Thailand has long been a favourite destination for travellers young and old for its vibrant culture, beautiful landscapes and affordable prices. A trip to this tropical paradise is sure to leave you with fond memories, smiley encounters with hospitable locals and some of the world’s best white sandy beaches. But as with every destination, there can always be a few hidden dangers and unsavoury characters that could catch unsuspecting travellers out.
We want your holiday to be an unforgettable experience for all the right reasons, so here is your guide to smart travelling in Thailand.
Did you know that defacing a Thai bank note bearing the King’s image could see you imprisoned for 15 years?
Many countries have restrictions that may seem baffling, but can still incur hefty fines, detention and deportation. Thailand is no different in this respect. It is always a good idea to familiarise yourself with local laws when planning your next overseas adventure.
The Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website has an online resource with detailed and up-to-date information for tourists regarding Thai laws. It is important to note that if you do find yourself on the wrong side of the law your travel insurance may be jeopardised, so it’s best to do your research and be careful.
Scams in Thailand
There are plenty of wonderful things to be bought in Thailand, however you should be wary of exactly what you purchase and how much you pay, as scams can be rife in Thailand. Jet ski rental scams, as with other activity rental scams, are not the only trap that unsuspecting travellers can fall into.
You may be visiting the iconic Grand Palace in Bangkok only to have a stranger tell you it is closed for maintenance. The helpful stranger will inform you that there is another temple open that day that they can take you to on a tuk tuk. Before you know it, you are led to a small jewellery store and aggressively offered counterfeit gemstones, which you can “sell at home for a big profit.” If you are approached in the street and told the palace is closed, don’t believe it!
We have also heard stories of travellers being approached by fake Buddhist Monks who insist that you accept a blessed bead bracelet, and then ask for a cash donation. If you would like to make a donation to a Buddhist organisation, we recommend you do this online via a secure website.
We often receive claims involving incidents of pick-pocketing and hotel room theft, and these events are not uncommon in Thailand. Women have been known to be targeted and should take particular caution when travelling alone. Investing in some smart travel gear, such as a traveller’s wallet, is a good way of decreasing the likelihood of having your bag snatched from your shoulder.
These are just a few examples of many scams that you could fall victim to in Thailand. There are several resources for tourists hoping to avoid tourist scams in Thailand, including the New Zealand Embassy in Thailand /Australian Smart Traveller websites. The Bangkok scams website details common tricks and personal stories from travellers who have been duped.
Drink spiking warning
For our more youthful travellers, Thailand’s appeal often lies in the promise of parties on beachfronts under luminous ‘full moon’ skies. Unfortunately many young tourists have found themselves needing urgent medical attention, having ingested dangerous substances maliciously placed in their drinks.
The practice of drink spiking largely occurs to make the tourist vulnerable to criminals. The substances they use are not applied in controlled measures, and thus victims of drink spiking are often hospitalised with drug overdoses. Those who choose to drink out of an infamous ‘party bucket’ may be particularly vulnerable to drink spiking due to their wide openings and vague ingredients. Depending on the circumstances, you may not be covered by travel insurance if you have consumed alcohol, so it’s important to drink responsibly and in a safe environment.
Full Moon Party advice
Thailand’s infamous Full Moon Party at Koh Phangan can be an enjoyable experience for younger travellers if the necessary precautions are taken. The allure of this party sees thousands of young people travel to the shores of Koh Phangan, and with questionable alcohol in abundance things can often turn ugly.
The risks involved can include careless attitudes towards safety, official corruption, drink spiking, illegal drugs and reckless behaviour.
Here are some smart tips to enjoy the Full Moon Party safely:
- Stay with your group of friends and do not wander off on your own.
- If you do lose your friends, identify and set a safe meeting point as your phones may not have reception.
- Make a note of the resort details so you can find your way home at the end of the night.
- Keep away from drugs – remember that Thailand has very strict penalties for drug use.
- Do not eat or drink anything offered by strangers.
- Do not take any valuables with you – there will be thousands of people there, you’ll never catch the thief.
- Take care of your camera – not only could you lose the item but you could also lose the memories of your trip. We suggest you take a throwaway camera so it doesn’t matter as much if you do lose it.
It is recommended that tourists avoid local and homemade cocktails as they have been found in the past to contain poisonous substances like methanol.
Currency and counterfeit tips
The Thai currency is the Baht. Fake Baht banknotes are a common problem in Thailand, and are often not easily distinguishable from the genuine article. Tourists who unknowingly use counterfeit notes may find themselves questioned by police.
We encourage travellers in Thailand to be wary of counterfeit banknotes to avoid unwanted attention from local authorities. A common way to spot a fraudulent note is to wet it slightly – those that are counterfeit will often see their colours running. You may see store owners dabbing at your money with a wet cloth to determine its authenticity.
The best way to ensure your Thai Baht is legitimate is to only exchange your foreign currency at a Thai bank, as these have already been tested.
Safety tips for women
Attitudes towards women throughout Thailand lean on the conservative side of social conventions. In certain circumstances that means women should cover their shoulders and legs, such as when visiting sacred sites like temples and shrines. In more extreme cases, women may be requested not to communicate, touch or sit with a monk.
Care should also be taken when enjoying the bright nightlife and warm beaches in Thailand as Western dress codes and behaviour can be misinterpreted. It’s safer to pack with this in mind and avoid activities such as topless sunbathing.
Worldwide Emergency Assistance
With all TravelCare policies you gain access to one of the world’s largest medical care and resources network. When the unexpected happens, you can contact our 24/7 support centre on +61 2 8216 0200.
Our team will be able to help you:
- Locate the nearest qualified medical practitioner
- Coordinate emergency medical evacuation
- Communicate with your next of kin and family
- Provide payment guarantees to hospitals so that you receive the urgent treatment you need.