Blood on the Streets of Bangkok: How to Travel Safely in an Unsafe World
I am getting married in exactly 30 days and then stealing away on an exotic two-week honeymoon in Thailand, the Land of Smiles. At least that was the plan. Today my iGoogle news ticker reported the headline, “Blood on the Streets of Bangkok: Political Crisis Worsens,” and my spirits slumped.
When we booked our trip six months ago, all was calm in Thailand and we dreamed of nothing more than touring a few temples and relaxing on a deserted tropical island. The second half of our trip to Chiang Mai and Koh Phangan should be fine, but we’re increasingly asking ourselves if going to Bangkok is a good idea.
Trust me, I don’t want to miss the metropolis Travel + Leisure Readers voted the #1 city in the world, but on the other hand I don’t want to turn a blind eye to political unrest and violence in the streets. Just how dangerous is Bangkok and what can we do to travel safely?
The U.S. State Department’s travel site is a great place to start your research. Study all current Travel Warnings (long-term, protracted problems) and Travel Alerts (short-term conditions), then read the profile for your destination. If the country you’re visiting is experiencing some safety issues, your next stop is the Tips for Traveling Abroad page.
Some of the suggestions on the page are fairly obvious, but I must say it hadn’t occurred to me that we should make a copy of our passports and itinerary and then tell several trusted friends where they can find this information. That way, if something unfortunate does happen, we’ll be easier to track down.
While I will of course continue to monitor the situation via mainstream domestic news channels, sometimes it helps to hear from people living and working in your destination. For that kind of insider knowledge, Holly turned me on to the Thorn Tree Travel Forum on Lonely Planet. Every day someone posts a question about the situation in Bangkok and those who are there now or who recently visited are responding with helpful advice.
For now, we are still hoping to visit Bangkok but it’s not a definite. We may extend the first part of our trip in Hong Kong and then proceed directly to Chiang Mai. Ultimately, I’m sure it will be a matter of making an informed judgment call. The political problems won’t be solved in the next 30 days and no one can promise me it’s going to be safe. Bangkok is a real city with real problems.
Do you have any tips to add? How do you decide if a country is stable enough to visit?
My name: Alison Presley
Nickname: Presbo, because I'm good police.
How I earn my keep: I'm the manager of Travelocity's Travel for Good program. Visit Travel for Good to learn more about our green travel and voluntourism initiatives!
What kind of traveler am I: I'm an intrepid food explorer. I usually starve myself on the plane (not that that's too hard to do) so that the moment my toes touch foreign soil I'm ready to sample new and exciting cuisine. I like to dine everywhere from hole-in-the-wall local secrets to Michelin Guide gems. Cannelés, poi, boiled peanuts, oxtail soup, poutine--there's no stopping this adventurous palate.
Greatest travel lesson I've learned: It doesn't cost a lot of money to do good. Offsetting your carbon impact only adds a few bucks to your trip, green hotels are very affordable, and volunteering locally during your vacation is a great way to give back and learn about the culture.