Safety and Crime Risks in Bangkok

Despite Bangkok’s size and the denseness of its urban core, it is a relatively safe city for both men and women, day and night, provided you employ common sense when exploring. Thai people are known for their friendliness and harmonious culture, and you will almost always find them helpful.

Safety in Bangkok isn’t something to really be concerned about. Although there are the usual ruses to rip off tourists, incidences of pick pocketing are far less than in most tourist cities and violent crime is minimal. Certainly you don’t find the incessant hassling that is evident in other Asian tourist cities.

Here is an overview of some of the common concerns you may have about safety in Bangkok.

Buses: Getting off and on the buses in Bangkok is not a simple matter. You must be sure that it has come to a stop, and as such it is best to get off with a group of people and be careful about doing so. Numerous terrible injuries occur every year due to people falling off buses.

Construction: Bangkok is one ongoing construction project and much of the work that was abandoned after the 1997 financial crisis is now being finished off. Pavements are a particular hazard, full of holes and sometimes loose debris. Safety laws in Thailand are rather loosely applied and falling masonry and collapsing walls and billboards are a hazard from time-to-time, but seldom cause any widespread casualty.

Credit card fraud: This is a persistent problem and lax law enforcement means Thailand has a poor reputation for combating this issue. Many banks will not send replacement cards to this country. Only use your card in reputable establishments and with bank exchange bureaux, and be sure to keep it always in sight to avoid unauthorised charges. If your card is stolen or lost, report it immediately. It’s a good idea to keep tabs on your account via online banking while here on holiday, but be sure that the internet café is trustworthy and has anti-spyware programs running.

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Drugs: While the situation has lightened somewhat since the severe crackdown of the infamous ‘war on drugs’ in 2003, Thai authorities still take a hardline on illicit substances. Possession of even a small amount of marijuana will make you vulnerable to a large fine, or even jail time and deportation. Foreigners caught trafficking drugs are likely to end up living a hellish existence at the infamous ‘Bangkok Hilton’ – Bang kwang prison. Do not be drawn into any suspicious deals, no matter how financially rewarding it may sound.

Motorcycles: They are not generally rented in Bangkok like other touristy parts of Thailand, and few tourists brave the traffic behind the wheel. However, motorcycle taxis are a quick means of beating the traffic, although they are dangerous and not recommended except as a last resort. They are, however, very useful and quite safe for short journeys, from a Skytrain station to save you a hot and sticky walk for example.

Hustlers and touts: Pushy touts are likely to be among the first Thai people you meet upon landing in Bangkok Airport and you are likely to meet many more during your stay. Relative to other tourist destinations in developing countries, Thais are generally quite polite and, apart from market vendors and tuk tuk drivers, they respect your privacy. A firm ‘mai ow krap/ka’ (no thanks!) will serve you well in most cases, and if it doesn’t, simply ignoring the persistent pleas and continuing on your path will cause the tout to move on to the next person.

Violence: Thais, on the whole, are calm people and manage to maintain a passive demeanour. However, there is the odd occasion when alcohol-fuelled fights break out and the aggressor will stop at nothing with his rage. Thai men are proud and controlled, but some get drunk easily and if their national, or self, pride is insulted by an insensitive foreigner they can really ‘lose it’. Some visiting men have also reported rather destructive jealousy-fuelled tantrums from their Thai female companions, which have left their hotel rooms trashed.

Scams: Tuk tuk drivers, especially those who congregate in tourist areas, are notorious for offering free ‘tours’ provided you stop off at a jewellery or suit shop along the way. These scams are arranged with the owner of the shop and making purchases during such a trip is not a good idea as you will be paying far higher rates than you would normally and possibly receive goods of dubious quality. And when you decline to purchase anything the atmosphere becomes quite intense.

Scam alert! Be wary of recommendations from taxi drivers when it comes to jewellery shops, tailors, bars and restaurants, especially when offered ‘free tours’ (see above). Gem scams are the most prolific and every week someone lodges a complaint about losing larges sums of money buying what they thought were cheap ‘illegally smuggled’ Burmese gems, only to discover the goods are fake and the shop gone when they return. The solution to this one is simple; don’t be greedy as if something sounds too good to be true then in undoubtedly is.

Terrorism: National security is currently at the top of the agenda of countries around the world and Thailand is no exception. The insurgency in the south has thus far showed no signs of having an effect on the capital. After the second bombing in Bali, it’s difficult to offer any guarantees and Thailand certainly is an easier place for these groups to operate.

Women alone: Thailand is generally a safe country for women to travel alone, but there have been a few cases of rape by taxi drivers or women lured by local men into fearsome,and even fatal, situations. As with all strange countries, keep your wits about you and be wary of befriending strangers too quickly.


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