Asia and Oceania

Thailand Flag of Thailand

Still current at: 11 June 2008
Updated: 05 June 2008


This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Summary and Political Situation section (political demonstrations).  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)


Travel advice for this country


Travel Summary

  • Thailand returned to democratic government on 6 February 2008 but the political situation remains uncertain. Some violent incidents took place at demonstrations in May and there is the risk of further violence, as these demonstrations are continuing in central Bangkok. You should exercise caution and avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people. You should also keep yourself informed of developments, including by regularly checking this advice. See the Political situation section of this advice for more details.

  • We advise against all but essential travel to, or through, the far southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla.  There continue to be frequent attacks, including bombing and shooting, due to insurgency and civil unrest in these areas.  On 15 March 2008, two bomb attacks at the CS Pattani Hotel in Pattani killed two people and injured 15 others. See the Terrorism sectionof this advice for more details.

  • There is a high threat from terrorism in Thailand.  Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.  There were a number of bomb explosions in Bangkok in 2007.  See the Terrorism section of this advice for more details.

  • Penalties for possession, distribution or manufacture of drugs are severe and can include the death penalty.

  • Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in Thailand have resulted in a small number of human fatalities.  The last human death was in 2007.

  • Around 860,000 British nationals visited Thailand in 2007 (Tourism Authority of Thailand figure).  The main types of incident for which British nationals required consular assistance in Thailand in 2007 were for: replacing lost or stolen passports (over 800 cases); deaths, mostly from road accidents or related to drink/drugs (over 250 cases); arests (over 250 cases) and hospitalisations (over 200 cases).  The majority of consular cases occur in Bangkok, Pattaya and Koh Samui.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. 

Safety and security

Terrorism/Security

There is a high threat from terrorism throughout Thailand.  Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. You should exercise caution at all times.

On 31 December 2006, a series of bomb explosions in Bangkok killed three people and injured at least 36 others, including six foreigners. Since then there have been a number of attacks in Bangkok, with motives which remain unclear. Most have been small and caused no casualties.

We advise against all but essential travel to, or through, the far southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla, where there is continuing violence due to insurgency and civil unrest. On 15 March 2008, there were two bomb attacks at the CS Pattani Hotel in Pattani. Two people were killed and 15 others injured.
 
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 office, tourist hotels, discotheques and bars, shops, marketplaces, supermarkets, schools, transport infrastructure and trains.  Over 2,500 people have been killed and several thousand more injured.  No British nationals have been killed in these attacks, but some other foreign nationals have been killed and injured.
 
There is a state of emergency in the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat. Martial law remains in place in these provinces. Security authorities can detain suspects without charge, censor the media, conduct searches and seize documents.  Martial law is also in place in the Chana and Thepha districts of Songkhla province.
 
If you are considering travel to, or through, the far southern provinces of Thailand, you should seriously reflect on whether or not your journey is absolutely necessary.  If you do decide to go ahead with your trip you are advised to regularly review your own and your family’s security arrangements.
 
Elsewhere in the region, Westerners were killed and injured following terrorist attacks in Indonesia; in Bali (October 2002 and October 2005) and Jakarta (August 2003 and September 2004).  The extremist group Jamaah Islamiyah is thought to be responsible for these bombings.  The Thai authorities have arrested a number of terrorist suspects, most notably a senior leader of Jemaah Islamiyah.  
 
Political Situation
 
Thailand Country Profile
 
A number of large political demonstrations are planned in central Bangkok from 31 May 2008 and there is a risk that they may lead to violence between opposing factions.  You should avoid all demonstrations/large gatherings.
 
On 19 September 2006, there was a coup against the Thai civilian government and martial law was imposed throughout the country. Martial law has since been lifted in 41 provinces including Bangkok but it remains in 35 other provinces.
 
General elections took place in Thailand on 23 December 2007, and the King endorsed the new Thai Government on 6 February but the political situation remains uncertain. Some violent incidents took place at demonstrations in May and there is the risk of further violence, as these demonstrations are continuing in central Bangkok. You should exercise caution and avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people. You should also keep yourself informed of developments, including by regularly checking this advice.
 
Crime
 
Six British nationals have been murdered in Thailand since January 2006.
 
Watch out for crimes of opportunity.  You should take sensible 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, you should be aware that foreigners have had items snatched by riders on motorbikes.

We receive regular reports of credit card fraud after shop employees have copied card details. You are advised not to lose sight of your credit card during transactions.

There has been a number of incidents where tourists have had their drinks drugged (in both tourist areas and red light districts).  You should be careful about taking drinks from strangers and be wary at clubs and parties, particularly in the Koh Samui area and at the Full Moon party on Phangan Island where incidences of date rape have been reported.  A number of British nationals have suffered severe psychiatric problems as a result of drug use, in a small number of cases resulting in suicide.

We receive occasional reports of tourists who have 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.

We continue to receive reports of sexual offences committed against foreign women and men. In 2007 our Consular staff were aware of a number of British nationals who were the victim of a serious sexual offence in Thailand. In January 2006, three British women were raped in separate incidents in Thailand, including one who was murdered. 
 
Female travellers in particular should maintain a high state of personal awareness during their time in Thailand. Be aware that alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment.  If you are going to drink, know your limit.  Remember that drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK.  Reports of sexual assaults against women have become particularly prevalent in the Koh Samui archipelago. Women travellers are, therefore, advised to take particular care over their personal security whilst staying in this area. For more guidance about this see the Assault, Sexual Assault and Rape Overseas page of the FCO website.
 
You should report any incidents of crime to the Thai police before leaving the country. 

For more general information please see the Victims of Crime Abroad page of the FCO website.
 
Local Travel
 
The affects of Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma on 2/3 May, have caused tens of thousands of deaths and left hundreds of thousands more homeless. A state of emergency is in place in Rangoon and Irrawaddy. Supplies of water and fuel are very low. See the Burma Travel Advice for more details. See the Burma Travel Advice for more details.

The King's sister, Princess Galyani Vadhana, died on 2 January 2008.  The Princess' body lies in the Dusit Throne Room in the Grand Palace in Bangkok and members of the public have been invited to pay their respects.Larger than usual numbers of people can be are expected in and around the Grand Palace.
 
As noted in the Terrorism/Security section of this travel advice, there has been a resurgence of violence in the far southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla.  This has included attempts to sabotage the railways and lethal attacks on public buses. We recommend against all but essential travel to, or through, these four provinces.
 
Thai to Burma Border
 
The main towns along the order with Burma are generally safe.  However, if you plan to travel to remoter areas you should exercise particular care.  There is sporadic conflict on the Burmese side between Government soldiers and armed opposition troops, some of whom cross the border into Thailand to seek refuge.  There are also occasional clashes between the Thai security forces and armed criminal groups, such as drug traffickers who operate in these areas.  There have also been a number of security incidents in the Mae Sot area. You should, therefore, remain vigilant at all times if you intend to travel in this region.
 
Outside the main towns, police and military checkpoints are actively manned and travellers may be asked to produce identification.  If you wish to visit border areas outside the main towns you should consult the local authorities for advice on the current situation at:  http://www.tourismthailand.org/.

Do not attempt to cross the border into Burma other than at an official border checkpoint and after obtaining any relevant permissions/ visas from the Burmese and Thai authorities. 
 
Travelling to Cambodia
 
There are two legal land border crossing points into and out of Cambodia for foreigners:  Srakaew Province to Poipet, open daily 07:30 hours to 20:00 hours; and Klong Yai at Had Lek, Trad Province to Koh Kong, open daily 07:00 hours to 20:00 hours.  British nationals need a visa for Cambodia. You are recommended to consult the FCO travel advice for Cambodia.
 
Crossing to Laos
 
Visas are available at the principal entry points, the Thai to Lao Friendship Bridge, Luang Prabang and Vientiane Airports, on payment of 30 American Dollars cash and provision of a passport photograph.  If you intend to enter at any other entry point then you will need to get a visa in advance.  You should also be aware that not all entry points are open to foreigners. You are recommended to consult the FCO travel advice for Laos.
 
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.  You should take the same safety precautions as in the UK.  The Thai law that safety helmets must be worn is widely ignored: a contributing factor in many tourist deaths each year.
 
The motorcycles or scooters available for hire in beach resorts are often unregistered and cannot, consequently, be used legally on a public road. Before you hire a vehicle you should check your travel insurance policy carefully to ensure that you are covered and check the small print of the lease agreement carefully.  You should never hand over your passport as a guarantee against returning a motor scooter or cycle.  Unscrupulous owners have been known to hold on to passports against claimed damage to the motor scooter or cycle.
 
Riding ‘Quad-bikes’ can also be dangerous. You should also note that it is illegal to drive these on the roads in Thailand despite the fact that they are available to hire on the roadside.
 
Air Travel

Don Muang Airport (the old international airport) re-opened for some domestic flights on 25 April 2007. You should check with your airline which airport your flight will arrive at and depart from.

Orient Thai 1-2 Go Flight number OG269 from Bangkok to Phuket crashed on landing at Phuket airport on Sunday 16 September 2007.  Over 80 people were killed, including 10 British Nationals.
 
The European Commission has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the European Union.  The list can be found at the following link:  http://europa.eu.int/comm/transport/air/safety/flywell_en.htm.
 
Sea/River Travel
 
There has been a number of instances of passenger boats sinking, usually due to overloading and/or poor maintenance.  During the full moon party speedboats to and from Koh Pha Ngan are often severely overloaded.  You should 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.  You should also ensure that life jackets are available.
 
You should 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.
 
Swimming
 
You should 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 remainder of Thailand).  Strong riptides have resulted in a number of drownings in several areas including Phuket, Koh Chang, Hua Hin/Cha-am, Rayong and Pattaya and the 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 e.g. from hotel management, dive centres.
 
Water sports and scuba diving
 
If you choose to rent jet skis or any other type of water sports equipment, you should first consider the dangers involved and satisfy yourself that adequate safety precautions are in place.  Once satisfied about this, rent only from reputable operators and insist on sufficient training before use.  Also ensure that the operator is licensed and has adequate insurance cover.
 
The standards maintained by diving schools and rescue services are not always as high and comprehensive as they might be in the UK.  Check a dive operator's credentials carefully before using them and ensure that your insurance covers you for all of the activities that you undertake. If you are an experienced diver you should purchase dive specific insurance and check that your qualifications and experience fall within the cover provided.  You should contact your issuing authority (ie. PADI or BSAC) if you are in any doubt.  If you have had no previous diving experience you should ask your dive operator to explain what cover they offer before signing up for a course; you should also 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 whilst 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 plus a hefty fine.  Amphetamines and Ecstasy are regarded as class A drugs and possession or trafficking of them carries the same penalties as, for example, heroin.  If you are found guilty of being in possession of 20 grams, or more, 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.  The importation of more than 200 cigarettes will be met with a heavy fine and the confiscation of the cigarettes.

By law, tourists are expected to carry their passports with them at all times in Thailand.  There have been incidents where tourists have been arrested because they were unable to produce their passport.

It is a criminal offence to make critical or defamatory comments about the King or other members of the Royal family in Thailand.  This offence is punishable by a sentence of three to fifteen years or longer.
 
Thai family law is very different from UK law and particular caution is needed when, for example, child custody becomes an issue.

Entry requirements

Visa Requirements
 
British passport holders may enter Thailand for up to 30 days, without obtaining a visa in advance of arrival.  If you intend to stay in Thailand for longer than 30 days, or you intend to work in the country, you must obtain an extension of stay or a valid visa.  This visa free entry, of up to 30 days per visit, is limited to a maximum of 90 days in any six month (180-day) period.  However, time spent in Thailand on a tourist visa issued by a Thai Embassy or Consulate does not count towards the 90-day limit.
 
Overstaying without the proper authority is a serious matter and you can be held in detention until a fine is paid.  The only legal way of obtaining a new visa, entry permit or extension of stay is from a Royal 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, which may result in a large fine or imprisonment.  You would also be prohibited from entering Thailand again.

If you have any queries about visas or entry requirements, you should check with the Royal Thai Embassy, 29-30 Queen's Gate, London, SW7 5JB; tel:  020 7589 2944; fax:  020 7823 9695; e-mail:  thaiduto@btinternet.com; website:  http://www.thaiembassyuk.org.uk.

Passport validity
 
Entry to Thailand is normally refused if you have a passport with less than six months’ validity. Entry is also normally refused if your passport is damaged, or if pages are missing from your passport.
 
Employment in Thailand
 
You need a work permit, which is difficult to obtain and time consuming, in order to work legally in Thailand.  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.

Travelling with children
 
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country, or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  Thai authorities do not require such evidence, but if you have any concerns please check with the Royal Thai Embassy, 29-30 Queen's Gate, London, SW7 5JB; tel:  020 7589 2944; fax:  020 7823 9695; e-mail:  thaiduto@btinternet.com; website:  http://www.thaiembassyuk.org.uk.

Health

There are excellent international hospitals in Bangkok but they can be expensive.  Ordinary hospitals and clinics in Thailand are not always up to UK standards.  This applies particularly to the coastal islands and many mainland districts outside of 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 will begin treatment.  You should complete next of kin details in the back of your passports.

Dengue fever is common to Thailand, especially during the rainy season, which runs from May to October. There has been a significant increase in the number of Dengue fever cases in the first quarter of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007 (over 7000 cases, resulting in a number of deaths).  There is no vaccination against dengue.

You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.  If you suffer from diarrhoea during a visit to Thailand you should seek immediate medical attention.

In the 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 560,000 adults aged 15 or over in Thailand were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 1.4% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%.  You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see the “HIV and AIDS” page of the FCO website.

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

For more general health information see the Travel Health page of the FCO website.

Avian Influenza
 
There have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in domestic poultry and wild birds in Thailand.  Most recently, in January 2008 the Ministry of Health confirmed an outbreak in Nakhon Sawan, in the west-central region of Thailand. The outbreaks have led to a small number of human fatalities believed to have arisen through close contact with infected poultry. Thai authorities have also announced that a human fatality occurred in Nong Bua Lumphu Province (north eastern Thailand) on 10 August 2007.  Since the end of 2003, a number of human deaths have also occurred in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Laos, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey and Vietnam.
 
The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low.  However, 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; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
 
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of the possibility that the Avian Influenza outbreaks could lead at some point to a human flu pandemic, if a virus mutates to a form which is easily transmissible between people.
 
British nationals living longer term in an Avian-Influenza affected region should take personal responsibility for their own safety in the event of a future pandemic, including considering their access to adequate healthcare and ensuring travel documents are up to date.
 
You shold read this advice in conjunction with the Avian and Pandemic Influenza Facksheet.
 
Natural Disasters
 
Monsoon Season
 
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. 
 
Torrential rain and widespread flooding, which often result in flash floods and mudslides, are common throughout Thailand, including the southern tourist areas of Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui.  You should check with the Thai Meteorological Department (www.tmd.go.th/en) for up-to-date information or with your tour operator before travelling to affected areas. If you are considering jungle trekking you should also ensure that you use reliable licensed tour guides.
 
When visiting Lake Caves, particularly during the rainy season, you should 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

Insurance
 
We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See the Travel Insurance page of the FCO website.

If things do go wrong when you are overseas, then see the What We Can Do To Help page of the FCO website.
 
Registering with the British Embassy
 
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.  More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here.
 
If you are a British national and plan to stay for an extended period in Thailand you are strongly advised to register with the British Embassy in Bangkok upon arrival.
 
Purchasing Property
 
Before purchasing property anywhere in Thailand you are strongly advised to seek qualified legal advice from a source that is independent from the seller.  British nationals purchasing property in Thailand are strongly recommended to deal only with established and reputable estate agents or with other contacts whom they know to be reliable and genuine, and to make all payments within bank premises and/or through banking channels.
 
Money
 
It is not possible to change Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes anywhere in Thailand.

Travel advice for this country

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contacts

British Embassy, Bangkok

Address:

British Embassy
14 Wireless Road
Lumpini, Pathumwan
Bangkok 10330

Telephone:

+66 (0) 2 305 8333 Main Embassy line
(66) (2) 305 8229 Consular information
(66) (2) 305 8333 press 2 Visa information

Fax:

(66) (2) 305 8372 Chancery
(66) (2) 255 8619 Commercial/information
(66) (2) 255 9278 Management
(66) (2) 255 6051 Consular
(66) (2) 254 9579 Visa

Office hours:

Local times shown (GMT +7 hours)

Visa Section:
Mon-Thurs: 0730-0930; Fri: 0730-1030

Consular Section:
Mon-Thurs: 0800-1100 & 1300-1530; Fri: 0800-1200

All other sections:
Mon-Thurs: 0800-1200 & 1245-1630; Fri: 0800-1300

Website: http://www.britishembassy.gov.uk/thailand



 

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