The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

Deadly bar scams on Bangkok’s Soi Cowboy?

Written By: herbrunbridge - Nov• 10•11

For several years now, we’ve been hearing allegations that patrons have been unfairly overcharged at several bars on Bangkok’s Soi Cowboy. When they’ve challenged the bill, they’ve told stories about being physically threatened.  The allegations have been made in particular regarding  a number of bars owned by an Iranian who is known locally as “The Arab.” These allegations have been out on the street so long that savvy locals are avoiding these bars, which include, in alphabetical order,  Déjà Vu,  Kiss, Midnite, Rawhide, Rio, Sahara, and Spice Girls.

A letter appeared recently in Stickman’s column on Bangkok nightlife, interesting enough that we are printing it here verbatim:

“I know better than to go into an Arab-owned bar in Soi Cowboy.  I’ve been (grossly) overcharged two times and I have vowed never to set foot in one of his bars again.  Against my better judgment, I went into Midnite last week with an out-of-town friend who got dragged into Midnite by one of its seductive hostesses.  I warned my friend about going into this bar but he insisted on going in because of the cutie that was wrapped around his arm.  Plus, he was buying so he was going to be on the hook, not me.  I’ve been living in Thailand for 3 years so I know the drill.  What I did was instruct my friend to pay cash for every round of drinks as they came in.  That is exactly what we did.  Every round was 720 baht (an outrageous 180 baht per San Miguel Light and 180 baht for each lady drink) and we paid cash for every round.  We had EXACTLY four rounds and paid 720 baht X 4 = 2,880 baht.  By the way, we had to fight off another 6 – 8 dancers and servers that came up and pestered us for drinks.  About half of them spit out a venomous keeneow insult at me when I said “No.”  We got up to leave and our server came up and presented us with a bin stuffed with chits that totaled 5,280 baht.  Not only had we paid for all our drinks already, they essentially doubled the total with phony chits.  I was floored by the aggressive, blatant attempt to overcharge us.  I calmly told the grouchy server that we had already paid cash for every round and owed nothing.  She huffed off and returned with the sour-faced mamasan who insisted we pay 5,280 more baht.  My friend tried to explain to the mamasan that we had already paid but she wasn’t going to hear any of it.  During the conversation, 5 Thai bouncers appeared and surrounded us.  These bouncers looked very eager to beat up some farangs.  My friend and I are pretty big guys and while we may have been able to fight our way out of Midnite, getting into a fight with a Thai is a no win situation, especially if you live here.  The result is that I was able to negotiate the bill down to 3,000 baht.  A small, small victory.  Moral of the story?  Don’t EVER set foot in an Arab-owned bar again.”

If such allegations are indeed true, then it hearkens back to the classic scams run in upstairs bars on Patpong Road, which local expats stopped going to years ago. And predictably, one day some innocent patron protesting his unfair bill will get beat up. Bill padding scams are legendary in Angeles City bars in the Philippines, but are now, from the reports we’re hearing, becoming more common on Soi Cowboy in Bangkok.

So if it’s your first time on Soi Cowboy, we’d suggest you walk into a friendly non-girlie bar, such as the Old Dutch, engage an expat in conversation, and ask which bars are safe. And if you do visit any of the bars mentioned in paragraph one, caveat emptor.

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  1. Michael says:

    Yes just got back from Kiss bar and also got scammed … wish I knew about this and never trust a bar that is empty and where the girls jump on you !!! Avoid all these places mentioned !!

  2. Our warnings on the “Arab” bars still apply. Nan Plaza remains free of rop-offs.

  3. Micahel says:

    I have been going to BKK off and on for 20 years, starting when I was in my 20s. Was a lot of fun. But on my last trip 3 years ago I found the Cowboy that was my favorite before was a dangerous rip off in everyway including the police. I will going back next week. I would still like to go to some place in the cowboy but which ones are good now, and which ones a BAD. I have read about the Arab owned ones. Is it still that way? I will hit Nana, never had a problem there. Any advice about any good places that will not rip you off, and I buy drinks, understand the system and am not cheap, but not stupid or weak. I would greatly appreciate. I just want to have a good time. Thanks in advance. Also wondering is Adelphi Suites still a good guest friendly hotel, or is Dream better? Thanks in advance!!

  4. Pat says:

    AVOID KISS CLUB. and I guess the others which are mentioned…..

    A recent update…

    Though i am not a newbie, and i am usually very careful, I have just been ripped off at KISS gogo bar on Soi Cowboy this evening.

    Bar was empty (I undersand why now..)..I Have been pulled in by a 25 years old blonde girl with very nice body..
    I offered her a lady drink.. 250 baht..she ordered a tequila coke …and I ordered a coke (no spirits…simple classic coke)

    When the bill arrived, it was 450 bahts .. already quite expensive..I gave a 1000 bht banknote… And I was given back 310 bht back !! ie. Bill for 690 bhts…

    What as smentioned ?– Lady drink…= tequila coke.. = was counted as 2 x lady drinks.. ie. 500 bahts….
    and my coke for 190 ??? check the drink list.. it is not really the price for asoda….


    Anyway, I guess they will not stay opened very long considering the lack of customers.. and this way of cheating customers…

    I wish them and the staff all the worst…

  5. Paul says:

    I think the reputation is certainly well deserved in these bars. However, “the Arab” is in reality an Amnerican citizen. He certainly looks Arabic, and may well be of Iranian descent but he is certainly not an Iranian citizen.

  6. dapdan says:

    I couldn’t agree more. STAY AWAY FROM THE ARAB BARS on Soi Cowboy!

  7. John says:

    I have made a mistake of going into the midnite.I was charged for the drinks I did not have. When I tried to object, I was assaulted.

  8. Mark says:

    I was at midnight in soi cowboy had 1 drink and was given a bill 2900 baht never ever go to midnight gogo the mamasan said my friend didn’t pay his bill my friend was out front he had paid 1500 for his bill already after a lot of arguing bill was dropped to 900 baht had no choice but to pay soi cowboy has gone downhill another gogo wanted 2000 just for bar fine I’ll stick to pattaya where there’s a great choice of hot girls unlike soi Cowboys old or ugly scammers

  9. Gimme says:

    went to Rio in early May 2016 with two of my mates, I had 2 drinks, bought 4 lady drink and my 2 mates each had 4 drinks each and 8 lady drink each. Total bill was a little 10k…we all look at each other dumbfounded as fucc…first and last time there….but their Coyote are probably the best in Soi Cowboy.

  10. Big John says:

    2016 Feb. Cowboy is on the decline for sure…. Too many old, fat and even ugly girls.. The glitzy bar have pretty girls but bar fines are 3000 and the girls want 6000 long time.. there is no guarantee of the length of time, quality etc etc… Too many waitresses and mamasan expect drinks.. I’d suggest you go to look and otherwise drink elsewhere.. They need our money more than we need their pussy…. Come on its thailand.. Third world, full of police corruption etc etc.. You need to be careful in this country…

  11. M says:

    That is too bad. this will be my 5th or 6th trip to BKK in around 12 years. As of 3 years ago, I was going every year for like 3 years. Soy Cowboy was my fav. even though my hotel is always closer to Nana. I have always stayed in a nice hotel and really never been cheated that much. But now I see the Arabs have ruined the Cowboy. I will be going back in Jan. after 3 years of not going, but now I know it has changed and I know where not to go. I will avoid these named bars. My girls short or long stay have always been 1500-2000. And really pretty ones. But I am never in a hurry and do buy a drink, or just walk out at once if there is nothing there. Thanks for the info. And I looked forward to returning, guess I have to be more careful though. Any more advice on the good clubs and bars in Nana and Cowboy, Popong I have no interest in…..That’s and enjoy. Keep the info coming so we do not get ripped off.

  12. LR says:

    john, i am not sure what you mean the “naughty entrance fun”, but some girls are really obedient ones, try some younger ones

    for the coyote, i agree, some fo them can barfined, but this is just a honey-pot scam, if they are clearly no barfined, soi cowboy will definitly loss at least 1/4 customers. so telling you some of those attractive coyote dancers can barfined, is a way to keep you buying drinks in bar. and yes someone may take coyote out of bar, but most ones are only paid a padded bill and go home alone

  13. LR says:

    avoid these bars if you are a gogo lover, they are deja vu, kiss, spicy girls, in 3 days i bought over 10000 baht drink in kiss bar for a so called coyote and mamasan who told me barfine a coyote in kiss bar is 5000 (after midnight will down to 2500)and ST is 3000, and after i am going to pay the barfine, shey will tell you that the girl you’ld like to pick can not be barfined. totally a scam

  14. John says:

    Sorry, forgot to add that the GoGo short time price has been a standard 2000 Bhat for approx 10 years now. Look at all those so called expert websites that quote between 1000 Bhat and up to 2500 Bhat for GoGo short time, dependant upon a girl,s attractiveness. Nonsense. 1000 Bhat is the standard price for a girl from a beer bar. That used to be for all night but increasingly is only for an hour. I find it quite amasing that all these expert websites never seem to mention the girls restrictive practises, which is almost universal, with the exact same quoted responses from the girls upon asking. Other increasing trends over the years are that Thais are getting far more physically well built, to put it politely. Also noticed very recently around Nana an influx of those idiots dressed as Turks stirring icecream with a metal stick as you find in Walking Street, Pattaya.

  15. John says:

    One thing that I find rather odd is that there are websites, including Stickman, by recollection, that talk some nonsense about the prices of girls from AGoGo. You will see many websites stating that short time prices vary between 1500 Bhat to around 2500. This is complete nonsense. GoGo short time prices for almost all GoGo bars has been 2000 Bhat, for Bangkok and Pattaya, irrespective of the girl,s looks, or what bar. The other dubious thing about these so called expert websites is the lack of understanding of the widespread restricted practices of Thai girls. You can ask 100 girls one after the other for naughty entrance fun, and the answer will be the exact same, no, never, me no like, you look for Ladyboy. Increasing scams are; the most attractive girls who you buy a drink for only to be told that they do not go on bar fines ( has been especially bad in Soi Cowboy over he last few years ) and crazy bar fines. In Walking street Pattaya there are now bar fines of 1500 quoted. Last night n Soi Cowboy I got quoted a bar fine of 3000 Bhat!

  16. Dean says:

    Interestingly something similar happened to me in Istanbul. Bill padding is so common, yet hard to prove (or challenge) . It upset me greatly.

  17. Alan says:

    Songkran 2013 Sahara still ripping people off, happy new year (ha ha ha). Lying, robbing scumbags. Ruined the evening. One Gin tonic cost me 960 baht, aggression pursues any questioning of the bill. All that can be done is make other people aware of the rip off bars.

  18. Patpong has been pretty impacted by the nightmarket (hard to get around), and 2nd floor bars are lengendary rip-offs. You’d have more fun, we think, on Soi Cowboy (stay away from rip-off bars we mentioned) or Nana Entertainment Plaza. Nana Plaza (Sukhumvit Soi 4) is pretty unique, and full of beer bars, lady bars, ladyboy bars, you name it. Pretty safe, and if you don’t like one, just move next door to another.

  19. Shadow says:

    Thanks for the heads up.

    My wife and I are traveling back to Bangkok in a weeks time and would like to enjoy the nightlife at patpong… Any tips or bars you’d recommend?


  20. WeiLo says:

    I’m not an expert when it comes to this. Didn’t even know this was possible. Useful read, appreciate your posting this.

  21. Cano says:

    You pointed roughly finicky subject matter. These tips are very beneficial.

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