Lurking beneath Thailand's stunning surface of rice fields, rustic villages, tropical forests, stunning islands and beaches, golden temples and sitting Buddhas, there are critters that will bite you and have probably been biting humans for thousands of years in this paradise, so don't fret too much.  Bad things do happen to good people on holidays so take out travel insurance, cross your fingers and don't do anything silly.

Without scare mongering, you are more likely to die from a motor vehicle accident, being poisoned by a jealous Thai girlfriend, food poisoning or one for the older gentleman to beware of, is having sex (especially if Viagra has been consumed and you have a wonky heart).  So when you put that in perspective, being bitten by a creature fades into insignificance.

The main thing to remember is that you are not in your home country, you are in the "Land of Smiles", where not everything is as it seems - from the transvestite you picked up by mistake to the cute monkey you may want to pat, that has a dose of rabies.


The massive number of homeless dogs that have a tendency to congregate in aggressive packs at night present a real problem, which is yet to be remedied.  Whilst some strays may be friendly, there are plenty that aren't.  Rabies is prevalent and can be contracted through being bitten, or if an infected animals saliva gets directly into your mouth, nose, eyes or broken skin.  You don't mess around with this, as there is no cure and you will die with a scrambled brain whilst drooling white foam within a very short time.  If you have not prepared yourself by getting vaccinated prior to your trip, you will be in for a painful time as needles of anti venom get plunged straight into your open wound.

Use the same method as the locals - sticks and stones - to ward off a dog. Maintain eye contact whilst you back away and never show fear.

Avoiding Creatures That Bite in Thailand - The Wise Traveller


Despite the fact that you may be encouraged to touch or feed monkeys, ignore and shun any suggestion. They may look cute and display funny antics, but in reality they are dastardly little creatures that will steal from you or even attack you. Monkeys are likely to have rabies, so the same advice as for dogs applies.

Become a local in your attitude and use sticks and stones if need be to scare them off.

Smile at a monkey, as a show of teeth to them is an aggressive act. Grab something they are holding, as they will bite you in retaliation - let them have whatever it is - sharing is caring.

Show fear...even if you are wetting your pants in panic.


You won't become the main course on a shark's menu, but when swimming in Thai waters the wafting tentacles of a box jellyfish may cause you a lot of pain.  Some injuries take weeks to heal and can leave ugly scars. Living coral can cause stings similar to that of jellyfish, so divers and snorkelers need to be careful.

Use vinegar to bathe any stings after removing any tentacles from the skin. If the stings cover a large area of the body, seek medical attention.

Swim during overcast days or after storms. Use freshwater to wash stings, as it will make the pain more intense.


These blood-sucking vampires transmit malaria, dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis, or can simply just be an annoying itch.

Cover up with long sleeves and trousers at dusk and dawn, but remember the large varieties can poke through cotton to get to a bloody meal. If a mosquito net is hanging over your bed, use it.

Apply a liberal coating of insect repellent based on DEET and if bitten grab some Tiger Balm ointment, as it contains a natural anesthetic.

Wear perfume or dark colours, as you will be a mozzie morsel.

Avoiding Creatures That Bite in Thailand - The Wise Traveller


More blood sucking critters with razor sharp teeth, leeches are commonly found in damp areas such as streams and rainforests.  They are gluttons and will gorge 7 times their own body weight in blood before they drop off your skin.  Leech bites are painless.

Be careful if you are answering the call of nature in the rainforest or swimming in streams, as leeches have a disturbing penchant for buttocks and private parts. If paranoid, purchase leech socks before leaving home or spray plenty of DEET based repellent on ordinary hiking socks.

Pull a leech off, as parts of it may remain under your skin.  Light the little sucker up with a cigarette butt if you are prone to puffing a nicotine stick, otherwise apply some alcohol or table salt to make it detach of its own accord, then apply antiseptic to the wound.


There are plenty of hairy-legged big spiders stalking around Thailand, however deaths from spider bites are rare.  The most dangerous ones are those hiding in underground burrows in forests, like the tarantula species that have a reputation for being aggro creatures.  Their bites are painful and you will need a shot of anti venom if bitten by one.  Symptoms include muscle cramping, exhaustion, swelling and fever.  

Check your shoes before putting them on and shake out your clothes, especially if you are in rural areas.

Avoiding Creatures That Bite in Thailand - The Wise Traveller


There are countless varieties of ants in Thailand and no matter their size, they will attack and bite.  Ant bites are nasty and can feel like someone is driving a spear through your body.  On these occasions, it is another case of acting like a local and using Thailand's famous remedy for everything, Tiger Balm, to reduce the inflammation and pain.

Watch where you sit, be careful about brushing up against bushes and walking under trees.


Scaly, slithering and cold-blooded snakes are scary. Prime culprits of the 7,000 annual bites (only 30 deaths yearly) are cobras, pit vipers and kraits.  The spitting cobra can spray venom into a person's eyes from 3 meters away. Anti venom is available throughout Thailand. Snakes seem to pop up everywhere from paddocks to city parks and hotel gardens.

Give them a wide berth as they will slither away from you, except for the ones above that will go into attack mode instantly.

Walk through bushy areas beating the grass with a stick; no one will think you are a nut case.

Attempt to pick one up.

Giant Centipedes

Definitely a ten out of ten on the creepy crawly scale, giant centipedes with their whispering staccato of marching legs are found all over Thailand and can grow as big as the size of a man's forearm.  They don't like to get wet and possibly drown in the tropical downpours; so will seek refuge wherever they can find it. Its bite won't kill you, but you will be in serious agony for a few days that even a shot of morphine may not alleviate.

The bite looks similar to snakebite and you will need to have anti-tetanus, painkillers and rest. Pray to Buddha that you don't have an allergic reaction to its poison, as you may then need breathing support.

Wear shoes in the dark, even indoors. 

Shake out shoes and clothes before putting them on.

Avoiding Creatures That Bite in Thailand - The Wise Traveller

To complete the list divers should be wary of the colourful Lionfish with their poisonous spines. There are pretty caterpillars with poisonous hairs that they spray into the air when they feel threatened - one named Buung Haan is said to be capable of killing a small dog.  

The last creature on the list is the quick moving Thai black scorpion that loves the smell of stale beer, so make sure you get rid of your Singha bottles after draining them.  Their bite is not lethal, but super painful and may require anti venom treatment.

Gail Palethorpe, a self proclaimed Australian gypsy, is a freelance writer, photographer and eternal traveller.  Check out her website Gail Palethorpe Photography and her Shutterstock profile.