Thailand - Consular Information Sheet
July 28, 2000
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Thailand is a constitutional monarchy.
It is a popular travel destination, and tourist facilities and
services are available throughout the country.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: U.S. citizen tourists staying
for less than 30 days do not require a visa, but must possess
a passport and onward/return ticket. A departure tax must be paid
in Thai Baht to Thai Immigration Authorities at any point of exit.
Thailand’s Entry/Exit information is subject to change without
notice. For further information on Thailand’s entry/exit requirements,
please contact the Royal
Thai Embassy, 1024 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.
20007, telephone (202) 944-3600 or their Internet web site http://www.thaiembdc.org,
or one of the Thai consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles, or New
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Tourists should exercise caution
in all border areas. They may wish to obtain information from
Thai authorities about whether official border crossing points
are open, and should cross into neighboring countries only at
designated crossing points. In 1998, some Western tourists who
strayed across the border into Burma were held in custody by the
Burmese military for several days. Upon returning to Thailand,
they also faced immigration violations for departing Thailand
outside of a designated border crossing point. Licensed guides
can help ensure that trekkers do not cross inadvertently into
a neighboring country.
Pirates, bandits, and drug traffickers operate in the border
areas. In February 2000, two Australians camping near the Burma
border in Ang Kang Park, in the Fang District, were attacked by
robbers. One of the campers was shot and killed. In April 1999,
a dozen Thai villagers and tribesmen were killed in separate incidents
near Thailand’s northern border with Burma. In January 2000, 10
gunmen from two fringe groups in Burma crossed into Thailand and
took several hundred people hostage at a provincial hospital in
Ratchaburi Province. All ten gunmen were killed when Thai authorities
stormed the hospital to end the crisis.
Travelers should be aware that there are occasional incidents
of violence on Thailand’s northern border with Laos in connection
with the attempts of ethnic Hmong insurgents to cross into Laos.
In July 2000, five people were killed and several fled to Thailand
during a skirmish between Lao insurgents and government forces
in Laos near the Chong Mek border crossing. Additionally, two
U.S. citizens in 1999 and one in early 2000 were reported missing
after attempting to cross into Laos at the Lao-Thai border.
Although tourists have not been targeted specifically by this
occasional violence, due caution remains advisable. It is recommended
that persons wishing to travel to border areas check with the
Thai tourist police and the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai
or the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.
CRIME INFORMATION: Pickpocketing, purse snatching, and
other petty crimes are common in areas where tourists gather.
Many tourists fall victim to gem scams, in which a friendly stranger
offers to show the tourist an exceptional place to buy gems. The
gems turn out to be greatly overpriced, and money-back guarantees
are not honored. If you have fallen victim to a gem scam, please
contact the local branch of the Thai Tourist Police or the Tourist
Assistance Center at their local toll free phone number of 1155.
When attempting to catch a taxi at the airport, travelers should
avoid unlicensed taxis and only enter taxis from the airport’s
official taxi stand or go to the airport limousine counter and
hire a car and driver there. All major hotels in Bangkok can arrange
to have a car and driver meet incoming flights. Also, it is not
common for Thai taxis to pick up additional passengers, and travelers
should be wary of drivers seeking to do so. In March 2000, a U.S.
citizen was attacked and robbed by a taxi driver and his accomplice
whom the driver picked up en route.
A growing number of travelers report being robbed after consuming
drugged food or drink offered them by a friendly stranger, sometimes
posing as a fellow traveler. Americans have also reported being
drugged by casual acquaintances they have met in a bar or on the
street. In recent years, the death of one U.S. citizen was allegedly
the result of a drugging incident. Some trekking tour companies,
particularly in northern Thailand, have been known to make drugs
available to trekkers. Travelers should avoid accepting drugs
of any kind, as the drugs may be altered or harmful, and the use
or sale of drugs by trekking tour companies is illegal.
Credit card fraud has also been increasing. Travelers may wish
to protect their credit cards and use them only in known or established
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or
consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's
pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad,
for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet
is available by mail from the Superintendent
of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington,
D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
or via the Bureau
of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical treatment, especially in Bangkok,
is good. Thailand has been experiencing an epidemic of HIV infection
and AIDS. Heterosexual transmission accounts for most HIV infections,
and HIV is common among prostitutes of both sexes. Additionally,
alcoholic beverages, medications and drugs may be more potent
and of a different composition than similar ones in the United
States. Several U.S. citizen tourists die each year of apparent
premature heart attacks after drinking in public places or using
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care
overseas may face extreme difficulties.
Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether
your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical
evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems
requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United
States can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more. Please ascertain
whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor
or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you
incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric
treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Persons with serious medical conditions who travel to Thailand
may wish to consider insurance that specifically covers medical
evacuation, because the cost for medical evacuation from Thailand
can be extremely expensive.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via
the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international
travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC’s
Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ
significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning Thailand is provided for general reference only,
and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Traffic moves on the left in Thailand. The city of Bangkok has
heavy traffic composed of motorcycles, cars, trucks, and three
wheeled "tuk-tuks." Accidents are common. In 1999, five
Americans were killed in traffic accidents in Thailand. Two of
these Americans were killed while riding motorcycles. Use of motorcycle
helmets is mandatory, but this law is rarely enforced. Congested
roads and a scarcity of ambulances can make it difficult for accident
victims to receive timely medical attention. Paved roads connect
Thailand’s major cities, but most have only two lanes. Slow-moving
trucks limit speed and visibility. Speeding and reckless passing
in all regions is common. Consumption of alcohol, amphetamines
and other stimulants by commercial drivers is also common. In
February 1999, there were two serious bus crashes involving foreign
passengers on overnight bus trips; one of these crashes resulted
in fatalities. Motorists may wish to obtain accident insurance
that covers medical and liability costs. The more affluent driver,
even if not at fault, is frequently compelled to cover the expenses
of the other party in an accident in Thailand.
Travelers may wish to use Bangkok’s recently unveiled skytrain
to travel about the city. The multi-million dollar project was
completed in late 1999. The system offers a cheap and fast alternative
to maneuvering Bangkok’s congested city streets. The skytrain
operates everyday from 6:00am to 12:00 midnight.
For specific information concerning Thai driver's permits, vehicle
inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the
National Tourist Organization offices in New York via the
Internet at http://www.tat.or.th/index-shock.htm.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) has assessed the Government of Thailand’s civil aviation
authority as Category 1 - in compliance with international aviation
safety standards for oversight of Thailand’s air carrier operations.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department
of Transportation within the U.S. at telephone 1-800-322-7873,
or visit the FAA’s
Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S.
Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air
carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Thai customs authorities may enforce
strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export
from Thailand of items such as firearms, explosives, narcotics
and drugs, radio equipment, books or other printed material and
video or audio recordings which might be considered subversive
to national security, obscene, or in any way harmful to the public
interest and cultural property. It is advisable to contact the
Embassy of Thailand in Washington, D.C. or one of the Thai consulates
in the United States for specific information regarding customs
Thai customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission
Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission
of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for
exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located
at the U.S. Council
for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New
York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United
States. For additional information, please call telephone (212)
354-4480, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.uscib.org
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
Thai laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
In this connection, it is inappropriate to make negative comments
about the King or other members of the Royal Family. Thais hold
the King in the highest regard, and it is a serious crime to make
critical or defamatory comments about him. This particular crime,
dubbed "lese majeste," is punishable by a prison sentence
of 3 to 15 years. Purposefully tearing or destroying Thai bank
notes, which carry an image of the King, may be considered such
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs
in Thailand are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail
sentences and heavy fines. Thailand strictly enforces its drug
laws, including those prohibiting possession of small quantities
of marijuana. The U.S. Embassy frequently does not learn of the
arrest of U.S. citizens for minor drug offenses, particularly
in Southern Thailand, until several days after the incident. Prison
conditions in Thailand are harsh, and Thailand has a death sentence
for serious drug offenses. Americans convicted of drug trafficking
have received long sentences, often in excess of forty years.
There are more than thirty Americans serving long-term prison
sentences in Thailand. A ruse sometimes used to get U.S. citizens
to transport drugs out of the country involves offering the American
a free vacation to Thailand, then requesting the American’s assistance
in transporting excess "luggage" or gifts back to the
United States. The American’s claim that he or she did not know
that the package contained drugs has not been a successful legal
defense in Thailand.
CHILDREN’S ISSUES: For information
on international adoption of children and international parental
child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html
or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans
living in or visiting Thailand are encouraged to register at the
Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Thailand and obtain updated
information on travel and security within Thailand. The U.S. Embassy
is located at 95 Wireless Road in Bangkok; the U.S. mailing address
is APO AP 96546-0001. The telephone number is (66-2) 205-4000
and the fax number is (66-2) 205-4103. The web
site for the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok is http://usa.or.th/embassy/index.htm.
The U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai is located at 387 Wichayanond
Road; the U.S. mailing address is Box C, APO AP 96546. The telephone
number is (66-53) 252-629 and the fax number is (66-53) 252-633.