The capital of Thailand, Bangkok, is often the first stop for the many visitors that come to the beautiful Southeast Asian country. With over 22 million visitors annually, it’s actually the most visited cities in the world!
But while it’s rich in history, culture, and activities, is Bangkok safe to visit?
Is Bangkok Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. Bangkok is mostly safe to visit, especially for such a big city. However, it has very high rates of petty crime and tourists should be on their guard as they move around.
Violent incidents do occur, as they do in many big cities, but they don’t often affect visitors. Common problems in Bangkok include:
- Bag snatching
- Drink spiking
- Sexual harassment
While most of these problems are minor or petty crimes, you still don’t want to experience any of these things while on vacation.
The rates of these petty incidents are fairly high, and some people feel exhausted by the pressure of staying alert. A stolen wallet or a bad experience at a nightclub could be enough to sour your whole trip.
That being said, violent incidents, especially against tourists, are rare. You will have to be on your guard against theft, but that is a small price to pay for the joy of experiencing Bangkok.
Bangkok has some other problems besides the high petty crime rate. According to the official New Zealand travel advisory for Thailand, Bangkok has experienced terrorist attacks in the past.
One of the deadliest was a bombing at Erawan Shrine in 2015 that killed over 20 people. Although they are rare and only occur every few years, it’s a good idea to be aware in public spaces.
Over the past few years, Bangkok has also seen an uptick in civil unrest. Thailand’s government is fairly repressive, and there was a military coup in 2014, and the leader of the coup who became prime minister extended his time in office.
There were large waves of protests in 2020, but they were heavily repressed, causing the movement to lose momentum. Even though the protests are not as big as they used to be, they still occur regularly in Bangkok, especially around political events such as elections.
Follow the news before and during your trip and plan to avoid all demonstrations since they can quickly turn violent once the police begin attacking protesters.
The government also imposed a repressive law targeting people that participate in the protests, and you don’t want to end up on the wrong side of the authorities while you are in town.
Finally, it’s worth noting potential natural disasters and extreme weather that might affect you in Bangkok. The most common natural disaster to affect Bangkok is flooding.
According to the UK government travel advisory, the rainy season in most of Thailand is from May to October. If you travel during this time, be ready for the possibility of heavy rain.
Crime in Bangkok
The crime rate in Bangkok is fairly high, especially when it comes to petty crime incidents. A detailed look at the statistics may help you know what you are getting into when you travel to Bangkok and how to prepare yourself.
According to Numbeo, Bangkok scores a 40.76 out of 100 on the crime index, a moderate value. The most common crimes people worry about are drug use, vandalism, theft, and corruption.
Rates of violent crime such as assault are low. Advice from US government sources back up this data.
Country Reports states that the crime rate in Bangkok is actually lower than in most American cities — while petty crime rates may be high, the rate of violent crime is much lower than in most places in the United States.
OSAC reports usually concur that the crime rate in Bangkok is moderate, but non-confrontational thefts are prevalent. Violent crime is not much of a concern in Bangkok or in much of Thailand.
A research study identified that homicides are generally declining. At its highest, Bangkok’s homicide rate was 4.4 incidents per 100,000 people, which is a moderate rate for a big city, but the rate has declined since then.
Accurate statistics for petty thefts are difficult to find since many incidents target foreigners and others are not reported to the police, but anecdotal evidence supports from travel bloggers, foreign governments, and locals states that this form of crime is prevalent.
Most incidents are non-violent. Thailand has a reputation for organized crime, both with local triads and as a hideout for foreign criminals.
Criminal groups are behind activities such as human trafficking and sex work, which is jarringly visible on the streets of Bangkok. While this is a crime that rarely affects visitors, it still is a good idea to avoid running afoul of local criminal groups.
Like many places around the world, Bangkok did see an uptick in crime after COVID-19 lockdowns were ended. The crimes that increased the most were robbery and fraud, although street crime rates declined (possibly because of the lower rate of tourism).
There are a few reasons behind the crime increase, including an overwhelmed police force, economic difficulties due to the pandemic, and a lack of public safety measures such as street lighting and CCTV cameras.
However, even with this increase in crime, Bangkok is still a mostly safe city.
From these different sources of information, it’s clear that Bangkok still has many problems, especially when it comes to theft. However, most travelers have a safe experience when they visit.
By far the most common crime you have to look out for in Bangkok is petty theft. It is common in all of its forms, including pickpocketing, bag snatching, and drive-by theft from the back of scooters and motor vehicles.
The Canadian government warns about the risk of petty theft all over Thailand, but the risk is highest in Bangkok.
Pickpockets often target tourist attractions such as the Grand Palace and Wat Pho Temple as they attract crowds of foreigners, who tend to have fewer street smarts than locals.
Other hotspots for petty theft include markets such as Chatuchak weekend market and popular nightlife areas such as Khao San Road and Chinatown. Thefts increase at night as thieves like to take advantage of intoxicated visitors.
You will need to take plenty of precautions to avoid being the victim of a theft in Bangkok. The most important precaution is never to keep all your valuables in one place.
Carry around a copy of your passport instead of the real deal, which you should put in a hotel safe. Have a spare amount of cash somewhere on your person so if you do get robbed, you have a way to get back to your hotel.
Never leave your valuables unattended as even a few seconds of inattention are enough to cost you your wallet. Invest in a secure bag for your possessions.
Many tourists opt for a fanny pack or money belt, but even a cross-body bag that you hold firmly to your body adds plenty of security. Tourist scams are also common in Bangkok.
When getting into a taxi, always agree on the fare beforehand and beware of a taxi driver whose meter is conveniently “broken.” Tuk-tuks, another popular mode of transportation, are also another common tourist scam.
When you get into a tuk-tuk, the driver may claim that your destination is closed and offer to take you to a better alternative.
Usually, they get a cut of the price and you may show up to the new destination to find out that it is of poor quality. Have addresses for all the places that you want to go and insist on going to check for yourself.
Although violent crime, especially violent crime against tourists, is rare in Bangkok, there have unfortunately been cases of sexual assault. The Australian government even includes this in its official travel advisory for the country of Thailand.
Most sexual assaults occur in Bangkok’s rowdy nightlife districts such as Khao San Road. Perpetrators may spike the drinks of their victims or wait for them to become very inebriated and then assault them.
Never leave your drink unattended and never order drinks unless you know exactly what is in them. Bangkok may be famous for its nightlife, but sometimes the rowdy clubs and bars are dangerous, not fun.
Make sure that if you go out, you go with a trusted group and never leave anyone alone. If someone in your group seems incapacitated, get them help immediately.
Avoiding Bad Areas
There are a few parts of Bangkok that are more dangerous than others. Khao San Road is a popular destination for backpackers thanks to its nightlife and underground reputation.
However, it is also a popular destination for thieves and after dark more serious crimes can happen. You shouldn’t avoid this area, but be careful when you go there.
Bangkok has some dangerous slums, such as Klong Toey, but they are easily recognizable by their poor infrastructure so there’s little risk of you wandering in by accident.
Things to Consider
Here are some additional safety tips for visiting Bangkok:
- Air pollution in Bangkok can reach dangerous levels, particularly for small children, the elderly, and people with respiratory conditions. Check air pollution forecasts when you visit, wear a mask, and stay indoors on bad days.
- Traffic is more dangerous than crime in Bangkok. Be very careful when crossing the street or taking a tuk-tuk. Don’t rent a scooter as scooter accidents are common.
- Thailand has very strict lèse-majesté laws, which means that it is illegal to insult the royal family. Some actions that you may not even consider insulting, such as wearing black on days important for the royal family or not standing at attention for the anthem, could land you in trouble. Avoid criticizing the royal family not just to avoid legal trouble but also to avoid the wrath of locals.
- Don’t use drugs while you are in Bangkok. Despite its hedonistic reputation, drugs are illegal in Thailand and penalties are severe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions previous visitors to Bangkok wanted to ask:
Is it safe to walk at night in Bangkok?
Most parts of Bangkok are safe to walk at night, although try to avoid doing so alone. Stick to well-lit areas, avoid side streets and alleyways where criminals could hide, and be careful of the drunk crowds if you are going to nightlife districts.
Is Bangkok safe for female tourists?
Female visitors to Bangkok should probably take precautions as unfortunately, women do experience difficulties in the city. Problems such as sexual harassment, drink spiking, and even assault do happen.
You can avoid most problems with basic precautions such as traveling mostly during the day, staying in a good location, and dressing more modestly to fit in.
Is Bangkok safe for Westerners?
Yes, Bangkok is safe for Westerners. You will be targeted for scams more often than locals, but be firm while keeping in mind that you probably make more money than most locals, and that although the experience may be frustrating, it is just part of travel.
Is Bangkok worth visiting now?
Bangkok is absolutely worth visiting now, thanks to its many temples, bustling nightlife, and great food. Do your research before you go to make sure your visit doesn’t coincide with a major political event for the sake of safety.
Is street food safe in Bangkok?
One of the best things you can do on a trip to Bangkok is eat street food. Just make sure you are eating at a stall with good hygiene as travelers have gotten food poisoning in the past.
Look for stalls with plenty of local customers, opt for stalls that cook the food in front of you rather than leaving it out, and keep an eye out for unhygienic practices such as dirty dishes.
So, Is Bangkok Safe to Visit?
Although travelers have to take precautions while they’re in town, Bangkok is mostly a safe place to visit. Just make sure that you hold on to your wallet as you get swept away by this bustling metropolis. Happy travels!