Heading to Thailand on your own, or with a friend for the first time? Thailand is pretty safe, even with the recent bombings. But there are certain things that I picked up along the way, and learnt about from the locals or previous travellers before I went, that made my trip much safer. Here are some basic survival tips to survive backpacking in Thailand, whether you’re going alone, or with a friend.
- DON’T DRINK THE TAP WATER
It goes without saying, unless you want to spend a big chunk of your trip ill. Under no circumstances drink the tap water in Thailand. Always buy bottled water. The great thing about Thailand is that it’s cheap and the bottles are around 2p (Sterling). A lot of people say avoid the ice, but this is completely up to your own judgement. The first time I went travelling around Thailand, I was extra careful, avoided ice, and even brushed my teeth with bottled water! I then realised those around me weren’t getting ill from the ice. Turns out most places buy ice in, which is mass produced in factories with purified water. Therefore it ain’t going to make you ill! Just be more wary of the ice you get from street stalls or if you’re in quiet, non-touristy towns, as it’s more likely these have made the ice themselves. Especially crushed ice. Even a lot of the locals won’t drink tap water. There’s a reason for it, it’s dirty!
- THE TUKTUK SCAM
If you want to visit somewhere, go there. Don’t listen to a TukTuk/Taxi driver that claims somewhere else is better. If they tell you somewhere is closed, ignore them. They work for places, and get commission for taking you there. They’ll lie through their teeth to get you to go. If you’ve found a hostel that you want to check out, make out you’ve pre booked, otherwise they’ll just happen to know somewhere better.
- BAG SNATCHING
This is something more common than people think. If you ever go on a TukTuk, put your bag between your legs, or inbetween you and the other person. People will drive by on scooters, and snatch the bag. It’s easily done. If you leave it on the outside, you’re asking for it to get snatched. Better still, wear a bum bag. They might not be cool, but they come in handy.
This is another point that goes without saying. Drugs are illegal in Thailand, like they are everywhere else. If you get caught, it ain’t pretty. A drug offence that would just be a slap on the wrist back home, isn’t the case in Thailand. People that have been caught with a joint of weed, have been given years in prison. And Thai prisons ain’t pretty! You can even get a death sentence, so it’s really not worth the risk. Alcohol is super cheap in Thailand, there’s no need for drugs (not that there is back home). The point being if you want to blow off some steam, alcohol is cheap enough. Also there’s a scam, where locals will offer you drugs, then they’ll grass you up to the police the minute you walk around the corner. They work with the police, and get money for grassing. The police turn a blind eye to the fact they’ve sold the drugs in the first place. It really isn’t worth it!
- DRINK SPIKING
Drinks get spiked abroad, as they do back home. Buy your own drinks, and don’t accept drinks off strangers or new friends. Even if your new travel buddy is also from the UK, they are still more than capable of spiking your drink and I’ve seen it happen to those around me. Be wary of the buckets, and don’t leave them unattended. It’s so easy to quickly slip something into them, without anyone being any wiser. If you start to feel funny, get yourself out of the situation asap, with someone you trust, either a friend from back home or partner. Call the tourist police on 1155, or get yourself to the nearest clinic/hospital. There’s usually one within walking distance, open 24 hours. Don’t accept help off strangers, as it’s well known for people to work together.
Bangkok is known for its scooter accidents, and Thailand in general is one of the countries with the highest casualties. The minute you land in Thailand, you’ll see why. It’s crazy. Even crossing the road is a challenge, and an achievement if you get to the other side and you’re not killed. If you insist on riding one, make sure you have rode one previously and have a driving licence! Don’t be stupid and rent one in Bangkok or big cities, you will have an accident, no question about it. If you really want the experience, wait until you get to the quieter islands…you’re less likely to die! Also don’t even consider renting a scooter if you don’t have travel insurance. I’ve met so many people that have spent thousands of pounds in hospitals, because they had a scooter accident and didn’t have the correct insurance. Most travel insurance policies will have in the small print that you’re not covered if you have a scooter accident, so make sure you’re covered!
- LADY BOYS
Unfortunately I know about this scam, because I was a victim to it. We went to visit a lady boy show, and afterwards we were asked if we wanted photos with them. We agreed, to then be told we would have to pay 20baht. We agreed, as 20 baht is less than 50p (Sterling), so wasn’t a big deal. I opened my purse, to have the lady boy stood next to me grab all the money out of the purse. They then made a big fuss, and were like we’ll take more than one photo with you, with more than one of the lady boys. I wasn’t impressed, and was left feeling like I couldn’t say anything, as the guy in charge, their pimp I guess you could call him, was stood kicking off, standing guard next to them. I would have been massively outnumbered had I said anything!
- PING PONG SHOW
Another scam that tourists fall victim for. It’s something I had or have no intention of doing, but I’ve met plenty of people that have done it. You’ll arrive in Thailand and will have people asking you all sorts in the streets, most commonly, “ping pong show?” Most are legit, but a few have been known to be a scam. They’ll drive you into the middle of nowhere, then demand money from you to drive you back, even though you’ve already paid. If you really want the experience, ask around, see who’s done one, where to go etc. Quiz the people that try selling you it you, see if the venue is nearby, or whether it’s far away.
- FULL MOON PARTY
Full moon party is certainly an experience. It’s one I was unsure whether I wanted to do, after hearing so many bad things. I’m glad I experienced it, but have no intention of doing it again. I had a much better night on Khao San Road, and other places. It’s massively overhyped, and expensive, so be prepared to be let down. The police are corrupt on the island where the Full Moon Party is held, so I’ve been told. So if you get into trouble, you basically have to sort it yourself. You’ll see young local children running around, be wary of these. They are told to pick pocket. I had a bum bug, and then had a baggy shirt over the top of it, so it couldn’t be seen or easily have access to. It worked a treat, I wasn’t pick pocketed. You’ll see loads of fire skipping ropes etc. Avoid these. They are paid to burn you, so you’ll have to make a trip to the hospital and pay medical fees. They all work together on that one, and I witnessed it myself. There’s also a slide from one of the top of the hotels, that goes down onto the beach. A few of my friends did it, and landed ok. But straight after a guy went down, who snapped his arm. And this isn’t uncommon. The slide is well known to break people’s limbs, so be warned. The music is ok, not great. Don’t wear flip flops, go for trainers. You’ll be standing in all sorts otherwise. Watch your drinks, as you would on any night out. And don’t start drinking too early. I made the mistake of doing a day session before arriving at full moon, so I was passed out on the ferry going across, before it had even started. Come midnight, I had fully sobered up, and was doing the thing where you keep drinking but can’t get drunk. There’s nothing worse than being the sober one, when everyone around you is hammered. A lot of people I went with agreed in general the full moon party isn’t that great and is massively overhyped. You’ll either love it or hate it, but one thing is for sure, you’ll need to be drunk to enjoy it.
Overall, my experience in Thailand was a safe one. I actually felt safer there, than I do back home on a night out. It’s perfectly safe for a solo female backpacker, just keep your wits about you. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do back home, and you’ll be fine. I went back to Thailand for a second time in the same year, I loved it that much. I had heard all sorts before I went, that it wasn’t safe, I was mad for going alone. But honestly, ignore it all. It’s come from people that haven’t even been. It’ll massively surprise you over there. Thai people are some of the kindest I’ve met.