SAFETY TIPS

SAFETY AND SECURITY

SOUTHERN PROVINCES OF NARATHIWAT, PATTANI, SONGKHLA AND YALA

Violence in the Muslim-majority southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Songkhla and Yala is highly unpredictable.

Deadly attacks, including shootings, bombings and arson, occur frequently and are usually directed at military, government and security buildings and personnel. They have also occurred in a variety of public places, including:

  • shopping districts
  • entertainment venues
  • public transit
  • hotels that may be frequented by tourists

You risk becoming a collateral victim of an attack when you travel in these provinces.

Martial law is in place in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, as well as in Sadao District, Songkhla. Other heavily enhanced security measures are also in place to provide authorities with increased enforcement powers, which may be used to address ongoing violence in the region. These measures allow authorities to detain suspects without charge, conduct searches, seize objects or documents and impose curfews.

Risk levels for Thailand

ROAD SAFETY

Travel by road can be dangerous.

Hazardous road conditions, local disregard for traffic laws and drunk driving result in frequent accidents, particularly in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Pattaya and Phuket.

Some vehicles drive against the flow of traffic, particularly motorcycles.

Drunk driving and accidents are much more frequent around the western New Year (January 1) and Thai New Year (Songkran, mid April). Be particularly vigilant when driving during these holiday periods.

Accidents are also caused by poor weather, driver fatigue, speeding and reckless passing. Slow-moving trucks limit speed and visibility. Avoid driving on mountain roads at night, especially during the rainy season (June to October). Paved roads connect major cities, but most have only two lanes. Some roads can become impassable, particularly during the rainy season. 

MOTORCYCLES

Avoid driving or riding motorcycles in Thailand, even if you are an experienced motorcyclist. Motorcycle accidents are common and are responsible for a majority of road deaths. Rental scooters and motorcycles are often poorly maintained, making them unsafe to their riders and others on the road.

Helmets are mandatory for motorcycle riders (including passengers), but many helmets do not meet international safety standards.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Use licensed taxis from official taxi stands, limousine services or official airport buses. If arriving by air, arrange to be picked up by hotel shuttle services.

Unlicensed vehicles (bearing black and white licence plates) are not properly insured to carry passengers and may not use meters. Many taxis may not be equipped with backseat seatbelts.

Do not share a taxi with strangers.

Disputes with operators of taxis, tuk tuks (motorized rickshaws), etc. occur and have occasionally resulted in violence or intimidation. Should a dispute occur and you feel threatened, seek the assistance of local police to settle the matter.

Passenger boats have sunk due to overcrowding and poor maintenance. Vessels often lack adequate safety equipment.

Rail lines in the far south have been the target of acts of sabotage and armed attack. Train accidents in recent years have caused injuries and deaths. 

AIR TRAVEL

We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.

General information about foreign domestic airlines

POLITICAL TENSIONS

Political instability in Thailand has created a volatile and unpredictable security environment throughout the country, particularly in the capital, Bangkok.

Legal provisions allow the military to retain and exercise sweeping powers that include the right to prevent public gatherings, censor media, impose curfews, set up checkpoints, restrict movement, search for weapons and exercise force in response to violence. Such measures could be enforced at any time.

There is an increased military presence throughout the country.

Some television, radio stations and web sites may be unavailable and access to social media services may be intermittently disabled.

MYANMAR BORDER AREAS IN THE PROVINCES OF MAE HONG SON AND TAK

Be particularly vigilant when travelling to the Thailand–Myanmar border areas in the provinces of Mae Hong Son and Tak.

Occasional violence, banditry and clashes between government forces, rebel units and drug traffickers occur. Incursions and shelling have also occurred.

Border crossing points may be closed without notice. Cross at designated border crossing points only, with the required travel documentation.

PREAH VIHEAR TEMPLE AREA AND SURROUNDING BORDER REGION

There have been frequent clashes in the past between Thailand and Cambodia over a border dispute in the region of and surrounding the Preah Vihear Temple. There are reports of landmines in the temple area.

Exercise a high degree of caution if you are travelling to all other areas of the Thai–Cambodian border.

CRIME

Violent crime against foreigners occurs occasionally.

Petty crime, such as purse snatching, pickpocketing and theft, is common. Do not leave bags unattended.

  • Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and travel documents, are secure at all times, especially in tourist areas, crowded markets and bus or train stations
  • Avoid walking in dark alleys or isolated areas

Thieves sometimes use razors to cut purses and bags open to remove their contents.

Use only reputable transportation companies. Thefts occur on cross-country buses and vans. Personal belongings, including passports, have been stolen from luggage compartments under buses, especially on long-distance journeys.

Break-ins occur at budget guesthouses, sometimes while guests are asleep in their rooms.

Be careful at night in entertainment areas throughout the country, particularly during full moon parties in Koh Phangan and similar events in other popular tourist locations. Robberies, injuries, drug abuse, arrests, assaults (including sexual assaults) and deaths occur during these events. Passport thefts and losses are extremely common.

SPIKED FOOD AND DRINKS

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.

Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that you have been drugged.

WOMEN’S SAFETY

Sexual assaults against foreign women have occurred.

Safe-travel guide for women

FRAUD

Many Canadians visiting Thailand fall victim to a variety of scams.

For further information and to report disputes, contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Report all incidents of crime or scams to the Thai police in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred, and before leaving Thailand.

  • Emergency services
  • More about overseas fraud

RENTAL SCAMS

Before renting a motorcycle or personal watercraft, read all rental contracts thoroughly to ensure that the vehicle is insured to cover damage and theft. Take photos of existing damage on rented vehicles as poof of pre-existing damage.

Only rent from reputable companies. Do not leave your passport as collateral.

Rental companies have at times accused renters of causing damage upon return of the equipment. In some cases, renters who refused to pay were harassed and threatened, and their passports (left as collateral) were withheld.

If your passport is inaccessible because of such a situation, you may be subject to investigation by Passport Canada and may receive limited passport services.

ACCIDENT AND THEFT SCAMS

In other cases, particularly with personal watercraft, rental companies have allegedly staged accidents to create damage and subsequently seek compensation from the renter.

In cases of motorcycle rentals, some companies have stolen the motorcycle and then claim compensation from the renter.

TRAVEL AGENCIES

When dealing with travel agencies, ensure that the company is a reputable tour organization before providing payment.

OTHER SCAMS

In scams involving gems and jewellery, merchants sell lower-quality items at inflated prices with promises that the items can be resold at a profit. The guarantees that merchants offer are not always honoured. Carefully consider all purchases if you are not knowledgeable about gems and jewellery. The Government of Canada cannot assist in obtaining refunds for purchases made.

TERRORISM

There is a threat of terrorism in Thailand. Although infrequent outside of the southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Songkhla and Yala, small-scale bomb attacks occur in public places. Further attacks are likely.

Targets could include:

  • government buildings, including schools
  • places of worship
  • airports and other transportation hubs and networks
  • public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners

Always be aware of your surroundings when in public places.

DEMONSTRATIONS

Demonstrations take place from time to time. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. Several incidents have resulted in deaths and injuries. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation when they block major roads and intersections and may cause closure of mass transit stations. Maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times.

  • Avoid military installations and concentrations of security personnel
  • Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations

Demonstration sites in Bangkok include:

  • the areas around the Victory Monument
  • Thammasat University
  • the Bangkok Arts and Cultural Centre
  • the Democracy Monument
  • Ratchaprasong intersection

Other areas of the city may also be affected by protests and associated movements. Demonstrations could also take place in Chiang Mai, Phuket and Surat Thani.

Indiscriminate attacks using explosive devices and firearms have taken place in busy public areas during the day and at night.

Police have responded with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets in their attempts to deter protesters. Attacks do not specifically target tourists or foreigners, but the danger of being in the wrong place at the wrong time is always present.

More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)

PIRACY

Pirate attacks and armed robbery against ships occur in coastal waters. Mariners should take appropriate precautions.

Live piracy report – International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre

SWIMMING AND WATER ACTIVITIES

Deaths have occurred as a result of contact with poisonous jellyfish off Koh Lanta, Koh Pha-ngan, Koh Phi Phi, Krabi and Phuket.

  • Exercise extreme caution when swimming in these areas
  • If stung, seek immediate medical assistance

Riptides in coastal areas can be strong, including in the popular destinations of Cha-am/Hua Hin, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Phuket and Rayong. There have been a number of deaths due to drowning.

Heed flag warnings and under no circumstances swim when a red flag is displayed.

Diving schools and rescue services may not adhere to international standards. Rent water sports equipment only from operators affiliated with major international training organizations.

ADVENTURE TOURISM

Only undertake adventure sports, such as zip-lining and rock climbing, with a well-established and reputable company that has insurance.

Tour operators may not adhere to international standards. If you have any doubt concerning the safety of the installation or equipment, refrain from using them. Ensure that the recreational activities you choose are covered by your travel insurance. 

If engaging in adventure tourism:

  • never do so alone and always hire an experienced guide from a reputable company
  • buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
  • ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
  • ensure that you’re properly equipped and well informed about weather and other conditions that may  pose a hazard
  • inform a family member or friend of your itinerary
  • obtain detailed information on each activity before setting out and do not venture off marked trails

CHEMICAL PESTICIDE POISONING

There have been cases of poisoning linked to the use of chemical pesticides, including phosphine. Seek immediate medical assistance if you believe that you have been exposed to a chemical pesticide and are experiencing unusual symptoms.

Seek information on whether or not chemical pesticides are used in your accommodations.