Many foreign tourists and expats are of the opinion that national parks in Thailand are overpriced. Even more so when they find out that there is dual pricing. For example, when I went to Pha Taem National Park in Ubon Ratchathani I noted that it was 400 Baht for foreigners and 40 Baht for Thais. In the past, foreigners who worked in Thailand and paid taxes locally could get the Thai price. This is no longer available. Even foreign men married to Thais and with Thai children have to be pay the inflated foreigner’s price. Meanwhile, any foreign tourist that remotely looks Thai can slip in at the cheaper rate. I have a Filipino friend who is always being given the Thai price just because of the way he looks.
Who do national parks charge foreigners an inflated admission price?
The usual argument for foreigners paying more is that they don’t pay tax. Thais do, and so they should get a reduced price. If that was true, then why can’t expats get the Thai price? We used to be able to do that by showing our work permit. But now most national parks insist that we pay the foreigner’s price.
Another argument is that all foreigners are rich. After all, if they were able to afford to fly to Thailand, then they must have a lot of money. This may be true to an extent, but that is a bit of a generalization. When my sister brought her family over a few years back, she had to save up a long time just for the air fare for everyone. She didn’t have so much left for tourist attractions. And then there are quite a few expats living here on low wages at Thai schools. Some foreigners are married to Thai women and others are retired. They are not necessarily rich.
This then leads onto the argument that Thais are poor. Well, as we all know, there are plenty of rich Thais now. Just look at the statistics of how many of them are flying abroad for their holidays. This is breaking records every year. Many of them earn far more than me and drive around in nicer cars. Thailand is hardly a Third World country.
Some people argue that if everyone paid the higher price of 400 Baht then Thais wouldn’t be able to afford to visit their own national parks. But my reply is, why does it have to go that way? Can’t everyone pay the same 40 Baht? After all, it is mainly Thais that visit national parks. Some parks don’t get any foreign visitors. One of the most popular parks is Khao Yai and last Sunday there were 7,665 Thais and 254 foreigners. The low number is partly because many expats working in Bangkok won’t go there for the weekend as it’s not value for money.
Thais also like to argue that national parks abroad are more expensive. Well, that is not always true. All national parks in the UK are free to everyone, including foreign visitors. Quite a few national parks in the USA are also free. Only the big ones charge an admission fee. I checked out The Grand Canyon national park website and I noted that it is 470 Baht. Yes, it is a little more expensive, but it is a major natural site. I don’t think Thailand has anything of that scale. In addition, US national parks have free days four times a years. This is for everyone. They do that in Thailand too. But that is only for Thais.
Thais also like to say that their national parks are very beautiful and they are worth the high admission. With all due respect, that is often not true. I have been to many national parks here and I am rarely impressed. Other countries have far more beautiful national parks in prime condition. I have been to some parks here where they wanted me to pay 200 Baht just for a minor waterfall. Then the other week, there was another one that wanted 200 Baht just for me to walk down a path to the coast to see some pink rocks. That’s not value for money.
Thailand desperately needs repeat tourists. For that to happen, the tourists need to feel that they were warmly welcomed. When tourists find out that they were charged an inflated price, they will naturally feel cheated. Just take a look at any of the travel forums and blogs. There are plenty of people complaining about dual pricing. More and more people know about this now. They also know about all the tricks of hiding the real price by using Thai numbers. Expats also feel cheated. The ones living in Bangkok would love to escape the city and visit national parks like Khao Yai and Erawan. But not if it is going to cost them so much. Once maybe, but they probably won’t go back again. Too expensive.
So, what can be done? Here are some of my suggestions:
- More foreigners would visit national parks if the prices were more reasonable. This either means reducing the price to something more reasonable or scrapping dual pricing altogether.
- Re-introduce “Thai price” for expats who work here or are married to Thais.
- If you don’t want to lower the price, then bring out a monthly or annual pass for all national parks. Make it so that after a certain number of visits that it becomes just as cheap as the Thai price
- If you insist on keeping the high prices, then make them better value for money. The quality of facilities and trails are of a poor standard here compared to in America.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think the national parks in Thailand are worth the inflated prices? Do you think everyone should pay the same price? If the parks were cheaper, would you visit more often? Please post your comments below.