Thailand Travel Advice & Passport Requirements
Covid-19 measures can lead to the cancellation of events, temporary or permanent closure of venues, and restrictions on activities and travel. The situation changes regularly, so always check for the latest information.
Whether you’re travelling to Thailand on a fully organised holiday or for a backpacking adventure, it's important to do some pre-trip research to ensure everything runs smoothly. Here is our rundown of practical information for visitors.
Capital city: Bangkok
Official language: Thai (English is widely spoken in cities/tourist areas)
Time zone: GMT+7
Passport requirements: UK passport holders may enter Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa. Your passport must be valid for at least six months from your date of entry.
From May-October, the rainy monsoon season affects most of Thailand, and many hotels and businesses, particularly on smaller islands, close. You'll find drier and milder conditions from October-February, except in the south (including the Koh Samui area), where there's significant rainfall. February-May is warmer and relatively dry.
Getting there and around
Thailand's main international airports include Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang in Bangkok, plus Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Koh Samui. All offer domestic services around the country.
Thailand has land borders with Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Myanmar. Check visa requirements, and that borders are open, before travelling.
Cross-country buses vary in comfort. Although there are many luxury services, trains tend to be more comfortable for overnight travel. From Bangkok, you can travel by rail to destinations including Chiang Mai, and the borders with Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia. Comfort levels vary from wooden seats to sleeping compartments; advance booking is recommended for sleepers.
Rural transport includes local buses, songthaews (pick-up trucks or jeeps with two rows of seating at the rear), share-taxis, mini buses, and motorcycle taxis. Ferries run from the mainland to the major islands, while speedboats and long-tail boats access smaller islands and secluded bays.
In Bangkok, taxis and buses are common (as are traffic jams), while the BTS Skytrain, MRT, and Airport Rail Link train services cover much of the centre, and express boats ply the Chao Phraya River.
Check the latest travel health advice, including recommended vaccinations and/or antimalarials, at least eight weeks before visiting Thailand. Visit the Travel Health Pro website, or book an appointment with a travel clinic.
Avoid drinking tap water. Drink bottled water instead. And if you're heading off the beaten track, carry water-purification tablets. If you suffer from respiratory problems, air pollution in Bangkok and Chiang Mai could be an issue.
If you use medication, check whether you can take it with you into Thailand and carry any relevant doctor's letters. Avoid buying black-market medication in Thailand.
Local laws and customs
Smoking is banned in indoor public places, workplaces and public transport, plus many outdoor public sites including many beaches. E-cigarettes are banned in Thailand. Conviction for drug-related offences can lead to the death penalty.
Criticising Thailand's monarch is a crime. You should avoid political protests and civil unrest, as you could risk arrest or injury.
In Thailand, the soles of your feet are considered dirty, so don't point them towards people. The head is considered sacred. Don't touch a person's head, or raise your feet higher than their head.
Crime and safety
The most common crimes against tourists include pickpocketing, bags being snatched through open taxi windows, and theft from sleeping passengers on overnight buses. Keep any valuables out of sight, preferably in a hotel safe. Make sure your credit/debit card remains in view when paying, to guard against skimming.
Violent crime against foreigners is rare, but always exercise caution. Stay out of unfamiliar areas at night. Druggings have been reported at events including full-moon parties. Don't accept drinks (or drugs) from strangers, and never leave your drink unattended.
Make sure your travel insurance covers any activities you take part in, that all hired equipment is in good condition and organisers have the relevant safety certificates. Ferries and speedboats can get overcrowded during busy periods. Check for adequate safety equipment like life jackets before embarking.
Road-traffic accidents, especially those involving motorbikes (helmets are compulsory), are common in Thailand. Avoid driving at night as hazards are not always well lit, and always check the condition of any vehicle you're hiring. If in doubt, choose a major international rental agency, which are common in cities and at airports.
Further information and contacts
Tourism Authority of Thailand: visit www.tourismthailand.org, or call 1672 (from inside Thailand) and press 9 for help in English.
Emergency phone numbers: call 1155 for tourist police; 1669 for emergency medical services.
Nick Elvin contributed to this post.