Travel Advice

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Thailand overall : High degree of caution : Reconsider your need to travel

This advice has been reviewed and reissued. It contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and Security: Terrorism (ongoing threats against tourist areas and places frequented by foreigners). The overall level of the advice has not changed.

Summary

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution because of the high threat of terrorist attack. We continue to receive reports that terrorists may be planning attacks against a range of targets, including tourist areas and other places frequented by foreigners.
On 30 January 2007, two small explosions occurred at the Rama Gardens Hotel and the Daily News, both in Bangkok. A series of bombs exploded in various locations in Bangkok on 31 December 2006, killing three and injuring over 30 others, including six foreigners. Further attacks cannot be ruled out.

There is uncertainty over the political situation following a military takeover of the Government on 19 September 2006. Martial law remains in place in parts of the country.

You should avoid demonstrations, political rallies, and concentrations of military personnel. You should monitor the media, and follow any instructions issued by local authorities.

We strongly advise you to reconsider your need to travel at this time to the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla or overland to and from the Malaysian border through these provinces, due to high levels of ongoing violence in these regions, including terrorist attacks. On 18 and 19 February 2007 a series of 38 bomb attacks and around 26 arson attacks took place in Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla provinces resulting in approximately 72 casualties including seven deaths. Targets included entertainment venues, power grids, petrol stations, telephone lines and other commercial sites, including a department store. The targets of the arson attacks included two government schools and Narathiwat central mosque.

Over 1,900 people have reportedly been killed and many more injured, including a number of foreigners, since the level of violence began to increase in Thailand in the southern provinces in January 2004. Terrorists have warned foreign tourists not to travel to these areas. Further terrorist attacks could occur at any time, anywhere in Thailand.

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Safety and Security
Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.

There is a high threat of terrorist attack in Thailand. We continue to receive reports that terrorists may be planning attacks against a range of targets, including tourist areas and other places frequented by foreigners.

On 30 January 2007, two small explosions occurred at the Rama Gardens Hotel and the Daily News, both in Bangkok. A series of bombs exploded in various locations in Bangkok on 31 December 2006, killing three and injuring over 30 others, including six foreigners. Further attacks cannot be ruled out.

In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets. These include places frequented by foreigners such as embassies, shopping malls, clubs, hotels, restaurants, bars, schools, churches, outdoor recreation events and tourist areas. Public transport, airports, sea ports and public buildings are also potential terrorist targets.

The increase in violence in Southern Thailand (see below) may lead to attacks elsewhere in Thailand, including Bangkok and other tourist areas, such as Phuket and Pattaya. Thai authorities have taken additional security measures in other parts of the country, including tourist centres and Bangkok.

Due to security concerns, security at the Australian Embassy in Bangkok is at a high level.

Southern Provinces -Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla: We strongly advise you to reconsider your need to travel at this time to the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla, or overland to and from the Malaysian border through these provinces due to high levels of ongoing violence in these regions, including terrorist attacks and bombings.

On 18 and 19 February 2007 a series of 38 bomb attacks and around 26 arson attacks took place in Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla provinces resulting in approximately 72 casualties including seven deaths. Targets included entertainment venues, power grids, petrol stations, telephone lines and other commercial sites, including a department store. The targets of the arson attacks included two government schools and Narathiwat central mosque.

Ask yourself whether, given your own personal circumstances, you are comfortable travelling to these provinces knowing that there is a very high threat from terrorism and you may be caught up in a terrorist attack. Ask yourself whether travel could be deferred or an alternate destination chosen. If, having considered these issues, you do decide to travel to these provinces, you should exercise extreme caution.

On 15 June 2006, there were at least 50 explosions at 29 locations throughout southern Thailand, killing three and injuring at least 25. On 1 August 2006, there were over 100 violent incidents, including at least 40 explosions. On 2 August 2006, a further three explosions resulted in three fatalities. On 16 September 2006 there were coordinated bomb attacks in the commercial centre in the southern city of Hat Yai, Songkhla Province, killing four and injuring more than 60 people, including a number of foreigners.

In April 2005, bombs were detonated in Songkhla at the international airport, a hotel and a department store resulting in the deaths and injuries of a number of people. Further attacks could occur at any time, anywhere in Thailand. Special security measures have been introduced at all airports in Thailand since the bombing of the airport. On 19 July 2005, The Thai Government declared a “severe state of emergency” in the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.

Since January 2004, there have been almost daily attacks in Thailand's southern provinces, including arson, explosions, shootings, stabbings and beheadings. Targets have included civilians and members of the security forces, tourist hotels and bars, cinemas, shops, marketplaces, supermarkets, schools, transport infrastructure and trains. Over 1,900 people have reportedly been killed, and many more injured. Some foreign citizens have been killed and injured.

Terrorists have targeted railways in southern provinces and have warned foreign tourists not to travel to these areas. Further terrorist attacks cannot be ruled out and could occur at any time, anywhere in Thailand.

Civil Unrest/Political Tension

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution because of the high threat of terrorist attack. We continue to receive reports that terrorists may be planning attacks against a range of targets, including places frequented by foreigners.

There is uncertainty over the political situation following a military takeover of the Government on 19 September 2006. Martial law remains in place in parts of the country.

You should avoid demonstrations, political rallies and concentrations of military personnel. You should monitor the media, and follow the instructions issued by local authorities.

A number of small explosive devices have been detonated at various locations in Bangkok in recent months.

Border regions: There is ongoing fighting and banditry along some sections of the Burma/Thai border. This includes fighting between the military and armed opposition groups as well as clashes between Thai security forces and armed criminal groups, such as drug traffickers. Bandits may target foreigners travelling through national parks or border regions. Travellers who have attempted illegal border crossings have been detained and deported from Thailand.

Crime

Sexual assault, food and drink spiking, assault and robbery against foreigners occurs in Thailand, including around popular backpacker destinations such as Khao San Road in Bangkok and the night-time entertainment zones of Bangkok and Pattaya. There have been a number of incidents where foreigners have been drugged, raped and robbed in entertainment areas. The Full Moon Parties at Koh Phangan regularly result in reports of injuries, drug and alcohol overdosing and lost travel documents. Travellers contemplating attendance should carefully consider personal safety issues and take appropriate precautions.

Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

Petty crime is common. Money and passports have been stolen from rooms (particularly in cheaper hotels and hostels) and from bags on public transport (including on overnight bus services, particularly between Bangkok and Surat Thani). Items have been removed from luggage stored below buses, and travellers have reported being drugged and robbed during bus journeys. Tourists have also been robbed after the bags they were carrying were sliced open by razor blades in tourist areas.

In Thailand some travellers have become the victims of scams after they have accepted offers from people recommending or offering various goods or services, particularly with shopping for jewellery and gems. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) can provide official advice on purchasing jewellery and gems.

Travellers have also lost large sums of money through bogus investment schemes and card game scams in Thailand.

Local Travel

The Suvarnabhumi Airport, also known as the New Bangkok International Airport (NBIA) opened on 28 September 2006. The airport is located in Racha Thewa in Bang Phli district, Samut Prakan Province, about 25 kilometers east of Bangkok. As some flights may move back to Bangkok's old Don Muang airport, in the coming weeks, transfers between airports could involve additional delays. Travellers should contact their individual airline for flight information.

You should only travel in authorised taxis in Thailand. Some foreigners who have used unauthorised taxis have been robbed and assaulted. Service counters at Bangkok International Airport may provide information on transport to the city and hotels.

Motor cycle accidents are very common in Thailand, particularly in resort areas such as Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Sámui. Under Thai law motor cycle riders and passengers are required to wear helmets but they are often not provided by motorcycle taxis.

To legally hire a car or motorbike in Thailand you need an international and Australian driver's or motorbike licence. Be aware some rental companies will try to tell you otherwise. If you intend to hire cars, motorcycles, jet skis or any other motorised water sport equipment, talk to your travel insurer to check if it is covered by your insurance policy. There have been a number of serious accidents involving jet skis in Thailand. Foreigners are regularly detained and arrested by police following jet ski and motorcycle accidents until compensation can be negotiated between parties.

Ferry travel in Thailand can be dangerous, as vessel passenger limits are not always observed or sufficient life jackets provided. In January and February 2005 ferry accidents killed and injured a number of people, including tourists.

Airline Safety

From 31 March 2007, passengers on international flights to and from Australia will only be allowed to carry a small amount of liquids, (including aerosols and gels) in their carry-on baggage. You can find out more information at the Department of Transport and Regional Services website.

If you have concerns about the safety standards of a particular airline or aircraft, we recommend you research the airline or aircraft through organisations such as the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The Department of Transport and Regional Services has published fact sheets on security for air travellers. When staff at Australia's overseas missions are provided advice not to use particular airlines due to safety concerns this will be included in travel advice.

The European Union has published a list of airlines that are subject to operating ban or restrictions within the community. The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through its foreign assessment program focuses on a country's ability, not the individual airline, to adhere to international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance established by ICAO.

Natural Disasters

Areas of the west coast of Thailand were hit by a large tsunami on 26 December 2004. Tourist services have returned to normal operations, but if you have any concerns you may wish to check with your hotel.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Severe storms and widespread seasonal flooding can occur without warning in Thailand, particularly during the local wet season from June to December. Extensive flooding in the northern provinces of Uttaradit, Phrae, Lampang, Nan and Sukhothai during the week of 22 May 2006 resulted in deaths and injuries. A number of people died and millions more were affected in October 2006 during severe widespread seasonal flooding in 46 provinces in Thailand, including parts of Bangkok. Travellers should follow instructions from local authorities, monitor media and weather reports, and check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas.

Wildlife Watching

Australians are strongly advised to maintain safe and legal approach distance when observing wildlife. You should use only reputable and professional operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.

Money and Valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways of accessing your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques and cash. Check with your bank whether your ATM card will work overseas.

Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Since 1 July 2005, Australians have been required to pay an additional fee to have their passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

For Parents

If you are planning on placing your children in schools or childcare facilities overseas we encourage you to research the standards of security, care and staff training within those establishments. You should exercise the same precautions you would take before placing children into schools or childcare facilities in Australia.

Ideas on how to select childcare providers are available from the smartraveller Children's Issues page, Child Wise and the National Childcare Accreditation Council.

Local Laws

When you are in Thailand, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that may appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

In Thailand penalties for drug offences are very severe and include the death penalty. The possession of even small quantities of “soft drugs” for recreational purposes can result in lengthy jail sentences and deportation.

Almost all forms of gambling (other than at a few major race tracks) are illegal in Thailand. There can be heavy penalties for illegal gambling of any form.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 17 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in sexual activity with children under 16 while outside of Australia. A number of Australians have been arrested in Thailand for these crimes.

Entry and Exit Requirements

Visa conditions change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Thailand for the most up to date information. Australian tourists travelling to Thailand on an Australian passport may currently enter Thailand for up to 30 days without obtaining a visa in advance. This is referred to as a “visa exemption”. A visa is required for longer stays or for travellers intending to work in Thailand.

The Thai Immigration Bureau announced revised tourist visa regulations which took effect from 1 October 2006. Australian travellers can enter Thailand for up to 30 days each entry, up to a maximum stay of 90 days. Tourists who reside in Thailand for 90 days must depart Thailand for at least 90 days before they will be permitted to re-enter Thailand, unless they obtain a valid visa entry at a Thai Embassy of Consulate in another country outside Thailand.

The Australian Embassy cannot assist you to obtain entry permits or visas, visa extensions or work permits for Thailand or other countries. Make sure you obtain visas, entry permits and extensions of stay from Thai immigration authorities or a Thai Embassy or Consulate.

Avoid individuals advertising visa extension services, as they may stamp passports with fake or illegally obtained exit and entry stamps. Australians with illegal stamps in their passports can be arrested and jailed for up to ten years. Thai authorities have said they will vigorously prosecute these criminal offences.

Overstaying your visa in Thailand is considered a very serious offence and may result in prolonged arrest and detention. Travellers who overstay entry permits may not be allowed to leave Thailand until a fine is paid. The fine is currently 500 Baht per day, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. If you can not afford to pay the overstay fine you may be arrested, taken to court, charged with a visa offence, and required to serve a lengthy prison sentence in lieu of the fine. Travellers who have overstayed their visas may be imprisoned, deported and placed on an immigration blacklist to prevent from them returning to Thailand.

It is illegal to work without a work permit. In the past, some employers (particularly schools, fitness centres, securities telemarketers and currency traders, and also other businesses) have promised to arrange work permits but have not and their employees have consequently been arrested, jailed and deported from Thailand.

Health Issues

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel.

The standard of medical facilities throughout Thailand varies. While private hospitals with international standard facilities can be found in major cities, services can be limited elsewhere. Private hospitals generally require confirmation of insurance or a guarantee of payment before admitting a patient. Costs can be very expensive. Generally, serious illnesses and accidents can be treated at private or public hospitals in Bangkok and other large cities. However, medical evacuation, at considerable cost, may be necessary in some serious cases.

“Medical tourism,” including for cosmetic and sex-change operations, is common. Australians should ensure that they are not lured to discount or uncertified medical establishments where standards can be lacking, resulting in serious and possibly life-threatening complications.

Malaria is a risk in rural areas, bordering Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, including Mae Hong Son. We recommend that you take prophylaxis against malaria and use insect repellent where necessary. Outbreaks of water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, leptospirosis, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, typhoid, malaria, denge fever, tuberculosis, meningococcal meningitis, and hand, foot and mouth disease) occur from time to time. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before travelling. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food, and avoid unpasteurised dairy products.

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Thailand is high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection. You can find out more information at the Department of Health and Ageing.

Decompression chambers are located near popular dive sites throughout Thailand in Koh tao, Koh Samui, Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok.

Avoid temporary 'black henna' tattoos as they often contain a dye which can cause serious skin reactions. For further information see the Australasian College of Dermatologists' website.

Avian influenza: The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has confirmed cases of avian influenza in birds in a number of countries throughout the world. For a list of these countries, visit the OIE website. For information on our advice to Australians on how to reduce the risk of infection and on Australian Government precautions see our travel bulletin on avian influenza.

There have been human cases of avian influenza in Thailand. The Department of Health and Ageing advises Australians who reside in Thailand for an extended period to consider, as a precautionary measure, having access to influenza antiviral medicine for treatment. Long term residents are at a greater risk of exposure to avian influenza over time. Medical advice should be sought before antiviral medicines are commenced. Australians intending to travel to Thailand for shorter periods are at much lower risk of infection but should discuss the risk of avian influenza with their doctor as part of their routine pre-travel health checks.

If the avian influenza virus mutates to a form where efficient human-to-human transmission occurs, it may spread quickly and local authorities could move quickly to impose restrictions on travel. Australian travellers and long-term residents in Thailand should be prepared to take personal responsibility for their own safety and well-being, including deciding when to leave an affected area and ensuring they have appropriate contingency plans in place. Australians in Thailand should monitor the travel advice and bulletin for updated information and advice, and ensure that their travel documents, including passports and visas for any non-Australian family members, are up to date in case they need to depart at short notice.

In September 2005 the Australian Government decided as a precautionary measure to hold a limited supply of the antiviral medicine oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and protective face masks at its embassy in Thailand. The antivirals would primarily be used to protect emergency staff providing consular and other essential services in the event of a widespread outbreak of avian influenza amongst humans. Australian missions will not be in a position to provide influenza antiviral medicines to Australians in affected areas and it is the responsibility of individual Australians to secure their own supply of such medicines (such as Tamiflu or Relenza), if required.

Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our 'Travelling Well' brochure also provides useful tips for staying healthy while travelling overseas.

Where to Get Help
In Thailand, you can obtain consular assistance from the:

Australian Embassy
37 South Sathorn Road,
Bangkok, THAILAND
Telephone (66 2) 344 6300
Facsimile (66 2) 344 6310

If you are travelling to Thailand, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

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