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Is Thailand Safe For Expats? | Your Complete Guide
Thailand has some of the best beaches globally, not to mention its excellent cuisine, but is it safe for ex-pats to live? Having lived in South East Asia for a while, I know I’m qualified to answer this question.
Thailand is a developing country with a different culture and way of life compared to western countries. Having lived in South East Asia, I can say it’s one of the world’s best parts to live with historical beauty, laid back culture, and spiritual nourishment. But I recommend knowing the negative side of Thailand also.
Overall, Thailand is considered safe to travel, but you need to have common sense and realize it’s a developing country, and people, in general, are a lot poorer than in western countries. So if you meet a new person, always be a little bit cautious and get to know them a bit before trusting them.
For possession of drugs, sentences can still be high, even if it’s marijuana. Even more serious is drug smuggling, and sentences can be considerable. The death penalty is still in play in Thailand, so be careful and don’t get involved with any sketchy behavior.
Keep reading to find out what dangers are lurking and how to avoid scams with corrupt Police advice.
Potential Dangers And Other Issues
Attack On Tourists
I’ve personally never seen a Thai attack any tourists while in Thailand, but I know it does happen. For the most part, alcohol is involved, and a Thai person can’t lose respect from other Thais for not taking action; this leads to more severe issues, and the assault can escalate into something worse.
My advice is always as follows “never argue with the locals” and walk away at all times. You don’t want a group of Thais attacking you, which generally happens in confrontations with westerners. Just be happy and carefree and understand the numbers are against you.
Geographic Areas Of Trouble In Thailand
I’ve not traveled to the South of Thailand myself, but I’d like to visit one day even though your told not to visit. Sungai Kolok (Crossing Area Into Maylasia) is a dangerous area for tourists abductions. I believe it’s not as bad as what people say, but don’t take my word for it. Make sure you do research!
The area is predominantly Muslim and has been linked to extremism in Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, and Songkhla.
Other areas in Thailand are safe with no real dangers or threats, but in the provinces, I would be more careful As theirs less police presence and the culture is more conservative. You can always check the foreign ministry online for more advice.
Drugs, Trafficking, And possession
If you think you can do drugs in Thailand, guess again. I guess tourists believe it’s more relaxed to smoke marijuana or do drugs in general. If you get caught with drugs, your minimum sentence will be one year in jail. This includes marijuana, amphetamines, magic mushrooms, or any class A drugs.
Drug smuggling is a different beast and can lead to harsher sentences, with the highest being the death penalty! If you manage to do drugs, for some strange reason? Make sure nothing is in your bag while you’re crossing borders to a different country, as this will carry a harsher sentence.
Another reason to stay away from drugs in South East Asia is that drugs contain toxic substances like mercury and lithium, leading to psychosis. Yama (Hindu Death God) is a drug imparticular you need to stay away from.
In South-East Asia, they have a strict policy on drugs, which comes from a religious (Buddhist) belief that you ruin your life and your families’ lives if you do drugs. Be sensible!
Scams & Cons To Watch Out For
Cons In Thailand
As I stated before, always get to know someone before you trust them, including Thais and Expats. For the most part, con artists try and lure you in with a false sense of security. But in reality, they’re just trying to rip you off and con you.
I had a friend in Cambodia, and he told me that he needed to go back to the UK, and funny enough, his boss offered to pay for his flight ticket with no payback. Now, if you ever get offered anything like that, alarm bells should start ringing straight away. Typically what happens is, when you get back, you will be charged 3/4 times as much, and the person who sold you the ticket would be affiliated to crime in some way. Always say no and don’t accept charity from anyone you half know.
Fraud & Identity Theft
Always be sensible with your personal belongings if you’re carrying them with you. A good idea is to have a padlock on your bag, take a money belt if you know you’re going to a built-up area, and make sure all your doors and windows are locked before leaving the house.
If you carry a card on you, it should be a credit card and not a card with immediate access to all your funds. I always carry cash with me in Thailand and work out a budget before I go out at night.
Commissions Based Work
Another Con in Thailand is people offering you free rides or a low price to get to a destination. Tuk Tuk drivers are some of the biggest con artists in Thailand. They will offer a low price or for free, and you end up going to every single jewelry shop in Bangkok. While you’re in Thailand, you have to experience a Tuk Tuk ride at least once, but get taxis with meters after that. They are better, safer, and cheaper.
Another Commission based job is taking you to hostels and guest houses where the Tuk Tuk drivers are on the books. It can get rather messy, and when I landed on Koh Samui for the first time. I had something like 20 Tuk Tuk drivers grabbing me, telling me to go to one place or another. From then on, I made a reservation wherever I went instead of being potentially ripped off at an overpriced guest house.
Expat Women Living In Thailand
Book Appropriate Accommodation
On the whole, I’ve never heard of any women being attacked in Thailand, but the culture is different from Western culture, and I advise women not to argue with local men.
If you decide to travel a bit of Thailand, and if you’re traveling alone, I would always pick a single room instead of a dorm. It’s not the fact that someone might assault you its more your bag being stolen, purse, or passport.
If you’re on a tight budget, try and stay in a female dorm, which many hostels do these days. You should also find accommodation with 24-hour reception with a safe to lock valuables.
The Attack Of The Bag Snatchers
Overall it’s rare to see a violent crime against foreigners, but bag snatching is common and an easy meal ticket for thieves, and if you’re a woman, you could be an easier target in their eyes.
A bag snatch’s standard procedure is speed, and they usually ride up on a motorbike, grab your bag from your shoulder and shoot off.
The biggest concern is if they grab a bag while on a Tuk Tuk while it’s in motion, and this can be fatal if you’re holding on, they will drag you with it on the road. So if there’s a confrontation, give it up, it’s not worth your life.
Tips To Avoid Bag Snatches
Here are a few precautions you can take to stay one step ahead of the back snatching game.
If your walking at night make sure you’re away from the road with your bag away from the roadside tucked under-arm.
Keep all your valuables at home, and try not to walk with your phone in an apparent position. If you’re a photographer, make sure you got some excellent straps tied around your wrist and keep them hidden when your not using it.
If you’ve got nothing valuable in your bag and a bag snatcher comes to steal it, there’s no worries. It’s all about preparation.
How To Be Streetwise
What I’m about to say is just common sense, but it’s good to know. Try to avoid dark alleyways by yourself, dark streets, parks at night, and beaches at early hours. If you are walking home at night and you feel a bit nervous, either walk into a shop or grab a taxi.
I know Thailand has a massive sex tourism industry where girls wear nothing in certain areas. But believe it or not, Thailand is conservative, and if you go to the provinces, the way of life is entirely different.
If you’re going to beaches its fine to wear a bikini, but if you decide to shoot off to the market, I’d advise wearing a dress.
If you go to any religious temples or monuments, you have to keep yourself covered up, including your shoulders and knees. You also need to take off your trainers and socks before entering the temple.
Will You Get Hard pressed In Thailand?
Thai Society it’s still a man’s world, and feminism still hasn’t been introduced much. Thai men do sometimes have the impression that western women are easy. By the way, your dress may give off mixed signals to Thai men which rarely leads to sexual assault.
For the most part, though, Thailand’s culture is quite shy and abrasive compared to western culture. So the chances of anything happening are quite slim, I would say, overall, but if something does happen, keep walking and never argue with a local.
Don’t Touch The Monks
Your relationship with monks should be at arm’s length at all times. For instance, if you see a monk on a bus, don’t sit next to him. If you want to give a monk a gift, leave it on the ground, and he will pick it up.
If you see a monk on the street, never ask for a photograph or randomly talk to him. It’s just not in Thai culture, and that’s the way it is.
Insurance/Attractions/Entertainment – Avoidance
Thailand Travel Insurance
The big question pops up do you need travel insurance if you’re going to Thailand? Well, I’ve got news for you, yes you do! Thailand has an excellent private medical sector, but it is expensive, and most Thais can’t afford it.
Mistakes happen in Thailand with things going against you such as bad pavements, transport accidents, yellow fever etc., so even if you’re going for two days, make sure you’re covered.
If your after a quote for travel insurance, look at World Nomads. The company has high ratings and are trustworthy. Always make sure you read the small print in your insurance disclaimer. You may need to pay extra on insurance for expensive items such as a laptop or a camera. So if you’re an influencer, pay a little bit more just in case, because you don’t lose your $5000 mac pro.
The Taxi Section
I know we discussed Tuk Tuk drivers and taxis before, but their the most scammy kind in Thailand. Both Tuk Tuk drivers and taxis try and pull fast ones over you at least once.
What I found out in Thailand from taxi drivers is if it’s late at night, they try and earn extra money by setting a price to your location. The simple remedy for this is to say, can we use the meter, please? If they say no, then you move on.
An easier way of not getting scammed is to use apps like Uber or grab, (equivalent to Uber) in the Far East. You can download the app here (Grab also delivers groceries now)
You can get to know taxi drivers and use them again if you have a long trip to Hua Hin or Pattaya. To make a trip like that, you’re looking around 7000 baht. You can also use these taxi drivers again for airport runs, and they will give you a great price normally. But if you don’t have a private taxi driver, always book before you go to the airport to save getting scammed out of money if you’re in a rush.
Red Light Entertainment
The whole red-light entertainment industry is a honey pot for making money, and they understand how to make money off you. When you wait for a show, they extended the show time, so you buy more drinks.
Pat Pong has private rooms, which will scam out of more money. You’re night can get expensive fast, so learn all the tricks you can, and I’m not suggesting you do anything but agree a price before anything happens.
My advice is just to stay clear of these areas, and if you wanted entertainment, there’s plenty of things to do in Thailand, such as a Muay Thai fight or other cultural show. The seedy areas are all owned by thugs, and they want your money and have no respect for their customers.
Elephant Conservational Support
Now and then, in Bangkok you’ll see an elephant walking up the road with an owner chained by the neck getting pulled up the road and ask you for money to feed the animals, stay clear from this practice. These people are responsible for the ill-treatment of elephants in South East Asia.
Instead, look at reputable elephant sanctuaries. Luckily Thailand has many now, and they care about the animals and don’t make money from them.
These 3 are ethical and highly recommended
As you can see in these developing countries, they probably have a different opinion about animals in general. Try not to contribute two any evil practices in any way, shape, or form.
Tips For Expats Living In Thailand
If you have any concerns about security in Thailand, you can be advised in your embassy in Bangkok, which constantly updated any growing problems in the country. They can advise you on what to do, from legal to general safety advice.
You have to remember Thailand is an openly corrupt country, and if you’re in a protest, they may publicly fine you for any reason at all.
If you’re in the North of Thailand, around February to April, you get a lot of smoke pollution from the burning season. I assume they do this for crop rotation to make way for new crops and burn the old stock. But if you’re asthmatic, be careful because it can get intense. The areas where they burn are around Chang Mai and Pai.
You need to assess a ATM’s before approaching any for cash. Fraudsters will target ATMs that aren’t well lit up or don’t have cameras so they can copy all your details and your money. Try and use ATMs that are in an indoor area and look legit and safe.
Night Bus Thiefs
This is a legitimate problem where people steal your belongings at night. Try and keep all your valuables locked in your bag next to the window while you sleep. Sadly this does happen, and I wouldn’t want you to wake up with your belongings missing. Always think ahead
Police corruption in Thailand
Many people ask me if the Thai police dodgy and the simple answer to that is yes! You need to be careful with the police in general, but you can’t tar all police officers with the same brush.
If you need some assistance, they will help you and can be quite professional at times. For instance, a lot of people in the UK will argue back at police officers, but do not do this in Thailand.
If you have an incident with a Thai person, the police will side with the local. In this case, take it on the chin and pay the fine. Please do not make a big issue as it won’t go well.
You don’t need to be smiling at a police officer or be courteous. Just let the officer take the lead, and you just answer back. The less conversation you have, the better.
Police Departments In Thailand
The issue with police departments in Asia is there not paid enough and only receive 6000 BHT a month. To keep the money circulating, they use bribery as a form of income and make commissions on places like brothels.
The locals respect the police and carry a bit of status, so try and follow suit and don’t be Superman.
If I go to the police in Thailand, I would go to the tourist place first as their a lot more professional, well mannered, friendly and speak English.
The tourist police are like a halfway house and help with translation issues to the actual police force. If you need help, make sure you call the Tourist Police
Tourist Police Number (1155)
The last corruption score that Thailand got was 96 out of 180 countries which is pretty bad. The level of corruption you are talking about here is to scale with Brazil, Peru, Zambia, and Columbia. So as you can see, Thailand is no Angel when it comes to corruption.
Thai Police have been funneling money to Thai official’s MP’s for years which goes in the millions. But you won’t be around that type of corruption. Most of the corruption you receive is lowercase ow level.
Police Bribing Info
Never approach a police officer and try and bribe them, its against the law and they will use this to make more money out of you.
What you could say to a police officer is “Are their any fees for me to pay?” you have to accept in Thailand it has a high level of corruption, so you’re going to be bribed anyway. This speeds things up so you can get on with your day.
Locals don’t look at bribery as “bribery” it goes down as respect the law and its your duty, and things will go easier. The normal procedure for a fine will be to stamp your passport, but everything will speed up if you throw a few baht at them if your in a rush.
How Much Are Most bribes
If you’re going to receive a bribe most of the time, it’s the amount you would typically pay for a fine, depending on what you did, and how serious it was depends on the amount. You can expect a road incident fine to be 200 to 500 baht. You don’t need a receipt lol.
One of the most common on-the-spot fines is license checks which generally occur at the end of the month when the police are about to receive their annual wage. So at the end of every month, expect to see a lot of police on the road spot-checking.
Another area to watch out for is when you leave nightclubs at night. The police usually waits outside and do on-spot cheques for drugs. Again don’t make a big thing of it, just accept it and be polite. If you do drugs, you can expect a large bribe or jail.