Thailand is similar to many other poorer countries (and even some wealthier ones) when it comes to dual pricing.  Some may call this practice unethical and there are plenty of reasons both for and against the practice.  With all arguments aside, in Thailand, it is the way it is and no logical argument is going to change that.  So you need to either learn to live with it or head elsewhere.

Dual Pricing at the Phuket Aquarium

Thai Translation: Adults 50B, Children 20B

What is Dual Pricing?

There are many forms of dual pricing, but they all come down to the same basic principal.  If you are a foreigner, you will be charged more for goods and services than if you are Thai.  This could be a small increase in price, twenty baht more or so, or a significant increase, think five times the price or more.  That seems like a rather significant difference, and it is, but if you traveled here on a plane and are staying in a fancy resort, you can probably afford the higher price.  At least that is the logic behind the practice.

You must now be thinking, wow, five times more than a local, I thought Thailand was cheap?  If everything in the country cost more to you as a foreigner than it does to a Thai, then no, Thailand would not be cheap.  However, the practice of dual pricing only takes place sometimes and mostly in places that you would expect it to take place.

The places that you will generally be charged a higher rate than Thai’s are at museums, parks, the kinds of places that tourists frequent.  You’d probably think that the national government would be the least likely to discriminate with prices, but they are actually the worst offenders, although they do so with good intentions.  These attractions are typically funded by visitors, so they need to charge enough money so that they can at least break even, and as I already mentioned, foreigners most likely can afford the higher rate.  However, at these high prices, many of the locals cannot afford to visit the attractions right in their own backyards.

How terrible would it be to be born a Thai citizen into this beautiful country, but be unable to visit many of the places here because admission is too high?  The beauty of your home country reserved for tourists and tourists alone.  Try to remember that the average Thai makes around 6,000 baht per month, which is a figure close to what a typical tourist would spend in a day or two.

Other Forms of Dual Pricing

In addition to the government controlled forms of dual pricing, it also exists on a smaller scale amongst locals trying to earn a few more baht.  This can occur at markets and Thai shops, where the vendor thinks that he or she can make a bit more without anyone being the wiser.  Be careful of shops that don’t have stated prices, and if you want to always get the absolute best deals, be sure to let a Thai national do your haggling for you.  You will generally get a better deal if the vendor doesn’t see you until a price is decided upon.

How to Avoid Most Dual Pricing

If you are living in Thailand on a long term Visa, there is a way to avoid the dual pricing in most locations.  The trick is to go and get a Thai drivers license.  Unfortunately you will need a long term Visa in order to apply for a Thai drivers license, sorry those of you on Tourist Visas.  If you show this ID at any of the government owned attractions and ask for the Thai rate, they will give it to you.  Of course I never knew about this for the first few years that I lived in Thailand and I was always forced to pay the tourist rate.  Now that I know better, I save money all the time.

Is Dual Pricing Acceptable?

I think I’ve already made it pretty clear that I have no problem with the practice of dual pricing.  What I do have a problem with is when it is practiced with deceit.  Most of the places that offer dual pricing will display both prices for all to see, however, the Thai version will be written in Thai, numbers and all.

I was recently at the Phuket Zoo which clearly states that Adults are 500 Baht.  Okay, fair enough.  However, on the Thai side of the sign, they state that Adults are 100 Baht, although in Thai.  What is deceitful about it, is that they don’t use the Arabic numbers 100, they actually spell out the words in Thai so you can’t directly compare the two prices.  The Phuket Aquarium does something similar (check out the attached picture), they use Thai numbers instead of Arabic numbers because only Thai’s or those who study Thai can actually read them.

Dual pricing in Thailand is a practice that will not be going away any time soon.  It can be deceitful and dishonest, but in the end, there are good intentions for it.  Perhaps the Thai’s don’t intend to be dishonest, but rather they are just attempting to avoid any potential problems.  Either way, it is what it is and nothing that we say or do as guests in this country will ever change that.

What do you think about Thailand’s policy on dual pricing? Is it justified because the average Thai makes much less money then your average tourist, or is it unethical to discriminate based on nationality?

Lawrence Michaels

Google+ : Lawrence is an American expat who has lived in Thailand since 2008. He has spent the majority of his time living on the Island of Phuket, but has also done a fair amount of traveling around the country.

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