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Advice to Foreigners



COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. Approximately 95 percent of the population is Buddhist and ethnically Thai, yet Thailand is a multicultural country. Most Thaiís 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. See places of worship.
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. However these groups focus primarily on Thai government interests. At this time, there is no specific threat to foreigners.

It is advisable to 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. There remains a possibility of significant flare-ups of military activity on the Burmese side of the border that could spill over into immediately adjacent areas of Northern Thailand. Visitors should travel off-road in undeveloped areas only with local guides who are familiar with the area. As border closings and re-openings occur frequently people considering traveling into Burma from Thailand should be aware that in the event of a border closure they may not be able to re-enter Thailand.

Travelers 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. 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 first. Strong seasonal undercurrents at popular beach resorts pose a sometimes fatal threat to surfers and swimmers. During the monsoon season from May through October, drowning is the leading cause of death for tourists visiting Phuket. 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). Directory of emergency and other useful phone numbers.

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CRIME INFORMATION: 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 major cities Worldwide. 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 harassment.

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.

There are occasional reports of scopolamine drugging perpetrated by prostitutes or unscrupulous bar workers for the purpose of robbery. Tourists have also been victimized by drugged food and drink, which is 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. Travelers should not accept drugs of any kind, as 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 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. 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 loss or theft abroad of  your passport or if you are the victim of a crime while overseas, should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

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MEDICAL FACILITIES: 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 other countries. Hospitals in Thailand.

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MEDICAL INSURANCE:  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 your respective countries 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. Insurance companies in Thailand.

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OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in your country. The information below concerning Thailand is provided for general reference only, and it 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 common, and those involving motorcycles can be particularly deadly. If possible refrain from riding motorcycles. Use of motorcycle helmets is mandatory.. Congested roads and a scarcity of ambulances can make it difficult for accident victims to receive timely medical attention. 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 "Sky Train" mass transit system to travel about the city. The system operates everyday from 6:00 a.m. to midnight.

Airlines Offices in Thailand | Bangkok Bus Routes & Terminals | Railway Schedule & BTS Sky train Map
Flights Schedule & Airports

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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 your countries 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.

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CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in Thailand a foreigner subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in your country.

In this connection, it is a criminal offense to make negative comments about the King or other members of the royal family. Thaiís 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. 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. Beware that a ruse sometimes used to transport drugs out of the country involves offering a foreigner (mostly Americanís and Europeans) a free vacation to Thailand, then requesting them an assistance in transporting excess "luggage" or gifts back to the United States or Europe.

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