I still consider Thailand to be one of the safest places I have ever lived.
I am by no means the most cautious traveler in the world, actually far from it. I’m one of those idiots who will go to the most remote parts of the island, spend the day getting dehydrated and sunburnt, and only then realize that it’s time to go home when I no longer see the sun. This scenario more often than not ends up in a series of getting hopelessly lost and eventually finding my way back home via hitchhiking, or once a cart pulled by some oxen (I sat in-between a dog and some cauliflower).
Koh Tao was the first island in Thailand that I had the pleasure of visiting, and I ended up loving it so much that I stayed for two extra weeks and furthered my PADI scuba diving license. At first I wasn’t sure why I loved it so much, yes the water is incredible, yes the cocktails are fabulous, and the beaches were pristine. But there was something else though, and only towards the end of my trip did I realize what it was. Safety. I felt completely safe on the island. I could spend my days getting lost and my nights dancing away on the beach, drinking Thai beers and making friends with people from around the world. I could then walk back down the completely unlit beach to my bungalow; and never once did I feel threatened or unsafe.
Fast forward four months and I woke up to the news that two young British backpackers Hannah Witheridge and David Miller had been brutally murdered on Koh Tao. Reports showed that they were murdered on Sairee Beach, about 100 meters away from where I had been staying. It was something that I am still struggling to believe, and it has certainly impacted the way I will be behaving on my next island adventure.
While murders happen everyday all over the world, the Thai Islands have always been considered one of the safest travel options for young backpackers. Thailand has a predominantly Buddhist population and violence is rare, but it is not absent all together and scamming and pickpocketing have become more frequent.
I still consider Thailand to be one of the safest places I have ever lived, but it is important to keep your wits about you and a few small things could spare you from avoidable trouble.
Below is a list of general tips for safe travel in Thailand:
1. Stay Visible
It is important especially if you are traveling alone, that you stay visible at all times. While finding that uninhabited beach may sound exciting, it has the potential to go wrong if you don’t have people to help you in case of an emergency.
2. Don’t Flash the Cash
Taking a wad of money out in public is asking for a mugging or pickpocket incidence. Be wary who sees your cash and try be discreet when you are paying for things.
3. Don’t Give Your Passport Away
Many bike/car rental places will ask you to leave your passport with them as insurance. Do not do it. This is the number one way that people lose or get their passports stolen. Rather walk away and find the next place that will be happy with.
4. Safety in Numbers
It helps to make friends with other travelers and you are less of a target in a group. That being said, do be cautious and don’t trust everyone you meet.
5. Personal Responsibility
Thailand’s islands are known for their full-moon parties and Bangkok for it’ nightlife, but it’s important to remember that you are in a foreign country where you can’t phone your best friend or your mum if you get too drunk somewhere and need picking up. Getting drunk and lost somewhere that you aren’t familiar with is a bad idea–believe me.
6. Spread Your Cash Options
You should always have a cash back up incase you have a problem like losing your bankcard.
7. Back Up Documents
Always have a printed spare of your important documents to rely on incase of an emergency, or if your get your originals stolen/damaged.
8. Think Before You Act
Something I am not very good at, but if you feel like there’s something weird about a situation, get yourself out of it. Think it’s a good idea to go on moonlit stroll on a dark beach? Probably not. And don’t walk home from pubs and bars alone at night.
Thailand is an incredible country, and an absolute pleasure to backpack and travel, even if you are alone. I very rarely ever feel like I am unsafe, or that something with the potential to turn nasty will ever happen. But it has become clear that there are some serious problems that you can encounter while traveling here; as there are in any other country in the world. Sometimes crime and emergencies are unavoidable, but it is also important to remember that common sense goes a long way, and ultimately you are accountable for yourself as a traveler and it is up to you to make responsible decisions.