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Summary

  • 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. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor local media for information about possible new safety and security risks.
  • Public order and security incidents, including terror attacks, continue to pose risks to travellers throughout Thailand. Terrorists have attacked several locations frequented by tourists in recent years, resulting in deaths and injuries. See Safety and security.
  • On 11-12 August 2016, around two dozen bomb, arson and other attacks in popular tourist spots and other locations resulted in four deaths and over 30 injuries. In August 2015, a bomb attack in central Bangkok killed 20 people. In April 2015, a car bomb at a Koh Samui beach caused a number of injuries. See Safety and security.
  • Avoid demonstrations, political events, rallies, processions and large-scale public gatherings as they can turn violent. See Safety and security.
  • Hiring jet skis has resulted in harassment and threats of violence by jet ski operators, particularly in Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. See Safety and security.
  • Check your insurance cover carefully if you intend to ride a motorcycle or jetski in Thailand, particularly if you are not licensed to ride one in Australia. Jet ski and motorcycle accidents can result in serious injuries and demands for compensation, often for thousands of dollars. You can be detained until compensation has been negotiated and paid.See Safety and security.
  •  Scams and more serious criminal activity occur in Thailand. Food and drink spiking occurs, including around popular backpacker destinations. See Safety and security.
  • Martial law is in place in a number of districts, mostly in border regions. Military authorities can restrict public assembly and expression, and impose other security measures. See Laws.
  • 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. See Laws.
  • There is ongoing transmission of Zika virus in Thailand, including in Bangkok. Protect yourself from mosquito bites. Adopt additional measures advised by the Australian Department of Health, including deferring non-essential travel if pregnant. See Health.

  • Do not travel to the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla or overland to and from the Malaysian border through these provinces. There are high levels of ongoing violence in these areas, including terrorist attacks and bombings that result in deaths and injuries on an almost daily basis.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

If you're travelling to Thailand for tourism, you may be eligible for a "visa exemption" which allows you to enter Thailand for a limited period without obtaining a visa in advance. For travel on your Australian passport, the "visa exemption" is available:

  • for up to 30 days, if you arrive in Thailand through one of the international airports
  • for up to 15 days, if you enter Thailand through a land border (restricted to two entries per calendar year).

For longer stays, or if you're travelling to Thailand for a purpose other than tourism, you'll need to arrange a visa in advance.

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 up-to-date information.

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.

Visas – overstays and other breaches of visa conditions

If you overstay your visa, you won't be allowed to leave Thailand until a fine (currently Thai Baht (THB)500 per day) is paid and you can be banned from re-entering Thailand for a period of time. You can also face arrest, prosecution, imprisonment, deportation and/or listing on an immigration blacklist, preventing you from ever returning to Thailand. If you can't pay the fine, you could also be required to serve a lengthy prison sentence in lieu of the fine.

If you breach your visa conditions, you could also face arrest, prosecution, imprisonment and/or deportation. Example: working for an employer or at a location not listed on your visa would breach your visa conditions. Check and comply with your visa conditions throughout your stay.

Avoid individuals and companies advertising visa extension services, as they could stamp your passport with a fake or illegally obtained exit or entry stamp. If you have a fake or illegally obtained stamp in your passport, you could be arrested and jailed for up to 10 years. Thai authorities vigorously prosecute offenders.

Other formalities

Some prescription medications available in Australia are controlled substances in Thailand, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor. If you plan to bring prescription or non-prescription medication into Thailand, contact the closest Thai Embassy or Consulate to confirm it's legal. See Laws.

It's illegal to work or volunteer in Thailand without a work permit. In the past, some employers (particularly schools, fitness centres, securities telemarketers, currency traders, modelling agencies and entertainment venues) have not fulfilled promises to arrange work permits. Their employees have been arrested, jailed and deported from Thailand.

If you plan to stay in Thailand for more than 90 days, you must notify the Thai Immigration Bureau of your residential address. If you don't, you could be fined. More information: Thai Immigration Bureau

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return to Australia. You could 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.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception.  If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

By law you must, as soon as possible:

Money

The currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB). You can readily convert Australian Dollars for THB in tourist locations, and major cities and towns.

ATMs are widely available in cities and provincial centres. International credit cards are generally accepted in hotels, restaurants and higher-end shops, particularly in cities and larger towns. Card skimming occurs. More information: Safety and security.

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

The security situation is potentially volatile. Thailand is under the control of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which came to power in a military coup in May 2014. Since the coup, there have been several anti-coup demonstrations in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand, including in areas frequented by tourists. Confrontations between protestors and the military can become violent.

Nationwide martial law was lifted in April 2015, but martial law remains in place in around 179 districts in 31 provinces, mostly in border regions. Military authorities retain wide powers, including powers to restrict public assembly and public expression. In the past, the military has tried to prevent demonstrators from gathering by restricting access to some areas, including around major shopping and hotel districts in central Bangkok. This led to the closure of some nearby public transport infrastructure and major shopping malls. The military has also arrested some protest participants for failing to comply with orders to cease protest activity.

During anti-government protests in 2014, firearms and hand-grenades were used in attacks against protesters, including in busy public areas in central and outer Bangkok. There were also attacks on protestors and other violent incidents in other provinces across Thailand. At other times, authorities have used teargas, water cannons and rubber bullets to control protests. In wide-spread protests that occurred from November 2013 until the coup in May 2014, incidents associated with the protests resulted in over 25 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Further protests and violent responses are possible.

A number of small explosions have occurred in public places since February 2015. Further incidents are possible.

  • Avoid demonstrations, political events, rallies, processions and large-scale public gatherings.
  • Monitor the media and other sources for possible unrest and avoid affected areas.
  • Take official warnings seriously and follow the advice of local authorities.

Thailand-Cambodia border

There is an ongoing dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over their shared border. The most recent fighting in 2012 caused fatalities. If you visit the Thai-Cambodia border area, be alert to the risk of landmines and unexploded military ordnance. This is particularly relevant for the following areas popular with tourists:

  • the Preah Vihear temple (known as Khao Pra Viharn temple in Thailand), located between Sisaket Province in Thailand and Preah Vihear Province in Cambodia
  • the Ta Kwai (known as Ta Krabei temple in Cambodia) and Ta Muen Thom (known as Ta Moan temple in Cambodia) temples.

Tourist attractions and border crossing points in this area may be closed with little or no notice.

Thailand-Myanmar border

There have been instances of fighting and banditry along some sections of the Thai-Myanmar 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 military and armed opposition groups inside Myanmar may result in border closures. Travellers who have attempted illegal border crossings have been detained and deported from Thailand.

Bandits may target foreigners travelling through national parks in this border region.

If you travel to this region:

  • monitor the news and watch out for other signs of unrest
  • pay close attention to your personal security, particularly in national parks 
  • take official warnings seriously and follow the instructions of local authorities.

Thailand-Malaysia border:

Do not travel overland to or from the Thailand-Malaysia border. This includes travel by train or road between Thailand and Malaysia. There are high levels of violence in the four southernmost provinces of Thailand (Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla), including terrorist attacks and bombings that result in deaths and injuries on an almost daily basis.

Since 2004, over 6,500 people have been killed and many more injured in violence in these provinces. In May 2007, an Australian was one of seven people injured in a bomb blast in Yala province. Bombings sometimes 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 Thailand's southern border provinces.

The Thai Government has warned tourists not to travel to this region. If you travel to or stay in these provinces, you could get caught up in violence directed at others or terrorist attacks. Attacks can happen at any time.

  • Do not travel to or through Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat or Songkhla provinces.
  • If you are in these provinces, consider leaving.
  • If, despite our advice, you decide to stay in the southern provinces, ensure you have appropriate personal security measures in place.

Terrorism

Terrorist attacks, including bombings, are possible anytime, anywhere in Thailand, including in 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 warned on a number of occasions of the possibility of bombings in Thailand to coincide with symbolic dates or holidays.

On 11-12 August 2016, around two dozen incidents involving numerous improvised explosive devices (IEDs), arson and other suspicious events occurred in multiple locations in Thailand causing four deaths and over thirty injuries. Some of the IEDs were detonated in locations frequented by tourists, including in Hua Hin, Patong Beach and Loma Park in Phuket, Phang Nga, Trang and Surat Thani. Investigations are ongoing. 

There have been a number of other IED incidents in Bangkok and other areas frequented by foreign tourists in recent years.

  • In May 2017, two separate attacks at a Bangkok Military Hospital and the National Theatre injured 24 and 2 people, respectively.
  • On 18 August 2015, an explosive device detonated in the water below Taksin Bridge (Saphan Taksin), close to the main tourist ferry terminal in Bangkok (Sathorn Pier). It was thrown from the bridge above.
  • On 17 August 2015, a bomb attack at the Erawan shrine at Chidlom in central Bangkok killed 20 people and injured more than 120.
  • On 10 April 2015, a car bomb exploded in the car park of the Central Festival Mall, near Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui, injuring seven people.
  • On 28 October 2014, an unexploded grenade was found on a beach in Phuket.
  • 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.

Possible targets for future attacks 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.

Minimise risks

  • In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided.
  • If you go to a crowded place or other possible target, have a clear exit plan in the event of a security incident.
  • Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places.
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor the media for any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously and follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so. 

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Crime

Violent and other serious crime is a significant problem in parts of Thailand. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and luggage theft, is common. Criminals target 'Full Moon' (and similar) parties and places popular with tourists.

Sexual assault and other violent crime

We continue to receive reports of sexual assault, other assault and robbery of foreigners, including around popular backpacker and tourist destinations such as Khao San Road in Bangkok and the night-time entertainment zones in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. Victims' food or drink is sometimes 'spiked' before they are assaulted.

The Full Moon and other parties at Koh Phangan and in other locations regularly result in reports of food and drink 'spiking', sexual assaults, deaths, arrests, robbery, injuries and lost travel documents. In September 2014, two foreign travellers were murdered on a beach in Koh Tao.

  • Avoid local and homemade cocktails as they may be made with narcotic or poisonous substances that could leave you vulnerable to criminals.
  • Never accept food or drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.
  • If you aren't sure if a drink is safe, leave it.
  • Stick with people you trust at parties and in bars, nightclubs and taxis.
  • Take particular care when consuming alcoholic beverages (particularly spirit-based drinks) in popular tourist spots.
  • Seek urgent medical attention, if you suspect that you or a companion have been the victim of drink spiking.
  • If you plan to join a beach party, carefully consider personal safety issues and take appropriate precautions.
  • Read Reducing the risk of sexual assault overseas before you travel. It includes information on how to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault and on the assistance available to victims.
  • If you become a victim of violent crime, including rape, seek immediate medical attention – HIV/AIDS is prevalent in Thailand.

More information: Partying safely

Theft

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and theft from hotel rooms, is common. Pickpockets are particularly active in crowded markets and shopping streets.

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 on trains and from bags stored below buses. Travellers have reported being drugged and robbed during bus and train journeys.

Tourists have also been robbed after the bags they were carrying were snatched by thieves on motorcycles or were sliced open by razor blades. Foreigners, including an Australian tourist, have been killed in these incidents.

  • Pay close attention to your personal belongings, particularly in crowded areas.
  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid wearing expensive watches, jewellery and cameras.
  • Don't leave valuables in luggage stowed under buses or away from you on trains.
  • Never leave food or drinks unattended, especially on trains and buses.
  • Never accept food or drinks from strangers.
  • Be wary of motorcycles approaching from behind as you walk on the footpath.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Hold bags and backpacks in front of you or in ways that make them harder to snatch.

Scams

Many travellers fall victim to scams in Thailand. Stay well-informed of the latest scams to avoid becoming a victim. The examples listed below will alert you to some common scams and suggest precautions you should take.

Jet ski and motorbike hire scams

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. After returning hired jet skis, tourists have been confronted by gangs claiming that the tourist damaged the jet ski and demanding a large sum of money in compensation. In some cases, gangs have threatened violence, including at knifepoint.

Jet ski operators and businesses that hire out motorcycles may request your passport as a deposit or guarantee. 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.

If you want to hire a jet ski or motorbike:

  • before entering into a hire agreement, ask for evidence of the operator's insurance policy covering damage to the vehicle and your liabilities (if any) in case of damage
  • before riding, take photographs of the vehicle, including underneath, to record its condition
  • before riding, make sure the operator is aware of any existing damage
  • don't provide your passport as a deposit or guarantee under any circumstances.

If you believe that you have fallen victim to a vehicle scam, call the Tourist Police on 1155.

Credit card and ATM fraud

Credit card and ATM fraud, including the use of 'skimming' machines which can store card data, occurs in Thailand.

  • Take care not to expose your PIN to others, particularly when using ATMs.
  • Monitor your transaction statements.

Shopping scams

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.

Investment scams

Travellers have lost large sums of money through bogus investment, property rental and time-share schemes, and other fraudulent activity. Several Australians have fallen victim to investment scams for properties in Phuket.

  • If you plan to invest in property (including time share) in Thailand, thoroughly research the seller and the property before entering into any agreement.
  • Be wary of unsolicited offers to invest.

Local travel

Prison terms up to 15 years can be imposed for insulting the monarchy. Take particular care not to cause offence when posting, commenting on or 'liking' items on social media that relate to the monarchy or the mourning period. Abide by local laws and respect Thai customs.

Tours and adventure activities

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities (examples: scuba diving, elephant safaris, 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 plan to participate in adventure activities:

  • talk to your travel insurer to check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy
  • don't be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements
  • always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if others don't.

If appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider.

Beach safety

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.

  • Take warning flags and other official warnings very seriously.
  • Never swim after dark or after consuming alcohol.
  • Take particular care when swimming in 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).
  • If in doubt, check with local authorities before swimming.

Building safety

It's 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. Australians have been injured or killed after falling from stairs or balconies.

  • Take care when using stairs and balconies.
  • Closely supervise children on or near stairs, balconies or other high structures.

Wildlife

Encounters with wildlife carry risks for people and wildlife.

  • Respect wildlife laws.
  • Maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds.
  • Only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators.
  • Closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.

Road travel

Thailand has one of the highest traffic-related fatality rates in the world. You are almost seven times more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident in Thailand than in Australia.

Road accidents are common throughout Thailand, including in resort areas such as Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Samui. Speeding, reckless passing and failure to obey traffic laws are common in all regions of Thailand. The roads are particularly dangerous during holidays such as Songkran (Thai New Year), when alcohol use and congestion are heavier than usual.

  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Drive defensively.
  • If you are walking, use overhead walkways wherever possible. Look carefully in both directions before crossing streets, even at marked crossways.

More information: Road safety and driving

Driver's licence

To drive a car or ride a motorcycle in Thailand, you need a valid driver's licence of the correct class. Some vehicle rental companies will try to tell you otherwise. It's best to carry an International Driving Permit in addition to your Australian driver's licence. Do not exceed your licence conditions.

Motorcycles

Under Thai law, motorcycle riders and passengers must wear a helmet. Helmets are rarely provided by hire companies or motorcycle taxis. You may need to shop around to find somewhere you can hire a helmet.

Each year foreign tourists are injured or die in motorcycle accidents. Alcohol is often involved.

Foreigners are regularly detained and arrested by police following motor vehicle accidents until compensation, often thousands of dollars, can be negotiated between parties. Many vehicle hire companies do not have insurance. If you have an accident while riding a hired motorcycle, you could be personally responsible for paying for any damage, loss, or costs associated with injuries to others. The Embassy is not able to assist in compensation negotiations.

A list of lawyers who can represent you is available from:

Australians have reported cases in which motorcycle hire companies have demanded large amounts of compensation for existing damage to motorbikes. There have also been reports claiming that hire companies have arranged for motorbikes to be stolen from the hirer, and forced them to pay (in 'compensation') the value of a new motorbike plus lost earnings.

Your Australian travel insurance probably includes limitations or exclusions that you need to consider before hiring a motorcycle. For example, travel insurers often reject claims if the driver didn't have a valid motorbike licence or was affected by alcohol.

  • Only hire a motorcycle if you have a valid motorcycle licence.
  • Before hiring a motorcycle, check that you would be covered by your insurance policy and seek advice on any restrictions that may apply.
  • Before hiring a motorcycle, check that the hiring company holds comprehensive insurance, including third-party, for the vehicle you are hiring. Check the excess (if any) that you would need to pay for any claims.
  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Don't drink and drive/ride.
  • Drive/ride defensively.
  • Don't provide your passport as a deposit or guarantee under any circumstances.

Taxis, tuk tuks and motorcycle taxis

Official, metered taxis are generally safe and convenient, but be alert to possible scams and safety risks. Riding in tuk tuks (motorised three-wheel vehicles) or on motorcycle 'taxis' poses additional risks.

Visitors to Thailand regularly encounter friendly taxi or tuk tuk drivers, who offer them cheap 'tours'. These tours involve periods at shops where the driver receives a commission and passengers may be charged higher prices for goods or sold sub-standard goods or worthless gems.

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. We continue 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. We have received reports of drivers resisting, sometimes violently, other drivers who try to pick up passengers in their area.

Accidents involving collisions between motorcycles and open taxi doors are common in Thailand. Taxi passengers are liable to pay compensation to both the taxi driver and the motorcyclist for any damages incurred to the vehicle(s) and/or for physical injury, regardless of who is at fault. Passengers are liable if they are in the taxi, even if they are not using the door that is damaged.  

Thieves on motorbikes sometimes snatch and grab bags and valuables from passengers in tuk tuks and on motorcycle taxis.

  • Make sure you agree on both the fare and route before engaging an unmetered taxi, a tuk tuk or a motorcycle taxi.
  • Secure your possessions while travelling in tuk tuks or on motorcycles.
  • Never put yourself in danger by physically confronting a taxi, tuktuk or motorcycle taxi driver.
  • If you find yourself in a dispute with a driver, call the Tourist Police on 1155 to mediate.
  • Be careful when opening taxi doors – look out for other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.
  • If you are involved in a violent or serious incident involving a taxi or tuk tuk driver, report it to the local police. See Where to get help.

Public transport

Thailand has a highly developed public transport network in urban areas, although reliability and safety can vary depending on mode of transport. The Skytrain and metro/underground train services in Bangkok are clean, reliable and efficient. Buses reach a more extended area, but can be slow and dirty. Serious bus crashes occur, especially on overnight trips. See Safety and security for information on crime occurring on public transport.

Rail travel

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.

Sea travel

Ferry travel in Thailand can be dangerous. Vessel passenger limits are sometimes exceeded and, in many cases, insufficient life jackets are carried. Australians have been killed and injured in ferry and boat accidents in coastal areas, including near Koh Samui. Several safety incidents have recently been reported on vessels in Phuket.

  • Make sure that any vessel you plan to board is carrying appropriate safety equipment, including life jackets for all passengers.
  • Wear your life jacket at all times.
  • Check with your tour operator or vessel management that appropriate safety standards are maintained. If not, find another vessel.
  • Avoid travelling in ferries and speedboats after dark.
  • If you plan to attend a Full Moon (or similar) party, get accommodation on the island where the party is being held so you don't need to travel by boat at night.

Air safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Thailand.

Thailand also serves as a key airline transport hub. Suvarnabhumi International Airport, also known as the New Bangkok International Airport, is located in Samut Prakan Province, 25 kilometres east of Bangkok. It's the main airport for international and domestic flights for Bangkok. Don Mueang Airport, located 24 kilometres north of Bangkok, is also used for domestic and international flights.

Check which airport your flight will use before you travel. The distance between the two airports is 47 kilometres and the driving time can be up to two hours, depending on traffic conditions. If you are transiting through Bangkok, make sure there is sufficient transit time if you are arriving and departing from different airports.

All international and domestic airports are operating normally, notwithstanding the official mourning period. The Airport Authority of Thailand recommends that passengers arrive three hours before their scheduled departure time.

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular services charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws include the death penalty

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 and deportation.

Thai authorities may conduct spot-checks for illegal drugs, particularly around areas frequented by tourists. Foreigners have been targeted for narcotic tests. Under Thai law, the authorities have the right to demand urine samples from individuals suspected of taking illegal drugs. If you are asked to submit a urine sample, request that this be done at a police station and ask for permission to contact the Embassy or the Tourist Police (telephone 1155) for English speaking officers. Follow directions from local authorities.

See Health for information on travelling with prescription and non-prescription medication.

More information:    Carrying or using drugs

Surrogacy laws

Commercial surrogacy is illegal in Thailand. For important information on international surrogacy in Thailand read:

Other laws

Penalties for breaking the law in Thailand can be severe. These penalties also apply to minors (under 18 years of age), who are subject to Thai juvenile judicial processes, including detention in a juvenile or adult prison.

The death penalty can 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.

The following activities are illegal in Thailand:

  • failing to carry identification - foreigners are required to carry identification at all times
  • almost all forms of gambling (other than at a few major race tracks) - heavy penalties apply
  • making a false statement to police, including in relation to an insurance claim – this includes reporting any crime that did not actually take place or lying about the circumstances of an incident
  • smoking on beaches in certain tourist areas, including in Koh Samui, Pattaya, Phuket, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chon Buri and Songkhla provinces.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal offences apply overseas. You can be prosecuted for them in Australia. These offences include, but are not limited to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography and child sex offences, including child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • drug trafficking
  • people smuggling and human trafficking
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Thai-Australian dual nationals may be liable for military conscription. If you are a dual national, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Thailand before you travel.

More information: Dual nationals

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. Respect local customs and take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

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. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and aren't covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you'll be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

It's important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

If you need counselling services while overseas, contact the Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 and ask to speak to a Lifeline telephone counsellor.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some prescription medications available in Australia are controlled substances in Thailand, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor. This includes medication to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Restrictions also apply to some over-the-counter medications available in Australia, including drugs containing codeine.

If you intend to bring prescription or non-prescription medication into Thailand, first contact a Thai Embassy or Consulate to confirm it's legal. If your medicine is illegal in Thailand, consult your doctor in Australia about alternatives.

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry on your person a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information:

Health risks

Mosquito-borne illnesses

There is ongoing transmission of Zika virus in Thailand. Several cases have been reported, including in Bangkok. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to affected areas. The Department of Health's Zika virus bulletin includes other advice for all travellers on how to minimise Zika virus risks. There is no vaccination available for Zika virus.

Malaria can be contracted throughout the year in rural areas, particularly near the borders with Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Dengue fever occurs in Thailand, and is particularly common during the rainy season (November-March in Koh Samui and the south-east of the Thai peninsula and May-October in the rest of Thailand, including Phuket), peaking in July and August. Thai authorities have reported a recent increase in dengue fever cases and a number of deaths. Australian health authorities report a number of cases of dengue each year among travellers returning from Thailand. There is no vaccination or specific treatment available for dengue fever. 

Other insect-borne diseases (including chikungunya fever, Japanese encephalitis and filariasis) also occur in many areas. 

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing
  • take prophylaxis against malaria where necessary
  • get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis before you travel
  • discuss your travel plans and other vaccination needs with your doctor before you travel
  • if you are pregnant, defer non-essential travel to Zika-affected areas, including Bangkok.

More information:

MERS-COV

Since June 2015, there have been a small number of confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in visitors who travelled to Thailand from the Middle East. Screening measures are in place at major airports.

If you arrive in Thailand from an affected country (including Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Jordan and South Korea), you may be subjected to screening tests. If your screening tests are positive or if you have been in close proximity to a person who has been confirmed as having the virus, you'll be put in quarantine.   

More information: Infectious diseases

Alcohol and drugs

In the past, Australians have had serious accidents and injuries as a result of consumption of alcohol and drugs. Australians have been arrested for possession of narcotics. Excess consumption of alcohol and the use of drugs also pose other short- and long-term health and safety risks.  Medical services can be very expensive and penalties for breaking the law in Thailand can be severe. See Laws.

HIV/AIDS

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

Marine stings

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

Rabies

Rabies is a potentially fatal viral disease found in dogs, monkeys, bats and other mammals in Thailand. In markets, tourist destinations and animal sanctuaries, you may be encouraged to interact with monkeys. Many Australians have been bitten or scratched by monkeys in these circumstances.

  • To avoid potential exposure to rabies, don't ever feed, pat or tease monkeys, no matter how much encouragement or assurance you receive.
  • If you are bitten or scratched by a dog, monkey or other mammal in Thailand, get treated with rabies immunoglobulin as soon as possible.

More information: Infectious diseases

Other infectious diseases

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.

  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid uncooked and undercooked food.
  • Avoid unpasteurised dairy products.
  • Seek urgent medical attention if you suspect poisoning, if you have a fever or suffer from diarrhoea.

Fish poisoning

Illness caused by naturally occurring seafood toxins such as ciguatera and scombroid (histamine fish poisoning) and toxins in shellfish can be a hazard.

  • Seek urgent medical attention if you suspect poisoning, if you have a fever or suffer from diarrhoea.

Black henna tattoos

Avoid temporary 'black henna' tattoos as they often contain a dye which can cause serious skin reactions.

Smoke haze and air pollution

Bangkok and other Thai cities experience high levels of air pollution, which may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. Smoke haze, which usually features across parts of north and north-east Thailand during March to April, can also aggravate these conditions. Regular air quality reports are available from the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre.

  • Keep up-to-date with advice of local authorities.
  • Seek medical advice on appropriate precautions.

Avian influenza

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed human deaths from avian influenza in Thailand. See our Health pages for further information.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities throughout Thailand varies. Private hospitals in major cities generally have high standards of facilities and medical care. But services can be limited elsewhere.

Private hospitals generally require confirmation of insurance or a guarantee of payment before they will admit a patient, even in an emergency. Costs can be very high.

Generally, serious illnesses and accidents can be treated at private or public hospitals in Bangkok and other large cities. In other areas, medical evacuation to a destination with the required facilities may be necessary. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.

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

Medical tourism

Medical tourism, including for cosmetic and sex-change operations, is common in Thailand. Standards at discount and uncertified medical establishments can be poor. Serious and possibly life-threatening complications can result. Some hospitals and clinics have refused compensation to patients not satisfied with the results of cosmetic surgery, or when patients are harmed or die during procedures.

  • Research and choose your medical service providers carefully.
  • Don't be lured to discounted or uncertified medical service providers.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergencies

  • Firefighting: 199
  • Medical emergencies and rescue services: 1669
  • Criminal issue: contact police 191 or tourist police on 1155

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular services charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

For consular assistance, contact:

Australian Embassy, Bangkok

181 Wireless Road
Lumphini, Pathumwan
Bangkok, THAILAND
Telephone: (+66 2) 344 6300
Fax: (+66 2) 344 6593

Website: thailand.embassy.gov.au

Check the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

Australian Consulate-General, Phuket

6th Floor CCM Complex
77/77 Chalermprakiat Rama 9 Road (Bypass Road)
Muang Phuket, THAILAND
Telephone: (+66 76) 317 700
Fax: (+66 76) 317 743

Website: phuket.consulate.gov.au
E-mail: consular.phuket@dfat.gov.au

Check the Consulate website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

Australian Consulate, Chiang Mai

195/262 Moo Baan Sansaran 2 (Mod Chic), Soi 2/7
T. Banwaen, A. Handong, Chiang Mai 50230
THAILAND
Hours: Monday to Thursday, 9 am - 12 pm (by prior appointment only)
Telephone: (+66 91) 857 6996
Fax: (+66 53) 336 958
Email: australianconsulate.chiangmai@gmail.com

Australian Consulate, Koh Samui

Koh Samui
Surat Thani, THAILAND
Telephone: (+66 93) 584 7074
Email: honconsamui@gmail.com

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

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Storms and floods

Severe storms and widespread seasonal flooding, including flash floods, can occur without warning in Thailand. The wet season in north and central Thailand runs from May to October. In Koh Samui and the south east of the peninsula, the wet season runs from November to March. 

Disruptions to transport (air, sea, road and rail), electricity and communications are likely during severe weather events.

  • Monitor the media, and weather and flood level reports, especially during the wet season.
  • Check with your tour operator for the latest information on disruptions.
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Don't enter areas affected by flooding or landslides without first seeking advice from local authorities.
  • Follow the instructions and advice of local authorities.

If there is a natural disaster:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag)
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts
  • closely monitor the media, other local sources of information and the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities.

More information:

Earthquakes and tsunamis

Earthquakes can occur in Thailand. In May 2014, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 affected seven districts of Chiang Rai province. Damage was caused to some buildings. For the latest earthquake information, visit the Thai Meteorological Department website. If there is an earthquake, follow the advice for natural disasters listed above.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but Thailand and its neighbours' susceptibility to earthquakes makes destructive tsunamis more likely. Check the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre website regularly for information on seismic activity and the potential for tsunamis. If a tsunami or a tsunami warning is current, follow the advice for all natural disasters listed above.

More information: Earthquakes

Additional Resources