If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, it’s worth knowing the following laws, so you don’t get yourself chucked in a prison cell, or end up having to pay a hefty fine!
- Don’t criticize their Royal Family
– As Brits, we love to moan about our Royal Family, we either love or hate them. But in Thailand, they worship them like God. Especially their late King. If you are caught mocking them, or being rude about them, you can find yourself chucked in a jail cell.
- Don’t step on money or deface the King – Relates to point number 1. If you’re caught stepping on any money (which has the Kings face on), it’s classed as being disrespectful, and you can find yourself being arrested if caught. Yes, really! Don’t draw on any money, or any image of the King, as you’ll also find yourself chucked in a prison cell.
- Drinking age is 20 – Many people don’t realise the drinking age is actually 20 in Thailand. Although, they aren’t as strict when it comes to tourists. I was never once asked for ID but I was 24 when I visited Thailand. For parts of it, I travelled around with 18/19 year olds, who were never once questioned about their age or asked for ID. Just be wary, in case a bar is raided by Police, as it has been known to happen now and then and if you get caught, you can actually get arrested.
- Drinking is illegal in the following places – Temples, places of worship, pharmacies, public offices, education buildings (schools, colleges etc), public car parks and petrol stations. Sometimes there are special religious ceremonies where alcohol will be permitted. In these cases, it is legal. Obviously, don’t get drunk!
- Drugs are illegal – A lot of people think Thailand is a party place, and you can get your hands on as many drugs as you like, and they’ll be no consequences. Good luck with that, is all I will say. Be wary, the locals work with the police. They’ll offer you drugs, then then minute you walk off, you’ll get pulled over by the Thai police, and arrested for having drugs. It either means a lovely stint in a Thai prison cell, or a pricey bribe to the police officer to “look past it.” The local Thai that grassed you up, will get cash for letting the police know, and the police will look past the fact they sold you the drugs in the first place. This was a story well told in Thailand, that I heard it many times on my travels. Whether any of it is true, I don’t know.
- No littering – You can get a hefty fine if you’re caught littering in Thailand. Which is surprising, as there’s a lot more rubbish on the streets, than you get in the UK. I think it’s a case of they pick and choose who they fine. Probably more tourists, than locals, so I wouldn’t take the risk.
- Don’t leave the house without your underwear on – Probably just one of the many bizarre laws in Thailand. If you get caught, you’ll get arrested. Although I’m curious to know how you would get caught, if going commando is your thing!
- Don’t drive without a shirt on – Another bizarre Thai law. British men love to whip their tops off when driving, the minute we get the slightest bit of sun in Britain. In Thailand, it’s illegal. Although I’m pretty sure I saw plenty of men driving scooters topless while I was over there.
- You need to carry your passport with you at all times – This is one I found out about after I got home, so I didn’t actually do it while I was there. I never carry my passport with me during the day whenever I’m abroad, and I always lock it in the safe at the hostel, for obvious reasons. I’m sure many people do this, not just me. But apparently it’s well known in Thailand for tourists to be asked randomly on the spot to produce a passport, and if they can’t, you can actually get arrested. I obviously got lucky! In the future, I’d probably carry around a copy of my passport, just in case. But I wouldn’t advice carrying your actual passport around with you.
- It’s illegal to buy statues of Buddha, or any religious art – Surprising, as most market stalls sell little Buddha statues and religious art. Technically, you’re supposed to have a permit to leave Thailand with them. Although, me and many others had little Buddha statues stashed in our backpacks, and we never got checked, asked, or scanned. Worse comes to worse, I think they will just take them off you.
- Don’t overstay your welcome – In the past, if you went a couple of days over your visa, you got a little slap on the wrist at the airport, a fine, and you’d be on your way. Things recently have got a lot stricter. You can end up in prison, depending how many days you’re over. And now anyone that overstays their visa, are automatically blacklisted. Meaning you won’t ever be able to return to Thailand.
Here are some rules that aren’t exactly laws, but are followed strictly in Thailand, and can be highly offensive if broken. Rather than land yourself in an awkward situation with the locals, it’s best to follow these too:
- Don’t touch a Thai persons head – The head is known as the most important part of the body in Thailand. If you accidentally touch a Thai person’s head, apologise immediately.
- Remove your shoes – If you enter a temple, someones house, and some hostels, you will be expected to remove your shoes. Most of these places will have signs outside, or someone telling you to do so. The big giveaway is look if there’s a shoe rack, or other shoes outside the door. I even got asked to remove my flip flops to enter a tattoo shop once, as the staff found it offensive. I later found out, they were living in the flat upstairs, so it’s classed as their home.
- Never use your foot to point at things – Again, Thai people find this highly offensive. If you’re visiting a market stall, and things are on the floor, us Brits tend to point with our feet, rather than our hands. Don’t! Don’t touch anyone else with your feet (unless you’re having a massage of course), and don’t put your feet up on any table/chairs etc.
- Greet people the Thai way – The typical Thai way to greet people, is to place your palms together at your chest, and bow your head slightly. This is a gesture that goes with hello, thank you, or goodbye in Thailand. If a Thai person does it to you, return the gesture. Unless it is a child, then you don’t.
- Ladies, don’t touch a monk – It is really offensive for a lady to touch a monk.
- Cover up in temples – Ladies, you aren’t allowed to show your knees or shoulders in places of worship. Long skirts/trousers, and a blouse/scarf to place around your shoulders when you get there, or a short sleeved top is acceptable. Men you can’t show your knees. I visited with guys that wore long shorts that went to the knees, but short shorts aren’t allowed. I have been with guys that wore vest tops, so as far as I’m aware, it is ok for men to show their shoulders.
Basically, to enjoy your trip, keep yourself out of a Thai prison cell, and not be out of pocket from fines or bribes, then follow the rules above. It’ll make your trip a lot better, and it’ll be a lot less hassle. You should always be respectful of other countries laws when visiting, despite whether you agree or not.