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Thailand Travel Warnings

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Thailand Travel Warnings

Do people really believe that they should not go to Thailand because of the travel warnings which say that it is a dangerous place? Because the televisions show people protesting and battling government troops? Apparently, yes, tourism has been dropping drastically since 2008, since the recent wave of color coded political problems rose to the surface.

But does these political problems really have anything to do with tourists? Do these protests really pose a threat to tourists beyond the possibility of transportation delays and cancellations?

Thailand travel warning map

Thailand travel warning map

The news and governments of many countries have found a new frenzy in advising tourists to avoid Thailand. Embassies have withdrawn their staffs, governments have issued warnings telling their citizens not go to Thailand, and the news has stirred this all into a boiling pot of genuine crisis.

But has there been any reports of tourists being harmed in these political squabbles and protests? Is there any sign that they will be harmed? Are these protests localized in Bangkok, or raging throughout the country as a whole?

I cannot answer these questions, I am not in Thailand. Though I am willing to bet that these political actions present very little danger for a mindful tourists who knows how to stay out of the way. The only threat that I have yet read of violence being paid towards tourists was a single bullet that happened to go through the window of a fancy hotel restaurant in Bangkok.

Though it seems as if an astute traveler could navigate through the city without much difficulty, it also seems as if most of the country is virtually unaffected as far as traveling is concerned and is completely open to travelers.

But the media hype and government warnings will dissuade many people from visiting, Thailand has again been planted as a bad seed, a scary place, people are going to be fear mongered away from Southeast Asia.

Thailand’s Tourism Sector in Crisis

Embassies of 43 countries in Bangkok have issued warnings to their citizens who are planning to visit Thailand, after the government declared a state of emergency in the capital and nearby provinces during the current political standoff. -43 Countries issue Thailand travel warnings

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Thailand due to the deterioration in the security environment caused by widening political unrest and civil disorder occurring in Bangkok and other parts of the country. -Australia Thailand travel warning

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Thailand of ongoing demonstrations in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.  Due to escalating violence in central Bangkok, demonstrations in Chiang Mai, and other incidents throughout Thailand, all U.S. citizens should avoid nonessential travel to Thailand. -USA Thailand Travel Warning

Though somewhere in these reports that start out telling people to not visit Thailand is the message that the conflict is very localized and the governments of most countries have the threat level pegged at 1 or 2, the lowest possible security warning, out of a possible 5.

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Thailand Riots

Police clash with protesters in Thailand

Economies are rarely ever stable arrangements, especially ones based in tourism. One twist of politics, one downswing of weather, one natural disaster, one uprising, a couple kidnappings, and the tourist based economy turns belly up. Although tourism is often the default position of economies that don’t have much else to offer, tourism is a last resort industry.

The travel warnings are out on Thailand, would-be tourists are now being scardy-catted away.

I have never fully heeded these travel warnings (read: Traveling Safe Means no Fear Mongering, Where to Travel with a Baby). They are often based on hype and a government’s drive to remove themselves from responsibility — rather than actually wishing to provide guidence to their citizens:

Well, we told them that they shouldn’t have gone there.

Then again, governments invariably preside over masses of truly stupid people who seemingly need to be governed in order to function. Even still, the warnings that are issued are not very helpful:

Don’t go there, they say. As simple as that.

Then the media picks it up and cries wolf, angling in on the fear response that triggers sales. They need to make these stories personal, you know, so they advise you to cancel your travel plans. There, now the news report is relevant.

A truly helpful government travel warning would look something like this:

“This region of X country from X city to X city has had this, this, and that happen within the past year. While X region has not seen any of these problems. No harm has been done to any tourists, though you should still remain cautious. When entering the country, try to come in through X airport, and then take X bus to X place which has not seen any troubles.”

The media could then provide maps and figures to back up and intrerprete these government suggestions. By saying “don’t go to this entire coutry” often does not do anybody any good: some people will 100% disregard the warning (like me) and others will be scared out of visiting the country completely. A traveler’s actual coarse of action should be between these two extremes.

Countries are, by nature, segmented into regions: there are often many countries inside of one “country.” By crossing an entire country off a list and proclaiming it as a no go for travel, rather than actually explaining the situations as they are is just governments trying to wash their hands clean of situation all together. I want to see hard facts backed up by real figures, such as x tourists out of x many have been harmed.

Perhaps all out warnings — “Don’t go there” — acceptable for some countries in some circumstances, though it is my impression that this is not so for most of the countries that appear on the travel warning lists.

These government travel warnings should be taken for what they are: warnings. People often give warnings not to truly help you, but to remove themselves from responsibility for you.

Well, we warned them.

Look for travel information in the expat forums, the travel blogs of people who are where you want to go, send their writers emails — “We are thinking of taking a trip to Thailand, how are things there now for tourists? Do you recommend that we don’t visit? Where should we go to avoid troubles?” — look for real, on the ground contacts. Governements want to wash their hands clean of responsibility — they will tell you nothing but “the worst of the worst of,” the press strives to manipulate stories and angle them to seem as if they affect you — they want you scared, worried, dependent upon them as the source of information through which you plan your life — or in this case, your travels. But we now have a loop hole: we do not need the press, we can contact people directly for ourselves.

Use the loop hole that the internet gives us when planning your travels.

Though remember that none of the above options can be trusted as they are, when taken alone, but if you make a mosaic out of all the available opinions and first hand reports — take a little information from here, a little from there, separated out vested interests, remove arrogant babble — then you can start to see the path ahead, and can then plan your travels accordingly. Go to Thailand Expat forum, ask the people in there, email Thailand bloggers, don’t call your embassy, they will just scare you. Take control of your travels and find out for yourself.

In the words of the Lonely Planet Guidebook writer who did the research for the Haiti and Afghanistan guides:

“These places are never as bad as they seem.”

Now seems to be a good time to go to Thailand.

Though if you happen to notice that you surrounded with people wearing an disproportionate number of red shirts you may want to run.

Read: How to find travel informationTraveling Safe Means no Fear MongeringWhere to Travel with a Baby

Filed under: Travel Preparation | Danger | Travel News and Media

Filed under: Asia, Danger, Politics, Southeast Asia, Thailand, Travel Preparation, Travel Problems

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been moving through the world since 1999. He is the author of Ghost Cities of China. has written 2728 posts on Vagabond Journey.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Xiamen, ChinaMap

Happy New Adventure