How to Travel Safely, Smartly and Cheaply in Thailand

Thailand is known as the ‘’land of smiles’’ and has great weather, delicious food and amazing landscapes. It can be an addictive place and once you visit, it’s very likely you’ll want to go back. Although the tourist industry is booming, you’re still able to find a more local experience and budget prices if you know where to look.

Thailand is a relatively safe place to travel around, but you still have to keep aware and know the possible scams to look out for to avoid them yourself. Violent crime against foreigners in Thailand is very rare, but robberies do happen on the street, on buses and in accommodation if you don’t take the right precautions.

Crime to Be Aware of and How to Protect Yourself

Mainly in the cities, drive by bag snatching is common especially against female foreigners. This can happen while you’re walking along the street, riding in a tuk-tuk or riding on a motorcycle. It’s best not to carry a handbag style bag with a strap over your shoulder or across your chest, as this could be pulled off you and could potentially drag you along if it doesn’t break. A rucksack over both shoulders is the best way to go, with cash, phone and cards kept in a waist wallet or a secret pocket.

Try to avoid having expensive cameras hanging off your shoulder as well, or flashing your new smartphone up in the air constantly, making it easy for someone to grab. Only take the cash you need out for the day and leave your passport and cards locked up in a safe or secure bag if you can. Scout out quality travels bags like an anti-theft back pack before you travel, which are great at keeping electronics safe.

Robberies on Buses

You’ll probably experience many long bus journeys travelling in Thailand but that’s all part of the fun. Over the years I’ve heard many stories from other travellers having valuables stolen on buses. One story I heard often is travellers having property stolen from their big backpack, which gets thrown into the hold under the bus. If your bag isn’t locked up and you have valuables in it, it may be susceptible to being rooted through. Lock your bag! Even when you’re in your seat on the bus, keep cash and valuables in a waist wallet under your clothes to avoid anything being stolen when you fall asleep.

Scams to Look Out For

Thailand is the land of smiles, but sometimes they’ll be smiling at you while scamming you out of money! When you first arrive make sure you take a taxi with a meter, to avoid getting scammed out of extra money. In the arrivals hall at Bangkok, find the taxi operators that give you a ticket and  you wait your turn as these are official.

When in the taxi from the airport in Bangkok, you’ll have to pay toll fees. Last time I did this journey we passed through 2 tolls which were meant to be 50 Baht each. As I was half asleep and it was night, I realised one toll took extra money as the taxi driver didn’t count my change and by the time I realised we had driven off! Check your change and know how much you should be paying.

Tuk-tuk scams happen frequently and can start with a driver offering you a ride around local sights for a very cheap price. One possible outcome of this is you’ll get taken round all their friends businesses like gem shops and souvenir shops in the hope you’ll buy. If this happens just politely decline and you’ll get taken to the next spot and hopefully see the temple you actually wanted to see!

If you decide to go and see what happens in an infamous ‘ping pong’ show, you’ll not only see physical feats you never thought were possible, you may be pressured for money you never thought you’d have to pay. The scam usually starts with the tuk-tuk driver taking you to one of these bars for you to watch the show. You’ll be told; ‘no fee you just pay for drinks’. A few drinks later and your mind blown, you may suddenly have a huge bill, being told you now have to pay a fee for what you just saw, plus drinks and they may try to stop you leaving until you pay this. If this happens, be polite and firm you’re only paying for drinks, pay and leave.

Being overcharged for tours, transportation and products you buy happens a lot. Make sure you shop around to get a feel of what others are charging and don’t be afraid to do a little haggling. Be aware that any products you purchase probably won’t come with a warranty and option to exchange, so check the quality.

Accepting an offer to eat with a local family when in Bangkok should be approached with caution. Just like you wouldn’t go with a complete stranger in your own city, be aware of seemingly kind invites in Bangkok. Many reports have surfaced of travellers accepting the invite of a family meal, which unfortunately leads onto some sort of game that involves the traveller losing money. I met one guy who lost most of his travel funds playing a rigged Blackjack game and another who got given a massive bill after eating at what she thought was a free meal with a family.

Safety at Night

Just like in any country, it’s advisable not to walk alone at night in deserted areas in the city or in beach towns. Make sure you have your own transport or have a pre-arranged vehicle to pick you up. Pre-plan where you’re going and research the area you are visiting at night, so you know how to get home and the layout of the area. If you’re staying in a hostel and want to go out late, try teaming up with other travellers to save on transport costs and look after each other.

How to Keep Costs Down

Like previously mentioned, shopping around is the key to get the best deals for everything in Thailand including; accommodation, food, drinks, travel and shopping. Plan to get to your destination early on in the day so you can walk around and check out room prices. Not every local place will be online and you can get some great local deals on accommodation this way. Alternately book a room for one night, then have a walk around the next day to check out prices.

The same goes for food, drinks and any other purchase – don’t eat and drink at the first place you see, a lot of establishments on the main roads will be higher priced. Try to find more local restaurants where the food is usually delicious and a tiny fraction of the price as in tourist areas.

Set yourself a budget and challenge yourself to stick to it. Try just taking out the money you can afford for each day, as this will stop you being tempted to overspend. It’s totally possible to live on $20 a day in Thailand and even less if you’re ok with staying in dorm rooms.

With a little preparation and thought, Thailand has a lot to offer the budget, beach loving traveller. Use your common sense, have a few essential travel gadgets with you, pre-plan when you go to new areas and take time to shop around and you’ll make your way through Thailand escaping the scammers intact!


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