Safety is something we all hold in high regard, especially when we are travelling to a new and unknown place. Thailand is a safe place, full of happy helpful people who are more than willing to help us out, and give us a smile at the same time. Our co-teachers and friends watch out for us and make sure that we are happy and comfortable in our new environment. What do we do, however, when we are away from that bubble? Thailand is largely safe for foreign visitors, despite being located in a region with an elevated risk of terrorism. The Thai police have been largely effective in ensuring the safety of their tourists. However like anywhere it is important that we don’t get overly comfortable and let our guards down.
Violence against tourists is thankfully rare, but visitors may be vulnerable to pickpocketing, fraud, and confidence tricks. Sexual assaults on women, although rare, can occur, so female travellers should remain vigilant. Be careful about accepting drinks from strangers, keep an eye on your passports and credit cards, and don’t carry too much cash or jewellery.
There are at least seven border crossings between Thailand and Malaysia which are open to foreigners. Running east to west, they are: Ban Ta Ba (actually at the border village Ban Ta Ba), Sungai Kolok, Betong, Sadao, Pedang Besar, Wang Prajan and Kuala Perlis. The four most popular crossings are the boat crossing at Kuala Perlis, Pedang Besar, Sadao and Sungai Kolok. The border crossings at Sadao and Pedang Besar are open 24 hours; the others: daylight hours only. In our blog about Malaysia border crossing we suggest you use the Pedang Besar border to obtain your visa. This is the most common border for foreigners to use.
Safety whilst doing a Visa Trip to Malaysia
Remember to respect your surroundings and the culture of the area. Whilst the south of Thailand is for the most part very similar to the rest of the country, most of the deep South is undiscovered by tourists. Because of this you may find that they are less tolerant of foreigners, and that some areas are much more religious.
You will find that the main religions are Buddhism and Thai Islam due to the Malaysian border being so close. So as you would in other areas of Thailand respect their religion by dressing respectably; don’t go out donning a Chang tank top and your shortest shorts.
Refrain from street drinking. While this is accepted in most of Thailand, this is not the case in the South. As well as this alerting everyone to the fact that you have consumed alcohol, it could also be seen as disrespectful. If you do want to go out for a drink, be aware of your surroundings, try not to act obviously drunk and ALWAYS go out with other people.
Travelling solo will make you more of a target for criminal activity, so try and organise the trip with friends. As part of a group you are automatically safer. Do not walk anywhere alone and don’t get wrapped up by solo sellers. Many times these vendors work as part of a team. So stay as a group and everything should be fine. If you are female, refrain from walking around at night on your own. The main religion in southern Thailand and Northern Malaysia is Muslim, and it is commonly thought that a women who walks alone at night is a prostitute. Prostitution is heavily frowned upon in these areas, if it is imperative that you must go out in the evening, try to find someone to go with you. As above, try to organise this trip with a friend or two.
Prior to leaving for your visa trip, it may be a good idea to outline a plan in case something goes wrong. Here are a few tips for your safety. If someone approaches you and you feel threatened, move away immediately. These people will usually want your money, phone, or anything of value that you keep on yourself. If someone confronts you and tries to rob you, DO NOT FIGHT BACK. It is uncommon but it is best to comply as they may be carrying weapons. Below are some tips to keep you safe on your visa trip to Malaysia.
- Use the same sensibilities as you would at home. A smile can disarm us. Don’t let down your guard.
- If you decide to carry pepper spray make sure that it is reachable. Don’t leave it stuffed in the bottom of your bag.
- Have a copy of the police contacts and emergency numbers
- Try to leave your valuables at your hotel (many times rooms have lockers or a safe)
- Lock your hotel room door
- Make a full plan of everything you need to do to gain your visa-Include how to get there, bus times, where to go etc – and stick to it
- Don’t get your brand new smartphone out in public, especially at night or while walking. This will make you more susceptible to theft.
- Don’t go out alone at night. Travel with a friend or in groups.
- When walking, stay near busy areas with lots of traffic.
While we cannot guarantee that you will be 100% safe, we can say that by following these few tips and using common sense, you can alleviate the chances of becoming a victim of crime. Remember to respect your surroundings and don’t let your guard down. This way you will be on the path to a safe and productive trip.