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The Most Dangerous Thing About Thailand

I’ve been traveling to Thailand for 15 years, and while I’m not what you would call a daredevil, I’ve also experienced the Kingdom pretty fully. If Thailand were an extremely dangerous country, I probably wouldn’t be here writing this now.

At the same time, if Thailand were extremely safe in every way, I might still be living there. Or perhaps more accurately, I would’ve taken one of the many opportunities to move back there that I’ve been given over the years.

Indeed, if I could answer the question “is Thailand safe?” in a single word, I would. Instead, I think it’s probably best—it’s probably fair—that I go into great detail instead.

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Why Thailand Has a Reputation for Being Safe

The main reason many people find Thailand safe is that there isn’t a lot of violent crime here. Even if you walk home in Bangkok in the middle of the night, you are unlikely to face physical harm, certainly not as a man. I’d be lying if I said I knew for a fact that this was true for women, though anecdotally I don’t know a single woman in Thailand who has been sexually assaulted.

The lack of hard crime in Thailand is definitely worth celebrating. It’s a big part of why I spend so much time there (and in Asia more broadly) and not in places like South America, as much as I like it there. On the other hand, there’s still a certain amount of danger in Thailand, and it unfortunately takes several forms, some of which can be hard to anticipate, if you’ve never been there. Please allow me to break some of them down.

The Most Dangerous Things in Thailand

The roads

Would you believe me if I told you that every white person I knew who’d rented a motorbike in Thailand ended up having an accident? The rate isn’t quite 100%, but it is very high. Even if you don’t go this route, the reality is that Thailand has more road accidents per day, per capita than almost any other country in the world.

Food (and mosquito)-borne illness

The good news? Malaria is incredibly rare in Thailand, and while Dengue fever is slightly more common, you can avoid it by wearing mosquito repellent consistently at nighttime. The bad news? Another type of sickness—food-borne illness—continues to make Thailand dangerous from a health perspective.

Petty theft

My mind is as deep in the gutter as anyone’s, but I don’t laugh when I see signs warning of “snatch theft” along roads in Bangkok and throughout Thailand. Indeed, it’s never happened to me, but I do know for a fact that thieves on motorcycles will snatch people’s bags as they speed by, to say nothing of good old-fashioned pickpocketing.


Even though Thailand is safe from violent crime, you may encounter any other number of criminal types here. Scammers are a common one—and they take many forms. In some cases, it’s a matter of a taxi driver refusing to use the meter, or a market seller deliberately giving you the wrong change back. Other times, it’s much worse.

Air pollution

I’ll never forget February of the first full year I lived in Thailand, looking out the window of my high-rise apartment to see a thick, brown smog covering all but the closest other buildings to me. In Bangkok, Chiang Mai and many other cities, thick and very dangerous pollution fills the skies for months (usually, February-April) every year.


Why Do Thais Wear Masks (But Not Seatbelts or Helmets)?

During the covid-19 pandemic (and especially after), Thais rightly took flak for their obsession with face masks. While a certain percentage of the population had long masked due to air pollution, nearly 100% of Thai people continued masking months and even years after the pandemic ended, even outdoors, at the beach and in their own cars. The “Land of Smiles” became (and sadly, in many cases, remains) a faceless dystopia.

Curiously, many Thai motorcyclists would wear masks, but not helmets. This makes no sense for a variety of reasons. Namely, that roads are a big part of what makes Thailand dangerous, with more people dying in traffic accidents than of covid, even at the pandemic’s peak. It’s incredible to see someone “protect” themselves from a mild respiratory virus while leaving themselves vulnerable to instant brain death.


Other FAQ About Thailand Travel Safety

Are tourists safe in Thailand?

Tourists are certainly safe from violent crime in Thailand. With this being said, traveling in Thailand is not without its hazards. The Kingdom has some of the most dangerous roads in the world; scams are also common. Moreover, while food safety has increased in recent years, you’re always only one street food meal away from hours in the toilet.

Is Thailand safer than Europe?

It would be irresponsible to suggest that Thailand is safer than Europe, on the whole. Whether we’re talking about roads, food or even petty crime and scams, Europe has much lower rates of criminality than Thailand. On the other hand, Thailand has a very low level of violent crime—less than Western Europe, and significantly less than Eastern Europe.

How safe is Thailand for female tourists?

In the early 2010s, the Thai island of Koh Tao become known as “murder island” due to several female tourists from the UK who went missing there. While this example has colored many female travelers’ impressions of Thailand as a whole, the reality is that Thailand is still pretty safe for female travelers, when compared not only to the rest of Southeast Asia, but certainly to similarly priced destinations in South America, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

The Bottom Line

Is Thailand safe? On one hand, it’s safe enough that I’ve returned dozens of times—I lived there on three occasions—over nearly two decades and am so far unscathed. On the other hand, there are many aspects of traveling in Thailand that present varying degrees of danger to foreign tourists, from the country’s deadly roads, to food-borne illness, to theft, scams and air pollution. While you don’t need to worry about violent crime as you might in South America, Thailand is still a place that demands a certain level of vigilance. Want to make sure your Thailand trip is not only safe, but unforgettable? Consider hiring me to plan it!


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