Thailand: The Gap Between Paradise and Peril

When I was looking through the Lonely Planet guides, planning my gap year travel, Thailand seemed the obvious option. I admit I wasn’t the most adventurous of international travelers and Thailand appeared to be a step up from Ibiza – a more exotic version of the Mediterranean and a lot cheaper. If I’d known about the crime figures as I did my research, perhaps I wouldn’t have gone.

That’s just me – overly cautious. Many thousands of travelers visit the country every year without experiencing anything more than a spot of sunburn. I enjoyed a safe and exciting trip when I was younger. But reading this piece in the International Travel Insurance Journal made me consider the darker side of Thailand and how it is important to be aware of staying safe in the country.

Risks of Thai travel

According to Australia’s ambassador in Thailand, the country is the most dangerous for Australian tourists. More than 850,000 visit Thailand each year and the majority are young travelers, attracted by the relaxed atmosphere and opportunities to have fun on the beaches and in the bars. The Australian embassy consequently has up to 200 active cases in Thailand at any one time. Thailand is a beautiful country but it is also associated with a number of risks to be aware of when you travel.

Thailand is not an unusually high risk destination, according to insurers, but there are certain risks associated with travel in the country which lead insurers to offer words of caution to visitors. For example, road accidents are a huge concern. Auto and moped accidents are unfortunately all too common in Thailand, and affect travelers who hire vehicles without giving much thought to the differences of driving in this country. Many travelers also take unnecessary risks, such as driving drunk or under the influence of drugs, which they would never consider at home. If you are considering driving a moped on your gap year or vacation, take extra care when driving. Always wear a helmet (even if no one else does) and don’t compromise your safety by driving drunk. Auto accidents can leave you with large medical bills so take out travel insurance before you go.

Thailand’s unique issues

Travel insurance can also help if you are a victim of crime in Thailand so it is important you are properly covered. Tourists and visitors are the victims of muggings, thefts, and pick-pocketing incidents in Thailand every year. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t carry large amounts of cash or expensive items like laptops at night or in busy markets or tourist hotspots. Theft can happen anywhere on vacation, but Thailand is struggling with a particularly large problem with thefts. Another problem that is unique to Thailand is the amount of crime, and injury, associated with Full Moon parties. Up to 10,000 people attend these parties on the beach in Koh Phangan, attracted by the prospect of all-night music, dancing and drinking. Partygoers under the influence of too much alcohol, or a combination of drugs, get into trouble with the law or injure themselves. If you are attending one of these parties, stay safe while you enjoy yourself. Easier said than done, perhaps, but you can still take some basic precautions to protect yourself while having fun. Remember your travel insurance may be invalidated if you are taking unnecessary risks or are under the influence of alcohol.

Stay Safe

Although Thailand is not a dangerous place to take a gap year or vacation, it is wise to be cautious and pay attention to the possible risks. Solo women travelers, in particular, should be careful when attending Full Moon parties or drinking in resorts in the south. But as with all destinations from New York to New Delhi, you are most likely to lose a camera or some cash than you are to be physically injured or attacked. However, to ensure you enjoy a fantastic gap year or special vacation pay attention to your surroundings and never take risks – just like you wouldn’t at home.