Thailand Survival Guide

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Have a fun, safe & enjoyable holiday with our guide to staying safe in Thailand. 

 

 

 

 

1. What's This Guide All About?

1Cover’s Thailand survival guide is packed full of hot tips and good neighbourly advice to keep you safe on your next trip.

What Do We Know About Safety? Well, we’ve been working in the travel insurance industry for over 10 years so we’re the most up-to-date travelling buddy that you could ever wish for. We take safety seriously, but we won’t ever sound like your mother. We also like to have fun, because that’s what travel is all about!

Thailand has long been known as the ‘Land of Smiles’, and you’ll find out why within five minutes of meeting the locals. Packed full of breath-taking beaches, amazing food and wild parties – it’s easy to see why Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destination in South East Asia.

But Thailand comes with a set of challenges you may not have faced at home. Corrupt police, a strict and confusing legal system and some of the craziest traffic you’ll ever see are just a few things to watch out for. 

 

 

2. The Best Of Thailand

Before we go through all the things you might need to be careful of, 

here's our top things that you NEED to do if you're visiting Thailand.

 

The Songkran Water Festival

  •  

  • In April the streets of Thailand transform into a giant water fight to mark the start of the New Year. People take to the streets armed with buckets and water guns, so be prepared to get very wet! Leave your phone at your hotel or wrap it in a plastic bag. 

Hit A Full Moon Party

  •  

  • Now infamous around the world, what started as by a bunch of hippies dancing at Koh Phangan now attracts around 30,000 revellers each full moon. Alcohol is served in buckets and UV paint abounds, it really is a party animal’s paradise. 

Get Trekking

  •  

  • Thailand is home to some spectacular landscapes and great trails. Explore the lush tropical rainforests on a jungle trek or meet the hill tribes who live in the mountains in the North and West. 


  •  
  • Do Some Island Hopping

    Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Krabi, Phi Phi, Phuket - Thailand has tons of beautiful islands where you can relax on white sandy beaches. So why not visit as many as you can?

 

Scuba Dive

  • Thailand has some of the best diving spots in the world and is one of the cheapest places to learn. There are literally hundreds to choose from, but we recommend Hin Muang, Hin Daeng and the Similan Islands.  

 

Visit Some Ruins and Temples

  •  

  • Thailand has a rich and fascinating history and what better way to experience it than visiting some of the many ancient ruins and temples. Some of the best are Ayutthaya and Sukhotha. Both are UNESCO world heritage sites and are home to hundreds of ancient statues and ruins. 

3. Know Before You Go 

i. Visas & Entry

If you can’t get into Thailand than your trip is over before it’s even begun. But never fear - when it comes to visas and entry here’s what you need to know:

 

Australia citizens do not need a visa to enter Thailand for stays less than 30 days.

You must have at least 6 months validity on your passport. 

 

For the most up-to-date entry requirements and how to get a visa contact your nearest embassy.    

Overstaying your visa is a serious offence in Thailand. 

 

 

Be careful what you bring into the country too – Thailand customs allow you to bring in a max, per adult, of:

 

Maximum 1 litre
of alcohol.

 

200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 100 grams of tobacco.

 

Plants and animal products are subject to restrictions and quarantine.
 

 

 

ii. Sim Cards & Dialling Home 

 

 

SIM cards and top-ups are widely available throughout Thailand. Major national operators include: 

DTAC  -  True  -  AIS  

 

Calling Australia From Thailand

 

001 - 61 - Area Code - Land Phone Number.

001 - 61 - Area Code - Mobile Phone Number.

 

001 - Exit number from Thailand for international calls.

61 - Country Code of Australia.

Area code - 1 of the 19 area codes in Australia e.g. 02 = NSW and ACT region.

For a full list of Australian area codes visit here

Calling Thailand From Australia

 

0011 - 68 - Area Code - Land Phone Number.

66 - Country Code Of Thailand

 

0011 - Exit code for Australia, and is needed for making any international call from Australia.

Area code – i.e. 2 is for Bangkok

For a full list of Thai area codes visit here

 

 

Important Thai Phone Numbers

 

  • Police

  • Tourist Police 1155
  • Thai Police 191
     
  • Emergency

  • Ambulance and Rescue 1554
    Medical Emergency 1669
    Fire Brigade 199
     

  • Government

    Tourist Service Centre 1672
    Australian Embassy +66 2 344 6300
     

  • Consulates

    Bangkok (66 2) 344 6300
    24-hour Consular Emergency Centre +61 2 6261 3305
     

 

 

iii. Money 

 

  • Thai currency is the Baht.

 

  • ATM’s will charge around 150 baht per cash withdrawal. 

 

  • Avoid getting your money changed at the airport, you will always get charged a commission fee. 

 

  • Notes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 baht.

 

  • Use money exchanges in banks or shopping malls. 

 

  • Be careful of fake bank notes especially 100 and 1000 Baht notes. 

 

How To Spot A Fake Note

Real bank notes will be made of strong material.

Fake notes may be easy to rip, frayed and oily to the touch.

Check for the watermark of Thailand’s King Bhumiphol on the right hand side.

Check for the holographic strip down the left hand side. 

 

 

Tipping

Tipping it is not a tradition in Thailand, although restaurants in tourist areas have come to expect tips from foreigners. If you have had good service and would like to tip 10 percent is fine. Restaurants will sometimes add a 10 percent service charge to your bill, so make sure you check before you hand over more money for a tip.   

 

 

iv. Adventure Activities 

 

Thailand is a place of fun and there are lots of adventure activities to choose.

Take the right precautions, always get travel insurance and make sure you’re covered for any activities you plan to take part in.

 

Some Activities That Are Covered

Cycling

Hiking

Zip line

Windsurfing

Scuba diving

Paddle
surfing

Kayaking

Zorbing

Gorge walking

Yachting

Kite
surfing

Surfing

Wake-boarding

Canoeing

Trekking

Swimming

Abseiling

Some Activities That Are Not Covered

 

(By Pretty Much Any Insurer Because Of The Risk!):

Base
jumping

Professional
sports

Parachuting

Hang
gliding

Open water sailing

Mountain-eering

Hunting

Motor biking*

Riding a moped or scooter* 

*Without an Australian licence.

 

4. Is Thailand Safe? 

i. Australian Government Travel Warnings

The Aussie Government issue travel warnings for destinations depending on the security issues at hand. You can find them here. Smart Traveller advises to exercise a high degree of caution due to terrorist attacks and civil unrest. It is advised to avoid all travel to Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla in southern Thailand due to ongoing violence and terrorism. 

 

Stats and Facts

 

Theft is the most common crime experienced by tourists, so keep your wits about you and your valuables safe. 
 

 

Credit card fraud in Thailand is on the increase. Be careful when using your card and never let it out of your sight when paying for things. 

 

There has been an increase of drive by bag snatching by thieves on motorcycles. 
 

 

Drink spiking and assaults also occur. Look out for your friends when out on the town, watch your drinks and be aware of your surroundings. 

 

 

ii. Getting Around In Thailand

 

There are several ways of getting around in Thailand

 

Taxis

Make sure you use metered taxis. Do not let the driver give you a set price as they will usually overcharge tourists. Make sure the meter is turned on and if the driver refuses or says it’s broken get another taxi, there are plenty in Thailand. 

 

Top Tip

Some taxis will expect you to haggle for a price. This may seem very foreign, and you may even feel like you’re being rude, but many businesses operate in Asia this way. Be sure to agree on a price before you depart. 

 

Tuk Tuk

A fun way to travel around but can be a very bumpy ride. They also do not offer a lot of protection from other vehicles. These do not have meters so make sure you agree on a price before you depart.  

 

Trains

One of the safest ways to travel in Thailand and a great way to see the countryside. However, beware of thieves on overnight trains as you may wake up with all your belongings gone.

 

Buses

Thailand has extensive bus services throughout the country. However, buses can be unreliable and they also do not have the same strict maintenance and safety laws as Aus. Make sure you don’t scrimp on your bus ticket as you will get what you paid for.


Motorbikes

You can spot motorbike taxis by the driver’s orange vests. These are the fastest way to get around crowded cities, but can be very scary! 

 

 

 

 

iii. Family Friendly Tips

 

 

Supermarkets Do Stock

Fresh milk, nappies and toiletries. Some have baby formula but to be safe it’s best to bring your own from home.

 

Unfenced Swimming Pools

Some villas may not have pool fences so be sure to check this when booking your accommodation.

 

Dangerous Balconies

Some hotel balconies can be damaged or have low railings or balusters that children can climb. 

 

 

Be Careful With Tap Water

Prepare your kids beforehand by letting them know that they can’t drink the tap water – including in the bath or shower.

 

Consider Taking A Stroller

You might consider taking a stroller with large wheels for the beaches and un-even footpaths.

 

Taxis Don’t Have Car Seats

Best to research beforehand and find a private driver or a company you can hire one from. You could also take one from home.

 

 

Resorts Have Kids Clubs

With dedicated playgrounds, pools and fun activities for the kids to do.

 

Highchairs Are Rare

A pram will come in handy during meals at restaurants and cafes.

 

Thai People Love Kids 

Staff at restaurants will often pick up your kids and give them a lot of attention.

 

 

National Children's Day

National Children’s Day is celebrated each year on the second Saturday of January. Known as "Wan Dek" in Thai the day offers many free events and activities for children throughout the county and is a great time to visit as a family.  

Top Tip

 Make sure to bring toilet paper with you as some bathrooms will not have any.

 

 

 

iv. Female Safety

 

Thailand is a relatively safe place for women to travel. As long as you use common sense and don’t take risks you wouldn’t at home your trip should be trouble free. We have put together a few tips for women when visiting Thailand.

 

Be careful of drink spiking. Never leave your drink unattended and never accept drinks from strangers.

Thailand’s bar girls make the country seem very liberal but dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention. 

Nudity is not welcome in Thailand. Make sure when you’re sunbathing to keep your bikini top firmly on. 

 

Don’t be too trusting of strangers. Never go somewhere alone with a person you don’t know well. 

Being drunk makes you an easy target, so make sure you are sensible if planning to drink.

Woman are not allowed to touch monks in Thailand. Make sure you keep a respectful distance.

5. Street Smarts - Scams & Crime

Getting scammed can happen anywhere, but when you’re a tourist in a new city you’re often a prime target for scams. Read up on the scams you need to know about and you should be A-OK!

 

1 Jet Ski Scam

You hire out a jet ski and when it is returned to the jet ski owner they claim that it has been damaged. What they don’t tell you is the damage was already done before you took the jet ski for a ride. They will demand money for it.

2 Tuk Tuk Drivers

These drivers will offer to take you around for
the day at a very cheap price. But while giving
you a tour of Thailand they will take you to many different stores where you will be pressured into buying things you don’t want or need. 

3 Gem Scam

A person will entice you to buy discounted gems at a jewellery store. They will say they can be sold for a higher price when you return home. Of course you will have handed over your cash for something completely worthless.

 

4 Bag Snatching

Watch out for thieves snatching bags on motorbikes. Even if you have a tight grip of your bag it doesn’t mean that the thieves won’t still
try and take it. When walking near the roadside, always have your bag or purse facing away
from the road. 

5 Police

The police in Thailand are not to be messed with, and may invent false charges which you will then be asked to bribe your way out of. Avoid this situation by not doing anything to attract the Thai polices’ attention. It is illegal in Thailand to give or receive a bribe, but corruption is rife. 

6 Drugs

A big no-no in Thailand. Drug offences carry very large sentences and even the death penalty. People have been known to offer
drugs to tourist then inform the police. Just
don’t do it. 

 

 

Top Tips From The Secret Traveller

Here are a few tips on how to survive Thailand from The Secret Traveller.

 

Don’t Get Too Drunk

Its fine to have a little boozy fun in Thailand, but the reality is that most of the bad things that happen to tourists there, happen when they’re drunk. Whether it’s being mugged on Koh Pha-Ngan or getting caught up in a scam in Bangkok, when you’re drunk you’re at your most vulnerable. So have a few drinks, by all means. But try to keep your wits about you.

Smile

Want to make friends in Thailand? All you have to do is smile. The Thais have a sarcastic, fun sense of humour, and you’ll make yourself pretty popular if you attempt to join in. In Thai culture it’s seen as poor form to be grumpy or upset. And after all, you’re on holidays, so smiling shouldn’t be a chore. 

Be Nice To The King

Never, ever make fun of the king. You know the guy – you will have seen his picture in every hotel and restaurant in the country. King Bhumibol Adulyadej is universally admired and loved in Thailand, and speaking badly of him is actually a criminal offence and could land you in some serious trouble, not to mention make you extremely unpopular with the locals. 

 

Use Your Head

There’s something you have to remember in Thailand: it’s not like home, where everything is regulated and a government body is in place to make sure everything you do is safe. If something looks dodgy in Thailand – a boat, or a car, or a tuk-tuk – then there’s every chance that it is. Listen to your gut instinct, and always use common sense. If in doubt, don’t do it. 

The Grand Palace Is Open

One of the classic Bangkok scams is played out day after day, hour after hour. Guys hang around near the Grand Palace, one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, and warn visitors that the palace is closed for the day. It’s not. They’ll then suggest you jump in a tuk-tuk and go visit somewhere else. Don’t do it. You’ll end up at a tailor or a jewellery store, about to get ripped off. 

Wear A Helmet

There’s a reason renting scooters in Thailand is so popular: it’s fun. It’s also the way most locals get around, so you’re really just fitting in with the crowd. However, there are a few things you need to ensure. First, that you’re licensed to ride a scooter in Australia so you’re covered by insurance. Second, that you’re wearing a helmet. And third, that you’re careful. Ever heard of a “Thai tattoo”? It’s a burn mark from a scooter exhaust. Try not to come home with one.

 

Learn Some Thai

You don’t have to be able to speak the entire language. And you don’t have to be able to read a word. But even the most rudimentary Thai language skills will help you out. It will help you get the best price in markets. It will help you negotiate with tuk-tuk drivers. It will help you make friends while you’re out and about. Most people can speak English – but they’ll love that you know a bit of Thai.

Eat, Eat, Eat

The Thais are seriously proud of their cuisine, and one of the best ways to make friends in the country is to eat as much and as widely as you can. Try food you’ve never even seen before. Eat as many chillies as the locals do. If you’re worried about street food, try to stick to the popular vendors, the ones with queues out the front, and watch as your food is cooked in front of you.  

Watch Out For Scammers

This is one of the unfortunate realities of travelling in Thailand: there are a lot of scammers. There are scammers at airports, scammers at hotels, scammers at tourist attractions and scammers at restaurants. All have their own uniquely annoying tricks that they’ll try on you the same way they’ve tried it on every other tourist who has crossed their path that day. The trick is to see it coming, and walk away.

 

6. Looking After Yourself

i. Food & Drink Safety

 

1 Can I Eat The Street Food?

Thailand has some of the most delicious and cheapest street food in the world. Grabbing a bite to eat from one of the many street vendors is all part of the Thai experience. Head to stalls with big crowds and choose food that is cooked to order rather than pre-prepared to make sure it’s fresh. If you're feeling adventurous why not try some crispy fried insects – they go down great with a cold beer. 

 

2 Can I Drink The Water?

Never drink the tap water. Always use bottled water and if ordering drinks make sure the ice is not made from tap water. Many travellers don’t even use the tap water to brush their teeth. 

 

ii. Sun Stroke

 

Sunburn can be horrendous on a holiday, and can potentially ruin it if you end up with sunstroke. At the risk of sounding like your mother our advice is:

 

Use a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF.

 

Always carry water, heatstroke is not fun.

 

Stay in the shade between 10am and 3pm when the sun is at its hottest.

 

 

 

iii. Dengue Fever

 

Dengue fever is viral disease spread by mosquitos, it’s usually not fatal but can cause some symptoms that you probably won’t
want ruining your holiday.

Symptoms may be mild and flu like but in some cases have developed into more severe forms of the disease.

There is no specific treatment and no vaccine. Seek medical attention immediately if you think you’ve contracted the disease.

You can find more information on the WHO website. 

 

How To Avoid Being Bitten

 

Cover Up!

Long sleeved shirts, long pants and long socks are all your friends. Spray repellent on them if you’re heading outside near dawn and dusk and before you go to bed.

 

Use Mosquito Repellent.

As much as you can. The ones with DEET as a major ingredient work the best.

 

Dark Colours And Strong Smells Attract Mosquitos.

Avoid perfumes and strong aftershave and wear lighter colours if possible.

 

Blood Transfusions.

Most blood in Thailand is screened for disease such as HIV but not all. If you so happen to need a blood transfusion while away make sure it is from a clinic that screen their blood. 

 

 

iv. Full Moon Parties

 

Thailand’s Full Moon Parties are legendary, attracting crowds of 30,000 revellers who party till sunrise. But with drink, drugs and carefree tourists a lot can go wrong. Here are a few tips for staying safe

 

1 Bucket Drinks

A bucket is filled with energy drink, 375 ml of alcohol and then a mixer. They may be cheap but drink these in moderation. The energy drink means it takes longer for you to feel the effects of the alcohol. 

2 Flaming Jump Rope

It is a traditional at full moon parties to set a rope on fire and jump over it. The aim is to make the rope swing around as fast as possible so the flames go out. Sounds easy enough, but if you play with fire you are going to get burnt, especially if you’ve had a few buckets.  

3 Robberies

Criminal gangs prey on these parties. Make sure you leave your valuables at your hotel, just take enough money for the night. Also don’t sleep off your drunkenness on the beach as when you wake up you may have been relieved of your valuables.  

 

4 Sexual Assaults

Never go anywhere alone if you are a girl and make sure to look after your friends. Getting legless is an easy way to make you a target for unsavoury characters so make sure you are sensible and keep the buckets to a minimum.    

5 Drugs

Party drugs such as MDMA and Ecstasy are common at the FMP’s as well as mushroom milkshakes. Just because it’s Full Moon doesn’t mean they are legal. When dancing away on Koh Pahang it’s easy to forget that if you are caught you could face a lengthy time in a Thai prison. 

6 Don’t Go Swimming

Being drunk and deciding to take a dip is never a smart idea. The currents in Thailand are strong and if you do get into danger people may be having too good a time on the beach to notice you need help. 

7. Mother Nature

i. Natural Disasters

 

Earthquakes:

 

If an earthquake occurs it can trigger a tsunami or mudslide. In the event of an earthquake always follow the direction of local authorities. Get to higher ground if there is suspicion of a quake out to sea.

 

 

Tsunamis:

 

The 2004 tsunami was one of the worst natural disasters Thailand has ever experienced, although the
country now has one of the best Tsunamis warning systems in South East Asia. 

 

 

Floods:

 

Thailand has a tropical climate and flooding is common. Monsoons are normal during the wet season which
varies between different regions. Travel outside of the wet season to avoid flooding.

 

 

 

ii. Beaches

The majority of beaches are not patrolled by lifeguards and can be very dangerous. Here is our guide to beach safety. 

 

Flags At The Beach 

When it comes to safety on the beaches there are a few things to look out for:

 

Red Flags

If you see red flags on a beach don’t swim there, as they indicate dangerous currents and rips.

Yellow And Red Flags

These flags mean lifeguards patrol the beach and are the safest to swim on. 

No Flags

This means no lifeguards but are potentially safer than red flagged beaches. 

 

 

iii. Stray Animals 

There are many stray cats and dogs in Thailand as well as wild monkeys. These animals should be avoided and you should never touch or play with them. 

 

 

 

Rabies

Rabies is prevalent in Thailand and can be contracted through being bitten by an infected animal or if an animal’s saliva gets directly into your eyes, nose, mouth, or broken skin. Our tip is to get vaccinated before your trip if you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors or around animals.  

 

Bites & Scratches

If bitten or scratched by any animal you should immediately wash the wound thoroughly and seek urgent medical attention. You may need to take antibiotics for high-risk wounds so ensure you are checked by a doctor as soon as possible.

 

Macaque Monkeys

Avoid macaque monkeys, even in tourist areas where you are encouraged to touch or go near them. They can steal things from you or attack you. Don’t smile at them as they see a show of teeth as aggression, don’t grab something they are holding as they may bite you, and don’t show them any fear.

 

 

8. What To Do In An Emergency 

i. What Do I Do If I Lose My Passport?

Your passport is your ticket to ride so try not to lose it down the back of a couch, or leave it in the back of a taxi. Follow these handy steps if you do lose your passport. 

 

 

Look In The Last Place You Left It!

Seems simple right? But sometimes your passport may have been left at the last place you stayed so call the hotel.

 

Report It To The Government

If you are unable to find it after searching far and wide (or you know for a fact it was stolen) then you need to report it to the government.

 

Prepare Documents To Get A New Passport

Things you will need to do to get a replacement passport include: an application form, photos and possibly booking an interview.

 

Report To The Police Within 24 Hours

Of it occurring. Ensure you get a police report documenting the loss or theft. You will need this report to make a travel insurance claim.

 

Call Your Travel Insurance Company

To report the claim as soon as you can. That way you can confirm cover and seek advice.

 

 

Important Contacts

Tourist Police
1155

Thai Police
191

Australian Embassy
+66 2 344 6300

 

 

ii. What To Do If I Have A Medical Emergency?

 

If something serious happens and you find yourself severely sick or injured you’re going to need to get to a hospital, and fast. Always make yourself aware of your nearest hospital, just in case. Hospitals in Thailand deliver great standards of care. Many hospital and clinic staff speak English, and have all the usual infrastructure like emergency departments, air ambulances and specialist clinics. 

 

 

Call 1554 for Ambulance and Rescue or 1669 for a Medical Emergency. 
 

For medical claims you will need a doctor’s report so don’t forget to get this.
 

The Thai people are always ready to help so if you are in an emergency don't hesitate to ask.

 

 

 

iii. What To Do If You're Robbed Overseas

 

 

Keep Your Cool

Don’t panic (and don’t fight back if you are aware of the robbery). Your camera isn’t worth as much as your life so best not to risk it.

 

Get Help

Contact your embassy or high commission office to get assistance if needed, such as if you have troubles with the local police.

 

Report Stolen Keys

Report stolen keys to your hotel. Replacement keys and locks may need to be arranged.

 

Cancel Cards

Cancel all credit cards and report them stolen to your bank.

 

 

Go To The Police

Find the nearest police station and report the incident, and obtain a police report within 24 hours.

 

Organise A Money Transfer

If all your cash and access to money was stolen you can arrange for a money transfer from someone back home.

 

Speak To 1Cover

If you need to replace items such as your beloved camera speak to your insurance company to find out what is covered.

 

Stay Positive

Last but not least stay positive. Theft can happen to even the savviest of travellers.

 

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