Foreign travel advice

Thailand

Important COVID-19 travel guidance

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Travel to some countries and territories is currently exempted.

This advice is being kept under constant review. Travel disruption is still possible and national control measures may be brought in with little notice, so check our travel guidance.

Safety and security

Political situation

The political situation in Thailand can be volatile. In recent years, there have been instances of civil and political unrest. You should avoid any protests, political gatherings, demonstrations or marches.

Lèse-majesté (criticism of the monarchy in any form) is a crime, which can be interpreted broadly and carries a long jail sentence. Some foreign (including British) and Thai journalists, Human Rights Defenders and members of the public have faced criminal charges, including for defamation, sedition, and under the Computer Crimes Act for raising concerns, making political comments, and sharing articles online that could been seen as portraying Thailand negatively or making accusations about individuals.

Crime

If you’re the victim of a crime in Thailand and wish to report it to the Thai police you should do so before leaving the country. If you do not, your case may not be investigated. Be aware that the way the media report crime is different from the UK. Local authorities, including the police, may give detailed press briefings. There have been instances where the victims of crime have been identified and threatened with prosecution by the police for damaging Thailand’s reputation.

Be aware that posting images on social media of people drinking alcohol or wearing inappropriate clothing can result in fines and/or imprisonment both for the person who uploaded the images and the people in them.

Be on your guard against pickpockets and bag snatchers, especially from thieves on motorbikes or when travelling in open transport like tuk tuks. Make sure valuables are kept securely and out of sight. Passengers on buses and trains have had items taken from bags while asleep.

Violent crime, including gun crime, rarely involves foreign tourists, although in 2018 several foreign nationals were victims of gun violence in Bangkok. You should take care when travelling in unfamiliar areas and avoid walking through less travelled areas alone, especially at night.

Don’t hand over your passport to third parties as a guarantee (eg to motorcycle or jet ski rental businesses) as companies may hold on to passports against claimed damage.

Violent sexual assaults and unprovoked attacks have been reported in tourist destinations across Thailand. These are particularly common during Full Moon parties and other similar events and late at night near bars.

Drink spiking and date rapes have been reported in tourist destinations around Thailand, with both male and female victims. Be careful about taking drinks from strangers or leaving your drinks unattended, particularly in Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Pattaya and at the Full Moon party on Koh Phangan.

Alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment resulting in accidents, injuries, robbery, assaults and lost travel documents. If you drink, know your limit. Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. Some British nationals in Thailand have suffered severe psychiatric problems because of drug use, resulting in some suicides.

Be aware of the possibility of credit card fraud. Don’t lose sight of your card during transactions. There have been incidents of ATM skimming in Thailand. Where possible use an ATM within a bank and always protect your PIN.

Buying a property in Thailand isn’t straightforward and you should be aware of the risks before making any financial commitments. British people have been caught up in property scams. Several face criminal defamation charges for alleging fraud and malpractice in response to being scammed. The legal process can be lengthy and expensive.

Local travel

Due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, unless you qualify for an exemption under the Emergency Decree you should not attempt to cross land borders at present. See Entry requirements

Myanmar border

There are occasional clashes between the Thai security forces, armed criminal groups and drug traffickers along the Thai/Myanmar border. Outside the main towns, police and military checkpoints are actively manned and travelers may be asked to produce ID. See the Tourism Thailand website and seek advice locally before you travel to this part of the country.

Only cross into Myanmar at an official border checkpoint, and after obtaining any relevant permissions/visas from the Burmese and Thai authorities.

Cambodian border

The line of the international border near the Preah Vihear temple was disputed by Cambodia and Thailand. The exact border is still being agreed.

You should take extra care in border areas and follow the instructions of the local authorities. There are unexploded landmines in the border area, you should stay on marked paths especially around Ta Krabey.

Remain alert to the local situation when travelling anywhere near to the border with Cambodia, and at land crossings between the two countries.

Laos border

Not all land border crossings into Laos are open to foreigners and you may need to get a Laos visa before you arrive to cross the border. Much of the exact border is still being agreed.

Air travel

Due to the coronavirus situation internal and international air travel options remain more limited than previously. If you intend to leave Thailand and need to take a domestic flight to reach your international airport you should check with your provider and plan carefully as travel between provinces is still subject to some limitations. There are two airports in Bangkok: Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Mueang Airport.

Occasionally airports (especially in the north of Thailand) can close in March and April caused by poor air quality affecting visibility. You should check with your airline before travelling.

The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines, but the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

Road travel

There are a high number of road traffic accidents in Thailand especially involving motorcycles. The World Health Organisation (WHO) rates Thailand as the world’s deadliest country for fatalities on motorcycles, citing an average of 5,500 motorcyclist deaths annually.

To drive a car or ride a motorcycle in Thailand, under Thai law you must have the correct licence and appropriate insurance for the category of vehicle you’re using. You will need to apply for a Thai driving licence or, if you already hold a UK licence, an International Driving Permit. If you drive a car or ride a motorcycle in Thailand without a valid licence, this may invalidate your travel insurance if you have an accident or injury.

Under Thai law, you must wear a helmet when riding motorcycles.

There have been a number of accidents involving overnight coach travel. Seek local advice if you are in any doubt about the safety of your transport provider.

Motorcycles or scooters for hire in beach resorts are often unregistered and can’t be used legally on a public road. Before you hire a vehicle, make sure you’re covered by your travel insurance and check the small print of the lease agreement. Don’t hand over your passport as a guarantee against returning a motorcycle or scooter.

Riding quad-bikes can be dangerous. It is also illegal to drive these on the roads even though they’re available to hire on the roadside.

Rail travel

Due to the coronavirus situation rail travel options may be more limited than previously. If you intend to leave Thailand and need to travel by train to reach your airport you should check with your provider.

There have been a number of train derailments in Thailand. Some have resulted in deaths and injuries.

Sea travel

Due to the coronavirus situation sea travel options may be more limited than previously. If you intend to leave Thailand and need to use a boat service to reach your airport you should check with your provider.

There are numerous passenger boat services operating between the mainland and islands. There have been some sinkings and collisions which have resulted in fatalities, including British nationals. These incidents are usually due to overloading and/or poor maintenance, but also due to rough seas, particularly during local monsoon season.

During the Full Moon parties, speedboats to and from Koh Phangan are often overloaded. Take care at all times and avoid travelling by sea when conditions are rough or on vessels that are clearly overloaded or in poor condition. Make sure life jackets are available and check local weather conditions before travelling.

Adventurous activities and swimming

Check that your insurance covers you for any activities.

Extreme sports, including bungee jumping can be dangerous. Make sure the company is using the most up-to-date equipment and safety features, and that they are fully licensed and insured.

When jungle trekking use a reliable, licensed tour guide. Elephant treks and rides can be dangerous, especially when the elephants are mistreated or not handled properly. Foreign tourists, including British nationals, have been killed and seriously injured when handlers have lost control of their elephants.

Take particular care when swimming off coastal areas, especially during monsoon season. Strong riptides have drowned people in several areas including Phuket, Koh Chang, Hua Hin, Cha-am, Rayong, Pattaya and the Koh Samui archipelago. Always comply with warning signs, especially red flags, and only swim from approved beaches.

Jellyfish can swim close to the shore, particularly during the rainy season. Their sting can be fatal. If in doubt take local advice from hotel management and dive centres.

Take care when swimming, diving, kayaking or white water rafting in rivers or close to waterfalls, particularly in the rainy season. Currents can be extremely strong.

The standards maintained by diving schools and rescue services are not always as high as in the UK. Check a dive operator’s credentials carefully before using them and make sure you’re covered by your insurance. If you’ve had no previous diving experience ask your dive operator to explain what cover they offer before signing up for a course. Make sure safety equipment is available on the boat, particularly oxygen.

You should also ask about contingency plans which should include the ability to call for help while at sea and to evacuate divers to the nearest hyperbaric chamber if necessary.

Travellers with limited mobility

There are many interesting places in Thailand that are accessible to all people. But wheelchair access is often limited due to uneven paving, street furniture and a lack of lifts, ramps, etc. This includes buses, public transit systems, and many taxis have limited storage space for wheelchairs. See our general information on planning a safe trip for disabled travellers.