Bangkok - Safety
Despite Bangkok’s size and the denseness of its urban core, it is a relatively safe city for both males and females day and night, provided that you employ some common sense when exploring the city. Thai people are known for their friendliness and harmonious culture, and you will almost always find them helpful. Safety in Bangkok isn’t something to really concern yourself about. Although there are always the usual ruses to rip off tourists, the incidence of pickpocketing are far less than most tourist cities and violent crime is minimal. Certainly you don’t find the incessant hassling that is evident in other Asian tourist cities.
Here is an overview of some of the common concerns you may have about safety in Bangkok.
Terrorism: national security is currently at the top of the agenda of countries around the world and Thailand is no exception. The insurgency in southern Thailand is limited to the country’s three southernmost provinces and has thus showed no signs of having an effect on the capital. After the recent second bombing in Bali it’s difficult to offer any guarantees and Thailand certainly is an easier place for these groups to operate.
Drugs: while the situation has lightened somewhat since the severe crackdown of the infamous ‘war on drugs’ in 2003, Thai authorities still draw a hard-line on drugs and possession of even a small amount of marijuana will make you vulnerable to a massive potential fine or even jail time and deportation. Foreigners caught trafficking drugs are likely to end up living a hellish existence at the infamous ‘Bangkok Hilton’, Bangkwang prison. Do not be drawn into any suspicious deals, no matter how financially rewarding it may sound to a desperate soul.
Violence: Thais, on the whole, are passive people and manage to maintain a passive environment. However, there is the odd occasion when alcohol fuelled fights break out and the aggressor will stop at nothing with his rage. Thai men are proud and controlled, but some are known to get drunk easily and if their national or self pride is insulted by an insensitive foreigner they can really ‘lose it’! Some men have also reported rather destructive jealousy-fueled tantrums from their Thai female companions which have left their hotel rooms trashed.
Women alone: Thailand is generally a safe country for women to travel alone, but there have been a few cases of rape by taxi drivers or women lured by local men into fatal or fearsome situations. As with all strange countries, keep your wits about you and be wary of befriending strangers too quickly.
Hustlers and touts: pushy touts are likely to be among the first Thai people you meet upon landing in the Bangkok airport and you are likely to meet many more during your stay. They will all want to cart you off to some destination or other, all the time with an eye on making a bit of extra money from someone unfamiliar with the city. Relative to other tourist destinations in developing countries the Thai are generally quite polite and, apart from market vendors and tuk tuk or taxi drivers, they respect your privacy.
A firm ‘Mai ow krap/ka’ (not interested thanks!) will serve you well in most cases and if it does not simply ignoring the persistent pleas and continuing on your path will cause the tout to move on to the next person.
Scams: tuk tuk drivers, especially those who congregate in tourist areas, are notorious for offering ‘tours’, even on occasion bringing you to the famous site of your choice for free, provided you stop off at look at jewellery or a suit shop along the way. These scams are arranged with the owner of the shop and making purchases during such a trip is not a good idea as you will be paying far higher rates than you would normally and quite possibly receiving goods of dubious quality.
Also be aware of recommendations from taxi drivers when it comes to jewellery shops, suits shops, bars and restaurants. Gem scams are the most prolific and every week someone lodges a complaint about losing larges sums of money buying what they thought were cheap ‘illegally smuggled’ Burmese gems, only to discover the goods are fake and the shop gone when they return. The solution to this one is simple; don’t be greedy, and imagine you are scoring a bargain illicitly.
Motorcycles: many consider motorcycle taxis so dangerous in Bangkok, that they’re to be used as a last resort when you need to beat the traffic. They can be particularly dangerous for those who have much larger body types than Thai people. Remember that a motorcycle driver is accustomed to having a thin-framed Thai person on the back of his bike and may at times not leave too much room to negotiate himself through a tight traffic squeeze. Motorcyclists can also be a hazard to pedestrians and locals have a habit of driving rather recklessly.
Buses: getting off an on the buses in Bangkok is not a simple matter. You must be sure that it has come to a full stop, and as such it is best to get off with a group of people and be careful about doing so. Numerous terrible injuries occur every year due to people falling off buses.
Construction: Bangkok is one ongoing big construction project and much of the work that was abandoned after the 1997 financial crisis is now being finished off. Pavements are a particular hazard, full of holes and sometimes loose debris. Safety laws in Thailand are rather loosely applied and falling masonry and collapsing walls and billboards are a hazard from time-to-time, but seldom cause any widespread casualty.