Another British backpacker has gone missing while travelling in Thailand – causing more questions over the country’s safety.
Grace Taylor, 21, had told relatives in the UK that she was ‘stressed’ and had been due to board a plane at Krabi airport in the south of Thailand at 9pm. She never took the flight and lost contact with her family and wasn’t seen for some 24 hours.
Grace’s disappearance comes shortly after backpacker Jordan Jacobs sparked panic after ‘disappearing’ on Ko Phi Phi Don but it later turned out to be a hoax, as he was ‘having too much fun partying’ and simply wanted to stay in Thailand.
So just how safe is Thailand for backpackers? And are these people who go ‘missing’ simply young, naive, selfish, partied too much and looking to extend their visas by causing a bit of drama.
Well, the answer is pretty simple.Yes Thailand in safe for backpackers. Thailand has between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 tourists every month, according to Trade Economics. A large number of those are backpackers and young travellers. How many of those have serious problems? Very, very few.
Unfortunately, stories of young travellers appear in the news and cause a lot of damage to the reputation of Thailand as a safe tourist country, people see the articles but don’t see the follow up news when they are found safe and well. Or the full reasons that inexperience young people often bring on the problems themselves. And contrary to some of the misconceptions, Thais never want to cause problems with travellers, as they know how vital the tourist industry is, and how important the country’s reputation is – it is what pays the bills for many Thais.
So we can pretty much say for certain that Thailand is safe for backpackers! But, backpackers must be cautious, sensible and most importantly, take responsibility for what they do in a foreign country. Use common sense and be street wise. Young women are the most vulnerable, especially in Thailand where Thai men have a different view of women than in the west.
Here are ten tips for backpackers to stay safe in Thailand.
- Try to book your trip with a friend or another backpacker. If that’s not possible, try and buddy up with someone in Bangkok. There are usually plenty of people in the backpacker scene, and not only will it save money on taxis together, but you will be a lot safer with another person or in a small group of two or three people.
- Don’t take drugs. You’re not in your home country and no matter how safe you feel, it’s not a good idea to be in a foreign land in an altered state of mind. Really just don’t do it. Even at some crazy party where all the other backpackers seem to be doing it, just don’t. They’re not safe, and the cops have great fun extracting bribes from tourists caught with drugs.
- Pace yourself when drinking! Mix beer with ice, and refresh every couple of drinks with a glass of water. Drink, high temperatures and dehydration will cause problems. So drink steadily and be merry. This tip also applies to older male tourists – middle aged men – as there are plenty of those who get drunk and fall in the street or cause problems with locals.
- Always have some form of ID on you at all times. Use a chain wallet, like those in our list of travel essentials, and keep a driving licence card inside, or a national ID card. If you don’t want to use a wallet, have an ID bracelet or necklace. Having ID at hand is essential for booking day trips, hotels, and also to give some authority, as Thai people are much less likely to upset foreigners as they know how vital they are to the tourist industry.
- Don’t let taxi drivers take you somewhere different. This happened to me in Bangkok one time. Instead of Patpong they dropped us off at some shady warehouse nearby. Well, the show here had an expensive door charge and drinks were priced high, and the burly guys on the door didn’t look to friendly. But the show was pretty fun, and we went on to Patpong after, so all’s well that ends well. But generally know where you’re going, and tell the driver politely but firmly to go there.
- Use meter taxis where possible. And tell the driver to set the counter before driving away. There will be some situations where meter taxi drivers aren’t available, late at night when bars and clubs are closing, in popular tourist spots like Soi Cowboy or Nana Plaza, drivers will demand a fixed price. Sometimes it’s easier to go with these guys and pay a premium rather than wait in the street for ages for a taxi metre to come by and stop.
- Don’t insult Thais! Even if they’re trying to rip you off (likely), or they’re being rude (unlikely), or you’re drunk and a bit of trouble kicks off, just smile and walk away. Really, just do it. Apologies, even if you’re wrong, and walk away. Thai people will not take kindly to westerners who are being aggressive to them, and they will always be the ones who are backed by the authorities and police.
- Budgeting for backpacking is part of the travelling experience. But don’t be too frugal. Remember the phrase -buy cheap, buy twice. So spend a little bit extra and avoid the dirtiest, lowest quality places and food. In the long run it’ll make the stay more comfortable.
- Mosquito bites can be a real problem in any part of Thailand. Use mosquito spray in the morning, and again at early evening. It smells, but hey, better than getting bit. Plus, use an incense coil in the hotel room and a mosquito net if the room is wooden and in the countryside. In more modern hotel rooms, leave the aircon on during the day to keep the room cold – mosquitoes don’t like cool areas.
- Use a portable travel safe. These are especially important for backpackers you’ll be sleeping on long coach or train journeys. Or staying in budget accommodation where laptops or iPads are too big for the safe, or in rooms where there is no safe at all. PacSafe is the market leading brand, and although they are quite expensive, their gear is top quality. They have two different sized portable travel safes – 5l for smaller items and 12l for big laptops.