Dual Pricing in Thailand

Dual Pricing In Thailand

Though many a visitor here will rarely realise it on a two week holiday…  Once you stay here for any length of time you will begin to notice that there is definatley a two-price system working here in Thailand. One for the locals and one for… us.

Financial Discrimination

There are few subjects that get the foreigners complaining than that of dual pricing in Thailand. As one of the practices most hated by foreign visitors and expatriates, along with the corruption and the concept of ‘face’, it’s a subject that’s been done to death on forums and blogs. Some people see it as outright racism (which it is),  while others just accept it as being part of the landscape here.

Inflating prices based on the nationality of the customer, a practice that would likely see the vendor heavily fined or even imprisoned in some western nations, is commonplace throughout Thailand. Many establishments even openly announce their dual pricing policy on signs in both Thai and English language, clearly stating foreigners must pay more for admission…

While others disguise the fact they are inflating the cost to foreigners by stating the price in Thai script (which most foreigners are of course unable to read).

You Pay More

The difference in price is invariably at least double what a local would pay. There seems to be no regulation and it is apparently universally accepted practice. Most cite the perception (however wrong it may be) that all foreigners have a much higher disposable income than the average Thai as reason enough to charge more. There is also the argument that if you are not paying taxes in Thailand, it’s only fair you should make a contribution to attractions by paying a higher fee.

However, this argument doesn’t hold much water in the private sector.

Hotels often have a ‘two tier’ pricing system, unknown to foreigners, with room rates up to fifty percent less if you’re Thai. If you have a Thai spouse and you let them do the talking when booking a room, you may get the lower rate. On the other hand, if your Thai spouse books the room in reception and then you show up to pay the bill, the rate might suddenly rise, the reception staff claiming they made a mistake.

‘White tax’

Where we pay more as foreigners.

Dual pricing occurs on everything from house rental to going to a restaurant… From visiting a dentist to watching a Thai boxing match… It occurs at the zoo and even at the hot springs and national parks, even the government run ones charge up to ten times more if you are a foreigner!

Want to store your bag at a train station for a few days?

Rock up with your Thai girlfriend and it’s quite likely that the cloak room, might say in Thai,

“10 Baht per day for Thai. 50 Baht per day for ‘farang’. Whose bag is it?”

Needless to say, dual pricing is a fact of life in Thailand for any tourist and most expats.

Once you are on the train, you might notice a few vendors coming around selling drinks and snacks. Those of us who speak Thai well enough, or have Thai girlfriends, will soon come to realize, that the price for’ farang’ backpackers and tourists shoots up…

Small bottle of water –  Thai price – 15 Baht. Foreign price – 30 Baht.
3-in-1 Coffee – Thai price – 30 Baht. Foreign price – 100 Baht.
Bottle of orange juice – Thai price – 40 Baht. Foreign price – 100 Baht.

Sold to the unsuspecting foreigner with a smile, of course… as if to say, look, there’s another sucker. How apt is the term “tourist trap”!

At Palm Hills Golf Club they are running a special, 1000 Baht for two people. Except if you are foreign… where the price jumps up to 1800 Baht. Ask at reception why that is, and you are likely to get the response…

“Farang have more money”

Thats it in a nut shell. Thais think that all foreigners have an endless amount of money. In my book it still stinks

Dual Pricing Stinks

Some restaurants have also taken a dual pricing approach to their operations, and now carry two menus… One in English and one in Thai. They are almost identical, and the average visitor wouldn’t notice anything strange about the menu unless they held them side by side and compared. The English menu will have prices listed at substantially increased prices.

Even the food carts in Bangkok are at it! Take the one on Suk Soi 11. Stop there for a quick ‘pad kapow moo‘ and order from the ‘English menu’ and you’ll be paying 30 baht more than the one listed on the Thai menu.

A major tourist attraction located in the basement level of Siam Paragon, is Ocean World, the largest aquarium in SE Asia (which includes penguins, sharks and a variety of offbeat sea creatures). It’s great for a fun day out for the kids and even adults will find something interesting here…

Admission is 750 Baht for adults and 600 Baht for the kids.

(Which seems a bit expensive when you think about it, but what the heck you’re on vacation right?)

Except if you’re Thai… then you only pay 450 Baht for adults and 280 Baht for children.

(Which is a bit more reasonable. Isn’t dual pricing wonderful? NOT!)

While Thailand doesn’t have the complete monopoly on dual pricing it is certainly prevalent through much of the country. And whichever side of the argument you believe is right, the arguments that favor foreigners paying more soon fall apart. Thai’s and the Thai tourist industry don’t realize that most foreign tourists are no longer viewing Thailand as a cheap holiday destination as it is, and fewer numbers will come when the majority leave feeling plain cheated.

Charging more, just because you have more money, is a pretty sorry argument… and in these tough economic times, Thailand can’t afford to alienate whatever visitors it still has.

What To Do About It?

Get an Australian visa for your Thai girlfriend and take your her to Australia vowing never to return to Thailand? LOL

Well I suppose the simple answer is to avoid places that employ this practice, but that’s not always obvious… So other than only visiting places that don’t  charge entry at all, its not really very practical advice. Still there are a couple of steps you can take to try and limit the amount of  ‘white tax’ you have to pay.

One way around this is to obtain a Thai driving license or to show your work permit or tax card. Some places that practice dual pricing will treat you like a ‘local’ if you can show residency. By presenting these documents you should be able to argue your case and only pay the local rate.

Get a Thai person to pay.

Learn to recognize Thai numerals.

Complain as loudly as as fervently as you can to the Thai Tourism Authority, on trip advisor, to your friends and anyone else who will listen about the unfareness of this system, in the hope that someone with some authority will listen and actually take steps to change it.

Accept that the dual pricing policy is a given in Thailand, and you WILL be charged more. come to the country KNOWING that and it might make the sting less painfull. Of course it gives rise to and reinforces other forms of discrimination, which we will talk about in another post, but it’s essentially something you can’t walk away from while ever you are in Thailand.

Those that work in the tourism industry have learned how easy it is to cheat tourists and so it becomes a way of life for them, so much so, that when the tourist realises he’s paying too much and disputes, it could even provoke an angry response from the vendor.

Welcome to Thailand… where the smiles are, uhh, genuine…


On March 26, 2011, posted in: Living in Thailand by
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