Although Thailand is in no way a dangerous country to visit, it's wise to be a little cautious, particularly if you're travelling alone. Solo women travellers should take special care on arrival at Bangkok international airport, particularly at night. Don't take one of Bangkok's often very unofficial taxis (black-and-white licence tags) by yourself - better a licensed taxi (yellow-and-black tags) or even the public bus. Both men and women should ensure their rooms are securely locked and bolted at night. Inspect cheap rooms with thin walls for strategic peepholes.
Take caution when leaving valuables in hotel safes. Many travellers have reported unpleasant experiences with leaving valuables in Chiang Mai guesthouses while trekking. Make sure you obtain an itemised receipt for property left with hotels or guesthouses - note the exact quantity of travellers cheques and all other valuables.
Tourists should exercise caution in remote areas along the border with Burma. The Thai/Burma border is the site of on-going conflicts between the Burmese Army and armed opposition groups as well as clashes between Thai security forces and armed drug traffickers. The far south of Thailand has also experienced incidents of criminally and politically motivated violence, including incidents attributed to armed local Muslim separatist groups. In addition, six illegal aliens from Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan were arrested in the southern city of Hat Yai on October 5, 2001, with a box cutter and suspicious electrical devices. Although Americans have not been specifically targeted in either area, travelers should remain vigilant with regard to their personal security. Tourists should obtain information from Thai authorities about whether official border crossing points are open, and should cross into neighboring countries only at designated crossing points. Thai/Burma border crossings sometimes close temporarily as a result of armed clashes in Burma between the Burmese army and Burmese ethnic groups.
Licensed guides can help ensure that trekkers do not cross inadvertently into a neighboring country.Pirates, bandits, and drug traffickers operate in the border areas. In February 2000, two Australians camping near the Burma border in Ang Kang Park, in the Fang District, were attacked by robbers. One of the campers was shot and killed. In April 1999, a dozen Thai villagers and tribesmen were killed in separate incidents near Thailand's northern border with Burma. In January 2000, 10 gunmen from two fringe groups in Burma crossed into Thailand and took several hundred people hostage at a provincial hospital in Ratchaburi Province. All ten gunmen were killed when Thai authorities stormed the hospital to end the crisis.
Travelers should be aware that there are occasional incidents of violence on Thailand's northern and eastern borders with Laos. In July 2000, five people were killed and several fled to Thailand during a skirmish between apparent insurgents and government forces in Laos near the eastern border crossing at Chong Mek. Additionally, two U.S. citizens in 1999 and one in early 2000 were reported missing after attempting to cross illegally into Laos at the Lao-Thai border.Although tourists have not been targeted specifically by this occasional violence, due caution remains advisable. It is recommended that persons wishing to travel to border areas check with the Thai tourist police and the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai or the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. Strong seasonal undercurrents at popular beach resorts sometimes pose a fatal threat to surfers and swimmers.
During the monsoon season, which is from May through October, drowning is the leading cause of death for tourists visiting Phuket. Some, but not all, beaches have warning flags to indicate the degree of risk (red flag: sea condition dangerous for swimming; yellow flag: sea condition rough, swim with caution; green flag: sea condition stable). In July 2001, an American tourist died in a surfing accident in Phuket at a beach that was not marked. CRIME INFORMATION: In recent years, crimes of opportunity such as pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, and burglaries have become more common, though the crime threat in Bangkok remains less than in many American cities. Violent crimes against foreigners are relatively rare. Travelers should be especially wary when walking in crowded markets, tourist sites and bus or train stations. Women are generally not subject to sexual harassment.
Reports of serious transportation-related crimes involving taxis or three-wheeled vehicles called "tuk tuks" are relatively rare, though fare scams can occur. More serious are incidents in which drivers tout disreputable gem stores or entertainment venues because they receive money for bringing in customers. Travelers should always use official metered taxis in Bangkok and never enter a cab that has anyone besides a driver in it. In March 2000, a U.S. citizen was attacked and robbed by a taxi driver and an accomplice picked up en route by the driver. There are occasional reports of scopolamine druggings perpetrated by prostitutes or unscrupulous bar workers for the purpose of robbery. Tourists have also been victimized by drugged food and drink, usually offered by a friendly stranger (sometimes posing as a fellow traveler).
In addition, casual acquaintances met in a bar or on the street may pose a threat. Travelers are advised to avoid leaving drinks or food unattended, and they should avoid going to unfamiliar venues alone. Some trekking tour companies, particularly in Northern Thailand, have been known to make drugs available to trekkers. In July 2001, an American died after smoking opium in a northern hill tribe village. Travelers should not accept drugs of any kind because the drugs may be altered or harmful, and the use or sale of drugs is illegal.Scams involving gems, city tours, entertainment venues and credit cards are also common, especially in areas heavily frequented by tourists. Credit cards should be used only in reputable, established businesses, and the amount charged should be checked for accuracy.
Travelers should not accept tours or offers from touts who solicit on the streets. Shopping at lesser-known gem stores carries a serious risk; the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) receives over 1,000 complaints each year from visitors who have been cheated on gem purchases. The gems often turn out to be greatly overpriced, and money-back guarantees are not honored. Lists of gem dealers who have promised to abide by TAT guidelines are available online at http://www.tat.or.th/do/gems.htm , and information on gem scams can be found on the Thai Tourist Police web site at http://www.police.go.th/touristpolice/ . A traveler who has fallen victim to a gem scam should contact the local branch of the Tourist Police, or call their country-wide toll-free number: 1155. Finally, bars or entertainment venues in tourist areas may at times try to charge exorbitant amounts for drinks or unadvertised cover charges. If victimized in this fashion, travelers should not attempt to resolve the problem themselves, but should instead pay the price demanded and then contact the nearest branch of the Tourist Police for help in getting restitution. (The toll-free number for the Tourist Police is indicated above.)
The following "Cautions" have been issued by the Tourist Police in Thailand.
- Never believe street touts. Promised jewelry bargains are scams.
- Never purchase jewelry with the unrealistic expectation of reselling it for two or three times the original purchase price.
- Never mail precious stones home.
- Always exercise common sense. If something appears "too good to be true" it probably is "too good to be true".
- Please be aware the Thai government does not own, operate, subsidise or authorise any jewelry stores, except The Thailand Duty Free Shops.
- Disregard all offers of shopping or sightseeing assistance from strangers. They invariably take a big commission on a high surcharged price.
- Please avoid in any habit forming drugs and avoid being induced into any form of gambling, since the penalties in Thailand are very severe.
- Always select reliable Tour operators and Travel agencies or Guides with official licenses issued by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
- Please contact the bus terminal directly for your ticket. If you purchase the ticket from other agencies, please be sure to obtain all necessary information before using their services to avoid the subsequent problems.