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XYZ Consular Info: Thailand
Thailand Consular Information Sheet
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
April 9, 2002
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. Approximately
95 percent of the population is Buddhist and ethnically Thai, yet Thailand
is a multicultural country. Most Thais in the northeast are closely related
to the Lao people both culturally and linguistically, although a few
northeastern provinces have substantial Khmer-speaking populations. The
majority of people in the far southern provinces are Muslims who speak a
dialect of the Malay language, while there are numerous ethnically distinct
hill tribes in the north which practice Protestantism and animism. Thailand
is a popular travel destination, and tourist facilities and services are
available throughout the country.
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 Passenger Service Charge, currently 500 baht (USD equivalent as
of September 2001: $11.50), must be paid in Thai baht when departing the
country from any of Thailand's international airports. 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 the Internet web site
Thai consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York City.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
The far south of Thailand has experienced incidents of
criminally and politically motivated violence, including incidents
attributed to armed local separatist/extremist groups. Although these
groups focus primarily on Thai government interests, U.S. citizen travelers
should remain vigilant with regard to their personal security. At this
time, there is no specific threat information.
Tourists should also exercise caution in remote areas along the border with
Burma. The Thai/Burma border is the site of on-going conflicts between the
Burmese Army and armed opposition groups as well as clashes between Thai
security forces and armed drug traffickers. In addition, pirates, bandits,
and drug traffickers operate in these 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. Tourists should obtain information from Thai
authorities about whether official border crossing points are open, and
should cross into neighboring countries only at designated crossing points.
Thai/Burma border crossings sometimes close temporarily as a result of armed
clashes in Burma between the Burmese army and Burmese ethnic groups.
Licensed guides can help ensure that trekkers do not cross inadvertently
into a neighboring country.
Travelers should be aware that there are occasional incidents of violence on
Thailand's northern and eastern borders with Laos. In July 2000, five
people were killed and several fled to Thailand during a skirmish between
apparent insurgents and government forces in Laos near the eastern border
crossing at Chong Mek. Additionally, two U.S. citizens in 1999 and one in
early 2000 were reported missing after attempting to cross illegally 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.
Strong seasonal undercurrents at popular beach resorts sometimes pose a
fatal threat to surfers and swimmers. During the monsoon season from May
through October, the leading cause of death for tourists visiting Phuket is
drowning. Some but not all beaches have warning flags to indicate the
degree of risk (red flag: sea condition dangerous for swimming; yellow
flag: sea condition rough, swim with caution; green flag: sea condition
stable). In July 2001, an American tourist died in a surfing accident in
Phuket at a beach that was not marked.
In recent years, crimes of opportunity such as
pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, and burglaries have become more common,
though the crime threat in Bangkok remains less than in many American
cities. Violent crimes against foreigners are relatively rare. Travelers
should be especially wary when walking in crowded markets, tourist sites and
bus or train stations. Women are generally not subject to sexual
Reports of serious transportation-related crimes involving taxis or
three-wheeled vehicles called
"tuk tuks" are relatively rare, though fare scams can occur. More serious
are incidents in which drivers tout disreputable gem stores or entertainment
venues because they receive money for bringing in customers. Travelers
should always use official metered taxis in Bangkok and never enter a cab
that has anyone besides a driver in it. In March 2000, a U.S. citizen was
attacked and robbed by a taxi driver and an accomplice picked up en route by
There are occasional reports of scopolamine druggings perpetrated by
prostitutes or unscrupulous bar workers for the purpose of robbery.
Tourists have also been victimized by drugged food and drink, usually
offered by a friendly stranger (sometimes posing as a fellow traveler). In
addition, casual acquaintances met in a bar or on the street may pose a
threat. Travelers are advised to avoid leaving drinks or food unattended
and should avoid going to unfamiliar venues alone. Some trekking tour
companies, particularly in Northern Thailand, have been known to make drugs
available to trekkers.
In July 2001, an American died after smoking opium in a northern hill tribe
village. Travelers should not accept drugs of any kind because the drugs
may be altered or harmful, and the use or sale of drugs is illegal.
Scams involving gems, city tours, entertainment venues and credit cards are
also common, especially in areas that are heavily visited by tourists.
Credit cards should be used only in reputable, established businesses, and
the amount charged should be checked for accuracy. Travelers should not
accept tours or offers from touts who solicit on the streets. Shopping at
lesser-known gem stores carries a serious risk; the Tourism Authority of
Thailand (TAT) receives over 1,000 complaints each year from visitors who
have been cheated on gem purchases. The gems often turn out to be greatly
overpriced, and money-back guarantees are not honored. Lists of gem dealers
who have promised to abide by TAT guidelines are available online at
while information on gem scams can be
found on the Thai Tourist Police web site at
A traveler who has fallen victim
to a gem scam should contact the local branch of the Tourist Police, or call
their country-wide toll-free number: 1155. Finally, bars or entertainment
venues in tourist areas may at times try to charge exorbitant amounts for
drinks or unadvertised cover charges. If victimized in this fashion,
travelers should not attempt to resolve the problem themselves, but should
instead pay the price demanded and then contact the nearest branch of the
Tourist Police for help in getting restitution. (The toll-free number for
the Tourist Police is indicated above.)
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, DC 20402, via the Internet at
or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home
Medical treatment is good. This is particularly true
in Bangkok, where excellent facilities exist for routine, long-term and
emergency health care. 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 in Thailand each year of apparent
premature heart attacks after drinking alcohol or using drugs.
U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the
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.
Travelers should check with their insurance company to confirm whether their
policies offer coverage 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. Travelers should ascertain
whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or if the
traveler must pay first and then be reimbursed later. Some insurance
policies may 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, as 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:
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
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, buses, and three-wheeled
"tuk-tuks." For safety, and to avoid jaywalking fines, pedestrians should
use overhead walkways whenever possible. Accidents are common, and those
involving motorcycles can be particularly deadly. The U.S. Embassy strongly
recommends that Americans refrain from riding motorcycles. In 2000, four
Americans were killed in traffic accidents in Thailand, three of whom were
riding motorcycles; during the first nine months of 2001, there were five
American traffic deaths in Thailand, two of which involved motorcycles. Use
of motorcycle helmets is mandatory, but this law is seldom 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 recent years there have been 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.
Travelers may wish to use Bangkok's elevated "Skytrain" mass transit system
to travel about the city. The system operates everyday from 6:00 a.m. to
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 United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or
visit the FAA's Internet website at
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 tel. (618) 256-4801.
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 requirements.
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 (212) 354-4480, or send an e-mail to
email@example.com, or visit ATA
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
In this connection, it is a criminal offense 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 three to fifteen years. Purposely
tearing or destroying Thai bank notes, which carry an image of the King, may
be considered such an offense.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs in Thailand
are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy
fines. 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. A recent
change in Thai law lowered threshold quantities that may result in its
imposition. After a period when the death penalty was seldom imposed,
Thailand is once again executing convicted traffickers. There are at
present approximately fifteen Americans serving long-term prison sentences
in Thailand, but in previous years the total was above sixty. A ruse
sometimes used to transport drugs out of the country involves offering an
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 defense in Thailand.
For general information on international adoption of
children and international parental child abduction, please refer to the
Office of Children's Issues home page on the Internet at
or telephone (202) 312-9700.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS:
Americans living in or
visiting Thailand are encouraged to register either online or in person at
the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok or the U.S. Consulate
General in Chiang Mai. At both locations updated information on travel and
security in Thailand is available. The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy
is located at
95 Wireless Road in Bangkok; the U.S. mailing address is APO AP 96546-0001.
The central switchboard number is (66-2) 205-4000; the American Citizen
Services Unit number is (66-2) 205-4049; and the fax number is (66-2)
205-4103. The web site for the U.S. Embassy is US Embassy
American citizens can register online via the web site. Questions regarding
American Citizens Services can be submitted by E-mail to .
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.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated October 15, 2001 to
update the section on Safety and Security.