The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Scam

damnoen saduak floating market

or how we got scammed in Thailand and ways to avoid it

I have vague memories of people being scammed at the Damnoen Saduak floating market in Bangkok but never really researched it. Thus, when our taxi driver offered to take us on a full day tour for just THB 1,200 (RM 120), I didn’t bargain and thought it was a pretty good deal.

boat tour

I didn’t want the extras, I just wanted to cram in two floating markets (Tha Kha and Damnoen Saduak) for the day. It takes about 40 minutes to an hour to reach the latter and there’s a reason the taxi driver gave a lot of excuses not to go to Tha Kha (it’s too small, you won’t like it, etc).

floating market

Damnoen Saduak floating market is basically a well known tourist trap. It’s what you see on the postcards and has lost it’s original meaning of being a floating market for locals but rather a scam to bring tourists there for the same trinkets and souvenirs you’ll find on the streets of Bangkok.

tha kha floating market

Tha Kha floating market is the one that locals go to.

scam floating market
Unhappy tourists who were conned before us

Anyway, the way the scam works is that taxi drivers offer you a really good price for a day’s tour (you can hire the cab to go anywhere for the day) and bring you to a pier where you’re forced to take a boat tour. Our driver kept insisting that there isn’t a way to go to the big Damnoen Saduak pier, which isn’t true as we found out.

salt farm

It took us an hour and you can see lots of salt flats where they farm salts on the way to Damnoen Saduak floating market. It’s quite interesting to see the locals harvest salt and sell it in bulk by the roadside.

damnoen saduak scam

We got shuttled to Shang 2 Pier. I later found out that there are heaps of “private piers” like this one – they arrange a commission with the cab drivers to bring tourists here. A woman immediately approached us as we pulled in and told us it’s THB 3,000 per person or THB 5,000 per boat for a 1 hour boat tour of Damnoen Saduak floating market.

That’s RM 500 for the boat!

floating market scam

I said no way and walked back to the taxi driver and told him to bring us straight to the Damnoen Saduak floating market pier. He kept insisting that there’s no roads to go there except by boat. His English was pretty bad but I told him I don’t want a boat tour and finally the woman (who followed us over) said she’ll do it for THB 2,000 (about RM 200) per person.

That’s a ridiculous price and not knowing if there’s actually a way to the pier of the Damnoen Saduak floating market, I finally bargained with the woman and got us a covered motorized boat for a 1 hour tour for THB 1,700 (RM 170) per boat.

private pier

I realized later that we could have gotten it for much cheaper had we bargained more but there’s no way out of this scam, the driver will just drive you to different “private piers” which are just fronts for scamming people into expensive boat tours.

boat vendors

The driver of the longboat to Damnoen Saduak floating market was nice though and even helped us take a photo (which we learned some other less scrupulous drivers will charge you for).

damnoen saduak us

Damnoen Saduak floating market is a tourist trap but it’s worth a visit for the experience if you don’t mind paying the over-inflated price. It’s like the Venice of Asia with the canals and waterways. The shops are right beside the canal – it’s now concrete after the tsunami and floods but still interesting to see shops where you literally have to row up to.

coconut sugar farm

There are also various boats selling food and a coconut sugar farm inside.

coconut sugar

I liked the coconut sugar – it’s exactly like those brown sweets from primary school except this is a large, hot wok and the taste straight from the paddle is incredibly sweet and nostalgic. They also offer a tour of the coconut factory but we didn’t go for that one.

It’s quite a nice experience sitting in a boat while traversing the waterways of Damnoen Saduak floating market but getting scammed into the boat tour took some of the fun out of it. You can get a (much) cheaper boat hire by getting to the Damnoen Saduak floating market pier itself. The pier bit in that last sentence is the most vital part – that’s where the regular boats depart.

floating market stalls

I hear it is near impossible to get a taxi to go to the pier itself since they have lucrative deals to scam tourists into the private piers for the commission (the lady consulted with our taxi driver on the THB 1,700 price before agreeing). There are also tours which scam you into the private piers so be careful of that.

damnoen saduak pier

My suggestion is to go to a floating market that the locals actually use e.g. Tha Kha floating market and take a boat to Damnoen Saduak floating market from there. I got quoted THB 200 an hour per boat for a tour (RM 20) departing from Tha Kha before bargaining.

floating markets

That’s a huge difference from THB 1,700 and closer to the real price. Tha Kha is more of a pier and not the postcard picture perfect floating market you think of but it’s a nice market where practically no one speaks English and meant more for locals. It’ll be hard to convince a taxi driver to go there though.

grilled bananas

Ours didn’t want to go to Tha Kha at all until much coercion and asked for THB 100 for lunch which I absolutely refused to give after the scam he pulled. I only gave it to him when he said it’ll come out of the THB 1,200 price we agreed upon (e.g. I’ll just pay THB 1,100) coz he didn’t have any money for lunch.

damnoen saduak

When it was time to go back, our taxi driver put the meter on so I thought he wanted to scam us again (it’s THB 2,000 from Damnoen Saduak floating market to Bangkok if you follow the meter) but I was quite hostile to him and paid just THB 1,100 and left.

damnoen saduak photo

The Damnoen Saduak floating market scam is pretty well documented. Be careful of the private piers and go straight to the Damnoen Saduak pier. If you want a more local experience, get a taxi that’ll bring you straight to Tha Kha and head to Damnoen Saduak floating market from there, which will cost just THB 200 (RM 20) per boat.

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31 thoughts on “The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Scam

  1. Really sorry to hear about your experience, Huai Bin. I guess it happens when there are too many tourists going to a place. In fact, a foreign friend once complained that it’s happening in KL, too. =(

    Thanks for the heads up! Any one of us who’s thinking of heading there will definitely be more cautious after reading your post.

    I wonder what will happen if they’re unlucky to meet a tourist who’s very fluent in Thai and speaks like one of the locals. =D

    • Yeah, that would be interesting eh? :)

      It happens in KL a lot, especially with taxi drivers! But here we know the scams and just refuse to get on board.

      Oh well, it was funny in hindsight, I didn’t research the place properly, it’s now a tourist trap, I recommend Tha Kha floating market highly instead.

      …but that said the Damnoen Saduak floating market is still worth a visit for the experience.

      Just once. ;)

  2. wow, rm500 and rm200, what a huge difference! must literally watch out, it’s quite scary to put one in such position, worst with the language barriers etc

    • Indeed! The price should be RM 20 per boat for the 1 hour tour.

      You will require a boat, just not at RM 170, the amount we paid.

      Oh well, it’s a learning experience and interesting in hindsight. :)

  3. I’m always afraid to travel independently to countries with language barrier. It’s either I’ll make sure I have friends there or just sign up with local travel agents before departing.. I know, not a wise traveler I am.

    • I’m alright with language barriers – my favorite was Georgia! :)

      I don’t speak Georgian and my Russian is limited to saying nyet but it’s interesting to order food and meet people although their English is generally horrible.

      I got pickpocketed in Sri Lanka too and got scammed in travels before, it’s no big deal, learning experience and it’s part of the fun!

      (after the fact of course)

    • Cheers mate! :)

      It’s fun, Bangkok, lots of interesting stuff to do, or shopping if you’re into that kind of thing (we’re both not into shopping so we did interesting stuff instead).

  4. Even though we thought we can have escaped from the scam, but we will take it as a valuable lesson, right dear? We learn from travel…We learn as we go…

    • Indeed dear! *hugs*

      That’s how travel goes, I’ve been scammed in Sri Lanka and during my other travels too but part of the fun when you think about it in hindsight.

      …and we now have a new inside joke. Haha!

      Yup, we learn from our travels and we learn as we go, that’s why I love to do it and I love to do it with you. <3

  5. Whoa! Whoa! My eyebrows went up and didn’t come down. Sorry for the nasty experience you had. I feel damn malu for their behaviour as I have all my maternal relatives and friends in BKK. I am quite familiar with the way their crooks and folks think when they see foreigners. You both could still smile sweetly & posed for camera, so I guess you were calm. Agree with Yee Ling that we learn as we go!! My wife said the same thing to me when i kena conned 2-3 times in China over the years. I never seem to learn! LOL

    I took the luxurious boat cruise along Chao Phraya River for one whole evening till night where they served fanstatic Thai dinner with live show of Classical Thai Dance & musicians performance. All for only 1500 baht each….Your floating market price was terror and I would have caused a tsunami there!!!

    • No worries mate! :)

      It’s all good – it did take some of the fun out of it but didn’t ruin our trip by any means. We learn as we go, now we know of an awesome way to get to Damnoen Saduak – through Tha Kha floating market!

      It’s one that locals actually use, the floating market I mean, although it doesn’t look like the ones in postcards but more of a harbor.

      Getting scammed during travels is common, I did during my previous travels but it’s part of the fun (after the fact) and you’re wiser for it.

      Unfortunately for this one we couldn’t get out of it – the taxi driver will just shuttle you to different piers and if we wanted out, we’ll have to pay THB 2,000 (RM 200) for the fare with no return trip. I heard a cab driver actually threatened to call police when they scammed a Caucasian (for the fare) but he got out of it coz it’s a hassle to lodge a police report and you don’t want to be tied down in a tourist police station while on vacation. It’s a lose-lose situation so we made the best of it.

      Cheers! :D

  6. The water still looks as murky as when I went many many years ago. It was so smelly then, hope it isn’t now. Nothing much there, really. I thought it was kinda boring…especially when I went at a time when we had to be careful not to eat anything from street or boat vendors. Wouldn’t want to come down with food poisoning.

    • Yeah, it’s basically just a tourist trap!

      I didn’t notice the smell of the water though. Haha! I guess things have changed coz we didn’t notice any foul odors from the floating market.

      Anything you get there you can get from the streets of Bangkok now – there’s nothing unique and locals don’t go there.

      Thakha floating market is a better place. Cheers mate! :)

  7. Very scheming indeed! ;-((

    Am thinking of going to Thailand next month. Thank you for your infos.

    Take care and kind regards,
    Yvonne

    • Yeah, I thought it was a superb scam. :x

      There’s no way to get out of it, if you want to throw a fit, you still have to pay the THB 2,000 to get there (about RM 200) and you don’t get a return trip out of it.

      Smart scam.

      Hope your trip goes well Yvonne! I’m going to Phuket next week, if you’re heading there, see ya if we bump into each other! :)

  8. The first hotel photo looked like Eastin in Makassan? I like the hotel tho they provide no Internet access. I complained about the staff being rude to me and next thing I know I got upgraded to suite and the manager treated us dinner :) p/s: more posts pls!

    • Yup, that’s the hotel alright. :x

      It’s the final one, the 3rd in 5 days – horrible planning. The first one didn’t even have complimentary Internet and I had to pay THB 600 for 24 hours – 15 minutes before we’re due to shift hotels (didn’t know we’re going to or would have gotten 1 hour or waited).

      Sorry to hear about your experience Mel! I thought Eastin in Makassan was alright in terms of service, we got free WiFi too, although it’s supposed to be paid, they just give out the passwords in a huge basket when you ask for it. :D

    • Yeah, the boat hire is supposed to be around THB 200 (RM 20). :)

      Oh well, we live, we learn. It’s all a good experience.

    • Yeah, and worse, it’s a *well documented* scam! :x

      I just didn’t realize or read about it then.

      Thanks Eve! :)

    • I don’t think so – that price should be about right! :)

      It’s quoted as THB 200 before bargaining at the proper place. We just got scammed by the cab driver. Oh well.

  9. I am going to Bangkok in early August, around Raya holidays.

    Oh, better take note of this. i’ve never been there, but maybe my mates might know somethng.. now this is scaring me. =.=

    • Yeah, just be careful of taxis offering excessively cheap tours and you’ll be alright! :)

      It’s their cut with the private boat operators and has been documented extensively, we just didn’t read it before going. It’s better to go on a tour in this case, although some tours are scams too.

      If you can find a way to Thakha Floating Market, you’re all good since it’s a local oriented one and they won’t scam you there.

        • Hello Chea Yee! :)

          Yup, we’ve heard good things from people who went to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market using hotel tours for just THB 1,400 per car, all inclusive, including transport to and back, and the 1 hour boat tour.

          That’s the price range to look for, hope it helps! :D

  10. I can confirm that it is a real con job, it left a bad taste in my mouth about Bangkok. I thought Thai people are good Buddhists.

  11. You should visit the authentic damnoen floating market before 9am. You can go there by your own by using minivan from victory monument @ 90 baht or public bus from southern bus terminal @ 50 baht.

    They would drop you on the main road junction and ignore the tout or agent. Walk into the small street about 1.5km or hitch the yellow truck @ 10 baht.

    The usual rate quoted is 300 baht per person for motor boat but their route is questionable. Some would skip most main attraction and only hop on the souvenir market. You could get as low as 150 baht per paddle boat that for 6 person inside the authentic floating market.

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