Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
First published 16th May, 2010
Update: As at early June 2010, all warnings for travel to Bangkok have been lifted, the city has largely returned to its old self. We still suggest you work to keep abreast of developments.
The street fighting in Bangkok, primarily between the UDD (better known as the red shirts) and the Thai authorities, has escalated considerably over the last few days. Since April 10, there have been over 66 fatalities and at least 1,700 people injured, including a number of foreign journalists. While the violence is fairly localised to a few areas of Bangkok, the situation is extremely volatile and could spread quickly and without warning. Travelfish.org advises travellers to avoid all travel to Bangkok.
There are a number of reasons we're recommending this.
While we've advised travellers to steer well clear of the protests for some time, the protests have spread in a manner that makes them more difficult to completely avoid. Currently the troubles span from Din Daeng in the north of the city to the Khlong Toei area in the south. This effectively creates a "zone of trouble" that bisects the city and while the fighting is not non stop throughout this area, for travellers who are not familiar with the city it is problematic. Indiscriminate sniper shootings have been reported in parts of the city: A guy smoking a cigarette on his condo veranda, for instance, was shot.
View Bangkok Dangerous - Red Shirts Rally March-May 2010 in a larger map
Both the BTS/Skytrain and subway are shut down until further notice and bus services seem to have been suspended or are at least patchy. This means the only was to get around the city is by taxi, motorcycle, tuk tuk or the Chao Phraya River Express. Given there are street battles around the city, this is less than ideal.
Many department stores are closed
Bangkok is famous for its shopping, but many shops, especially the major malls around Siam Square, are closed.
Some hotels are closed
Currently some of the larger hotels in the Silom and Siam Square areas are closed, though plenty of hotels and guesthouses do remain open for business.
Your travel insurance may not be valid
Check with the recommendation from your government and then read the fine print on your travel insurance policy. Generally speaking if your government says something along the lines of "avoid all travel to Bangkok" then in many cases your travel insurance may not be valid for the period you are there. This means that if your government says don't go and you go and slip on the bathroom floor breaking both legs and chipping a tooth, your travel insurance won't cough up a penny.
As we say, yes you should cancel your trip to Bangkok -- but not to Thailand.
At this time the rest of the kingdom -- and substantial parts of Bangkok -- remain peaceful and more or less unaffected by the troubles in Bangkok.
If you've already got a holiday planned to Thailand, you don't need to cancel it, but you do need to rejig your holiday so as to spend as little time in Bangkok as possible.
Chances are if you're starting in Bangkok then you'll be arriving at Bangkok's main international airport, Suvarnabhumi. So far this airport is totally unaffected by the problems. Here are some options:
Grab a domestic flight
THAI, Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia have plenty of flights out of Suvarnabhumi to most regional centres in Thailand, including Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai in the north, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani in the northeast, and Krabi, Phuket, Surat Thai and Hat Yai in the south. Check these airlines' websites and book a ticket out of Bangkok that matches comfortably close to the arrival of your longhaul flight. That way all you need do is kill time at the airport. If you do need to overnight, we cover some of the nearby airport hotels here.
Grab a bus
There are buses from Suvarnabhumi to Pattaya, Rayong and Ko Chang along with transit buses to Bangkok's regional bus stations. While this will involve some travel through parts of the city, you won't be passing through downtown. Once at the bus station, get a bus onwards to your desired location in the kingdom.
If you've decided that Thailand in this state just isn't what you had in mind either change your flight ticket to come into another hub (like Kuala Lumpur or Singapore) and grab a budget flight to somewhere else in Asia (such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam or Indonesia).
If you're reading this in Bangkok unsure of whether you should stay or go, we'd strongly advise you go with the latter and get out of Bangkok. Easy destinations include Ayutthaya to the north, Kanchanaburi to the west and Ko Samet to the east. While anything is possible in Thai politics, we predict matters are going to deteriorate further before they improve.
Related reading2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
Thailand: Where to from here?
A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
Bangkok to Siem Reap
Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
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