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Australians experiencing dangers in Thailand: how to protect yourself abroad

In a report released earlier this year by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Thailand was highlighted as the leading location where Aussie tourists found untimely ends. Travelling anywhere in the world comes with risk. After all, if you aren’t feeling a little out of your comfort zone, you might as well just stay home. That said, staying safe abroad means being smart and preparing for the worst case scenario to stay ahead of the dangers in Thailand.

This week, Pacific Prime Thailand discusses some of the common risks associated with travel in Thailand, and how you can protect yourself against them with insurance.

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Statistics for Australian tourists in Thailand

The DFAT report found that 621 Australian’s had lost their lives overseas, with 212 of those deaths occurring in Thailand. The country is a popular destination for Aussies; they were among the top 10 biggest tourism spenders in Thailand in 2016, spending an average of THB 5,831 per day per capita. They also spent some of the longest periods of time in Thailand, having an average length of stay of 14 days. British tourists spent longer in Thailand (18 days), but spent a lot less than their downunder counterparts (THB 4,376 daily).

Among the deaths in Thailand, accidents, suicides, and murders all factored in the statistics for Australian tourists in the past year. One of the tragic stories included the death of 20-year old Emily Collie, who passed away when her jetski collided with her boyfriend’s during a holiday in Phuket. Hospitalizations of Australians also peaked in Thailand, with more than 200 admissions being recorded in the past year. The insurance industry has felt the impact of tourist coverage, with Allianz Global Assistance noting an 80% increase in overseas repatriations.

In addition to fatal and serious medical harm being experienced, Aussies also have increased in number as victims of crime. From pickpocketing to taxi and tourist scams to being targets of drink spiking and sexual assault, the numbers of Australian tourists falling prey to people acting illegally has also increased.

Watching out for risks: identifying the dangers in Thailand

When it comes to travelling and the dangers in Thailand, the UK Government has a number of things to watch out for during your trip:

  • Road travel: The World Health Organization noted that there were 14,059 people killed on the roads in 2012. Motorcycles are used widely and, as a result, the country is one of the deadliest in the world for motorcycle fatalities. Serious accidents involving cars, minibuses, and coaches are also risks due to poor vehicle and driver safety standards. Driving at night can also increase your risk of death or injury.
  • Rail travel: There have been a number of train derailments in Thailand that have resulted in deaths and significant injuries in the past.
  • Sea travel: Passenger boat services are common around Thailand and, like road vehicles, also suffer from a lack of vessel and driver safety standards. Take particular care during Full Moon parties, where operators may overload passengers, and where life jackets are not readily available.
  • Border travel: Referring particularly to the Burmese and Cambodian borders, but also take care near Laos. Situations and environments have sometimes been tense and prone to occasional clashes along Thai borders. When travelling in rural border areas, be extra vigilant for unexploded land mines in the area.
  • Leisure and adventure tourism: Hiring equipment such as jet skis or other water sports equipment should be done with caution; rent only from reputable, licensed, and insured operators. Diving equipment especially should be inspected and checked, and all general swimming precautions (rip tide identification, weather forecasting) should be followed. Jellyfish can swim close to shores and their stings can be fatal, and currents can be extremely strong during monsoon season.
  • Animal tours: Be wary of tours such as elephant treks, which can be dangerous when the animals are mistreated or not handled properly. There have been instances of tourists killed during such treks when handlers have lost control of their elephants.

Crime in Thailand

While crime is always a danger in any country, here’s a few things to be aware of for Thailand:

  • Pickpockets and bag snatchers: Foreigners are often targets of opportunistic thieves that will slip wallets from your jacket pocket, or snatch your bag out of your arms while you ride a scooter or tuk-tuk.
  • Drink spiking: Drink spiking has been reported in a number of Thai tourist destinations, with both males and females falling victim. Be wary of drinks from strangers, don’t leave drink unattended, and try to travel with friends and in a group.
  • Sexual assault: Thai culture views revealing and overtly-sexually dressed individuals as a statement of one’s morality and intentions. Popular tourist events (such as Full Moon parties) have seen some expats arrested for indecent assault and rape in the past.
  • Drug use: Drugs are illegal in Thailand and the authorities take a very hard stance against those found breaking local laws. Individuals should also be warned that drugs can also be mixed with harmful chemicals, leaving some users suffering severe psychiatric problems.
  • Tourism scams: Never give your passport to a tourist operator, and always keep sight of your credit card should you need to use it. Taxi and tuk-tuk operators may also try to negotiate taking you to a friendly tailor or jeweler during your fare. There are many drivers in Thailand, so finding a different one should never be a problem. Gem scams are also common. If you’re unsure of how to tell the authenticity of a gem, get a second opinion before buying. There are also scams that provide tourists with faulty jet skis or motorcycles, and then the hirers are charged exorbitant fees for their recovery and repair.

It should still be stressed that Thailand is a very safe country to visit, but you should always use your common sense and be alert to your surroundings and environment at all times.

Protecting yourself against the dangers in Thailand

When it comes to protecting your health and wellbeing, the most important factor is you. Making sure you travel smartly and responsibly is always the first step. Securing your safety via holding an appropriate insurance plan is the next step. Travelling anywhere in the world, it’s important to have the right plan in place to help mitigate or reduce any further risk associated with a trip abroad. This can be in the form of either travel or health insurance:

  • Travel Insurance: Travel plans are the cheaper option. They mainly cover travel-related expenses (such as lost luggage and delayed flights), however provide some basic health coverage should you need it. Our previous article explains more, but essentially these plans are designed to get you well enough to send back home for care and little more.
  • Local and International Health Insurance: Health-centric insurance plans in Thailand are more expensive than travel policies. However, they offer more comprehensive coverage with better benefits and limits. You can expect better care for serious injuries and illnesses from such policies.

In the event of a fatal accident, insurance can still provide benefits for repatriating your body back to loved ones in your country of residence. Local laws and regulations often control how a body can be transported and handled, which often comes with fees for exiting a country, expenses for embalming, costs for containers and shipping, as well as the various levels of bureaucracy involved in transporting human remains.

Without adequate insurance, your family would be left to foot this bill at an already tragic and stressful time.

How to get the best health insurance for Thailand?

When it comes to negotiating the best deal for the right coverage you’ll need for a holiday or move to Thailand, your best bet is to consult with an experienced insurance broker. Brokers work with a number of different insurers and know their products, and the market, inside out. You can guarantee that, with the right broker, you’re getting the best insurance solution available to help you protect yourself against risks and dangers in Thailand.

Don’t leave yourself and your wellbeing exposed next time you’re travelling in Asia. Secure insurance for Thailand today!

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