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Chiang Rai in general is very safe city. It’s an easy place to travel and  is a safe city to visit from both the health and personal safety aspects. However, that doesn’t mean nothing can go wrong here. Like in other cities in the world, there are always dangerous things we need to avoid.

This post presents you with the 5 most dangerous things in Chiang Rai based on my personal view of the local people. I hope it will help you prepare yourself to be safe while traveling in Chiang Rai. Here they are:

1. Road accidents

Road-accident-chiang-rail

First, in case you don’t know, the road death toll in Thailand is among highest in the world. Each year up to 26,000 people are killed in road accidents in Thailand.  This number puts the country in the number 3 spot in terms of the world’s road casualties according to the Thailand Accident Research Centre (TARC). Of those killed, up to 70 or 80 per cent are motorcyclists or their passengers.

Second, which you already know, Thais are the worst drivers in the world. We have to admit that a large portion of Thai people are selfish and less than responsible when it comes to driving.

The Songkran festival is the peak period for road accidents in Thailand. Chiang Rai from time to time is the number one city with the highest number of road accidents. Statistics from the Road Safety Directing Center shows that  Chiang Rai was ranked number ONE for the accumulated number of accidents during the 7 days of Songkran Days in 2013 with 125 incidents.

How to avoid this danger?

  • Understand that for foreigners, driving in Thailand can be very different to driving in their home country. Motorbike riders frequently drive on the wrong side of the road and cars do not always respect Thai road rules. Those new to the country will need to take great care to avoid accidents.
  • Motorcycles are an easy way to commute. But don’t ride on someone else’s motorcycle unless you completely trust him or her. Once you’re on the back of the motorcycle, you’ve just put your life on their hands. If you plan to rent a motorcycle, make sure you ride it well. The highways from Phayao to Chiang Rai, or from Chiang Rai to Mae Sai, are very dangerous for motorcycles and bicycles.
  • It is better to ride in safe vehicles such as authorized metered taxis.
  • For short distances, walk, because you can prepare yourself on the ground better than on a vehicle.
  • When you’re on the road,  don’t expect people on the road to respect the road rules. Always be prepared at any moment for anything.

2. Drugs

Image: EPA

Drugs are an extremely serious crime in Thailand. Thailand has a mandatory death sentence for drug smuggling. Recently it is almost always reduced to life imprisonment for foreigners. If one must be in a Thai prison for the rest of ones life, the death penalty may be the better option.  The number of prisoners is huge and they are mostly related to drugs. Now Thai prisons contain a number of travelers sentenced to life who are awaiting either help from their governments or a royal pardon.

Here is the deal. If the police arrest someone with a large amount of any drug, the police will assume he is a dealer. That will guarantee at least 10 years minimum in prison or even a death sentence.  If the police were to catch you with even a small amount of any drug, they will not care whether you use it or not, whether it belongs to someone else, or you just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As long as you are in the spot where the drugs were found, there will still be big trouble because the police will initially assume you’re using the drug. Even if you can prove yourself innocent on the scene, you wouldn’t get off easily. Most likely you would be locked up and large sum of money will be demanded. That is why you should never get associated with drugs or anybody who uses drugs in Thailand.

Despite being illegal, there are some places in Thailand where drugs can be purchased openly, at least by certain groups of people, in many bars on Koh Phangan during Full Moon parties. Take Full moon parties for instance, many travelers might think it is a good place to try something sideways – a bit of weed at the full moon party can’t hurt because everybody else is doing it. Don’t fall for this. From time to time, travelers get caught by undercover police but we don’t normally see them on television or in  newspapers.

How to avoid this danger:

  • Never do drugs or associate with people who do drugs in Thailand. Dealing with drugs just leads you to associate with bad people, and bad people always get you into bad situations
  • Be careful when getting drinks at the bar. If you’re in touristy areas, watch who makes your drinks. There have been many reports of foreigners getting drugged and robbed in popular destinations.
  • Be careful of drug scams. The scam starts by the traveler seeking a place to buy common drugs among travelers like marijuana. For some mysterious reason, the travelers are often shown the place or bar where to buy the weed. When a traveler asks in a bar to purchase a small amount, the bartender sells it to them.  Immediately a couple of police officers who may not be legitimate officers appear from nowhere and catch the travelers on the spot with the weed they just purchased, and demand a large sum for money in exchange for not being arrested.

3. Dengue fever

Dengue fever

If you don’t sleep naked in jungle, the chance is quite low that you will get dengue fever . This sickness normally occurs to small children in local villages because they are used to spending all day exposed to the local environment and mosquitos are already a part of their daily lives. As a result, local people get infected without being aware of it.

How to avoid it:

  • Since the virus is transmitted mosquito-to-human, prevention entails both controlling and eradicating mosquitoes and taking action to protect oneself from being bitten.
  • Wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts helps guard against mosquito bites, and you should also be using a mosquito repellent when visiting places like local villages, woods, waterfalls, etc.
  • Avoid areas with standing water and stay indoors in the morning until two hours after sunrise and at sunset to further reduce your risk of being bitten.

4. Food Poisoning

som-tom

Image: chiangmaicitynews.com

You will never go hungry in Thailand, and Thai food is delicious, but it comes with a price. Rate of food poisoning in Thailand is extremely high.

Like any country in the world, it is possible for any tourist to get food poisoning in Thailand. It affects everyone in Thailand not just tourists. Anyone who has lived in Thailand for a good period of time would have experienced at least a mild case.

The number one reason why food food poisoning is so common in Thailand is the country has little to no food preparation and food processing standards. Anyone can open a restaurant in most places in Thailand without a license to sell food, or without ever having a visit from the health inspectors. Also don’t expect that food from nice restaurants is cleaner than side carts on street.

Mostly the cause of food poisoning in Thailand is not where you get the food from, but it’s rather how the food was handled. For example, the ingredients were not washed or cleaned properly or food hasn’t been packaged properly or has been stored at the wrong temperature for too long and can become contaminated.

Food poisoning in Chiang Rai is not as bad as Bangkok. Local people almost always cook for themselves which means they have to make sure the food are clean and safe for them to eat. When they sell cooked food, it is likely that they prepare and cook food the same way as they do for their meals. In Bangkok, food on street or in fresh markets are normally cooked in mass quantities. Now you can imagine when large a amount of ingredients, meat, herbs and everything is mixed together in a large container, you can’t expect the processing to be done properly.

Eating food on the street has become part of Thailand’s daily culture. To many tourists, missing the opportunity to try food on the street means missing the whole point of visiting a country. On many occasions, you want to eat like locals.

Avoiding food poisoning doesn’t mean you have to skip all local dishes. There are a few ways to prevent it while enjoying local Thai food.

How to avoid food poisoning

  • Don’t try local dishes on the first day. Instead order a mix of dishes between local and your home country menus in your hotel restaurant. Give your stomach time to adapt to local ingredients.
  • Look for a restaurant  that has a mix of locals and tourists.
  • After 1-2 days, start trying local dishes
  • Don’t drink tap water. Always drink bottled water with a recognized-brand.
  • Ice is a good source of bacteria and other contamination.  Avoid putting ice in your water. You don’t know ice if the ice in your glass is made from purified water or not. You can bet that it is not.
  • Chiang Rai is the home of food made from raw meat such as Lap (“ลาบ”), Loo (“หลู้”), Sa (“ซ่า”), etc. Those dishes should be reserved for locals only. While trying local dishes, avoid those with raw meat.  Sometimes you have to be careful about raw vegetables and fruits also as they are often washed in tap water. Stick with well-cooked meals to ensure bacteria, viruses, and parasites have been killed.
  • Buy an Anti-diarrhea medicine

5. Being overcharged

Image: Pattaya Dailynews

This is actually not a danger but it is something we should be aware of. Things in Thailand are very cheap, and because of the exchange rate, they are even cheaper for tourists. Because of the low price, tourists have a tendency to over pay for things without even a second thought. The local people know about this, and there are many store and shop owners, who just sit and wait for tourists and take advantage of them. Now it has become a habit for shop owners in Thailand to increase the price for tourists. You might not know that an item that you bought which you consider cheap might be even cheaper than what you have just paid.  I always tell people to not buy anything that does not have a price tag.

In Chiang Rai, overcharging tourists in restaurants and modern markets is very rare. Both locals and tourists know there is standard price for common goods. In local markets, local people are quite nice and friendly to visitors, and normally provide the same rate for both locals and travelers.

However, there are a few occasions that shop owners sometimes find the opportunity to overcharge strangers, especially in places that are geared toward tourists. Mostly they are services or items that don’t have price tags which are put forth to sell to tourists. There are fares (Tuk-Tuk, Taxi, etc), souvenir items, gems, silver, local cloths, and handicraft in tourist destinations. Some items can be genuine but the majority of these are pretty cheap to make but aimed to to sell to tourists to get higher prices, and, of course, some items are fake.

How to deal with overcharging in Chiang Rai

  1. Do a little of research before buying anything
  2. Practice your smile
  3. When it is about the Tuk-Tuk fare, always ask the price first and make sure the driver agrees what amount you’re to pay. Chiang Rai has metered taxis, this is a better choice as you don’t have to bargain, but only pay based on the meter.
  4. Learn some Thai language and ask for discount. The most famous phrase is “Lod Noi Na” (Give me some discount)
  5. Do not show your enthusiasm in buying a particular item. The more you show your excitement of wanting the item, the higher the price
  6. When you shop alone, observe other Thai buyers. See how much they pay for similar items.
  7. Be ready to walk away. In most cases, you wouldn’t need those things anyway.

What about tourists get attacked or murdered in Chiang Rai?

As mentioned earlier, Chiang Rai is very safe. The rate of tourists get attacked is very very low and when it happens, it is normally related to quarrels or alcohol. Then, it comes to common sense, like everywhere in the world, don’t put yourself in a position at risk. Don’t get involved with alcohol or drugs with local people and don’t get yourself associated with drugs. Local people are very sweet and warm, but for some people get crazy after they have alcohol. Best to avoid locals who are drunk.

The number of tourists murdered in Chiang Rai is almost zero in past decades. That’s why I don’t include it in the list. Yes, from time to time there are tourists who die in Chiang Rai, but most of the cases are due to road accidents, especially from motorbikes.


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