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Tourist Safety in Thailand

Tourist safety in Thailand Chao Phraya River cruise Bangkok

Bangkok by Night

Tourist safety in Thailand has been getting a fair bit of attention this year, with EU Ambassadors and the Thai Tourism Minister joining the debate on the treatment of tourists and their safety while on holiday in Thailand, particularly in Phuket.

The minister, newly appointed to the office in April, began his stint by promising to set up special tourists courts, so tourist victims of crime can have their case dealt with swiftly.

This at least suggests to me that the Thai government acknowledges that a problem exists and that they would like to do something about tourist safety in Thailand.

How safe is Thailand as a destination for tourists?

Well if you based your answer to this question on a selection of the news stories from this last week in the national and international press plus the latest British Foreign Office(FCO) report on Brits abroad, the answer would be that Thailand is far from safe for tourists.

The news stories I refer to include a train derailment injuring over 30 people many of them foreign tourists, a tourist bus crashing into a low bridge seriously injuring several tourists and a scathing, but fairly accurate report, delivered by Fox News under the headline, “Thailand urged to tackle the dark side of the Land of Smiles.”

The FCO’s annual report on Brits abroad lists Thailand as 2nd in its league tables for UK citizens requiring assistance in foreign lands. The report is slightly distorted from a “tourist safety in Thailand” perspective since it includes assistance given to some of the 50,000 UK citizens who actually live in Thailand.

But the 389 deaths and 285 hospitalizations of UK citizens still makes pretty chilling reading even if you take into account those older folk dying from natural causes. Also remember the report only reflects cases that the UK embassy/consular staff were involved in.

Tourist Safety in Thailand-Awareness

While most tourists are unaware of the tourist safety and other issues Thailand suffers from, those of us who have spent a few years living in Thailand are only too aware of these problems.

We know about the corruption that riddles Thai society. That a lot of the money that is earmarked for infrastructure projects and maintenance never gets spent where its needed.

We know that trains frequently derail because of poor maintence of tracks and rolling stock, that Thailand’s roads are some of the most dangerous in the world, where drivers charged with the safety of their passengers in buses and mini-vans are frequently found wanting or not found since they often flee the scene if involved in an accident!

We know of some corrupt government employees who we encounter from time to time when we get stopped by the police or want something from Immigration.

We also know about the numberous scams that are practiced on tourists here, ranging from jet ski’s opertors claiming compensation for “damage” to dishonest taxi and tuk-tuk drivers charging ridiculous fares and taking customer to unscupolous business premises.

Of course we chose to live here,  accepting these risks and annoyances as part of everyday life, trying to mitigate them as much as we can, whilst still enjoying the many positive aspects of life in the Kingdom.

But what of the tourists? How well informed are they of what potential hazards await them in the Land of Smiles?

Some countries, like my own,  do make an effort to make visitors aware of some of the dangers and other hazards they may face in Thailand. But seriously, who, if they are planning their annual two weeks in the sun, would trawl the Internet looking at the negative reports of their intended destination. Not many I suspect. So as for being aware goes, although it is pure conjecture on my part, I fancy most tourist are fairly oblivious to the potential problems they could encounter in Thailand.

But what about the future, ASEAN membership and all that it entails? Will tourist safety in Thailand improve?  Personally I think not,  simply because many of the things mentioned in this article would require change, a change in thinking and culture.

Will tourists wake up and smell the coffee, regarding their safety and the way some are treated in Thailand, perhaps even choosing a different destination? I’m not sure, but I fancy the answer is that they will continue to come here, although the country of origin of future tourists might well change.

Finally a word to potential tourists. Thailand is  great place to visit if you accept that you cannot expect much protection from the authorities when things go wrong. Also accept that health and safety is a concept yet to be discovered by Thailand and its people who accept corruption as a part of daily life.

Take your time,  plan things out a little and apply some common sense. Take out adequate travel insurance because you may well find that if something goes wrong, like an accident, the operator, does not have third party insurance to cover your medical bills.

Recent reports of accidents involving tourists to Thailnd.

Train Derailment

Bus Crash

Dark Side Report

FCO Brits Abroad

About Mike Rose (95 Articles)
Mike Rose is a seasoned traveller and award winning blogger with a good knowledge of Thailand, its people and culture. Mike is currently learning to read the Thai language. He is also a keen amateur wildlife photographer.

6 Comments on Tourist Safety in Thailand

  1. Ryan McGovern // July 21, 2013 at 8:32 am //

    This is a very interesting post on Thailand and safety in Thailand. It adds a factual side to the debate that readers can make use of and get a clearer picture of what to expect if they are traveling here. But as you said, who is going to be reading negative reports about their dream holiday destination? Most people want to hear good stuff before they travel. My blog post on safety in Thailand offers some practical tips that you could make use of in terms of how you approach Thailand http://bit.ly/13Kak4r though I think there are many isolated cases where this advice would not be of the slightest help. Still, it’s always good to know the character of the people in the country where you travel so you can know what to do/say, or not to do/say…

    • Hi Ryan

      I was prompted to make the post because of what I have been reading lately, not personal experience since I am savvy enough now to avoid even remotely hazardous situations.

      Do I expect anything to change with tourist safety? No, not really, like most things here once its out of the spotlight its quietly forgotten. I do believe the Thai authorities could address a lot of the more minor problems like the scams that are so well documented.

      But its not going to happen is it? I mean there was that documentary that went viral about Phuket, but its all quietened down now.

  2. Jodocus // July 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm //

    Common sense will often help u keeping out of trouble in thailand. Train accidents happen, sometimes, but they happen all over the world. You can actively avoid problems.

    Example: if u drive a minivan with a crazy driver, simply get out. Lose
    a few baht but save your life.

    For long distances try airasia. Costs little more than bus or train but safer (and quicker).

    I’ve lived in SE-asia for several years and had no problems sofar. I see a lot of tourists acting unresponsible, something they could/would never do back home.

    Use your brain, wear a helmet on a motorbike and stay sober.

    Uncle Jodocus’ advice, free of charge.

    • I agree with you, flying is certainly an option for long distance travel but a lot of the stats relate to when people are at their destination. The tour bus is an example and of course motorcycle accidents.

  3. Yeah, I think anyone who has lived here and blogs has written a post on Thailand safety. I know I did from a woman’s perspective. It’s a sad picture you paint but it appears to be true. We got a Canadian in CM paralyzed from the chest down because he was shot during a crazy drive by/bar fight. He wasn’t even in the fight. Depressing!

    • Lani
      I didn’t really want to write a depressing post with a lot of anti-Thai stuff. sadly what I have written is true/factual and readng this mornings news it get even more depressing. Three overnight bus crashes, the worst with 19 souls burned to death near Saraburi.

      On the way back from Loei yesterday I witnessed two probably fatal accidents involving motorcycles. Driving standards are just so bad, people overtaking me on blind bends in the mountains, bloody crazy folk!

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