King’s Royal Cashmere Factory instead. You will end up at ‘Dusit Collection’ by Nakorn Sawan Tailor. They will try to sell you a ‘Cashmere’ suit, which is synthetic, thereby the suit is overpriced multiple times.

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  • March 8, 2015 at 2:30 pm
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    No need to be “polite” to touts, just do what the vast majority of people do when they encounter them: ignore them. It’s as simple as that.

    However, maybe the touts are doing you a favour by steering you away from the Grand Palace, which at 500 Baht entry fee for foreigners and with different entrances for foreigners is a scam in itself.

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  • July 7, 2016 at 10:58 am
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    Even sadder is the other member of the scamming team that waits in the “Lucky Buddha” temple, waiting to continue the lie to tourists that are brought there by the tuk tuk driver. Using a house of worship in such a way is a slap in the face to the entire Thai nation. I don’t know why the authorities allow it to continue.

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