Is Thailand Safe to Visit?


Koh Samet in Rayong

Thailand has been featured a lot recently in the international press. Mainly for the wrong reasons. Street protests always make good headlines for the newspapers and there have been plenty over the last few months. Even our local press went overboard a bit when the protestors faced off with the police. When the police took out their batons and threw a couple of canisters of tear gas, the local press came down hard on them. Not only did the police have to withdraw, but the chief of police also had to resign. In the street protests that have been going on for over 100 days now, only one man has been killed. And this was in the early hours of the morning. More people get killed in a typical away match at a football stadium in the UK. However, many countries seemed fit to release travel advisories warning people about taking a holiday in Thailand. Some countries even told their citizens that they should stay away.

Maybe Thailand should retaliate the next time football hooligans take part in street battles in the UK. If the truth be told, life goes on as normal in Bangkok and the rest of the country. There is only a small minority of people protesting and they are mainly restricted to certain areas like the government house. Most of tourists in Bangkok wouldn’t have seen anything over the last few months. And, if they had, they probably would have mistaken the protest for a street carnival. Thailand is not like other countries and the people prefer to avoid confrontation at all costs. They believe that a smile can solve many of their problems. However, I don’t suggest you go and join or visit any of the protest rallies.

Bangkok is very safe at the moment. It is unfortunate that many tourists have been cancelling their holidays. There is no reason to do so. There were a few protests at some small provincial airports, which caused them to be closed for a while, but they have all re-opened now. The train strikes are just about over and only some of the trains in the deep south are not running. I was in Bangkok at the weekend and everything is running as normal. The shopping malls were packed as normal with thousands of people shopping or going to watch a movie. I went to a trade fair at the Queen Sirikit Convention Hall which was promoting domestic tourism. The place was jam packed and there were thousands of people looking for good holiday bargains. The fact of the matter is that most Thai people are bored with the political protests and refuse to take sides. They just want it all to go away.

We cannot say when it will end. After all, it has been going on now for just over two years since the bloodless coup in September 2006. We hope it will be settled soon. If you are planning on coming to Thailand I do strongly believe that there is no need for you to cancel your plans. The Thai people are very kind and generous and you will certainly have an enjoyable holiday. For myself, I am off for a trip to a festival next weekend. Thailand is certainly the best and safest place to travel in this region.

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30 responses to “Is Thailand Safe to Visit?

  1. I do agree with you, Richard. I will not cancel my trip to Thailand in October. I am no longer a resident of Thailand, but a visitor now.

    I read the news about the Constitution court’s decision. I think this will resolve the existing problem. I wonder that the PAD and their supportors should know about the allegation. However, it is a shame that they (the PAD) were not ‘jai yen yen’ and went through a lot of hassels.

  2. got to agre with everything said. been a part time expat in thailand for the last four years.should be going for a visit at christmas, and this wont put me off at all. plenty of people go to far more dangerouse places in ignorance, and nothing happens to them.

  3. Lifted this bit of convo with my dad from my personal blog.

    “Brandon said if this [madness] is still going on [in Thaialand] by the end of October, he’s not coming home with me,” I told [dad].

    “Tell him this is the BEST time to be in Thailand,” dad replied.

    “I told him the protest doesn’t bleed over to the tourists so there’s nothing to worry about.”

    “It’s not just that,” dad added. “All the other tourists would’ve canceled. Hotels would be empty, and then we could get any room at any hotel we want in Phuket on the cheap!”

    So there you go. 😉

  4. If I could I would be on the first plane out of the UK to Thailand, as I know the streets of Thailand are far safer with a political crisis going on than those of all cities in the UK with no political crisis.
    Go to Thailand now- any rain at least is likely to be warmer than the stuff that has been continuously falling in the UK for the last 10 days or so!

  5. We were honestly thinking of canceling our family holiday to Thailand after seeing the newspaper headlines. We have been before and really enjoyed our trip. After reading your blog I feel assured that we will have a safe and en enjoyable holiday yet again. Keep up the good work.

  6. Thanks for the excellent advice. I’m definitely going to Thailand now!

  7. as usual the stupid media blows everything out of proportion.. im glad some ppl are protesting; i got a day off from work last week 🙂

  8. It’s a bit disappointing that you decided to include the throw-away line
    “More people get killed in a typical away match at a football stadium in the UK” That statement is blatently not true. The last recorded death at a football match in the UK was in April this year when a fan was run over by a car outside the footbal ground. My wife is Thai and has lived with me in the UK for the last 5 years and has the opinion that the UK is a much safer place than Bangkok

  9. Hi Richard

    Thanks for you article. I have a different view, if you dont mind me posting it.

    First I certainly take your point that things are relatively calm at the moment and the protests are confined to bangkok. I agree 100% its important that news reports accurately reflect what is happening, rather than stoking hysteria.

    However, the situation IS serious, and it would be wrong to underestimate just how much worse things could get. This is not simply a local protest that got out of hand. Whether you agree with their aims or not, the fact is that there is a powerful and well organised political movement that is agitating to overthrow the government, against the wishes of the majority of the populace. The small crowd we see protesting is just the visible tip of a much larger iceberg.

    Yes, things are fairly sedate RIGHT NOW. But in any country in the world, such a situation can and often does deteriorate very rapidly indeed. All it takes is for one side to step over the line.

    You can’t blame those countries issuing warnings to their citizens to be careful. Look what happened in Phuket. I have several friends who were stranded and seriously inconvenienced when the airport was suddenly shut down. That was just one small gesture in what has been a fairly low level protest. What would happen if things did escalate? We know that there were plans and attempts by PAD to organise widespread strikes and paralyse Bangkok airport. Ok, it never materialised – at least not yet. But the intention was clear. Surely that would be enough to at least make you somewhat cautious?

    I am not saying that things will get worse, and I am not necessarily saying that people should cancel their plans to visit. I am not even saying that foreigners would be in any danger if things did get worse. I am simply saying that it is only prudent to be careful and well informed. I think governments would be remiss in their responsibility to their citizens if they didn’t warn them of this potentiality.

    Btw, I think its just a tad bit unfair to say that the typical away football match in the UK results in multiple fatalities 🙂

  10. mickey (thaiporkpie)

    bang on richard, ive been in thailand now 4 years or more and never have i seen hostility im greeted everyday by thousands of thai and they are a lovely race of people they dont bother farang when they ralley or protest at their government infact as been said, i havnt seen anything

  11. mickey (thaiporkpie)

    ad ae bringing down thaksins government beause they are either corrupt rwrongfully in power y the law of the land ayone who s be some kind of celebrity or as influence with their position in office as to go its all thaksins people that they want out and create a new government what ever thats got to do with tourists i dont know.
    theres nothing worse than britain on tv in the afternoons, when i lived there, we used to watch the programme houses of parliament where the labour party and the tories, liberal and all the others argueing like a well organised muppet show, the thai people deseve to have a fair government, they wear their heart on their sleeves.
    and personally i dont think death at a football game or anywhere as anything to do with coming here on holiday .

  12. It is safe. Nobody will bother tourist at all. There will be no more airport shut down because we have learnt from previous time. So don’t worry! Just stay out of the RED- ZONE area such as House of Paliment.

  13. in all the internet buzz about thailand tourism, people have not been mentioning what i think is very important. Insurance companies will NOT reimburse for trips cancelled or interrupted due to civil protests. (if anyone knows of an insurance company that DOES do this, please post it!)

    for someone travelling to thailand from north america, such as myself, that is a huge consideration. airline tickets for 2 cost approx $2500 US, and if you throw hotel reservations on to that, your trip can cost $5000 US upward.

    So: sample scenario: PAD protests close BKK international on the day you are due to fly out. Your flight is cancelled AND you will eat your plane tickets, reservations, AND the vacation time you booked off work.

    Is it still worth making travel plans to Thailand?

  14. With honestly , I think we can go to travel at northen and north east of Thailand as usual. Especially if you has Thai friend as there’s peace and without chaos in that regions ,also in Bangkok’s famous shopping areas such like Siam Square, Pratunum and Sukhumvit rd.. And for Bangkokians, we still having the same normal life by just try to avoid of the traffic jam on the roads around the PAD’s congregate sites.

  15. Let’s put it this way:
    If Thais understand that their political turmoil affects the tourism industry, they will think of a way out.

    Regardless of the safety issues, street protests hurts the image of Thailand as the ‘Land of Smile’. Now people see Thais as violent people instead of friendly hosts. (Well, at least those who have never been to the kingdom.)

    I think I will still visit the country early next year. Now I hope the crowd will be smaller, and I will get better deal for accommodation.

  16. One tip for visitors:
    If you want to avoid BKK, you may fly to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), and take a direct flight to Krabi, Phuket or Chiang Mai.

    Anyway, Krabi and Phuket are still PAD’s areas.

  17. UK should take a look in the mirror

    ok, if we don’t consider football hooliganism as an issue which deserves a Travel Warning to the UK, then take shooting a Brazilian tourist/student dead in cold-blood in front of hundreds of witnesses in the London Tube.

    Perhaps a Travel Warning could read “It is advised that if you over-stay your visa in the UK, do not run away from policemen when approached, otherwise they shoot you dead”.

    Or whatabout race riots in Bradford a few years back when there were rampages, again Thailand didn’t issue a Travel Warning about going to the UK. There are lots more examples too of Brits travelling abroad, on a holiday and as hooligans.

    The next time too, Heathrow Airport opens a new terminal and loses tens of thousands of bags (April this year) and delays many more times travellers than Phuket Airport, Thailand should issue a Travel Warning.

  18. the tip about flying to chiang mai instead of the PAD regions is a good idea. thanks.

  19. I think this is one of the best times to visit Thailand…lower hotel rates so you can stay in the best luxury hotels like I did at Lebua State Tower….fewer tourists so you get amazing discounts at MBK and Paragon and lesser people again when you want to see the local tourist attractions …all in all it is a win win situation….for the tourists at least.

  20. I still remember back in the 80’s in Old Patong…

    There seemed to be some sort of “re-organization” in BKK, but it rarely, if ever affected ANY tourist areas or really much more than a very SMALL area in BKK.

    Make no mistake, that SMALL area was a war zone, from time to time, elsewhere, the restaurants NEVER closed, people went on with their carefree life and lifestyles ALL over the Kingdom!

    There is really no area on earth that is immune to stupidity and violence, but when is the last time you had a bad day at ANY beach or in mountains or a village ANYWHERE in the Kingdom?

    Come to Thailand, stay as long as you can afford and leave with peaceful, tranquil memories that will last you and yours a lifetime…

    Thailand, simply like no other place on earth!!!

  21. Some pretty dumb comments on here about how safe Thailand is. Its a waste of time to compare countries of hugely different societies and problems (UK and Thailand). The UK will probably have to live with the football hooliganism tag for a long time even if its a bit of a non story for the last few years. So too will Thailand with its surreal politics (FT Headline). Thailands real bad image (and safety problem) lies in places like Pattaya and other seedy areas. Dont forget also that criticism is what comes when you are a succesfully developed and admired country. People expect things to be put right/made better/etc etc. Thailand is as safe to visit as Argentina, Bhutan, Chile, Greece, Micronesia, Poland, Saint Lucia, Turkey, etc etc etc.

  22. This article makes no sense.

    Parts of Iraq (Kurdish areas) and Afghanistan (NW Corridor) are pretty safe – doesn’t mean that travel warnings to those countries are invalid.

    Thailand has a long and bloody history of massacres, coups etc. At present it has a guerilla war in the deep south, parliament is occupied, bombs are exploding on the streets of the capital and people are dying in demonstrations.

    Things could easily get out of hand – Thai culture struggles to deal with the kind of deep-rooted issues involved in the present round of troubles because of certain laws and because nothing is open here. Democracy is also very loosely applied and the constitution and government very weak. The Economist magazine referred to Thailand as becoming SE Asia’s Pakistan – unstable, ungovernable etc this seems to be happening right now.

    Sure, you can find a beach or a back soi of Bangkok where you can eat noodles/get a tan in peace.

    But lets be realistic – the problems here are purely Thai made. PAD occupied parliament, a Thai govt declared a state of emergency, the Thai police fired tear gas. None of that has anything to do with the foreign media.

    Also lets cast an eye back to the 70s when the international media was less present. Horrible violence, brutal suppression etc.

    The media play a role in making sure that the state does not engage in terrible excess. One of the reasons the Thai govt have been restrained is because of the foreign media. If 100 PAD demonstrators were shot by the army (not a completely unlikely scenario) then, quite rightly, the Thai govt would become international pariahs.

    To my mind the recent demos if they were happening in a Western setting don’t look so bad – but in the context of Thailand, an unstable country where corruption is endemic, the police badly trained and where the rule of law is very weak, they could escalate badly and quickly.

    So, let’s have some balance on both sides of reporting this. Pretending Thailand is some jolly, happy clappy place where you can lie on the beach while demonstrators die on the streets of the capital is just ridiculous.

  23. Wanting to travel to Thailand

    Anyone who trusts in mainstream media is Brain Dead. Mainstream media is designed to keep everyone from knowing what is really going on.

    I would take the word of someone living there over that of any main stream media, especially the UK or the US. Dis-information is what they peddle.

  24. So every single event the mainstream UK/US media covers is complete disinformation? That’s obviously a complete and utter nonsense.

    And what about the Thai press? The Nation led with the headline “Bloodbath” in huge bold letters the other day. On their website it leads with a photo-montage called Black October. Then there is Thai Rath – endless photos of bloody limbs and torn off legs. All of this is dramatic, hard-hitting stuff that is far more over-the-top than anything in any Western media.

    So before succumbing to the normal Cleary/Barrow inspired conspiracy theories of the Western press out to do down poor little Thailand get some perspective and don’t forget that websites like this one have an agenda as much as any news outlets.

    Blogs like this one have a vested interest in people coming to Thailand as tourists. If people stopped coming then websites such as this would cease to exist.

    And let’s be certain on one thing – Thailand’s problems are entirely of its own making.

  25. Does anyone know if trains are running in area between Bangkok and Malaysia as of 10/18/08?

  26. I just returned from 15 days (Oct-2008) in Thailand and can say it is safer then the states! I spent time in Bangkok, Hua Hin and Isan (Surin).

  27. Thanks for the article! This is a question that I’ve been looking at lately, since I just booked a trip to Thailand for March. Hopefully the situation will not destabilize between now and then — Thailand is a fantastic country, and I’m looking forward to visiting it again soon.

    For keeping tabs on the current situation there, i’d like to recommend trying out the service i’ve setup called Is It Safe to Visit?, which aggregates the travel advisories from AU/NZ/US/Canada for any country. For example, to keep tabs on Thailand, just go to http://www.isitsafetovisit.com/Thailand — it can be handy to get the perspective of several different advisories!

    In the meantime, I’m keeping the Thai people in my thoughts as their country makes it through this difficult time.

  28. If you get in any kind of trouble in Phuket, like someone I know, who was attacked for no reason by 20 young thais and left battered and beaten, only to have the police arrive beat him up some more throw him in Jail without medical assistance then beat him with batons in the jail. Finally next day he was taken to hospital and kept under guard overnight and then made to apologise for something he did not do. This is what happens in Thailand to foreign tourists if they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is absolutely true. THe man in question is in his late forties. Give the Thailand a miss. It is not sake do not believe the hype. All they want is your money and every year it gets worse.

  29. Over-zealous travel warnings and expats who waffle on that there’s nothing to worry about are polarised views of the same situation.

    Generally Thailand is a very safe place and I feel much safer here than I do in UK. However, the inclusion of “More people get killed in a typical away match at a football stadium in the UK” (every match is an away match for one team) is ridiculous and brings the whole article down.

    To suggest that at protest in one part of Bangkok should require cancelling a long-awaited holiday is reactionary. To suggest that there is nothing to worry about is foolish.

    As we now know, since this was written, the situation in Thailand has become worse and the travel warnings may not appear quite so silly now (although I still think it is safe enough here).

    There were many expats in Beirut in the past who said “nothing serious will come of it” and all those colonials living it up in Phnom Pehn in the early 70s ended up looking rather stupid. Whilst I hope nothing like that happens here it is worth monitoring the situation.

    I would say that you should not hold back from booking a holiday to Thailand but you should be realistic and know that things can get out of hand quickly: monitor the situation.

    The monarchy is real stabilising influence here and all the time it remains there should be no real reason to worry about safely travelling to Thailand.

  30. What is a typical away match? LOL! Is there such thing as an away match or a home match? hahahahaha LIES! Thailand is NOT SAFE so BEWARE!