Out of all of the things that drive Expats in Thailand crazy, dual pricing probably takes the cake. This is where a vendor or attraction charges one price for Thais and a higher price for foreigners. Chances are, if you live in Thailand full time, you have run into some venue somewhere that made you pay more than your Thai counterpart. Some call it racist, others won’t frequent any venues where dual pricing is present and some people don’t mind paying the little bit extra to have a good time.
Much of the animosity relating to dual pricing comes down to feelings being hurt because Expats are not treated as equals to Thais. Anyone who thinks that if dual pricing were to disappear tomorrow that they would somehow be equals to Thais however, is just going have to learn to be comfortable with being upset. You came to Thailand a farang and you will either die here a farang or leave here on a plane as a farang. Even if you go through the whole process to get your Thai citizenship and passport (yes, it is possible) you will still be viewed as an outsider unless you walk around flashing your Thai passport like you are the new Sheriff of Nottingham, and even that may not get you where you need to be.
The reason for this is because there are two types of dual pricing systems. The first type is the venues that state openly that Thais and foreigners are charged different prices. These are generally the venues that you are able to get into at the Thai price if you have a Thai driver’s license or a work permit or house book showing that you work or own a residence here. It will do you absolutely no good to argue with the people in the ticket booth about the price. They didn’t make the rule or set the price, nor are they able to change it for you. Your best bet with venues like this is to simply not frequent them if it makes you emotional.
The second type of dual pricing is more personal. This is where the price differences are not openly stated or expected. Taxis, food vendors, and venues will charge you more because they think that you have big money. In these situations it benefits you if you can speak the Thai language and/or they can see that you have been around a while and that you are knowledgeable about the normal prices of their products and services. If you walk up and order your food in Thai from a food vendor, for example, the vendor will know that you probably know the typical cost for a plate of Pad Thai and will not overcharge you. If that same vendor sees a fumbling bumbling tourist who they think has money, they will charge them a higher price for the same good or service.
Generally, tourists themselves do not get flustered by the dual pricing. Many don’t even think twice about it as they are here on a holiday and are generally spending as much money as humanly possible from the ATM machine during the short period of time that they have here. For Expats who call Thailand home however, there are those that view it as blatant racism.
You constantly hear about it being a problem that people only seem to have seen happening in Thailand when the reality of the situation is quite different. For those of you upset by dual pricing venues and who avoid them and like the plague will definitely want to steer clear of the Seven Wonders of The World. Some more blatant racism for you:
The Great Pyramids of Egypt:
Foreigner Price- 420 EGP (US $26) Egyptian National Price- 20 EGP (about US $1)
The Ancient City of Petra:
Foreigner Price- 90 JOD (US $126) Jordanian National Price- 1 JOD (US $1.41)
Foreigner Price- US $70 Andean National Price- US $35 Residents of Cusco City: Free On Sunday
The Taj Mahal:
Foreigner Price- 1,000 INR (US $14.10) Neighbouring Countries- 530 INR (US $7.47) Indian National Price- 40 INR (US $0.56)
Foreigner Price- €12 (US $13.29) EU Citizen Price- €7.5 (US $8.30)
Foreigner Price- 242 MXN (US $12.65) Mexican National price- 162 MXN (US $8.47)
Christ the Redeemer (Train Ticket):
Foreigner Price- 75 BRL (US $18.37) Brazilian National Price- 25 BRL (US $6.12)
The Great Wall of China:
Prices are constantly changing for the Great Wall of China but the same holds true, locals pay less than foreign visitors.
Surely if dual pricing is allowed at the top tourist attractions on the globe, then Thailand hasn’t really done anything that is “out of the box” or taboo. Tourist cities and countries all have a double economy for the most part. There will always be people in the cities that are making money on the tourism aspect, but there are an equal amount of people working to sustain a normal economy as well that will survive if anything should happen to the tourism economy.
While it is understandable that Expats who live in a place would want to be treated as a local after so many years of living here, the fact is that there are way more foreigners that are tourists. Tourists that don’t care about spending a little extra to get in and have their fun while they are on holiday and the vendors and shop keepers understand this.
The best thing that you can do as someone who lives here full time and wants to dodge 75% of the dual pricing that you will run into is to get yourself a Thai driver’s license or a house book or other document that proves you are a resident in Thailand. A great many of the venues who dual price tourists, also understand that there are foreigners who actually reside here and if you have those documents they will generally cut you a break and give you the Thai price.
A final point of contention with regards to dual pricing in Thailand is that it is not only limited to venues and vendors. As of September 29th government hospitals across Thailand have legalized a standardized, 4-tier dual pricing system within their hospitals. The prices of procedures at the hospitals will be determined by which of the four categories you fall under. The categories are Thai nationals, foreigners from neighbouring countries, working foreigners on non-immigrant visas and tourists and retirees. Each category or group of people will pay different prices when undergoing treatment at Thailand’s government hospitals. While we will neither agree or disagree that dual pricing belongs in hospitals, this is Thailand and it is what it is.