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Best not to write negative hotel reviews in Thailand, here’s why

Reception desk hotel Thailand

Hotel reviews play a significant role in assisting fellow travellers by providing valuable insights before they finally select, and pay for, their next accommodation. But there are certain places where exercising caution and refraining from sharing negative feedback may be the wiser choice. Repercussions can be severe.

Thailand, for example, has a number of unhappy endings for enthusiastic critics who have vented their complaints on revue sites like TripAdvisor.

We’ve all experienced it at some point… an impolite receptionist, appliances that don’t work, dirty linen or the low-tide in your wine glass. But the intention behind expressing our grievances goes beyond settling a personal score. Revenge reviews are best avoided in Thailand.

“Revenge is a dish better served cold.”

Ah yes… hotel reviews. Before you unleash your righteous indignation and frustrations on the innocent keyboard, it’s important to consider the potential consequences in a country like Thailand. Posting a negative review could land you in trouble. Even legal charges and a fine.

This issue recently sparked a controversial discussion on Reddit. A user posted a thread with the claim…

“Thailand not allowing bad reviews…”

The post quickly caught the attention of Reddit’s r/travel community, leading to an influx of discussions and opinions, amassing 2.4k upvotes and attracting 446 comments (as of Wednesday morning). Among these comments, several travellers shared their own experiences of providing negative feedback and how it backfired on them.

‘luckyjohny’ advised against writing a bad review until after checking out. They stated, “Just in general, you shouldn’t write a bad review until after you leave.” We’d agree on that one.

But another user disagreed saying that leaving a review while still at the hotel can bring attention to the issue and expedite its resolution.

“I once left a bad review while still there. It was a Disney property, and I was going to be there for a few more days. Contacting the front desk didn’t resolve anything, but posting the review certainly did.”

But Disneyland isn’t in Thailand. In Thailand, that negative review could wind you up chatting to police and even being charged with defamation under Thailand’s draconian libel laws.

Another user cautioned against applying the same strategy in Thailand, emphasising that while it might work well at large hotel chains in the US or other western countries, it could lead to trouble in Thailand.

“A large company like Disney is more likely to handle issues appropriately. There’s no chance the Hilton/Marriott, etc., would respond similarly in Thailand. But at a small, independent hotel? You’re treading on thin ice.”

And another Reddit post…

“I was working at a small hotel abroad last month, and when a guest threatened to leave a bad review (which he did with a rating of 1/10, while almost every other rating that month was 10/10), my manager suggested physically assaulting him and his friend with a bat.”

One Reddit user shed light on Thailand’s strict defamation laws.

“Thailand has ridiculous defamation laws. It’s all about not losing face, even if what you are saying is true.”

Correct. Thais will generally take criticism in a different way that you’d expect. It can often be seen as confrontational and a personal attack on them. Cultural misunderstanding 1.01.

Generally, it’s crucial to exercise caution when leaving hotel reviews in Thailand. Defamation is considered a criminal offense in the country and can lead to imprisonment for up to two years, along with a fine of 200,000 baht.

Rights groups have long criticized Thailand’s draconian defamation law, highlighting how it has been misused to silence activists and journalists. Unlike many other countries, truth cannot be automatically considered a defense.

Thailand’s stringent defamation laws have made headlines before. In October 2020, a US expat staying in Koh Chang narrowly escaped jail after posting a series of negative hotel reviews, which escalated from a dispute over a corkage fee. Again… a cultural misunderstanding.

It’s essential to exercise caution when it comes to hotel reviews in Thailand. The country’s strict defamation laws leave little room for leniency, and individuals should be aware of the potential consequences before posting negative feedback.

Phuket-GO would recommend that, if you have a gripe about service or standards in your hotel, make your way to reception, state your case politely, SMILE while you are doing so, let the staff respond and try and fix the situation, then take it from there.

We can promise you that the response will be 1000 times better than tapping out an angry review.

If you’re not happy with the response of staff and hotel management, perhaps delay your writing skills on TripAdvisor until you leave the hotel, or the country.

As we say in Thailand… TIT, This Is Thailand. Some things we may not understand but we should acknowledge the way  things are done in the Land of Smiles.


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