Is it safe to go to Bangkok?

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Recent violent confrontations between anti-government 'Red Shirt' protesters and the Thai military have led to the death of 40 people and have left parts of Bangkok in ruins. At the time of writing, things have quieted significantly, but some fires are still burning and parts of central Bangkok are still essentially no-go zones occupied by armed soldiers, leaving potential visitors with many questions.

You can use this page to find the best sources for updates and travel advice.

Is it safe to go?

As of May 21, the vast majority of Bangkok is safe to visit. As illustrated by this BBC map, the main conflict areas are concentrated near central Bangkok's Lumphini Park, but also include isolated areas near northern Bangkok's Victory Monument and the Din Daeng intersection. At the time of writing, some of these areas are closed and really only accessible for locals, and for the time being, it's probably a good idea to avoid them if possible.

The downside is that Bangkok is not the most tourist-friendly destination in Thailand right now. A 9pm to 5am curfew that has been extended to May 23 means your One Night in Bangkok will most likely have to be some other night. Several banks have been vandalised and most others are temporarily closed (for a full list of the 36 buildings damaged during the crackdown, see The Nation's website). A handful of large, mostly four-star hotels bordering the formerly barricaded area near Lumphini Park have also been temporarily closed, but hotels in other parts of town, including those on and around Thanon Khao San, remain unaffected.

With the closure or destruction of several downtown malls, shopping in much of the city's central district is no longer an option, although the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market is still open. And due to several major street closures (refer to this Google Map for an illustration of streets that are likely to be closed, and be sure to check the Bangkok Post for updates on the situation), Bangkok is even harder to get around than normal, particularly since the indefinite closure of the BTS, Bangkok's above-ground mass-transit system, and the MRT, Bangkok's underground (refer to their respective websites to see when they'll be up and running again). Bus services are also limited, so taxis are the best way of getting around town for now.

All things considered, this is probably a good time to consider exploring other parts of Thailand. Thankfully, services at Bangkok's airports, Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi, have not experienced any interruptions due to the clashes, although road closings in parts of central Bangkok have made getting to and from the airports inconvenient in some cases, and Suvarnabhumi's Airport Express bus service has been temporarily cancelled. In its place is a free bus that runs along Thanon Sukhumvit, parts of Thanon Silom, Thanon Ratchada and Thanon Lad Phrao; for exact route and departure details call 0 2132 1888.

Bangkok's bus terminal at Mo Chit (0 2936 2852), which services north and northeastern Thailand, the Eastern Bus Terminal (0 2391 2237) and the Southern Bus Terminal (0 2435 1200) in Thonburi have not been affected. And it's still possible, although slightly inconvenient, to take a taxi to Hua Lamphong, Bangkok's main train station, where all trains are running on schedule.

If you're flying into Thailand via Suvarnabhumi and would rather avoid Bangkok altogether, the airport's bus terminal offers direct connections to a variety of locations around the country.

Where can I go to find up-to-date information?

It's important to remember that although relatively calm now, the situation can change at any moment.

Travellers and residents in Thailand are posting on the Thorn Tree constantly with updates.

The Bangkok Post's website has a 'Breaking News' box that's updated regularly, and the BBC's Asia-Pacific pages and the IHT's Asia pages both have regularly updated reports, not to mention a wealth of background information.

Bangkok-based blogs 2Bangkok.comBangkok Pundit and are good, frequently-updated sources of information on news events in city.

And in the event that conflict does flare up again, the best way to stay abreast of the situation on a minute-by-minute basis is Twitter. Good tweets include those of BBC journalist Alastair Leithead, freelance journalists Andrew MarshallNewley Purnell and Patrick Winn, and bangkokpundit

What happened?

The conflict actually has its origins back in 2006, when then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was forced from office in a bloodless military coup. Largely working class and rural-based Thaksin supporters felt slighted by this, and in 2009, staged a series of anti-government demonstrations, some of which turned violent.

In March 2010, a mixture of red-shirted Thaksin supporters and anti-government protesters occupied parts of Bangkok, calling for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to stand down. The protesters, who at their peak numbered in the many thousands, eventually barricaded themselves in an area stretching from Lumphini Park to the shopping district near Siam Square, paralysing tourism and commerce.

Finally, on the morning of May 19, after more than two months of protests, which included both occasional violent confrontations and near compromises, the government used force to disperse the protesters.

Austin Bush is a photographer and Lonely Planet author based in Bangkok.