Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Is it Safe to Travel in Thailand During the Bangkok Protests?

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Chiang Mai Temple

UPDATE (23 May 2014) — As Thailand has declared martial law and a national curfew has been imposed, the situation has escalated from where it was during the protests.

For current updates from an on-the-ground source in Bangkok, check this page. Good luck and stay safe.

Over the past few months, I’ve been asked whether it’s been safe to travel in Thailand during Bangkok’s political protests. I’ve spent a few months in Thailand this winter and I can tell you that my trip was mostly unaffected by the activity.

The protestors, led by Suthep Thaugsuban, have been trying to remove Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her government, which they believe is corrupt and closely tied to her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Yingluck and the government are trying to stay in power. For more information, read up on the conflict here.

Since I left Thailand in mid-January, the protests have turned increasingly violent. At least 11 people have died and hundreds have been injured since the protests began in November 2013.

Because of this, many tourists are staying away. But in my opinion, at this time, staying away is unnecessary.

Traveling in Thailand during the protests can be as safe as it usually is — which is quite safe — if you take the appropriate precautions.

Bangkok Chinatown

Traveling in Bangkok: Take Precautions

The important thing to keep in mind is that Bangkok is an enormous city and the protests are only going on in part of it. This is still a major city where people live and work. Bangkok hasn’t shut down. It’s not a war zone.People aren’t fleeing the city for safety.

The airports, train stations, and bus stations are functioning as normal, as is public transportation, and tourist sites are operating as usual.

But if you’re visiting Bangkok, you should find out where the protests are each day and avoid them.

How do you do that? Bookmark this Google map and refer to it every day.

This map, created by Bangkok blogger Richard Barrow, is continuously updated with locations of the day’s protests. Richard also keeps a protest page active and tweets the latest protest news.

To stay up-to-date, get a SIM card with a data plan. I recommend AIS — they have excellent coverage throughout Thailand. You can buy a SIM card from 7-11 or an AIS shop — there’s one at the Siam Paragon mall.

Additionally, if you plan on traveling all over Bangkok during your visit, I recommend that you stay in an area that is accessible by the BTS (Bangkok’s transportation system — think the Skytrain and the MRT, the two rapid transit systems). Bangkok’s traffic is awful to begin with and the protests make it even worse.

In other words, you may want to avoid staying in the Khao San Road area this time around, as it is not BTS-accessible. (Though technically you could take a Chao Phraya ferry from Pra Athit to Saphan Taksin and pick up the BTS from there, but that’s a long, indirect journey to most destinations of interest in the city.) The neighborhoods of Sukhumvit and Siam Square are well-connected and have lots of budget accommodation.

Finally, check your government’s travel advisories for Thailand (US/UK/Canada/Australia) and be aware of the location of your embassy, just in case. You can also register at your embassy if you wish.

Pai

Traveling outside Bangkok: Business as Usual

Outside Bangkok, things are 100% normal. 

You can travel to the beaches of the south, the mountains of the north, the jungles of the northeast, to Chiang Mai or Kanchanaburi or Koh Samui or Krabi without having to worry about your trip being impacted by protests.

There have been some small protests in southern Thailand, but they have not escalated to violence.

Wat Arun

Is Thailand Safe?

I just spent two months in Thailand and I have always felt exceptionally safe there. While Southeast Asia is generally a safe destination for conscientious travelers, I’ve felt both safest and least susceptible to crimes or scams in Thailand.

Additionally, in Bangkok, I’ve always felt very comfortable there as a solo female and much more comfortable than I have in other Southeast Asian cities like Phnom Penh, Saigon, Hanoi, Manila, Kuta, and Sihanoukville.

That doesn’t mean Thailand is 100% safe — no destination is. You can get hit by a drunk driver or pickpocketed or have your drink spiked anywhere in the world at any time. Being in “safe” Thailand is no excuse to let your guard down. Watch yourself.

Just know this:

1) It all comes down to your personal level of comfort. I have friends who lived in Bangkok during the 2010 protests and stayed even as their streets were burning. At the same time, I have friends who left Thailand at the first notion of violence and stayed out of the country until it was over.

Do what makes you comfortable. It’s absolutely possible to just cut Bangkok out of a Thailand trip if you want to.

2) Keep in mind that things could change at any time. The situation is fluid, and I recommend that you stay up to date on the latest news so you can make an informed decision for yourself.

Resources

Everything You Need To Know About The Shutdown — Protest resource page by Bangkok blogger Richard Barrow

Bangkok Protest Map — Updated daily

Thai Leader Vows To Keep Job Amidst Crisis — A good overview of what has happened so far

2013-2014 Thai Political Crisis — Wikipedia page

Have you been to Thailand recently? What advice do you have for travelers?

Comments

45 Responses to “Is it Safe to Travel in Thailand During the Bangkok Protests?”
  1. Shaozhi says:

    My friend and I arrived in Bangkok two days before the shutdown. During our stay, we never felt unsafe. Some of the streets were closed/blocked by protestors but other than that, Bangkok was totally awesome.

  2. Robin says:

    This is good to know. I have a trip booked in April, via Friendly Planet, to Bangkok. I’m hoping my trip will be unaffected.

  3. yara coelho says:

    Excelent post Kate! I was a solo traveler in Bangkok and never even felt i could be ascam prey, because I avoided KhaoSan and other intense tourist areas. I stayed at a wonderful hostel in Lumpini Park, probably one of the safest areas in town 🙂

    • Tenaya says:

      I’d love to know where you stayed. I’m planning to be in Bangkok April 5-7 at the end of my trip and would like to figure out where to be that feels comfortable and that I can get to the airport for an early Monday morning flights.

  4. Renuka says:

    Helpful post. Any tourist would be apprehensive about visiting Bangkok at this troublesome time, but you have given a clear picture about the current scenario. Thanks for the insights and relevant links.

  5. I was in Bangkok for a week during the 2010 riots and not once were we effected or see any sign of violence or protest for that matter. I felt safe the entire time and probably wouldn’t have known what was happening if it wasn’t for the news and my mum constantly worrying.

  6. Rick says:

    I’ve felt safe from violent crimes everywhere I’ve been in Thailand so far. That includes Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui, and Issan. I’ve stayed for extended times in each, but I agree that you should always be aware of your surroundings and take the usual precautions (as with anywhere you travel.) I am more concerned with pick-pockets and scams than violent crime. So far I have never been a victim. My girlfriend however, had a smart phone tucked half way into the front pocket of tight jeans and she did get it stolen, but it was just a bump and run type thing and non-violent. That was entirely our fault for several reasons. 1) visibility = temptation 2) she was visibly intoxicated 3) we were touring Walking Street in Pattaya, safe but probably not the best venue. I also had a friend who was pick-pocketed on a baht bus. Agin avoidable, his mistake 1) he had his wallet in the large pocket of baggy cargo shorts 2) he allowed himself to be distracted by a 2 person team, one holding a baby that she allowed him to hold while the other one took his wallet. His attention was diverted.

  7. Thanks for letting everyone know that all is well here Kate! I have been here for years and even now, things are totally normal. Obviously, I am avoiding Bangkok, mostly because I don’t have reason to be there, but if I did, I would just be extra careful. That’s all!

    No need to change your plans people… There are WWWAAAYYYYY better things to do in Thailand then be in Bangkok anyway, so fly in, and then go somewhere else. Easy!

    In case anyone is wondering: I live in Krabi (south Thailand). There was a small parade with music once. That’s about it for our political “protests” here. 🙂 I actually filmed it from my window if you want to see it on my YouTube channel.

    • Tenaya says:

      Thank you. I’m planning to travel there is mid March through early April and have been doing lots of reading to see if the plan still makes sense. I’m planning to go to Krabi and would love suggestions on places to stay near the coast.

  8. Rebe says:

    I just spent 10 days in Bangkok at the end of January, and it was wonderful. Definitely safe to be there — just don’t go to protest sites, it’s as simple as that. Follow @RichardBarrow on twitter and enjoy the city!

  9. So awful to hear that people have died. Thank you for this post and keeping us informed. I agree, you definitely need to know your own level of comfort as well. Hopefully tourists won’t write off the entire country because of this.

  10. Victoria says:

    Thanks Kate. I was a little concerned myself although to be honest, Thailand has always had some sort of demonstration or protest every couple of years as do other developing countries.

    We will be coming in August so hopefully, things would have have calmed down by then if not, we’ll see how we can divert as we were going to Chiang Mai anyway.

    Great link to Richard Barrow by the way: very, very useful as he’s on the ground and is a reliable source.

  11. Gary Thomson says:

    The protests are coming to an end and most protest sights are almost deserted, I live and work in Bangkok and i can assure travellers they will be almost completely unaffected. Everything tourist wise is working as normal.

  12. I was walking past the Hua Lamphong railway station when the protesters suddenly appeared and came right down the street. They were just waving flags. I took a few pictures and headed in the other direction. Besides that, the protests did not interfere with any of my plans.

  13. Jillian P says:

    This is a very informative article, Kate! I was in Bangkok this past November and early December. I agree with you – it really wasn’t terribly dangerous if you stayed outside of the protest areas. I saw many marches and rallies walking through the streets (it certainly made traveling worse if you drive in Bangkok – but I can’t imagine driving in BKK!), but other than that I did not see any violence. I realize it had gotten much worse in January, but even with this, as long as you don’t get involved I’d say you are perfectly okay to visit!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for the resources!

  14. I’ve never been to Thailand but in my opinion I think media always get thinks bigger than they actually are. If we should listen to everything they say we would be barricated home.
    I’m from Italy, and I felt safer in Istanbul than coming home late night in my home town, when most of my friends said I was crazy going to such a “dangerous” city and country..
    Last year I had to cancel a trip to Israel and Jordan because my bf was concerned by the situation in Syria, no way I’m gonna cancel it this year! 🙂

  15. jennifer says:

    I agree about the personal level of comfort. That applies to any location. If someone is genuinely scared of anything, they will never enjoy it, no matter how far fetched those fears may be.

  16. Karisa says:

    I was in Bangkok for the first few months of the protests. and the worst thing that happened to me was getting overcharged for taxi rides. The city is so ginormous it’s really easy to avoid the protests. The only day my plans had to change is when the protests moved to Siam Square for the day. (I just had to go sohpping elsewhere instead).

  17. Cyra says:

    Great post Kate, it’s good to put peoples minds at ease with something like this.

    Things like this can pop up at any time travelling in many places in the world, and it is silly to re-organise your trip to avoid potential problems (unless it is, of course, absolutely necessary).

    As you said, just take precautions and keep up to date with the local situation, but you should be doing this anyway while travelling. I made the mistake once of not checking out recent developments in the area I was travelling, and ended up stranded at the India/Nepal border with road blocks, curfews, and strikes.

    It made for a good story and I was fine, but it’s not an experience I would repeat in a hurry! This wasn’t something planned, it happened out of no where, but if I had planned my whole trip around things that may have happened I wouldn’t have ever left home in the first place.

  18. Catherine says:

    Great tips and resources, thanks for sharing. I’m not planning on being in Thailand ’til much later in the year so hopefully things will have settled down by then, but I think a lot of this advice is applicable to other situations and destinations so may well come in useful 🙂

  19. Marie says:

    Thanks for the info. We visit Bangkok once a year. We have booked for April ’14 and will be taking my parents with us, they are 65+. We have never had any problem when we visited Bangkok but I must say I am a bit concerned this time only because we traveling with my parents.

  20. Mateen Asad says:

    Hi Kate,
    I love the map that you have put here. Could you tell me how we can make similar maps in Google Maps? That will be very helpful for planning

    Follow my blog at: http://www.teen-ta.com

  21. Mateen Asad says:

    Hi kate,
    That’s an excellent map you got there. Could you please let us know how to make these maps by using google maps?

  22. Amy says:

    I’ve been in Thailand for the last couple of weeks, including around four days in Bangkok, where I’ll be heading back to soon. From my experience it’s absolutely safe to be here right now; I’ve even been to a couple of the protest sites and found the overwhelming mood to be peaceful and even festival-like. There is more traffic around for sure and lots of areas are blocked off; we had to get a taxi to MBK mall the other day and our driver was forced to stop and drop us off at a blockade a few metres away. Although I’m aware that there have been some violent clashes and deaths, it doesn’t feel all that different to protests I experienced while living in London. People should still try and avoid the action and stay safe though I think.

  23. Jenny says:

    Thanks for the great post. But is it safe to travel in ___ (fill in what ever country my partner and I are currently in)? is a question I get asked pretty often, and can sometimes be a hard one to answer. It seems as though bad things can happen anywhere and I have definitely seen so much more kindness and good in the world than I have ever felt threatened or unsafe. I think traveling can really be an invaluable lesson in the overall goodness of the individual!

  24. abbeydasassy says:

    Hi Kate!

    Thanks for posting this. I am going to Bangok this april 13 and will be spending d ays there during songkran festival. Its a solo flight so I am quite alarmed with the situation there.

    to those whose is going this april I hope I can meet you there so I have someone to tag along in the photos lol 🙂

  25. Craig says:

    You know, coverage of the protests was totally blown out of proportion. I’m glad you offered your opinion on the matter. Like you said, life continued as usual both outside of Bangkok and in much of the city, as well. I never felt at risk in Bangkok — the Asok protest zone even occupied part of my daily running route. The worst is over now, the protests are going out with a fizzle rather than a bang, and travelers should feel totally safe again.

  26. Harvie says:

    The protests were over hyped, there were some small pockets of trouble, but for the most part, 98% of Bangkok remained the same.

  27. Phil says:

    I have been spending winters in Thailand for 5 years now, and I can say without a doubt it is one of the safest countries, that I have lived in. I was in Bangkok a couple of weeks ago, it was a bit crazy, a few cars rolled over in the streets etc.. but I still felt safe.

  28. Supreet says:

    Hey ! Thanks for the awesome post 🙂 helped allay a lot of my fears ! But I see Thailand in turmoil again and I’m scheduled to fly there on 31 May for 2 nights before heading to Krabi. Is it okay to stay on Khao San road or will we be better off in some other locality ? We are four girls on our first trip to Thailand so we wanted to do all the touristy shopping & nightlife things which is why we chose Khao San… But I don’t know if protests will make our to-and-fro hotel hard. Please help !

    • You’ll be fine! If you’re just staying for two nights, you could stay in the KSR area the whole time (plus the nearby temples) and not need to travel elsewhere.

  29. Kia says:

    Hi, many thanks Kate for all useful information and advice.

    I m flying to Bangkok soon – less than an hour. My only concern would be whether there is risk that the protestors take over the airport, hopeful not as I have to arrive to my homeland on the scheduled date otherwise I may experience a serious regret in my life – which I all most cancel my trip before I read your post.

  30. Traveler says:

    Hi! Two of us are travelling to Bangkok most probably early June and them heading out to koh samui. Given the recent security situation, is it safe to travel at this time around?

  31. Lucie says:

    Hi adventurous Kate,
    A really interesting blog post!
    I myself just came back from traveling around Thailand, and did not experience any troubles at any point on my trip. I think the protests seem over dramatized from a foreign standpoint. The Thais know better than anyone at hospitality and they seem to put anything aside for their guests. I did not feel a single bit of conflict whilst in Bangkok.
    Thailand has always been a great country to travel to, I don’t think anyone should cancel their travel plans for fear of the protests.
    I’ll keep reading your interesting blog posts.
    Keep traveling!

  32. Stefan Schweizer says:

    To me it seems like the western media coverage pictures the situation much more intense than it actually is, at least in the tourist destinations. On the bus ride from Bangkok to Koh Chang we came across 2 checkpoints manned with a few sleepy soldiers, and life on Koh Chang is as if there is no coup. except that there are only very few tourists b/c many cancelled their trip, it seems.

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  1. […] going through protests since November 2013, an echo of the situation three years ago. That said, outside Bangkok, things are 100% normal, and even within Bangkok, the protests can be easily avoided. That’s not the image painted by the media. From what you see on the news, you’d think the […]

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