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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Free sightseeing tour – fraud or common sense?

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A tuk-tuk driver in Phuket hit the national news for offering a ride around town for just 100 baht, but people’s opinions differed

A tuk-tuk driver in Phuket has been in the news of the state news agency of Thailand after he offered a group of tourists a ride through the city for just 100 baht. The publication appeared on the national news portal after a tourist posted a review of the tuk-tuk driver’s services in a Phuket themed group on Facebook.

A man named Phet Yotsawat wrote in his post that he and his friends were walking around Phuket Town looking for a good place to eat when they met a passing tuk-tuk driver, 54-year-old Suhart Nithivaranurak.

Suhart offered his friends a ride to major attractions, souvenir stores, and retail outlets for just 50 baht. At first, the group was suspicious of the offer and pointed out to the driver that there were five of them. To this, Suhart stated that a hundred baht would be enough to hire him for two hours to drive around the city.

“It was very cheap, he sat and waited for us the whole time we walked around town buying souvenirs,” Phet wrote.

In total, the tuk-tuk ride for sightseeing and shopping lasted three hours, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Impressed with the service, the friends paid Suhart 300 baht for the time spent.

“Very decent. Recommended for people who want to travel with a breeze,” wrote Phet. “Suhart can be found near the ‘fountain junction in town,’ phone 087-886-7527,” he added.

Pheth’s review prompted many approving comments from Thais, who praised Suhart for not taking advantage of tourists. The unscrupulousness of public transport drivers in Phuket has become notorious even among Thai tourists.

Suhart’s explanation for offering a very cheap fare in Phuket was simple: “I want more tourists, Thai and foreign, to come to Phuket, to make Phuket as good again as it was before the pandemic. I’ve taken the group to Thalang, Krabi and Khao Rang streets and a few souvenir stores where I get some money for tourist shopping, so an amount of 50 to 100 baht per trip around the island is enough,” said Suhart.

“Don’t take too much money,” he appealed to his colleagues in Phuket, “it gives us a bad name. If we only take as much as we need to pay for gas and food and return home to support our families, the tourists will come again,” Suhart added.

However, not all commentators were unanimous in their assessment, with some foreigners considering it a cheap or free sightseeing tour scam, where tourists are taken to special outlets with “charged” prices.

“This cheap tuk-tuk scam has been going on forever. Back when I first went to Bangkok in the ’80s, all the tuk-tuks had signs listing day tours for 50 baht. Of course, they took you to all their familiar “souvenir” stores, gold shops, and other places where you were duped. The tour doesn’t end until you buy something. Everyone knows it’s a scam, not an ‘honest’ tuk-tuk driver,” wrote a commenter named Timothy.

Other commenters see nothing wrong with it and consider it a great practice.

“Great man! For a fare of 300 baht + tips from souvenir stores. He should educate his colleagues on tourist thinking during these meetings of provincial drivers,” wrote a commenter named Kurt.

A third of the commenters note signs of “jeers” in the publication and remark that soon the normal performance of one’s job will be considered something out of the ordinary.

“Grasping at straws, desperately trying to make the Phuket tuk tuk mafia look good at all costs. Next comes the news that the cab driver at the airport actually does his job and drives carefully and safely all the way to the hotel. What a miracle!”, John C. notes sarcastically.

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