Want to stay safe while staying in Thailand? Do you want to avoid getting fine or worst, getting arrested and go to a Thai jail?
If you don’t want to get into any trouble while visiting Thailand, I suggest you follow the rules, laws, costume and culture of Thailand. You may actually get yourself into big trouble if you break any of these “rules” in front the wrong Thais. Here are my top 18 things to be careful of in Thailand.
In 2017, Thailand is ranked first for world’s most dangerous roads with the highest road tragic death rate per 100,000 people.
Bangkok is ranked the top 10 most congested traffic in the world.
If you have zero experience driving a car or riding a scooter anywhere – starting to learn that in Thailand is not a good idea.
For new drivers and riders, I think it’s best to stay away from the cities. Especially in big cities like Bangkok, central Chiang Mai and other bigger cities around Thailand.
Best to take a meter taxi or use the public transportation when inside a city like Bangkok, as well as other bigger cities around Thailand.
Dangerous roads for tourist are:
- highway 1095 from Chiang Mai to Pai district
- highway 118 from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai
- highways 2258 and 2296 to Khao Khor (Phetchabun)
- highway 4233 to Karon mountain (Phuket)
Putting the numbers in focus. In 2015, visitors to Thailand had about
- one chance in 301,204 of dying
- one chance in 735,294 of dying in a vehicle crash
- one chance in 2,8 million of dying while swimming or boating
- one tourist in every 6,250,000 committed suicide
Since we’re on this topic, some other things to be careful of in Thailand is the air quality and the air pollution. Inside high volume traffic areas will have the worst air quality, best to avoid being outdoor around those areas or put on a mask if you’re outside. Avoid going out for too long during the rush hours in busy part of the town.
After living in Thailand for many years and visited numerous beaches. I notice there are hardly any lifeguards on the public beaches. When you decide to go for a swim, make sure you go with someone or a group of people to watch after each other. If you can’t swim or you’re not a good swimmer, make sure to have a life jacket on at all time.
If it’s stormy, do not go in the water.
Here are several risky swimming areas for tourists:
- Tawan Beach in Pattaya’s Koh Larn (Chon Buri)
- Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui (Surat Thani)
- Mu Koh Similan (Phangnga)
- Koh Hae (Phuket)
If you do decide to rent a motorbike, a scooter or other vehicle. Make sure you have an international license or a Thai license to operate the vehicle. If you’re the operator of the scooter or motorbike or other vehicle and you do not have a license in Thailand. Some travel insurance companies may not cover your medical expenses when you get into an accident.
Best to double check with the insurance provider if you are going to operate a vehicle or motorbike/scooter in Thailand.
This may come as news to you but there are different Buddha festivals throughout the year in Thailand. When they happen, alcohol sale are ban across the country. Many pubs, nightclubs and bars are close because they are not allow to sell alcohol and they’re not allow to play loud music. This is the law and the owners are expected to follow the law or face stiff fines, even jail time.
If you’re planning to come to Thailand to party, it is worthwhile to know when these no alcohol days happen. Because when you come at the wrong day to party, you might end up wasting one or two days.
Would you like to know when they have the Buddha festivals and when they ban the selling of alcohol? Download my free eBook, there is a chapter called “Thailand Festivals & Holidays” where I listed the Buddhist holiday.
Don’t Wear Expensive Jewelries
Don’t brag or show off your wealth. No one needs to know you make 10x or 100x more than the average Thai, or how many cars you have back home. If you start show-boating and bragging about your wealth, you’ll end up rubbing the Thais the wrong way.
Here’s an good example, image above is Tim aka Sharky. He used to wear big gold necklaces, expensive watches and other jewelry walking around Pattaya. That changed after his condo got break into and his stuff got stolen (I believe he said 1 million baht and 1kg of gold). It doesn’t matter how intimidate you look, if you’re showing off your wealth in a place like Thailand, you have a big bullseye on your chest.
Most people come to Thailand for the tropical climate, but in some part of the year and during certain part of the day. The temperature can be overpowering to the human body.
The hottest month in Thailand is April where temperature can reach 40 degrees Celsius or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
When that happen it is best to stay indoor, limit activities outdoor. If you must go outside, put on some sun lotion, sun glasses, hat and drink more water than normal. During the peak hours (noon to 4pm) it’s best to stay inside and turn on your air conditioner.
Don’t Use Illegal Drugs
Drug possession and other drug trafficking is illegal, and is punishable by death in the Thai law. If not, a very long jail sentence inside an overcrowded Thai jail. This is pretty much the same rule in all countries.
Also, don’t drink and drive. It is illegal for the driver and the passengers to drink alcohol inside a vehicle.
Although it is unlikely that a passenger in a private transport would be stopped and searched for drinking alcohol; however, you should be aware of the risk of a heavy fine and potential jail time if you are caught.
Vaping and electronic cigarettes are banned in Thailand. If you’re into that, don’t do it in public, some tourists had been fine and some others detained.
Tourists should be aware that e-cigarettes and other vaping devices are illegal in the kingdom. Do not bring any e-cigarette devices with you, or anything associated with e-cigarettes or vaping, such as the liquid to use with vaping.
Now you might say why are there shops selling vaping devices and e-cigarettes in Thailand? What’s going on? Before this, the law was for companies exporting and importing vaping devices and e-cigarettes but now they seem to be after people (Thais and foreigners) vaping in public. Perhaps the police are unaware of this and going after anyone? I don’t know.
I had a friend who brought his vaping device to Thailand because he didn’t know about this and nothing happened. Just avoid doing it out in public because it is illegal.
No Smoking On Thailand Popular Beaches
The smoking ban does not apply to all the beaches in Thailand. There will be signs posted in different languages warning you that you’re not allow to smoke on the beach. This is mainly to protect the environment and to protect the shoreline from cigarette butts.
Don’t worry, you can still sunbathe 😉
- Patong Beach, Phuket
- Bo Phut Beach, Koh Samui
- Phra Ae Beach, Krabi
- Khlong Dao Beach, Krabi
- Khok Wang Beach, Krabi
- Wasukree Beach, Pattani
- Hua Hin Beach, Prachuap Khiri Khan
- Khao Takiab Beach, Prachuap Khiri Khan
- Ban Cheun Beach, Trat
- Laem Sade Beach, Chanthaburi
- Saeng Chan Beach, Rayong
- Bang Kaen Beach, Chon Buri
- Tham Pang Beach, Chon Buri
- Sai Kaeo Beach, Chon Buri
- Dong Tan Beach, Chon Buri
- Cha-am Beach, Phetchaburi
- Hat Said Res Beach, Champhon
- Chalok Ban Kao Beach, Ko Phangan, Surat Thani
- Plai Sai Beach, Nakhon Si Thammarat
- Chalatat Beach, Songkhla
- Ko Kai Nok Beach, Phang-nga
- Ko Kai Nai Beach, Phang-nga
- Khao Lak Beach, Phang-nga
- Hat Samran Beach, Trang
Public Nudity & Topless
Nudity or topless is actually illegal, and may result in some jail time, though very rarely implemented.
Most Thais find it offensive when they see half-naked people walking around in public. However, it’s ok to be wearing a bikini or swim trunks on the beach or swimming pools or inside your own private room. Also, if you have a 6 pac and you’re easy on the eyes, most Thai lasies wouldn’t mind.
While I’m on this topic, I want to add that French kissing in public is taboo in Thai society.
French kissing in public won’t get you any fine or get you any jail time but it is disrespectful to the locals. Keep in mind that there are Thais who live and work there. Not everyone is on a holiday.
Sex in public would be a big no-no, with possible fines and jail time. That should go without saying.
Temple & Royal Palace Dress Code
If you’re going to the temple or a Royal Palace, you must dress properly. Women shouldn’t wear miniskirts or a tank top inside the temples or any Royal Palaces.
Avoid dressing like you’re going to a night club or out partying with friends.
Generally speaking, no skirts and no tank tops; although many temples provide coverings to use temporarily.
Once inside the temples, women are not allowed to touch the monks or the Buddha statues. Traditionally, women are not allowed touch monks unless it is an emergency.
You’re not allowed to wear shoes, boots, sandals or any type of footwear inside temples and other religious buildings. This also includes people homes, some offices and other buildings. (Socks are ok)
Why you can’t wear footwear?
Your footwear collects filth from the street. Would you want someone stepping on some dog crap, gum, and chemicals, then go walking around your home or your bedroom in the same footwear? I think not.
When not to wear your footwear?
You’ll see other Thais or tourists taking off their footwear before stepping inside a building. This usually happens at the entrance or bottom of the steps. That’s a sign for you to take off your footwear
Don’t Point Your Finger At A Thai
Pointing finger or pointing with your feet to a Thai person is a sign of disrespect. You can point your finger to another farang or animals, items and directions. That’s fine. But avoid pointing your finger or feet towards a Thai person, it’s a disrespectful gesture.
Don’t Defame The King & Royal Family
Whatever you do, do not defame the King or The Royal Family. Because the King and The Royal Family are highly regarded in Thai society. That’s why you always see huge portraits of the King and other Royal Family pictures posted all over Thailand.
Thailand has the world’s strictest lèse-majestè law. If convicted, you could go to a Thai jail for up to 15 years.
Writing negatively, drawing unflattering pictures or vandalizing the picture of the King, Queen or the loyal family is also illegal in Thailand. (Money, books, posters, bank statements, magazines, newspaper, Facebook, twitter, YouTube and so on.)
Thai man faces jail for insulting king’s dog with ‘sarcastic’ internet post.
Just stay clear of this topic and you’ll be fine.
Don’t Use Non-Meter Taxi
If you get into a taxi in Thailand without a meter or you negotiate a fixed price before boarding. It’s likely you’re paying at least 2x or 3x more vs a meter taxi.
Not only it will cost you more money with a non-meter taxi, it is also illegal for the taxi drivers to turn off their meter or operating a taxi without the meter.
Avoid Tuk-Tuk or Taxi Parking in Long Line
If you see a row of tuk-tuks or taxis at a popular tourist attraction and the driver comes up to you. It is likely they are the non-meter taxi and they can charge you whatever they want.
Try to haul taxis already on the roads passing by, it might take you a minute or two to grab one. Look for a taxi with the light turn on, it means they don’t have customers and are available.
Don’t Always Use Tuk-Tuk
Tuk tuks are great for first timers; I’ll admit they can be fun and they’re great for a few times, but today, there are better ways to get around a big city like Bangkok.
Use a meter taxi when in doubt or use the local mass transportation systems like the MRT (aka subway) or the BTS (aka sky train). They all have air condition and are a lot safer and often more affordable than tuk tuks.
Tuk tuks are fixed price; you’ll need to get the price up front and haggle before going to your destination, or the tuk tuk driver can charge you whatever they want.
I’m not saying tuk tuk drivers will rip you off or they’re all bad, but you would probably get a better deal with a meter taxi or using the MRT/BTS.
Tuk-tuks should be your very last option when inside a city like Bangkok.
If you travel outside of Bangkok or in a smaller city or town, tuk tuks are probably your only option, but make sure you agree on the price first before boarding.
Don’t Overstay Your Visa
If you overstay, the fine is 500 baht per day. Maximum is 20,000 baht with possible jail time if you don’t pay.
Furthermore, your passport will be marked and noted by Thai Immigration. Repeated violations of overstaying 3 times may result in your passport marked as “undesirable alien”, declaring you violated the immigration laws of Thailand.
After you are marked as an “undesirable alien”, it would make it harder for you to continue traveling internationally, and being barred (up to 5 or 10 years) from re-entry to Thailand.
If you overstay more than 60 days and are caught by police, you will be transferred to the immigration Detention Centre and deported.
Penalties also vary depending on whether the overstaying foreigner voluntarily turns himself/herself in or is arrested.
Do you want to experience the world’s biggest water fight or the world’s biggest wet t-shirt contest in Pattaya? If so, you will have to come during the Songkran festival that happens each year around mid-April, which last at least 3 days or more depending on the region.
However, if you’re not into that and you come during the Songkran festival. Remember this will be the biggest holiday in Thailand where most Thais in Bangkok and other cities travel back home to visit their family.
During this period, it is also call the “7 deadly days”, the days before, during and after the Songkran festival. This is when the country gets a spike of road accidents.
If you want to buy bus ticket or train ticket going in or out of the city. You would want to book that at least 2 weeks before your trip. As this is the busiest and biggest holiday in Thailand, it will be hard to find a ticket during the festival, unless you got lucky and someone cancel their ticket.
Use Common Sense
Would you be walking in a dark alley alone back in your home country? Probably not, so why would you do it in a foreign country like Thailand?
Sick Water Buffalo
If you meet a Thai person who has a sick water buffalo. Just run the other way.