Thailand travel guide
The attractions of Thailand are myriad – ruined cities, ancient monasteries, Buddhist monks, colourful hill tribes, floating markets, rave parties, dense rainforests, exotic wildlife, tropical islands, golden beaches and pristine coral reefs. Then there’s Bangkok, the most exuberant capital city in Southeast Asia, which would justify a trip to Thailand all by itself.
The Thai people are famously hospitable, and Thailand was one of the first corners of Southeast Asia to really open up to outsiders – helped by the 19th-century king of Siam Rama IV and his love of all things Western. It was Rama IV who launched Thailand on the path to modernisation, and also persuaded his people to swap chopsticks for knives and forks.
This travel smorgasbord has attracted everyone from backpackers to billionaires, and visitors can find any level of comfort they desire, from hippy hostels to five-star palaces. If anything, Thailand has become more upmarket as a destination since its backpacker heyday, with air-conditioning everywhere and almost every hotel offering Thai massages and spa treatments.
As well as relaxation – and what could be more relaxing than a massage on the beach? – Thailand is a place for adventure. The beaches and islands of the south call out to scuba divers, rock-climbers and water sports enthusiasts, while the dense jungles of the north are a natural playground for trekkers and wildlife spotters. Try bathing under a waterfall in an orchid-filled jungle clearing – you won't forget it.
Then there’s the cuisine – one of the world’s finest, and certainly one of the spiciest. From fine restaurants to street stalls and night markets, Thailand always seems to have a fork in its hand. Above all else, though, Thailand is a place to feel at ease – stroll along the sand, take tea with a monk, snorkel over a coral reef, and let the stresses of modern life slowly slip away.
513,120 sq km (198,120 sq miles)
68,863,514 (UN estimate 2016)
135 per sq km
HM King Vajiralongkorn = Rama X since December 2016.
Interim Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan since 2022.
For security reasons, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises against all but essential travel to:
- Southern Songkhla province. This does not include areas north of and including the A43 road between Hat Yai and Sakom, and areas north-west of the train line which runs between Hat Yai and Pedang Besar
The FCDO advises against using the Hat Yai to Pedang Besar train line, which was attacked in December 2022.
Before you travel, check the ‘Entry requirements’ section for Thailand’s current entry restrictions and requirements. These may change with little warning. Monitor this advice for the latest updates and stay in contact with your travel provider.
If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting.
It is more important than ever to get travel insurance and check it provides sufficient cover. See the FCDO’s guidance on foreign travel insurance.
On average approximately one million British nationals visit Thailand every year, most visits are trouble free.
Avoid any protests or political gatherings and be wary of making public political statements. Lèse-majesté (criticism of the monarchy in any form) is a crime, which can be broadly interpreted and can carry a long jail sentence. See Political situation
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Thailand. The authorities have on a number of occasions warned of the possibility of attacks to coincide with symbolic dates or holidays. Take care, particularly in public places, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media reports. See Terrorism
Urban areas across Thailand, especially in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, can experience poor air quality and high PM 2.5 counts, occasionally entering the unhealthy and hazardous levels. See Air quality
Make sure you research local laws and customs before you travel. Laws and penalties can be different from the UK. Conviction for possession, distribution or manufacture of drugs can lead to the death penalty. See Local laws and customs
There are a high number of road traffic accidents in Thailand especially involving motorcycles. See Road travel
The rainy season in much of Thailand is from May to October. See Rainy season
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. If you need to contact local emergency services, call 1155 (tourist police) or 1669 (emergency medical services).
If you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission.
If you’re living in Thailand or planning to stay for a longer period, check the Living in Thailand guide in addition to this travel advice.
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.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Thailand on the TravelHealthPro website
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you have severe symptoms, or any questions related to COVID-19 whilst you’re in Thailand, you should call the Thai COVID-19 Hotline on 1422.
More information can be found on the PR Thai Government page.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
Sign up for travel advice alerts and follow the British Embassy on Twitter and Facebook.
The political situation in Thailand can be volatile. In recent years, there have been instances of civil and political unrest. You should avoid any protests, political gatherings, demonstrations or marches.
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 have faced criminal charges, including for defamation, sedition, and under the Computer Crimes Act for raising concerns, making political comments, and sharing articles online that could been seen as portraying Thailand negatively or making accusations about individuals.
If you’re the victim of a crime in Thailand and wish to report it to the Thai police you should do so before leaving the country. If you do not, your case may not be investigated. Be aware that the way the media report crime is different from the UK. Local authorities, including the police, may give detailed press briefings.
Be aware that posting images on social media of people drinking alcohol or wearing inappropriate clothing can result in fines and/or imprisonment both for the person who uploaded the images and the people in them.
Be on your guard against pickpockets and bag snatchers, especially from thieves on motorbikes or when travelling in open transport like tuk tuks. Make sure valuables are kept securely and out of sight. Passengers on buses and trains have had items taken from bags while asleep.
Violent crime, including gun crime, rarely involves foreign tourists, although in 2018 several foreign nationals were victims of gun violence in Bangkok. You should take care when travelling in unfamiliar areas and avoid walking through less travelled areas alone, especially at night.
Serious crimes take place throughout Thailand, and sometimes British Nationals are affected. Violent sexual assaults and unprovoked attacks have been reported in tourist destinations across Thailand. These are particularly common during Full Moon parties and other similar events and late at night near bars. Drink spiking and drug assisted sexual assault have been reported in tourist destinations around Thailand, with both male and female victims. Be careful about taking drinks from strangers or leaving your drinks unattended. Crimes involving guns take place in Thailand, and foreign nationals have sometimes been victims of gun crime.
Scams and fraud
You should remain alert to the prospect of scams in Thailand. General advice about online and financial scams can be found on the Citizens Advice and Financial Conduct Authority websites.
Be aware of job offers that appear ‘too good to be true’. There have been cases of people arriving in Thailand and then being illegally transported to neighbouring countries on the promise of high paying jobs, which turn out to be scams. When you re-enter Thailand you may then be detained whilst your immigration status is validated.
There have been incidents of:
- passport confiscation by scammers
- victims being held in poor living conditions
- coercion into undertaking wider online scamming activity
- pressure by scammers to make large payments in order to be released from these sham jobs.
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.
Buying a property in Thailand isn’t straightforward and you should be aware of local laws and consult a lawyer before making any financial commitments – British people have been victims of property scams in the past.
Don’t hand over your passport to third parties as a guarantee (e.g. to motorcycle or jet ski rental businesses) as companies may hold on to passports against claimed damage.
Be on your guard against pickpockets and bag snatchers, especially from thieves on motorbikes or when travelling in open transport like tuk tuks. Make sure valuables are kept securely and out of sight. Passengers on buses and trains have had items taken from bags while asleep.
The security situation in Myanmar is unpredictable and liable to change without notice. See Travel Advice for Myanmar.
You should take extra care in border areas and follow the instructions of the local authorities. The line of the international border near the Preah Vihear temple was disputed by Cambodia and Thailand. There are unexploded landmines in the border area, you should stay on marked paths especially around Ta Krabey.
Remain alert to the local situation when travelling anywhere near to the border with Cambodia, and at land crossings between the two countries.
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. You should follow the instructions of the local authorities and be vigilant in the border areas.
The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines, but the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
There are a high number of road traffic accidents in Thailand especially involving motorcycles. The World Health Organisation (WHO) rates Thailand as the world’s deadliest countries for fatalities on motorcycles.
To drive a car or ride a motorcycle in Thailand, under Thai law you must have the correct licence and appropriate insurance for the category of vehicle you’re using. You will need to apply for a Thai driving licence or, if you already hold a UK licence, an International Driving Permit. If you drive a car or ride a motorcycle in Thailand without a valid licence, this may invalidate your travel insurance if you have an accident or injury.
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.
Under Thai law, you must wear a helmet when riding motorcycles.
From 5 September 2022 all passengers in vehicles, including backseat passengers, must wear seatbelts. Under the Land Traffic Act you could be fined up to 2,000 Baht if you do not comply.
Rail travel is generally safe in Thailand, though you should be on your guard against pickpockets and bag snatchers.
There are numerous passenger boat services operating between the mainland and islands. There have been some sinkings and collisions which have resulted in fatalities, including of British nationals. These incidents are usually due to overloading and/or poor maintenance, but also due to rough seas, particularly during local monsoon season.
Adventurous activities and swimming
Check that your insurance covers you for the activities you wish to partake in.
When trekking use a reliable, licensed tour guide. Elephant treks and rides can be dangerous, especially when the elephants are mistreated or not handled properly. Foreign tourists, including British nationals, 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. 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.
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.
You should also ask about contingency plans that should include the ability to call for help while at sea and to evacuate divers to the nearest hyperbaric chamber if necessary.
Travellers with limited mobility
Wheelchair access is often limited across Thailand due to uneven paving, street furniture and a lack of lifts, ramps, etc. This includes buses, public transit systems, and many taxis have limited storage space for wheelchairs. See our general information on planning a safe trip for disabled travellers.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Thailand.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.
In the past, there have been attacks throughout Thailand, including in Bangkok and other parts of the country:
- On 2 August 2019, coinciding with the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting, a number of small explosions occurred in Bangkok.
- On 10 March 2019, a number of small explosions occurred in Satun City and in Patthalung Province in the south of Thailand.
- In December 2018, there were a series of small explosions on Samila beach in Songkhla City.
- In April and May 2017, there were several explosions in Bangkok.
- In August 2016, there were 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.
- A large bomb exploded at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok in 2015, resulting in numerous casualties, including the death of a British national.
Bomb and grenade attacks have been indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should take care, particularly in public places, follow the advice of the local authorities and monitor local media reports.
The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Thailand’s southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, and to southern Songkhla province. There are regular attacks in these areas. Methods of attack can include arson, bombings and shootings. Targets are often members of the security forces and government officers, but attacks have also taken place against hotels, shops, supermarkets, and transport infrastructure and trains. Over 7,700 people, including civilians, have been killed and several thousand more injured since 2004.
Martial law is in place most areas within these provinces.
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.
This page has information on travelling to Thailand.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Thailand set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Thailand’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.
You do not need to present COVID-19 related document such as certificate of vaccination and COVID-19 test results upon arrival in or transit through Thailand.
As of 9 January, if you are visiting Thailand and then travelling to a country that requires a RT-PCR test for entry, you will need to purchase medical insurance prior to your arrival in Thailand that provides cover for Covid-19 treatment.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
Your passport must have at least 6 months’ validity remaining from your date of entry into Thailand. You may be refused entry to Thailand if your passport is damaged or has pages missing.
If you’re a dual national, you must leave Thailand on the same passport you used to enter. If you do not, you may experience difficulties as you pass through immigration.
British passport holders arriving by air or land can enter Thailand for 30 days without a visa (a ‘visa exemption’).
If you wish to stay in Thailand for more than 30 days, or wish to work in Thailand, you need a valid visa, which you must obtain before you travel. You are legally required to have a valid passport in Thailand. If you need to renew or apply for a new British passport, see Overseas British passport applications.
If you have queries about visas or entry requirements, you can speak to either the Royal Thai Embassy, Thai Immigration Bureau, Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or local Immigration Office.
If you plan to stay for more than 30 days or you will work in Thailand, you must get the appropriate visa before you travel. For more information, contact the nearest Thai Embassy or Consulate.
If you stay beyond the period of your visa (‘overstay’ your visa), you will be fined 500 baht per day up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. You also risk being held in detention, deported at your own expense, and banned from re-entering Thailand for up to 10 years. The enforcement of penalties for overstaying is strict, and conditions in detention centres can be harsh.
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 (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Thailand. The purpose of the visit to Thailand using an ETD and whether approval is granted, is entirely at the discretion of the Thai authorities. They consider applications on a case-by-case basis. If you are planning to enter Thailand using a UK ETD, you should contact the nearest Thai Embassy or Consulate before you travel to seek advice about whether an ETD will be accepted and if so is a visa required.
There are some differences between UK and Thai local laws and customs that you should be aware of.
The British Embassy in Bangkok has produced a short video on Facebook and Twitter about some important things to be aware of when living or travelling in Thailand.
Thailand is generally a safe place for LGBT+ travellers. Same-sex relationships are not criminalised by law.
Thailand has no legislation on same-sex marriage and same-sex marriages conducted elsewhere aren’t recognised. See our information and advice page for the LGBT+ community.
Thailand has strict laws against drug use, possession, and trafficking. Possession of even small quantities of illegal substances can lead to heavy fines or imprisonment, and possession of Class A drugs can lead to the death penalty.
As of 9 June 2022, private recreational use of cannabis is legal if THC content is below 0.2% by weight, but cannabis use in public places remains illegal. Cultivation, consumption, distribution and sales of cannabis products is legal, although some restrictions remain in place - you should check with the relevant local authorities if you are unsure. More information on usage and registration can be found on PR Thai Government.
It is illegal to import more than 200 cigarettes per person into Thailand. This is enforced at customs on arrival. Those who exceed the limit may be fined ten times the value of the items and face confiscation of the cigarettes.
Smoking in public could result in a fine of up to 5,000 Baht. This includes electronic cigarettes which are illegal in Thailand and their use may incur further fines or imprisonment.
Thailand is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It’s illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade its parts without a licence and the ivory trade is banned.
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.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest health advice on travelling to Thailand from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. This has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy whilst in the country. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re in Thailand.
Some prescribed and over the counter medicines that are available in the UK are considered controlled substances in Thailand. Restrictions tend to apply to medication containing narcotic and psychotropic substances, which means that you may not be able to bring certain types of medicine into Thailand. You can find more information on the website of the Royal Thai Embassy. You can find further guidance on the NaTHNaC website on best practice when travelling with medicines.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Health care in Thailand
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 1669 and ask for an ambulance. You should maintain close contact with your insurance/medical company throughout.
Thailand and the UK do not have reciprocal healthcare agreements. You should buy comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you enter the country. All hospitals require guarantee of payment before treating patients. Make sure you have adequate health insurance and accessible funds to cover all costs.
Private hospitals in Thailand are of a high standard but they can be expensive.
Public hospitals and clinics in Thailand do not always meet UK standards, particularly outside Bangkok.
Prescriptions issued in the UK are widely accepted at hospitals and pharmacies across Thailand. Patented brand name medication can often be considerably more expensive than locally produced equivalents.
Medication sold on the street may not be genuine and/or may have been stolen. Taking medication without medical advice or a prescription can have serious health consequences.
Dengue Fever is present in Thailand and in some cases can be fatal.
Rabies has been reported in domestic and wild animals, and there have been fatalities. You should avoid direct contact with animals and take precautions to protect yourself.
UK health authorities have classified Thailand as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with the Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
To avoid Dengue Fever, Zika Virus and other mosquito-borne viruses, you should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
High levels of air pollution can occur in major urban areas, including in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, which is also affected by seasonal regional smoke haze. The high pollution and PM 2.5 counts, occasionally enter the unhealthy and hazardous levels. This may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be especially affected. You can check air quality levels for many cities in real time on the World Air Quality Index website.
The currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht. It may not be possible to exchange Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes.
Heavy storms can cause disruption including from flooding and landslides. Lakes, caves and waterfalls are particularly prone to dangerous flash flooding during the rainy season.
The rainy season in much of Thailand is from May to October. In Koh Samui and the south east of Thailand it is from November to March. However, the rainy seasons have been unpredictable in recent years.
You should keep up to date with updates and weather warnings from the Thai Meteorological Department.
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.
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 FCDO in London on 020 7008 5000 (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.
The FCDO 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 FCDO 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 FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.
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, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.