Safety in Thailand
Traveling to a foreign country can be scary, and living in one could seem like a nightmare. This is especially true if you watch the news. It seems like every other day we hear of some horror story in another country which can make you think, “I’m never leaving my house, let alone my country.” Is this valid? I don’t know. All I can tell you about is my experience in Thailand, where I’ve lived for the last year. And I think Thailand is one of the safest, if not the safest, place I’ve ever lived.
Thailand is generally very safe
Crime exists everywhere. That being said, Thailand is very safe from our experience. We live in a small town, which makes it even safer. I’m sure in Bangkok, and the bigger cities, you need to be more careful, but overall we’ve had good experiences everywhere we’ve traveled in Thailand. We’ve never felt unsafe.
We’ve also noticed very little theft. Buddhist culture discourages theft, and people generally comply. I feel safer leaving my bike unlocked here more than anywhere I’ve lived in America. And we’ve also never had a negative encounter with the police. Whenever we see them they are very helpful and friendly. So, overall, our impression of Thailand is very good, but it’s always wise to be cautious, so here are some of the things we’ve learned.
While you might not get robbed outright, you probably will get scammed. Don’t trust anyone who says, “my friend.” Friendship doesn’t come fast in Thailand, you have to be observed and tested. Anyone calling you a friend that fast likely wants something from you. So be wary when approached on the streets or in markets. Local shop owners and vendors will rarely, if ever, try to pitch you on their stuff, but scammers will come to you directly. Here are a few tips to avoid being scammed. First, if you are in a market and the price for something seems too high, ask around. If the other prices are inconsistent, then you might be being ripped off. Second, when you get in a cab, make sure they turn the meter on. If they won’t, then get out. Don’t get in a cab if they are telling you a set price in advance, you will pay more than you should.
While you might not run into crime, other dangers exist in Thailand, like the streets. The streets can be dangerous for a couple of reasons. First, traffic, in general, does not respect or move for pedestrians. You are the smallest fish in the pond and will be treated accordingly. So keep your eyes open when you are walking or crossing. Look for a local and follow their lead. Second, riding a motorbike is very practical, but also dangerous. It is common for accidents to occur, and they can be serious. So you need to take those risks into account. Third, street dogs are a real thing. You might think I’m joking, but I’m not. Some of the dogs can be aggressive. Don’t be too worried, they are mostly just bark. We have one territorial dog next to our apartment. At first, he would always bark at us and growl. Over time we earned his respect by facing him down and yelling at him a bit. Now, he’s our friend and keeps other dogs away. They aren’t a super serious problem, but you should be aware of them.
General Travel Safety
When it comes to traveling, we’ve learned some simple things to help tighten up your security. For example, before traveling abroad, if you are US citizen, sign up for STEP. It stands for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and is a free government program. It will keep you in the know of any emergency and give the US information to help contact you in cases of emergencies.
We have a few other key principles we always practice. First, always keep your passport and credit cards on you. You don’t want to get separated from these in any circumstance. Second, while traveling via bus keep your valuables in a backpack nearby, not stashed under the bus. Third, keep an extra battery based charger on you, so you never run out of battery.
As for women, I’ve discussed this topic with my wife who regularly traveled solo before we got married. And she recommends dressing appropriately for the culture as a way to stay safe. Since Thailand is very safe overall, a woman traveling alone isn’t necessarily unwise, but it is best to do so in a safe way. One of the safest ways to do that is to dress conservatively as a woman to avoid drawing unwanted attention from locals. Wearing pants or skirts that cover your legs, and tops that cover your shoulders is the simplest way to fit in and not draw unnecessary attention.
At the end of the day, Thailand is a really safe place, and we’ve never really felt like we were in danger. As long as you stay aware of what’s going on around, then you will be fine. Just because you are in another country does not necessarily mean you are in more danger.