Crime rates are not high in Chiang Mai, but crime does exist. Visitors who use common sense and do not take unnecessary risks will usually find their time in the Rose of the North is hassle-free. Those who secure their belongings and stay away from darker places at night will be unlucky if they are a victim of even a petty crime.
Last Updated: June 2019
LOOK AFTER YOUR VALUABLES
Make sure your belongings and money are in a safe place. When staying in hotels and guest houses, use the in-room safe, safety deposit box or lock valuables away in suitcases. Thai people do not usually steal, but it is better to put temptation beyond reach. Carrying sizable amounts of cash around can lead to unwanted attention. Don’t wear bling or other showy jewellery when browsing crowded markets or enjoying a night on the town.
Drive by bag snatches have increased in frequency in Thailand in recently. A rarity in Chiang Mai, they are a little more common in locations such as Pattaya, Phuket and Bangkok. The perpetrators ride up behind tourists on a motorcycle and the pillion passenger attempts to snatch the bag. Keeping bags close to the body helps do away with the possibility of being a victim of this genre of crime. Again, it is advisable not to carry too many valuable possessions in bags when out and about.
ATM CARD SCAMS
What is known as ATM skimming has proved to be a major headache for banks in Thailand over the past decade. Scammers literally skim a card-user’s details with contraptions which hack the card’s data and sense which keys are depressed on the number pad. Skimming is only a problem in countries where banks have not upgraded ATMs to operate on Chip and Pin technology. Thai ATMs read the old magnetic strips. Using an ATM inside a bank or one outside a 24/7 convenience store lessens the risk of being skimmed. Check for plastic on the ATM keypad and that nobody is watching when keying in your PIN.
Thai people in general are good natured and violent incidents involving foreign tourists are thankfully few and far between. Thai males can be quite macho and lose their ‘jai yen’ (cool heart) if annoyed or provoked. For this reason it is probably best to avoid sitting and drinking with male only groups. Staying out of unlit localities after nightfall is another means of ensuring your safety. The protests which have been a part of Thai life over the last decade have died down. The protests were only directed at politicians anyway and no foreign tourists got caught up in them.
Tuk tuk and songthaew taxi drivers get commission from guest houses and the smaller hotels in the city. Drivers waiting at Chiang Mai Railway Station and the Arcade Bus Terminal will often try to take arriving tourists to their preferred establishment. A polite ‘no thanks’ will usually rebuff the advance. The ‘there is a special discount on gems today’ has not made it to Chiang Mai. Drivers waiting around outside hotels and tourist sites will usually try and hustle for customers. Again they will take no for an answer. If you do take a tuk tuk anywhere always agree on the price beforehand.
Road safety is an issue throughout Southeast Asia and no matter whether driving a car, riding a motorcycle or bicycle, or crossing a road on foot always bear in mind the other road user might do the unexpected. Drivers and motorcyclists do not usually stop when pulling out onto main roads. Drink driving laws are loosely enforced and if driving at night this is another issue to consider. Accidents are fairly common on the roads of Chiang Mai. Motorcyclists should ensure their rental bike comes with a crash helmet and car drivers should wear seat belts. Mountain roads in the regions outside Chiang Mai City are bendy and made even more hazardous by Thai drivers who have a habit of cutting corners and driving across the oncoming lane.
Authorities in Thailand have a no-tolerance attitude to drugs. Although ganga (marijuana) is still found on the southern islands it has all but disappeared from Chiang Mai. Trekking tours with the opportunity of smoking a few pipes opium have also been consigned to history. Thailand had a bit of a problem with yaba (crazy drug or methamphetamine) in the early 2000s. The outcome of this was that anybody caught in possession of any drugs now is looking at a court appearance, a stiff fine and possibly jail time.