Reminder: Certain Countries Require Travelers To Carry Minimum Funds – Tourists Detained In Thailand For Not Carrying 20,000 THB CASH!

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There are currently cases circulating in the media where several tourists have been (at least temporarily) denied entry into Thailand due to not carrying a minimum amount of 20,000 THB (~US$ 600) in CASH with them.

Indeed, the entry regulations for Thailand say that tourists are required to carry a cash reserve and several other countries have the same rule, though in most cases having a valid credit card is sufficient.

Thailand is known for attracting many tourists that seek to travel on a very low budget and recently news reports surfaced where foreigners were spotted begging on the streets for money.

Whenever things like these make big headlines the government starts to engage in a short lived campaign to selectively enforce these rules at the airport.

The Jakarta Post (access here) wrote about it this week as well.

If you are entering Thailand on a tourist visa, you may be required to show immigration officials Bt20,000 in cash.

Thaivisa has learnt that immigration officials at a number border checkpoints across Thailand are asking some people entering the country on a tourist visa to show Bt20,000 in cash.

Thaivisa understands the increased scrutiny being placed on tourist visa holders is to crack down on foreigners who officials suspect are not genuine tourists and who may be working in Thailand illegally.

People trying to enter with history of tourist visa entries appear to be the ones under the most amount of scrutiny. ED [education] visa holders are also the subject of similar scrutiny. …

A British national in Hua Hin who has three previous tourist visa entries in his passport told Thaivisa on Monday that he was also asked to show Bt20,000 in cash when trying to enter the country at Don Mueang International Airport last Wednesday and was questioned about whether he works in Thailand and how he can financially support his stay in the country.

Thaivisa has spoken to an immigration officer at a local immigration office who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity as they are not authorised to speak publicly on immigration matters.

The officer could only confirm that people entering Thailand on tourist visas should be able to show they can support their stay in the Kingdom.

As a disclaimer, I wouldn’t necessarily consider Thai Visa as a source for general reflection on what’s happening to average tourists and business travelers. In fact this particular ‘news forum’ is full with people who stay in the country long term through the use of various tourist visas or education visas for attending “Thai Language Classes”. If you follow the article closely you will find that each of the stated cases has a history of multiple consecutive visas/stays in Thailand.

However it is a fact that immigration officer often question travelers who appear like their financial reserves might be questionable. As so often in life the first indicator to profile such individuals is their appearance. Backpackers and tourists who are very poorly dressed can very well find themselves in the situation to be asked to show their funds.

You can access the website of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs here where the immigration requirements are outlined.

Nationals of the United States of America and 41 other countries are eligible to travel to Thailand, for tourism purpose, with the exemption of visa and are permitted to stay in the Kingdom for a period of not exceeding 30 days.

Therefore, you do not need a visa.

However, please make sure that you are in possession of a passport valid for at least 6 months, a round-trip air ticket, and adequate finances equivalent to at least 10,000 Baht per person or 20,000 Baht per family. Otherwise, you may be inconvenienced upon entry into the country.

Furthermore, foreigners who enter the Kingdom under this Tourist Visa Exemption Scheme may re-enter and stay in Thailand for a cumulative duration of stay of not exceeding 90 days within any 6-month period from the date of first entry.

So the official requirement is 10,000 Thai Baht in cash (~ US$ 300) per person or 20,000 Baht per Family. Not sure why the officials at the point of entry would ask individuals for double that amount as outlined in the article above but the country is rarely known for consistency and neither would I take anything on Thai Visa as bona fide.

There are definitely some things with this regulations that don’t make sense. While I agree that it is a big problem that travelers go on trips without sufficient money reserves or a proper higher limit credit card I find it hard to apply a rule of x amount universally for all. If someone has a 1-3 days stay there is absolutely zero reason to carry 10,000 THB per person in cash. It simply doesn’t make any sense.

It’s also not practical because even though there are exchange counters in the arrivals area of the airport (and I believe also some ATM’s from Kasikornbank) getting money is not something I’d usually do before clearing immigration.

Conclusion

So far I’ve never had a problem entering any country. I was on occasion asked how much money I carry and always honestly answered that I carry ~ US$200 in various currencies (usually leftover currency) as well as a few credit cards.

As mentioned it’s a problem when foreigners find themselves in financial trouble in a foreign country due to whatever reasons. Be it that they spent all their money, been the victim of a crime or whatever other reason. The Embassy is usually not available to provide the citizen with financial support, even though most provide assistance contacting relatives back home or in very urgent cases they do provide an emergency loan that has to be paid back. A friend works at the U.S. Citizens Services Unit at the embassy in Bangkok and explained on multiple occasions what they have to deal with. These stories are often crazy!

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  • colin

    I have been aware of Thai immigration cash requirement that was introduced maybe 10years ago, I usually travel with 1000gbp/1000euro cash emergency funds in anycase.

    No requirement for onward/return flight/ship/overland-bus/train apart from 8x published Countries Worldwide which absolutely require proof rtn/onward travel ticket out of the country, the eight does not include Thailand, although CI for MNL-BKK did try that on me at checkin 21months ago

    Requirement countries to my knowlege are limited to just
    UK, USA, Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica and New Zealand

    Strange country is Cuba, not with onward flights but instead requirement to show proof of accomodation when entering Cuba

    • Jeff Kirk

      I was in Thailand a few months ago — I transited through BKK twice in the same week, actually — and was not asked for proof of return/onward ticket out of the country (despite being American). I *was* asked how many days I would be spending there, but that’s a routine question at many, if not most, Customs desks.

      Also, I have to agree with the author that being required to carry 10,000 baht on your person is just plain silly, and like him, I typically get cash upon entering a country at an ATM after passing through immigration. I personally wouldn’t carry £1,000 in cash *ever* in a developing country, even in a major city like Bangkok. The odds of being robbed or otherwise tricked into a situation where “payment” is required are simply too high. While I’m well-traveled enough to know to avoid situations like entering any of Bangkok’s infamous go-go bars, others may not be aware of the shakedowns that take place in such venues.

      Btw the reason proof of accommodation is required in Cuba is because there’s such a huge shortage of it now that Americans can travel there more or less freely. There are still ample travelers out there who just assume they’ll “find a place when they land,” but Cuba has neither the supply nor the tourism infrastructure to handle this variety of last-minute bookings.

      • colin

        No… 1000 in cash remains in hotel safe along with passport, bankcards etc. Out and about in any country I carry my secondary wallet with only the amount of local currency I need that morning/afternoon/evening. (Then if no ATM’s eg a small Island, no ATMs due to Typhoon, I can always get some local currency for my Euros/gbps)

        Regards Cuba, totally wrong, as has been that accomodation already booked requirement for many many of years. Cuban government owned all hotels, if no proof of reservation the immigration official makes you book you in costly so called 5* as part of letting you enter.

  • Danny Martello

    It does not make sense? Obviously Thai officials were not keen to have these individuals enter Thailand – and found a valid reason i.e. pretext.
    Any US-immigration officer can deny you entry and put you on the next flight back without giving you any reason at all.

    • Please read that paragraph again. I agree that the named individuals in the article were likely ‘problem tourists’ but the regulation indeed doesn’t make sense. Why would you need 10,000 THB for a brief 1-2 day stay in Thailand? The law doesn’t discriminate by the amount of day someone will stay, be it an hour or the full 30 days.

      • Danny Martello

        Are you trying to say, that every regulation makes sense? In any case they will enforce it whenever they feel like. I am quite often on transit in BKK for a couple of days in BKK, never had this amount in THB on me and never have been bothered.
        And yes, there a lot of “problem tourists”. So actually, this amount does make sense to me.

  • Kevin

    An easy way to stop these “begpackers” is to simply arrest them for working without a work permit, have them spend a week at immigration detention center, and then deport them back to their home countries. Once a couple of those stories get out in the press, Thailand will no longer have this issue.

    That these idiots have the nerve to beg their way around Asia, having others pay for their travels is pathetic.

    • Does local law stipulate that begging on the street constitutes working?

      • Danny Martello

        The Thais don’t want this sort of individuals in their country. Why is this so difficult to understand?

  • Andrey

    20000 baht per person is a requirement they have for tourist visa holders, which is quite different from a 30 day visa-free stamp.
    There are no ATMs air-side and the exchange kiosk FX rates are atroxious and should be made illegal (up to 10% worse than in the city)

    • That’s incorrect (see the MFA statement above). I’ll check again next week if I see ATM at some of the booths in the arrivals concourse but I could swear I have seen them on the larger ones. The FX spread isn’t as bad as you say, at least not 10%. Then again I don’t go into lower Sukhumvit to exchange money at the Indian/Arab exchange shops.

      • Andrey

        What’s incorrect?
        No need to visit early sois for good exchange rate, various SuperRich booths around the city are the best. KBank booth before the immi had rates like 33 per usd when it was trading at 35 in the city, which always makes me see red.

        • See the information from the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs as quoted that says visa waiver visitors are subject to this rule:

          “Nationals of the United States of America and 41 other countries are
          eligible to travel to Thailand, for tourism purpose, with the exemption
          of visa and are permitted to stay in the Kingdom for a period of not
          exceeding 30 days.

          Therefore, you do not need a visa.

          However, please make sure that you are in possession of a passport
          valid for at least 6 months, a round-trip air ticket, and adequate
          finances equivalent to at least 10,000 Baht per person or 20,000 Baht
          per family. Otherwise, you may be inconvenienced upon entry into the
          country.”

          • Andrey

            I specifically mentioned that 20K requirement applies to those who hold a tourist visa obtained beforehand, which allows you to stay for 60 days, hence double the money requirement.
            Visa exemption aka visa waiver stamp allows you to stay 30 days.
            Citizens from the aforementioned countries can opt for a tourist visa or go the visa-waiver way for shorter stays.

  • Richard

    I normally travel with $400 US, three credit cards from three different banks and two debit / ATM cards from two different banks. The flights and hotels are more often than not paid in advance. The trips are 7-10 days. Endless posts on travel forums with the $500 and 6 weeks in SE Asia adventures. Neither the tourist nor the country benefits from the situation.

  • Richard

    The requirement is 10,000 THB per person / 20,000 THB per family in one form of currency or another. Traveling internationally without $250-$500 US is not smart. I go to the bank and acquire new $100 US bills prior to travel and often return home with the same new $100 US bills. I do use ATMs in the foreign countries but am prepared if the ATMs are non functional or if the credit cards are non functional. The power in 3rd world countries it not as reliable and ATMs require power.

    • I agree that a certain minimum amount of cash in pocket is a good idea and it doesn’t always make sense to use the ATM for small amounts as in many countries (incl TH – 200 THB) the ATM charge a fee on their own. I wouldn’t go as far though to consider Thailand or any country I usually travel to Third World with potential widespread power issues. The only places where I took a larger amount of cash with me were Iran and Myanmar.