Overall, Thailand is a safe nation in which to travel.  Physical attacks and other crimes against "the person" are far less likely than in many other "developed" nations.  Just as you need to be aware of your surroundings and personal safety when out and about in your home country, you need to keep your wits about you in Thailand as well.  The following represents the best advice in regard to many aspects of personal safety and security to be considered during your time in the Kingdom.  Be mindful of this advice and it may help reduce an already low probability of encountering any trouble.

When considering your personal safety "common sense precautions" still reign supreme - just  like anywhere else.

GENERAL ADVICE and PERSONAL SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS

 

Accommodation:   When you first check-in to your room, do a quick security and safety inspection.  Does the "peep" hole work?  Is the bolt lock or safety chain working?  Do you know where and how far away the emergency exit(s) are?  Is there a smoke alarm?  Do any windows that open to the outside have a functional locking mechanism?

Do not leave valuables in your room.  It is not good enough simply to lock (or hide) valuable items and money in your suitcase.  Passports, cash, cameras, and so on should always be kept secured either in the room safe provided, or in the main hotel safety box usually available at hotel reception.  Even during a short absence from the room for breakfast lock up or carry anything you can't afford to lose.  Keep your door locked at ALL times and make use of the spy-hole and safety door chain before opening the door to anyone.

Most hotels offer business cards written in both Thai and English.  Keep one with you in the event that you can't clearly communicate your destination to a taxi driver.  If your hotel only has cards in English, ask a staff member to write the name, address and phone numbers in the Thai language on a card for you.

Beaches and Swimming:  It is not advisable to frequent deserted beach areas.  You should never put yourself in a position where you can't be seen or heard by others should an emergency arise or you need assistance.  Nude and topless bathing are frowned upon in Thailand, and showing a lack of modesty could unfortunately be misinterpreted by others as a statement of your own level of morality and intentions -- be aware of your dress.  When you are in more remote or very quiet areas, you should consider your options for seeking assistance should an unlikely event like a robbery or assault occur or you become injured.

Most Thai beaches do NOT have lifeguard protection.  Be aware of posted signs indicating no swimming areas, areas of rip current, areas of undertow and where swimming is otherwise dangerous.  Of course, you should NEVER swim alone.

Late night walks on poorly or dimly lit and isolated beaches are also not a good idea.  In the busier areas you may encounter other nuisances such as drunks, prostitutes, thieves, muggers etc. 

Sunscreen:  Never underestimate the power of the Thai sun.  Summer or winter overexposure will burn you badly and do irreparable damage to your skin.  Between the hours of 10am and 3pm UV rays (the ultraviolet rays that give skin damage or worse) are at their strongest.

Wear a hat, wear wrap type sunglasses with EPF10 (eye protection factor), wear a strong SPF factor water-resistant sunscreen.  Reduce your exposure to the sun to short bursts.  Permanent skin damage starts to occur after 15 minutes.  The tropical sun is not to be trifled with, do not underestimate it.

Drink Water:  Keep yourself hydrated at all times, safe bottled drinking water is available everywhere, it's cold and it's cheap.  Carry a bottle of water with you at all times, don't underestimate the risks of dehydration.

Taxis:  Bangkok taxis are a very safe mode of transport and operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Presenting yourself with an air of confidence, knowing that the meter must start at THB35 and be prepared to get out and take another taxi if not.  Don't engage the driver in unnecessary conversation.  If needed, repeat your destination confidently, clearly, slowly, and politely.  Don't take taxis parked by hotels or tourist attractions, there are so many that it is far better to flag down a passing taxi. 

*Note for women:  Nearly all taxi drivers are men.  If you feel more comfortable with a female driver you may wish to seek out a service that supplies them.

Women who like to dress-up in an overtly-sexual manner for those big nights out, should be aware that unfortunately this may be misinterpreted by some as a statement of your own level of morality and intentions.  In the circumstance where you need to catch a taxi home late at night by yourself, the following advice was offered on the Thai forum by a female member:

"Don't wear anything too sexy, Thai men do like to stare at us foreigners, and so just wear modest clothing.  I always carry a button shirt to throw on if I'm going to be catching a cab.  Don't talk to them if you can help it, just be sharp and direct with your words, dont UMm and Ahh with them.  If you know where you want to go just tell them clearly and loudly, then sit back and if they ask any questions pretend you don't understand."

Tuk-Tuk:  It's part of the Thai experience to try a tuk-tuk at least once, however as a general rule, it's best to avoid them as a primary means of transportation.  If you must use a tuk-tuk, unlike a taxi, you have to negotiate the fare to your destination first, and don't pay until your safe arrival.  Do not let them take you to tailors, gem stores, or anywhere else that you didn't ask to go.  Do not let them talk you into sightseeing, and other "special" sites.

Eating out:  To avoid a "surprise" bill, avoid any restaurant or bar that doesn't clearly display or otherwise quote their prices.  It is perfectly ok to ask a street vendor or other merchant "how much" before ordering.  Once you've consumed it, you've bought it - so be aware of the prices before hand.

Day/Back Packs - Handbags - Shoulder Bags:  There have been incidents of bag snatchers on motorbikes.  Keep your bag clutched tightly and securely to your side when walking.  In crowded conditions, consider wearing your day-pack in front of you instead of on your back.  Be aware of persons who may innocently "bump" into you as a means to distract you.

Carrying Cash:  Pickpockets are not common but they do exsist.  Take the usual precautions with wallets, purses, and day packs.  Do not "flash your cash", be discreet when opening your wallet/purse to pay for something.  You can learn a lot by watching Thai people, they are often very discreet when reaching for their cash, almost to the point of being secretive.  Splitting up your money can be a good idea.  Carry a small amount of instant access cash in your preferred receptacle, and carry the balance (along with your credit cards), in a more secure place (money belt, hidden pocket, in your shoes, etc).

Jewellery:  Best advice?  Do not bring it, if possible.  However, if you must wear expensive jewellery, do so discreetly.  When riding motorbikes or in the back of Songthaews, keep your necklace tucked well inside your clothing, or better yet, leave it in your hotel room safe.  Thieves are very adept at snatching these items from your neck, and while in motion.  This is not uncommon, in busy areas, it is indiscriminate - Thai people are just as likely to be the victims of this type of theft.

ATMs:  When practical try to use ATMs that are inside a bank or inside a secured building.  If you must use one in a shopping mall or street make sure you cover the keypad (with your other hand) as your enter your PIN and DO NOT walk away counting your cash.

Credit Card Fraud:  Fraud exists in Thailand, as in any other country.  If you must pay by credit card, NEVER let your card out of your sight.  Watch as it's used, and double check the purchase amount and currency, before signing or entering your pin number.  Once you sign the receipt, in most cases you are accepting and agree to pay that amount.

Clubs, Pubs and Parties:  Most importantly NEVER leave your drink unattended, NEVER accept a drink from a stranger or recent acquaintance.  Drink Spiking -- the act of covertly adding chemicals or drugs to your drink -- is not unheard of and the consequences speak for themselves.  Similarly don't leave your cash and valuables unattended.  Be aware of your alcohol consumption, try not to overindulge and not be able to safely make your way home.  It's possible that someone may be watching and assessing how easy a target you'd make.

Party Drugs:  Don't accept drugs in any shape or form, at any time or for any reason.  Apart from never really knowing what substance you're actually ingesting, you should seriously consider the possibility that any offers of drugs may in fact be a undercover Police operation.  Punishments for the possession, distribution or use of even small quantities of illegal substances are SEVERE.

Possession also includes being under the influence of drugs.  Police have the power to order urinalysis (urine analysis) drug screening, the results of which can be used as evidence against you in any future criminal prosecution and form the basis for your arrest for possession.  It is not unknown for the Royal Thai Police to conduct enforcement "raids" on bars and clubs where "party drugs" are suspected, and order mass searches and screenings of all patrons -- both Thai and foreigners alike -- without exception.

There are reports of corrupt Police officers using tourists caught with drugs -- in any amount -- as a means to extort large sums of money in "exchange" for releasing them without arrest or criminal charge.

New Friends:    While Thailand is the Land of Smiles, you really should be cautious of anyone who approaches you "out of the blue", irrespective of their nationality.  Encounters such as these can potentially lead to you becoming the victim of a scam or con artist.  Don't simply trust a stranger based solely on the fact that they're from your "home" country.  Con artists of all nationalities are "out there" scheming and cheating their way through life.  Thai people can be very helpful and accommodating when asked, however it is not a normal Thai custom to approach strangers and offer unsolicited advice or assistance.

Games and Wagering:   Don't get involved in card games, gambling, cockfights, pool-table games for money etc.  Even though widely practised by law, with the exception of the national Thai State Lottery and the occasional Horse Racing event, gambling in any form is illegal.

Touts:   Don't let a tout or stranger lead you away from, or to, a location other than your intended one.  Claims of  "not open to foreigners", "closed today for ... ", "special deal" etc is your clue to IGNORE them.  Don't buy gemstones unless you are qualified to know their value, and can judge good quality from poor.

Familiarise yourself with the common scams and cons visitors may encounter - http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-...

Tickets and such:   At bus stations and train stations, always ignore touts and go directly to the Official ticket seller's window.  In many cases, tickets for Muay Thai boxing and movies sold thru unofficial channels are invalid and/or forgeries.   Airline tickets are NEVER transferable from one person to another and must be purchased either directly from the airline or an authorised agent.

Where Are You?:   Always be aware of your surroundings, and be mindful of how you would describe your exact location in an emergency situation.  Make a note of the Thai Tourist Police generic phone number which is 1155 and add it to your cell phone speed dial list.  The Thai Tourist Police is a special arm of the National Royal Thai Police and specifically trained to deal with common situations involving a non-resident tourist.  Many speak basic and passable English.

If you are confronted with any situation where trustworthy assistance is not close at hand, DIAL THE NUMBER!

Moving Around at Night:  Obviously avoiding dimly lit and seemingly uninhabited areas is good personal safety practise.  Stay in well lit areas, where there are lots of people.  Any place that gives you an initial, serious feeling of unease is best avoided.

Embassy and Consular Assistance:  It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the emergency contact details of your home country's Embassy or Diplomatic representation in Bangkok.  THIS LINK lists most Consulates & Embassies in Bangkok.  Note the EMERGENCY contact details for urgent after hours Consular assistance.  Some examples of where that emergency call goes, are;

AUSTRALIA:  Call the Embassy on 02 344 6300 and select option 1 to be transferred to the 24 hour Consular Emergency Centre in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra, Australia.

UNITED KINGDOM:  In the event of a consular emergency involving a life or death situation, call the switchboard number 02 305 8333.

UNITED STATES:  You may contact the Embassy switchboard 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 02 205 4000.  Ask to speak to the Duty Officer who can and will assist with all after hours emergencies.  This includes, but is not limited to, emergency hospitalisation, loss of passport, arrest or serious injury.

Register yourself:   Many Country's Foreign Affairs Departments offer online registration of your overseas trip.  Take a few moments to register your travel plans, so that your whereabouts and contact information are known in case of natural disasters, accidents, etc.  This also allows your next of kin to be contacted in a timely manner, should the need arise.  This is a free and voluntary service and only serves to help you should an emergency arise while in the country.

Carrying Your Passport:  It is required by Thai law that Thai citizens AND all visitors MUST carry proper identification at all times.  This must be presented upon demand by a Police Officer or other legitimate Government Official. 

NB:  It is not always safe, practical or appropriate to carry your physical passport on you at all times.  Passports are a very valuable commodity that can be the target of theft and are very expensive to replace while overseas.  Consider keeping your passport locked in your room safe or the primary hotel safe at the reception desk while at each destination.

Do make several photocopies of your passports photo/details page, as well as the stamped arrivals card that is stapled in your passport that you received when entering Thailand.  Carry these copies with you in your day-pack.  These will assist in establishing your identity and immigration status when you don't have your physical passport on you.

Also consider making a colour scanned copy and having it laminated.  If you produce that to an Official when required to, in many cases this will satisfy the identification requirement, or at least suffice until your actual passport can be collected from your accommodation for verification.

Renting a Car or Hiring a Motorbike: It is NEVER recommended that you surrender your passport when hiring a vehicle or similar situation. If a service provider  such as a motor scooter rental business is unwilling to accept a photocopy of your passport, move on and try someone else.  Every hotel will photocopy your passport at check-in and make a note of your visa (or visa exemption) details.  Remember that your single most important document that you have while overseas is your PASSPORT -- guard it well.

Comprehensive Information on Licence Requirments for the Lawful use of Motor Vehicles in Thailand - LINK

If you plan on applying for a visa while in Bangkok, for other countries in the region such as Vietnam, you WILL be required to temporarily surrender your passport for a day or two while your visa is in process.  You should ONLY surrender your passport directly to the Embassy staff or through a reputable agent, if not in Bangkok.  Either way, you should request a receipt for your passport and note its details.

Thailand is a fun place with lots to see and experience and for the most part tourists come and have a wonderful time.  Do remember that "trouble" doesn't take a vacation and that you do need to be actively aware of your surroundings and situations - just like you should anywhere else.

More Health & Safety Tips - LINK

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