Each year, tens of thousands of Australians travel to Thailand, which is known as the land of smiles. There are plenty of positives for tourists in Thailand – it has an amazingly warm and stable climate, the unique regional economy means that our dollar can buy much more in Thailand, the locals are generally friendly, and tourism is one of the backbones of the country. However, there is also plenty to be cautious of in Thailand. Threats that don’t exist at home, from bird flu to frequent and violent government demonstrations mean that travel insurance is a must for the region. We look at the considerations for travel insurance holders going to Thailand.
Some travel insurance policies will cover the costs of a change of plans for terrorist threats, and some will not. Some will only cover you if the suspicion has been confirmed by the local police authorities, and may require you to provide proof of this when you make a travel insurance claim. Australian consulates have received a number of terrorist threats for Thai regions, including ones relating to popular tourist spots.
These are more prevalent in some areas of Thailand than in others. Your travel insurance may cover you for any medical emergencies incurred by public anti-government demonstrations, and could also cover you for loss of personal belongings, or needing to change your travel plans due to demonstrations arising in Thailand if they started after you had bought your insurance. Usually comprehensive travel insurance will be cover all of these instances.
What travel insurance can’t cover
There are daily reports of bombings and violence in parts of Thailand bordering Malaysia, due to terrorist activity. More than 3,400 people have been killed in the Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla provinces since January 2004. Travel insurance will not bring your life back if you lose it.
Insurance will usually not cover you for expenses incurred as a result of breaking the law – and in Thailand seemingly innocuous activities can be illegal. The possession of very small quantities of soft drugs can result in lengthy jail sentences, and defacing images of the monarch can result in sentences up to 15 years. This would include destroying bank notes with the king’s image on them.
The World Health Organisation has confirmed that there have been human deaths from bird flu in Thailand. You don’t necessarily have to eat raw chicken, handle bird droppings or touch a dead bird to get the disease, either. Improperly cooked meat from roadside stalls can be a source of bird flu, or you may pick up the bacteria form another person who has been in contact with infected birds. insurance will be a necessity if you contract bird flu, not only for the medical treatment but because you will usually be required to leave Thailand as soon as possible.
Diving and snorkeling are common in Thailand, and stings from jellyfish, rays and octopuses can be fatal. If you are some regions of Thailand, the expensive but very necessary Japanese encephalitis vaccination is recommended. Divers should also be aware of decompression facilities nearby their dive sites. Make sure you familiarize yourself with local customs – touching the top of someone’s head, and showing the soles of your feet, are taboo activities in Thailand.