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.
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!