Bangkok is the sprawling capital of Thailand. It’s a city that claims to never sleep, a city that dazzles with bright lights at night and glows golden in the sunlight. It’s a must-visit city for anyone travelling to South East Asia. But it’s important to be aware of the risks and dangers that you might encounter while you are there.
This is one of the biggest cities in the world. It’s a place where the traditions of Thailand and Asia merge with the modern world, and it’s a metropolis like no other. Ride classic tuk-tuks through the streets or use ultra-fast public transport, enjoy timeless Thai street food or dine at world-famous rooftop restaurants.
The choices are endless in Bangkok. But with such a vast number of new things to do and experience, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the best travel insurance to keep you safe in case of accidents or incidents.
Don’t worry too much, because Bangkok is generally a safe place to travel, but a few tips and tricks to help you get around won’t harm you.
Here’s our guide to staying safe in Bangkok, Thailand.
Health Concerns in Bangkok
Bangkok is one of the most vibrant and colourful cities in Southeast Asia, and while the city is, in general, a very safe place for travellers, you will want to be aware of the health concerns that are potentially present in the Thai capital before you arrive.
There are no mandatory vaccinations that are needed to actually enter the country, but you will certainly want to ensure that you are up to date on all your standard vaccinations before your Thai trip.
Several weeks before departing, visit your local GP or travel clinic, where you can see a travel nurse. They will be able to provide the most up-to-date advice on vaccinations and will advise if you need any boosters or courses. You will want to make sure that you are fully up to date on vaccinations for diseases such as hepatitis, diphtheria, polio, typhoid, and tetanus.
You can also check the Fit For Travel website, which is run by the NHS and keeps up-to-date information on health concerns for individual countries around the world, including Thailand.
An additional immunisation that you will want to seriously consider when travelling to Bangkok is the rabies vaccination. While not an effective stop against contracting the disease, you gain valuable time to get to a hospital for treatment if bitten by a rabid animal, and this can save your life. Unfortunately, Bangkok has large numbers of stray animals, as does the rest of Thailand, and many of these animals are known to carry rabies.
Mosquito-borne diseases are present across Thailand; however, Bangkok is a lower risk area when it comes to catching diseases. Malaria is not an issue in Bangkok, however, some rural border areas do have malaria, so if you are travelling further afield you may want to consider precautions. Japanese Encephalitis is also present in Thailand and you can vaccinate against this, however, for short stays in Bangkok, you have an incredibly low chance of catching the disease from mosquitoes. Dengue fever, however, is a common disease and one that can’t be vaccinated against. The only precaution is to avoid being bitten. Cover up in the evenings and wear tropical-strength mosquito repellent.
Bangkok has a problem with smog and haze, which can be hazardous to health. It’s generally more pronounced and noticeable for anyone suffering from asthma or any other respiratory diseases. In March and April, haze is at its worst due to land clearing and burning in rural areas of Thailand. You will want to avoid travelling to Bangkok this time of year if you think you will be affected by the bad quality of air.
Bangkok is a hectic city and the roads can be particularly hazardous to your health if you’re not careful, particularly if it’s your first time in the Thai capital. Be careful when crossing roads and even, at times, on pavements. It’s not a good idea to attempt to drive and riding tuk-tuks, while fun and authentic, also puts you at higher risk of being involved in a road traffic accident.
Bangkok is home to some of the best hospitals in Southeast Asia, and the quality of care and treatment you can receive in the city is second to none in the region. However, the best hospitals are always private, and public medical facilities are somewhat lacking in comparison. For treatment at the private institutions, you will need quality travel insurance and you will need to prove upfront that you have access to the funds needed to cover any treatment.
Food and Drink
Thailand has some of the most delicious food in Southeast Asia, and Bangkok is the culinary hub of the entire country. So rest assured you’ll be eating lots of excellent food during your trip to the region.
You can never go hungry in Bangkok, and the local food is both cheap and plentiful. The capital is famed for its street food scene, and some of the best dishes are served up by vendors on the side of the road and by locals in the markets.
As you can expect, the hygiene standards of some of these street food vendors can be below par, and this can be a common source of illness amongst travellers to the city. Stomach bugs and other food-related illnesses are unfortunately easy to catch, and you will want to be careful when choosing where to eat. Don’t avoid street food of course, because this is one of the best reasons to visit Bangkok in the first place, but do be picky about where you eat. If it looks or smells dirty or off or the surroundings don’t look clean, then move onto another street food stall; there are enough of them in the city.
The local authorities claim that the tap water in Bangkok is drinkable. However, it’s still best to drink bottled mineral water while you are in the city, as your stomach might take time to adjust to the composition. The claim by the local authorities is also seen as a dubious one by many travellers, so play it safe and avoid drinking it. Bottled water is very cheap, or you can take a water bottle with a filter that’s designed for travel.
Bangkok is a huge metropolis and the Thai capital can, unfortunately, attract the wrong types of people. While the city is, in general, a safe place to visit, you are at risk of being a victim of crime and scams in some parts of the city.
The city has an unsavoury reputation in some circles, and the loud and exuberant nightlife of Bangkok attracts many criminals looking to take advantage of tourists. Drinks can be spiked in bars and clubs, so always be careful where you are drinking and what you are drinking, particularly if you are alone. In some areas such as Patpong or the Red Light Districts, where much of the nightlife is found, the clubs and bars will also often try to scam tourists leading to hefty bills and threats of violence. It goes without saying, don’t drink too much in order to stay safe in Bangkok.
You can also be the victim of scams while visiting major tourist attractions – and there are many different scams to be aware of in the city. Be particularly vigilant if it’s your first time in the city and you are still getting your bearings. If an offer seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Common scams can involve gems and other ‘valuable’ items, which prove to be worthless, while a super cheap ride in a tuk-tuk often means a side trip to an expensive restaurant or shop. Try to only use reputable and licensed tour guides or go by recommendations from other travellers.
Petty theft is also a big problem in Bangkok, so be careful when you are travelling around, particularly on public transport, as pickpockets are very active on cramped and crowded buses and trains. When walking around, be careful too, because cameras and bags can be snatched in drive-by attacks. Given high crime levels, it’s particularly important to make sure that your valuables are covered by your travel insurance.
There is an insurgency in the south of the country where violent attacks are often seen, however, this only rarely spills over into the capital, which is a long way away from the troubles. Attacks, including bombings, have been seen in past years and there is always a chance, however low, that tourists might be caught up in violent events.
Political protests are common in Bangkok, and the past decade has seen a huge number of politically motivated protests descend into violence, with crackdowns causing deaths and injuries. It’s best to avoid any political protests, as they can easily take a turn for the worse very quickly in Bangkok.
Family Travel Safety (Bangkok for Kids)
Bangkok can be a popular destination for families with kids because the Thai capital offers a huge range of sights, attractions and experiences for all ages.
Family travel in Bangkok is perfectly safe; just avoid the nightlife areas and districts with more unsavoury reputations. There are lots of great tourist spots though, be they temples, parks or museums that the kids will love.
Bangkok is a huge, sprawling place, so don’t lose sight of your children when you’re walking through the city. Take particular care alongside busy roads and when crossing as cars, tuk-tuks and scooters won’t stop for anyone, not even kids.
Family Travel Safety (Bangkok for Women)
While most women feel safe in Bangkok and will have a trouble-free visit to the city, there are a few problems and issues to consider.
While Thai society is very respectful of women, in some areas of the city, harassment, especially at night in clubs or bars or on touristy streets can be a problem. Sexual assault is rare, but it does occur.
Thailand is a conservative country too, so women (and men, of course) need to dress respectfully in the capital, particularly when visiting religious sites.
Tips for Staying Safe in Bangkok
Buy the right insurance
While most trips to Bangkok will be trouble and hassle-free, as with anywhere in the world, you never quite know when disaster might strike.
You might get ill or sick, or you might be involved in an accident that requires hospital treatment. You might be the victim of a crime or get in trouble with the police. You just never know. And while you don’t want to be scared of new experiences, you do want to know that if the worst does happen, then you are covered.
Choose your travel insurance carefully and make sure you’re covered for what you need, as each person has different requirements and will need different levels of cover.
Learn the language
Thai is a notoriously difficult language, and it’s not only a tonal language but the script has its own unique alphabet, which is very different from the Roman alphabet!
Learn a few words, even just please and thank you, and your efforts will go a very long way in Thailand because few tourists ever bother with this.
Know the law
Thailand has some incredibly strict laws, and what might be normal in your home country might be completely illegal here.
Many drugs that are available on prescription in other countries are banned in Thailand. Illegal drug possession can be met with huge penalties in Thailand, and smuggling leads to the death penalty.
It also pays to be respectful of the royal family, because it’s a crime to insult or disrespect royalty, even on social media or online. Respect the local laws and customs, even if you don’t agree with them.
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