Guidance

Living in Thailand

Advice for British people living in Thailand, including information on health, education, benefits, residence requirements and more.

Introduction

This guide sets out essential information for British nationals residing in Thailand, including advice on health, education, benefits, residence requirements and more. We are unable to provide any guidance on general lifestyle enquiries apart from the information and links listed below. See our ‘our information’ for more details of what consulates can and cannot do to help. This information supplements the travel advice for Thailand.

Our publication Support for British Nationals Abroad: A Guide sets out the steps that British nationals can take to stay safe abroad, and provides details on what help the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) can provide if you do get into difficulty.

Entry and residence requirements

Thai visas and immigration

We are unable to give you specific advice about Thai immigration rules, procedures or visa eligibility for visitors in Thailand or other countries. However we do provide general advice on entry requirements to Thailand in our travel advice. If you are not already in Thailand, you should approach your nearest Thai embassy where staff will be able to advise you on the types of visas available, residence permits and more.

If you are already in Thailand, then all immigration and visa matters are dealt with by the Thai Immigration Department. The Immigration Call Centre can be contacted locally on 1178 and they will be able to answer all Thai immigration questions (English is spoken). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Immigration Department have also produced answers to the most popular enquiries on their websites.

Do not overstay beyond the limit of your visa. If you overstay you will automatically be fined THB500 for each day you remain in Thailand up to a maximum of THB20,000 beyond the date stamped in your passport. If your overstay is greater than the maximum, or you cannot pay, you are likely to be arrested and detained until you can pay for your own deportation.

Although we cannot advise you on what specific items you can or cannot bring into Thailand, we do provide some general advice in our travel advice. The Thai Customs Department website provides a list of general prohibitions and restrictions. We suggest you consult travel guides and websites to research your requirements. Furthermore, IATA provides general information and travel advice on Customs, Currency & Airport Tax regulations for international arrivals at airports in Thailand.

Pets must be accompanied by a health certificate, completed in English and signed or further endorsed by a full-time authorized veterinary official of the government of the exporting country. The UK government provides general travel information for pet owners and taking your pet abroad.

Registering yourself with the British embassy and staying informed

We no longer use a system for registering visitors or residents with us. We advise all British nationals to read our up to date travel advice updates to ensure you stay safe, avoid problems and make informed decisions when living or travelling in Thailand. We will e-mail you with any changes to our travel advice when you subscribe to our travel alerts.

To stay up to date and get instant access to what’s going on you can also follow the Embassy’s Twitter feed, like our Facebook page and see our Flickr stream.

Replacement/Renewal of UK Passports whilst in Thailand

The British Embassy in Bangkok does not issue standard (10 year) replacement British passports, nor does it have the facility to provide additional pages to existing passports. Please follow this online tool for access to the appropriate forms to complete and instructions (including how to make payments) on how to submit your application. You can also find contact details for the HM Passport Office Advice Line which you should contact if you have any queries after consulting the online guidance. As the Embassy no longer has any responsibility for the issuing of replacement passports, we are also unable to provide a ‘check and send’ service.

If you need to travel urgently whilst you are applying for a replacement passport you may be able to get help from the Embassy with an Emergency Travel Document.

Health

Healthcare in Thailand

It is important to make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment in Thailand and repatriation back to the UK whilst travelling in Thailand. There is no free medical care available in Thailand. Please visit NHS Choices for useful information on pre-travel health consultations and healthcare abroad.

If you need medical treatment whilst in Thailand you generally have to visit either government or private hospitals/clinics. Be aware that private medical care in Thailand can be very expensive. If you have medical insurance, you should normally be admitted to a private hospital wherever possible. If you are not insured and choose to visit a private hospital, they may insist on a cash deposit being made before they will begin any medical treatment. Almost all of the private hospitals in Thailand have an International Liaison Department where English-speaking staff will liaise with the patients, their relatives and insurance companies. Travellers with no insurance or with limited funds should consider visiting government hospitals/clinics which are less expensive than private ones. Conditions in government hospitals are usually crowded, and the majority of the staff (particularly the nursing staff) speak little or no English. Nursing care is limited, and the patient’s day to day needs (feeding, bathing etc) are usually carried out by friends or family.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has details of locally provided travel insurance available online. You can find further information about the ‘Thailand Travel Shield’ scheme on the TAT official website

British nationals residing in Thailand should make sure they have adequate health insurance to cover any necessary medical treatment that may be required whilst living and working in Thailand. You can visit the Thai General Insurance Association (TGIA) website for more information on local and international insurance companies.

British nationals retiring in Thailand should note that the majority of locally operated insurance companies only provide medical and health cover for people up to the age of 70. Medical treatment for an older person can be expensive so you should make provision for any possible future health or medical needs, including medical evacuation, repatriation and, in the event that you may be unable to make decisions about your welfare or financial affairs, power of attorney.

To request an ambulance from a government hospital in an emergency dial 191 or 1300 (Thai language only).

To request an ambulance from an international hospital in an emergency dial 1554 (English speaking unit available).

To request assistance from the Thai Tourist Police dial 1155 (English speaking unit available)

Additional information about our services can be found on the British Embassy Bangkok website.

Guidance on bringing medication into Thailand

If you are planning to travel to Thailand with medication that contains a narcotic or psychotropic substance you must apply for a permit prior to travelling with the Thai Food and Drug Administration. They have also created a travellers’ guide containing relevant information and advice. We advise you to consult your GP/healthcare professional before travelling to Thailand as some medications which are legal in the UK may not be approved for use in Thailand.

The FDA has also published answers to their most frequently asked questions from foreign nationals wanting to bring medication into Thailand. If you have any questions please contact the Narcotics Control Division of the Food and Drug Administration directly.

You must also get a licence if you’re entering or leaving the UK for 3 months or more with a medication which contains a controlled drug.

Alternatively we suggest you contact or visit your nearest Thai embassy or consulate who will be best placed to advise you.

Driving licences and vehicles

The Thailand Land Transport Office is responsible for issuing and stamping Thai and International Permits for licences. You will also need to ensure that you have adequate driving insurance.

This UK Government online tool will allow you to check if your Thai driving licence can be exchanged for a British version.

Property and property disputes

Buying property or land in Thailand is not a straightforward business. Generally foreign nationals are not able to own land. It is essential therefore that anyone planning to buy property or land seeks legal guidance before they commit.

Please note that the British Government cannot become involved in private legal disputes or provide legal advice. If you experience problems involving property in Thailand you are recommended to engage a lawyer to act on your behalf and to seek legal redress through the courts.

Education

Parents have the option to send their children to government schools or more commonly to international and private schools.

The International Schools Association of Thailand liaise between international schools (which are members of ISAT) and the Ministry of Education.

Employment and recognised qualifications

If you plan to work, conduct business or undertake investment activities in Thailand must apply for a Non-Immigrant Visa at a Royal Thai Embassy and liaise with your employer to make the necessary arrangements, including the 90 day reporting requirements. The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs have produced a helpful flowchart to give you an outline of the process.

If your UK documents (such as certificates) are required for use outside the UK, you may need to have them notarised first in the UK, and then legalised by the FCO Legalisation Office.

We regularly get asked to comment on the reputation of organisations providing volunteering or gap year opportunities. As this is not something we actively look into or monitor we are unable to provide any advice. We suggest you consult appropriate guidebooks and websites to research into these organisations, including if they are able to support your immigration requirements.

If you work as a volunteer (unpaid), you do need a non-Immigrant visa as well as the Work Permit. The NGO must be legally registered with the Thai Ministry of Commerce and you will need a recommendation letter from the NGO for your visa application and the work permit. Please refer to your nearest Royal Thai Embassy for specific advice on visa requirements.

Thai Police Clearance Certificate

Foreign applicants residing in Thailand or having previously worked or resided in Thailand, can apply for Thai Police Clearance Certificates at the Police Clearance Service Centre.

UK Police Clearance Certificates

At present, the UK authorities do not provide police clearance certificates. Applicants can however apply for a subject access reply under the Subject Access Provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998. This is accepted by most foreign authorities in the absence of any other facility. You can obtain more information with the ACPO Criminal Records Office.

Benefits

You may still be able to claim some benefits if you travel or move abroad, or are already living abroad. What you’re entitled to depends on where you’re going and how long for.

Retirement and pensions

If you plan to retire in Thailand you will need to carefully plan to ensure that you will be able to support yourself, particularly if you encounter health problems. Senior British nationals might consider getting a living will or a power of attorney whilst in Thailand. If you have retired and you live in Thailand, see our information on getting your State Pension abroad. For further details contact the International Pension Centre.

Finance

Britain has a double taxation agreement with Thailand to ensure people do not pay tax on the same income in both countries. Taxation is a complex issue and it is strongly recommended that professional advice is sought. The Revenue Department of Thailand also has information on tax in Thailand.

Leaving Thailand

If you live in the Thailand and are considering returning to live in the UK (for example on retirement), you should consider how you will support yourself and how non-British members of your family may be able to accompany you.

National Insurance and tax

If you have not made full National Insurance (NI) contributions, remember you may not be eligible for state benefits or support. HM Revenue & Customs provide some useful information on returning to live in the UK for non-residents, including how to make NI contributions from abroad and getting your tax right if you are returning to the UK

Healthcare

Your entitlement to free NHS treatment depends on the length and purpose of your residence in the UK, not your nationality. You must be able to show UK residency to be eligible for free treatment, even if you are a British citizen. The Citizens’ Advice Bureau or NHS can provide further information.

Visas

If you wish to return to live in the UK with family members who do not hold British citizenship, they will need to meet the UK’s immigration requirements for settlement in the UK.

Disclaimer

This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCO and the British embassy will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.

Published 14 January 2014