Thailand Travel Advice: Why You Should Ignore Scary News Media Warnings
If you read the mainstream newspapers, you may have seen one of many recent articles concerning the safety of Thailand for travellers, and proposing to offer Thailand travel advice. In most of these articles, incidents of scams, muggings, unprovoked attacks, terrorist bombings, and even deaths are listed. If you’ve never been to the beautiful country of Thailand and you read one of these fear-inducing articles, I wouldn’t blame you for being put off visiting.
Just yesterday, a member of an online travel group I’m part of shared a news article with the headline, “Thailand’s Dark Side: Why You Really Shouldn’t Visit Koh Tao”, with the question of whether she should rethink her South East Asia travel plans and skip Thailand altogether.
My answer to her? Absolutely not.
Whilst I don’t want to sugar-coat those awful occasions where travellers have been caught up in bad situations, especially those that have ended in tragic deaths, the reality is these sad occurrences are rare. 32.59 million tourists visited Thailand in 2016 alone, and the majority will have enjoyed an incident-free trip.
This is exactly why scaremongering articles that point blank tell travellers to avoid visiting altogether are not useful at all. I think it’s only fair that I share my own views of the country, to try and balance the scales of what people read online regarding Thailand travel advice, and South East Asia travel as a whole.
Don’t let newspapers give you Thailand travel advice
Official travel advice for visiting any country in the world can and should be sought directly from your government. This is the gov.uk site in the UK, smarttraveller.gov.au for Australia, and travel.gov.state in the US (sorry if you’re not reading this from one of those locations – just Google “government travel advice” and yours should pop up).
Although, what you read on these sites can also sound a lot more ominous than the reality. It’s kind of like reading the possible side effects of a prescription drug and becoming terrified that you’ll have the worst reaction!
I have visited Thailand twice in the past five years, my last trip being in January 2016. On both trips, I backpacked from Phuket up to Chiang Rai, including Koh Phi Phi, Koh Railay, Koh Lanta, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai in my route.
At no point in the four weeks of my trip did I feel unsafe anymore so than in another foreign country. In fact, whilst on Koh Phi Phi I developed a stomach infection and had to be hospitalised. The Thai doctors that treated me were incredible, and having been embarrassingly seen rushed into the clinic on a trolley, the local shop owners and massage therapists repeatedly asked my boyfriend how I was doing every time he passed.
My time in the country has included many activities that aren’t recommended, but rather than refusing to do them and miss out on a potential experience, I made sure I protected myself as much as I could, and I had no problems at all. For example, I rented a scooter but did this on the island of Koh Lanta where the roads are properly tarmacked and there are fewer vehicles around (versus other islands with sandy and unpaved roads, or high traffic levels). I also did a full check of the scooter at the start and took photos as evidence of existing damage.
It goes without saying that you need to exercise a higher degree of caution when travelling in any foreign country. Take all the necessary steps to keep yourself safe, and your chances of having any issues are greatly decreased. My general tips are:
- Keep valuables on you whilst on public transport – don’t use the shelves to store them
- Avoid wearing expensive items i.e. designer sunglasses and watches
- Don’t get so wasted that you’re an easy target
- Stick to well-lit and busy areas after dusk
- Know the local customs – in Thailand, you shouldn’t raise your voice
- Avoid walking on beaches after dusk
- Consider staying in hotels rather than beach huts on party islands
- Don’t flash money or expensive tech – be discreet
- Drink bottled alcoholic drinks rather than spirits
- Don’t accept drugs/experiment with local drugs
- Read the reviews for tour companies and transport companies online
- Wear clothes that help you blend in, rather than stand out
- Understand that the only health and safety rules that exist are those you set for yourself
- Research known scams before you go – knowledge is power
The way I see it, no country is ‘safe’ – not even our own. Travelling abroad feels like a bigger risk because we may not know the language or customs, but ultimately, the worst could happen to you in your own backyard. I passionately take this outlook on travel and really urge you to do the same.
Whilst I’m not saying you should jump on a plane to Syria right now, my general advice is that if you’re inspired to visit a country, please don’t let mainstream media reports heighten your fear and put you off. Do your research, seek the official travel advice, speak to others that have already visited (there are plenty of travel groups on Facebook), and when you go anyway, just keep your wits about you and be sensible 😊.
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