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Travel & living abroad

Asia and Oceania

Thailand

Flag of Thailand
Still current at: 03 July 2011
Updated: 30 June 2011


This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Travel Summary and Safety and Security – Political Situation section (additional information about national elections). The overall level of the advice has not changed. We advise against all travel to the Preah Vihear and Ta Krabey/Ta Moan temple areas and against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country

Travel Summary

  • We advise against all travel to the Preah Vihear (Khaoi Pra Viharn in Thai) temple area and the Ta Krabey/Ta Moan temple area located on the Thai-Cambodian border due to the presence of troops in the area and recent outbreaks of fighting. Remain alert to the local situation when travelling in other border regions and at land crossings between Thailand and Cambodia. See Safety and Security - Local Travel - Cambodian border.

  • We advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla on the Thai-Malaysia border. See Safety and Security - Political Situation.

  • National elections will be held on 3 July and the Thai Electoral Commission has until 2 August 2011 to confirm the election result. There remains a risk that political developments may lead to violence. The Thai authorities have indicated that security may be enhanced in various parts of Thailand against the possibility of unrest and violence. We advise you to keep up to date with our travel advice, monitor the local media, stay in touch with your travel company if you have one, avoid demonstrations and in the event of violence, remain indoors. Safety and Security - Political Situation.

  • Due to ongoing demonstrations by the People's Alliance for Democracy (Yellow Shirts) and the Thai Patriots Network, the Makhawan Bridge and Pitsanulok Road near Government House, Bangkok, may be closed. Anti-government demonstrations have been taking place in Bangkok around the 10th and 19th of every month at Democracy Monument (near Khao San Road).

  • Since 7 November 2010, there has been fighting between armed groups on the Burmese side of the Thai/Burma border. The land border crossing at Mae Sot is closed. Check local media for the latest information, and exercise extreme caution if you intend to travel to this region.

  • By law, you must carry your passport with you at all times in Thailand. Tourists have been arrested because they were unable to produce their passport. See: Local Laws and Customs.

  • There is a high threat of terrorism in Thailand. Bomb and grenade attacks have been indiscriminate, including in places visited by expatriates and foreign travellers. Sporadic attacks continue in Bangkok (there were reports of a grenade explosion at a PAD rally in Bangkok on 31 May) and Chiang Mai. Exercise caution, especially in the cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani and Udon Thani. See: Safety and Security - Terrorism.

  • Penalties for possession, distribution or manufacture of drugs are severe and can include the death penalty. See: Local Laws and Customs.

  • Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See: General Insurance.

  • Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling or where you live so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.

  • British nationals requiring urgent consular assistance should call 02 305 8333 (in Thailand).

  • 847,198 British nationals visited Thailand in 2010. Most visits are trouble-free. See General - Consular Assistance - Statistics.

Safety and security

Safety and Security - Political Situation
Thailand Country Profile

National elections will be held in Thailand on 3 July and the Thai Electoral Commission has until 2 August to confirm the election result. There remains a risk that political developments may lead to violence. The Thai authorities have indicated that security may be enhanced in various parts of Thailand against the possibility of unrest and violence. We advise you keep up to date with our travel advice, monitor the local media, stay in touch with your travel company if you have one, avoid demonstrations and in the event of violence, remain indoors.

The political situation in Thailand is unpredictable and sometimes volatile. Over recent years there have been instances of civil and political unrest resulting in large-scale demonstrations and, in some cases, violence. British nationals should exercise caution throughout Thailand and avoid demonstrations or large gatherings, which may turn violent.

Since January 2004, there have been almost daily attacks in the far south. These include arson, bombings and shootings. Targets have included civilians and members of the security forces, government offices, tourist hotels, discotheques and bars, shops, marketplaces, supermarkets, schools, transport infrastructure and trains. Over 3,500 people have been killed and several thousand more injured. No British nationals have been killed in these attacks, but some foreign citizens have been killed and injured.  

Martial law remains in place in the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and in the Sadao district of Songkhla province. Security authorities can detain suspects without charge, censor the media, conduct searches and seize documents. We advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla.

On 19 September 2006, there was a coup against the civilian Thai Government, and martial law was imposed throughout the country. The military-backed government was in power until elections in late 2007.

In 2008, political unrest and demonstrations in Bangkok sparked a series of violent incidents, including grenade attacks, which caused several fatalities. At the end of November 2008, Bangkok’s two airports (Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Muang Airport) were closed for two weeks after being occupied by anti-government protestors.

In April 2009, civil unrest occurred in Bangkok and the seaside resort of Pattaya, which was hosting the ASEAN Summit. Outbreaks of violence between Red Shirt protestors and military and police units in central Bangkok left three dead and over 100 people injured.

In the first half of 2010, there were several acts of violence in the north eastern cities of Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani and Udon Thani, and in the northern city of Chiang Rai.

In March to May 2010, anti-government (“Red Shirt”) protestors held large gatherings in Bangkok and many provinces around Thailand. There were counter-demonstrations by opposing groups of “Yellow Shirts” and other so-called “multi-coloured shirt” protestors. The political unrest sparked a series of violent incidents, including grenade attacks. On 19 May 2010, the main protest site in Bangkok was cleared by security forces. Clashes between security forces and protesters left over 80 dead and more than 2,100 people injured during this period. Foreign nationals were among those injured. Demonstrations have continued in some parts of the country. Some leaders of protest groups have previously called for violence throughout the country.

Due to ongoing demonstrations by the People's Alliance for Democracy (Yellow Shirts) and the Thai Patriots Network, the Makh awan Bridge and Pitsanulok Road near Government House, Bangkok, may be closed. Anti-government demonstrations have been taking place in Bangkok around the 10th and 19th of every month at Democracy Monument (near Khao San Road). You should avoid these demonstrations and any other protests.

Safety and Security - Terrorism

There is a high threat of terrorism in Thailand. Bomb and grenade attacks have been indiscriminate, including in places visited by expatriates and foreign travellers. Sporadic attacks continue in Bangkok and around Chiang Mai. In 2010, there were around 114 reported explosions in Bangkok and the surrounding provinces.

  • On the evening of 31 May 2011, there were reports of a grenade explosion at the PAD rally site near Makkawan Bridge on Ratchadamnoen. One person was seriously injured.
  • On 24 January 2011, a man was arrested near the PAD protest area at Misakhawan Intersection in central Bangkok. He was carrying two home-made explosive devices. The devices were not detonated and no one was injured.

See our Terrorism Abroad page.

Safety and Security - Crime
Seven British nationals have been murdered in Thailand since January 2009.

Take precautions and be on your guard against pickpockets and bag snatchers. When walking along busy streets or travelling in open transport such as tuk tuks, be aware that foreigners have had items snatched by riders on motorbikes. If you plan to travel by bus, take precautions to ensure any cash you have is kept securely. There have been incidents where passengers have had money taken from bags while they slept.

Western tourists have been victims of vicious unprovoked attacks by gangs in Koh Phangan. These attacks are particularly common around the time of the Full Moon parties and generally occur late at night near bars in Haad Rin. Exercise caution when walking in this area at any time, especially after dark.

Be aware of the possibility of credit card fraud after shop employees have copied card details. Do not lose sight of your credit card during transactions. Be careful to observe demarcation lines between shops and stalls, particularly in market areas and at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Taking items from one shop’s area to another is likely to be treated as suspected theft. You may be arrested by police and asked to pay a substantial fine and/or face imprisonment.

Violent assaults and robberies have been reported in Chaweng, Koh Samui. Attacks have occurred in places frequented by western tourists. Take great care when in this area, especially at night.

There have been incidents of sexual offences committed against foreign men and women, especially in the Koh Samui archipelago. Since 2009, a number of British nationals were victims of serious sexual offences. See: Rape and sexual assault overseas.

There have been incidents where tourists have had their drinks drugged in both tourist areas and red light districts. Be careful about taking drinks from strangers and at clubs and parties, particularly in the Koh Samui area and, at the Full Moon party on Phangan Island, where date rapes have been reported. Some British nationals have suffered severe psychiatric problems because of drug use, resulting in some suicides.

Tourists have also been robbed after bringing visitors to their hotel rooms. In some cases their drinks were drugged. Ensure that your passport and wallet are secure at all times.

Alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you drink, know your limit. Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK.

You should report any incidents of crime to the Thai police before leaving the country.

See our Victims of Crime Abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Burma Border
Following the Burmese elections on 7 November 2010, there has been fighting between armed groups on the Burmese side of the Burma/Thai border. On 8 and 9 November 2010, artillery including bullets and rocket propelled grenades landed on the Thai side of the border, injuring at least five people. There has also been an influx of Burmese crossing the border into Thailand seeking refuge. The land border crossing at Mae Sot is closed. There are also occasional clashes between the Thai security forces and armed criminal groups such as drug traffickers. Check local media for the latest information, and exercise extreme caution if you intend to travel to this region.

Outside the main towns, police and military checkpoints are actively manned and travellers may be asked to produce ID. If you visit border areas outside the main towns consult local authorities for advice on the current situation. See: www.tourismthailand.org.

Do not attempt to cross into Burma other than at an official border checkpoints and after obtaining any relevant permissions/visas from the Burmese and Thai authorities. See: FCO Travel Advice for Burma.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Cambodia Border
The line of the international border in the vicinity of the Preah Vihear temple is disputed by Cambodia and Thailand. Since October 2008, there have been periodic clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops in the area.  Hostilities broke out again in February 2011, resulting in civilian and military fatalities on both sides. The situation remains tense and further fighting may occur without warning. We advise against all travel to the Preah Vihear (Khaoi Pra Viharn in Thai) temple and surrounding area. Remain alert to the local situation when travelling in other border regions, and at land crossings between the two countries.

Disputes also exist over control of the Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples, which lie close to the Thailand-Cambodia border. Fighting broke out between Cambodian and Thai troops at Ta Krabey on 22April and is ongoing. A number of deaths and injuries have been reported by both sides. We advise against all travel to the Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temple area. Exercise caution if visiting temples close to the border with Cambodia which may be the subject of disputes over ownership. See: FCO Travel Advice for Cambodia.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Laos Border
Visas are available at the principal entry points, the Thai to Lao Friendship Bridge, Luang Prabang and Vientiane Airports, on payment of US$35, or 1,500 Thai baht in cash and provision of a passport photograph. If you plan to enter at any other entry point then you will need to get a visa in advance. Be aware that not all entry points are open to foreigners. See: FCO Travel Advice for Laos.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air Travel
There are two airports in Bangkok. Suvarnabhumi International Airport is the city's main international airport and Don Muang International Airport is the 'old' Bangkok international airport.   Check with your airline which airport your flight will depart from.

On 4 August 2009, Bangkok Airways Flight 266, carrying 68 passengers crashed in severe weather on landing at Koh Samui airport. One person died and 37 were injured.
 
On 16 September 2007, One-Two-GO Airlines Flight 269, carrying 130 people, crashed and burst into flames after attempting to land in Phuket during poor weather conditions killing 90 people. One-Two-GO is banned from flying in EU nations due to safety concerns.  

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Rail Travel
There have been a number of train derailments in Thailand, with some resulting in death and injuries.  

On 21 June 2008, insurgents killed four people on the Sungai Kolok - Yala train near the Thai-Malaysia Border. This resulted in increased numbers of security personnel on the trains.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel
An international or Thai driving licence is required to drive in Thailand.

Riding a motorcycle or scooter in Thailand can be dangerous. On average 38 people a day die in motorcycle accidents in Thailand. Take the same safety precautions as in the UK. According to Thai law, safety helmets must be worn.

The motorcycles or scooters for hire in beach resorts are often unregistered and cannot be used legally on a public road. Before you hire a vehicle, check your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered and check the small print of the lease agreement.  Never hand over your passport as a guarantee against returning a motorcycle or scooter.  Unscrupulous owners have been known to hold on to passports against claimed damage to the motorcycle or scooter.

Riding ‘Quad-bikes’ can also be dangerous. It is illegal to drive these on the roads in Thailand even though they are available to hire on the roadside.

See our Driving abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Sea/River Travel
On 24 March 2009, two British nationals were attacked and one murdered while sailing off the coast of Satun in Southern Thailand. If you sail here, take steps to protect your safety.

There have been some passenger boat sinkings, usually due to overloading and/or poor maintenance. During the Full Moon party speedboats to and from Koh Pha Ngan are often overloaded. Exercise care at all times when travelling by passenger ferry or speedboat and avoid travel on vessels that are clearly overloaded or in poor condition. Ensure that life jackets are available.

Take care when swimming/diving/kayaking or white water rafting in rivers or close to waterfalls, particularly in the rainy season from May to October. Currents are extremely strong.

See our River and Sea Safety page.

Safety and Security - Tourist Activities

Bungee jumping is an exceptionally dangerous activity and accidents occur. If you undertake this activity you should satisfy yourself that the company concerned is using the most up-to-date equipment, including all of the requisite safety features and that they are fully licensed and insured.

If you are considering jungle trekking ensure that you use reliable licensed tour guides.

Safety and Security - Tourist Activities - Water Sports
Take particular care when swimming off coastal areas, especially during monsoon season (November-March in Koh Samui and the south-east of the Thai peninsula and May-October in the rest of Thailand). Strong riptides have drowned people in several areas including Phuket, Koh Chang, Hua Hin, Cha-am, Rayong and Pattaya and the Koh Samui archipelago. Always comply with warning signs, especially red flags, and only swim from approved beaches.  

Jellyfish can swim close to the shore, particularly during the rainy season from May to October. Their sting can be fatal. If in doubt take local advice from hotel management and dive centres.

If you rent Jet Skis or water sports equipment, consider the dangers involved and satisfy yourself that adequate safety precautions are in place. Rent only from reputable operators and insist on sufficient training before use. Ensure that the operator is licensed and has adequate insurance cover. Never hand over your passport as a guarantee against returning a jet ski.  Unscrupulous owners have been known to hold on to passports against claimed damage to the Jet Ski.

The standards maintained by diving schools and rescue services are not always as high as in the UK. Check a dive operator's credentials carefully before using them and ensure that your insurance covers you for the activity. If you are an experienced diver get dive-specific insurance and check that your qualifications and experience fall within the cover provided. Contact your issuing authority (i.e. PADI or BSAC) if you are in any doubt. If you have had no previous diving experience ask your dive operator to explain what cover they offer before signing up for a course; you should be satisfied that sufficient safety equipment is available on the boat, particularly oxygen.

You should also ask about contingency plans which should include the ability to call for help while at sea and to evacuate divers to the nearest hyperbaric chamber if necessary.

Local laws and customs

Never become involved with drugs of any kind in Thailand. Possession of even very small quantities can lead to imprisonment. If you are found guilty of being in possession of marijuana you are likely to receive a long prison sentence and a hefty fine. Amphetamines and Ecstasy are regarded as Class A drugs and possession or trafficking of them carries the same penalties as heroin. If you are found guilty of being in possession of 20 grams of a Class A drug at a point of exit from Thailand you will most likely be sentenced to death.

It is illegal to import more than 200 cigarettes per person into Thailand; those who do face heavy fines and confiscation of the cigarettes.

It is a criminal offence to make critical or defamatory comments about the King or other members of the Royal family in Thailand. This is known as Lèse Majesté and is punishable by a sentence of three to fifteen years or longer.

By law, you must carry your passport with you at all times in Thailand. Tourists have been arrested because they were unable to produce their passport upon request.

Thai family law is very different from UK law and particular caution is needed when child custody becomes an issue. See our Child Abduction page.

For more general information for different types of travellers see our Your trip page.

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements - Passport Validity
Entry to Thailand is normally refused if you have a passport with less than six months’ validity, or which is damaged or has pages missing.

Entry Requirements - Visa Requirements
British passport holders arriving by air may enter Thailand for 30 days without obtaining a visa in advance of arrival. However, those arriving at overland crossings will only be given visa free entry valid for 15 days. If you plan to stay in Thailand for longer than the time endorsed on arrival, or you intend to work, you must obtain an extension of stay or a valid visa.

If you stay in Thailand for longer than the time authorised on your arrival, and do not have an extension of stay or a valid visa, then this is an offence under Thai Immigration law. You will be fined 500 baht per day for every day you overstay, excluding the first day, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht.  Any foreigner found by the authorities to have overstayed their visa is also at risk of being held in detention, fined and deported at their own expense. They may also be black-listed from re-entering Thailand. The Thai authorities have stated they will always enforce detention of overstays for more than 42 days. The only legal way of obtaining a new visa, entry permit or extension of stay is from a Thai Embassy or Consulate, an Immigration Officer at a point of entry into Thailand or one of the Immigration Offices around the country. Visas issued by visa shops, travel agents or by any other means are likely to be illegal and lead to criminal proceedings.

If you have any queries about visas or entry requirements, check with the Royal Thai Embassy.

Entry Requirements - Employment
To work in Thailand you need a work permit, which is difficult and time-consuming to obtain. If you enter Thailand on a tourist visa you are not allowed to take up employment. Failure to observe this rule can lead to arrest and deportation.

Health

Statistics show that British nationals are more likely to be admitted to hospital when visiting Thailand than any other country in the world. There are excellent private hospitals in Thailand but they can be expensive. It is imperative that you have fully comprehensive medical insurance cover and that you completely understand the policy before travelling to Thailand otherwise you may find yourself facing huge medical bills for which you will be personally responsible. Public hospitals and clinics in Thailand are not always up to UK standards, particularly in the coastal islands and many mainland districts outside Bangkok where hospitals and clinics are not equipped to deal with major trauma. Many hospitals require guarantee of payment for the hospital bills before they begin treatment. Ensure you complete the next of kin details in the back of your passport.

Dengue fever and malaria occur in Thailand. During 2010, there were over 115,000 reported cases of dengue and 141 reported deaths. Visit your GP to discuss preventative measures against dengue and malaria, including malaria prevention tablets.

There are cases of Chikungunya virus in 50 of Thailand’s provinces, including the tourist destination of Phuket. The symptoms are similar to dengue fever.

In the 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that 520,000 adults in Thailand were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 1.3% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in the UK of 0.2%. Exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. See our HIV and AIDS page.

Seek medical advice before travelling to Thailand and ensure all vaccinations are up to date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention visit the National Travel Heath Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) or NHS Scotland’s Fit for Travel websites or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

In 2010 a total of 102,827 cases attributed to food poisoning and 13 associated fatalities (nationalities not known) were reported in Thailand. Recent figures show 19,148 cases attributed to food poisoning reported between 1 Jan and 14 March 2011. Highest rates for food poisoning are reported in the northeast region and the northern region of Thailand. (source: Ministry of Public Health – Thailand).

See our Travel Health and Eat and Drink Safely pages.

There have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in domestic poultry and wild birds in Thailand (most recently in November 2008) leading to a small number of human fatalities (most recently in Thailand in August 2006 and on the Cambodian side of the Thai-Cambodia border at Aranyaprathet in February 2011) believed to have arisen through close contact with infected poultry.

The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low. As a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds. Ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.

See our Avian and Pandemic Influenza page.

Natural disasters

The rainy season in much of Thailand runs from May to October, with September and October being the height of the monsoon season. The rainy season in Koh Samui and the south east of the Thai peninsula runs from November to March.  Heavy storms caused disruption and damage in this region in late March 2011.

Torrential rain and widespread flooding often result in flash floods and mudslides. Exercise caution and follow the advice of local authorities. Flooding also affects the southern tourist areas of Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui. Check with the Thai Meteorological Department for up-to-date information or with your tour operator before travelling to affected areas.

The Mekong River Commission posts official updates on the Mekong River on their website.

When visiting Lake Caves, particularly during the rainy season, be aware that they are prone to dangerous flash flooding. On 13 October 2007, eight people died, including one British national at Khao Sok National Park following a flash flood.

General

General - Insurance
Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. Check for any exclusions and ensure that your policy covers you for all activities. See our Travel Insurance page.

If things do go wrong then see our When Things Go Wrong page.

General - Consular Assistance 
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling or where you live so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.

British nationals requiring urgent consular assistance should call 02 305 8333 (in Thailand).

If you are a British national and plan to stay for an extended period in Thailand register with the British Embassy in Bangkok upon arrival

General - Consular Assistance - Statistics
847,198 British nationals visited Thailand in 2010 (Source: Thai Immigration). 2,159 British nationals required consular assistance in Thailand between 1 January and 31 December 2010, including for the following types of incident: 340 deaths; 217 hospitalisations; 228 arrests for a variety of offences. We issued 697 British nationals with Emergency Travel Documents as replacements for lost or stolen passports. 

General - Buying Property
Before buying property in Thailand, seek legal advice from a source that is independent from the seller. Deal only with established and reputable estate agents and other contacts and make all payments within bank premises and/or through banking channels.

General - Money
It may not be possible to change Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes.

Contacts

Thailand, Bangkok, British Embassy

Address:

14 Wireless Road
Lumpini, Pathumwan
Bangkok 10330

Telephone:

+66 (0) 2 305 8333 - Main Embassy line
(Please note this line is NOT for visa enquiries)

Fax:

+66 (0) 2 255 9278

Office hours:

Office hours (Local time):
Mon-Thurs: 08:00-12:00 / 12:45-16:30
Fri: 08:00-13:00

Website: http://ukinthailand.fco.gov.uk/

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