Getting here and advice about your stay
You can enter Thailand for 30 days without a visa via a Visa Exemption. You cannot extend your stay beyond this.
If you plan to stay in Thailand for longer than 30 days, or you intend to work, you must get a visa before you travel. Contact the Royal Thai Embassy to obtain a visa.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Thailand. Entry to Thailand is normally refused if you have a passport which is damaged or has pages missing.
If you are a dual national you must make sure that when you depart Thailand you have a valid passport of the nationality used to enter, otherwise you may have difficulty in leaving.
British passport holders arriving by air or land can enter Thailand for 30 days without a visa – this is known as a visa exemption. It is possible to extend your stay beyond the 30 days granted by the visa exemption by an additional 30 days from the expiry date of the original visa. To extend your visa you will need to apply at an immigration office.
If you plan to stay in Thailand for longer than 30 days, or you intend to work, you must get a visa before you travel. If you have entered Thailand on a visa, it is possible to apply for an extension of stay but you must do this before your permission to stay expires.
If you overstay, you will be fined 500 baht per day up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. You also risk being held in detention, fined, deported at your own expense and black-listed from re-entering Thailand. The Thai authorities have stated that they will always enforce detention for overstays of more than 42 days. From March 2016, you will be banned from re-entering Thailand if you overstay your visa. Check with the Thai Immigration Authority for details. See: www.overstay.immigration.go.th/advice.html
The only legal way of getting a new visa, entry permit or extension of stay is from a Thai Embassy or Consulate, an Immigration Officer at a point of entry into Thailand or one of the Immigration Offices around the country. Visas issued by visa shops, travel agents or by any other means are likely to be illegal and lead to criminal proceedings.
If you have any queries about visas or entry requirements, check with the Royal Thai Embassy in London. See: www.thaiembassyuk.org.uk
Proof of onward travel
Immigration officials in Thailand may ask you for proof of onward travel (e.g. a return or onward air ticket). You should make all reservations before leaving for Thailand. Some airlines have refused to board passengers without evidence of onward travel.
To work in Thailand you will need a work permit, which is difficult and time-consuming to get. If you enter Thailand on a tourist visa you are not allowed to work. Failure to observe this rule can lead to arrest and deportation.
Yellow Fever certification
Yellow Fever vaccination is required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of Yellow Fever transmission. Check with the World Health Organization (WHO) for the latest list of countries: www.who.int/ith/2015-ith-annex1.pdf?ua=1
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Thailand. If you are planning to enter Thailand using a UK Emergency Travel Document you should contact the nearest Thai Embassy or Consulate before you travel to seek advice about whether a visa is required.
Local laws and customs
Conditions in prisons and other detention facilities in Thailand are harsh, with limited access to healthcare. There have been recent cases of detainees dying in custody.
Do not become involved with drugs of any kind. Possession of even very small quantities can lead to imprisonment. If you are found guilty of being in possession of marijuana you could receive a long prison sentence and/or a heavy fine. If you are found guilty of being in possession of 20 grams of a Class A drug at a point of exit from Thailand you risk receiving the death penalty. Amphetamines and ecstasy are regarded as Class A drugs and possession or trafficking carries the same penalty as heroin.
It is a criminal offence to make critical or defamatory comments in any format, including online, about the monarch or other members of the Royal family in Thailand. This is known as Lèse Majesté and is punishable by a prison sentence of 3 to 15 years, or longer. Foreign nationals have been convicted of Lèse Majesté. Following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on 13th October 2016, the Thai Government has announced a one-year period of mourning. It is recommended visitors should, where appropriate, wear sombre and respectful clothing when in public (although swimsuits should still be acceptable in the large resort beaches). However, tourists are advised to take local advice and to dress and behave appropriately in other public places, particularly when visiting temples or royal palaces.
It is illegal to import more than 200 cigarettes per person into Thailand and this is enforced at customs at the airport on arrival; those who exceed the limit may be fined ten times the value of the items and face confiscation of the cigarettes.
It is illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade its parts without a licence. Thailand is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It has also recently strengthened domestic legislation, banning trade in ivory. Those caught buying or trafficking these items could be prosecuted and receive prison sentences or fines.
Bribery and corruption
Bribery is illegal. It is an offence for British nationals or someone who is ordinarily resident in the UK, a body incorporated in the UK or a Scottish partnership, to bribe anywhere in the world. In addition, a commercial organisation carrying on a business in the UK can be liable for the conduct of a person who is neither a UK national nor resident in the UK or a body incorporated or formed in the UK. In this case it does not matter whether the acts or omissions which form part of the offence take place in the UK or elsewhere.
The UK Government takes a very serious view on bribery and corruption, and any UK company considered to be involved in corrupt practices will feel the full weight of the law bear down on them under the UK Bribery Act 2010. The UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS, formerly Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – BIS) has published a number of documents on their website. See: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-business-energy-and-industrial-strategy for assistance in this area.
Corruption remains an issue in Thailand. Anyone doing business may well encounter or hear of corruption in one form or another. Practices including facilitation payments, bribes and the giving and receiving of expensive gifts in order to develop business relationships are still a problem in certain areas. DIT and FCO advice to companies encountering corruption is simple – do not get involved. Bribery is illegal. Companies should ensure that all their commercial activities in Thailand are compliant with the UK Bribery Act which came into force on 1st July, 2011.
Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perception Index showed that Thailand ranked 76th in the world. See: www.transparency.org/cpi2015/#map-container
Protective security advice
The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure also provides protective security advice to businesses.
You are advised to maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness in Thailand as in the UK.
[Source: FCO Overseas Business Risk/gov.uk]
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), as intangible assets, are a key factor in the competitiveness of your business in the global economy. IPR can protect your innovation from competitors and can also be an important source of cash flow through licensing deals or selling IP. IPR infringement can lead to loss of business, revenue, reputation and competitive advantage unless you take steps to protect your IP both in the UK and abroad.
When exporting to Thailand, it is essential to register your rights in there as soon as possible in order to be able to defend and enforce them. IP rights are territorial in nature which means that registrations in the UK or another country’s jurisdiction are not automatically enforceable in others.
Thailand is a member of the World Trade organisation (WTO) and is thus a signatory to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which sets international standards for various aspects of IP: www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/t_agm0_e.htm
It is also a signatory to a number of international intellectual property (IP) treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO):
the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) sets international standards for various aspects of IP (see: www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/t_agm0_e.htm);
the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (see: www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/paris/);
the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) provides for a common patent filing system (see: www.wipo.int/pct/en/texts/articles/atoc.htm).
Thailand is also undertaking a programme of reforms of IP laws, including the Trademark Act and the Copyright Act. However, many counterfeit documents and goods (i.e. clothing, jewellery and pirated software, CDs /DVDs etc) are openly on sale.
High profile raids and arrests by Thailand’s law enforcement agencies of producers and vendors of counterfeit goods do regularly take place, but these typically do not target the main source of the counterfeit items. In 2013, due to high levels of copyright infringement the office of the US Trade representative kept Thailand on its Priority Watch list. The piracy rate was reported at 72%.
IP top tips for businesses
There is a backlog of patent applications through the PCT system in Thailand therefore it is advisable to register via the direct national route where possible, as application wait time may be reduced.
It is essential to register your rights in Thailand in order to be able to defend and enforce them. IP rights are territorial in nature which means that registrations in the UK or another country’s jurisdiction are not automatically enforceable in others.
Thailand works under a first to file system, meaning he first person to file an IP right there will own that right when granted. This means an earlier user may find they are infringing a later filed registration.
Thailand is part of the ASEAN Patent Examination Co-operation (ASPEC), a regional patent work-sharing programme among nine participating ASEAN Member States (AMS). The purpose of this programme is to share search and examination results between the participating offices to allow applicants in participating countries to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently. ASPEC is free of charge and operates in English. See: www.ipos.gov.sg
It is worthwhile noting that Thailand is undertaking systematic measures to reduce IPR violations in every sphere of business activity, including producing, distributing, selling, importing and exporting.
In 1997 they established the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court (CIPITC) which has exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate civil and criminal cases involving IP.
In March 2013 the National IRP Centre of Enforcement (NICE) was launched aimed at ensuring well-coordinated efforts in the prevention of IPR violations in Thailand.
Businesses are generally encouraged to learn more about IP issues relevant to their specific industry sector and to consider defensive measures early in their plans to enter the Thai market.
The UK Intellectual Property Office has an IP attaché based in Singapore with specific focus on providing support and advice to UK companies in Thailand.
Useful information can also be found at the following:
UK Intellectual Property Office – the UK Government agency providing free and impartial advice on protecting and registering your IP in the UK and abroad. See: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/intellectual-property-office;
A project funded by DG Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission to provide free information and training for European SMEs in the ASEAN region; See: www.ipr-hub.eu
The Thai Department of Intellectual Property (DIP). See: www.ipthailand.go.th/en/
[Source: FCO Overseas Business Risk/gov.uk]
Safety and security
The political situation in Thailand is unpredictable and sometimes volatile. Over recent years there have been instances of civil and political unrest resulting in large demonstrations and in some cases violence.
Be on your guard against pickpockets and bag snatchers. Foreigners have had items snatched by thieves on motorbikes when walking along busy streets or travelling in open transport like tuk-tuks. If you travel by bus, make sure passports, cash and valuables are kept securely. Passengers have had items taken from bags while asleep.
Do not hand over your passport to third parties as a guarantee (e.g. to motorcycle or jet-ski rental businesses). Unscrupulous owners have been known to hold on to passports against claimed damage.
Violent sexual assaults and unprovoked attacks have been reported in popular tourist destinations, including in the Koh Samui archipelago and Krabi province. These are particularly common during the monthly Full Moon parties and generally occur late at night near bars.
Drink spiking has been reported in tourist destinations around Thailand. Be careful about taking drinks from strangers and at clubs and parties, particularly in Koh Samui, Pattaya and at the Full Moon party on Koh Phangan, where date rapes have been reported.
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. Do not 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.
Be careful to observe demarcation lines between shops and stalls, particularly in market areas and at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Taking items from one shop’s area to another may be treated as suspected theft.
Gem scams are common. There have been reports of visitors buying gems for inflated prices from seemingly respectable establishments then later finding out the stones are worth a tiny fraction of the purchase price.
Foreign nationals have been caught up in property scams. Buying a property in Thailand is not straightforward and you should seek professional advice before making financial commitments.
You should report any incidents of crime to the Thai police before leaving the country.
Read also, the information provided on the UK Government’s Crime and Fraud Prevention pages, at: www.gov.uk/guidance/crime-and-fraud-prevention-for-businesses-in-international-trade
Burmese (Myanmar) border
There are occasional clashes between the Thai security forces, armed criminal groups and drug traffickers along the Thai/Burma border. Outside the main towns, police and military checkpoints are actively manned and travellers may be asked to produce ID. See the Tourism Thailand website at: www.tourismthailand.org, and seek advice locally before you travel to this part of the country.
Only cross into Burma at an official border checkpoint, and after obtaining any relevant permissions/visas from the Burmese and Thai authorities.
The line of the international border near the Preah Vihear temple was disputed by Cambodia and Thailand. Since 2008 there were occasional clashes, and hostilities occurred in February 2011 resulting in civilian and military fatalities on both sides. There have also been disputes over control of the Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples, which lie close to the Thailand/Cambodia border, and fighting broke out between Cambodian and Thai troops at Ta Krabey in April 2011. In 2013, the International Court of Justice ruled that Cambodia has sovereignty over the whole territory of the Preah Vihear temple.
The situation has now improved, but you should take extra care in border areas and follow the instructions of the local authorities. Due to the ongoing risk of unexploded landmines in the border region, you should stay on marked paths if you visit this area, especially around Ta Krabey where there have been reports of unmarked mines.
Remain alert to the local situation when travelling anywhere near to the border with Cambodia, and at land crossings between the two countries.
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.
There is a high threat from terrorism. Bomb and grenade attacks have been indiscriminate, including in places visited by expatriates and foreign travellers. There have been attacks in the past in the main cities of Thailand, including in Bangkok in 2015 and 2012, in Koh Samui in 2015, and in Chiang Mai in 2010.
In August 2015 a bomb exploded in central Bangkok, resulting in numerous casualties, including the death of a British national. In February 2015 there were two explosions at the Siam station of Bangkok’s Skytrain (BTS) system, near the entrance to the Siam Paragon shopping mall. Police say they were caused by small improvised explosive devices. In April 2015, a car bomb exploded in the underground car park of the Central Festival shopping mall in Bho Phut on the beach resort island of Koh Samui. You should follow the advice of the local authorities, monitor local media reports and remain vigilant.
Since 2004, there have been almost daily attacks in the far south of the country, including arson, bombings and shootings. Targets have included civilians and members of the security forces, government offices, tourist hotels, discos, bars, shops, marketplaces, supermarkets, schools, transport infrastructure and trains. Over 6,000 people have been killed and several thousand more injured. No British nationals have been killed in these attacks, but some foreigners have been killed and injured.
Martial law has been in place in the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and in the Sadao district of Songkhla province since 2006. The security authorities can detain suspects without charge, censor the media, conduct searches and seize documents. The FCO advises against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla. On 10th April 2014 the Australian authorities indicated that extremists might be planning to target westerners in the southern border provinces.
There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
There are two airports in Bangkok. Suvarnabhumi International Airport is the city’s main international airport. Don Muang Airport handles mainly domestic and regional flights.
Areas of southern Thailand, including Phuket, have experienced poor air quality as a result of haze in the region. This can cause disruption to local and regional air travel, and may have an impact on public health. You should monitor local advice if you are travelling in the area.
There have been a number of train derailments in Thailand. Some have resulted in deaths and injuries.
You can drive in Thailand using an International Driving Permit or Thai driving licence.
There are a high number of road traffic accidents in Thailand. According to the WHO, 14,059 people were killed in 2012. In the UK in 2014 there were 1,775 fatalities. In any comparison of these statistics, you should note that there is a difference in the method of calculating statistics for road deaths in Thailand (at the scene of the accident) and the UK (within 30 days of the accident). The risk of death or injury on the road increases if you travel at night.
Serious accidents involving other vehicles including cars, coaches and mini-buses also occur. Many accidents are due to poor vehicle and driver safety standards. 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.
With motorcycles so widely used in Thailand the majority of road traffic accidents involve motorcycles, contributing to around 70% of all road deaths. If you are riding a motorcycle in Thailand take extra care. According to Thai law, safety helmets must be worn.
Motorcycles or scooters for hire in beach resorts are often unregistered and cannot be used legally on a public road. Before you hire a vehicle, make sure you are covered by your travel insurance and check the small print of the lease agreement. Do not hand over your passport as a guarantee against returning a motorcycle or scooter. Unscrupulous owners regularly hold on to passports against payment for claimed damage to the motorcycle or scooter.
Riding ‘Quad-bikes’ can also be dangerous. It is illegal to drive these on the roads in Thailand even though they are available to hire on the roadside.
There are numerous passenger boat services operating between the mainland and islands in Thailand. There have been some sinkings, usually due to overloading and/or poor maintenance but also due to rough seas. During the Full Moon party, speedboats to and from Koh Phangan are often overloaded. Take care at all times and avoid travelling on vessels that are clearly overloaded or in poor condition. Make sure life jackets are available.
Adventure activities and swimming
Check that your insurance covers you for any adventure activities.
Bungee jumping can be dangerous and accidents occur. If you undertake this activity you should satisfy yourself that the company is using the most up-to-date equipment and safety features, and that they are fully licensed and insured.
If you are considering jungle trekking use a reliable, licensed tour guide. Elephant treks can be dangerous. A British national and other tourists 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 and 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 from May to October. Currents can be extremely strong.
If you rent Jet-Skis or water sports equipment, satisfy yourself that adequate safety precautions are in place. Rent only from reputable, licensed and insured operators, thoroughly check for damage before use and insist on training.
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 are covered by your insurance. If you have 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.
[Source: FCO Travel Advice/gov.uk]
The rainy season in much of Thailand runs from May to October, with September and October being the height of the monsoon season. The rainy season in Koh Samui and the south-east of the Thai peninsula runs from November to March. Heavy storms during the monsoon can cause disruption and damage including flooding and landslides.
The Mekong River Commission posts official updates on the Mekong River on its website: www.ffw.mrcmekong.org
Lakes, caves and waterfalls are particularly prone to dangerous flash flooding during the rainy season.
On 5th May 2014 an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 struck northern Thailand close to Chiang Rai causing some damage to buildings and roads.
FCO travel advice
If you are travelling to Thailand for business, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) website has travel advice to help you prepare for your visits overseas and to stay safe and secure while you are there.
For advice please visit the FCO Travel section pages on the gov.uk website: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/thailand
Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel. See FCO Foreign Travel Insurance: www.gov.uk/guidance/foreign-travel-insurance.
The currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht (TBH).
If you are changing money in Thailand, it may not be possible to exchange Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes.
Visit your health professional at least four to six weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country-specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website: www.travelhealthpro.org.uk/country-information and by NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website: www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx
Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website: www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/Pages/Healthcareabroad.aspx
There are excellent private hospitals in Thailand but they can be expensive. Public hospitals and clinics in Thailand are not always up to UK standards, particularly outside Bangkok and in the coastal islands. Many hospitals require guarantee of payment before they will start treatment. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 1669 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Medications which are only available on prescription in the UK like Viagra, Cialis and Valium are readily available in popular nightlife districts across Thailand. Medication sold on the street is unlikely to be genuine and may have been stolen. Taking medication without medical advice or a prescription can have serious health consequences.
Cases of locally transmitted Zika virus have been confirmed in the last three months. You should follow the advice of the UK National Travel Health Network and Centre (see the TravelHealthPro site: www.travelhealthpro.org.uk/) and discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider, particularly if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
Dengue fever is present in Thailand. You should take mosquito bite avoidance measures. Also there are confirmed reports of hand, foot and mouth disease throughout Thailand.
During March and April there is often smoke haze and resulting poor air quality across parts of the north and north-east of Thailand. This air pollution may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthmatic conditions. Keep up-to-date with local information and seek medical advice on appropriate precautions. Regular air quality reports for Thailand (and the ASEAN region) are available from the Singapore Meteorological Service. See: www.weather.gov.sg/warning-haze-information
[Source: FCO Travel Advice/gov.uk]
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