Traveling in Phuket requires some caution. Yes, the area is very safe, and thousands of tourists go through every year without incident. With that said, you never want to let down your guard. Like tourist destinations located throughout the world, there are scammers and other situations to watch out for when you’re in Phuket. Here are some of the most important dos and don’ts to keep in mind when spending some time there.
1) Don’t be afraid to haggle with street vendors.
Many of the items that you’ll find for sale out on the street are purposely overpriced. Don’t be afraid to haggle. The street vendor expects you to, so you won’t be insulting him or her. On top of this, you should shop around a bit. You might find the item that you’re looking at for a lower price down the street. Even if the piece seems to be one of a kind, it probably isn’t (unless you’re at an antique store.) When you begin the bargaining process, always start off on the low side, but not too low. The shop owner will counter, and you’ll more than likely go back and forth a few times before you come to an agreement. In the end, you’ll get the souvenir that you want at a price that isn’t a scam.
2) Do know the proper emergency numbers.
Every seasoned traveler needs to know which numbers to call in case of an emergency. Although you probably won’t need them – many vacations go off without a hitch – you should be prepared. When you’re traveling in Phuket, or in any part of Thailand, you need to know who to call. In this case, those numbers are 191 for general police emergencies, 199 in case of a fire, 1155 for the tourist police, 1554 for an ambulance, 1672 for the tourist center, and 1669 for a medical emergency. It’s a good idea to program these into your cell phone before you leave for Thailand, or at the very latest, once you arrive at the airport. Otherwise, you might have to come up with the number while in the middle of an emergency when you won’t be thinking clearly.
3) Do watch out for the street vendors selling timeshares.
There are legitimate timeshares available in Phuket. However, those sellers won’t approach you on the street the way that the scammers will. These scammers tend to follow a pattern. They’ll come up to you on the street with either a scratch-off card proclaiming that you could win something, or they’ll ask you to fill out a quick questionnaire. Once you start talking to them, you’ll realize that what you’ve really “won” is a trip to a quiet room filled with other tourists listening to a sales pitch for a nonexistent timeshare. Don’t fall for this. If you’re approached on the street in this way, just politely decline and keep moving. If you want a legitimate timeshare, ask someone at your hotel or resort for recommendations.
4) Don’t give away your personal information to strangers.
This seems like common sense, but it’s incredibly easy to trust people that you don’t know when you’re in a foreign country. It all starts with a few simple “get to know you questions” and the next thing you know, you’ve told your new friend everything about your life, including where your hotel room is located. Instead, use caution and watch what you’re saying. It’s perfectly okay to introduce yourself tell your new friends what you do for a living, but avoid getting into the details. Instead, steer the conversation towards other things, such as activities in Thailand or the history of the area.
5) Don’t leave your items unattended – anywhere.
Just because you’re on a bus and the driver claims that he or she will “keep an eye” on your bag, doesn’t mean that it’s okay to leave your luggage behind. Yes, many of the workers that you’ll meet in Thailand are entirely trustworthy, but there’s always that one bad apple who ruins it for everyone else. Unless there’s a locker to stash your items in (complete with a lock, of course) never let your bags out of your sight. It’s safer to keep them on your person or locked up in your hotel room.
6) Do relax and have fun.
If all of this advice has made you completely paranoid, you need to relax a little. Not everyone in Thailand is out to get you. In fact, many of the people that you’ll meet just want to help you have a good time on your Phuket vacation. Don’t be afraid to let down your guard a little and have some fun. You can do this while remaining on guard and looking out for scams.