Chiang Mai is home to countless hiking opportunities, amazing night markets, and restaurants serving khao soi, a regional northern dish. But if you’re traveling to Thailand for the first time, you understandably want to know—Is Chiang Mai safe?
Chiang Mai is very safe. Petty theft is uncommon, and violent crime is rare. The most dangerous part about visiting Chiang Mai is having to worry about accidentally getting hit by a scooter or car.
I spent a month living in Chiang Mai alone as a solo female traveler. I’ll share details to help you better understand safety in Chiang Mai and tips for helping you prepare for your visit.
First Things First: A Disclaimer
I spent one month in Chiang Mai and had an excellent experience safety-wise.
But the information I share here, with the exception of statistics from linked sources, is my personal opinion based on my encounters.
Everyone has unique experiences that shape their perception of any given destination.
So, take what you want from this article and leave the rest. And above all, never let your guard down just because I or anyone else tells you that a destination is safe.
Trusting your gut and following basic safety practices are vital to improving your security in any destination.
An Overview of Safety in Thailand
Before we dive into exploring safety in Chiang Mai, below is a chart highlighting some of Thailand’s general health and well-being statistics.
|Global Health Security Index
|Global Peace Index
These numbers represent a poor score for health and an average score for peace. Keep in mind that these statistics take into account the state of affairs for the entire country, not just Chiang Mai.
Safety in Chiang Mai: What the U.S. Department of State Says
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has nothing to say about safety in Chiang Mai.
And that’s a good thing.
Thailand falls under the DOS’ Level 1 category, which is to “Exercise normal precautions” when traveling there. For reference, below is a chart showcasing all four levels.
|Exercise normal precautions
|Exercise increased caution
|Do not travel
I think we can all agree that exercising normal precautions when traveling anywhere is wise.
If you’re planning on visiting the southern Thai provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, and Songkhla, those are another story—they’re the only provinces in Thailand that the DOS has hiked up to a Level 3 for safety.
But if Chiang Mai and any other non-Level 3 provinces are on your list of destinations to visit in Thailand, the DOS gives you the A-OK to travel there.
Safety in Chiang Mai: What the Statistics Say
So, the DOS deems northern Thailand a safe place to visit, but is Chiang Mai safe according to the statistics?
Yes, it is.
Numbeo lists Chiang Mai’s safety index as 76.05, with a small crime index of 23.95. It falls under the “very low” category for “level of crime”—the best category ranking possible.
Furthermore, the “worries being mugged or robbed,” “worries being insulted,” and “worries car stolen” categories all rank as “very low.”
There’s one notable area where Chiang Mai ranks as “high” for safety issues, though, and that’s under the category of problems with corruption and bribery.
It’s common knowledge among long-term visitors in Chiang Mai that driving a scooter outside of the old town makes you a target for getting pulled over by police. If you don’t have an international license, which is required to drive in Thailand even though your scooter rental company won’t ask for it, the chances are high that the police officer will ask for money to let you go.
You may also encounter tour agencies and vendors selling you services and items for higher prices. That’s where shopping around and educating yourself on fair prices should come into play.
Thankfully, these aren’t safety-related issues in the traditional sense.
Based on my experience, I never had an issue with the police in Chiang Mai (I never drove a scooter, though), and I found the locals to be exceptionally honest.
Visiting Chiang Mai as a Solo Female Traveler
Is Chiang Mai safe for solo female travelers?
It definitely is.
I felt completely safe exploring Chiang Mai alone as a solo female traveler.
In fact, not a day went by when I didn’t bask in the freedom I felt to explore the city by day or night on my own without feeling like I needed to keep my head on a swivel.
Numebo states that the safety of walking alone during the daylight is “very high,” and the safety of walking alone at night is “high.”
I wholeheartedly agree.
Of course, you should still practice basic safety precautions that you would when exploring any place alone. Is walking down a dark, desolate street alone a good idea? No. Is leaving an open drink unattended wise? Nope.
But as long as you use some common sense, women can expect to have a very safe experience visiting Chiang Mai alone.
Is Chiang Mai Safe at Night?
Chiang Mai is very safe at night. The most common “dangerous” thing that happens is pickpocketing in crowded areas.
Namely, the night markets.
Even then, you won’t feel pickpockets are on the prowl to get you. While I always held my belongings close to my body when in crowded areas of Chiang Mai, I never felt like I was on the brink of getting pickpocketed, unlike other cities I’ve visited.
Is there a Drug problem in Chiang Mai?
It depends on what you mean by drugs. Marijuana is legal in Thailand, so you’ll see lots of stores selling pot and people enjoying a smoke in public.
That also means you won’t find drug dealers on the street bugging you to buy their weed.
Due to harsh laws in Thailand, you won’t encounter drug dealers with other supplies openly trying to sell you their goods either. There’s a death penalty for the possession of Class A drugs, and steep fines and imprisonment are common for the possession of minor drugs.
So, is Chiang Mai safe from drug dealers altogether?
Drugs still make their rounds in the city, and as is the case in so many destinations, tourism is one of the driving forces.
But thanks to Thailand’s strict laws and marijuana aside, Chiang Mai didn’t feel like it had a drug culture. It’s undoubtedly there, though; don’t contribute to it.
Transportation Safety in Chiang Mai
There’s little need to walk around Chiang Mai worried that someone is going to pull a knife or gun on you. But safety on the road is another beast altogether.
In April 2022, Chiang Mai made Thai news for having the highest number of recorded road accidents in one day. Perhaps unsurprisingly, motorcycles led the statistics with the most crashes.
Is it safe to drive in Chiang Mai?
It’s safe to drive in Chiang Mai in the sense that you don’t have to worry about encountering questionable roadblocks or criminals. But you should be confident in your driving skills, have an international driver’s license, and be comfortable with driving on the left side of the road.
Is it safe to take a Grab in Chiang Mai?
It’s safe to take Grabs in Chiang Mai, and I did so several times. Car and van Grabs are the safest since you’ll be more protected in an accident than if you were riding on the back of a scooter.
Is it safe to take a street taxi in Chiang Mai?
Street taxis are very safe in Chiang Mai. One of the most popular ways to get around the city is by flagging down a tuk-tuk or a red pickup truck called a songthaew.
Tuk-tuks are private 3-wheeled moto-taxis that will take you directly to where you want to go. In contrast, songthaews drive around Chiang Mai, stopping to pick up passengers who flag them down. The driver will then adjust their route according to where the passengers need to go as they pick them up.
Therefore, songthaews are almost always a more economical taxi experience than tuk-tuks, though there’s no guarantee how long it’ll take you to arrive at your destination.
Is the Air Safe to Breathe in Chiang Mai?
It may sound like an odd question if Chiang Mai is the first destination you ever visit in an Asian country. But the sad reality is that many cities in Thailand are highly polluted.
Despite Chiang Mai being in a countryside-like setting, the air isn’t very safe from around January to March or April.
During these winter and early spring months, farmers burn their fields, creating a phenomenon known as the “burning season.”
It’s easy to tell when the air quality is low in Chiang Mai, for the smoke makes it impossible to see the surrounding mountains.
Admittedly, I didn’t know about the burning season before arriving in Chiang Mai. So, my travel dates of late January to late February fell during the heart of it.
The smoke was only noticeable on hikes when looking down at the city for the first portion of my stay. But visibility—and, therefore, air quality—deteriorated in Chiang Mai towards the end of February.
You can expect to see a lot of locals wearing masks to protect themselves, and air purifiers will be on high inside homes and businesses.
Monsoon Safety in Chiang Mai
The rainy season in Chiang Mai is from around mid-May to the end of October. That said, the months of June to October typically receive the most amount of rain, making them the epitome of the monsoon season.
The good news is that even during the heart of monsoon season in Chiang Mai, the rain ebbs and flows.
However, you need to take care to avoid streams and rivers, for they can quickly swell. Even when it isn’t raining in downtown Chiang Mai, rain in the mountains can cause flash floods.
Earthquake Safety in Chiang Mai
Earthquakes are a frequent occurrence in Chiang Mai, though most are too small to feel. You can check out Volcano Discovery for details on the most recent earthquakes and historical data for the Chiang Mai region.
When asking, “Is Chiang Mai safe?” when it comes to earthquakes, there’s little you can do to prepare for one other than planning an exit from where you’re staying if a large earthquake were to strike.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Chiang Mai?
Like most cities in Thailand, the water isn’t safe to drink in Chiang Mai. Furthermore, you should avoid eating raw vegetables and fruit washed in tap water if you want to avoid stomach problems (though I admittedly didn’t do so and was fine).
There are many places where you can purchase clean, cheap water in Chiang Mai. Street vendors selling small water bottles abound, and you can purchase larger water jugs from places like 7-Eleven.
How To Stay Safe in Chiang Mai
Below are some basic safety precautions to take in Chiang Mai. As you’ll see, there’s nothing unique about them—it’s wise to practice these tips regardless of where you travel.
- Take a taxi at night
- Don’t walk around showcasing expensive electronics
- Only take out money from ATMs inside a bank
- Never carry around all your credit cards and cash
- Use a money belt
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry
- Ask locals for advice
- Don’t leave an unopened drink unattended
- If you’re going to get inebriated, do so with a trustworthy sober companion
Finally, trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
The Bottom Line: Is Chiang Mai Safe?
Chiang Mai is extremely safe. I have no hesitation recommending it to anyone, including solo travelers.
Of course, common sense plays a part in ensuring you have a safe experience in Chiang Mai. I also encourage you to check DOS’ website before traveling to ensure nothing has changed with their safety recommendations.
If you have questions about visiting Chiang Mai, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help.
I’d also love to hear from you after you travel. How was your experience with safety in Chiang Mai?