Customs: 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. Buddha images, regardless of form, are particularly sensitive items because of the central role of Buddhism in Thai society. You should 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.
Medicine for Personal Use: The importation of medicine for personal use is allowed as long as the amount does not exceed a 30-day supply and you bring the medicine with you. Do not mail medicine to Thailand without first checking to confirm it will be allowed into the country. You can find customs and permit information on the Thailand Customs website and the Thailand Food and Drug Administration website. In 2012 and 2013, we received reports of U.S. citizens having difficulty importing prescription medicines that were commercially available in Thailand. It is important that you verify how you will maintain your medicine supply before you begin your trip. You should also use the resources linked in this paragraph to review the legality of the prescription medication you plan to bring with you in your carry-on and checked baggage. If you plan to purchase more medication while you are in Thailand, bring your physician’s prescription order with you. You may need to have your prescription reordered by a physician licensed to practice in Thailand before a Thai pharmacy will fill it.
Water Safety: 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 the resort island of 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).
Weather Conditions: Heavy rains and floods are frequent during the May-October rainy season. Be alert for floods and landslides near waterways, in low-lying areas, and along hills. The leading cause of death during 2011’s historic period of flooding was electrocution because people did not turn off electricity in their flooded homes. Long power outages are also common during the rainy season. Monitor local media to keep up to date with the latest information about weather and road conditions in your area. The Thai Meteorological Department posts weather forecasts and warnings online. If you are traveling by ferry, air, bus, or rail during periods of heavy rain, you should check with the transportation company you plan to use to ensure that its service is still operating. If you are driving, try to confirm that the roads are passable. Highway information in the Thai language is available by dialing 1586. If you are affected by flooding and need urgent assistance, call 1155 to reach Tourist Police. You will find useful information on steps to take before, during, and after weather-related and other natural disasters at this U.S. government FEMA website.
Boat Safety: Boat safety is a concern in Thailand. Ferries and speedboats used for transport to and from the many islands off the Thai mainland and along rivers and canals are often overcrowded and do not carry sufficient safety equipment. Several years ago, three U.S. citizen tourists died when the over-crowded speedboat they were in capsized and sank off the coast of Koh Samui. Three months later, two U.S. citizens narrowly escaped death when their dive boat sank off the coast near Phuket. In 2012, a speedboat ferry sank in rough weather near Phuket injuring more than two dozen foreign tourists. Avoid travel on overcrowded boats and ensure that proper safety equipment (including life preservers) is available before boarding any boat or ferry.
Adventure Tourism: Thailand has a developed adventure tourism industry. However, standards and requirements for safety inspections may not be equivalent to those required for similar activities in the United States.
Fire Safety and Building Codes: Fire safety standards, sprinkler systems, and building codes in hotels and other buildings may not match those for similar structures in the United States. On March 8, 2012, a fire in a Bangkok hotel belonging to an international chain killed two foreign tourists and injured several others. There was no sprinkler system in part of the hotel. On August 17, 2012, a fire at a Phuket disco killed two Thais and two foreign tourists and injured several other persons.
Arbitration: Incidents involving traffic accidents, minor property damage, and petty crimes are often settled through informal arbitration, or “compromise.” This process usually takes place at a police station, with the police as arbiters and sometimes as participants. It may seem irregular and look like an attempt to fleece the foreigner, but it is a traditional way of settling a dispute that many Thais prefer because it avoids legal formalities and is relatively quick. However, it can be opaque and bewildering to foreigners. In places with a large number of tourists, English-speaking Tourist Police or police volunteers might be able to explain what is going on. In any case, you should not sign anything unless you have read it and understood it. If you are not comfortable with this process, you can decline to participate. The police then will write a report and handle the matter through the formal judicial process. If this happens, you should consult with a local attorney for guidance.
Schools: Thailand has many schools where foreigners may study the Thai language, train to become English teachers, and yoga instructors, learn Thai massage, or study Muay Thai, traditional Thai Boxing. Most are reputable, but some U.S. citizens have lost substantial sums of money to unscrupulous school operators who do not provide the services they have promised. We do not monitor or evaluate individual schools. Instead, you should thoroughly research a school before paying any fees. Do not rely on a good-looking website. Visit the school campus to inspect its facilities and verify the credentials of its instructors. Check the school’s reputation online – there are several websites that have student reviews. Pay school fees with a U.S. credit card rather than with cash or a bank transfer. Doing so will make it easier to recover your money in case of a dispute.