Is it safe to travel to Bangkok? Important Bangkok safety tips

bangkok safety tips Is it safe to travel to Bangkok? Important Bangkok safety tips

Bangkok Safety Tips

For the size and busyness of Bangkok, the city is in my opinion quite safe.

Living in Bangkok and exploring the city for years now, I’ve almost never felt threatened in any way.

However, I would never say that Bangkok is an extremely safe city (I’d never say that about any city), because it’s always possible to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, even in the safest statistical place on earth.

This article is to cover a few Bangkok safety tips, which in reality can be put to practice wherever you are.

Overall, you should have no problems visiting Bangkok, and you should be more concerned about crossing the streets than anything else. Here are some of my personal Bangkok safety tips.

1. Daily Precautions

Pickpockets – Pickpockets, like in any big city or busy areas, are not unheard of in Bangkok. Never carry your wallet in your back pocket and make sure you carry a purse that has a zip closure. If you carry a purse when you’re walking around, keep it snugly on your shoulder and wrapped in your arm.

Mobile Phones – Busting out your iPhone or other fancy mobile device in a busy market always makes you vulnerable. I had a friend who was walking through a Bangkok fresh market while texting someone on her iPhone. Someone swooped by, grabbed it, and was gone forever in moments. This is a lesson.

Motorcycles – Riding on the back of motorcycles is fun and one of the most convenient ways to get anywhere in Bangkok. That being said, the majority of road accidents in Bangkok include motorcycles. I’m not telling you not to take motorcycles, I take them too, but just know that they aren’t the safest mode of transport.

Another thing about motorcycles is that if you are carrying a bag, always leave the strap around your body / neck, so that someone doesn’t whiz by and snatch your bag.

My word of advice:

Pickpocketers and small thieves are small risk takers who are just looking for easy things to steal. If you don’t give them an easy chance, they won’t do anything – keep this in mind and try to act more accordingly all the time as a safety precaution.

2. Scams

Bangkok gets a lot of toursim, and for this reason there are a fair amount of scams, almost exclusively in the touristy areas of town. Here are some Bangkok safety tips for some of the common scams.

Bangkok Tuk Tuk and Gems Scam – A tuk tuk driver will approach you saying he’ll take you anywhere or even give you a tour for an absurdly low 20 THB. He’s serious too, but he’ll then proceed to take you on a whirlwind tour of Bangkok while taking you to multiple gem stores as he collects a nice commission. If it sounds too good to be true, even in Bangkok, it is!

The same idea can also happen with custom tailor stores. A tour guide will take you on a tour for a really cheap price and then deliver you to all sorts of tailor stores.

Attraction is Closed – Another very common scam is when someone approaches you and says that “this attraction is closed today,” for some fake reason. He then proceeds to offer you something else, and he’ll be happy to take you there.

1) Always make sure you walk up to the attraction yourself and see if it is actually open or closed, and 2) know the opening hours and times of the attraction (my Bangkok travel guide includes lots of useful visiting information).

Taking a taxiRemember this: No matter what taxi color or what time it is, a taxi should ALWAYS use the meter.

If the driver offers you a fixed price, it’s not a scam, but it’s sure well over the meter price. Walk away and find another taxi. This is especially common in touristy areas of town near the Grand Palce and Wat Phra Kaew.

Bar Nightlife Scams – I won’t get into any of these much as I don’t really go to bars in Bangkok, but just be alert and be cautious with overly fake friendly people. One common scam is going to an adult show for cheap and then being forced to purchase outrageously expensive drinks.

My word of advice:

Scammers are extremely skilled, but keeping yourself calm, thinking things through and using common sense is often enough to beat them. Don’t make quick decisions. Think first.

3. Protests / Riots / Mobs

As the political and everything capital of Thailand, Bangkok is and probably will be in the future, the scene of of riots and protests.

Some of them in the past have been violent.

The thing to remember is that the protests and protesters are there to make a specific point, not just to destroy everything in sight or hurt innocent people.

Go into the middle of the protest and of course you’re at potential risk of getting caught up in a crossfire, but stay away from the area and you should be fine.

Bangkok is a giant city, and while there may be a protest taking place near government offices, you won’t even know anything is happening while you’re shopping at a mall or eating street food.

If there’s a big protest happening in Bangkok when you are visiting or about to, check out Richard Barrow who covers current events in Bangkok, and also follow him on twitter for immediate updates.

My word of advice:

Big protests and riots are very concerning, but in reality they are normally in only certain specific areas of town while the rest of city goes on as normal. Check out Barrow’s latest updates and it’s most likely still safe to travel to Bangkok.

ConclusionIMG 9998 Is it safe to travel to Bangkok? Important Bangkok safety tips

The other thing I can think of for solo female travelers is to make sure you have adequate and secure accommodation.

I would recommend Lub d Siam Square as it’s in a great location and secure, but I also recommended some other good places to stay in my Bangkok guide.

Remember to keep alert, look in all directions before crossing the streets, keep your valuables hidden or pickpocket-proof when you’re walking through crowded area, and you should have a wonderful and safe time visiting Bangkok.

So to answer your initial question, is it safe to travel to Bangkok?

Yes! Remember these safety tips and you should have a safe and wonderful time visiting this enchanting city that has so many awesome things to do and see!

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Comments

  1. says

    I live in one of the most dangerous parts of London. During the Hackney Riots I was at work when I saw a car outside my house on fire on the news!

    I basically have no fear, and I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. But if I can handle Hackney, I’m sure I can handle Bangkok :) Thanks for the tips!

  2. says

    I just remembered when we went to the Grand Palace, those guys told us it was closed… And then after we went, it was raining and we tried to get a taxi and the traffic was stopped, so we walked like 5 miles home… Ahh Bangkok. Thanks for refreshing my memory.

  3. says

    Great tips! We spent a lot of time in Bangkok and never felt unsafe, but ofcourse we were always on alert as we are in any big city.

    The scams are definitely everywhere – but as long as you are prepared you can usually avoid them pretty easily!

    • says

      Thanks Caroline, hearing and reading about common scams is a great way to avoid them when faced with them. Glad to hear you had a great time in Bangkok and never felt unsafe!

  4. says

    Good tips. As a female who’s often on her own I’d say no where is “Safe” – It comes down to common sense, like you said.

    Gotta comment on the first photo of this post. The colors are fantastic! Pink, orange, red, gold and so much activity. Ever considered making small prints of your pics or post cards?

    • says

      Thank you Maria. Even if a destination seems safe, we should always be cautious and pay attention to our surroundings. I appreciate your comment about the photo – I’ve never thought of printing any of my pictures, but I have thought of getting a smugmug.com account which would allow for more possibilities. Maybe I’ll look into some options in the future, thanks for your suggestion!

  5. says

    Flew into Bangkok last week – got a taxi from the official queue at Don Meung – and he refused to use the meter -wanted 500B to Kao San. I was furious – insisted that he stop – and we had to walk back to the queue – which I then jumped, and had better luck with the 2nd one – which cost about 290B (including a detour because of a riot).

    What surprised me is that taxi drivers English was so bad compared to Burma!

    • says

      Hey Lissie, good for you for insisting on the meter. The cab drivers only attempt to not use the meter because they know they can get away with it for the people that accept their offer (which I think happens quite frequently in touristy areas). And yes, not too many taxi drivers speak English.

  6. says

    a lot of good tips in here. Bangkok and generally big cities in Southeast Asia aren’t dangerous (having grown up in one). You just have to not do stupid things like holding your expensive smart phones while out on the street, wearing expensive jewelry in very public places, walking along dark streets at night. Common sense stuff, right?

    • says

      Thanks Paul, and exactly. Many of the small crimes that happen, happen because there was too good of an opportunity presented. However, even in cities that seem pretty safe, we sometimes get too comfortable and feel too safe, and let up our guard.

  7. says

    Great tips Mark. I remember falling for the 20Baht tuk tuk scam on my very first day in Bangkok. Ended up visiting two tailor shops before I could get him to take me back to my guest house. It was a cheap day out though! :)

    • says

      Hey Dean, thanks for sharing. The best thing about that scam is that other than a little frustration and perhaps some wasted time, it doesn’t actually do too much harm, nor waste much money!

  8. says

    I have been to Bangkok many times and even at 1 or 2 am in the morning it still feels safe as there are so many people around on the street.
    I think it is good advice about not flashing valuables and being careful in the busy markets as there are professional pick pocket gangs around. I think one large gang just got busted and they were not Thais, but from Europe. Large cities like Bangkok unfortunately do attract these types as they can easily escape in the crowds.

    • says

      Hey thanks for stopping by Stephen. Yah, I have heard of quite a few foreign criminals in Bangkok at times as well. That being said, most of the suggestions in this article really apply for anywhere we happen to be!

  9. says

    Nice post! I’ve been working and living here in Thailand for 3 years and I’ve never felt unsafe. I guess it’s just a matter of exercising caution and using common sense. Just take the same precautions you would when going to any big city.

  10. says

    Honestly have to say I’m very leery of taxis.
    I’ve had plenty of really nice drivers, but some bad times as well.
    And I’ve recently learned as a commenter above me said that getting a taxi from the official queue doesn’t solve this problem.

    I had a terrible time at the MBK taxi queue a couple weeks ago; guy wanted to run off the meter after it appeared he had agreed to take me with the meter – I opened the door to get out, he kept driving. I got out any way from the moving cab. I was so upset and nearly got hurt, but I needed to get out of that cab.

    The next driver from the queue wasn’t much better but he went on the meter and got me home, with the inappropriate ‘Oh I love you!’ and all. He mistakenly thought I live here with my boyfriend; I decided this was just as well and let him continue asking me questions about the boyfriend he made up for me; though I would have preferred to be left alone.

    I’m just glad neither of these two touched me; as has also happened to me before.

    My best advice: don’t be afraid to get out of the taxi if you have to; and use your best common sense. The driver that molested me, we were moving really fast in a monsoon and it seemed safer to grin, bear it and find the safest way out. This most recent incident, we weren’t moving very quickly yet when I got out so that seemed like the better plan.

    People say motorbikes are unsafe, but the motosai drivers always take amazing care of me; as have many taxi drivers. But I trust the motorbike drivers more.

    Lastly – if you get a bad cab driver, remember to take down his ID number if you can safely. I wasn’t able to in either case; and safety is the first priority, but if you can do it discreetly or have a travel companion note it; you can report it. When you notice he’s removed his number or turned it backwards (the molesting we’re stuck in a monsoon guy) then you’re really stuck.

    • says

      Hey Jenny,

      Thank you very much for taking the time to share all your thoughts and experiences about taking a taxi in Bangkok. Perhaps it’s because I’m a male, and I often take taxis with a Thai person, that I haven’t experienced many problems – so again, your input is really valuable. Good tip about noting the cab driver ID number as well.

      About motosai’s, the biggest problem is the other drivers, both taxis and buses, that just don’t care about motorbikes on the road – that’s the reason I think they are dangerous.

  11. says

    I visit Bangkok since more then 20 years. Never had a securityrisk in any way. Even at night I go alone to night market. I always felt very safe.

  12. eric says

    Thanks for common sense and advice Mark. I spent a few days in Bangkok travelling alone a year ago and did not have one negative experience. Ok, a couple of attempted scams by very polite “tourist advisers” in the street, but easy to see the pitch coming and easy to avoid them.

    Lovely city, lovely people.

    • says

      No problem Eric, thank you for checking it out. Glad you could pick out the scammers when you were here! There really are lots of nice and friendly people in Bangkok!

  13. says

    Great tips! I feel like because I hear about so many people traveling to Bangkok I probably assume it is safer than it really is. Good tip about the cell phone … I wouldn’t have really thought that they would be such a target as they’re easier to find these days, so good to know. Glad you’re posting things like this because I feel like when any place receives criticism for safey so many people just automatically rule it out without even thinking about ways to prevent themselves from being victims of those crimes or dangers.

    • says

      Thanks Ellen, I fully agree with you. I think it’s easy to over relax in a place like Bangkok, and while normally it will be fine, it’s still necessary to always be cautious. Thanks for reading!

  14. Paul says

    About the fixes taxi prices near tourist areas. That is correct. But also keep in mind, as it has happened to me, that when you look for a taxi who uses a meter, or sometimes just for a taxi: the taxis do not even want to take you and you end up standing alone in search of a ride. Well, in the end I choose a TukTuk and paid a bit more. Sometimes it is more convenient to have a fixed price as to waiting for a taxi who wants to use a meter…

    • says

      Hey Paul, I do understand, sometimes it’s virtually impossible to get a taxi that will use the meter or that will go where you’re going – but at the same time, the reason taxi drivers ask for a fixed price, is because they can get away with it often from tourists who don’t know. I guess my final word of advice is if you must take a taxi on a fixed price, make sure you know about the price it would have cost on the meter and don’t pay too much more.

  15. says

    Great tips!

    I definitely fell for “the palace is closed” scam, but caught myself at the first stop, paid them whatever amount we had agreed on, and walked confidently and with great stride in the direction of a big road. It was kind of embarrassing to have fallen for a scam, but lesson learned. :)

  16. says

    I never took a ride on a tuk-tuk, let alone a motorcycle, even imagining sitting on a back of a motorcycle that is speeding through a busy intersection is horrifying :)

    Most of the time taxi drivers, when I spoke to them in English, tried to negotiate a fixed price, and most of the time I agreed, if the amount did not exceed 150 Baht, because time was of the essence, and even their fixed price is cheaper than what I would pay in my home country for the same ride. Sometimes, when I told them my destination in Thai, they mistook me for a Thai, turned on the meter and began talking to me in Thai, that is when I told them that I didn’t understand them :) Once a taxi driver who just figured that I was a foreigner asked for a fixed price during the ride and after he already agreed to turn on the meter.

    A little tip: if every taxi driver refuses to take you or asks for a very high fixed price, just cross the street or go to another street of you are near an intersection and try to get a taxi there.

    The worst taxi experience I had in Kuala Lumpur. One greedy driver tried to rip me off and asked 30 Ringgit for just a few blocks drive. And when I took a taxi from the KL Sentral the driver was coughing and burping all the way to the hotel, it was not the most pleasant ride in my life :)

    There was also one thing I didn’t like about KL: traffic lights for pedestrians do not work, even id downtown, and those that did, were red all the time, and the buttons did not help.

    • says

      Hey Leo, thanks for leaving a comment and for the tip. You’re right, just walk away, or across the street and you should be able to find a driver willing to use the meter (as they should). Sorry about that KL taxi, though it makes for a pretty good travel story!

  17. Jay says

    Hey Mark, I’ll be travelling to bangkok next month and I’ve heard and read about the pickpockets in the busy streets. Let’s say I just have all my belongings in the hotel(True Siam) and just bring some cash and camera. You think it’s a good idea? I’m actually worried if anything would happen to my belongings in the budget hotel that I’ll be staying in. Thanks in advance!

  18. Richard says

    Hi Mark,

    I will travel to Bangkok this Sunday 1st Dec 2013. will stay there only a few days, mostly staying near the airport. Do you think this will safe? What things should I be looking out for as of now?

    By the way, great post!

    Thanks,
    Richard

  19. lindasweetheart says

    Hi Mark, tq for the great tip and sharing, I will be travelling alone to Bangkok from 13 to 17january but will follow city tour to explore Bangkok, i will stay at hotel near Asoke station. Hope everything will go well.

  20. Mae says

    Hey, great article and thanks for the tips! I intend to travel to BKK next month all by myself and will be staying at a hostel. Being a 19 year old female it makes me quite paranoid but I guess I can manage to stay out of trouble if I’m cautious but don’t want to ruin my trip by being over cautious. What concerns me the most is any inappropriate behaviour or risky areas or situations I may find myself in, so are there any areas I should steer clear from lest I have to pull out my phone and fake making a call to show I’m with someone? (Believe me, I’ve already planned that conversation in my head.)

    • says

      Hey Mae, good to hear from you, and I think it’s great that you have decided to travel and have the courage to do so. Overall, there’s not really bad areas of town in central Bangkok (maybe be more cautious in areas like Khlong Toei or Nana), but I would more say that if you go down a street that looks too quiet or you don’t feel right, listen to yourself, and turn back. Do you plan to go out at night, other than having dinner? I would encourage you to be very careful if you go out at night, and if you have a friend from you hostel, that’s best. Hope this helps, and let me know if you have any other questions.

  21. Madhusmita says

    Hi.. I am Madhu. I make a plan to visit Bangkok and Pataya alone. is it safe for a girl to visit alone in that city…Please reply me. I don’t what to do…??????

    • says

      Hi Madhu, good to hear form you. I think it’s safe overall, but it’s still wise to be very careful, especially at night. If you need to go out at night, it’s best to go with a group. Otherwise I think you’ll find that Bangkok is very safe for female travelers.

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