The kingdom is a top destination for backpackers and holidaymakers in search of pleasure. Just make sure you're not blind to its down side

On the road

Riding a motorcycle/scooter in Thailand can be dangerous. Visitors who hire motorcycles should take the same safety precautions as they would do in the UK. The Thai law requiring that safety helmets must be worn is widely ignored and is a contributing factor in many tourist deaths. (UK Foreign Office)

Consumption of alcohol, amphetamines and other stimulants by commercial drivers is common. In February 1999, there were two serious bus crashes involving foreign passengers on overnight bus trips; one of these crashes resulted in fatalities. Motorists may wish to obtain accident insurance that covers medical and liability costs. The more affluent driver, even if not at fault, is frequently compelled to cover the expenses of the other party in an accident. (US State Department)

Local customs

Respect Thai customs. Buddha images are sacred and should be treated as such, even by foreigners. (UK)

It is inappropriate to make negative comments about the King or other members of the Royal Family. Thais hold the King in the highest regard, and it is a serious crime to make critical or defamatory comments about him. This particular crime is punishable by a prison sentence of three to 15 years. Purposefully tearing or destroying Thai bank notes, which carry an image of the King, may be considered such an offence. (US)

Eating and drinking

Be wary of accepting food or drink from strangers as it may be drugged. Visitors should be especially vigilant if visiting the red-light districts of Bangkok and Pattaya. (UK)

Shopping

Many tourists fall victim to gem scams, in which a friendly stranger offers to show the tourist an exceptional place to buy gems. (US)

The usual practice is for a tout to approach tourists in the street and suggest that buying jewellery in Thailand and selling it at a profit on returning home can make money. This is not true. Once the bait is accepted the tourist is taken to a shop(s) and sold jewellery with the promise to send it by post to their home country. When the jewellery is valued it is found to be worth only a fraction of the amount paid. (UK)

On the beach

Take particular care when swimming off the coast of Phuket. Strong riptides have resulted in a number of drownings. (UK)

Exploring

Pirates, bandits, and drug traffickers operate in the border areas. In February 2000, two Australians camping near the Burma border in Ang Kang Park, in the Fang District, were attacked by robbers. One of the campers was shot and killed. (US)

There are occasional incidents of violence on Thailand's northern border with Laos.

We believe that Thailand is one of a number of countries where there is an increased threat to British interests from global terrorism. Visitors should exercise caution when travelling in the far south of Thailand. (UK)

Sex and drugs

Remember the real risk of Aids/HIV. Condoms made by recognised multi national companies are widely available locally from pharmacies. Do not have sexual relations with anyone under the age of 18 years. Thailand recognises such acts as rape.

Visitors should not become involved with drugs of any kind. Possession of even very small quantities can lead to imprisonment ­ 50 years without remission is not unusual ­ or, in serious cases, the death penalty. (UK)

The penalty in Thailand for possession of marijuana is five years imprisonment and a fine [of around £800]. At best if you are caught with marijuana you will be deported at your own expense (Australian Department of Foreign Affairs).

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