10 Laws in Thailand to Be Aware of as a Foreign Tourist

Tourists in Thailand
Want to enjoy your stay in a new country? Remember our list of 10 laws in Thailand to be aware of.

When traveling to a new country, what should you research beforehand?

Is it the tourist spots, the hotel accommodations, or the local activities?

While researching these things can certainly make your visit more enjoyable, you also need to be aware of the country’s laws.

Not all people follow the same moral code of conduct, which means that what might be considered acceptable in your home country could be deemed illegal in a more conservative nation like Thailand.

Although you’re traveling as a tourist, if you were to accidentally break their laws, you can’t just say sorry and be given a pass for your ignorance. Otherwise, law enforcers would be setting a bad example for enabling what they consider to be unacceptable behavior.

That being said, whether you’re traveling for leisure or visiting a partner, here are 10 laws in Thailand to be aware of.

1. Illegal Drugs

Other countries are lenient when it comes to drug use, arguing that although they may be addictive, consuming certain drugs can have medical benefits.

However, drugs are one of the things that are illegal in Thailand.

If caught using, selling, or even unknowingly possessing illegal drugs, you could face a prison sentence of one to five years, along with a fine ranging from 20,000 to 100,000 baht, which is equivalent to approximately 600 to 3,000 U.S. dollars.

In some cases, they could also impose the death penalty.

If you believe you have been wrongly accused, reach out to your country’s embassy and ask for legal assistance.

Refrain from signing any documents until your lawyer arrives, as doing so may do you more harm than good.

2. Thai Drinking Age

Is alcohol illegal in Thailand?

What’s the legal drinking age in Thailand?

In some countries like Australia and Canada, people are allowed to drink as soon as they turn 18 years old. Meanwhile, some countries have a set legal age to purchase alcohol.

The drinking age in Thailand, on the other hand, is set at 20 years old.

Minors are more susceptible to getting caught violating this law. But you should also be careful when you’re drinking as they may trick you into buying a round of drinks for them.

Even if you claim to be the victim in this situation, law enforcers won’t let you off the hook.

A man buying a Thai woman a drink at a bar, aware of the drinking age in Thailand
Going out for a drink? Be aware of the drinking age in Thailand.

3. Purchasing and Posting Pictures of Alcohol

In Thailand, you are not allowed to purchase alcohol after lunch (11 AM to 2 PM) and during dinner time (5 PM to 12 AM).

Similarly, the selling and buying of alcohol is banned during the election and on public and religious holidays. Also, be mindful of what you post on social media.

Thai police closely monitor online social platforms to see if anyone is posting alcoholic products on their feed, which might encourage others to purchase and consume them.

4. Drinking Places

As Thailand is a conservative country, it’s illegal to drink alcohol in places like religious sites, schools, public offices, public parks, gas stations, and pharmacies.

Moreover, you’re not allowed to drink while driving. However, if you’re a passenger, remember that it’s also against the law for you to drink or carry alcohol in the vehicle, as it could tempt the driver to consume it.

5. Respect the Monarchy

Thailand is one of the few countries with a constitutional monarchy.

Out of respect for the long-standing members of the Thai Royal Family, it is a legal requirement for everyone in the country, whether native or foreigner, to never insult their names and images.

That being said, you may have questions about how to ensure that you abide by this law.

Is It Illegal to Post About Them on Social Media?

While it is not illegal to post news or make comments about their activities, make sure that your statements are not derogatory.

Moreover, avoid posting or sharing memes using their images, as it could also be seen as disrespectful.

Anyone can report you for violating this law if they find your words or actions offensive on behalf of the Royal Family.

Is It Illegal to Step on Money in Thailand?

A person holding Thailand banknotes with the face of a Thai royalty printed on it
Is it illegal to step on money in Thailand? Yes, stepping on Thai money equals disrespecting their monarchy.

Similar to countries like the U.K., Thailand features images of the Royal Family on their banknotes.

Because of this, you should avoid accidentally stepping on their bills or coins.

Do You Have to Pay Respect to Their National Anthem?

In Thailand, singing the National Anthem is a sign of respect for the nation, as well as their Royal Family.

Given this, you are expected to stop what you’re doing and stand in silence as they play the anthem.

6. Cover Your Buddha Tattoos

Among the 10 laws in Thailand to be aware of, most of them are related to respecting the country’s religion in general. However, there are some which are specifically related to Buddhism.

If you have a Buddha tattoo anywhere on your body, make sure to conceal it while in Thailand.

While you might intend it as a sign of respect, locals might see it as an inappropriate use of their deity’s image.

You won’t be penalized for non-adherence, as this isn’t part of their written law, but it is part of the general code of conduct in the country.

7. Never Export a Buddha Image or Statue Without a Permit

Small golden Buddha statues
Bringing home Buddha images or statues without permit from the government is one of the things that are illegal in Thailand.

If you’ve bought a Buddha image or statue and want to take it home, get permission from the Thai Government Fine Arts Department.

Otherwise, you could face fines or imprisonment.

8. De-Facto Marriage

There are several Thailand laws on unmarried couples, but one you should keep in mind is regarding common law or de-facto marriages.

De-facto marriages are regarded as legal unions but are not formally registered.

While this might not be an issue in some countries, in Thailand, only registered marriages hold legal recognition.

This means that even if you had a Buddhist wedding, are acknowledged as a married couple, are living together, or are fulfilling marital roles, you still lack legal marriage status.

That being said, you don’t possess rights to marital property.

If you’re planning to marry your partner in Thailand, make sure you register your marriage in their government office before or after holding your ceremony.

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9. Bringing 120 Playing Cards

While most laws make sense due to religious, political, or safety reasons, there are some strange laws in Thailand to keep in mind.

In Thailand, one way they prevent gambling is by prohibiting people from owning 120 playing cards.

Given that a deck only has 52 cards, you might think it’s safe to pack one in your luggage and bring it into the country.

However, every deck of cards needs authorization from the Thai government. Otherwise, if they find that you brought an unauthorized deck, they can fine you four times the cost of your cards.

10. Speaking Any Language Other than Thai into a Microphone

When setting up a microphone, people have the habit of saying, “Mic check,” or, “Hello.”

However, speaking any language other than Thai into any sound-amplifying device, such as a microphone, radio, or speaker, is considered a legal offense.

If violated, you could end up staying in prison for a month.

The only exception to this law is if you’re speaking at a concert, religious ceremony, or state event.

Have a Safe and Enjoyable Trip to Thailand

When visiting a new country, the goal is to return home with wonderful experiences and plenty of amazing stories to share.

That being said, make sure to abide by the laws of the country you’re visiting.

Otherwise, what would have been a relaxing solo or couple’s vacation might turn into your worst nightmare.

While you don’t need to remember every law, be aware of which actions are illegal and could potentially lead you to trouble.

Once again, these are the 10 laws in Thailand to be aware of as a foreign tourist.

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