“Did you feel safe?”
This is one of the first questions my family and friends have been asking me since I’ve been home from Thailand. It’s also something I’ve seen pop up on a lot of other travel blogs or traveling articles: safety; especially for solo female travelers.
So did I feel safe? Absolutely. In fact, I’ve been more worried about my personal safety walking home after dark at my university. People were generally incredibly nice and helpful, and especially where I was in Thailand not inclined toward violence. Of course the places that draw high tourist activity are also going to draw slightly higher rates of criminal activity. Tourists are also notorious for carrying plenty of items that could easily be resold for decent money, so petty theft is probably the most common issue in terms of ‘crime’ and ‘safety.’ As long as you exercise common safety precautions and aren’t ridiculously irresponsible, there’s no real need to fear for your safety. Personally I found most people to be nice and friendly, more inclined to smile and laugh than to violence or other underhandedness.
With that being said, if you spend any amount of time in Thailand you will encounter the ‘three tier pricing system.’ Unless you venture off into the smaller communities off the typical tourist tracks, there are three prices to goods and services. There is the foreigner price, the Chinese price, and the local Thai price. Bartering is common, though, so when a street shop owner or a tuk-tuk driver quotes you a price, that’s not necessarily how much you should pay. We generally joked that we should to counter by offering them half of what they quoted us and then meet somewhere in between. The other foreigner teacher in my town was much better at the bartering than I was. I was pretty crap at the bargaining thing. It just felt so unnatural to me.
The majority of the time I felt so safe that I found it odd when one of our Thai consultants with our teacher placement agency was worried about us walking at night. It was especially odd in our town, which was pretty small and quiet, to be told to avoid walking around at night. For one, it was dark by 6:30pm. Of course sometimes we’d walk around after dark. We had done so already many times. I was much safer walking around there after dark than I would be in a great many places in America. I also had a friend who was teaching in Korea come visit me one weekend. After she spent a few days seeing what small town Thailand was like, she went off on her own to do some more sightseeing up north. One of my Thai co-teachers offered to drive us to the bus stop to drop her off, and when we left her alone waiting for her bus my co-teacher was pretty confused or uncomfortable, I can’t think of the best word for it. She was apprehensive about leaving my friend alone. She told us we were very brave to travel alone in foreign countries, and that Thai people are afraid to do so. It does help us though that we speak English.
In terms of overall safety: yes, I always felt safe. Well, there were a few tuk-tuk rides that made me nervous. Being in a vehicle driven by the locals could be fairly nerve wracking. Traffic laws, seat belts, general health and safety regulations….not so prevalent. You get used to it, and eventually become able to sleep even while the bus or van is careening in and out of lanes and between other vehicles. Riding on motorbikes may be the most dangerous thing I encountered myself while living there. I typically didn’t feel too bad when riding on the back of one piloted by a local, especially as motorbike is the most common form of transportation. When riding around with other foreigners who may or may not be as familiar with biking, it’s best just to be cautious. Be smart, be careful, wear a helmet.
Safety: just follow the same sort of rules you would use traveling around at home and you’ll be fine. Don’t let fear or safety issues keep you from seeing Thailand! Even if you are traveling alone.
Chok dee ka! Sawatdee ka!