The Right to Choose

Over the years there has been many debates about the pros and cons of the two priced system that is used at many tourist attractions around Thailand. Some people defend it by saying that everything is so cheap here in Thailand and that “rich” Westerners should do their part to support the country. Others say that they chose Thailand as it is billed as a “cheap” holiday and that they are unwilling to pay the same prices as back home for tourist attractions. For myself, it hasn’t really bothered me that much. Usually if I smile and explain politely that I am a teacher and have been in the country for a long time they then usually let me in with “Thai price”. Sometimes they need a bit more convincing and I then show them my Thai driver’s license or my income tax card. These show that I am living here and paying tax. Mini Siam in Pattaya didn’t really care I was a tax payer. Many places like this insist on you showing a work permit if you want to pay Thai price. But, that document is not always that easy to carry around. And if you lose it then there is a lot of paperwork to be done. I didn’t argue my point with the people at Mini Siam. I don’t like getting angry because they are only the ticket seller and not policy maker. However, before I could walk away they offered a compromise of “foreign child price”.

Some places I don’t even try to get Thai prices. Like temples which usually cost only 20 baht. I am happy to help wherever I can. In theory I can get in for free at the Grand Palace if I bring along a letter from the school. But, I never do. However, I do object to places that charge more for foreigners and then just pocket the difference. The Crocodile Farm in Samut Prakan is a good example. If I remember right, the Thai price is 80 baht and foreigners 300 baht. What do you get for your extra entrance fee? Nothing. The shows are still in Thai with the odd words in English. What do the animals get out of it? Nothing. They are cruelly treated and locked up in small concrete cages. As far as I can see, the owners do nothing with the entrance fee to make the environment better for the animals.

For many years, the Ancient Siam maintained the same entrance fee for Thai people and foreigners. This was a very cheap 50 baht until it was put up to 100 baht. Still, the price was good value for money and I always recommended it to all our visitors. However, late last year they started a two-priced system where foreigners have to pay 500 baht. I am sure many people coming from Bangkok are shocked to see this price jump. I am sure many of them argue with the ticket seller as even before I had finished parking the car someone came up to me shouting “500 baht. You pay 500 baht”. Luckily I have been there many times and I know the ticket seller. So, she let me in at Thai price. To be fair to the Ancient Siam, they have actually done something with this extra revenue. They paved all of the roads inside the park and have started a massive renovation of all of the buildings.

The reason I am bringing this subject up now is that the other week I went to watch a Thai Boxing matching at Lumphini in Bangkok. I have been there several times before and I was vaguely aware that there was a two price system. However, I didn’t pay for my ticket the last time because my Thai hosts paid for me. So, I was unaware of how much it would cost. When I arrived at the boxing stadium I was steered by the ticket touts to a box office window that had the price 2,000 baht above it. I was shocked. Then looking to the left I noticed some more windows, though this time the numbers were written in Thai numerals. I had wanted to buy a 2nd class seat which is basically concrete slabs high above the action. The Thai numerals said 460 baht. Expensive for Thai people (and for me a Thai tax payer) but I was willing to pay that for a night out.  I approached the window and asked the guy in my best Thai for two tickets. He just folded his hands and refused to listen. Obviously he had heard this before. I got out my income tax card but again he was not interested. Then one of the ticket touts came to his rescue and dragged me away. “You pay foreigner price over there. Only 1,500 baht.” Yeah, right.

That day I chose not to pay foreigner’s price and not to watch the boxing match. I just decided that the inflated price was more than what the event was worth. I didn’t shout. I didn’t get angry. I just chose not to go. And that is basically the point of this website. Fair enough, they can have inflated admission prices for foreigners if they like. It is their entertainment venue after all and it is up to them if they want to change the price according to the colour of my skin. However, I am going to object to the sly way they go about this. All prices marked in shops and tourist attractions are almost always written with the familiar Arabic numbers which all tourists can read. However, whenever they choose to have a two priced system they always write the cheaper price in Thai numbers. Why is this? Are they ashamed of having two prices? Don’t they want their foreign guests to know that they sometimes have to pay 10 times more than Thai people for the same thing? Don’t they realize that if the foreigner finds out afterwards that he is more likely to harbour strong feelings of resentment against his Thai host for ripping him off?

I don’t think we should start a campaign outlawing the two price system in Thailand. It would be like hitting your head against a brick wall despite the fact that China has already outlawed duel pricing. However, I think we should start campaigning for a “right to choose”. The prices should be clearly marked in the widely used Arabic script. Foreign tourists should be allowed to see how much everyone is paying. Then it would be up to them whether they choose to pay the inflated price or not. All I am asking is for a “right to choose”. The right for tourists to say that they don’t want to pay 200 baht to see a waterfall when a Thai person driving a Benz is paying only 20 baht. The right to choose to pay 300 baht for a crocodile show that is all in Thai even though they fully know that other people pay only 80 baht. Please give us a right to choose.

– Richard Barrow, Travel Writer

29 responses to “The Right to Choose

  1. well said
    thank you

  2. Peter van Zanten

    Different pricing based on race or nationality is actually not allowed under the Thai Constitution

    • That could be true of the old one but every year or so the existing Constitution is made invalid and a new one written up. I wonder what the latest incarnation says?

      • The clause [30] about discrimination is rarely changed.

        • This is interesting, didnt know. OK, what I can do then – call the police, they break the law ?

          • Best of luck with that.

            Best way I know of is

            1) websites like this

            2) social media exposing them

            3) boycott places that operate dual pricing but let them, and as many nearby Thais, know how you feel before walking away.

  3. Well done on getting this site together.

  4. Interesting debate and I agree the “right to choose” idea is a good one, after all an informed decision is best as opposed to being tricked or being taken advantage of.. Like the old saying, you attract more bees with honey than S*#@… I think that is how the saying went…. On a recent trip I was told a floating market trip was 3000 Baht per person,, this was reduced to 2500 Baht per person, a long story short, as I was getting back into the taxi the last price before I shut the door was 500 Baht and my Thai friend free….. The silly buggers they not only lost the customer and his money but at least 15 other friends I have told also.. Oh well.

  5. I could understand the double pricing, if I would be a tourist and we are talking about “public” (eg tax- funded) places …and if I didn’t know, that many Thais don’t even pay taxes in that sense. Still it is a somewhat shaky thing to charge 200% + for a person, that traveled halfway around the world, to see a National park in your nice country. But what I find absolutely revolting, are private enterprises, sponsor funded, who also follow this double- pricing policy!

    • Yes, it’s even worse when private enterprises practice it. The only piece of good news is that private enterprises are more likely to accept expats or other foreigners in at the Thai price who can 1) speak Thai 2) show a Thai driver’s license or work permit or non-imm visa or some other acceptable document or 3) come in the presence of Thai family/friends/relatives than the government places are.

      Unfortunately, national parks and some other heritage places rarely afford foreigners the Thai price even with a Thai license, though it depends entirely on the ticket seller or the practices of the individual parks/temples etc. concerned. Some are more likely to give every foreigner with a Thai license the local price, others flat out refuse to do so.

  6. I am building a website for lovers of Thailand to post videos and pictures of Thais abroad being welcomed Songkran style.It will be up and running in March and i will be travelling to Europe searching for Thais who might be homesick but dont know it.I hope they react with the same mai pen wry attitude i,m expected to show when drenched unexpectedly.Thais of all classes deserve this welcome.From masseurs to big haired embassy officials, we will remind you of home.

  7. I don’t like this system, when I wanted to visit a national park and I must pay 100 % more than a Thay person I not go in site .!

  8. I hate this kind of policy too. Why did Thailand (as a tourism country) put forward such policy? Weird as I see. But luckily I have driver licence and work permit too.

  9. However, whenever they choose to have a two priced system they always write the cheaper price in Thai numbers. Why is this? Are they ashamed of having two prices? Don’t they want their foreign guests to know that they sometimes have to pay 10 times more than Thai people for the same thing? Don’t they realize that if the foreigner finds out afterwards that he is more likely to harbour strong feelings of resentment against his Thai host for ripping him off?

    They are ashamed. They know it is wrong. They know it is against the law and constitution. But greed prevails and that is why it is so prevalent. It is a disgusting racist practice. I want to see a sign outside the Tower of London saying:
    Entrance fee:
    Thai nationals – 100 quid
    Everybody else 10 quid

  10. Actually we should start a campaign to stop dual pricing, yes we should. Then something may actually be done about it. Thailand needs to change and stop living back in a time like in the 1950s say when it was OK to discriminate against someone who happens to look different and make stereotypical assumptions about them.

    The campaign does not have to be and should not be violent, intimidating or anything like that. It merely needs to consist of fair, concrete complaints that can be used as evidence to prove that the current system is way past it’s use by date.

    We need to do something to stop this, because without some kind of action nothing will change.

    • Let me know when you’ve organised the campaign and I’ll join.

    • I think it should be nice to show them same, what they are doing to Farangs. Thai citizen going to Eiffel Tower and see pricelist…would be nice to make video so they understand, it is just wrong + cite the Thai law in the video – doublepricing is against Thai law. Good luck.

      • Using social media works too. Plenty of places you can put remarks about Thailand’s dual pricing. Facebook is a prime example. Thais love Facebook but hate anything said bad about their country. And it is open for EVERYBODY to see. Great way to make them lose face.

  11. I would like to notify you of “Pattaya Floating Market” that operates a two-tier pricing system.

    Thai national and Foreigner with Thai driving license: FREE

    Everybody else :200 Baht (or 200 bath as the quote on their website)

  12. The crocodile show in Samut Prakan is 300 baht for foreigners. Now I have license and ED visa, but last year, I was able to get in with only a tourist visa by speaking Thai.

  13. I see comments talking about speaking Thai and having a work permit to get in to places. Indeed when I lived in Thailand I did into sites myself (zoos, art gallaries etc) with my Thai Driving License, speaking Thai and even using the House Book. However last year on visiting the shell beach near Ao Nang, the gentleman responded ‘ID Card!’. So they are catching on. It is just one of those little straws that encourages one to visit other countries instead. When I do visit (to see the in-laws) I now use @2pricethailand twitter handle to find places which don’t discriminate.

  14. Hi from Bangkok,

    I also resent this practice each time I come across this situation. I am a retired former international HS teacher, now a writer and photographer living in Bangkok.
    I already wrote an article on the Ratchada/Esplanade 3-D museum, mentioning this practice.

  15. Nice website.
    Sadly it’s as simple as that: it doesn’t matter if you work here, if you pay the taxes, if you have a Thai wife, if your children are Thai, nor if you can speak and read/write Thai like a native.
    You will never be treated as a Thai in Thailand. Every once in a while you’ll be reminded that you’re a ฟรัง (Farang). If you can deal with it and enjoy your stay in Thailand without getting mad at these things, then you’ll have a wonderful life. If you complain, you’ll be told that this is their country and no one asked you to come… As the website says, simply choose not to get ripped, or even better, choose not to find yourself in these situations… One day they will understand that overcharging foreigners wasn’t such a clever move… I’m not that sure about when, though…

    • Regarding “and no one asked you to come”. Whoever said that obviously knows nothing about the billions of Thai baht spent each year by the Tourism Authority in promoting Thailand overseas in an attempt to boost its tourist industry by enticing more visitors to Thailand.

      What the TAT they don’t tell you of course is that they’d just rather you left your money at the airport when you arrive and get straight back on the plane to your home country.

  16. Here is a new venue with dual pricing that really stands out, IMHO. The Nai Lert Heritage Home.
    Just going into limited operation this past week, a phone call yielded information that the tour admission for Thai’s is 500b while all others pay 1000b. This is particularly flagrant as it is privately owned by the same family that owns the adjoining Swissotel Nai Lert Hotel which derives a high percentage of their revenue from foreigners.

  17. Michael Lennie

    I remember watching a TV interview of the owner of a Chao Praya river cruise boat who overtly stated (in Thai) that his prices were 1000 baht for Thai and 2000 Baht for farangs. As a modestly paid taxpayer residing in this country, I resent being expected to pay twice as much as a Mercedes- owning Bangkok businessman. I emailed the Tourism Authority 3 times but … no response . This coming July, we will have a family reunion in Koh Samet. I expect we will visit the national parks etc. My daughter, who is coming from England is half Thai , speaks a bit of Thai but doesn’t look Thai and has no Thai ID. My son, who is coming from Australia , is also half Thai and looks it, but doesn’t speak Thai but has a Thai ID card (light blue). I speak and read Thai , live and work here and have a Foreigners’ (pink) ID card. Ironically, it is my adult children who are the “tourists” in this scenario, but what will we each be charged ? we will see… the whole system is offensive and should be illegal.

  18. More than a bit surprised to drive across Ubon province last weekend for some nature hiking with the family at Soie Sawan waterfall of Pha Taem National Park. Thai price 40/20THB (adult/kids), Foreigner 400/200 –1,400THB for our family. We turned around and left. I haven’t minded the two-price system but this small attraction is nowhere near worth it. I have to imagine that most farang who have hired transport to get out to these remote sites feel stuck to pay it.

  19. I’m not sure if they still do, but Madame Tousseau’s used to have dual pricing. The menu is in Thai and then in English for “foreigners”. It’s frustrating because it’s a private business and also I most likely pay far more tax in Thailand than most average Thais do in their lifetimes.

  20. Like the term ‘farang’ this is deragatory. The notion of “rich” Westerner is truly questionable. It may be a belief but far from being a reality, at least noawdays. It is as if rich Thais did not exist!
    Some more, this is not a consistent practice. Equality ought to be the rule as it is practiced by some businesses already.
    Anyhow, let’s reverse the situation. How would Thai people (or other Asians) react if they were confronted to the same problem while visiting western countries?

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