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Because you're in Thailand, foreigner.
BANGKOK — Among Thailand’s expats and frequent visitors, this Thai practice ranks as one of the most widely reviled. Some call it “disgusting.” Others call it “tasteless.”
It isn’t child labor. It isn’t human trafficking.
It’s the extra charge foreigners must pay at many tourist sites.
Few topics provoke rawer reactions from Westerners in Thailand, who often drift toward this topic during pub talk and coffeehouse chatter.
Thailand’s largest English-language daily, The Bangkok Post, anchors a “double pricing” forum on its homepage for readers to vent. Between tips on skirting the foreigner fee, some defend the charge as a counterweight to income disparity. Others condemn it with bitter rhetoric.
“The double-pricing for Europeans is a thinly disguised slap in the face to the European/white colonial powers and a feeble attempt at payback,” wrote one Bangkok Post poster. Wrote another: “Double pricing is … humiliating and just a very tasteless way to gain more income over (sic) the back of tourists.”
Just what is “double pricing,” and why does it infuriate some Westerners to no end?
At many Thai tourist attractions, from private aquariums to government-run parks, visitors are confronted with two fee listings. One presents the cost in Thai numerals, seldom used outside formal settings but universally legible to Thais.
The other presents the “foreigner” price in English, with charges that are often 50 percent to 100 percent higher and sometimes triple the local charge. The difference often amounts to about $3 to $5 — though it can add $15 or more per person in extreme cases. Ticket vendors often determine non-Thais by race, singling out Caucasians or Indians for higher fees.
This is formally known as “two-tier pricing” by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, a state entity that absorbs much of the detractors’ blame. The entity, however, has “no control” over tourist sites that charge foreigners more, said Kaneungnit Chotikakul, the agency’s international public relations director.
Still, she said, the practice is rooted in the income gap between the average Thai and the average tourist. “For government attractions, the lower pricing for Thai citizens reflects the lower relative purchasing power (of) the large majority of Thais compared to international visitors,” she said.