I’ve seen two extremes (and all in between) of how visitors view and act towards their own safety in Thailand. There’s the over safety conscious backpacker arriving in Bangkok with everything strapped and locked to his body, not trusting talking to a soul, just in case someone is out to scam them.
The guy swaying down Soi Nana at 2am or later – lagging drunk with a wallet hanging out his pocket and not quite 100% (or even near 50%) compos mentis.
I’ve been in both situations and mindsets as above and now aim for somewhere in between. That’s only two examples (there are many more).
How Safe Is Thailand?
The safety, danger and annoyances in Thailand depends on where you are visiting in the country, what you’re doing (i.e., using transport, drinking and partying, on a boat trip or buying goods – services etc.). Some aspects of Thailand seem safer than in other countries while some are not (transport and roads for example).
If most of us behave and use our common sense as we do back in our home countries then we’re likely to have a great experience. Of course, as with anything and anywhere there are the unfortunate incidents without the victim making any cause for an incident to occur.
Tragic Events and Concerns
Bombings: Recent major tragedies that have involved tourists are the bombings (Aug 2016) in Hua Hin, Phuket, Surat Thani, Phang Na and Trang. There was also the Erawan bombing in Bangkok in 2015 that killed tourists and Thai people. What is the threat of terrorism in Thailand? I don’t want to be the judge of that (please check you’re own countries government websites advice), although it seems globally there is a threat and unfortunately it happens without warning.
Other incidents: In 2014 there was the killing of the young British couple on Koh Tao Island and this year 2016 a British family were attacked. While there is no justification for these horrendous incidents I am not aware of this type of thing happening frequently.
Most of the incidents I read about in the news involving drugging, attacks, and robbery are at the major tourist destinations, including Koh Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and of course Pattaya.
South of Thailand: For some years there has been political issues and conflicts in the deep south of Thailand, close to the Malaysian border. Pattani (Patani), Yala (Jala) and Narathiwat are the provinces tourists are advised not to visit.
Violence and Theft
I have found Thailand very safe (first visited in 2008 and lived here since 2011) and safer than places I have lived and been in the UK when it comes to random violence or theft. Of course this stuff happens in Thailand and it happens everywhere in the world, more so in some places and less in others.
Most incidents I read about, have seen and experienced, have been alcohol related (alcohol or drinking places are involved). Some of us can get too relaxed here and forget we are in a foreign land. There are also those that take advantage of foreigners and then there are aggressive and loud foreigners that treat Thailand and its people disrespectfully (what is normal in the west can be seen as very impolite here).
We must remember when we are staying in or visiting tourist areas that many Thai people come to work there to earn a living (likely from the north-east and/or villages), so we are their customers and of course this means we will encounter sincere and extremely polite workers and the opposite.
To be fair I have only experienced minor issues, such as taxi drivers not putting the meter on or taking me to an interesting establishment displaying very attractive ladies, rather than the place I wanted to go. And, bills in bars that are not quite correct!
Others have experienced worse issues than me when it comes to bars, gogo-bars, street bars etc., but I do believe if we are a bit smart we can avoid or resolve most issues, even if walking away with a few less baht in our pocket is the best solution. Most guys I know who are fairly sensible, never have issues and have a great time.
Tip: Do not lose your cool. While in our home countries it’s normal for someone to rant and rave loudly about a situation that is unfair, it’s not so in Thailand. Thai people rarely cause a conflict with foreigners, but they seriously do not like to lose face and if you get into a loud argument it’s likely you will see other Thai’s gather to support the Thai person from what looks like an aggressive Farang (foreigner).
Getting your point of view across who is wrong or right is not valid in this situation, it’s better to resolve the matter.
Transport and Roads
Thailand and especially Bangkok does not have the safest roads I have seen, far from it, it’s a kind of organised mayhem. According to World Atlas, Thailand is second in the world for the highest death rates (scary).
On a positive note, Thailand has so many modes of transport, rent or ride a bike/motorbike, tuk tuk – “sam lor” (3 wheeled transport), song toew (2 sided seats small truck), buses, BTS and MRT (Bangkok), taxis and motorbike taxis, cars and hiring cars (cheap), minivans, boats, trains and many flights up and down the country.
Pedestrian – Traveling by foot in Thailand, especially in Bangkok requires paying a lot of attention. While in Thailand there is a left hand side and right for drivers, motorbikes tend to use any side including the pavement. For example, you’re about to cross the road and look to the right to see if your side is clear and right for the other side, then a motorbike comes straight in front of you the wrong way (watch all directions crossing).
The pavements are not quite what the westerner walks on back home and disabled access is non-existent. Be careful walking on drains and just mind your step, is the best advice. Thailand is still a developing country, so I imagine in years to come these kind of issues will develop and improve.
The Law and Drugs
My best advice regarding taking drugs of any kind is just don’t do it. If you’re an addict then it might be better to not stay in Thailand. The penalties can be too sever to risk it.
Police will not usually bother westerners and visitors unless you’re doing something unlawful and if you do get into an minor issue it’s likely to be dealt with an on the spot fine (use your politeness skills).
Dealing with legal matters in Thailand is not going to be the same as dealing with issues in the west. I will not go into issues westerners experience here or even Thais, but there is a hell of a lot to read up on if you search the net, if it’s of interest to you.
Again, I can only go by my own and friends experiences and not the blog posts or facebook feed stories. I have only met people that have had to pay small fines for motoring offenses and no helmet myself and a fine for putting out a cigarette in Bangkok (there was signs on the street in Phrom Phong so I was in the wrong).
There is a Tourist police division in Thailand (tel: 1155). They are said to be able to act as as an intermediary with the Thai police (General Emergency 191) but have very limited powers.
Regarding all issues in Thailand, I try and keep in mind that it’s still a developing country and is not what I expect in the UK or experience.
Hotels, Apartments, Condos and House Safety
The normal safety precautions apply in accommodation in Thailand as most places in the world. Here are a few tips…
- Valuables: Keep valuables in a safe if possible or even in the hotels safe. While I’m sure most staff are trust worthy there could be a bad apple among them, so it’s better to also keep valuables away from room cleaners etc.
- Doors: Keep your door locked when leaving and when you’re inside your apartment, condo or hotel. Also, lock your balcony door, even while sleeping (only on the first few floors of course). I have experienced a guy climbing up an apartment building we stayed In wearing a balaclava (these guys are like spiderman…see them working on the condos at extreme heights?). If you plan to or live in a house (we do now) asses the security (doors, windows and gate) ..and make it as secure as possible (house burglaries happen for sure).
- Met a nice girl in the bar: Make sure your valuables are locked up if you plan on bringing a girl back from a bar you’ve just met. It’s not that uncommon for her and a persons valuables to be missing in the morning (have met someone that had this happen and heard the many stories). Usually drunkenness is involved.
- Osmosis water machines: Most apartments have an osmosis water machine or close to the apartment. I have and would still use them, but i would check to see how often they are serviced and cleaned. I’m sure if they’re serviced and the filters are cleaned regularly they are fine.
The obvious that I am sure some people don’t do – is get insurance. I have personal experience in Thailand of benefiting from having insurance…a 700’000 baht hospital bill (£15’000). Worth getting insured? I think so!
Mosquitoes: In the main cities and areas of Thailand there is no risk of contracting malaria, however, other remote areas close to borders and hillside areas do pose a risk. There is also risk of dengue fever and at the moment there is a small risk of contracting the zika virus (Sept 2016). It’s best to research before you travel to get the latest information from news reports sites.
Mozzy bites are a huge annoyance for many, including me. Covering up, using repellent, mosquito nets, electronic mosquito tennis bats and anything else that can prevent you from getting bitten have to be used.
Everything, from how you’re dealt by law, safety or transport, customs and culture is quite different from the west and has to be adhered to. It’s most definitely worth being in the know and doing you’re research to prevent problems rather than trying to fix an issue after.
Most people that use common sense towards their own safety in Thailand have no problems or minor issues which are resolved easily (even if not resolved how it would be in the west). Keep in mind Thailand is still a developing country, which helps me a lot. And, check you’re own countries government and news sites for up-to-date information.