Thailand is generally a very safe country to travel in — especially if you use some common sense. When in the densely populated tourism areas of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, or Phuket there usually is little to worry about, even late at night. However, when traveling off the beaten path in Thailand, extra precaution should be taken. Keep in mind the following travel tips, which will help you stay out of trouble and enjoy a safe trip in the Land of Smiles.
1. Never interfere in an argument between two Thai people, especially if the argument is between a Thai man and woman. Over the years, there have been a number of foreigners who have ended up beaten up or dead for attempting to be a peacemaker between two quarreling Thais. Let the local Thai people sort out these situations. Stay out of trouble by keeping as far away as possible from heated arguments.
2. Never yell at a Thai person or insult them, even if you believe you are being ripped off or disrespected. Don’t try to be funny or clever by learning Thai epithets or slurs (thinking you might use it jokingly with someone) — because you might unexpectedly (and dangerously) blurt out that Thai insult when angry. Again, over the years there have been well-known cases where a foreigner ended up beaten or killed in Thailand because they deliberately offended the wrong person.
3. Avoid visiting Thai karaoke bars late at night. We are referring to those karaoke bars with attractive female servers that are frequented primarily by Thai men. Foreigners rarely ever visit such establishments. You don’t want to be the only tourist in a room filled with Thai men who have been drinking beer and whiskey all night. So, stay out of trouble by avoiding the karaokes.
4. If you are a woman, don’t travel late at night alone, or visit an entertainment venue like a disco by yourself. Always travel with a group of friends. This is the same advice that Thai parents give their daughters. You should follow it too.
5. Avoid conversations about the monarchy in Thailand, and don’t post opinions about the Royal institution on social media or forums. Lèse-majesté Laws in Thailand are strict and rigorously enforced, often resulting in lengthy jail terms. When engaging in such talk, you also risk inadvertently offending the Thai person you are talking to. So, best to avoid such conversations altogether to stay out of trouble.
6. Don’t drive a motorbike in Thailand after dark — or, if you must drive after the sun sets, don’t drive after 10pm. As we mentioned in our article on Thailand road safety, most accidents in Thailand involve motorcycles at night, and usually alcohol is involved. Every year, young foreign tourists die on Thailand’s roads because they were driving a motorbike at night after drinking. Don’t end up another tragic statistic. Be sure also to read our article on driving a motorcycle safely in Thailand.
7. Make a photocopy of the main page of your passport and the page with your visa stamp. Keep that stashed away someplace different than where you keep your passport. Also take a photo with your phone of those two pages. On the slim chance you lose your passport in Thailand or it gets stolen, you’ll want to have a copy of those pages to make a police report and show your embassy.
8. Avoid smoking marijuana in Thailand, unless you are in a very safe area (such as the grounds of a resort). While marijuana is now legal in Thailand, many strains are extremely strong, and even the “low THC” strains can get you very high. So, you want to be within walking distance of your hotel/resort room in case the joint you smoked is more than you can handle. There is much less to worry about if you drink the tea made from Thai Kratom (which also recently has been legalized), as that buzz is quite mild.
9. Pack a bottle of water if you are doing some serious hiking, like climbing up the 491 steps to Phra That Phu Phek. It is easy to get dehydrated in Thailand, and many places off the beaten path don’t have vendors selling water or soda. So, to stay out of health trouble, follow the Boy Scout’s motto, and “be prepared”.
10. Carry a power bank or portable mobile phone charger. Mobile phone service in Thailand is excellent. You will rarely ever experience a “dead zone,” except when traveling in rural mountain areas that have no nearby villages. The depth to which Google Maps has mapped out Thailand’s countryside is truly amazing. So, make sure you never get lost because your phone has died and you no longer have access to Google Maps. Pack that charger.
11. Read up on Thai customs, like how to wai and Thai temple dress codes, and then follow them! Following the customs of Thailand is one of the fun things about visiting the kingdom — a country that is so different from your own. It teaches you things not only about the Thai way of life, but about your own self. It also will ingratiate you to your hosts and help keep you out of trouble.
12. Our last Thailand safety tip is to learn some basic Thai phrases and how to speak Thailish (i.e. how Thais often pronounce English). If you are going to be traveling in Northeast Thailand, then also try to learn Isaan. Learning the basics of the Thai and Isaan language is actually not difficult at all, especially these days when there are free Youtube videos, podcasts, and websites to help you.
If you get into trouble in Thailand, nothing is more valuable than being able to speaking a little Thai to get you out of the jam, especially if you don’t have your phone with you or the battery has died. Also check out our pick for the best English-Thai translation app!