Travel danger in southern Thailand – How to keep your wits about you

Southern Thailand has seen yet more political trouble this week, with two people killed in a bomb blast and a series of eighteen attacks taking place. The attacks were launched by a Muslim separatist movement and were aimed at Thai police and security forces, involving hand grenades being thrown at police stations from passing motorbikes.

The area has suffered from more or less constant low-level insurgency for seventy years or so, but the violence has escalated since the year 2000, killing 6500 people so far, and the resulting state of emergency has put many foreign visitors off visiting the region.

At the same time a drunken UK tourist was tied up by exasperated locals in Pattaya after he decided it was a good idea to take his clothes off and run across the rooves of their houses in his underpants. He sent roof tiles crashing to the ground and was apparently yelling incoherently. The outraged villagers caught him and tied his hands and feet together in an effort to calm him down. Then the police came, arrested him and took him to Banglamung police station.

He was fortunate that the Thai people tend to be fairly laid back and calm, and lucky that Thailand is one of the safest places to travel, with a very low level of ‘crimes against the person’ compared to home. So how can you stay out of trouble in Thailand? Here are some common sense tips.

18 tips for a safe trip to Thailand

  • Follow the UK government’s recommendations about areas to avoid, whether it’s because or terrorism or dangerous diseases, and check the news just before you fly just in case there have been any new developments you should be aware of
  • Remember you’re not in your home country. It’s important to respect the people and their customs, the environment, religious and sacred destinations
  • Avoid illegal drugs at all costs – the penalties can be extremely severe, including imprisonment and death, and you won’t find the British government or other officials particularly sympathetic. Being under the influence of drugs is considered just as serious as being in possession of them, and the Thai police regularly raid clubs and bars where they think people might be taking or selling drugs
    Check your room carefully when you arrive to make sure the doors and windows close properly, the lock works, and you know where the hotel or apartment’s emergency exits are
  • Leave valuable jewellery at home
  • Don’t leave your cash or other valuables in your room – if there’s a hotel safe, use it. And don’t flash wads of cash when you’re out and about either. Be discreet, just like you would in Britain
  • Bear in mind that being in a state of helpless drunkenness is not a safe state to be in abroad, and can easily land you in real trouble
  • Know the name and address of your accommodation by heart
  • Avoid card games, snooker competitions and any other kind of gambling – you can easily get ripped off
  • Learn enough useful Thai phrases to help you if you get into a difficult situation
  • Don’t sunbathe nude or topless – the locals don’t like it. And if you’re female, bear in mind Thai culture appreciates modest dress
  • In remote areas, it’s wise to dress modestly
  • If someone offers to sell you precious gemstones at a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. Walk away – they’re probably fake
  • Keep a careful eye on warning signs and never swim alone. The tides and currents can be very dangerous
  • Watch out for pickpockets
  • Never leave your drink unattended when at a bar, night club or party in case it gets spiked
  • Know the emergency contact details of the British Embassy and other diplomatic representation in advance just in case you need to contact them for help
  • Carry a photocopy of your passport with you at all times, leaving the real thing in the hotel safe or somewhere else secure. If the Thai police ask you for ID, you must be able to provide it

It’s also vital to have all the necessary travel vaccinations well before you take off. Give yourself enough time to have them all beforehand. Here’s a link to a list.