Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.

Jump to story list

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.

Safety

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.

See the excellent Google map (embedded below) by Richard Barrow for a terrific insight into where all the problems are.


View Bangkok Dangerous - Red Shirts Rally March-May 2010 in a larger map

Getting around

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.

BUT

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.

HOWEVER

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).

LASTLY

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.


About the author:
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton and he spends most of his time in Bali, Indonesia.


Read 23 comment(s)

  • Thanks for the info. Are the trains still running from Hualamphong station? Is it safe to get there from the airport?

    I'm traveling to Thailand at the start of June and was planning on spending a few days in Bangkok, but now I think I'll move straight on... Any advice would be appreciated. Cheers!

    Posted by Lorissa on 17th May, 2010

  • Well said. I thought it might also be worth adding that the US Embassay has authorized the departure (evacuation) of all non-essential personnel and family dependents from Bangkok. They don't make that determination lightly, since it tends to embarass the host government. Their latest warden message from May 15 said in part:

    The Department of State warns U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Thailand of ongoing political demonstrations and unrest in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Due to escalating violence in central Bangkok, including gunfire near the U.S. Embassy, demonstrations in Chiang Mai, and other incidents throughout Thailand, U.S. citizens should defer all travel to Bangkok and defer all non-essential travel to the rest of Thailand. The Department of State has authorized the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and eligible family members from Bangkok. This replaces the Travel Alert dated April 28, 2010, and is in response to updated information on increased violence and security concerns. The Department of State recommends against travel to Bangkok and non-essential travel to Thailand at this time.

    Posted by exacto on 17th May, 2010

  • @Lorissa Yes as far as I know the trains are still running and (so far) there has been little drama in the immediate area around the train station. There is an airport transfer bus from the airport to Hualamphong, so as long as that is still running when you arrive you should be set.

    @exacto, thanks for the snippet from the US embassy.

    Posted by somtam2000 on 18th May, 2010

  • This is the first piece of accurate writing and advice on traveling to thailand I have seen during this current situation from anyone. Excellent advice a look forward to seeing more tourists to Phuket.

    Posted by phuket kiwi on 18th May, 2010

  • Cheers, fish dude. I'm due to land there on the 26th with a 2-night stay before I head over to Hanoi.

    My plan's to stay a bit north of Khao San so I'm relying on the 150Baht airport bus to get me there and back (arrive 7am, depart 7am!). Given the short stay it's not hugely convenient to get outside the city although I could look at a coach to Kanchanaburi. Been there a few times and it is lovely.

    Looks like that will be an option - travellers arriving at the airport can head to the bus area and take a left while facing the road. At the end of the queue is a small stop where a minibus regularly ferries you to the airport bus terminal. Last I recall, it was 10Baht.

    If I can get from there to the correct terminal for one of the regular buses to Kanchanaburi I may well wait things out there. Only thing is I need to be back at the airport at 5am for checkin on the Saturday!

    Hey ho. Travel is meant to be an adventure :)

    Posted by Mosh on 18th May, 2010

  • I too had planned for Bangkok Pattaya trip in first week of June 2010. Now with these recent developments I am not sure whether to still keep Thailand on my list or move to an alternative destination like Maldives. Since its my first honeymoon, want it to be a memorable experience

    Posted by Sai on 18th May, 2010

  • I too had planned for Bangkok Pattaya trip in first week of June 2010. Now with these recent developments I am not sure whether to still keep Thailand on my list or move to an alternative destination like Maldives. Since its my first honeymoon, want it to be a memorable experience

    Posted by Sai on 18th May, 2010

  • thank you very much for this article !

    anyone knows how to go from suvanaburi airport to kanchanaburi (preffered : avoiding bangkok)

    are both of the railway stations still safe in bangkok ?

    or should i just take a taxi to kanchanaburi and what do you think this will cost ?

    after kanachanaburi we would go to ayutthaya then to sukhothai. is the night-train to sukhothai safe (departure in ayutthaya) or should we go back to the airport and take a flight there ?

    thanks in advance !

    Posted by Mikomi on 18th May, 2010

  • HI there, my boyfriend and I are arriving into Bangkok on Saturday morning 1.10am before flying out to Luang Prabang at 11.40am, how safe is the aiport looking? DO you believe the protests will escalate and the airport closed? Does anyone know if any flights have been affected so far?

    Posted by Sophie on 18th May, 2010

  • Thanks for the update.. I have an arrival date of 06-09 in BKK, I have a room booked at

    P & R Residence Hotel ,34 Captain Bush Lane, Charoenkrung 30, Bangrak. For 2 Nights...

    What are your opinions on this address re safety?

    I plan on watching situation obviously will probably go south after.. or on to another country.

    Posted by Neale on 18th May, 2010

  • I am going to Thailand for a month during Christmas. I'm hoping that the political unrest will be finished by then but I will go even if it isn't. I just won't stay in BKK for the couple days when I arrive and depart that I had planned. Plenty of other places to go :) I have been to the Land of Smile more than 10 times so know it pretty well now.

    Posted by Mike on 19th May, 2010

  • I think it is somewhat dangerous to be giving out the advice that the rest of thailand is safe. It is currently safe, but what if the government falls? What if there is a major government crackdown and violence rears up all over the country? Is your life really worth a measily vacation. When Thailand can sort out its political mess, then the country can be safe, but until then it is a tenderbox and should be avoided.

    Posted by Thom on 19th May, 2010

  • THIS MESSAGE IS FOR SAI, THE MALDIVES IS FANTASTIC, PRICEY FOR SURE BUT ANY HONEYMOONERS DREAM. BEEN TO THE MALDIVES A FEW TIMES AND IT AS ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. THAILAND IS BEAUTIFUL TOO. BUT FOR THE HONEYMOON YOU WANT PLEASURABLE MEMORIES AND I THINK AT THIS TIME YOUR BETTER OPTION IS THE MALDIVES. BANGKOK AIRWAYS USUALLY HAS PACKAGE DEALS TO THE MALDIVES, BUT I AM NOT SURE ABOUT OFF-SEASON OR IF THE FLIGHT SCHEDULES ARE REDUCED BECAUSE OF THIS TURMOIL. I AM NOT SURE OF YOUR FLIGHT SCHEDULE BUT THERE ARE PLENTY OF FLIGHTS INTO MALE, MALDIVES FROM SINGAPORE USING SINGAPORE AIRLINES. IF YOU ARE ARRIVING INTO BANGKOK PLENTY OF FLIGHTS TO SIGNAPORE DAILY ABOUT 1 HOUR OR SO AWAY AND VERY REASONABLE. SINGAPORE ALSO HAS 3 TRANSIT HOTELS, ONE IN EACH TERMINAL, IF YOU NEED TO LAY OVER FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME WITHOUT HAVING TO LEAVE THE AIRPORT. GOOD LUCK AND CONGRATULATIONS ON THE MARRIAGE.

    Posted by RON on 19th May, 2010

  • Thanks Ron. My Travel Agent was hell bent on me still proceeding to Thailand (Bangkok & Pattaya) stating its much more of a honeymooners delight. Your response has kind of cleared my thoughts. I guess its time to cut my losses on Thailand bookings and rejig it for Maldives.Thanks again for your advise and best wishes.

    Posted by SAI on 19th May, 2010

  • Hi,

    I will be reaching to BKK on 10/06 morning.
    Earlier I planned to stay in BKK which I have cancelled now.Now, I am planning to go to Pattaya directly from airport.How safe pattya is now? Is is safe to go by road?
    Any advise will be grateful.
    thanks,
    PKS

    Posted by PKS on 19th May, 2010

  • Hi there this info is very helpfull cause me and a friend are planning a trip in august will it be safe to travel to samui and kopangan our first time to thailand cause weve alot of good things about it!!! more info and some guidelines what our approach can be? thanks ET

    Posted by Ettiene on 20th May, 2010

  • Hi there, thanks very much for this, good advice

    We're not traveling until mid July so still 2 months away and have got a few days planned on Bangkok.

    Any thoughts on whether it will be safe to travel then? Or do you think its pretty much guaranteed things will still be bad then?

    Thanks
    Jo

    Posted by Jo on 20th May, 2010

  • Anyone know of outlying cities/more rural areas that you can stay at and take nice daytrips out of near Bangkok where we can enjoy the countryside without going near any bad areas?

    Posted by Rachel Bonilla on 21st May, 2010

  • I am planning a trip to Bankok & other areas in late November, should I camcel my trip & plan to go somewehere else?
    Thanks, Debra

    Posted by Debra Dellay on 25th May, 2010

  • Debra, matters seems to be settling down somewhat -- I'd keep an eye on the news, but wouldn't cancel a trip in November -- that is a long way from now.

    Posted by Somtam2000 on 1st June, 2010

  • Even at it's highest point of conflict. Tourists were aware of where not to go and if you stayed clear of the affected areas you had no trouble with the protestor conflict. So the answer is YES come on over. And as a newbie to Thailand we recommend you include a cooking class in the beginning of your trip for it's many benefits like knowing the foods & fruits, the how to make quality foods, street food cautions and more.

    Posted by Kruzon on 15th August, 2010

  • Dear Sir,



    I wanted to know the details and costs for the undermentioned itenery:



    We are 3 adults and 2 child (12 yrs and 3yrs):





    1. 4th October:

    TRANSFER FROM BANGKOK AIRPORT TO HUA HIN HOTEL



    2. 6th Octber:

    TRANSFER FROM HUA HIN HOTEL TO BANGKOK SUKHUMVIT HOTEL





    3. SAFARI WORLD & MARINE PARK WITH LUNCH OR WITHOUT LUNCH OPTION



    4. DREAM WORLD & SNOW TOWN WITH LUNCH OR WITHOUT LUNCH OPTION



    5. HALF DAY CITY TOUR



    6. 10th October: BANGKOK SUKHUMVIT HOTEL TO BANGKOK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT





    Please give individual prices for all and not a package deal.



    Awaiting your reply at the earliest.



    Best regards,



    Sarvesh Saharia

    Posted by sarvesh on 27th September, 2011

  • Your questions will be best answered by a qualified tour agent in Bangkok. You can select any number of agents from the list on Bangkok Tour Agents on the resoursces page of http://www.thaicookingschoolbkk.com.

    Posted by Kruzon on 28th September, 2011

Add your comment

Feature story quicklinks


Newsletter signup

Sign up for Travelfish Burp!

Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.

We respect your email privacy