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5 Strange Laws That Could Land You in Trouble in Thailand

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2021: Pretty much every country has some odd laws, but the laws in Thailand take the cake! Whether they’re dusty old pieces of legislation that time has all but forgotten. Or relatively new and, to us, just downright strange. So, whenever I go to a new country, I like to check out what its weirder laws are. after all, these provide a little light entertainment when you’re doing the dull-but-necessary task of checking out the key laws and customs.

And since becoming a digital nomad and full-time blogger, buying my condo in Bangkok meant I had a permanent home for the first time in years. I really should know the law, no matter how crazy the Thailand laws are! If you’re simply looking for a Bangkok itinerary while you are here, I’ve written a blog post about that too. 

5 Strange Laws in Thailand; The Thai King is revered (former Thai King in pic)

Thailand Laws

Thailand is definitely up there with the countries that have the longest list of weird laws I’ve seen. Admittedly, though, some of these are so impossible to enforce that you don’t really need to worry about them. Below, I’m going to take a quick look at some of the strangest (and occasionally most amusing) nuggets of legislation. As well as clueing you into some of the more day-to-day Thailand laws you need to be aware of.

Thai police; So keep up with the laws in Thailand!

Let’s start with the unusual stuff. Some of these are just plain good for a giggle, while others tread that fine line between weird and need-to-know. I’ll try to be as clear as possible about which is which.

1) It’s illegal to leave the house without your underwear on.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not accustomed to strolling the streets sans pants, so this particular law isn’t exactly something I feel like I really need to think about. That said, if you do have a penchant for airy nethers, I don’t really see how this law can be checked or enforced, so you’re probably safe.

Just don’t head out without your trousers, too – that’d be a dead giveaway.

2) It’s a crime to step on any Thai currency. 

Again, this isn’t one I think is particularly difficult to avoid. Personally, I don’t go to the trouble of switching my currency only to fling it on the pavement and start trampling it, but just in case it’s a hobby of yours, consider your time in Thailand an enforced detox from it.

3) It’s a punishable offence to throw (used) chewing gum on the pavement.

I wouldn’t really class this one as silly – unusual, perhaps, but not an out-and-out silly one of the laws in Thailand. Plus, it’s one that’s definitely worth bearing in mind because there’s a pretty hefty fine if you get caught (nearly £400). The penalty for skipping that fine? Jail. That’s one costly piece of litter.

4) You mustn’t drive a car shirtless.

Clearly, this is only something to think about if you’re planning on hiring a car, but since us Brits do tend to be keen to whip off as many clothes as possible as soon as the temperature becomes mildly warm, it’s probably one that’s worth bearing in mind.

5) It’s a criminal offence to be critical of the king or other members of the Thai royal family.

I had a little trouble deciding whether this one should fall into the ‘unusual’ or ‘serious’ category because, in my opinion, it fits both. But as you can see, the weirdness of it won in the end. The sentence for being caught making defamatory comments – known as Lese Majeste – is usually three to 15 years (sometimes more!) in prison, though, making it no laughing matter – so mind your Ps and Qs.

Check out some crazy stories in BBC about that

5 Strange Laws in Thailand; Keep your shirt on when driving!

And the more serious side of Thailand Laws:

Sure, having a giggle at some of the more unusual laws is fun. Although, in all seriousness, it is important to get acquainted with some of the basics of Thailand law and legislation. As you’ve seen above, making a faux pas like throwing chewing gum on the floor can be very costly. It is a pretty easy mistake to make when you’re from a country that uses its pavements like a rubbish bin!

I’ve put together a list of some of the drier Thailand laws that could be easily infringed. If you weren’t aware of them, that is!

You need to carry your passport with you at all times. 

I’ll be honest, I was quite surprised to find out this was a legal requirement; most people I know (myself included) tend to stow important documents like passports in a hotel safe for the duration of the trip. Normally I wouldn’t think twice about not carrying it. It’s really important that you do bring it with you, though. It isn’t unheard of for tourists to be arrested if they can’t produce it when asked. EDIT 2020: I now just carry a scan/pic on my phone and it’s always been fine.

You need a permit to take certain items out of the country. 

Of course, most countries have rules and regulations about what can and cannot be brought in and out without declaring it. But what might catch you out here is the nature of some of these. You see, in Thailand, you’re not allowed to leave with any images of the Buddha, religious art or antiques without a permit. So make sure you work all this out before heading to the airport. If you want to find out more about this, you can contact the FCO.

Here are a few facts that, while not Thailand law, are well worth bearing in mind:

The condition of your passport matters. 

Having a passport that’s valid for a certain period of time is a standard requirement for travel to most countries (in Thailand’s case, it needs to be valid for a minimum of six months after your date of entry to the country). In Thailand, though, you also need to think about the condition of your passport. You can be refused entry for things like missing pages or other significant damage.

Keep an eye on store/market borders when shopping.

Thailand can be a brilliant place for shopping. Please, though, make sure you don’t accidentally cross demarcations for different shops and markets without having paid for whatever you’ve picked up. It’s fairly easily done in some places (the lines aren’t always particularly clear). If it’s noticed, it can get you accused of shoplifting.

A final note about Drug Laws in Thailand

Are drugs legal in Thailand? No! Recreational drugs are not legal in Thailand. Although, in all honesty, they are super prevalent on the Thai islands. But of all foreigners sitting in jail in Thailand, the vast majority are for drugs. So don’t be stupid. Thailand laws on drugs aren’t as crazy as they used to be. BUT THAI LAW IS STILL HARSH ON DRUGS. So be careful. 

  • Recreational marijuana is illegal in Thailand
  • Psychedelic mushroom products are illegal in Thailand. This is despite them literally being on some menus in bars! If you’re looking for that, it’s also labelled ‘Happy’ Pizza or ‘Happy’ shake. 
  • 70% of prison inmates are inside for drugs
  • The minimum sentence for getting caught bringing stuff across the border? 10 years MINIMUM
  • Possession of drugs = 1-10 years. 
  • ‘Allegedly’, when caught in possession by police, people have a 30-minute window to pay themselves out of trouble. After that, you’re processed, and you’re in REAL trouble. 

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24 thoughts on “5 Strange Laws That Could Land you in Trouble in Thailand

  1. Pingback: 泰国的法律;5条奇怪的法律,可能会让你陷入困境-数字游民指南
  2. I made underwear that has cloth with my entire passport imprinted on it so all I have to do is drop my pants and I cover two regulations at once. The locals love it.

  3. No.2 and no.5 they are correct but the others are utter rubbish I am a thai man myself and others are nonsense I walk out with my pants all the time nothing I drive shirtless all the time nothing I don’t spit gum but I see people do and there might be a 100 baht fine or something but nothing else.Everything they said here is false except no.2 and no.5

  4. It is also illegal to burn the flags of any of Thailand’s allies. Ironically, that means while burning the US flag is lawful in USA–it is unlawful here in Thailand.

  5. Pingback: உலகின் மிக வினோதமான சட்டங்கள் பற்றி உங்களுக்கு தெரியுமா? - AKKINIKKUNCHU
  6. Can you tell me anything about the laws concerning monkeys as pets in Cambodia, Thailand, or any South East Asian countries. I don’t mean endangered ones, but the common ones like macaques etc. I see that many people seen to own them in the videos. In what countries would that be legal.

    1. Well you can have monkeys as a pet in thailand I have a friend that has a lot of pet monkeys and he has a coconut farm and trains the monkey to get the coconuts that is the only reason you are allowed to have a monkey in Thailand.

  7. Pingback: 即使你是不明情况的游客 在泰国抽电子烟仍会面临十年铁窗 | 蓝天下的梦
  8. really a stupid country with stupid laws….better off spending my tourist cash in indonesia, malaysia or anyhwere else…fed up with the thai corrupt police and their bureaucratic harrasment….not to mention some issues where thai police trap foreigners with accomplices to racket them…an organised crime almost

    1. So you are going to hit the police with the racket and you think it is ok? Are you idiotic or something? Harming people breaks a global law, dumbass.

  9. Just as a matter of Interest. One & half hour out of Chiang Rai, bus pulls over to Royal Thai Police Checkpoint. Police board bus and want to see all Identity Cards. I tell him : Sorry I don’t have one. I’m a Foreigner. “Which Country?” England. “Pas-a-port” I’m sorry I tell him. My Passaport is in my suitcase in the Luggage Compartment. ” Ao Pas-a-port. Ao Pas-a-port” he demands. I want your passport.
    I get off the Bus followed by one of the Stewards. He has to unload ALL the baggage in one compartment until he gets to mine. I open the suitcase and luckily, my passport is right at the top. He examines it and, when finished says. “Thank you, My Friend “

    1. You put your passport into bag in the bus hold? Are you crazy? Too many bags are stolen or rifled. If UK passport agency found this to be how you handle your passport then you may not get a replacement as the passport is to be kept in a safe manner at all times and that it is owned by HM Passport services – you only have use of it.

    1. Carrying your passport with you at all times is just plain stupid. Especially stupid in Thailand !!!
      Carry a copy…..leave the real thing in a safe……smart !!!

  10. Some good ones there. No underwear is a good one, I wonder does it affect many of the ladies. Or ladieboys for that matter!

    1. Whether you want to believe or not it is a legal requirement as a tourist and in some countries to carry identification even as a citizen , Thailand is no different and other than identifying who you are there is a question of your status especially your visa , too many tourists have for many years over stayed there legal right to be in Thailand as I’m sure in other countries too , my suggestion is make a copy of your passport and visa and leave it in your hotel and carry your passport with you , I don’t know what world people live in but I haven’t been to any country where carrying you passport is not illegal especially as a tourist .

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