To help you understand some of the Thai Laws. So, you don’t end up getting arrested, fined, or getting your passport blacklisted or worse, getting locked up for something you thought was ok.
Thailand has a long list of laws, and I’ll admit many of them are outright weird, and you have other laws that are almost impossible to enforce.
Then you have laws that the authorities don’t enforce, and no one needs to worry about them.
But if you’re a foreigner planning to travel to the country, what are some Thai laws you need to beware of.
I’ll let you know if I encounter any one of the Thai law listed here. Since I have been travelling and living here for over 40 years.
1. Illicit Drugs
Don’t do, don’t buy or have possession of any illicit drugs, just like back home.
Alcohol is OK, but avoid being intoxicated out in public, especially when you’re outside by yourself; bad things can happen when people are drunk.
The country still has the death sentence here if you get caught with enough illicit drugs or a very long jail sentence.
However, if you’re a foreigner; chances are if you get caught with a large amount of illegal drugs, I think a life sentence in a Thai jail is more of a possibility.
The penalties and complications associated with even being stopped on suspicion of drug possession in Thailand are potentially severe. Let me echo that an outright ban against illegal drugs is a good policy for you when in Thailand.
However, more recently, Thailand is the first nation in Southeast Asia to legalize medical cannabis for patients.
That’s medical cannabis is legalized for medical use; parts of the plant is still illegal.
But to be safe, don’t start bringing any cannabis with you, even if your country fully legalizes it.
Tourists travelling with medical cannabis might still get their stash confiscated while entering the country if it is in an unapproved form.
If you need to have medical cannabis with you when entering Thailand, contact your local embassy or consulate to ask how you can get official approval to avoid prosecution or any problem. Because if I say something here and you read this article 6 or 12 months later, things could change.
2. Don’t Talk About The King or Monarch
Don’t talk about the king or monarch at all.
The thing about standing on money, since Thai money has the king’s pictures on it, as well as the coins. If you are standing or stomping on the Thai money on purpose because you’re protesting something, you could get in trouble if you do it in front of the wrong Thais, so don’t do that. Also, defacing other materials with the image of the king or monarch, newspaper, magazine, posters. Ect., Just don’t do it.
But if you drop your money or coins because it fell out of your wallet. It’s ok to use your feet to block it from rolling off to the side and pick it up because that’s different.
3. Drinking Age
The drinking age in Thailand is 20, and it’s in the interest of bar owners to enforce this, as establishments do occasionally get raided by the police looking for underage drinkers under the influence of illegal substances. I hear a lot about that in Bangkok, but I don’t party, so I never experience any raid.
4. Foreigners Must Carry Their Original Passports
By law, all tourists and expats nationwide must carry their original passports with them at all times. There is no exception. Failure to have your actual passport may result in a 2,000-baht fine. A photocopy, stamped or not, or a driver’s licence is not an acceptable substitute.
The reason this is to keep track of foreigners overstaying and criminals staying illegally.
Now with that said, I know many people who don’t carry around your original passport living in their town or city. Because this is another law that is not being enforced, so don’t worry too much about this. The Thais understand this too. But if you are travelling from one province to another, you might want to bring your original passport just in case.
Put your original passport in their hotel room where it’s safe and only use it when entering or leaving the country at the airport or exchanging your money at the bank.
If you’re an expat, you can use your driver’s licence if you don’t have that a photocopy of your passport and take a photo of your passport with your phone as a backup copy.
The chance of you getting stopped by the authority asking for your identification in the country is very, very low. Unless you are outright breaking the law, like shoplifting, or you’re operating a vehicle and stopping at a checkpoint.
If you’re walking around, going to the beach, shopping, hiking, eating at the restaurant, there is a merger chance of you being stopped and ask for your original passport.
I was never asked for my identification unless I get stopped by a police checkpoint or going to the hospital or dentist, at the airport and renting an apartment.
Renting Scooters or Motorbikes
As for renting a scooter or motorbike that require you to have your passport as insurance.
I like to rent out an old bike, five years or older, they tend to have more dents and scratches and don’t cost a lot as compared to new bikes
Some hotels and apartments rent out motorbikes or scooters. If you don’t want o hand over your original passport, use the rental shop from the same hotel as they don’t need your passport because they know where to find you.
Also, keep in mind that when tourists rent out bikes, some tourists damage them and return the bike but refuse to pay for repair. Some tourists would sell the bike and never return to the shop.
Therefore many rental shops will hesitate to rent you an expensive or relatively expensive bike to foreigners and require your original passport as collateral. Still, most shops will be more flexible if you rent an older and cheaper bike without your passport.
Don’t go full nude even at the beach, and women need to have their tops on at all time. However, if you are on an island where the majority are foreigners or Europeans. I have seen a couple of instances where a few European women went topless sunbathing.
They didn’t get arrested or anything, and if they get approached by the police, I don’t think it is serious, but if you want to respect the host country, keep your top on or do it in your private hotel.
6. No Shirt
You must wear a shirt while driving a vehicle or a scooter/motorbike. I saw Thais with no shirt on their bikes all the time without being stopped by the police. I also saw tourists being stopped by the police without their shirts but had helmets on.
If you don’t want the police to have a reason to stop you, make sure to put on a shirt and helmet when riding your bike, even if you’re on the road next to the beach.
7. Buddha Statue or Image Can Not Be Exported Without Written Permission
If it’s an antique (over 100 years old), you will be a permit to export the Buddha Statue.
Newly cast Buddha for worship, cultural exchange, or educational purposes not more than 5 pieces per person shall be allowed with licenses.
The other thing is the airport security and staff, I think they would be more concerned and look out for firearms, explosives or illegal drugs hidden inside the Buddha.
If you have a big Buddha statue, they might become specious, or it’s over the size limit, or it could be that a woman is holding the Buddha. Because males are only allowed to carry the Buddha image.
There are a lot of cultural things going on. But the Buddha imagery is not for decorative decor for your home. The Thais use it for worship and to spread Buddhist thought.
The Thais don’t like it when people or tourists who don’t know their culture are unknowingly disrespecting people who worship the Buddha.
But if you have a small touristic replica which you can buy everywhere around the country, I wouldn’t worry too much to bring it back to your home. The worst I think could happen is your Buddha would only be confiscated.
Now for the professional art dealer or exporter, you would know more than me about this.
The chance of Thais or foreigners being stop or fined for littering is small. There are parts of the country that is full of litter. But just because the chance of you being fine for littering is so small or next to zero. You shouldn’t litter in Thailand and at home or anywhere.
9. Overstay Visa
Don’t overstay. You can’t stay here as long as you want as a foreigner.
If you overstayed for less than a week, you just pay the fine at the airport before you depart. But if you get caught overstaying an extended amount period for a few months or over a year. You could get blacklisted.
There will be a stamp on your passport that tells you the day your visa expires. Check that and leave before it expires.
Or go to any nightclub around the country if you want to party.
Don’t go to the local beach or restaurant where other Thais or foreigners go and get drunk in public.
If you want to know more about what to avoid while in Thailand. There are more articles here.