Thailand

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 14 August 2014.   This advice contains new information under Laws (We strongly recommend that Australians visiting Thailand for the purposes of commercial surrogacy arrangements, seek independent legal advice before doing so. In particular, legal advice should be sought on the implications of Thai authorities enforcing documentation requirements upon exit of the country). Martial law continues to be imposed nationwide. We advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand overall due to the possibility of civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attack, including Bangkok and Phuket.

Thailand overall

Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand due to the possibility of civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attack, including in Bangkok and Phuket. The security situation remains volatile. You should pay close attention to your personal security at all times and where possible monitor the local media, including social media, for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • On 22 May, the military announced that it had taken control of the administration of the country.
  • On 13 June 2014, the authorities announced that the curfew had been lifted in all parts of the country. Martial law continues to be imposed throughout Thailand.
  • In Bangkok, there may be disruptions to some public transport services and other infrastructure. The Tourism Authority of Thailand can provide information to tourists, including on any planned disruptions (www.tatnews.org or call 1672 and press ‘9’ for English).
  • Domestic and international flights are operating normally, though travellers should leave extra time to travel to and from airports.
  • Since the military coup there have been a number of anti-coup demonstrations in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand, including in areas frequented by tourists. The military has arrested some participants for failing to comply with orders to cease protest activity. These confrontations are potentially volatile. Australians should stay well clear of all demonstrations, political events, rallies and processions and large-scale public gatherings as they may turn violent.
  • The military may restrict access to some areas to prevent demonstrators from gathering, including around major shopping and hotel districts in central Bangkok. In the past this has led to the closure of some nearby public transport infrastructure and major shopping malls.
  • Individuals may be detained for publicly criticising Thailand’s current political situation, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the Royal Thai Army or the monarchy.
  • Australians travelling to Thailand should subscribe to receive regular updates and register their travel plans on smartraveller.
  • You should check with your travel insurance provider to ensure that you are covered for any claims arising from the current situation. Travellers should be aware that some travel insurance policies contain exclusions relating to military coups and the imposition of martial law.
  • Australians in Thailand may see an increased presence of security forces in some locations. You should be aware that under martial law military authorities have wide powers, including to suspend laws, restrict public assembly, restrict movement and impose curfews and other security measures. Where available, you should monitor local media, including social media, for information on restrictions and possible disruption to transport and other services. For further information on possible disruptions see under Safety and Security: Civil unrest/political tension.
  • Carefully consider your safety and the implications of accidents if you hire a motorcycle or jet ski and seek advice on any restrictions that may apply (such as insurance cover if you are not licensed to ride a motorcycle in Australia). You should check with your travel insurer whether these activities are covered by your policy. You may be detained and arrested by police following jet ski and motorcycle accidents until compensation, often in thousands of dollars, can be negotiated between parties.
  • Australian travellers continue to report harassment and threats of violence by jet ski operators on beaches across Thailand, and particularly in Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.
  • Tourists may be exposed to scams and more serious criminal activity in Thailand. Be aware that food and drink spiking occurs in Thailand, including around popular backpacker destinations such as Khao San Road in Bangkok the night-time entertainment zones in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket, and during the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan.
  • Travellers planning to attend Full Moon parties at Koh Phangan or other locations should carefully consider personal safety issues and take appropriate precautions. See our Partying Overseas page for advice on the risks you may face when attending Full Moon parties and tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.
  • Penalties for drug offences are severe and include the death penalty. The possession of even small quantities of "soft drugs" for recreational purposes can result in lengthy jail sentences.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel at this time to the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla or overland to and from the Malaysian border through these provinces due to high levels of ongoing violence in these areas, including terrorist attacks and bombings that result in deaths and injuries on an almost daily basis.
  • Reporting indicates that extremists may be planning to target westerners in the southern border provinces.
  • We advise you to exercise particular caution in the areas surrounding the Preah Vihear Temple (known as Khao Pra Viharn temple in Thailand) and the Ta Kwai and Ta Muen Thom temples, all on the Thailand-Cambodia border, due to the presence of unexploded ordnance. There was renewed fighting in the area in early 2011 and there continues to be a military presence in these areas.
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Thailand for the most up-to-date information.

Australian tourists travelling to Thailand through one of the international airports on an Australian passport may currently enter Thailand for up to 30 days without obtaining a visa in advance. This is referred to as a “visa exemption”. Australian tourists travelling overland into Thailand through a border crossing may enter Thailand for up to 15 days without obtaining a visa in advance. A visa is required for longer stays or for travellers intending to work or to travel for purposes other than tourism in Thailand.

Thai authorities require all travellers to have at least six months’ validity remaining on their passports. You may be refused entry to Thailand, or may not be permitted to board your Thailand-bound flight, if your passport has less than six months’ validity.

The Australian Embassy cannot help you to get entry permits or visas, visa extensions or work permits for Thailand or other countries. Make sure you obtain visas, entry permits and extensions of stay from Thai immigration authorities or a Thai Embassy or Consulate.

Avoid individuals and companies advertising visa extension services, as they may stamp passports with fake or illegally obtained exit and entry stamps. Australians with illegal stamps in their passports can be arrested and jailed for up to 10 years. Thai authorities will vigorously prosecute offenders.

Overstaying your visa in Thailand is considered a very serious offence and may result in arrest and prolonged detention. Travellers who overstay entry permits may not be allowed to leave Thailand until a fine is paid. The fine is currently 500 baht per day, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. If you cannot afford to pay the overstay fine you may be arrested, taken to court, charged with a visa offence, and required to serve a lengthy prison sentence in lieu of the fine. Travellers who have overstayed their visas may be imprisoned, deported and placed on an immigration blacklist to prevent them from returning to Thailand.

It is illegal to work without a work permit, including for volunteering activities. In the past, some employers (particularly schools, fitness centres, securities telemarketers, currency traders, entertainment venues, and other businesses) have not fulfilled promises to arrange work permits and their employees have been arrested, jailed and deported from Thailand.

Safety and security

Civil unrest/political tension

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand due to the possibility of civil unrest.

Nationwide martial law:

On 22 May 2014, the Thai military announced that it had taken control of the administration of the country. The security situation remains volatile.

On 13 June 2014, the authorities announced that the curfew had been lifted in all parts of the country. Martial law continues to be imposed across Thailand.

In Bangkok, there may be disruptions to some public transport services and other infrastructure. The Tourism Authority of Thailand can provide information to tourists, including on any planned disruptions (www.tatnews.org or call 1672 and press ‘9’ for English).

Domestic and international flights are operating normally, though travellers should leave extra time to travel to and from airports.

Avoid all demonstrations and political events:

Since the military coup there have been a number of anti-coup demonstrations in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand, including in areas frequented by tourists. The military has arrested some participants for failing to comply with orders to cease protest activity. These confrontations are potentially volatile. Australians should stay well clear of all demonstrations, political events, rallies and processions and large-scale public gatherings, as they may turn violent.

The military may restrict access to some areas to prevent demonstrators from gathering, including around major shopping and hotel districts in central Bangkok. In the past this has led to the closure of some nearby public transport infrastructure and major shopping malls.

You should follow the instructions of local authorities. You should avoid deployments of Thai military forces.

Australians travelling to Thailand should subscribe to receive regular updates and register their travel plans on Smartraveller.

Powers under martial law:

Nationwide martial law has superseded the emergency orders and states of emergency in effect in parts of Thailand for much of the past four years.

Australians in Thailand may see an increased presence of security forces in some locations. You should be aware that under martial law military authorities have wide powers, including to suspend laws, restrict public assembly, restrict movement and impose curfews and other security measures. Where available, you should monitor local media for information on restrictions and possible disruption to transport and other services.

Some TV and radio stations, including international satellite TV services ceased to broadcast after the coup. Most services are now available. Internet and phone services continue to operate as usual although it is possible that that this might be removed or limited without notice.

Ensure validity of travel insurance:

We recommend that you check with your travel insurance provider to ensure that you are covered for any claims arising from the current situation. Travellers should be aware that some travel insurance policies contain exclusions relating to military coups and the imposition of martial law.

Violent attacks have occurred in 2014:

Firearms and hand-grenades have been used in attacks against protesters in 2014, often at night-time but also during the day in busy public areas around protest sites in central Bangkok and when protesters have been moving around the city. There have also been attacks on protestors and other violent incidents in other provinces across Thailand. In the past, authorities have used teargas, water cannons and rubber bullets to control protests. Since 30 November 2013, incidents associated with the protests have resulted in over 25 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Further indiscriminate attacks are likely.

Border regions

Thai-Cambodia border: Australians intending to visit temples along the Thai-Cambodia border should be aware of the ongoing border dispute that has resulted in fighting as recently as April 2012. In recent years conflict has occurred in the area surrounding the Preah Vihear temple (known as Khao Pra Viharn temple in Thailand) located in the border region between Sisaket Province in Thailand and Preah Vihear Province in Cambodia. Conflict has also occurred in the area surrounding the Ta Kwai (known as Ta Krabei temple in Cambodia) and Ta Muen Thom (known as Ta Moan temple in Cambodia) temples along the Thai-Cambodia border in Surin province (most recently in early 2011). Fatalities were reported. Tourist attractions and border crossing points may be closed with little or no notice. There is a risk in border areas from landmines and unexploded military ordnance.

Thai-Burma border: There have been instances of fighting and banditry along some sections of the Thai-Burma border. This includes fighting between the Burmese military and armed ethnic opposition groups as well as clashes between Thai security forces and armed criminal groups, such as drug traffickers. Armed clashes between the Burmese military and armed opposition groups inside Burma may cause border closures and an influx of displaced civilians. In the event of unrest in Burma, you should monitor media reports and follow the instructions of Thai officials.

Travellers who have attempted illegal border crossings have been detained and deported from Thailand. You should also be aware that bandits may target foreigners travelling through national parks located near border regions.

Terrorism

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand due to the threat of terrorist attack, including Bangkok and Phuket. We continue to receive reports that terrorists may be planning attacks against a range of targets, including locations frequented by tourists and foreigners.

Thai authorities have on a number of occasions warned of the possibility of bombings in Thailand to coincide with symbolic dates or holidays.

There have been a number of improvised explosive device (IED) incidents in Bangkok and other major cities in recent years. On 22 December 2013, a vehicle containing explosives was discovered in Phuket Town. On 26 May 2013, an IED detonated in Ramkhamhaeng Soi 43/1 in eastern Bangkok, injuring seven people. A small blast occurred in a rubbish bin in Phuket Town on 1 August 2013. No injuries were reported. These incidents are still under investigation.

In mid-April 2014, local Thai media reported that police had arrested two foreign nationals and were investigating allegations the pair were involved in planning an attack in Bangkok. The pair have not been charged and police stated publicly they expected the pair would be deported.

In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. These include places frequented by foreigners such as embassies, shopping malls, markets, banks, clubs, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, schools, places of worship, outdoor recreation events, beach resorts and tourist areas. Public buildings, public transport, airports and sea ports are also potential targets for attack.

Southern provinces - Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla: We strongly advise you not to travel at this time to the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla, or overland to and from the Malaysian border through these provinces due to high levels of ongoing violence in these regions. This includes travel by train between Thailand and Malaysia.

In recent years almost daily attacks have taken place in these areas, many of which have caused deaths and serious injuries. Bombings and shootings are commonplace in these areas. Arson and beheadings have occurred. The Thai Government has warned tourists not to travel to these areas.

Reporting indicates that extremists may be planning to target westerners in the southern border provinces.

Australians in Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla provinces may be caught up in violence or terrorist attacks directed at others. If you are in these provinces, you should consider leaving. If you decide to stay in the southern provinces, you should ensure you have the appropriate personal security measures in place.

Since January 2004, there has been heightened tension in these four southern provinces, where violent incidents continue to take place. Since 2004, over 5,200 people have been killed and many more injured, including foreigners. An Australian was one of seven people injured in a bomb blast in Yala province in May 2007.

Bombings can occur in close succession and proximity in order to target those responding to the initial explosions. Over the past few years, there have been numerous instances of multiple coordinated explosions occurring across a range of locations in southern Thailand.

Attacks have occurred in locations frequented by the public. Targets have included government officials, civilians, religious and community leaders, members of the security forces, teachers, tourist hotels, bars, banks, ATMs, cinemas, entertainment venues, shops, convenience stores, markets, supermarkets, schools, places of worship, petrol stations and transport infrastructure including Hat Yai international airport and trains. Further such incidents could occur at any time.

Recent examples of attacks include:

  • On 24 May, three people were killed and more than 70 injured in a series of bombings in Pattani and Narathiwat provinces.
  • On 11 May, eight separate bombings in Sungai Kolok business district in Narathiwat province, near the Malaysian border, caused widespread damage; one person was killed.
  • On 6 May 2014, 10 people were injured in two bomb attacks near a convenience store and a police station in Hat Yai municipality in Songkhla province.
  • On 6-7 April 2014 a series of explosions in Yala killed one person and wounded 30 others.
  • On 27 January 2014, three people were killed in a roadside ambush in Narathiwat Province.
  • On 4 January 2014, a person was killed in a drive-by shooting in Pattani Town.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Crime

Sexual assault, food and drink spiking, assault and robbery against foreigners occurs in Thailand, including around popular backpacker and tourist destinations such as Khao San Road in Bangkok, the night-time entertainment zones in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket, and during Full Moon and other parties on Koh Phangan. See our Sexual Assault Overseas page for further information on how to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault and the assistance available to victims.

The Full Moon and other parties at Koh Phangan and in other locations regularly result in reports of sexual assaults, deaths, arrests, robbery, injuries and lost travel documents. Travellers should avoid local and homemade cocktails which may be made with narcotic substances. In addition to the health risks of ingesting unknown substances, these drinks can render consumers vulnerable to criminals. Travellers contemplating attendance should carefully consider personal safety issues and take appropriate precautions. See our Partying Overseas page for advice on the risks you may face when attending Full Moon and similar parties and tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.

Australians planning to celebrate “Schoolies” in Thailand should be aware that in the past Australians have had serious accidents and injuries as a result of consumption of alcohol and drugs, and have been arrested for theft and/or possession of narcotics. You should behave in a responsible and culturally sensitive manner. The costs for medical services can be very expensive and penalties for breaking the law in Thailand can be severe. These penalties also apply to minors, who are subject to Thai juvenile judicial processes, including detention in a juvenile or adult prison.

Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

Petty crime, such as theft from hotel rooms, pickpocketing and bag snatching by thieves on motorcycles, is common. Money and passports have been stolen from rooms (particularly in cheaper hotels and hostels) and from bags on public transport. Items have been removed from luggage stored below buses and travellers have reported being drugged and robbed during bus journeys. Beware of pickpockets in crowded markets and shopping streets. When visiting these areas leave credit and other cards and licences that are not required locked in a hotel safe or be extra vigilant when carrying these items.

Tourists have also been robbed after the bags they were carrying were snatched by thieves on motorcycles or were sliced open by razor blades. Beware of motorcycles approaching from behind as you walk on the footpath and hold bags and backpacks in front of you or in ways that make them difficult to be snatched. You should be aware that some foreigners, including an Australian tourist, have been killed in these incidents. You can reduce the opportunity for such opportunistic theft by limiting the carriage of easily grabbed bags in public places.

Australian travellers continue to report harassment and threats of violence by jet-ski operators on tourist beaches, particularly in Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Many travellers have reported that, after returning hired jet-skis, they have been confronted by gangs claiming that the tourist damaged the jet-ski. There have been reported instances of such gangs threatening violence, including at knifepoint, if a large sum of money in compensation for the alleged damage is not paid. Australians hiring jet-skis should check the jet-ski for damage, including underneath, before riding and take photographs of the jet-ski that may be helpful in the resolution of disputes.

Operators may request your passport as a deposit or guarantee before hiring jet skis or motorbikes. If there is a dispute about damage to a rented jet-ski or motorbike, rental operators may try to keep your passport until they receive compensation. Passports are valuable documents that should be appropriately protected. Australians should not provide passports as deposits or guarantees under any circumstances.

Credit card and ATM fraud, including the use of 'skimming' machines which can store card data, can occur in Thailand. You should monitor your transaction statements and take care not to expose your PIN to others, particularly when using ATMs.

Many travellers fall victim to scams after accepting offers from people recommending or offering various goods or services, particularly when shopping for jewellery and gems. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) can provide official advice on purchasing jewellery and gems.

Travellers have also lost large sums of money through bogus investment, property rental and time share schemes, card game scams and other fraudulent activity. There have been complaints from Australians who have lost large sums of money from property purchases and in time share schemes in Phuket. Australians should be particularly careful and thoroughly research any company offering properties for sale or time share arrangements before entering into an agreement.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult your bank about the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.

If you are travelling on a restricted budget, it is important to ensure you have access to enough money to cover unexpected costs. For example, you may have a problem that prevents you taking your scheduled flight. Restrictions, such as tickets being non-refundable or non-transferable, apply to most discounted airfares, or you may need to pay a substantial fee to change your travel dates. If you lose your passport you will be delayed and you will have to pay for a replacement. If you fall ill and need medical treatment, even if you have insurance, it is likely you will need to cover some costs yourself. At the minimum, it is essential to have access to enough money to cover a replacement ticket home and several nights hotel accommodation, plus extra money for unexpected emergencies.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas, travel insurance policies and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Suvarnabhumi International Airport, also known as the New Bangkok International Airport, is located in Samut Prakan Province, 25 kilometres east of Bangkok. Suvarnabhumi International Airport is the main airport for international and domestic flights for Bangkok. Don Mueang airport, located 24 kilometres north of Bangkok, is used for domestic and international flights. Australians should be aware of the airport they will use and ensure there is sufficient transit time if arriving and departing from different airports. The distance between these two airports is 47 kilometres and the driving time can be up to two hours depending on traffic conditions.

Service counters at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang International Airports may provide information on transport to the city and hotels.

You should be alert to arrangements where taxi or tuk tuk (motorised three-wheel vehicles) drivers take passengers to shops where the driver will receive a commission. Passengers may be charged higher prices for goods or sold sub-standard goods or worthless gems. You should be alert to your own safety at all times when using taxis and tuk tuks and never put yourself in danger by physically confronting drivers. Violent or serious incidents involving taxis and tuk tuks should be reported to the local police. Secure your possessions while travelling in tuk tuks or on motorcycles as thefts by riders on passing motorcycles can occur.

In Phuket and some other parts of Thailand, taxis and tuk tuks are not metered and fares may be set according to distance travelled or negotiated between driver and passenger. The Embassy continues to receive reports of tuk tuk drivers in Phuket becoming aggressive and sometimes violent during disagreements over fares or routes.

In Phuket, syndicates of taxi and tuk tuk drivers may operate in particular areas. The Embassy has received reports of drivers resisting, sometimes violently, other drivers who try to pick up passengers in their area.

Motorcycle and other road accidents are very common in Thailand, including in resort areas such as Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Samui. Under Thai law, motorcycle riders and passengers are required to wear helmets, but they are often not provided by hire companies or motorcycle taxis. Each year foreign tourists affected by alcohol are injured in motorcycle and other vehicle accidents. In such cases travel insurers are likely to exclude cover. Don’t drink and drive. For further advice on road safety, see our page on road travel.

To drive a car or ride a motorcycle in Thailand, you need a valid driver licence of the correct class. Be aware some vehicle rental companies will try to tell you otherwise. We recommend that you carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to your Australian driver licence.

If you intend to hire cars, motorcycles, jet skis or any other motorised vehicle, talk to your travel insurer to check if these activities are covered by your insurance policy and seek advice on any restrictions that may apply (such as insurance cover if you are not licensed to ride a motorcycle in Australia).

The Thai Department of Tourism provides useful advice on renting jet skis at the Tourism Authority website.

There have been many serious accidents involving jet skis and motorcycles in Thailand. Foreigners are regularly detained and arrested by police following jet ski and motorcycle accidents until compensation, often thousands of dollars, can be negotiated between parties. The Embassy is not able to assist in these negotiations and can only provide a list of lawyers. Many vehicle hire companies do not have insurance and any damage, loss, or costs associated with injuries to third parties will be your responsibility to negotiate or pay. In addition to checking that your travel insurance covers hospital and other costs associated with motorbike, jet-ski or other vehicle accidents, also ensure that the hiring company holds comprehensive, including third-party, insurance for the vehicle you are hiring. We recommend that Australians do not provide passports as deposits or guarantees.

Australians have reported cases where hire companies have demanded large amounts of compensation for pre-existing damage to motorbikes. There have also been reports claiming that hire companies have arranged for motorbikes to be stolen from the hirer, and forcing them to pay thousands of dollars in compensation, including the value of a new motorbike plus lost earnings.

There have been a number of instances of train derailments in recent years, including on the Bangkok-Chiang Mai line. Some have resulted in deaths and injuries.

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities (e.g. scuba diving, elephant safaris and bungee jumping), are not always met. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. If you intend participating in these activities, you should talk to your travel insurer to check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy.

Ferry travel in Thailand can be dangerous, as vessel passenger limits are not always observed or sufficient life jackets provided. Australians have been killed and injured in ferry and boat accidents in coastal areas, including near Samui Island. Several safety incidents have recently been reported on vessels in Phuket. You should ensure that any vessel you intend to board is carrying appropriate safety equipment and that life jackets are provided for all passengers and are worn at all times. Check with your tour operator or vessel management to ensure appropriate safety standards are maintained.

You should avoid travelling in ferries and speedboats after dark. Australians attending full moon parties should try to secure accommodation on the island where the party is being held to avoid the need to travel by boat at night. See the Partying Overseas page for further information on travel issues.

Beach safety: You should take particular care when swimming off coastal areas, especially during monsoon season (November-March in Koh Samui and the south-east of the Thai peninsula and May-October in the rest of Thailand, including Phuket). Severe undercurrents (rips) are common in coastal areas and many foreign tourists have drowned, including in popular resort areas such as Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Samui. Lifeguard services are rarely available. In some locations, red flags are displayed to warn swimmers not to enter the water and these warnings should be taken very seriously. If in any doubt check with local authorities before swimming. You should never swim after dark or after consuming alcohol.

Building safety: It is common for railings on stairs and balconies in Thailand to be lower than the Australian standard height or to be made of materials that are not strong. In some cases railings are non-existent. There have been cases of Australians being injured or dying after falling from stairs or balconies. You should take care when using stairs and balconies and when supervising children in these areas.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page.

Laws

When you are in Thailand, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that may appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. Australians have been arrested and sentenced to jail for making false statements to police. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Surrogacy

The legal situation regarding surrogacy arrangements in Thailand is currently unclear. There is presently no legislation in Thailand which specifically regulates surrogacy. The Thai authorities are considering draft legislation that may prohibit commercial surrogacy. The Australian Government is encouraging Thai authorities to adopt transitional arrangements for any new measures they may introduce so that concerned Australians are not unduly affected.

Current advice is that Thai authorities are enforcing documentation requirements upon exit of the country when they suspect a child has been born by surrogacy in Thailand. Required documents may include:

  • Child’s birth certificate
  • Copy of birth mother’s ID card
  • Copy of intended parents’ passport(s)
  • Surrogacy contract
  • A court order issued by the Thai Family Juvenile Court to confirm that the birth mother has given up her rights to custody of the child.

We strongly recommend that Australians visiting Thailand for the purposes of commercial surrogacy arrangements seek independent legal advice before doing so. In particular, legal advice should be sought on the implications of any new exit requirements. You should also see our Overseas births, adoptions and surrogacies page for further information.

Other legal information

Foreigners are required to carry identification at all times.

In Thailand, penalties for drug offences are severe and include the death penalty. The possession of even small quantities of drugs known as "soft drugs" for recreational purposes can result in lengthy jail sentences and deportation.

The death penalty can also be imposed for murder, attempted murder, rape, crimes against the state including treason, and certain offences against the monarchy.

Lengthy prison terms up to 15 years can be imposed for insulting the monarchy or defacing images of the monarch and his family. This includes destroying bank notes bearing the King's image.

Almost all forms of gambling (other than at a few major race tracks) are illegal in Thailand. There can be heavy penalties for illegal gambling of any form.

Penalties for shoplifting, including at airports, include heavy fines and detention.

People found to be making false statements to police may be prosecuted and imprisoned or fined. Reporting any crime that did not actually take place or lying about the circumstances of an incident may result in your arrest and imprisonment.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia. A number of Australians have been arrested in Thailand for these crimes.

Local customs

Deliberate transgressions of local customs, such as showing the soles of your feet or touching the top of a person's head, are likely to cause grave offence. You should respect local customs and take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Information for dual nationals

Australia/Thai dual nationals may be liable for conscription. Australian/Thai dual nationals who are unsure of their military obligation can consult the nearest embassy of Thailand.

Our Dual Nationals brochure provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

If you have a mental health condition, you, your family and any travelling companions should also assess the possible consequences of the challenges and stressors that can arise whilst travelling overseas. The experience of different environments, unfamiliar customs, language barriers, social isolation, and general uncertainty are examples of risk factors that may increase stress and anxiety. Increased stress may exacerbate existing mental health conditions and possibly trigger unfamiliar mental health issues. Mental health facilities and treatment approaches may be very different to those in Australia. Australians with mental health concerns should carefully consider the possible consequences of travelling on their wellbeing.

The standard of medical facilities throughout Thailand varies. While private hospitals with international standard facilities can be found in major cities, services can be limited elsewhere. Private hospitals generally require confirmation of insurance or a guarantee of payment before admitting a patient. Costs can be very expensive. Generally, serious illnesses and accidents can be treated at private or public hospitals in Bangkok and other large cities. However, medical evacuation to a destination with the required facilities may be necessary in some cases at considerable cost.

Decompression chambers are located near popular dive sites in Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok.

Stings from jellyfish and other marine animals can be fatal. You should seek advice from local authorities, your tour operator or hotel regarding seasonal bathing conditions, recommended precautions and other potential dangers.

"Medical tourism", including for cosmetic and sex-change operations, is common in Thailand. Australians should ensure that they are not lured to discount or uncertified medical establishments where standards can be lacking, resulting in serious and possibly life-threatening complications. Hospitals and clinics have been known to refuse compensation to patients not satisfied with the results of cosmetic surgery or when patients are harmed or die during procedures.

Malaria exists throughout the year in rural areas of the country, particularly near the borders with Cambodia, Laos, and Burma. Dengue fever occurs in Thailand, and is particularly common during the rainy season, peaking in July and August. Thai authorities have reported an increase in dengue fever cases and a number of deaths. Australian health authorities report a number of cases of dengue each year amongst travellers returning from Thailand. There is no vaccination or specific treatment available for dengue fever. Anyone suffering from a fever should seek medical advice. Other insect-borne diseases (including chikungunya fever, Japanese encephalitis and filariasis) also occur in many areas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before travelling and to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria where necessary. We also encourage you to take measures to avoid insect bites including using an insect repellent at all times and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Thailand is high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Rabies: Rabies is a potentially fatal viral disease that can be found in dogs, monkeys, bats and other mammals in Thailand. In addition to the risk posed by dogs, you should also be aware that Australians are routinely treated with rabies immunoglobulin on their return to Australia following bites or scratches from monkeys in Thailand. In order to avoid potential exposure you should not feed or pat monkeys, even in popular markets, tourist destinations and sanctuaries where you may be encouraged to interact with monkeys. See our health page for further information on what to do if bitten by an animal that may carry rabies.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including tuberculosis, cholera, hepatitis, leptospirosis and typhoid) are prevalent with outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food, and avoid unpasteurised dairy products. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

You should also be aware that illness caused by naturally occurring seafood toxins such as ciguatera as well as scombroid (histamine fish poisoning ) and toxins in shellfish can be a hazard (for more information see Queensland Health’s factsheet). Seek urgent medical attention if you suspect poisoning.

Avoid temporary 'black henna' tattoos as they often contain a dye which can cause serious skin reactions. For further information, see the Australasian College of Dermatologists' website.

Smoke haze: There is smoke haze across some parts of north and north-east Thailand usually during March to April. The high levels of air pollution may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. Keep up-to-date with advice of local authorities and seek medical advice on appropriate precautions. Regular air quality reports are available from the Meteorological Service Singapore.

Avian influenza: The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed human deaths from avian influenza in Thailand. See our health page and Avian Influenza bulletin for further information.

Where to Get Help

The Australian Embassy in Bangkok continues to deliver consular services to Australians.

The Australian Honorary Consulate in Phuket is currently closed. Passport and consular services are available through the Australian Embassy in Bangkok:

Australian Embassy, Bangkok

37 South Sathorn Road,
Bangkok, THAILAND
Telephone: (66 2) 344 6300
Facsimile: (66 2) 344 6310
Website: www.thailand.embassy.gov.au

In Chiang Mai and Koh Samui you can obtain limited consular assistance from:

Australian Consulate, Chiang Mai

Jinda Charoen Konsong
236 Chiangmai-Doi Saket Road
Amphur Sansai
Chiang Mai, THAILAND
Telephone: (66 53) 492 480
Facsimile: (66 53) 492 426

Other Australian Consulate

Koh Samui
Surat Thani, THAILAND
Contact through the Australian Embassy, Bangkok

If you are travelling to Thailand, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Severe storms and widespread seasonal flooding, including flash floods, can occur without warning in Thailand, particularly during the local wet season from May to October, but can occur at other times. Disruptions to transport (air, sea, road and rail), electricity and communications are likely during severe weather events and you should check with your tour operator for the latest information on disruptions. You should follow the instructions of local disaster management authorities and monitor media and weather reports. You should not enter areas affected by flooding or landslides without seeking advice from local authorities.

The Mekong River Commission website contains information on flood levels for the Mekong River. Travellers should follow instructions from local authorities, monitor media and weather reports, and check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas.
Earthquakes can occur in Thailand. In the event of an earthquake you should follow the advice of local authorities and monitor the media for the latest information. For the latest earthquake information, visit the Thai Meteorological Department website.

An earthquake with the magnitude of 6.3 affected seven districts of Chiang Rai province on 5 May 2014. Damage was caused to some buildings including the Chiang Rai airport although it remains open and functional.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Business travellers

Australians doing business in Thailand should see our business travel advice for information on potential risks.

Wildlife

Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.