Thailand and Bangkok is generally a safe place to travel when you have the right attitude, not too much alcohol, common sense, and travel insurance. But that’s enough about moralizing. There are some things which you need to know about and we hope you read this section, preferably a couple of times.
Always, whether in an accident, a victim of violence or other dangerous situations, call the English-speaking Tourist Police (tel. 1155). Remember to carry a photocopy of your passport with you. Some experienced travelers carry laminated copy of passport photo page and visa page. Police or security at one of the city’s nightspots can ask for your ID at any time, because carrying ID is a must in Thailand, even for foreigners.
Safety in hotels
Always try to use hotels which have safety boxes in the rooms, most of them do. Leave most of cash and extra credit cards in the safety box and carry only a maximum of two days budget with you. Remember to check that factory default code “0000” does not unlock your safety box. Leave your passport in the room safety box also, but carry a photocopy of it with you. You must carry some form of ID with you at all times.
When leaving your room, do not leave valuables in sight. Lock the doors when leaving your room and at night while in your room. Some cheaper dorms or hostels have cabins or even doors where you can use your own padlock.
Animals in Bangkok
You might even see elephants in the middle of Bangkok’s busy nightlife, but they are not there for amusement. They are just used for begging money from tourists and surely these animals are treated badly and are suffering in the urban environment. Similarly, you might encounter monkeys in chains, which can be occasionally seen in places like Khao San Road.
Safety in traffic
It is not recommended to rent any vehicles in Bangkok since all other forms of transport are relatively inexpensive. You are required to have a Thai driving license or an International driving license to ride a motorcycle or drive a car. Your license from home is NOT valid alone. Driving without a correct license invalidates your insurance coverage. Rental companies can be really harsh in terms of any damages to vehicles; there might be some damage, which you did not even do, not to mention how much you will be losing time and nerves in Bangkok traffic by being on your own. Please note that Thailand has left-hand traffic. When moving around as pedestrian, remember couple things. Zebra crossings are not as safe as they are in western countries and drivers do not give pedestrians right of way. When crossing the road, do not walk in front of the first car waiting, walk instead behind of it.
Do not get into fights with locals, just avoid all confrontations! If you do get involved in a situation, it is better to apologize and leave immediately. Thais are peaceful but if you get in a situation involving violence, you are always the underdog. Locals will support their own even in large numbers. The Thai police are usually quite trustworthy and reasonable, and often have adequate to good English skills, especially in Bangkok. But you cannot always rely on regular police if you have many Thai opponents for some unexplained reason. Your recommended option is Tourist police (tel. 1155). Stay out of all violence! Possession of drugs is a very serious offense, resulting in death sentences in certain cases in Thailand. Nightclubs can be raided and all patrons tested for drugs by giving a compulsory urine test. Even possession of marijuana can lead to a prison sentence of up to 15 years plus a fine of 150,000 baht. For this reason, DO NOT take any package for delivery or for sending anywhere, even from other foreigners.
There is a large variety of scam activity in Thailand. You’re a rich tourist and some poor locals have just found a way to get some of your money. Here is list of common things to avoid: do not ask for recommendations from tuk-tuk or taxi drivers because they will take you to where they get the best commission. Ask for recommendations from your hotel, read guides, ask other tourists or foreigners and study internet sites.
Tailor shops are a common place to visit for many tourists, some even promise really fast deliveries. Tailors will take measurements for custom sizing but when you go to your fitting or to get the final product, it is often just standard sizing, which was the nearest to your own size or the fabric was not the one you selected, but something similar.
Tuk-tuk drivers offer all-day tours for prices as low as 10 baht but you will end up driving around shops where drivers gets commission just to bring you there. “That place is closed because of xyz holiday”. Most of these scams are also related to tuk-tuk or taxi drivers. Often these are met when asked for transport to the zoo or a temple. Their goal is once again to take you some other place for commission. Gem selling scams are often related to tuk-tuk drivers. Gems, which are offered to you for easy resale back home, are usually glass. Getting a taxi is relatively easy in Bangkok, but try avoiding those who swarm around really popular tourist locations like Khao San Road. I prefer to walk a few blocks and try to get a taxi which is on the move. Always insist the meter to be used, don’t try to negotiate a fixed price. If there is a way to do it in your favor, you probably would not be reading this guide. There is always the possibility the driver will put the meter on if you argue about it, and then just drive a longer route to get more money out of you. Take note of the number on the taxi permit, it’s printed on the card at the dashboard.
The Land of Smiles and City of Angels has been too fascinating for some people. You might be approached by a foreigner telling a story of luggage that was stolen or something else dire has happened and he/she will be asking for some money with no intention to pay back. This happens often at popular tourist locations.
Coups, red shirts, yellow shirts…
- Thailand has coups quite often compared to other countries
- There has been over 10 coups since 1932
- First coup was bloodless and transformed Thailand from absolute monarchy.
- Latest coup happened 2006 when Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted and he had to escape the kingdom.
Although nominally a democracy with a constitutional monarchy after 1932, Thailand has been ruled by a series of military governments interspersed with brief periods of democracy. After the 1932 revolution that imposed constitutional limits on the monarchy, the military and bureaucratic elite ruled Thai politics for a half-century. Changes of government were effected primarily by a long series of mostly bloodless coups.
From 1992 and until the 2006 “Thaksin” coup, the country was considered a well working democracy with constitutional changes of government. Generally free and fair multiparty elections where held in 2007 and those subsequently restored democratic governance 1 year after the coup, and the 2011 election preceded a stable transition of power between parties.
The “Yellow Shirts” are the People’s Alliance for Democracy. They are fiercely Royalist and against the former Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies. Yellow color is to show their allegiance to the King of Thailand because yellow is the King’s color.
The “Red Shirts” are made up of two smaller political groups, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD).
The “Red Shirts” biggest support comes from the North part of Thailand where Thaksin Shinawatra originates. Their goal is to get Thaksin Shinawatra back to power. Thaksin Shinawatra manipulates the Red Shirts from outside Thailand. He is unable to return to the country through fear of arrest.
The Army of Thailand is claiming to be neutral, but they have sworn allegiance to the King. It is considered safe to travel to Thailand. Tourists who were here during the coup of 2006 were mostly unaware of the whole thing.