Is Thailand Safe? A Safety 101 To The Land Of Smiles

Is Thailand safe
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis
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Is Thailand safe? If you’re asking that then we can only conclude that you’re planning a jaunt to the fabled Land of Smiles. Good on ya’! This is one of our very favorite destinations, a land of such epic proportions and no-holes-barred fun that we think every traveler everywhere should get their taste at some point.

From the ivory-tinged beaches of the southern isles to the misty jungles of the north, the temple-topped downtown of Bangkok to the enthralling bazaars of Chiang Mai, there’s just so much to get through. And that’s not even mentioning the food, a fresh and fantastic bout of coconut, chili, peanut, and soy that you’ll never forget.

But enough waxing lyrical. We’re here to answer one thing: Is Thailand safe? This guide runs through the ins and outs of hitting this corner of the globe, with sections on whether it’s safe for solo female backpackers, what animals you should be wary of, and if there are any tropical diseases worth getting ahead of…

Is Thailand safe for travelers?

Traveling Thailand
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

It’s estimated that 40 million travelers every year head over to this soy-scented land of pad Thai noodles and picture-perfect beaches. That makes it one of the most-visited countries on planet Earth. And, while we know that high visitor numbers hardly equal somewhere safe, there’s no doubt that there’s a correlation. No nation could ever become so popular if people kept running into trouble on their trips, right? Right.

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Yep, the vast majority of said 40 million end up coming and going from the Land of Smiles without a hitch. That’s borne out by the stats, which show that Thailand has lower overall crime rates than both the USA and the United Kingdom, meaning there’s a bigger chance of you encountering illegal activity in Baltimore than in Bangkok, in Cheshire than in Chiang Mai.

On top of that, everything from crime rates to incidents of deadly tropical diseases has been decreasing here in the last 30 years or so, meaning Thailand is just about as dangerous to travel to as most European nations these days. AKA – not that dangerous at all. Of course, there are still some risks – particularly regarding Thailand’s political situation – and travelers heading to this corner of Southeast Asia should be sure to keep their wits about them, just as they should anywhere!

Is Thailand safe for solo female travelers?

Female traveler Thailand
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Thailand is generally considered to be one of the safest places in Asia to travel as a solo female. On a basic level that’s largely down to the simplicity of getting around and getting things done. The country is well-used to Western tourists and doesn’t have the same qualms about ladies going it alone as other countries in the immediate region – India, Sri Lanka. It’s also easy to get feminine products in major supermarket chains, although be wary of cosmetics, which can often include skin-whitening pigments of dubious origin.

The fact that lots of solo females recommend Thailand as a great port of call for women heading to Southeast Asia for the first time is very encouraging and something that’s backed up by the stats…

Reports show that the country recorded a total of between 2,100-3,200 rape and sexual assault incidents in 2015 and 2016, which is more than a tenth of what’s seen in the UK. What’s more, there was a total of around 200,000 women seeking help from domestic violence support services in the years leading up to 2015, which compares to a whopping three million estimated domestic violence cases in the United States.

More generally, Thailand is something of a gathering point for young travelers in Asia. It’s a great place to meet new people and make new friends, all while tasting one of the safer and more welcoming corners of Asia together. AKA – a prime starting point for solo females looking to go east.

Political upheavals in Thailand

Thailand temple
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Perhaps the main thing to note when talking about Thailand’s safety record is the political situation. It’s this, more than anything, that has caused the greatest societal upheavals in the last decade or so, and the main reason behind Thailand’s negative press coverage on international news channels.

2014 saw the 12th – yep, 12th! – coup d’état in the nation since 1932. Itself a reaction to an earlier coup in 2006, it ushered in an era of military rule under a junta that looked to sure up the power and control of the army in Bangkok and beyond.

As of 2022, there have been ongoing protests and counter protests to the political situation in the country, many of which have brough tthe capital to a complete standstill and certainly have the potential to make a negative impact on any travel trips to the country – the US even issued a no-travel warning in the immediate aftermath of the upheavals of 2014.

That’s all dovetailed with the imposition of strict new lèse majesté laws that basically make it illegal to defame or insult the monarch of the country. Travelers to Thailand should all be aware that making any negative comments about the king and his entourage is basically a no go, but there’s now an added risk on top that it could even lead to criminal prosecution!

Tropical diseases in Thailand

Monk in thailand
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

There are basically two main worries on the tropical disease front in the Land of Smiles: Malaria and dengue. Thankfully, the first is now hardly a worry at all. The vast majority of travelers don’t have to take any anti-malarial prophylactics because the risk of catching the mosquito-borne ailment is now sufficiently low across the country. There are some hotspots remaining, namely in the far south, around the Burmese border in the north, and north of Trat province along the divide with Cambodia. In all, there are about 150,000 cases of malaria each year in Thailand.

Dengue is a different matter. Another mozzie-borne sickness that causes flu-like symptoms, high fevers, partial paralysis, nausea, and respiratory issues, there are perennial outbreaks around the country. There’s also no pill you can take to fend off dengue, so it’s all the more important to cover up at key mosquito hours (dawn and dusk) and use a strong repellant spray. The highest number of dengue cases are reported in the regions of Mae Hong Son and Nakhon Ratchasima.

You might also want to consult a travel clinic about necessary vaccinations for travel to Asia, which could include but might not be limited to jabs against Hepatitis, Rabies, and Japanese Encephalitis.   

Dangerous animals in Thailand

Photo by Hendrik Schlott/Unsplash

Thailand is home to a whopping 60 venomous snakes. That’s more than Sri Lanka and about the same amount found in the whole of India, so it’s certainly something you’ll want to know about before you jet across to Bangkok, especially if you’re planning on hitting the hiking trails and the jungles.

Particular serpents to watch out for include the dreaded king cobra, which is arguably the most fearsome snake on the planet, possessing a venom that can kill an adult human in less than 12 hours. There’s also the Eastern Russell’s viper, a nasty customer that has a bite that will lead to decaying flesh and failure of the renal system. Oh, and you’ve got the Monocled cobra, which is thought to kill more people here than any other species of snake.

Generally speaking, snake attacks on humans in Thailand are very rare and not all victims are sure to die. However, all travelers should follow proper protocols to make snake encounters less likely, which, at its very basic level, means sticking to marked paths and wearing proper footwear.

Drugs in Thailand

Thailand travel
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Partying is part of the deal in Thailand. This is the country that gave the world the Full Moon Party, after all. However, there are parties and there are parties, and there have been some horror tales about to travelers who’ve gone a touch overboard in the Land of Smiles. Most of those are drug-related, usually involving a police sting operation that either leads to a hefty fine (a de facto bribe) or even worse, criminal prosecution and jail time.

Basically, the rule here is avoid using drugs in Thailand. That’s it. Period. No exceptions. There are strict laws against use and possession in the Land of Smiles and getting involved in this just ups the likelihood that something will go amiss on your trip.

Is Thailand safe? Our conclusion

Is Thailand safe? This amazing and much-visited part of Southeast Asia is actually considered to be one of the safest places to travel in the region. It’s got decreasing crime stats, a well-attuned tourist industry that’s used to catering to people from all around the globe, and a good infrastructure that makes getting around and planning your travels a cinch (at least most of the time).

There are, of course, some things that everyone should think about. From the snakes that inhabit the jungles to the political upheavals that have made their mark on the nation since the coup of 2006, the safety aspects of the Land of Smiles vary considerably.

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Joe has been a freelance travel writer for over nine years. His writing and roaming have taken him from the colonial towns of Mexico to the chowks of Mumbai to the Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not putting together the next epic blog on the best Greek islands or ski fields in France, you can usually find him surfing or hiking – his two top hobbies.