No matter what country you are thinking about travelling to, it is generally a wise step to look up the rules and regulations that govern the country of destination. It is far better to know what you are potentially getting yourself into than to get locked up screaming “I didn’t know!” the whole way. Some laws are potentially life-altering. In Sri Lanka for instance, the penalty for smuggling any kind of drugs into the country is the death penalty. Probably not one of those things you want to get caught up for.
Thailand is no different to any other destination and you should understand what the common rules are to avoid becoming another foreigner that either ends up spending party money to pay the police or ends up in the monkey house. Here are a few of the common rules and regulations you should know prior to your visit. This article by no means encompasses all of the rules in Thailand, just some of the ones that people get caught up for frequently.
Driving: In order to drive in Thailand and even to rent a motorbike from certain places, you will need to show either a Thai driver’s license (which most visitors will not have) or an international driving permit that is issued to you by your home country. For Americans, it is as easy as a trip to the local AAA insurance office with your state-side issued driver’s license and $15.00. In 5-minutes you will have an international driving permit that expires 1-year from the day it was issued.
The motorcycle/car that you are renting or borrowing will also need to have up to date insurance paperwork. Provided you have these two documents you will be fine and free to continue driving around should you get stopped at the police checkpoints around town.
Lèse Majesté: Travellers to Thailand need to remember that the government here is typically not the same as most of their home countries. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and the royal family is held in the highest regard. It is absolutely against the law to defame, insult or threaten any member of the royal family. If you post something negative about the royal family on social media or speak badly about the royals you may find yourself on the wrong side of the prison bars even if what you said was said in jest. It is far better to keep any negative comments on the topic to yourself.
Vaping: People all around the world have switched to vaping to try to cut back or quit smoking cigarettes. That is all fine and well in your home country, but Thailand has some of the harshest vaping laws in the entire world and being in possession of a vape mod or vaping in public places could see you with a 30k-100k baht fine and possible jail time. If you do need to bring your vaporizer to Thailand, leave them in your room and do not use them unless you are in the room as well.
Under Age Prostitution: While it is tolerated in some areas, prostitution, on the whole, is illegal in Thailand. It is important to make sure to know the ages of any girls you take a company as well. For if you are caught with an underage girl, you could be looking at a lengthy prison sentence and a hefty fine.
Drugs: Thailand frowns on drug usage. Methamphetamine is a very common drug in Thailand but it could land you in the slammer for life and if the amount is great enough, you could even be looking at the death sentence. Common street names for meth are ice and ya ba (tablets laced with meth and caffeine).
Though Thailand is gradually advancing towards the legalization of marijuana for medical and possibly recreational use, it is still currently illegal and getting caught with it could land you with some heavy penalties and fines.
Defamation (Slander/Libel): In Thailand the penalties for speaking or writing defaming comments on social media pages about any person, family and or business can be quite high. Thailand’s criminal defamation law is defined by Thai Criminal Code is “a statement made by a person who imputes anything to another in a manner which is likely to impair the reputation of the latter or to expose him to hatred or contempt.”
Thailand is not the place to smear and degrade companies or individuals. Do so, and you could find yourself looking at 2-years in the clink and/or a 20k baht fine.
Indecent or Obscene Public Acts: While it is not an everyday occurrence, more than a handful of people each year get caught doing the dirty down in the sand and on the beaches. While it may seem like a good idea at the time, in Thailand it’s not always better down where it’s wetter, take it from me. Indecent acts in any public areas will see your wallet lightened by 5k to 20k baht, depending on the lewdness of the act.
Now that the main “No-No’s” are out of the way, we can discuss some of the laws that are a little on the “strange” side. Here are a few laws that you may not know about that will make you double-take.
Free Ballers Beware: Thailand is hot, sometimes extremely so. It is advisable that you keep your knickers on no matter what the thermometer says. In Thailand, it is illegal to leave your house without underwear on. Now, are we saying that at the police checkpoints they are going to make you drop trow? Absolutely not. In the rare instance that you get “caught with your pants down” though, don’t say we didn’t warn ya.
Going Topless: You got an awesome rental bike from the shop on the corner. It is hotter than Satan’s taint outside and you have seen one too many episodes of Sons of Anarchy, it is best if you leave that shirt on while you are driving around even if you just got an awesome sixpack just for the occasion. It is illegal to drive while topless (sorry fellas, it applies to you too here).
The law about driving topless is a little redundant, however, as it is TECHNICALLY against the law for anyone to go topless in Thailand. Speedos and bare chestedness are for the beach and for the areas around your residence only. We apologize in advance as we know that this will disappoint some of the regular “Speedo Sunday Carvery” types (you know who you are).
Stepping On Thai Currency: While it may seem like a common sense thing to throw your foot down on top of a dollar bill from your home country to keep it from flying away in the wind before you can reach down and grab it, it is not a wise decision in Thailand. In Thailand, your feet are a shunned part of your body. Thai currency all has a photo of Thailand’s reigning King. When you stamp your foot on the Thai baht, you are being EXTREMELY disrespectful of His Majesty the King and it will land you into trouble… If not with the police, with the locals in the area who see you do it.
Back to a more serious note, if you have read this far, you are already informed on most of the common things that you can get in trouble for while you are on your stay. It is also advisable to carry your passport on you or a wallet-sized copy of your passport photo page and visa page. While it doesn’t happen often, you could randomly be asked for your identifying information and it is much better off for you if you have it on your person.
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