Thailand Laws Every Tourist Should Know

The cityscape of Bangkok where Thailand laws are observed. By observing Thailand laws as a tourist, you can make your vacation stress-free.

Millions of tourists travel to Thailand each year because it’s a tropical vacation paradise. These people want to sip on drinks, explore some Wats, lay on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, do some shopping, and maybe flirt with a local or two.

But some people have too good a time and they find themselves running afoul of some Thailand laws. Whether it was simple ignorance of the law or believing that some laws don’t or shouldn’t apply to them, some tourists find themselves on the wrong side of the Thai legal system.

There’s nothing that can be done about people who believe laws shouldn’t apply to them other than to let reality take its course. For people who are ignorant of Thai law may want to take precautions.

If you’re planning to spend your two weeks of vacation in sunny Thailand, then don’t let your preparation end at booking tickets and filling out an itinerary. There are certain Thailand laws to be aware of even as a tourist.

To help you to focus solely on having a good time, let’s go through some of these laws.

Put Some Respect on the King’s Name

A portrait of the monarch of Thailand. Thailand does not take kindly to insults against its monarchy.

The first laws that a visitor to Thailand must be aware of are the lèse-majesté laws. These laws are meant to protect the dignity of the monarchy. Basically, it’s illegal to defame or insult the king, queen, heir, or regent of Thailand in any way, shape, or form.

Anyone in Thailand can make a lèse-majesté complaint. If a complaint is made, then police will investigate and details of the charges are almost never made public. Courts in Thailand do not give defendants the benefit of the doubt when it comes to insulting the monarchy.

Many tourists may be unaware of this law. Many of them may come from countries wherein being able to speak freely of political figures is the norm, but the lèse-majesté laws in Thailand for tourists are the same as they are for the locals and foreigners can sometimes spend years in jail for speaking about the monarchy if convicted.

Not that getting convicted is going to be quick either. Some people can spend years in jail waiting for their trial. And you absolutely do not want to spend time in a Thai detention facility. The conditions are pretty harsh even by the standards of detention facilities.

1. Thailand Laws on Drinking

A row of liquor bottles. Make sure you know what the drinking age is before you imbibe.

The legal age to drink in the country is 20, which is bad news for tourists who come from European countries where the age to purchase alcohol is set between 16 to 18 years old. But it’s fantastic news for American tourists where the age to purchase alcohol is 21. So if you’re a younger tourist, be aware that the drinking age in Thailand is 20.

Some people like to declare that bars in Thailand are pretty lax when it comes to underage tourists imbibing liquor, but the Thai police have publicly stated that they’re cracking down on underage drinking in the country so it’s best to stick to soda or water if you’re not 20.

Speaking of alcohol, restaurants and other venues aren’t going to serve outside of designated times, 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 12am. Police may sometimes monitor social media for any logos of alcoholic products as this can constitute encouraging people to consume alcohol, so a selfie with a beer bottle can result in a fine.

2. Drugs and Dispensaries

A glass pipe to smoke substances in. Thailand decriminalized cannabis and there are dispensaries all over Bangkok.

Speaking of substances that people often party with, Thailand has some of the strictest drug laws in the world. At least when it comes to drugs that it criminalizes. In Thailand, the recreational use of marijuana is allowed, with some caveats.

Any cannabis that is legally sold and consumed in Thailand must have less than 0.2 percent THC by weight, which means that the cannabis that’s legal in Thailand is somewhat weak.

The cannabis must also be consumed in a private residence and all of Thailand’s hotels do not allow smoking of any kind. Hotels have been legally designated as no-smoking zones. Though many legal weed dispensaries in Thailand offer edibles like cookies and brownies laced with cannabis.

3. Blowing Smoke

An e-cigarette. Smoking is banned in most places and e-cigarettes are prohibited.

Speaking of smoking in Thailand, it’s kind of frowned upon. You can’t bring more than 200 cigarettes into Thailand. Doing so will incur a fine.

Vaping or e-cigarettes are also banned and using them will result in a fine. You could even be imprisoned for up to five years simply for possessing a vape. There are no exceptions to the rule under any circumstance.

Smoking indoors can result in a fine of 2000 baht. Smoking on a beach where it’s prohibited can result in a fine of 100,000 baht and/or a one-year jail sentence.

Now, if you do want to smoke cigarettes, you may not be able to do it in public unless you find a designated smoking area. Many of Thailand’s beaches have also banned smoking for ecological reasons as around one-third of litter on beaches is made of cigarette butts.

4. Droning On

A drone in flight. Thailand has strict restrictions on the use of drones.

Speaking of things that are illegal on beaches, make sure to consider Thailand drone laws. Thailand’s got some beautiful beaches and you might be tempted to set up a drone with a camera to get some really good shots of them.

Don’t do that unless you’ve got registration and insurance. Flying a drone that’s unregistered and uninsured is illegal and the fine can range from 40,000 to 100,000 baht and the jail sentence can be anywhere from 1 to 5 years.

5. Trade Disputes

The tusks of an elephant. Thailand is a shopping destination, but not for animal goods.

Thailand has worked hard to make itself a shopping destination in the region. You can buy a lot of stuff there. Do you want to buy a timepiece made by hand in Switzerland? There’s a boutique in a mall. What about car precision crafted by German engineers to go with your new watch? The dealership’s right next to the watch boutique, you can’t miss it.

Thailand’s shopping prowess is not an accident. It’s something that the government has cultivated. They even give tourists a small sales tax rebate on the things they buy, provided certain conditions are met.

Despite this, there are limits to what a person can buy in the Land of Smiles. You can’t buy wild animals or any of their parts without a license. The ivory trade is completely banned so as to discourage poaching and protect the Thai elephant, which is the national animal of Thailand.

Thailand laws are pretty strict when it comes to certain things. There may be instances wherein you might be able to push the envelope a little bit, but if you get caught, expect some harsh punishment.

It’s always best to do as much research as you can when visiting a foreign country. But getting accurate information on the internet isn’t always a straightforward process. If you know someone in Thailand, it may be prudent to get in touch with that person so you can get a good idea of what you can and cannot do once you are in the country.

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