What to avoid when heading for Thailand as an expat or visitor

Published:  9 Dec at 6 PM
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If you’re a determined digital nomad planning on a stopover in Thailand or are visiting for the first time, there are a few things best avoided as part of staying safe.

The so-called Land of Smiles has a lot to offer those wishing to stay for a relatively short visit whilst travelling and earning, but there are a number of activities best avoided if you want to enjoy your time in this exotic destination. Heading down south to the country’s Andaman beaches and islands is a favourite, but it should be remembered that Phuket during the monsoon season sees around 50 tourists drown whilst swimming when they shouldn’t. The same is true about the beaches on Krabi, Phang Nga, Trang and other offshore destinations.

Hiring a motorbike anywhere in the country can also result in fatalities, with visitors and expatriates under 30 years of age at most risk as Thailand’s roads are amongst the planet’s most perilous. In addition, expats and visitors should never, ever leave their passports at hire shops, not even for a short time. Another no-no is attending tourist shows featuring performing tigers, crocodiles, reptiles, dolphins or any other species – not because it’s dangerous but because it’s totally unacceptable, as are visits to Thai zoos where the animals are poorly kept.

Riding an elephant is the goal of many visitors, but this activity can be dangerous and it’s also unnatural for the elephants themselves. If getting up close and personal with one of these amazing beasts is essential, there are a number of sanctuaries where it’s possible to see and interact with them in their almost-natural environment. If you’re a keep fit fanatic to whom running every day is a must, don’t even think of it during most of the year. Expat runners regularly get sick, and the local private hospital is an expensive place for even a short stay.

Another no-no involves getting into a taxi or tuk-tuk without establishing a fare, as you’ll be massively overcharged and there’ll be nothing you can do about it. Thai taxi drivers are infamous worldwide for their ‘broken meters’, and the local baht buses can get you where you want to go for a small fee. If you’ve fallen in love with the country and desperately want to stay, don’t sign anything without running it through a trusted, fully qualified Thai lawyer plus relevant advice from his Western equivalent. Conducing business in Thailand is inevitable done in a very foreign language, with expats and tourists alike falling for poorly put together or even simply fake documentation.

Finally, don’t ever get in to an argument with one of Thailand’s boys in brown, as the police here win out every time. If you’ve committed a minor infraction, paying up and shutting up is the only way forward and, if it’s more severe, your first task is to phone your local consulate and request representation at the scene. If no-one’s available, don’t get angry, but do try to contact a member of the tourist police. Don’t agree to anything unless you’ve been in touch and taken advice by using either or both of these two options.
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