Bangkok was the most visited city in the world before the Corona pandemic hit our planet, yet still everyone is having doubts about the safety situation in Thailand. With so many happy tourists telling their friends about island hopping in Thailand and their motorbike tours in the North I would suggest word of mouth would do its job, right? Well apparently there are still a lot of doubts if it is safe to travel to Thailand.
The vast majority of Thailand tourists leave the country with great memories, but on the other side there are also some horror stories like the Koh Tao murders and disappearing people in Bangkok. So how safe is Thailand actually in 2023?
You might think I am biased as I love traveling to Thailand so much and I have been almost 20 times. But don't worry in this Thailand safety blog I give you my honest opinion about how I feel and have felt while traveling around the country, highlight my experiences, will point out things you have to be aware of and gave you some extra Thailand travel tips to ensure your safety.
Special tourist visa for 90 days
People looking to travel to Thailand in 2023 and want to stay longer than 30 days there is now a special Thailand tourist visa that allows you to stay up to 90 days in Thailand. This Special tourist visa costs 2,000 THB and can be applied for at any Thai Embassy around the world. It is a new visa that Thailand Tourism came up with in reaction to lure back all the digital nomads that once all flocked to Thailand after the global pandemic.
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Is Thailand safe to travel in 2023
With almost 40 stamps of this lovely country in my passport I think my view on the Thailand safety issues has credibility. I have been traveling in Thailand for in total 1 year and yes, the country has changed incredibly since my first visit in 2007. The biggest problem of Thailand tourism is mass tourism. All those travelers need to be accommodated and entertained which means there is a lot of money involved and we all know money causes problems.
Thailand has amazing places to visit, but also a lot of problems to deal with but in general it is a safe country to visit. Yes, there have been reported tourist deaths and although every tourist death is one too many, compared to the millions of tourists that visit the country every year this number is negligible.
If you travel to Thailand there are different things you need to be aware of.
Most people traveling to Thailand have no idea, but yes this is true. Although Thailand is a Kingdom, the Military is ruling the country for a long time already. That doesn't directly affect tourists, but it means that you shouldn't get involved into anything political nor should you question the regime in public. Freedom of speech in Thailand might not be what it is like in your home country.
Related: 30 interesting Thailand facts!
It is very unlikely something will happen to you, but the most reported crimes by tourists are scams. Like in every country there are good and bad people and in Thailand you have to be careful not to get scammed by the bad ones. As an experienced traveller I am not that prone to fall for these traps, but I can imagine if you are traveling for the first time this is something to be make yourself aware of.
So with all these scams is Thailand safe to travel? Scams exist all over South East Asia, but even if you fall for it it will only hurt your wallet. Just make sure to not go down that path and if you do, learn from it so it never happens to you again. So far I have never really been scammed, just use common sense!
Getting around Thailand safely
There are tourists offices and tour agencies at almost every street corner. You can buy bus, train and boat tickets everywhere as well as Thailand tour packages. With the rise of the online travel tips also came the online ticket agencies and I recommend you to make use of them. Back in the days the paper tickets were sometimes part of scams and could easily get lost.
The best way to get your Thailand transportation tickets is online. When I discovered 12Go Asia traveling in Thailand got a lot easier. No need to deal with local travel agencies anymore. The search engine of 12Go Asia gives you all the available options to travel: busses, flights, trains and boats. They give you up to date time tables, company reviews, trip duration and compare prices for different companies. Try it out below yourself!
Taxis and Tuktuks in thailand
Best way to take a taxi in Thailand is to use one of the taxi apps like Grab Taxi. There is NO Uber in Thailand. You can also hop on the back of a motorbike, but remember to always ask for your own helmet. It is obligated to wear a helmet when riding a motorbike.
Tuktuks in Thailand are more like a tourist attraction rather than a transportation option. Sightseeing in Thailand in a Tuktuk is great fun and it definitely is one of those experiences you should try when visiting Thailand. However, keep in mind that Tuktuk drivers overcharge tourists a lot. Not all, but it is very common. Always agree on a price before the trip and know where you going. It is a common scam to end up for 20 minutes in a leather shop.
Renting a motorbike in Thailand
It is very common to ride a motorbike in Thailand, but be careful! A lot of tourists rent motorbikes on their Thailand vacation and yes I recommend you to do so too. However, only if you know how to drive a motorbike. The traffic in Thailand is hectic, not dangerous. Go with the flow and don't think the same rules as back home apply to traffic. Just use your gut, drive slowly and adapt to the other traffic.
Be aware that there are numerous scams known when a renting motorbikes. Read all my tips for renting a motorbike in Thailand.
Are Domestic flights in Thailand safe?
There are 7 airlines that offer Thai domestic flights and non of them have reported accidents with domestic flights in Thailand. A plane of Lion Air (an Indonesian company) crashed in October 2018 in Indonesia. Thai Smile, Bangkok Airways and Thai Airlines have a 20KG luggage allowance.
Other low-cost airlines like NOK and Air Asia will charge you extra for your luggage. These and more tips about finding domestic flights in Thailand in my latest Thailand blog.
Girls and ladyboys in bars
Be careful the girls in Thailand CAN be dangerous! But not all of them! ;)
Don't get me wrong the vast majority of the girls in Thailand are fantastic, but in some bars you may get in touch with the wrong ones. Don't be surprised if your bill suddenly is a little higher than you expect. Some Thai girls will pretend to be with you, order drinks and put them on your bill. It happens... luckily it is mostly not much and some of these girls are actually pretty lovely.
Ladyboys can be a little more rough, however it is easier to avoid them. They can be fun, but they are also involved in a lot of scams. Just be aware of the things happening around you when partying with ladyboys in Thailand. But if you meet the fun ones, your evening can be hilarious! One of the best things to do in Koh Tao is to go on a pub crawl, which also passes by the ladyboy show.
Protests in Bangkok
Another thing that can be a pain in the ass on your Thailand trip are protests in Bangkok. Years ago the Bangkok Airport BKK was completely blocked for a couple days and over the years there have been millions of people on the streets in Bangkok protesting against the (military) regime. However this is NOT a polace you are willing to go when visiting Thailand.
I know my mom does not like to hear this but I was living in Bangkok when one these mass protests were taking place. On the news there were reports about death protestors and extreme violence during the day. After a crazy night out in Bangkok I got into a TukTuk (tuktuk's are mostly rip off's btw, read why in my blog how much does a trip to Thailand cost) and asked him to drop me off at the protest just to see it with my own eyes.
Thousands and thousands of people were literally sleeping on the street and it looked like the biggest street festival I have ever seen, totally peaceful. Of course everyone looked at me like what are you foreigner doing here, but they all had a smile on their face tho. I talked to some of the protesters to understand why they were sleeping en mass on the streets: the love for their country, freedom and peace was their answer.
Contrary to this, the next day a couple people died again in the protests at the exact same place I was the night before. So is Thailand safe for tourists? Yeah totally! Just don’t be an idiot (like me) and avoid these kind of things! :)
When visiting Bangkok being part of a protest is definitely not something I would recommend you to do, check my list of top things to do in Bangkok or have a look at some unusual things to do in Bangkok.
Street food in Thailand
Thai street food is very much beloved around the world, but we also know how spicy it can be and that could potentially be dangerous. Language barriers can be a problem as well and there are times that you try some Thai food and you are not able to eat it because it is too spicy.
Don't be too proud to stop eating. Thai people understand that you are a tourist and are not able to eat like a local. Don't try to eat local food like locals do. Check my article about the 25 best Thailand street food dishes and get to know more tips on how to order your food in Thailand.
In general: dont be afraid of the Thai street food!
Vaccines for Thailand
First off, all tourists willing to visit Thailand in 2023 need to be vaccinated against Covid-19
Get advice from your national health organisation about which vaccines to take for Thailand. Officially there are no special requirements for entering Thailand and there is no need to get vaccinated, however it is advised to have the common child diseases vaccinations. On top of that is is good to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A + B, DTP and Rabies.
Common diseases in Thailand that tourist should be aware of are Malaria, Dengue, Rabies. These main tropical diseases occur in Thailand, however the chances of being exposed to these tropical diseases are slim.
Dengue and Malaria in Thailand
Tourists suffering from Malaria when visiting Thailand are rare cases. Health organisations advice travelers to take Malaria medication when traveling to the North of Thailand to places like Chiang Mai, Pai, Golden Triangle. The reality is that I have never taken any Malaria tablets and know that most tourists don't take any either. However there are regions that are at higher risk. Mostly in rural areas towards the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
Dengue fever occurs more often when traveling in Thailand. It is just like Malaria a disease that is spread by a mosquito and causes severe flu-like symptoms like high fever. I have had it myself and you are out for a couple days. Getting Dengue fever while traveling in Thailand is no fun! Dengue Fever is also called Break-bone Fever.
The prevention of Dengue Fever and Malaria starts with protecting yourself from mosquitos. Especially take measurements in high risk areas by wearing long sleeves during sunset and use insect repellent.
Carry a copy of your passport
Always carry a copy of your passport on you, not your actual passport. If police for some reason would stop you a copy of your passport is sufficient to identify yourself. In the rare case that police is willing to see your original passport they will escort you to your hotel to pick it up.
It is safer to NOT carry your passport on you when traveling in Thailand. Common theft can happen everywhere and you simply don't want to loose your passport. Leave it in the safe of your hotel.
Things to avoid when visiting Thailand
Stay away from monkeys and be careful with stray dogs
Don't feed wild animals! Simple rule to avoid getting scratched or bitten by animals. This will avoid getting Rabies. In the rare occasion this will happen always go see a doctor and get your Rabies shots. Monkeys in Thailand can be pretty ferocious, they may look cute, but be careful. You don't want your Thailand trip to be ruined by a monkey.
Stay away from conflicts areas
Unfortunately there are some areas in Thailand that have a negative travel advice. Especially in the regions towards the Malaysian border where there are constant conflicts ongoing with ethnic groups. Violent protests and terrorism attacks occur. Please stay away from these provinces when traveling to Thailand. In fact there are way better places to visit in Thailand anyway.
Don't ride elephants
I would hope by the year 2023 I shouldn't have to state this anymore, but unfortunately it is still common practice. Do NOT ride elephants or other wild animals for fun. They way these animals are treated are sadly very poor in most occasions. Please do NOT promote any kind of activities like this.
Don't take photos with tigers
May be an even worse but sadly common Thailand thing to do is to take a photo with a DRUGGED tiger. Yes, of course these tigers are drugged, it is not a random cat! Especially since we all have seen the Netflix series of Tiger Kingdom. Please do NOT take photos with tigers or any other wild animals in captivity.
If my message of things to avoid in Thailand wasn't convincing yet I invite you to read the following BBC article about the 40 dead tiger cubs found in a freezer in the infamous Tiger Temple in Thailand.
Don't touch people's hat
In Thai culture it is very inappropriate to touch someone's head. Please avoid doing so at all times when visiting Thailand.
Do NOT buy Buddha statues or get a Buddha tattoo
Buying a Buddha statue, no matter how big could get you in trouble. It is strictly forbidden to export any kind of Buddha image from Thailand. You need official permission from the Thai Government Fine Arts Department. Just saying...
Putting a tattoo of Buddha on your body is off limits in Thailand!
Related: 65 Things To Know When Traveling to Thailand in 2023
Negative stories about Thailand
Unfortunately there have been a couple very bad stories in the press about the Koh Tao Murders, which affected the country a lot. Obviously because it is a horrible story! I think a lot of people that Google ‘is it safe to travel to Thailand’ are the parents of the young crowd going on their first trip overseas. I can understand their concerns, because media is a bitch: it always highlights the negative stories and that is what sticks to people's minds!
But let me tell you that I feel safer walking around at night in Bangkok than in Amsterdam. Unfortunately murders happen everywhere around the world, Thailand is no exception, but at least these cases are extremely rare!
The travelers that visit Thailand get younger and younger these days and what did we all do when we were young? Irresponsible shit! We get drunk, we try drugs and we feel like we are untouchable.
That said I think we can only answer the question how safe is Thailand by looking at your own behaviour. If you travel responsible and not get yourself in crazy situations, you will be completely fine! You should ask yourself the question: ‘am I doing shit that could jeopardize my safety?’, rather than: ‘is Thailand safe for tourists?’.
Is it safe to travel to Bangkok?
When strolling through Lumpini Park you can encounter some huge lizards. They are harmless but they look damn intimidating.
Bangkok is one of the most laid-back cities in the world. I have lived in Bangkok for a while and have visited numerous times. I walked around on the streets at night, sometimes lost, sometimes drunk, but luckily never anything happened!
But you are a tall and strong European that is not fair! Yes true, it definitely helps, but a friend of mine a blond German lady is living there now for 1,5 years and never experienced anything uncomfortably.
It is written all over the internet: ‘Bangkok is a crazy city’. Yeah believe me it totally is, I have a lot of crazy stories! But how do outsiders interpret the word ‘crazy’? If you have been you know that crazy stands for ‘everything is possible’ rather than something negative! So the same conclusion here! Is it safe to travel to Bangkok? YES!
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With the political situation is it safe to travel to Thailand now?
Thailand is also known as The Land Of Smiles so it is hard to imagine that its army is ruling the country. Yes we are talking about a military regime: since 2014 the National Council for Peace and Order is officially in power. Some call it a dictatorship and we have seen some drastically changes with Internet censorship, controlled media, etc.
I agree it is against Western standards and some people would say this is totally wrong and therefore will not travel to Thailand, but does it affect the answer on the question is Thailand safe for tourists?
Go island hopping in Thailand and you will have the time of your life! The government may have changed, the people on the streets are still the same!
I can only speak for myself but the scams, the fact that the military regime is in charge, and the protests have never affected me in my daily life nor traveling in Thailand. Is it safe to travel to Thailand? Just be responsible, don’t get involved in things like drugs, act like a local and pay respect to the Thai culture and its values than you will be completely fine.
If you use common sense and trust your gut you will just like me find out that the Thailand is an amazing country! Let me fuel your wanderlust with all the amazing things to do in Koh Tao or check out 4 different 2-week Thailand itineraries. Or let me help you planning your Thailand trip.
What are your experiences regarding safety in Thailand. Tell me your crazy adventures, even when they are negative, I would like to hear them. No country is perfect, neither is Thailand! But I hope we all agree that in most cases it are the stupid tourists themselves who cause problems in the first place. Think about those ones who rent a motorbike in Thailand and end up in a hospital. Safe travels!
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And if you are planning to travel to Thailand, I am 100% sure you want to know all about it and make sure you are well prepared. With this guide, click on the picture, you know everything before you travel to Thailand: visas, vaccinations, places to see, cultural things, what to bring, travel adapters, where to dive, what to eat and more.
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Enjoy your trip to Thailand!