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.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin since 2023.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Areas where FCDO advises against travel
Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against FCDO advice. Consular support is also severely limited where FCDO advises against travel.
FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Pattani province.
FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Yala province.
FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Narathiwat province.
Southern Songkhla province
FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Southern Songkhla province, except for:
- the areas north of and including the A43 road between Hat Yai and Sakom
- the areas north-west of the train line which runs between Hat Yai and Padang Besar
Hat Yai to Padang Besar train line
FCDO advises against all but essential travel on the Hat Yai to Padang Besar train line.
Find out more about why FCDO advises against travel.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:
- advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
- information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Thailand set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Royal Thai Embassy in the UK.
Countries may restrict travel or bring in rules at short notice. Check with your travel company or airline for changes.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
You should also read TravelHealthPro’s general COVID-19 advice for travellers.
Travel to Thailand
If you are visiting Thailand and then travelling to a country that requires an RT-PCR test for entry, you will need to buy medical insurance that covers COVID-19 treatment before you arrive in Thailand.
Passport validity requirements
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from when you enter Thailand.
You could be refused entry to Thailand if your passport is damaged or has pages missing.
If you’re a dual national, to avoid problems at immigration, you must leave Thailand on the same passport you used to enter.
If you need to renew or apply for a new British passport, see overseas British passport applications.
British passport holders arriving by air or land can enter Thailand for 30 days without a visa (visa exemption).
If you intend to stay longer (for work, study or other reasons) you need a visa before you travel.
For more information on visas or entry requirements, contact the Royal Thai Embassy or local Immigration Office.
Overstaying your visa
If you stay beyond the period of your visa, you will be fined 500 Thai baht a day up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. You risk being:
- held in detention
- deported at your own expense
- banned from re-entering Thailand for up to 10 years
Conditions in detention centres can be harsh.
Vaccination requirements (other than COVID-19)
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need on TravelHealthPro.
Depending on your circumstances, this may include a yellow fever vaccination certificate.
There are strict rules about goods that can be brought into and taken out of Thailand. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
It is illegal to import more than 200 cigarettes per person into Thailand. This is enforced at customs on arrival. If you go over the limit, you could be fined 10 times the value. Your cigarettes will likely be confiscated.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.
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 how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Thailand
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Thailand.
FCDO advises against all but essential travel to the following due to regular terrorist attacks:
- Pattani province
- Yala province
- Narathiwat province
- Southern Songkhla province, except for the areas north of and including the A43 road between Hat Yai and Sakom; and the areas north-west of the train line which runs between Hat Yai and Padang Besar
- Hat Yai to Padang Besar train line, which was attacked in 2022
Martial law is in place in most areas in these provinces, which means security forces have greater security enforcement and investigative powers.
However, terrorist attacks could take place anywhere in Thailand. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Stay aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities.
Targets might include:
- security forces
- government offices
- shops and supermarkets
- transport infrastructure
Recent attacks include:
- in 2019, there were a number of small explosions in Bangkok Satun City, and Phatthalung province in the south of Thailand
- in 2018, there was a series of small explosions on Samila beach in Songkhla City
The political situation can be unpredictable and has led to periods of civil and political unrest. Avoid protests, political gatherings, demonstrations and marches.
Police may ask to check your passport. If you do not have it with you, you could be arrested.
Reporting a crime
Report any crime to the Thai police before you leave Thailand. Your case may not be investigated if you try to report it later.
Local authorities, including the police, may pass details of a crime, including photos, to the media without a person’s consent.
Protecting your belongings
- be aware of pickpockets and bag snatchers, especially thieves on motorbikes
- take care when travelling in open transport like tut-tuts
- keep valuables secure and out of sight
- avoid sleeping on buses and trains – people have had items taken from bags while asleep
Keep hold of your passport. Don’t hand it over as a guarantee, for example to motorcycle or jet ski rental businesses. Companies may hold on to passports against claimed damage.
Violent crime, including gun crime, rarely involves tourists. However several foreign nationals were victims of gun violence in Bangkok in 2018. Take care when travelling in unfamiliar areas and avoid walking through isolated areas alone, especially at night.
Violent sexual assaults and unprovoked attacks can happen in tourist areas across Thailand. Attacks are most common during full moon parties or similar events, and near bars late at night.
Drink spiking and drug-assisted sexual assault does happen in tourist areas around Thailand, with male and female victims. Do not leave your drinks unattended or accept drinks from strangers.
Be drink aware
Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. Alcohol and drugs can make you less alert and less aware of your environment. This can make you more vulnerable to accidents, injuries, robbery and assaults.
Be aware of credit card fraud. Do not lose sight of your card during transactions. There have been incidents of ATM skimming. Use an ATM in a bank and always protect your PIN.
Be wary of job offers that appear too good to be true. People have arrived in Thailand and been 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 while your immigration status is validated.
There have been incidents of:
- passports confiscated by scammers
- victims being held in poor living conditions
- coercion into undertaking wider online scamming activity
- pressure to make large payments to be released from sham jobs
Conditions in prisons and other detention facilities in Thailand are harsh, with limited access to healthcare. Detainees have died in custody.
Laws and cultural differences
You should be aware of differences between UK and Thai law and local customs.
The British Embassy in Bangkok has a video on what to be aware of when living or travelling in Thailand:
Criticising the Thai monarchy
Criticising the Thai monarchy (lèse-majesté) is illegal. The law can be interpreted broadly and carries a long jail sentence. British and Thai journalists, human rights defenders, and members of the public have faced charges for raising concerns, making political comments, sharing articles online that could been seen as negative towards Thailand, or making accusations about individuals.
Posting images on social media
Posting images on social media of people drinking alcohol or wearing clothing considered inappropriate can be illegal. Both the person who uploaded the images and the people in them could be fined or imprisoned.
Smoking and e-cigarette bans
While cigarettes are common, you could be fined up to 5,000 Thai baht for smoking them in public. E-cigarettes are illegal. You could be fined or imprisoned for using them.
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
Thailand has strict laws against drug use, possession and trafficking. Possessing small quantities of illegal substances can lead to heavy fines or imprisonment. Possessing Class A drugs can lead to the death penalty.
Private recreational use of cannabis is legal if the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content is below 0.2% by weight. Cannabis use in public places is illegal. The Ministry of Public Health has made it legal to grow, use, distribute and sell cannabis products, but this has not been enshrined in law so some restrictions may remain. Check with the local authorities if you are unsure.
See more information on usage, and registration for distributing or selling cannabis, on PR Thai Government (Thai Ministry of Public Health).
Some British nationals have suffered severe psychiatric problems because of drug use, sometimes leading to suicide.
While cannabis is legal in Thailand in certain circumstances, be aware of the next place you are travelling to, where it may be illegal. This includes residual amounts, for example in bags, clothing or blood.
Under UK law, cannabis remains a Class B drug, and it is illegal to take cannabis into the UK.
Thailand is generally a safe place for LGBT+ travellers.
Thailand has no legislation on same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriages are not legally recognised. Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
Wildlife, animal products and souvenirs
It’s illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade its parts without a license. Ivory trade is banned.
Buying property in Thailand
Buying property in Thailand is not straightforward. Make sure you understand local laws and consult a lawyer before making financial commitments. British people have been victims of property scams.
Elephant treks can be dangerous, especially if elephants are mistreated or not handled properly. Use a reliable, licensed tour guide. British nationals have been seriously injured and killed because handlers have lost control of the elephant.
Take care when swimming off coastal areas, especially during monsoon season. People have drowned in strong riptides. You should:
- follow warning signs, especially red flags
- only swim from approved beaches, with flags
Jellyfish can swim close to the shore, particularly during the rainy season. Jellyfish stings can be fatal. 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.
Diving schools and rescue service standards are not always as high as in the UK. Check the dive operator’s credentials 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
- check safety equipment is available on the boat
Check that they have appropriate plans in place for emergencies, including their ability to get assistance to evacuate divers to the nearest hyperbaric chamber.
Road traffic accidents
Thailand has a high number of road traffic accidents, particularly with motorcycles. The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks Thailand as one of the world’s deadliest countries for fatalities on motorcycles.
Licenses and permits
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, it could invalidate your travel insurance if you have an accident or injury.
Car and motorcycle hire
Motorcycles and scooters for hire in beach resorts are often unregistered and cannot 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.
Do not hand over your passport as a guarantee against returning a motorcycle or scooter.
By law, you must wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle.
Lots of passenger boat services operate between the mainland and islands. Boats can sink or collide, which has led to fatalities, including of British nationals. Accidents are usually due to:
- poor maintenance
- rough seas, particularly during monsoon season
Travellers with limited mobility
Wheelchair access is often limited across Thailand due to uneven paving, obstacles and a lack of facilities such as lifts and ramps. This includes public transport systems. Many taxis have limited storage space for wheelchairs.
See FCDO advice on disability and travelling abroad.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
The rainy season is generally from May to October. In Koh Samui and the south east of Thailand it is from November to March. However, the rainy season has been more unpredictable recently.
Heavy storms cause disruption including flooding and landslides. Lakes, caves and waterfalls are particularly at risk of dangerous flash flooding.
Follow the Thai Meteorological Department for weather warnings.
Earthquakes and tremors can happen in Northern Thailand.
Earthquake Track lists recent activity.
See the US Federal Emergency Management Agency for what to do in an earthquake.
Take extra care in border areas and follow the instructions of local authorities. The line of the international border near the Preah Vihear temple is disputed by Cambodia and Thailand. There are unexploded landmines in the border area. Stay on marked paths especially around Ta Krabey.
Stay alert to the local situation when travelling anywhere near to the border with Cambodia, and at land crossings between the 2 countries.
Not all land border crossings into Laos are open to foreigners. You may need to get a Laos visa before you arrive to cross the border. Follow the instructions of local authorities and be vigilant in the border areas.
The security situation in Myanmar is unpredictable and liable to change without notice. See travel advice for Myanmar.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Dial 1669 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on vaccinations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s Thailand guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
Health risks in Thailand include:
- Zika virus
- dengue fever
See the ‘Other risks’ section of the TravelHealthPro Thailand guide for more on health risks.
To avoid mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue fever and Zika virus, take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
There can be high levels of air pollution in large cities. This includes Bangkok and Chiang Mai, which are also affected by seasonal regional smoke haze from the burning of trees. The high pollution and particulate count sometimes reach dangerous levels. This may worsen bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions.
Check air quality levels for many cities on the World Air Quality Index website.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
Hospitals and pharmacies across Thailand will usually accept UK prescriptions. Brand name medication can often be more expensive than locally produced medication.
Medication sold on the street may not be genuine or may have been stolen. Taking medication without medical advice or a prescription can have serious health consequences.
Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro. The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in Thailand
FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Thailand. All hospitals require guarantee of payment before treating patients. Make sure you have adequate health insurance.
Private hospitals in Thailand are of a high standard but can be expensive. Public hospitals and clinics do not always meet UK standards, particularly outside Bangkok.
COVID-19 healthcare in Thailand
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 risk for Thailand on TravelHealthPro.If you have severe symptoms, or any questions related to COVID-19, while in Thailand, call the Thai COVID-19 Hotline on 1422. There is more information on the PR Thai Government Facebook page.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Thailand
Telephone: 1669 (ambulance, fire, police)
Ambulance: hotline 1669
Fire: hotline 199
Police: hotline 191
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters in Thailand
- dealing with a death in Thailand
- being arrested in Thailand
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you are affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
Help abroad in an emergency
If you are abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy Bangkok.
You can also contact FCDO online
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
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.