Foreign travel advice

Thailand

Summary

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla on the Thai-Malaysia border.

Following the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej there is an official period of mourning lasting until midnight on 27 October 2017. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s cremation ceremony will take place from 25 to 27 October in the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which are now closed until 29 October. There will also be ceremonies elsewhere in Bangkok and in major cities across Thailand. During this time there’s likely to be significant disruption to traffic in central Bangkok, especially around the areas of the ceremonies, due to large volumes of people and road closures. You should check arrangements locally and if necessary allow extra time for travel.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has issued guidance to travellers encouraging visitors to continue with their travel plans as normal and to check arrangements with their service providers as some celebrations or large events may be scaled back or cancelled during this period. You should respect the feelings and sensitivities of the Thai people at this time.

People have been prosecuted for criticising the 2014 military coup. You should be wary of making political statements in public. Lèse-majesté, (criticism of the monarchy in any form) is a crime which can be broadly interpreted, and carries a long jail sentence.

UK health authorities have classified Thailand as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Thailand. There were explosions in Bangkok in April and May 2017, and there were multiple explosions and incidents in tourist areas across Thailand in August 2016. Thai security authorities say they disrupted planned attacks in Bangkok in October 2016. The authorities have on a number of occasions warned of the possibility of attacks to coincide with symbolic dates or holidays. You should take care, particularly in public places, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media reports.

British nationals make over one million visits to Thailand every year. Most visits are trouble-free. But there have been attacks (sometimes violent), particularly on the islands of Samui archipelago.

The Tourist Authority of Thailand’s website and call centre (1672 – press ‘9’ for English) are able to provide some general advice to tourists in English.

Most road traffic accidents in Thailand involve motorcycles, but accidents involving other vehicles including cars, coaches and mini-buses also occur.

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

If you need to contact the emergency services, call 1155 (tourist police) or 1669 (emergency medical services).

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Safety and security

Political situation

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 demonstrations and in some cases violence.

On 13 October 2016, the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was announced. There is an official period of mourning lasting until midnight on 27 October 2017.

The cremation ceremony will take place from 25 to 27 October in the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which are now closed until 29 October. During this time there’s likely to be significant disruption to traffic in central Bangkok, especially around the areas of the ceremonies, due to large volumes of people and road closures. There will be ceremonies in other areas of Bangkok and across Thailand and some other celebrations or large scale events may be scaled back or cancelled during this period.

On 1 December 2016, the Crown Prince acceded to the throne and was pronounced His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, or His Majesty King Rama X. There’s currently no date set for his coronation.

On 22 May 2014, the military took control of government. Article 44 of the interim constitution gives General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister and head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), wide powers to continue to take action to enforce law and order, and restrictions remain on freedom of assembly and expression. Before the military coup there were large-scale demonstrations and protests in Bangkok and other cities. Some of these were violent. You should avoid any protests, political gatherings, demonstrations or marches.

A number of media outlets, including international media, have been taken off air and some internet sites remain blocked. People have been prosecuted for criticising the 2014 military coup. You should be wary of making political statements in public. Lèse-majesté, (criticism of the monarchy in any form) is a crime, which can be interpreted broadly and carries a long jail sentence. Some foreign (including British) and Thai journalists, human rights defenders and members of the public face criminal charges, including for defamation and sedition, for raising concerns and making political comments.

Crime

Be on your guard against pickpockets and bag snatchers. Foreigners have had items snatched by thieves on motorbikes when walking along busy streets or travelling in open transport like tuk tuks. If you travel by bus or rail, make sure passports, cash and valuables are kept securely and out of sight. Passengers have had items taken from bags while asleep.

Don’t hand over your passport to third parties as a guarantee (eg to motorcycle or jet ski rental businesses). Unscrupulous owners have been known to hold on to passports against claimed damage.

Violent sexual assaults and unprovoked attacks have been reported in popular tourist destinations, including in the Koh Samui archipelago and Krabi province. These are particularly common during the monthly Full Moon parties and generally occur late at night near bars.

Drink spiking has been reported in tourist destinations around Thailand, with both male and female victims. Be careful about taking drinks from strangers and at clubs and parties, or leaving your drinks unattended, particularly in Koh Samui, Pattaya and at the Full Moon party on Koh Phangan, where date rapes have been reported.

Alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment resulting in accidents, injuries, robbery, assaults and lost travel documents. If you drink, know your limit. Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. Some British nationals in Thailand have suffered severe psychiatric problems because of drug use, resulting in some suicides.

Be aware of the possibility of credit card fraud. Don’t lose sight of your card during transactions. There have been incidents of ATM skimming in Thailand. Where possible use an ATM within a bank and always protect your PIN.

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 may be treated as suspected theft.

Gem scams are common. There have been reports of visitors buying gems for inflated prices from seemingly respectable establishments then later finding out the stones are worth a tiny fraction of the purchase price.

Buying a property in Thailand isn’t straightforward and you should be aware of the risks before making any financial commitments. Foreign nationals have been caught up in property scams. Several British nationals also face criminal defamation charges for alleging fraud and malpractice. The legal process can take a long time and is expensive.

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

Burmese border

There are occasional clashes between the Thai security forces, armed criminal groups and drug traffickers along the Thai/Burma border. Outside the main towns, police and military checkpoints are actively manned and travellers may be asked to produce ID. See the Tourism Thailand website and seek advice locally before you travel to this part of the country.

Only cross into Burma at an official border checkpoint, and after obtaining any relevant permissions/visas from the Burmese and Thai authorities.

Cambodian border

The line of the international border near the Preah Vihear temple was disputed by Cambodia and Thailand. There were military clashes in 2008. In 2013, the International Court of Justice ruled that Cambodia had sovereignty over the whole territory of the Preah Vihear temple but the exact border is still being delineated. In 2011, there were clashes around the Ta Moan temple and clashes resulting in fatalities around the Ta Krabey temple.

The situation has now improved, but you should take extra care in border areas and follow the instructions of the local authorities. Due to the ongoing risk of unexploded landmines in the border region, you should stay on marked paths if you visit this area, especially around Ta Krabey where there have been reports of unmarked mines.

Remain alert to the local situation when travelling anywhere near to the border with Cambodia, and at land crossings between the two countries.

Laos border

Not all land border crossings into Laos are open to foreigners and you may need to get a Laos visa before you arrive to cross the border.

Air travel

There are two airports in Bangkok. Suvarnabhumi International Airport is the city’s main international airport. Don Muang Airport handles mainly domestic and regional flights.

Areas of southern Thailand, including Phuket, have experienced poor air quality as a result of haze in the region. Areas of northern and north-eastern Thailand, including Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai also experience poor air quality between March and April as a result of haze caused by slash-and-burn farming techniques. This can cause disruption to local and regional air travel, and may have an impact on public health. You should monitor local advice if you’re travelling in the area.

Rail travel

There have been a number of train derailments in Thailand. Some have resulted in deaths and injuries.

Road travel

You can drive in Thailand using an International Driving Permit or Thai driving licence.

There are a high number of road traffic accidents in Thailand. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 14,059 people were killed in 2012. In the UK in 2015 there were 1,732 fatalities. In any comparison of these statistics, you should note that there is a difference in the method of calculating statistics for road deaths in Thailand (at the scene of the accident) and the UK (within 30 days of the accident). The risk of death or injury on the road increases if you travel at night.

With motorcycles so widely used in Thailand, most road traffic accidents involve motorcycles The WHO rates Thailand as world’s deadliest country for fatalities on motorcycles, citing an average of 5,500 motorcyclist deaths annually. If you’re riding a motorcycle take extra care and make sure you have appropriate insurance and the correct licence to ride a motorcycle. According to the law, safety helmets must be worn.

Serious accidents involving other vehicles including cars, coaches and mini-buses also occur. Many accidents are due to poor vehicle and driver safety standards. There have been a number of accidents involving overnight coach travel. Seek local advice if you are in any doubt about the safety of your transport provider.

Motorcycles or scooters for hire in beach resorts are often unregistered and can’t be used legally on a public road. Before you hire a vehicle, make sure you’re covered by your travel insurance and check the small print of the lease agreement. Don’t hand over your passport as a guarantee against returning a motorcycle or scooter. Unscrupulous owners regularly hold on to passports against payment for 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’re available to hire on the roadside.

Sea travel

There are numerous passenger boat services operating between the mainland and islands in Thailand. There have been some sinkings and collisions which have resulted in fatalities, including 2 British nationals. These incidents are usually due to overloading and/or poor maintenance, but also due to rough seas, particularly during local monsoon season.

During the Full Moon parties, speedboats to and from Koh Phangan are often overloaded. Take care at all times and avoid travelling when conditions are rough or on vessels that are clearly overloaded or in poor condition. Make sure life jackets are available and check local weather conditions before travelling by sea.

Adventurous activities and swimming

Check that your insurance covers you for any adventure activities.

Bungee jumping can be dangerous and accidents occur. If you undertake this activity you should satisfy yourself that the company is using the most up-to-date equipment and safety features, and that they are fully licensed and insured.

If you’re considering jungle trekking use a reliable, licensed tour guide. Elephant treks and rides can be dangerous, especially when the elephants are mistreated or not handled properly. A British national and other tourists have been killed and seriously injured when handlers have lost control of their elephants.

Take particular care when swimming off coastal areas, especially during monsoon season. Strong riptides have drowned people in several areas including Phuket, Koh Chang, Hua Hin, Cha-am, Rayong, 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. Their sting can be fatal. If in doubt take local advice from hotel management and dive centres.

Take care when swimming, diving, kayaking or white water rafting in rivers or close to waterfalls, particularly in the rainy season. Currents can be extremely strong.

If you rent jet skis or water sports equipment, satisfy yourself that adequate safety precautions are in place. Rent only from reputable, licensed and insured operators, thoroughly check for damage before use and insist on training.

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 make sure you’re covered by your insurance. If you’ve had no previous diving experience ask your dive operator to explain what cover they offer before signing up for a course. Make sure 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.

Terrorism

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Thailand. Bomb and grenade attacks have been indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. There were explosions in Bangkok in April and May 2017. You should take care, particularly in public places, follow the advice of the local authorities and monitor local media reports. The Thai authorities have on a number of occasions warned of the possibility of attacks to coincide with symbolic dates or holidays.

In October 2016, the Thai authorities say they disrupted planned attacks in Bangkok. Further incidents are possible throughout Thailand.

In August 2016, there were a multiple explosions and incidents in tourist areas across Thailand (including Hua Hin, Trang, Krabi, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Patong and Loma in Phuket, Surat Thani, and Khao Lak in Phang Nga) involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and incendiary devices.

There have also been attacks in the past in the main cities of Thailand, including in Bangkok. In 2015 a bomb exploded at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, resulting in numerous casualties, including the death of a British national. In February 2015 there were 2 explosions at the Siam station of Bangkok’s Skytrain (BTS) system, near the entrance to the Siam Paragon shopping mall. Other explosions happened in Koh Samui in 2015, and in Chiang Mai in 2010.

Since 2004, there have been almost daily attacks in Thailand’s deep south, including arson, bombings and shootings. Targets have included civilians and members of the security forces, government offices, tourist hotels, discos, bars, shops, marketplaces, supermarkets, schools, transport infrastructure and trains. Over 6,000 people have been killed and several thousand more injured. No British nationals have been killed in these attacks, but some foreigners have been killed and injured.

Martial law has been in place in the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and in the Sadao district of Songkhla province since 2006. The security authorities can detain suspects without charge, censor the media, conduct searches and seize documents. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Thailand. Entry to Thailand is normally refused if you have a passport which is damaged or has pages missing.

If you’re a dual national you must make sure that when you depart Thailand you have a valid passport of the nationality used to enter, otherwise you may have difficulty in leaving.

Visas

British passport holders arriving by air or land can enter Thailand for 30 days without a visa – this is known as a visa exemption. If you need to stay longer, it’s possible to extend your stay once, from the expiry date of the original visa, for up to 30 days.

If you’re using the 30 day visa exemption you can only enter Thailand through a land border twice per calendar year. To cross more frequently, you’ll need to get a visa in advance of travelling. This doesn’t apply to entry by air into Thailand. You should contact the nearest Thai embassy or consulate for more information.

If you plan to stay in Thailand for longer than 30 days, intend to work, or use land borders regularly you must get a visa before you travel. If you’ve entered Thailand on a visa, it’s possible to apply for an extension of stay but you must do this before your permission to stay expires.

If you overstay, you’ll be fined 500 baht per day up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. You also risk being held in detention, fined, deported at your own expense and black-listed from re-entering Thailand. The Thai authorities have stated that they will always enforce detention for overstays of more than 42 days. Since March 2016, you’ll be banned from re-entering Thailand if you overstay your visa. Check with the Thai Immigration Authority for details.

The only legal way of getting 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.

Proof of onward travel

Immigration officials in Thailand may ask you for proof of onward travel (e.g. a return or onward air ticket). You should make all reservations before leaving for Thailand. Some airlines have refused to board passengers without evidence of onward travel.

Employment

To work in Thailand you will need a work permit, which is difficult and time-consuming to get. If you enter Thailand on a tourist visa you’re not allowed to work. Failure to observe this rule can lead to arrest and deportation.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Thailand. If you’re planning to enter Thailand using a UK Emergency Travel Document you should contact the nearest Thai Embassy or Consulate before you travel to seek advice about whether a visa is required.

Local laws and customs

Following the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej there’s an official period of mourning lasting until midnight on 27 October 2017. The cremation ceremony will take place between 25 and 27 October 2017. You should respect the feelings and sensitivities of the Thai people at this time. You should behave respectfully, consider wearing black or dark/sombre colours, check local media regularly, and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Conditions in prisons and other detention facilities in Thailand are harsh, with limited access to healthcare. There have been recent cases of detainees dying in custody.

Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind. Possession of even very small quantities can lead to imprisonment. If you are found guilty of being in possession of marijuana you could receive a long prison sentence and/or a heavy fine. If you’re found guilty of being in possession of 20 grams of a Class A drug at a point of exit from Thailand you risk receiving the death penalty. Amphetamines and ecstasy are regarded as Class A drugs and possession or trafficking carries the same penalty as heroin.

It is illegal to import more than 200 cigarettes per person into Thailand and this is enforced at customs at the airport on arrival; those who exceed the limit may be fined ten times the value of the items and face confiscation of the cigarettes.

You can’t bring vaporisers (like e-cigarettes and e-baraku) or refills into Thailand. These items are likely to be confiscated and you could be fined or sent to prison for up to 10 years if convicted. The sale or supply of e-cigarettes and similar devices is also banned and you could face a heavy fine or up to 5 years imprisonment if found guilty. Several British Nationals have been arrested for possession of vaporisers and e-cigarettes.

It’s illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade its parts without a licence. Thailand is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It has also recently strengthened domestic legislation, banning trade in ivory. Those caught buying or trafficking these items could be prosecuted and receive prison sentences or fines.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

There are excellent private hospitals in Thailand but they can be expensive. Public hospitals and clinics in Thailand are not always up to UK standards, particularly outside Bangkok and in the coastal islands. Many hospitals require guarantee of payment before they will start treatment. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 1669 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Medications which are only available on prescription in the UK like Viagra, Cialis and Valium are readily available in popular nightlife districts across Thailand. Medication sold on the street is unlikely to be genuine and may have been stolen. Taking medication without medical advice or a prescription can have serious health consequences.

UK health authorities have classified Thailand as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Dengue fever is present in Thailand. You should take mosquito bite avoidance measures.

There are confirmed reports of hand, foot and mouth disease throughout Thailand.

During March and April there is often smoke haze and resulting poor air quality across parts of the north and north-east of Thailand. This air pollution may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthmatic conditions. Keep up-to-date with local information and seek medical advice on appropriate precautions. Regular air quality reports for Thailand (and the ASEAN region) are available from the Singapore Meteorological Service.

Money

The currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht.

If you’re changing money in Thailand, it may not be possible to exchange Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes.

Natural disasters

Rainy 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. Heavy storms during the monsoon can cause disruption and damage including flooding and landslides. However, the monsoon seasons have been unpredictable in recent years.

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

Lakes, caves and waterfalls are particularly prone to dangerous flash flooding during the rainy season.

Earthquakes

Northern Thailand can be subject to earthquakes and tremors of varying magnitude.

The Earthquake Track website lists recent seismic activity. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.