Thailand is considered one of the safest countries in Southeast Asia and also one of the least violent. The Thais have a deserved reputation for non-confrontation and the country as a whole enjoys a relatively peaceful atmosphere in most provinces. Pattaya is no exception and people visiting, or living, here very soon realise that they needn’t feel insecure or threatened at any time of the night or day. Apart from the usual scammers who thrive among tourists, the local people are generally honest and helpful.
Theft is confined to busy tourist places and is not considered a major problem, violence is quite rare and health threats aren’t too common. However, Pattaya is known as Thailand ’s naughtiest city and is famous for its nightlife and prostitution, which unfortunately attracts a mafia scene. As long as you don’t get involved in unsavoury types of business you will be quite safe. Thailand is seen to value its visitors and goes to great lengths to avoid negative publicity from harmed foreigners, and the tourist police do an effective job of protecting expats and visitors alike.
The following safety issues are worth noting for your own peace of mind:
Terrorism: Thailand’s passive nature and Buddhist way of thinking has enabled it to stay largely neutral as far as its Western allies and Muslim neighbours are concerned. With the exception of the continuing serious violence in the southern three provinces, where sectarian Muslim banditry is rife, the risk of terrorist activity in the rest of the country is very small for visitors. While most holiday destinations worldwide frequented by Westerners are vulnerable to terrorism, the Thai Government, authorities, army, and police jealously and ruthlessly guard the ever expanding tourist industry in Thailand, particularly in major centres like Pattaya. So far, their policy has been successful, with no reports of suspected conspiracies or plots coming to light. The large and efficient police presence in Pattaya ensures the continuation of this strategy and the safety of both tourists and Thais here.
Road safety: Driving habits in Thailand are reckless by any standards and motorists often disregard rules and place others at risk through thoughtless acts. Fortunately, vehicles in urban areas don’t travel too fast, but foreigners who are unfamiliar with the typical bedlam of Asian traffic end up with minor injuries. Road deaths rarely involve foreigners, but casualty figures on the roads of Thailand are frightening to a Westerner, and they are particularly bad in the busy Pattaya area. Many people ignore signs, overtake (and undertake) dangerously, fail to signal both in the city and outside, fail to stop for pedestrians, and generally drive as if they are the only person on the road. Drunken driving is also an big problem and is usually at its worst around about midnight as the bars close down. Although the locals seldom do, you should always wear a helmet if you’re on a motorbike.
Pickpocketing and theft: As long as you take simple precautions, you are unlikely to have any problems in Thailand. People here are, generally, law abiding and abhor violence. If you’re in a very busy area, the odd pickpocket does exist, and in Pattaya the katoeys (lady-boys) have a reputation for this. However, the police here are often very quick to catch the thief and you may well recover your wallet or cash if you act immediately. If you take an unknown guest back to your room, do make sure no valuables are on show; however, the security guard of your hotel will usually not allow such visitors in until they have left their ID as a deposit.
Gem scams: They are a comparatively rare in Pattaya, whereas elsewhere in Thailand they are common. Most people seeking cheap rubies and sapphires go to nearby Chantaburi, which is a major gem centre where both genuine, smuggled Burmese gems and fakes are common. However, if you are offered cheap gems in Pattaya, be careful that they are the real thing, even if the dealer looks genuine. The police are unlikely to be able to help you. If it’s cheap, it’s probably a fake.
Credit card fraud: is a problem throughout the world and is so bad in some parts of Thailand that some banks have blacklisted the country, making cards very difficult to replace until you get home. Guard your credit cards carefully, and never let them out of your sight. Unless you have actually seen the slip coming from the machine don’t sign it. A common trick is to run off several slips at a time and then forge your signature.
Policing in Pattaya is pretty tight, and the necessity of keeping the city ‘clean’ for tourists means that although fraud does happen here, it is rarer than in some other parts of Thailand. Many people here lock away their credit cards for much of the time and pay for everything in cash, only getting their cards out of the safe for larger purchases. Otherwise, a regular check of your accounts is advisable. If you are thinking of checking your bank balance online, choose a reputable internet café and ask them if they use anti-spyware software (it can be downloaded for free in minutes). Many of the cafés aren’t terribly good at maintaining security on their PCs. Be sure to clear cache, cookies and history after surfing in an internet café.
Drugs: have been clamped down on very seriously in Thailand , and especially in Pattaya. Possession of marijuana, ya-baa (opium based amphetamine) and recreational drugs carries severe penalties here. The law is very strictly enforced by a sometimes over-enthusiastic drug squad. You will certainly spend some time in custody and, if you are lucky, receive a suspended sentence, deportation and a 10,000 baht fine for carrying even a tiny quantity of marijuana. Raids of night clubs and large bars are frequent, as are compulsory urine samples for everyone in the venue, with follow-up searches of your room should these prove positive. Possession of even slightly larger quantities make you a trafficker in drugs here, and may well lead to many years’ stay in truly dreadful and debilitating conditions in prison.
Hustlers and touts: are not a threat but can be a real pain sometimes. If you are travelling, you will find many at airports, stations and ferry terminals, but in Pattaya they try to make their living on the beach, in bars and on the street. A big clampdown by the Pattaya Council by bringing in new by-laws, and strict enforcement of these by the police and volunteers has reduced the problem. Genuine hawkers of food and tourist goods will generally not hassle you. A firm ‘mai’ (no) will usually work if they persist, but usually a shake of the head and looking away is enough.
When passing beer bars you may hear a chorus of ‘welcome’ from the girls in a dozen different places. Just smile and go on your way and they will smile back charmingly. Raising your voice is considered very rude in Thailand , and if someone is really hassling you this is usually an effective remedy as everyone around will be interested in the disturbance. This is a last resort and should be used only if really necessary.
Violence: In Pattaya you are more likely to see a late night fight between drunken foreigners than be subjected to any yourself. The police, volunteers, off-duty Thai boxers and motorbike taxi drivers usually stop any untoward activity rapidly, and the police will be on the scene in minutes to take the belligerents into custody.
Firearms are occasionally used by groups of young Thais but these are hardly ever used against foreigners. Most serious violence, when it does occur, tends to be between husband/wife, girlfriend/boyfriend and girlfriend/ex-boyfriend. A Thai woman scorned can be a dangerous lady to you and your property. Likewise, a Thai male made to lose face or have his national pride insulted by a foreigner can turn very violent if he has been drinking too much. His friends will likely help him rather than restrain him. You have been warned!
The Jetski damage ruse has been going strong for several years and despite a high profile international documentary expose, the police seem to let the jetski owners continue scamming tourists. It’s quite simple, you rent a jetski, signing a contract that says ‘no insurance’, and then when you return it the operator claims you’ve caused damaged, pointing to pre-existing marks. When you refuse to pay the $1,000 they ask for they, they threaten to take it to the police where ‘it’s, likely to cost more’. When you refuse, they get heavy. The very best advice we can give is to NOT RENT JETSKIS IN THAILAND, or else agree to go to the police, insisting they take you to the charge office (avoid mediators in uniform), and ask to call your local consulate.