Thailand - Important Documents
The Thai authorities, including immigration, change and add requirements constantly. For that reason the information below is deliberately vague in places. If I use specific information it will take me a lot of work to keep it up to date, and if I don't keep it up to date it will be misleading.
In addition, nothing related to Thai immigration is ever set in stone. Decisions are made at the discretion of individual immigration officials. The same person going to two different immigration centres may be given different requirements, as may two different people going to the same immigration centre.
Use the information below as a guide, but always check first for current requirements.
My recommendation is first to find out where you need to apply for whatever it is you require. Make one visit to establish exactly what you need and then return to the same place when you have all the necessary documents and information.
The information on this page is intended for people thinking about going to live in Thailand long term. As a tourist visiting Thailand for a short stay you will probably only need a passport. Dependent upon your nationality and whether you enter Thailand by air or road you will be allowed to stay in Thailand without a visa for anything up to 90 days.
If people from your country are normally given 30 days and you wish to stay for longer you should consider visiting the Thai Embassy in your country before you travel to obtain a suitable visa.
This means that most tourists visiting Thailand won't deal with Thai bureaucracy at all during their stay. However, if you plan to live in Thailand permanently, and legally, it means that you will have to spend a significant amount of time dealing with government officials.
The other way, which I certainly wouldn't recommend, is to live 'under the radar' and not to bother with anything. I have met foreigners in Thailand who live like this and I have heard about plenty of others. They don't bother with visas and when their passports expire they don't bother replacing them.
Obviously, they can't leave the country without a number of issues, but they have no intention of leaving. Thais are very laid back and it is very unusual to perform spot checks on foreigners, although it has happened in the past.
Foreigners can, and do, live in Thailand this way for many years. However, if they do get caught the consequences are very serious.
The vast majority of foreigners living in Thailand do so legally and although it requires a certain amount of paperwork, time and money it's not too bad. I certainly wouldn't have peace of mind living in Thailand illegally. The term Thais would use for this having peace of mind is sabaay jai and that is what you should aim at.
Depending on what you are applying for, some of your documents may need to be officially translated into Thai. The 'official' bit means that this has to be done by an authorised translation company that has the necessary stamps to certify the translation. A charge is applicable for this service and will vary from place to place.
For my house registration document I had to get my passport translated. When I used to receive letters from the British Embassy to confirm my income, these also had to be translated. When I got my first Thai driving licence I had to get my UK licence translated.
Translation services are available everywhere in Thailand. When you arrive to live in Thailand you will need to find out where certain things are, such as the administrative centres I have listed below. You should also locate the services of an official translation service.
My hatred for transliteration began when I started learning to speak Thai, even before I could read Thai. The way that Thai words were transliterated into English was so inaccurate phonetically that it was a big hindrance to my learning. However, there are also other reasons to hate transliteration.
Some of your documents will have to be translated into Thai and things such as your name will have to be transliterated into Thai. There is no correct way to transliterate, only wrong ways, and if you know anything about written Thai you will know that there are lots of ways to transliterate English into Thai.
Many different Thai consonants have the same sound, so a 'T' in English can be transliterated using one of several Thai 'T' consonants. In addition, Thai has consonants for unaspirated sounds, which English doesn't have. For example, if your surname is 'Winter' the 'T' is actually unaspirated so it would be more accurate to use the unaspirated Thai 'T' consonant for this sound.
If you ask several people to transliterate something into Thai they may offer several variations and none will necessarily be correct or incorrect. However, Thais are extremely pedantic when it comes to bureaucracy and if they detect something that doesn't match it will be a showstopper.
I have been through this problem and ended up with various documents, including my marriage certificate and my children's birth certificates that had different Thai spellings of my surname. It then took a huge amount of time visiting various government departments to get it sorted out.
The important thing is not accuracy, but consistency. Make a note of the Thai transliteration of your name after you get your first document and then make sure that all subsequent documents use the same Thai spelling.
In the course of dealing with Thai bureaucracy over many years I have had to visit several different places. When you move to Thailand you should make an effort to find out where these places are in the location where you live.
- Local Immigration Office
- Main Immigration Office for your province
- Saalaa Glaang office - one per province located in the district with the same name as the province
- District Hall - known as Amphoe
- Local Municipality - known as Tessabaan
- Department of Land Transport - this is where I had to go for my first Thai driving licence
- Road Tax Office - this is where I have to go to renew my driving licence every five years and to get my cars and motorbike taxed every year
For some paperwork you may need to visit your Embassy in Bangkok and some visas may only be obtainable at a Thai Embassy or Consulate outside of Thailand. My nearest Thai consulate is in Penang, Malaysia but this will depend where you live in Thailand.
There is an awful lot of bureaucracy in Thailand and don't believe that you are being singled out as a foreigners. It's just as bad, if not worse, for the locals. Thais themselves don't enjoy all the bureaucracy, but the government does. There's nothing you can do about it.
There is bureaucracy where there shouldn't be bureaucracy. In the UK my bank sends new debit and credit cards to my house. I destroy the old ones, sign the new ones, and that's it. End of story. The same with new or replacement driving licences. In Thailand these same things require visits to banks or government offices, lots more bureaucracy, and lots more wasted time.
Set your expectations accordingly. If you get what you set out for on one visit, think yourself lucky. I always assume at least two visits and probably more. If you go to a government office in the morning, don't make appointments in the afternoon. Leave the whole day free and expect to have to make return visits.
Although computer systems are used, there is a lot of physical paperwork. Expect to have to make many copies of your documents and expect to sign every copy. To facilitate this requirement you will find photocopying services everywhere in Thailand.
Most applications also require passport photos of your face. When you begin living in Thailand it's not a bad idea to get several photos taken and to make several photocopies of your passport.
If you acquire documents from elsewhere, such as your employer in Thailand, make sure that official headed paper is used and that the document has the right stamps and signatures. Thais like rubber stamps. Make sure that information matches. Dates should match as should numerical amounts. For example, if you present your bank book and a letter from your bank to immigration the totals should match.
Take any information that you hear from other people or read on Internet forums as a guide only. Requirements are rarely the same for any two people. On your first visit to a government office you will be told what you need and then satisfy these requirements on subsequent visits.
Dealing With Thais
Thais don't feel comfortable dealing with foreigners. Full stop.
Even if the foreigner speaks good Thai, they still don't like dealing with foreigners. Whenever I go anywhere with my wife, Thais speak directly to her and act as if I am not there. Most Thais have very little confidence dealing with foreigners and in Thailand they don't expect foreigners to understand anything about Thai ways, which may be very true.
If you are applying for something at a government office always try to go with a Thai. Let your Thai friend deal with the officials and sit patiently and quietly in the background, smiling if anyone should look at you. Learning to wai correctly (the prayer-like gesture that Thais greet each other with) also helps.
Thais have a thing about heads and relative head height. You will constantly be told to sit down and this won't necessarily be about ensuring your personal comfort. When an official is sitting at a desk he or she will not like someone standing over them waiting.
I can communicate in Thai reasonably well, but even so, I use this advice because my main objective is making the process flow smoothly so that I can get out as soon as possible. The only time I interject is if I hear my wife, or someone else, saying something that isn't correct.
Prepare yourself to have endless patience and never show any signs of anger, irritation or impatience. Raising your voice is a big no-no. Nothing you can do can speed up the process, but if you upset someone you can certainly slow down the process.
Bear in mind, that the person you are dealing with probably isn't making things deliberately difficult. They are simply following procedures given to them from above and they have to do their jobs.
Most officials I have dealt with do actually want to help, but they can't do certain things without certain documents or information that you have to make available to them.
Don't be despondent on first visits. Many's the time I have been told at first that something is virtually impossible. It sounds really bad, but then what comes to light is that if you present certain things then what you want is actually quite achievable. Just be patient and persevere.
As a foreigner in Thailand, whether you are a tourist or an expat, your single-most important document is your passport. Not having a valid passport can get you into a lot of trouble and you cannot leave Thailand without one. In addition, replacing a lost or stolen passport involves a lot of expense and hassle.
It amazes me to see foreigners leave their passports on unattended tables at the front of their guest houses while they go out for the day. Treat your passport like the valuable document it is and safeguard it at all times.
I have a British passport and it used to be possible to get replacements at the British Embassy in Bangkok. This is where I did my first passport replacement. For the second replacement I had to send the application to Hong Kong. I think it has changed again since then. It isn't a cheap or easy process, which is why you should look after your passport.
Americans are lucky in that when they fill up their passports they can apply for extra pages. Brits can't and have to get a new passport. If you leave and reenter Thailand frequently ask immigration officials to try to conserve space when they stamp your passport. It doesn't take long with visas, reentry permits and exit and entry stamps to fill up a passport.
Passports are only important to Thais if they want to travel to another country. Many Thais don't have passports and it isn't an important document.
Thais do need to have a National ID card and they need to carry it around all the time. They know that foreigners don't have ID cards, therefore they often ask to see a foreigner's passport when normally they would ask to see a Thai's ID card.
I have been asked to show my passport at all sorts of places, for example, in a furniture store when I ordered a child's desk and chairs.
Technically, foreigners should carry a copy of their passport around at all times. I did at first, but was never asked for it so stopped after around six months. Since I moved to Thailand in 2003 I have still never been asked.
A Thai driving licence is the same size as a Thai National ID card and foreigners can obtain a driving licence, whereas they can't get a National ID card, but they can get a Thai ID card for foreigners. In most cases when Thais ask to see a foreigner's passport, which isn't convenient, they will be satisfied if you show then a Thai driving licence.
Tourists receive a visa exemption stamp for a certain number of days when they enter Thailand. When I first arrived in Thailand it was possible to live permanently in Thailand by arranging a trip to the border whenever this stamp expired and getting a new one. Many people did. They could have as many of these stamps as they liked and although it was a loophole, it was perfectly legal.
The Thai/Malaysian border is about an hour from where I live and some years ago it was always full of foreigners. They would get their Thai exit stamps and then trot across the border. First they would enter Malaysia, then exit straight away, and then return to Thailand for a fresh 30 day stamp.
Even back in those days when many people did it they knew it wasn't right and that some day the loophole would be plugged. The clampdown happened in 2006 after the John Mark Karr and JonBénet Ramsey incident.
Quite reasonably, if you wish to live permanently in Thailand you need a valid visa. There are many types, but most foreigners living in Thailand have one of three types.
If you work (most probably as an English teacher) you will need a non-B working visa. I messed around for several years doing this myself - along with getting work permits myself - but the organisation you work for should do the paperwork for you. There are various requirements, but these days the main requirement seems to be a Bachelor's degree.
The second common type of visa is a non-O visa for marriage. Again, there are various requirements but the main one is financial. You either need to show Bt400,000 in a Thai bank account or an income of Bt40,000 per month. To prove your income from abroad you must present an official document from your Embassy in Bangkok after presenting evidence to the Embassy. If you have the necessary funds in a Thai bank account you need to get an official letter from your bank.
The third type is a non-O retirement visa. You need to be over the age of 50 and once again there are financial requirements, but they are higher than the marriage visa requirements. Bt800,000 in a Thai bank account or Bt65,000 per month.
As I said above, this information is subject to change so always check first for the current requirements.
For a long time in Thailand you could overstay your visa and simply pay a fine when you left the country. This used to be Bt200 per day, but it was raised to Bt500 and the maximum fine was Bt20,000. After paying the fine you could return to Thailand straight away. Now you can't.
In 2015, I believe, new rules were introduced and if you overstay your visa you will be blacklisted and banned from returning to Thailand. The length of your ban depends on the length of overstay, but it can be up to 10 years.
Overstaying visas is never a good idea in Thailand.
A visa allows you to live in Thailand, a work permit allows you to work. Work permits are very specific and there isn't a general work permit that allows you to do any type of work at any location.
The work permit allows you to do a very specific task, for example teaching, in a very specific place, for example School A. If you do another kind of work or teach at School B you are violating the terms of your work permit.
Just as staying in Thailand without a visa is treated very seriously, so is working without a work permit.
If you get a job in Thailand, in most cases your employer will sort out your visa and work permit. For about four years I worked part-time at a university hospital and my employer wasn't willing to do my paperwork. I did it myself and it was a major headache.
Work permits are obtained through the Department of Employment, Ministry of Labour.
The first stage of getting a permit is getting a suitable job offer. This has to be in writing and Thais like lots of official-looking rubber stamps. Preferably, the person signing it should have a long, important sounding title. Once you have a job offer you then need to get a non-immigration B (non-B) visa. This is the visa that allows you to work. Most other kinds of visa (tourist, retirement, etc.) do not allow you to work.
The process is straightforward, but must be done outside of Thailand. Therefore, if you are in Thailand already you need to get to a Consulate or Embassy in a neighbouring country such as Malaysia, Cambodia or Laos. Fill out the form applying for a non-B visa and, with your passport, attach your job offer letter, two passport photos and the required fee (200 Ringgits in Malaysia). Unless there are any major anomalies you should get your visa the following day. It remains valid for 90 days after which time it will expire.
Once you have your non-B you can work legally. The idea now is to apply for your work permit. If you don't, you may be wondering if you can keep going back to the Consulate for repeated non-B visas. When I got my first one I only worked for a short time and didn't bother with a work permit. When I started my second job I needed to get another non-B and they stamped a warning that I should apply for a work permit.
It would appear that you can get two non-Bs (or maybe three) on the basis of job offer letters but then you need to get a work permit. They apparently won't keep giving you non-B visas ad-infinitum.
Now on to the actual work permit process. I decided right from the start that I needed help. My Thai language skills were sufficient for shopping and restaurants but not for something like this and besides, I didn't even know where the Department of Employment was located. I found myself a small solicitor's office and spoke to someone there. The woman I spoke to actually had a contact working at the Department of Labour in the section that processes foreigner's work permits.
There are a few things to appreciate when dealing with officialdom in Thailand. No matter how good your Thai, you are a foreigner and Thais are always happier dealing with other Thais.
Secondly, the locals have great networking skills. I know this is how everyone in the world operates to some extent but in Thailand it is even more the case. You have to know the right people to speak to in order to get things done. Without using the solicitor's office I would never have got in touch with the lady at the Department of Labour.
Thirdly, remember this is Thailand. Even when Thais appear to be making no sense, try to bite your tongue, smile and let them do it their way. Trying to use Western assertion techniques just doesn't work.
After talking to her friend at the Department of Labour my solicitor told me what I required. This demonstrates another danger of using the Internet too much. On the Internet I found different requirements and if I had followed these I would have ended up getting things I didn't require and not having things I did require.
The list I was given consisted of the following:
- Employment Agency Application Form to be filled in by Applicant
- Three 2.5" by 3" photos
- Employment Agency Application Form to be filled in by Employer
- Employment Contract
- Certification of Graduation
- Certification of good health
- Certification of previous employment
I had to sign every piece of paper to say it was authentic (no need to get anything notarised) and also had to sign to give my contact at the Department of Labour power of attorney to apply for my permit. The service charge was Bt2,000 which, considering the hassle it saved me, I thought was reasonable. The initial work permit fee was Bt750.
The work permit expires when the visa does. If you get it 30 days after getting your non-B it will therefore be good for 60 days. In my case it expired about two weeks after I got it. Both documents (work permit and visa) then need to be extended and this can be done in Thailand for another three months.
After that it is necessary to go to a Consulate or Embassy outside the country again to apply for another non-B visa. With a work permit and employment contract it should be possible next time round to get a multiple entry one year visa. If you apply in Malaysia this will cost 500 ringgits.
The solicitor told me that getting the permit in the first instance is the tricky part but ongoing extensions should be fairly straightforward. There was a warning attached though not to let my visa or permit expire because I would have to start all over from scratch again.
Here are the actual warnings (and consequences) that come written inside the work permit:
- A permit holder must keep the permit with him or at the place of work during working hours in order that it may be readily shown to the competent official or Registrar. Any violation thereof shall be liable to fine not exceeding one thousand Baht.
- A permit holder shall not engage in work other than that which is specified in the permit or change the locality or place of work from that which is specified in the permit unless prior permission is obtained from the Registrar. Any violation thereof shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or to a fine not exceeding two thousand Baht or both.
- Before a permit expires and the permit holder wishes to continue working, he shall apply for renewal of the permit to the Registrar prior to its expiration. Any violation thereof shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to a fine not exceeding five thousand Baht or both.
- In case where an alien resigns from the work which is specified in the permit, he shall return the permit to the Registrar of the province where the place of work is located within seven days from the date of his resignation. Any violation thereof shall be liable to fine not exceeding one thousand Baht.
The whole process to get my permit took about a month. In fact, after I had got all of the necessary paperwork together it took less than two weeks. I read some scaremongering on the Internet saying it could take several months. If it looks like your non-B visa might expire before your work permit arrives you can get an in-country two week visa extension for Bt1,900 specifically for this purpose. However, if after another two more weeks the permit still hasn't arrived then you may need to leave the country again to try to get another.
As I said above, it's best to leave all this paperwork to your Thai employer. I should also add that the description above is from many years ago. Things change quickly and often in Thailand, and these days it is probably completely different.
National ID Card
All Thais have one of these and it is a very important document for them. They have to show it virtually every day, for example, whenever you leave your car in a car park. It's blue and foreigners can't have one. Thais regard a foreigner's passport as being equivalent to a Thai's National ID card and will often ask for your passport.
Unless you carry your passport around all the time, which I wouldn't advise, you can't show it. You can show a copy of your passport, your driving licence (a Thai licence is better because Thais aren't familiar with foreign licences), or a Thai ID card for foreigners.
Thai ID Card For Foreigners
I'm not sure exactly when this was introduced, but it's fairly new. It's an ID card issued by the Thai government for foreigners. It has a unique 13 digit number, the same as the Thai version, but it's pink instead of blue and it clearly states that the holder is not a Thai national.
Getting it was fairly easy, but if my circumstances had been different it might have been difficult. If you know the right people in Thailand you can get anything done easily. If you don't know the right people, life can be very difficult. It is issued at your local Amphoe office, where they register births, deaths and marriages.
Thai ID card for foreigners
On my first visit to the Amphoe office I went alone and although I had all the required documentation they weren't interested and told me to return with my wife. They also told me that I needed a Thai guarantor who must be a government official above a certain level. However, my wife wasn't available because of work commitments and the government officials I know who are at the appropriate level weren't available.
I had to wait a couple of months for an opportunity to arise and when my friend, who is the military attache to a Thai ambassador in a Thai Embassy, and my wife were available I made another attempt.
I only had one day to apply because my friend was about to leave and initially the Amphoe office said that they didn't have any appointments available on that day. My wife then used another contact, who works in a fairly high position at the Amphoe office, and an appointment suddenly became available.
As I said, the only thing that really counts in Thailand is who you know. If you know the right people doors start to open, whereas normally they would be slammed in your face.
The documents needed were my passport, wife's ID card, wife's blue house registration book, my yellow house registration book, marriage certificate and children's birth certificates - all originals.
The official went through everything, asked me some questions in Thai, and then spent a long time editing some documents to input all of my information. When she had finished she printed the documents and we had to check that the information was correct. Once this was all done they took my photo and fingerprints and issued me with my own ID card. The cost was Bt60 and the card is good for 10 years.
I'm not sure what I will use it for because my driving licence (I now have two driving licences) suffice for everything. I have boarded domestic flights, checked into hotels, and done lots of other things just by showing my Thai driving licence.
Still, it's better to have these things than not to have them and one day it may come in useful.
Called bai kup kee in Thai.
Obviously, if you drive a vehicle in Thailand you need a driving licence (even though I have come across many foreigners who ride motorbikes and don't bother with a licence). Car and motorbike licences are different and if you drive both you will need two licences.
Even if you don't drive a vehicle I highly recommend getting a licence. It has a picture, it is the same size as a Thai National ID card, and in many cases Thais will accept a Thai driving licence instead of an ID card. This can be very convenient.
You may wish to rent a car occasionally and you may have a problem with the licence from your home country or an international licence because Thais aren't familiar with those things. They are familiar with Thai licences and if you have one there won't be any problems.
Not least, the practice of dual-pricing is widespread in Thailand. In fact, it occurs almost everywhere. This is where there are two prices shown at parks, museums, tourist attractions, etc etc. There is a low price for Thais and a high one for foreigners. The Thai pricing information is normally written using Thai script and Thai numerals, thus making it unintelligible to most foreigners.
If you can speak some Thai and you can present some evidence that you live in Thailand you can often get the low Thai price. A Thai driving licence is perfect evidence and having a Thai driving licence can actually save you quite a lot of money.
A Thai driving licence is really useful to have in Thailand.
Thai driving licence
For my first licence I had to apply at the main provincial office that deals with driving tests and issuing first time licences. I presented my UK driving licence and had to do three tests - for colour blindness, depth perception and braking reaction. I did not need to do a driving test or written test and neither did I have to watch the movie that Thais have to watch.
The first licence lasted for a year and I renewed it at my local road tax office. The second one lasted for five years and when it expired I renewed it at the same place, as I did the third one.
When it came time to renew it for the third time after eleven years some things had changed. I was thrown out on the first attempt because I needed proof of address (see 'House Registration' below) and when I applied again with proof of address I had to watch the movie in addition to doing the three basic tests. The cost of renewing the licence was Bt655.
Acquiring a Thai driving licence isn't difficult, but it takes time. I highly recommend getting one.
It is not unreasonable that the Thai authorities will want to ensure that where you say you live is where you actually live.
How do you prove your address? When I wanted to renew my driving licence I was told that I needed a Thai referee to vouch for me and that I need to obtain an official letter from immigration. This isn't convenient every time you are asked and there is a much better solution.
Every house in Thailand has a blue house registration book (Tor Ror 14), know as tabian baan in Thai and listed inside are all the people who officially reside at that address. It is therefore easy for Thais to prove where they live by presenting the house registration book. Along with their National ID card, this is another important document for Thais.
Blue house registration book
The problem for most foreigners is that they can't be listed in the blue house registration book (I believe they can if they are permanent residents, but permanent residency is difficult to obtain in Thailand).
However, foreigners can apply for a yellow house registration book (Tor Ror 13). It's the same size as the blue one and performs exactly the same function. Inside, the foreign owner of the book is given a National ID number and it is a very powerful document. It satisfies the proof of address requirement and it gives foreigners living permanently in Thailand an additional level of status. I also believe it is required if you wish to apply for permanent residency.
Yellow house registration book
Just like other Thai documents it isn't that difficult to get, but it takes time. Applicants also need two Thai referees who work for the government and are above a certain level in the government bureaucracy.
After getting my two Thai referees I had to provide originals and copies of my marriage certificate and children's birth certificates. They also wanted to see some family photos, I guess to confirm that I was telling the truth. In addition, I had to provide some small photos and a full translation of my passport.
I applied at the local municipality office (Tessabaan) and there was no charge.
Having a Thai bank account is very useful and practical for your financial affairs and, in addition, it may be necessary for visas where there are financial requirements.
It also saves money if you are living in Thailand on an income from abroad. Drawing money from ATMs is expensive, however, transferring money from your UK to Thai bank accounts is a lot cheaper if you use the services of a specialised company.
I opened a bank account when I was working for a government university hospital and my salary was paid directly into my account, It was easy. However, since then several people have sent e-mails asking how to open bank accounts and for some people it isn't easy.
A few years ago, on behalf of the people who had asked, I made enquiries at various banks. I was told by each one that a work permit was required, but this is clearly not the case. Retirees need a bank account and they are forbidden to work so how can they get a work permit?
There don't seem to be any clearly defined rules and each branch of each bank has its own ideas. I've read information on-line about this and it seems that the best way is just to keep visiting bank branches until you find one that will open an account.
I know this isn't the greatest answer, but many issues in Thailand don't have easy, clearly defined answers. Of course, if you start working as a teacher and get a work permit it shouldn't be any problem.
Marriage To A Thai Citizen
If you're feeling really brave and the information above hasn't deterred you from living in Thailand, you may decide to marry a Thai citizen. Having been married to a Thai girl since 2010 I could say a lot about this, but it would be off-topic for this page.
All I will say is that nothing is ever as it seems at first in Thailand and if you have only ever seen Thailand as a tourist you will have a monumental learning curve ahead of you if you decide to live in Thailand permanently. Marrying the right Thai girl can be a dream, but marry the wrong one and it will be your biggest nightmare. Be very careful and take your time.
Firstly, you will need to make an appointment with your Embassy in Bangkok to swear an affirmation or affidavit that you're free to marry. You will need your passport and you will be charged for this service.
You will then need to get an official English to Thai translation of the document for Thai immigration. There are lots of places in Bangkok that offer this service and if you give them the necessary authority they will collect your affirmation from the Embassy, thus saving you some time.
Once you have the affirmation and the official Thai translation you need to go to the local Amphoe office with your future wife and she will need to show her National ID card.
You enter the Amphoe office unmarried and hand over the necessary documents. The official types some things into a computer, you are given a marriage certificate each, and you walk out married. It is all very low key, but it is official.
Thai marriage ceremonies can be quite extravagant, but at the end of the day you are just as unmarried as you were at the start of the day. The marriage ceremony is just for show and there is nothing about it that is legally binding.
Foreigner marrying a Thai citizen
Many aspects of Thai cultural behaviour (coupled with some extremely lax law enforcement) give the outward appearance that you can do (or not do) anything you want in Thailand. Without any doubt, this is something that appeals to many foreigners who are drawn to Thailand.
Indeed, Thailand attracts many foreigners who find the rules and confines of their own societies too restrictive and want to live somewhere where they believe they can do as they please.
A few years ago I worked in Thailand with a guy who had some very interesting views on the world. He had a serious alcohol dependency problem. He was a serial overstayer in Thailand and believed that it was his right to be able to live wherever in the world he wanted and to do whatever it was that he wanted to do. Furthermore, he did not believe that any individual, government or society had the right to impose any requirements upon him in the form of laws, rules or regulations.
This type of view of Thailand is a complete misapprehension. Thailand may give the outward appearance that anything goes, but that has never been the case and for the last few years, with their 'Good guys in, bad guys out' mantra, Thai immigration is getting a lot stricter with regard to allowing foreigners to live in the country.
These views may have been widespread 30 years ago, but it is very different today and every foreigner I know now is careful to abide by the rules. Regardless of any personal views you may have about individual freedom and the right to please yourself, all societies have rules and Thailand is no exception.
If you want to live in Thailand you have to play by the rules or risk fines, imprisonment, deportation and being banned from returning to Thailand for a long time.
Dealing with Thai bureaucracy is never pleasant, but it's necessary. Everything in life is more acceptable if you set your expectations accordingly and this is what you need to do if you plan to live in Thailand. Accept that there are times when you will have to spend a lot of time dealing with bureaucracy. At times it will seem as if you are being made to jump through hoops purely for the sake of it, but there is no way out.
Cultivate friendships with Thais who can assist you and if possible get to know some people who are high up in the bureaucratic hierarchy. In Thailand it is who you know, not what you know or who you are. Observe Thais, in particular how they deal with officialdom and follow their lead. Be endlessly patient.
Remember that no matter where you live there will be bureaucracy and some countries may be a lot worse than Thailand.
It can be fun living in Thailand and this is a fairly small price to pay.
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia.
Booking.com used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.
If you wish to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
Images of Thailand