Thailand is a captivating country that offers a rich cultural experience and stunning natural landscapes. From vibrant cities to idyllic beaches, Thailand has something for everyone. However, like any other destination, it’s important to stay informed about potential risks and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. In this article, we’ll provide you with essential travel advice and safety tips for your visit to Thailand.
Terrorism: Stay Aware of Your Surroundings
Thailand, like many other countries, faces a global threat of terrorism. It is essential to remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times. The UK Counter Terrorism Police offers information and advice on how to stay safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Take steps to reduce your risk from terrorism while traveling in Thailand.
Terrorist attacks could occur anywhere in Thailand, so it is important to stay alert. Be mindful that attacks may target security forces, government offices, hotels, shops, supermarkets, and transport infrastructure. Recent attacks include small explosions in Bangkok Satun City and Phatthalung province in 2019, as well as a series of small explosions on Samila beach in Songkhla City in 2018.
Political Situation: Avoid Protests and Gatherings
Thailand’s political situation can be unpredictable and has resulted in periods of civil and political unrest. While a general election took place in May, the process of forming a government is ongoing. It is advisable to avoid protests, political gatherings, demonstrations, and marches to ensure your safety.
Crime: Protect Yourself and Your Belongings
Crime can occur in any destination, and Thailand is no exception. Here are some important safety tips to protect yourself and your belongings:
Police in Thailand may ask to check your passport, so always carry it with you to avoid any inconvenience or potential arrest.
Reporting a Crime
If you become a victim of a crime in Thailand, it is crucial to report it to the Thai police before leaving the country. Failure to do so may result in your case not being investigated.
Protecting Your Belongings
To minimize the risk of theft, be aware of pickpockets and bag snatchers, especially thieves on motorbikes. Take caution when traveling in open transport like tut-tuts and keep your valuables secure and out of sight. Avoid sleeping on buses and trains, as there have been incidents of items being taken from bags while passengers are asleep.
Avoid handing over your passport as a guarantee to businesses such as motorcycle or jet ski rentals, as some companies may hold on to passports against claimed damages.
Violent Crime and Sexual Assault
While violent crime involving tourists is relatively rare in Thailand, it is still important to exercise caution. Take care when traveling in unfamiliar areas, particularly at night, and avoid walking alone in isolated areas.
Sexual assaults and unprovoked attacks can occur in tourist areas across Thailand, especially during full moon parties or near bars late at night. Be cautious and vigilant in these situations.
Drink Spiking and Alcohol Awareness
Drink spiking and drug-assisted sexual assault can happen in tourist areas. To protect yourself, do not leave your drinks unattended or accept drinks from strangers.
It’s important to be drink aware when consuming alcohol in Thailand, as drinks served in bars may be stronger than those in the UK. Excessive alcohol consumption can make you more vulnerable to accidents, injuries, robbery, and assaults.
Scams and Passport Security
Be cautious of credit card fraud and protect your PIN. Incidents of ATM skimming have been reported, so use ATMs located in banks and be mindful of your surroundings during transactions.
Be wary of job offers that seem too good to be true, as some scams involve promising high-paying jobs that turn out to be illegal transportation to neighboring countries. These scams can lead to the confiscation of passports, poor living conditions, and coercion into illegal activities.
Detention facilities in Thailand have harsh conditions with limited access to healthcare. It is important to exercise caution and adhere to the law to avoid any legal issues.
Laws, Cultural Differences, and Monarchy Criticism
Make sure to familiarize yourself with the differences between UK and Thai law, as well as local customs. Criticizing the Thai monarchy (lèse-majesté) is illegal and can carry substantial jail sentences. Posting images on social media that depict people drinking alcohol or wearing inappropriate clothing may also be illegal.
Smoking and e-cigarette use in public places are prohibited, and violations can result in fines or imprisonment. Thailand has strict laws against drug use, possession, and trafficking. Possessing even small quantities of illegal substances can lead to heavy fines or imprisonment, and possessing Class A drugs can result in the death penalty. However, private recreational use of cannabis is legal if the THC content is below 0.2% by weight. Always check with local authorities if you have any doubts.
LGBT+ Travelers, Wildlife, and Property Scams
Thailand is generally considered a safe place for LGBT+ travelers. However, it’s essential to be aware that Thailand does not legally recognize same-sex marriages.
Buying property in Thailand can be complicated, so it’s advisable to understand local laws and consult a lawyer before making any financial commitments to avoid falling victim to property scams.
Outdoor Activities: Be Mindful of Risks
Thailand offers a range of outdoor activities, but it’s important to be mindful of potential risks. Here are some safety considerations:
When participating in elephant treks, ensure you choose a reliable and licensed tour guide. Mistreatment of elephants or improper handling can pose serious risks. British nationals have been seriously injured or killed due to handlers losing control of elephants.
When swimming off coastal areas, especially during monsoon season, be cautious of riptides. Follow warning signs and only swim from approved beaches with flags. Be aware that jellyfish can swim close to the shore, particularly during the rainy season, and their stings can be fatal. Seek advice from hotel management and dive centers.
Exercise caution when swimming, diving, kayaking, or white water rafting in rivers or near waterfalls, especially during the rainy season, as currents can be extremely strong.
Check the credentials of diving schools and rescue services before diving. If you have no previous diving experience, ask the dive operator to explain the cover they offer and ensure that safety equipment is available on the boat. Check their emergency plans, including their ability to evacuate divers to the nearest hyperbaric chamber if needed.
Transport Risks: Road Safety and Sea Travel
Thailand has a high number of road traffic accidents, particularly involving motorcycles. If you plan to drive in Thailand, ensure you have a Thai driving license or, if you already hold a UK license, an International Driving Permit. Driving without a valid license could invalidate your travel insurance.
When renting cars or motorcycles, make sure you are covered by your travel insurance and carefully review the lease agreement. Do not hand over your passport as a guarantee when renting a motorcycle or scooter. Remember to always wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, as it is required by law.
When traveling by sea, be cautious of boats that may be overloaded, poorly maintained, or affected by rough seas, especially during monsoon season. Fatalities, including those involving British nationals, have occurred due to these factors.
Traveling with Limited Mobility, Extreme Weather, and Natural Disasters
Thailand’s infrastructure may present challenges for travelers with limited mobility due to uneven paving, obstacles, and a lack of facilities such as lifts and ramps. Public transport systems and many taxis have limited wheelchair accessibility. Make sure to plan ahead and be aware of these limitations.
During the rainy season (May to October, or November to March in Koh Samui and the southeast), heavy storms can cause flooding and landslides. Lakes, caves, and waterfalls are particularly susceptible to dangerous flash flooding. Stay informed about weather warnings from the Thai Meteorological Department.
Earthquakes and tremors can occur in Northern Thailand. Familiarize yourself with safety measures recommended by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency for earthquake situations.
Enjoying Thailand Safely
Thailand offers an incredible travel experience, but it’s crucial to prioritize your safety and well-being. By staying informed about potential risks, following safety precautions, and being respectful of local laws and customs, you can have a memorable and enjoyable trip to this beautiful country.
For more information and assistance during your trip, refer to the British Embassy in Bangkok and visit their website for valuable resources. Enjoy your time exploring Thailand and embrace the unique culture and experiences it has to offer!