There has been a rumor going around Thailand ever since I moved to Bangkok almost 20 years ago, and that rumor says any foreigner has to have their passport with them at all times.
If they do not, and are stopped by Thai police, they will be arrested for not having their passport.
Is this true?
No, of course not.
Do you need to carry your passport with you at all times in Thailand?
In the almost 20 years I have lived in Thailand, I have never once been stopped by a Thai police officer and asked to show them my passport. Out of the several hundred non-Thais I also know living in the Kingdom, I have never heard one mention that they have.
Of course, that is simply anecdotal evidence, so here is what you really need to know.
If a Thai police officer asks for your passport and you do not have it with you, they will usually give you a reasonable amount of time to show up to a local police station and present it there.
An even easier way of making sure no problems occur, however, is simply to always carry these things with you:
- a) A color photocopy of your passport’s ID page clearly showing your photograph and the passport number.
- b) A color photocopy of your current visa on your passport, clearly showing its expiration date.
- c) A color photocopy of your TM6 card.
- d) Photographsof the ID page of your passport clearly showing your photograph, your current visa in the passport and your TM6 card. These can be carried on your mobile phone as a backup.
If stopped by a police officer in Thailand, as long as you have these things with you, you are extremely unlikely to have any problems.
A worst case scenario could have you given 24-48 hours to present the original documents at your local police station.
You can also make life even easier for yourself by being extremely respectful and polite to the police officer and not getting angry or, worse, rude or threatening. Smiling helps too.
When should you carry your passport with you in Thailand?
Of course, if you are taking an international flight or crossing a Thai land border, you must always have your passport with you.
If you travel within Thailand, and especially if you will be staying in a hotel or have rented a condo, it is also advisable to carry your passport with you.
Things have become stricter in Thailand in the last few years when it comes to how foreigners living in the Kingdom illegally are treated. Thai authorities want to find them and kick them out.
That is why, if you are living legally in Thailand, you should have your passport with you when checking into a hotel or condo. The hotel management is required by law to take a photocopy of your passport, which includes the visa page, and your TM6 card. This will then be forwarded to Thai Immigration for their records.
Having said that though, some hotels will accept photocopies of all of these things, so carrying your passport is not always necessary. This is usually the case with the lower priced hotels who will often accept photocopies of a passport and a Thai drivers licence, but not always the case with the larger international chains.
If you plan on traveling within Thailand via air, however, most airlines require non-Thais to carry their passports at check-in.