How to Avoid Crime in Thailand: 6 Essential Travel Tips

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Thailand is one of Asia's most popular holiday destinations with millions visiting each year. And with masses of people, there's crime. Here are our tips to help you avoid trouble.


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Thailand is relatively safe for travelers, even solo women travelers, with most having a memorable and trouble-free trip. But occasionally, things can and do go wrong. Some incidents can be as inconvenient as having your bag stolen but other situations may have more serious consequences, including heavy fines or jail time.

Bag snatching

Drive-by bag snatching by thieves on motorbikes is increasingly common. A motorbike zooms by very close, the passenger on the back grabs your bag from your shoulder and disappears down the road with everything you own. if you try to hold on to your bag, you could be dragged along with it until the handle breaks, and be badly injured in the process.

Even if you manage to hang on to your bag, thieves often pull knives on tourists who are fighting back. An Australian woman was killed in Phuket in 2012.

Check out our tips for female travelers in our women's safety in Thailand article.

How to beat bag snatchers

  • Walk as far from the curb as you can, and keep your bag on the side of your body away from traffic.
  • Don't carry anything of value with you, and only carry the cash you need for the day.
  • Leave credit cards, passports and tickets at the hotel.
  • If you have a camera or a phone, put it in a pocket, not the bag (and download photos every day so you don‘t lose memories).
  • If there‘s nothing of value in your bag you'll be more likely to let the thieves have it and avoid a confrontation or injury.

The more off-the-beaten-path you get the less likely it is you'll encounter bag snatchers. Here are some of our ideas on where you can do that in Thailand

Drug crime

Illicit drugs are rife in Thailand, and the trade is run by criminals who place a low value on human life. Mixing with drug gangs can lead to violence or death. 

The police take drug crime very seriously. Find out what could happen to you if you're caught with drugs - you won't get off lightly.

The same criminal gangs running the drug trade also run much of the sex trade. If you short-change a bar or mistreat a bar girl, expect some rough justice.

Prostitution in Thailand

Despite the relaxed attitude to sex, prostitution is illegal in Thailand and there are laws around the soliciting of prostitutes. However, most of these laws have largely been ignored due to police corruption. In 2017, the Thai Prime Minister announced a crackdown in Pattaya, notorious for its rampant sex tourism, with raids on its nightclubs and illegal brothels.

Many vulnerable women are trafficked in and out of this industry (in some cases even out of the country) including young girls. In 2017, a prostitution ring using teenage girls was busted, exposing military officials, senior police, politicians and others. Some women and girls are trafficked in from neighboring Southeast Asian countries. Lax policing of anti-prostitution laws means that child sex trafficking has continued in Thailand.

Lese Majeste & other laws

In Thailand, the Royal Family are revered by their people. It's a criminal offense to insult, defame, desecrate or threaten any member of the Royal Family, particularly the King and Queen. Even stepping on a Thai baht note, to stop it from blowing away, can get you into trouble as the King features on Thai currency. Doing so can result in time in a Thai prison cell for up to 15 years.

Find out more about how to stay out of trouble with the local police with our article on Thai laws.

Credit card fraud

Card skimming and fraud are common in Thailand, however, you can protect yourself from opportunistic criminals. Check out our article on how to keep your cash and cards safe.

Digital and tech safety

As card skimming and credit card fraud are common in Thailand, another way criminals may get hold of your important information is via the internet. Always use secure connections and avoid doing internet banking and other personal business while using Wi-Fi hotspots or other unsecured connections.

Don't just take our word for it, here's what the famous Nomadic Matt says about safety in Thailand.

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