When tourists come to Thailand, they often worry about safety. Frankly, Thailand is one of the safest countries in the world and the safest country I’ve ever lived in (including the UK and the good old USA). But, like in any other country, some dangers are lurking so it pays to be careful. If you are even slightly worried about safety in Thailand, take heed of these ten tips on how to stay safe in Thailand and, bar any unfortunate accidents, you’ll have a fabulous vacation.
10. Don’t Cram Too Many People Into a Tuk-Tuk – Most tourists in Thailand take a tuk-tuk at least once. A tuk-tuk is a motorized rickshaw on 3 wheels and, while fun, they can also be dangerous. To make sure your ride in a tuk-tuk is interesting and not hospital-admitting, don’t put more than 2-3 people in a tuk-tuk and, that way, nobody will fall out of the side.
9. Don’t Walk in Tall Grass or Stick Your Hand in Covered Places – Thailand has more than its fair share of poisonous snakes. Don’t walk in tall grass and don’t put your hand anywhere that’s covered – that includes holes in the ground, covered bowls, swimming pool drains – literally anywhere a snake might hide. A couple of hundred people every year die of snake bites in Thailand and many thousands have serious injuries. Look where you’re walking when you walk and watch where you put your hands, so nothing comes out of the darkness and nabs you.
8. Don’t Swim in Rivers or Streams – The locals will swim in rivers and streams and, especially if you’re out of Bangkok, you might have the opportunity to do so. Don’t. There are snakes in the water, fish that bite and any other number of weird creepy crawlies. Plus, in many places, the water isn’t very clean and dengue fever is rife in Thailand too.
7. Drink Bottled Water and Avoid Ice – Another great safety tip for Thailand is to make sure you drink bottled water. Honestly, I’ve drunk tap water since I moved here and, frankly, it’s cleaner than my water was back in America. But, as a tourist on holiday, you don’t want to take the chance of getting sick so drink bottled water instead. And at less than 14 cents a bottle, it’s hardly going to break the bank. You can also safely drink fruit juice, fruit shakes, coffee and tea and herbal drinks on the street – just avoid the ice if you’re worried (although, in six years in Thailand I’ve never become sick from any drink I’ve had – well beer, but that’s a different story….).
6. Stay Away From the Deep South of Thailand – Southern Thailand has had a problem with extremist Muslims for years. Bombs go off weekly and shootings are common place. Visiting places in the south like Hat Yai, Yala or Songkhla isn’t recommended, not if you’d rather not in the middle of a bomb blast. The rest of Thailand is amazingly safe, but not the deepest southern regions.
5. Be Careful With Ladies of the Night – There are hundreds of instances every year in Thailand of foreigner men taking a bar girl back to their room only to wake up several hours later with all their money, passport and other valuables, and the girl, gone. The girl has drugged the john, and disappeared with all his loot. Don’t accept drinks or food from girls you meet in bars, and don’t take them back to your hotel. There are hourly hotels the girls know about that you can use, rather than let her know where you’re staying. If you must be a sexpat, at least have some common sense about it.
4. Don’t Do Drugs – Seriously, don’t do drugs, don’t buy drugs, don’t go anywhere near drugs in Thailand. Thai anti-drug laws are very strict and there are already hundreds of westerners locked up in Thai jails for a fair few years. This year, Thai police are clamping down even more with huge parties like the Full Moon Parties in Koh Pha Ngan now being the target of police anti-drug squads. One whiff of pot and you could be hauled off for a nice long time.
3. Be Careful of the Elephants – Just about every tourist rides an elephant in Thailand, and so you should, it’s fun. Just make sure, to stay safe, you follow exactly what the mahout (trainer/owner) tells you to do, and you should be fine. Be warned though, elephants even when trained are still wild animals, and have been known to suddenly lose it and go charging off into town. Just make sure you’re not on the back of one if it happens. Jump.
2. Avoid the Scams – Thailand, like any country, has its scams. If anyone comes up to you being too friendly (unless it’s me, and I’m happy to give you directions or help with the sky train!), or offers you something that sounds too good to be true, be wary. Don’t go looking at gem stores with tuk-tuk drivers (they’re never a good deal, they’re always a rip off) and, if you go to the Grand Palace and some helpful Thai tells you it’s closed, ignore them, it’s not.
1. If the Sea Disappears, Run – Not meaning to make light of a terrible situation, but more than 10,000 people died in Thailand from the tsunami that hit half the world. If you’re on a Thai beach, always keep a close eye on the ocean and if it suddenly disappears, run inland and onto higher ground, really really fast.
Thailand is, in my book, the safest country in the world. Follow these ten short safety tips though and it will be even safer. And be warned, Thai people are very very friendly – genuinely. So, if a Thai person is being nice to you, 99.9% of the time there’s no ulterior motive. Just watch out for the .1%, and you’ll be just fine.