Thailand

Thailand Flag
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. It is a popular travel destination and tourist facilities and services are available throughout the country.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: U.S. citizen tourists staying for less than 30 days do not require a visa, but must possess a passport and onward/return ticket. Entry/visa information is subject to change without notice. Current information concerning entry requirements may be obtained from the Royal Thai Embassy, 1024 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007, tel. (202) 944-3600, or from the Thai consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York City.

BORDER TRAVEL PROBLEMS: Tourists may wish to obtain information from Thai authorities about whether official border crossing points are open, and may find it prudent to cross into neighboring countries only at designated crossing points. Only official border crossing points are clearly marked. Licensed guides can help ensure that trekkers do not cross into a neighboring country inadvertently. Tourists should use caution in the vicinity of the Thai-Burma and Thai-Cambodian borders. It is recommended that persons wishing to travel to these areas check with the tourist police and the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai. There has been unrest in Thai provinces bordering the Malaysian state of Kalantan. While tourists have not been targeted by this occasional violence, due caution remains advisable. Persons travelling to this region may also wish to check with the tourist police and the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

MEDICAL INFORMATION: Medical treatment, especially in Bangkok, is good. 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. Alcoholic beverages, medications and drugs may be more potent and of a different composition than similar ones in the United States. Several American tourists die each year of apparent premature heart attacks after drinking in public places or using drugs.

Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services, and U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside of the United States. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide for payment of medical services outside of the United States.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: It is recommended that travelers check with their own insurance company to confirm whether their policy applies overseas, and whether it includes a provision for medical evacuation. Travelers should also ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor, or whether they will be reimbursed later for expenses incurred. Some insurance policies 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 which specifically covers medical evacuation, as the cost for medical evacuation from Thailand can be extremely expensive. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov and autofax service at (202) 647-3000.

Vaccine recommendations and disease prevention information for traveling abroad is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline which may be reached from the United States at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), via its toll-free autofax number at 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via its Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Pickpocketing, purse snatching, and other petty crimes are common in areas where tourists gather. Many tourists fall victim to gem scams, in which a friendly stranger offers to show the tourist an exceptional place to buy gems. The gems turn out to be greatly overpriced and money-back guarantees are not honored. Other travelers report that they were robbed after being drugged in a nightclub or in their hotel room by casual acquaintances met in a bar or on the street. One death of a U.S. citizen occurred in recent years allegedly as a result of a drugging incident. Credit card fraud has been increasing. Travelers may wish to protect their credit cards and use them only in known or established businesses.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in that area. Useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad." It is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov, or at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and do not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.

Thailand strictly enforces its drug laws, including those prohibiting possession of small quantities of marijuana. The U.S. Embassy frequently does not learn of the arrest of U.S. citizens for minor drug offenses. Prison conditions in Thailand are harsh, and Thailand has a death sentence for serious drug offenses. Americans convicted of drug trafficking have received long sentences, often in excess of 40 years. More than fifty Americans serving long-term prison sentences in Thailand. A ruse sometimes used to get American citizens to transport drugs out of the country involves offering the American a free vacation to Thailand, then requesting the American's assistance in transporting excess "luggage" or "gifts" back to the U.S. The American's claim that he or she did not know that the package contained drugs has not been a successful legal defense in Thailand.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Thailand's civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Thailand's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at (703) 697-7288.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions which differ significantly from those in the United States. Traffic moves on the left in Thailand. The city of Bangkok has heavy traffic consisting of motorcycles, cars, trucks, and three wheeled "tuk-tuks," and accidents are common. Use of motorcycle helmets is mandatory, but this law is rarely enforced. Congested roads and a scarcity of ambulances can make it difficult for accident victims to receive timely medical attention. Paved roads connect Thailand's major cities, but most have only two lanes. Slow-moving trucks limit speed and visibility. Speeding and reckless passing in all regions is common. Consumption of alcohol, amphetamines and other stimulants by commercial drivers is also common. Motorists may wish to obtain accident insurance which 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 in Thailand.

EMBASSY LOCATION AND REGISTRATION: Americans are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, where they may obtain updated information on travel and security within the country.

The U.S. Embassy is located at 120 Wireless Road in Bangkok. The U.S. mailing address is APO AP 96546. The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy, which provides passport and emergency services for U.S. citizens, is located at 95 Wireless Road in Bangkok. The telephone number is (66-2) 205-4000 and the fax number is (66-2) 205-4103. The U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai is located at 387 Wichayanond Road; the U.S. mailing address is Box C, APO AP 96546. The telephone number is (66-53) 252-629 and the fax number is (66-53) 252-633.

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