Thailand safety examination and safety tips for living / traveling
As coronavirus situation starts to improve, many are now looking forward to traveling, doing vocation/workation or work remotely far from home again. We know that big metropolitan cities in Asia like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore are among the safest in the world. In comparison, big cities in Thailand are also quite safe but not at the same level as those cities.
Thailand can be safe to travel and be considered comfortable for living. However, you will still need to be mindful of the possible safety and health risks.
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Thailand safety level
As a Thai national, I see news about homicide and murder almost on a daily basis and this sounds scary. However, if we take a look at statistics – Thailand is considerably safe from a serious crime perspective.
According to the United Nations data, Thailand has been seeing a declining number of homicides each year. The latest number, which is as of 2017, shows Thailand’s level of homicide per 100,000 population was 3x lower than the global level.
Let’s corroborate the earlier finding further. We looked into the data provided by the National Statistics Office of Thailand (NSO). In a year, Thailand (a country with 70 million population) reports 2 thousands murder cases and 15 thousands assault case.
According to the NSO, the majority of crimes are small crimes related to theft/snatching (~40 thousands) and cheating/fraud/misappropriation (~20 thousands).
Thailand safety risks
Thefts and scams are the most common types of crime. While these post relatively lower risk to your safety while in Thailand, understanding them does not just make you feel safe but it would also help you to avoid headaches and annoyance down the road.
Theft, snatching and robbery
Local people often perceive foreigners and tourists as wealthy. While dressing down and storing your valuables in a safebox helps – you should always be mindful of your belongings. For example, it is not a great idea to place your phone or wallet on the table while dining on the street side. Wearing branded goods or expensive jewelry is not advisable when you walk along the small streets or taking public transport. Thailand is safe for tourists and foreigners as long as you minimize the possibility of attracting crime to yourselves.
Cheating, fraud and misappropriation
Foreigners or travelers should also watch out for price scams. The most common price scams are the taxi fare and retail shopping price scams.
We do not advise foreigners (especially first time travelers) to take public buses in Thailand because of frequent breakdowns and also language barrier issues, so remaining options are taxis and BTS/MRT (public sky and underground trains). Speaking of BTS/MRT, it is very convenient to use and fairly safe. BTS and MRT reaches have become expansive but they may still not cover the places that you need to go to. In this situation, you’ll need to take a taxi.
Unfortunately, many operators have “tourist prices” which are extremely inflated. Tourists who are not familiar with unit economics in Thailand could easily fall prey into this. To avoid getting scammed, you can do research on the pricing benchmark before you come to Thailand. Another tip is to use an app like Grab (Uber equivalent) that provides you with standardized pricing.
One more pro-tip for you so that you can avoid getting ripped off when you first land in Thailand is to use the official taxi channel and instruct the drivers to use standard meter or (as mentioned before) just use Grab car!
Health safety in Thailand
We know Thailand for its bountiful resources – this means plenty of fresh air, water, flourishing agriculture & aquaculture and globally renowned food recipes. However, to ensure your health safety during your travel or stay in Thailand, there are a few things that you should look out for.
Water safety in Thailand
In some countries, you might have the privilege of safe, drinkable tap water. However, we want to warn you upfront that it is not advisable to directly drink tap water in Thailand. Water bottles are absolutely safe for drinking – however if you are staying for an extended period of time in Thailand and want to reduce expenditure by drinking tap water – you should at least run tap water through a filter or a purifier before drinking.
Air safety in Thailand
Like many developing countries, Thailand suffers from air pollution especially in a big city like Bangkok. Back in early 2020 (before Covid-19), a lot of Bangkok residents were wearing face masks to safeguard their health against air pollution.
In 2021, UNESCAP issued a report stating that air pollution is mostly escalated by agriculture and forest fires which often occur during a dry season like winter. Keep a lookout on the PM10 level, which measures the air pollution typically caused by agriculture, construction and smoke. Another metric that people normally monitor is the level of PM2.5. This is tiny atmospheric particulate matter mostly produced by vehicles, refineries and other heavy industries.
If you go to places like Phuket or Koh Samui, you should not worry too much about air safety. However, if you are going to places like Bangkok, we recommend you to look up the Thailand air quality index ahead of your trip.
Food safety in Thailand
Thai food is yummy! most people will agree to this! Moreover, food ingredients in Thailand are fresh and safe for consumption. However, to ensure your safety when travelling to Thailand, there are several things you should watch out for.
The first one is food cleanliness, especially if you are out for some street food. Secondly, food spiciness – you don’t want to get a stomachache in the middle of your trip after you eat something that’s too spicy than what you can handle! Lastly, be mindful of the ingredients and herbs used and whether you have allergy to them. For instance, Pad Thai traditionally uses peanuts topping, so please be aware if you have peanut allergy! You don’t want to end up in a hospital during your holiday.
Terrorism in Thailand
Back to a serious topic like terrorism. Terrorism is quite rare in Thailand, however there are 3 provinces in the southern Thailand that you might consider avoiding if you have a big safety concern. There is an on-going separatist insurgency in 3 provinces on the southern border of Thailand, namely Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat. We have to mention that locals in those 3 provinces are still leading normal daily lives and tourisms are still happening with frequent visits among Thais and Malaysians (pre-Covid).
Thailand Coronavirus situation
This is an important section during the Coronavirus pandemic. At the time of this blog update, countries in South and Southeast Asia had been hit hard by the Delta variant, and this includes Thailand.
Source: World Health Organization (WHO), updated on 17 September 2021
Any travelers should note that Thailand is facing yet another wave of outbreak after the Thai New Year holiday (Songkran) in April 2021.
If you are looking to travel to Thailand in 2021 during Coronavirus pandemic, we also have other posts relating to Thailand travel restrictions and quarantine procedures.
So is Thailand safe for traveling or living?
The short answer is yes – Thailand is safe, as long as you are aware of the potential health or crime risks. It is advisable that you understand them and take preventive measures before your travel.
One more pro tip from us is to carefully consider where you plan to stay or visit – a good community gives you a head start from a safety standpoint. Apart from that, be sensible – do not wander around alone at night, always watch your belongings and be on the lookout for potential price scams – and you will be safe to travel and stay in Thailand.
Other useful posts about Thailand: