Thailand is known for its tolerance and hospitality, and the average tourist will have no difficulty in adjusting to the local customs All the same, as when coming into any unfamiliar society, a visitor may find it helpful to be aware of certain do's and don't's, and thus avoid making accidental misunderstanding. Basically, most of these are simply a matter of common sense and good manners not really all that different from the way one would behave in one's own country but a few are special enough to be pointed out.
Dress & Nudity
Shorts (except knee- length walking shorts), sleeveless shirts, tank tops (singles) and other beach-style attire are not considered appropriate dress for anything other than sport g events. Such dress is especially counterproductive if worn to government offices (eg when applying for a visa extension). The attitude of 'This is how 1 dress at home and no-one is going to stop me' gains nothing but contempt or disrespect from the Thais.
Sandals or slip-on shoes are OK for almost any but the most formal occasions. Short-sleeved shirts and blouses with capped sleeves likewise are quite acceptable.
Thais would never dream of going abroad and wearing dirty clothes, so they are often shocked to see westerners travelling around Thailand in clothes that apparently haven't been washed in weeks. If you keep up with your laundry you'll receive much better treatment everywhere you go.
Regardless of what the Thais may or may not have been accustomed to centuries ago, they are quite offended by public nudity today. Bathing nude at beaches in Thailand is illegal. If you are at a truly deserted beach and are sure no Thais may come along, there's nothing stopping you - however, at most beaches travellers should wear suitable attire. Likewise, topless bathing for females is frowned upon in most places except on heavily-touristed islands like Phuket, Samui and Samet. According to Thailand's National Parks Act, any woman who goes topless on a national park beach (eg KO Chang, KO Phi Phi, Ko Samet) is breaking the law.
Many Thais say that nudity and topless sun- bathing on the beaches is what bothers them most about foreign travellers. These Thais take nudity as a sign of disrespect for the locals, rather than as a libertarian symbol or modem custom. Thais are extremely modest in this respect (Patpong-style go-go bars are cultural aberrations, hidden from public view and designed for foreign consumption) and it should not be the visitor's intention to 'reform' them.
1. Beware of unauthorized people who offer their services as guides. Contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)'s counters for all tourist information. The TAT's counters are located in the Arrival Hall of the Bangkok International Airport; at Terminal 1 Tel: 523-8972-3, or at Terminal 2 Tel: 535-2669 from 08.00 to 24.00 hrs.; at the main office on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue Tel: 281 -0422 during working hours of 08.30 to 16.30 hrs.
2. Visitors are advised to use the hotel taxi service at their hotel if they do not know their way around or cannot speak the local language.
3. Observe all normal precautions as regards to personal safety, as well as the safety of your belongings. Walking alone on quiet streets or deserted areas is not recommended. Be sure that all your valuables -money, jewellery, and airline tickets- are properly protected from loss.
4. Use the service of only registered travel agents.
5. Visitors needing assistance relating to safety, unethical practices, or other matters, please call the Tourist Assistance Centre immediately (Tel: 281 -5051, 282-8129) or contact the Tourist Police (Tel: 678-6800- 9 or 1699)
6. Penalties for drug offences are very severe in Thailand, do not get yourself involved with drugs.
7. Please drop your garbage into a waste container. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is now strictly enforcing the law in an effort to keep the city clean and healthy. The fine (maximum 2,000 baht) will be imposed on a person who spits, discards cigarette stubs, or drops rubbish in public areas.
Below is the latest Travel Info from the British Embassy. I have to say what total crap about approaching the soldiers by the tanks. Thai people and other people including me have had ther picture taken next to them. The soldiers are helpful and friendly.
- On 19 September 2006, the Thai Army Commander, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, announced that he had established a Reform Council to take over the administration of the country. A nationwide state of martial law has been declared. The situation in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand remains calm, but the British Embassy is continuing to monitor the situation closely.
- If you are currently in Bangkok, you should use discretion when travelling around the city and refrain from approaching military vehicles and personnel. If you intend to travel to, or are currently in Thailand, you should monitor all available information on the local situation and keep in contact with your tour operator. You should also avoid the areas surrounding Government buildings and locations where large crowds appear to be gathering, as well as any demonstrations. The Thai/Burma border is currently closed, but border posts with other neighbouring countries remain open.
- 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. Since January 2004, there have been regular attacks including bombings and shootings. There were a number of explosions in August 2006. On 16 September 2006, four bombs exploded in the town of Hat Yai killing four and injuring approximately 68. Two British nationals were amongst a number of foreign nationals injured in this latest attack. The Thai Government has declared a serious state of emergency in the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.
- There is a high threat from terrorism throughout Thailand. Attacks could be indiscriminate and against places frequented by foreigners.
- Since December 2005, there have been a number of small explosions in Bangkok. The motives for these attacks are not clear.
- In August 2006, three foreign tourists (including two British nationals) died in separate white water rafting accidents. Particular care should be taken when participating in this sport, especially during the rainy season from May to October.
- 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 most recent fatality was in UthaiThani Province in central Thailand on 03 August 2006. The Thai authorities are currently investigating suspected outbreaks in a number of other central, north and north eastern provinces. As a precaution, you should avoid 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. For further information see Health section below and also read the FCO’s Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet.
- The new Bangkok International Airport (Suvarnabhumi Airport) is scheduled to open at 0300 on Thursday 28 September 2006. All domestic and international flights will operate from this airport from this date. A number of airlines are transferring some or all of their flights to Suvarnabhumi in advance of the official opening. If you are in any doubt, you should confirm with your airline which airport your flight will depart from.
- Around 750,000 British tourists visit Thailand every year. The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in Thailand is for arrests (mostly drug related); hospital cases (especially road accidents); and deaths, mostly from natural causes and road accidents. The majority of consular cases occur in Bangkok, Pattaya and KohSamui.
- 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 the activities you want to undertake.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
There is a high threat from terrorism throughout Thailand. Attacks are indiscriminate and could be against places frequented by foreigners. Following the increased violence in the far south, the Thai authorities have taken additional security measures in other parts of the country, including tourist centres and Bangkok.
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.
There has been a series of bombings in these far southern provinces in 2006. On 16 September 2006, four bombs exploded in the town of Hat Yai killing four and injuring approximately 68. Two British nationals were amongst a number of foreign nationals injured in this latest attack. In August 2006, there were a number of explosions.
Since January 2004, there have been almost daily attacks in far south, including arson, over 200 bombings and many more shootings, stabbings and some beheadings. Targets have included civilians and members of the security forces, government offices, tourist hotels and bars, shops, marketplaces, supermarkets, schools, transport infrastructure and trains. Over 1,200 people have been killed and several hundred more injured. No British nationals have been killed in these attacks, but a number have been injured. Other foreign nationals have also been killed an injured.
On 19 July 2005, the Thai Government announced a serious state of emergency in the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, under a new piece of emergency legislation, which gives security authorities significant extra powers. This state of emergency has since been extended. Martial law remains in place in these three provinces. On 3 November 2005, the Thai Government also announced martial law in the Chana and Thepha districts of Songkhla province. A nationwide state of martial law was declared on 19 September. Special security measures have remained in place at all airports since the bombing of HatYaiInternationalAirport in April 2005.
Since December 2005, there have been a number of small explosions in Bangkok. The motives for these attacks are not clear.
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 JamaahIslamiyah is thought to be responsible for these bombings. The Thai authorities have arrested a number of terrorist suspects, most notably a senior leader of JamaahIslamiyah.
On 19 September 2006, the Thai Army Commander, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, announced that he had established a Reform Council to take over the Administration of the country. A nationwide state of martial law has been declared. The Reform Council have also announced the suspension of the 1997 Thai Constitution and have dissolved Parliament, the Senate the Cabinet and the Constitutional Court. The situation in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand remains calm, but the British Embassy in Bangkok is continuing to monitor the situation closely.
If you are currently in Bangkok, you should use discretion when travelling around the city and refrain from approaching military vehicles and personnel. If you intend to travel to, or are currently in Thailand, you should monitor all available information on the local situation and keep in contact with your tour operator. You should also avoid the areas surrounding Government buildings and locations where large crowds appear to be gathering, as well as any demonstrations. The Thai/Burma border is currently closed, but border posts with other neighbouring countries remain open.
There have been a number of major political demonstrations so far this year, in both Bangkok and provincial towns. These passed off peacefully. Further political demonstrations may be arranged at short notice. You should avoid large crowds and public gatherings, as there is a risk of public disorder.
Eleven British nationals have been murdered in Thailand since August 2004.
Unlicensed taxis and minibuses often overcharge tourists for airport transfers. You should ensure that the driver has a working meter or agree a charge for the ride before taking it. There is a cheap, reliable airport bus service to the centre of Bangkok.
Watch out for crimes of opportunity. Theft of passports and credit cards is a problem. Passport fraud is high and penalties are severe.
There have been a number of incidents where tourists have had their drinks drugged (in both tourist areas and red light districts) by prostitutes/transsexuals ("lady boys"). You should be careful about taking drinks from strangers and be wary at parties, particularly the Full Moon party on PhanganIsland. 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 continue to receive reports of sexual offences committed against foreign women and men. 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.
You should be aware of being approached by strangers who offer to take you to gem shops. Once in the shop you may be asked to purchase gems on your credit card. The gems are sent to your home address in the UK. However, they are rarely worth the value you pay for them. It is very difficult to get your money returned as the shops shut down quickly and re-open somewhere else.
As noted above, there has been a resurgence of violence in the far southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla. We recommend against all but essential travel to these four provinces.
Thai to Burma Border
The main towns along the order with Burma are generally safe. But 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. 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/
Travelling to Cambodia
There are two legal land crossing points into and out of Cambodia for foreigners: SrakaewProvince to Poipet, open daily 07:30 hours to 20:00 hours; and KlongYai at Had Lek, TradProvince to Koh Kong, open daily 07:00 hours to 20:00 hours. British nationals need a visa for Cambodia (see travel advice for Cambodia
Crossing to Laos
Visas on arrival are available at the principal entry points, the Thai to LaoFriendshipBridge, LuangPrabang and VientianeAirports, on payment of 30 American Dollars cash and provision of a passport photograph. A prior visa is required at all other entry points; not all are open to foreigners (see travel advice for Laos
On 4 April 2006, there was a bus crash on Koh Samui Island involving 30 foreign tourists. Thai authorities have reported that six British nationals were treated in hospital for minor injuries and then released. One Canadian tourist was detained in hospital.
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 usually mopeds of less than 50cc. They are not registered as a vehicle and cannot, consequently, be used legally on a public road. Motorcycles or scooters of under 50cc are not covered by insurance and if there is an accident, the hirer is responsible for any damage or loss of the vehicle or injury to a third party. When the motorcycle is over 50cc you should check your travel insurance policy carefully to ensure that you are covered. Before you hire a vehicle check the small print of the lease agreement carefully.
You should not hand over your passport as a guarantee against returning a motor scooter or cycle. They can be held to ransom by unscrupulous owners against claimed damage to the motor scooter or cycle.
The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the European Community. The list, which includes Phuket Airlines, can be found at the following link: http://europa.eu.int/comm/transport/air/safety/flywell_en.htm
. Also, the Thai Ministry of Transport grounded Phuket Air's domestically operated YS11 aircraft because of safety concerns on 13 September 2005. If booked on Phuket Airlines, you should check with your ticket provider.
There have been a number of passenger boat sinkings, apparently due to overloading. In January 2005, four British nationals were among 18 people who died near Koh Samui when a speedboat bringing passengers back from the full moon party on KohPhaNgan sank. During the full moon party speedboats to and from KohPhaNgan 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 particular care when swimming off coastal areas, especially during monsoon season (November-March in KohSamui and the south-east of the Thai peninsula and September - October in the remainder of Thailand). Strong riptides have resulted in a number of drownings in several areas including Phuket, Koh Chang, HuaHin/Cha-am and Pattaya and the Samui archipelago. 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: 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.
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. In three separate incidents in August 2006, three foreign tourists (two British nationals) died when their respective white water rafts capsized.
LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
You should not become involved with drugs of any kind. Possession of even very small quantities can lead to imprisonment. Possession of Marijuana can lead to a prison sentence of up to 15 years plus a fine of Baht 150,000 (£2,300). Amphetamines and Ecstasy are regarded as a class A drugs and possession or trafficking of them carries the same penalties as, for example, heroin. Possession of 20 grams, or over, of a class A drug at a point of exit from Thailand results in a charge of illegal possession, possession for distribution and attempt to smuggle and export, i.e. trafficking. A guilty verdict usually attracts the death sentence.
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 original passports 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, punishable by a sentence of 3 to 15 years.
British passport holders are given entry for 30 days, without a visa, on arrival. 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. Entry to Thailand is normally refused if you have a passport with less than six months validity.
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 Thai representation in the UK
An airport tax of 500 Baht per person, not incorporated in tickets, is payable on departure. Foreign currency is not accepted. Airport tax for domestic flights is included in tickets. The exception is Koh Samui where there is a domestic departure tax of 400 Baht per person.
Employment in Thailand
You need a work permit, which is difficult to obtain and time consuming, for legal employment 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. Advertisements, for example, for sales staff or currency trading advisers offering free flights and five star accommodation in Bangkok should be treated with the utmost scepticism. Do not believe employers' claims to be able to circumvent the Thai Immigration Regulations. If in doubt consult Thai representation in the UK
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 the activities you want to undertake. Please see: Travel Insurance
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 the authorisation of next of kin to perform operations on patients and guarantee of payment for the hospital bills from immediate next of kin. You should complete next of kin details in the back of your passports.
Since January 2005 the number of reported cases of Dengue Fever in Thailand, and in particular Southern Thailand has increased sharply. There have been several thousand cases and some deaths. On 23 July 2006, the Thai Ministry of Public Health declared four provinces in the upper Central and lower North regions of Thailand as "red zones" for Dengue Fever. These include Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Sawan, Phichit and Uthai Thani provinces. You should take particular care if travelling to these provinces. The rainy season, which is the peak season for dengue fever, is May to October. You should take adequate precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes. Detailed information about dengue fever is available on the WHO website: http://www.who.int/topics/dengue/en/
and the National Travel Health Network and Centre website: http://www.nathnac.org/pro/factsheets/dengue.htm
Thailand has a significant level of HIV infection and AIDS. Heterosexual transmission accounts for most HIV infections and HIV is common among prostitutes of both sexes.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk
There have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in domestic poultry and wild birds in Thailand. This has led to a small number of human fatalities believed to have arisen through close contact with infected poultry. The most recent fatality was in Uthai Thani Province in central Thailand on 3 August 2006. The Thai authorities are currently investigating suspected outbreaks in a number of other central, north and north eastern provinces. Since the end of 2003, a number of human deaths have also occurred in Azerbaijan, Egypt, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Turkey, Iraq and China.
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.
Tidal waves/Earthquake - 26 December 2004:
Like a number of other countries in the region, Thailand was hit by a series of tidal waves (tsunamis) on 26 December 2004, following a major earthquake in the Indian Ocean. Almost the whole length of Thailand's west coast was affected, together with the many islands off the coast in the Andaman Sea.
Services and facilities in most areas of Thailand affected by the tsunami, including Phuket, are now operating normally. But on the coast of Khao Lak and on Phi Phi some services may still not be back to pre-tsunami standards. You should check with your tour operator before travelling to affected areas.
If you are a relative or friend of a British citizen killed, injured or missing as a result of the tsunami in December 2004, and are planning to visit Thailand, you should contact the British Embassy in Bangkok (see below).
September and October is the monsoon season in much of Thailand. Widespread flooding in the north, north eastern and central regions is routine, often resulting in flash floods and mud slides. If considering jungle trekking ensure that you use reliable licensed tour guides and check local weather reports before travelling.