Keep you Passport with you at all times in Thailand

Keep you Passport with you at all times in Thailand


When you are travelling around the world, the most important document that you hold is your passport. It’s not exactly the end of the world if you lose it, but it will cause a lot of difficulty and expense for you. You basically have to put your holiday on hold while you report the loss to the local police station, request a new passport at your embassy and then visit Immigration to have visas transferred across. Very time consuming.

By law in Thailand, you must carry your passport at all times. In practice, tourists are rarely asked for their passport while out shopping or visiting a local attraction. For myself, I carry a copy of my passport photo page and visa page which I shrank down to credit card size and laminated. In theory this is fine. But, if police are doing a shakedown they might demand to see your real passport. If you don’t have it on you, they have been known to ask for a bribe. But, this is not always a scam. Immigration Police have carried out raids on Khao San road guesthouses and bars in Bangkok looking for people who have overstayed their visa. If you cannot produce one then you will be sent to the Immigration Detention Center.

For many years it has been normal for people who rent out motorcycles and now jet skis to ask for a copy of your passport. They basically hold on to this in case you crash the motorbike and refuse to pay compensation or don’t come back with the motorbike. But, according to Dutch Ambassador Joan Boer, you shouldn’t hand over your passport to anyone as this is illegal. He says you should only give them a photocopy. According to the Ambassador, the Thai government has agreed with this. However, he admitted that it will take time to re-educate local tourist services in not demanding to keep the passport.

I just had a look at my passport and it does clearly say that its “the property of Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom” and that it should not be “tampered with or passed to an unauthorised person”. A good tip is to make sure that your passport is with you at all times. If not, it is in the hotel safe.

12 thoughts on “Keep you Passport with you at all times in Thailand

  1. I also have a laminated copy with my passport details page on one side and my work permit on the other. Never been asked to provide my original instead apart from in the bank and also it comes in handy for getting the local price where dual pricing policies apply 😉

  2. Here’s a question, if you apply for a (non-Thai) visa you don’t have your passport for a few days, what happens if a policeman demands to see the original? Would a receipt from the consulate be enough?

  3. I used to leave my passport in hotel safes until the tsunami in Phuket after which we found the safes some twenty metres away from reception in the back of the kitchen and we hauled it on a truck to the police station where they were cracked open and the contents returned. My passport was washed clean, but for the flight to Bangkok and then on to the UK I just had to say ‘tsunami’ and I was waved through.
    Since then I carry my passport in a zip-locked waterproof wallet hung on a lanyard around my neck and also have colour scans of all pages on my Samsung Tab, but I have to say that in 8 years, four years full-time, I have never been stopped by police or had to produce my passport other than where expected (immigration, banks, big purchases etc.).

  4. Hi Richard

    You say that you shrunk your passport down to credit card size and laminated it. I have a machine that can do this but cannot get the laminate the correct size although I have tried here and in New Zealand. Where did you get yours done?

  5. Would an electronic version of your passport photo page eg PDF stored on your phone or online be sufficient? I always leave my passport in the safe

  6. This is an old wives tale repeated so many times people believe it. There is NOTHING written in thai law that states we need to carry anything more than valid I/D.

    A while back the head immigration officer in Phuket spouted out that nonsense about foreigners needing to carry their passports all the time and the head of Bangkok Immigrations rescinded his statement the next day.

    Even Thonglor Police, known for targeting foreigners handed out an A4 flyer stating a copy of your data page and your current extension of stay was FINE.

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