The Huffington Post | By Suzy Strutner Posted: 01/26/2014 8:21 am EST | Updated: 01/26/2014 8:59 am EST
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Now is not the ideal time to be in Thailand.
On Tuesday, Thai officials declared a state of emergency in Bangkok due to political protests that have been going on since November. The U.S. State Department has issued a travel alert too, warning citizens to avoid “large gatherings” in the greater Bangkok area.
The demonstrations in Thailand have been mostly non-violent thus far, as people have marched and rallied in a call for their prime minister to step down. But last week bombs went off at two separate protests in Bangkok, resulting in one death and dozens of injuries.
Things could calm down after Thailand’s political elections, scheduled to take place on February 2. But given the current state of things, nobody knows if the elections will happen for certain or if they’ll truly stop the protest frenzy.
The State Department’s travel alert expires February 14.
If you’ve got a trip to Thailand booked for the meantime, follow these tips to stay safe during your visit.
- The bulk of protests have occurred in Bangkok– while you should stay cautious in other cities, this is the place of most concern. The State Department recommends staying away from “tourist attractions and popular shopping malls,” where protests have been known to take place. Redditors are quick to point out that these are just a few spots in a massive city– many areas of Bangkok are comparatively very safe, they say.
- The State Department also recommends enrolling in STEP before your trip– it’s a service that makes it easier for them to contact you if there’s an emergency you should know about.
- Write down contact info for the U.S. Embassy and consular offices near the city you’ll be visiting– they have email addresses and after-hours phone numbers in case you need help.
- Follow the Bangkok American Citizen Services on Twitter, as well as local news sources. It’s the best way to get realtime updates if a protest breaks out near your location.
- It’s still a good idea to purchase travel insurance, but there is no guarantee you’ll be covered during the protests. Travel insurance is meant to compensate you if “unforeseen” circumstances snag your plans. But since the government has now issued a warning about the Thailand protests, these circumstances are technically “foreseen.” Check with your specific provider to see how they’ll compensate if you have to change your trip.
- Some airlines — most notably Singapore Airlines — have reduced numbers of flights to Bangkok due to decreased ticket sales from the protests. Most have re-scheduled passengers onto other flights without a problem, but it wouldn’t hurt to talk specifically with your airline about their plans.
- As always, keep family and friends informed of your travel plans. It’s also a good idea to make a friend at your hotel’s front desk and inform them of which spots you plan to visit each day, along with a way to contact you while you’re out.
Happy Thai travels!