Aside from common safety issues in Phuket, which we advise you about on our main page about Phuket safety, there are several lesser worries.
Although not as big a problem in Phuket as in Bangkok and other areas, they have been known to happen here. The most common scam involves convincing visitors that the cheap/fake gems they’re buying at hugely inflated prices will be worth a fortune when they resell them back home. It’s a sophisticated and elaborate scheme that has taken in quite a few people who should know better.
The simple truth that you can’t get something for nothing holds true here. Buy gems only if you truly want them for yourself or your loved ones; not with a view to future riches.
Credit Card Fraud
This is a common occurrence in Thailand; so common, in fact, that the country has been blacklisted by many financial institutions around the world. This makes it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to get a replacement card sent should yours be lost or stolen. Use your card only in dealings with reputable companies, always keep an eye on your card during transactions, and make sure the slip you’re signing has come from the machine. If at all concerned, pay only by cash and regularly check your account statements on the internet.
Drug Use in Phuket
All recreational narcotics are illegal in Thailand and those caught with any quantity are dealt with severely. Even possession of a ‘personal use’ amount, including marijuana, but especially methamphetamines and opium/heroin, can result in large fines, deportation and/or jail time. Drug dealers risk life sentences or even death, which may be preferable considering that Thai prisons are infamous for their horrid conditions. Drug raids on bars are occasionally carried out, and no amount of pleading will convince the police that forcing you to pee in a cup for drug testing is an abuse of your human rights. At the very least you can expect to get away with a substantial ‘fine’ if caught smoking a joint, but expect several years in jail for possession of a few pills.
Hustlers and Touts
They are often seen and heard in the tourist areas, although the vast majority are unthreatening, even friendly. Simply refusing their offer is usually enough to get them off your back. If they persist, just ignore them and move away.
Watch out for timeshare touts too. They sometimes pose as ‘tourism surveyors’ and will hand you a form to fill out. It’s a ruse to get your name and hotel telephone number, upon which you will be called with the great news that you’ve won a free day trip to some island. You’ll get to do the trip, but you’ll also have to sit through a timeshare sales presentation – perhaps not an ideal way to spend your valuable holiday time, free or not.
Violence is not something to worry about in Thailand as random attacks are rare. Thais, in general, are calm and tolerant by nature. Be sure, however, not to push it by acting aggressively or being insensitive to the culture. It can sometimes result in a nasty act of revenge, especially if you’ve caused someone to ‘lose face’ in front of his peers. While it may be your instinct to refuse to back down from an argument, even if it’s clear that you’re right, it may be in your best interest to walk away before things get ugly. Certain jet-ski operators have scammed foreigners of late, so avoid them altogether if you’re not sure.
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