Patong Thailand - Is It Safe For Tourists?

Patong is a total circus. Whether you are playing Connect 4 with a bar girl off Soi Bangla, getting your photo taken with beautifully festooned ladyboy, or find yourself searching for your missing scooter there is plenty to keep an eye out for in Patong.

Patong as a serious tourist destination made it the haven for all manner of scam artists, stand over touts, crazed farangs, drink spikers, pickpockets, bike gangs and other nefarious individuals conspiring to challenge the safety and wellbeing of the budding Bangla Rd adventurer.

To combat the tide of tourist complaints and growing Mafioso presence, in 2012 the Thai government made Patong the flagship of its "Zero Crime Area" experiment by installing large numbers of CCTV cameras, spot checks by police to identify known criminals and provide a safer Patong tourist experience.

That’s all great, but here are the things we think you should look out for in Patong to keep yourself safe:

Patong Bars - Signs Your Drink Has Been Spiked

Reports of drink spiking in bars around Soi Bangla have been reported over the years - dodgy people mixing drinks laced with sleeping pills and other drugs. You really don't want this to happen to you.
Here are some tips to avoid drink spiking:

  • Always buy your own drink.
  • Keep an eye on your drink when interacting in groups.
  • Finish your drink before going to the toilet.
  • Don't get too hammered so you forget the above rules.
  • If you feel yourself getting drowsier than you should be - leave immediately & get help – call the Patong Tourist police for example. Call them on 1155.
  • If you feel yourself getting really animated and speedy - your drink might have been spiked with Yaba - yep - SPEED! This is designed to keep you drinking at the establishment.

By the way, as we mentioned, the Tourist Police Phone number is 1155. We believe in repetition to keep you safe.

Also, check out our Travel Safety article on Nightlife in Thailand for the big picture overview on what to look out for when you are out enjoying yourself at night.

Jet Ski Scams in Patong

Patong is famous for its jet ski mafia racket. You rent a jet ski, have a good time, return it to the rental agent and he stands over you for serious cash claiming your have damaged the jet ski. We recommend that you don't rent jet skis in Patong, but if you do, like with a scooter or bike rental, take photos of the ski before you use it. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Bar Scams Around Soi Bangla

Drinking around Patong can be a surreal experience: Gogo bars, getting your ass handed to you at pool by the local girls, watching couples enjoy a ping pong show or being outrageously entertained at a ladyboy cabaret.

  • If you get talking to a group of bar girls, locals or katoeys, keep an eye on your wallet.
  • Pay as you drink. It's not uncommon for the bar to throw in "a few extra" drinks if you pay at the end of your night.
  • Watch out for farang owned "Gentleman's Clubs" offering all manner of non-Thai debauch. Drinks are really expensive you may find yourself coerced into forking over more money than you had in mind when you left your hotel. It isn't inflation, it's extortion. "Comrade, I think 2000 Baht for 2 drinks is a bit too much" really won't cut it in these establishments.

The Patong Photo Scam or "Why am I Being Threatened by a Pack of Enraged Ladyboys?

Most ladyboys, or katoeys, are very friendly as they peacock around the streets & bars. Beautiful instagram fodder: an arm in arm shot of you with one of Patong's postcard residents can create a lasting memory or at least a funny Facebook post. The post-script is that they soon demand money, sometimes very aggressively. This can be a very strange experience. A growing throng of angry ladyboys might even threaten you. See this one coming and try to side step it unless you are willing to pay for a good shot.

The same thing applies with touts dragging all manner of bedraggled animals such as iguanas and Javan slow lorises also run a version of the Patong photo scam. The animals are often drugged, placed on you for comedic purposes, your picture taken, and then the lizard handler will then demand payment. Not only is a photo of you badly sunburnt with a drugged iguana on your shoulder not very funny, it’s actually cruel to the lizard. Keep an eye out for these animal handlers, they are pretty common.

Patong Safety For the Solo Traveller

After a few drinks, a lot of the Patong Bars start to look the same "Am I on Soi Eric, Soi Gonzo, or Soi Easy?" If you go out for a few drinks by yourself, make sure you stay as close to Soi Bangla as you can - so it's an easy walk back rather than risk reigning-in a tuk tuk driver when you are drunk & vulnerable to being ripped off on price.

For the Solo Guy in Patong: "I was cleaned out by a Patong Bar Girl!"

Shock, horror, some Patong bar girls have been known to clean a guy out - yep. Get him roaring drunk or spike his drink, take him back to his hotel and rob him blind. We know that you probably won't be a candidate, but you might want to pass the word on. Some guesthouses and Patong hotels are "guest friendly". That is, if you do happen to bring a bar girl back to your accommodation, these establishments not only have cameras, but the girl is required to register her ID when visiting.

Also, in Patong, it's a good idea to keep your valuables in the hotel safe.

For the Solo Female in Patong: or Is Patong Safe for Women?

Avoid walking alone late at night or through the back lanes or streets. Pay special attention to your personal affects and take note of any accelerating mopeds. Not to be put you in state of panic but there have been incidents involving bag snatches/threats to female travellers from criminals on bikes, some involving weapons such as screwdrivers and threats with knives.

Patong Places to Avoid

As we've mentioned elsewhere in the article - try to avoid back streets, alleys, by yourself or late at night. If you wouldn't do it in your hometown, it's probably not a good idea to start doing it in Patong. Stay safe, keep an eye peeled and have a good time. Any specific places to avoid we'll keep you updated.

Patong Beach Safety: Don't Get Sick, or Drown!

Some Nomads have reported getting sick from the ocean around Patong - yes, it can get pretty polluted. If you find yourself wading into a luke-warm soup of garbage or plastic bags on the day, walk back to your sun lounge. From November 2017, smoking will be banned on Patong Beach in an effort to reduce marine pollution.

If you do get sick you'll need our guide to Medical Emergencies, so you'll know who to call for help.

Also, like any other ocean, if you aren't a good swimmer, swim near the lifeguards - there are 15 lifeguard stations along the beach. Occasionally, tourists get caught in rips and strong currents. May to October is monsoon season and the ocean can get pretty wild around Patong. If you see a red sign or flag up don't go in. We mean it.

Patong Tuk Tuk Drivers: Yes, They Will Try to Gouge You

Famous for over the top prices, these guys are seasoned pros at separating seasoned travellers from their baht.

Our Article on dealing with Thailand Tuk Tuk Drivers is well worth a read to negotiate the hustle of a seasoned Tuk Tuk operator!

Drunk Farangs

A lot of foreigners come to Patong to indulge. Some so deeply submerge themselves in intoxication they become “somewhat troublesome” in the Sois surrounding Bangla Road - or try to eject themselves from various scams by outbreaks of belligerence and/or physical violence. Getting overly belligerent is a really bad way to try to get out of a scam in Patong: threaten one tout, tuk tuk driver or ladyboy and you will find the Thais rallying around like an enraged mob. You don't want to do this, or be associated with an aggressive drunk person or farang pumped up on illegal steroids. Keep your wits about you when encountering drunken or belligerent tourists; it can get nasty for everybody involved.

Patong Credit Card Scams: How to Keep Your Money Safe

Want to know how to avoid bank card skimming and other nasty cash/credit card scams in Thailand? World Nomads teaches you how to keep safe from Credit Card Scams in Thailand.

Patong Tourist Police

These guys are on your side. A mix of Thai Nationals and foreigners living in Thailand are there to keep tourists safe.

The phone number of the Patong Tourist Police is: 1155. Put it into your phone.

You will also want to read our tips on dealing with other police in Thailand – this can be a delicate issue.

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