Staying safe in Thailand

4 minute read

What are the common security risks in Thailand?

Militant Islam in South Thailand

Islamic insurgency is largely centred in the deep South, below the party islands and both popular beach towns, Phuket and Krabi. Attacks occur in the Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat provinces, however in recent years there have been several bombings beyond these regions.

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Taking a map from the CloseCircle platform, you can see the regions most vulnerable to Islamic insurgency (e.g Yala) are located in the Deep South of Thailand. The party islands are located to the North, off the coast of Surat Thani.

Petty and opportunistic crime

Unfortunately petty crime is endemic across Southeast Asia, where some unscrupulous locals see Western travellers as a cash cow to be exploited.

If booking tours or trips through one of the many agencies that you’ll find in the major cities, don’t let people take your debit/credit card or passport out of the room when trying to pay. This can result in your card or passport being cloned and details exploited on the black market, so be wary.

Con artists are also rife and pose as tour guides, drivers, gemstone dealers and anything else that will encourage you to part with extra cash. No, you’re not being taken on a special tour, you’re being taken to all the places offering commission to drivers willing to ferry unsuspecting tourists to shady shops.

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Road accidents are common in Thailand, so take extra care when driving or trying to cross the road.

Road accidents

Thailand has the second highest road-fatality rate in the world according to the World Health Organisation, so it’s essential to always check both ways before crossing the road. This is especially important during rush hour, when cars, mopeds and Tuk-Tuks swarm like insects and pay little attention to what is going on around them.

Flooding

The rainy season runs from May to October across most of Thailand, during which you can almost set your watch by the daily storms. Rainfall appears in intense bursts that can last from minutes to hours, often accompanied by thunder and lightning, and can lead to rapid flooding especially in the centre of town.

Waiting for flooding to subside before normal life can resume is commonplace in Bangkok during the rainy season.

Lack of healthcare in rural communities

Decent health care is readily available in major cities, but in more remote communities you may find facilities and supplies limited. If you plan on spending time in rural areas of Thailand, i.e. not in and around Bangkok, Chang Mai and the party islands, then you may struggle to find health facilities of a good standard if you need them.

Likewise, rural infrastructure is poor, so it can be a challenge to reach nearby health facilities in certain areas, putting you at more risk if you need serious help.

The lack of quality healthcare in rural areas of means that you shouldn’t travel without travel insurance that includes emergency medical assistance as part of your policy. This will cover you in case you do hurt yourself or fall sick in a more remote region.

Illness

The most common ailment travellers face in Thailand is diarrhoea, especially if you’re embracing the Thai diet. Try to carry hand-sanitizing gel where possible to keep hands clean and try to avoid eating too much seafood in cities not located near the sea – sometimes fishy foods can sit for days before finally being served.

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Preparing to stay safe ahead of your trip

Injections and checks

Make sure you get the correct vaccinations when travelling to Thailand in order to avoid infection. At a minimum you’ll need vaccinating for Yellow Fever, Dengue fever and Chikungunya fever. You should take anti-malarial tablets or medication with you too.

Get a bum bag or lightweight backpack

A bum bag can be exceptionally useful when travelling overseas – not only does it keep all of your valuables in one place, but you can easily wear it out of sight under your clothes. You can even buy bum bags that have a metal cord in the strap that prevents them from being cut off of you.

A lightweight backpack can also be worn on your front rather than your back, so you can keep your valuables in it and know they’re safe also.

Check the weather

If you can travel outside of the rainy season then you’ll more than likely avoid the associated infrastructure impacts and daily disruptions that arise from flooding. CloseCircle members can check the most up to date travel advice via their app or online account.

Subscribe to CloseCircle

Think of CloseCircle as your virtual bodyguard while travelling the world. With an annual subscription you’ll get access to global travel information and advice, real time alerts for any nearby hazards and a direct SOS line to our team if you find yourself in a crisis.

If you download the CloseCircle app, you can even check in so your loved ones back home can see where you’ve been travelling and know you’re safe.

For more safety tips, check out our Ultimate Guide to Travelling Safely where we explain what to do before, during and after a security situation arises.

Staying safe in Thailand

Be comfortable being the odd one out

Many people in rural SE Asia don’t see strangers often, especially those from a different country. You may find yourself being stared at by inquisitive locals or even asked to pose for a photo. This is just part and parcel of travelling the world and visiting new cultures, so unless a situation is making you feel particularly uncomfortable then you should be safe as long as you remain aware of your surroundings. However if you do feel uncomfortable – especially if you are a solo or female traveller – then trust your instincts and leave…

Respect local customs

They may take a little while to get used to and may require a little research in advance but it’s definitely advisable to at least try and get to know the local customs in Thailand before travelling. Female travellers will need to cover themselves up if visiting temples, as will male travellers in shorts or vests.

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It’s wise to read up on Thai customs so as to not inadvertently offend any locals when visiting temples or places of interest.

Learn a few basic phrases

Locals will take more of a liking to you and be more respectful if you demonstrate a willingness to engage in their own language. You don’t need to be fluent, but learning how to say ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ can make a positive impression.

Be aware that in Thailand the speaker’s sex affects how words are pronounced. If you’re male then you’ll usually end phrases with a short sharp sound, whereas for females it is more of a drawn out sound. We’ve highlighted this for you below:

  • Hello = sah wah dee kab! (for males) or sah wah dee khaa (for females)
  • Goodbye = sah wah dee kab! / khaa
  • Thank you = kob khun kab! / khaa
  • Please = gah ru nah

Keep your valuables safe

The best ways of keeping your valuables safe are to either keep them on you in a bumbag or backpack that you don’t let out of your sight, or in a hotel/hostel safe if one is available. Don’t flaunt your valuables and wealth as this will simply make you a target for any opportunists nearby. If you do need to use your phone or any other piece of pricey tech then it’s best to be discreet while doing so.

Be smart, stay safe

To find the best and safest locations to visit, restaurants to eat in or places to stay, we recommend talking to other travellers you meet along the way, asking the people working at your hostel or using a website like TripAdvisor.

Take precautions with local transport

Always be wary when travelling on paid or public transport in SE Asia. There are many unscrupulous taxi or Tuk-Tuk drivers who will charge you a fortune to take you where you want to go, only to drop you off 10 meters down the road. Always agree a fee up front or ask to be put ‘on meter’ and make sure the meter is visible, otherwise you leave yourself open to being charged whatever the driver feels like.

When using public transport, always buy tickets from the train station where possible, or through a tour guide if not. I’ve been caught in the situation where a random person spots you looking a little lost and then tries to barter you onto the train by paying off the guards – a scam where both parties split the cash. Don’t fall for it – just keep asking for the ticket desk until you find it.

Be firm yet polite with unwanted attention

A good rule of thumb this – no matter wherever you are, if a situation or invitation doesn’t sit right with you and makes you feel uncomfortable then say ‘no thank you’ firmly and politely. People may protest and encourage you to accept, but you don’t have to, simply repeat your ‘no thank you’ firmly and politely. This is especially true for solo female travellers who may draw more attention than other types of traveller and have to fend off unwanted attention. A bonus tip for female travellers is to wear a wedding ring (even if it’s a fake) as this can help reduce unwanted male attention.

Conclusion: Safe Travels in Thailand

While Thailand might be safer than a lot of destinations popular with millennial travellers, there are still things you need to watch out for. Your two most pressing concerns should be avoiding getting sick and avoiding getting robbed or scammed. Those are your two big worries and both are easily remedied with a bit of forward planning.

For more travel safe advice, get in touch with the CloseCircle team today at gapyearenquiries@closecircle.com.

You can read more about the benefits of becoming a CloseCircle member here.

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