Thailand coast with cliffs and a boat

Thailand, like many other Asian countries, requires international travelers to carry their passports wherever they travel, and photocopies are not acceptable; however, not many people carry their passports all the time. 

You will also need to make sure your passport is valid for six months beyond the length of your stay in Thailand to enter the country. When you enter, they will look for that. Double-check the expiration date of your passport.

Should you carry your passport on you in Thailand?

The Thai immigration police have the ability to detain you if you do not have a copy of your documentation from your American passport and current Thai visa with you. 

Also, if you are stopped by the authorities for any reason during your stay, you could be asked for both your passport or some form of ID that states your nation of origin. They can detain you if they would like while they review your paperwork and situation. The police are unlikely to require you to identify yourself unless you’re involved in a serious incident like a drug bust, terror raid or a fight though. 

Some other times you may need your passport in Thailand, are checking into your hotel, flying between countries, renting a car. When you rent a car, you will also need to show your driver’s license. 

Otherwise don’t worry too much about keeping your passport on you. Even when you go out for the night. Bars in Thailand don’t typically ask to see an ID. If they do, A US driver’s license will typically work just fine. Although I have heard of a few foreigners without their passports being detained during raids on bars and clubs.

When visiting certain establishments which are subject to Police raids or crackdowns, consider carrying it. Police in certain Bangkok neighborhoods harass tourists and ex-pats more just trying to keep the place safe or make a few extra baht.

Depending on your vacation or traveling style you may find it most convenient to carry your passport on your person during your trips in the cities, but leave your passport at the hotel and keep a copy of it with you in the smaller towns and villages.

Related: Should you carry your passport with you in Europe?
Related: Should you carry your passport with you in Mexico?

What I do

If you do not feel comfortable carrying your actual passport around with you while you are out and about, a copy of your passport may suffice as identification, depending on the circumstances of your interactions with whoever is requesting your passport. 

Passports and other valuables should always be kept in a hotel safe, according to the US State Department. That is what I do. My wife and I normally leave our passports at the hotel in our room safe whenever possible and carry copies around with us. We take pictures of them on our phones and carry a hard copy.

Make sure that you also have a copy of the arrival details stamped in your passport, not just your personal information.

Remember that carrying your passport with you also increases the risk of it being stolen or lost.

And it all depends on where you are and what you are doing as well. For example, I have heard of nightclubs being targeted and raided.

Anyone renting and riding a motorbike is also more likely to be stopped and asked for ID. 

It’s not my default, but I have heard of people paying their way out of not having an ID on them.

Other people’s experiences

I know of a gentleman and his wife that were detained after they exited a restaurant. It was requested that they produce their passports. They explained their passports were in the hotel’s safe, however, they could show them their driver’s licenses and photo identification instead. After producing the licenses they visited for a bit and that seemed to satisfy the authorities. 

That was the only time in their 30 years of traveling there that they were asked for ID. They went so often that they learned to speak Thai. 

I know another person that has been going to Thailand for many years and has never been stopped and asked for their passport.

Boat market in Thailand

Tips for traveling with your passport in Thailand

These things are important for keeping your passport safe and keeping track of it while you are on the road.

Protect it in a ziploc bag

Whether you are going to carry it around with you or leave it at the hotel, sealing it in a plastic bag will protect it and the stamps in it from getting wet. Thailand is humid and it can rain a lot. 

Keep a color copy of your passport with you.

I have a friend who was in Cancun for a break from the winter weather in Minnesota. One day, she went to breakfast with friends and she left her passport on the table at the restaurant. She realized she had left it just a few minutes after leaving and ran back but it was too late: her passport had been stolen.

Don’t just leave it in your luggage! 

It is more likely to get stolen there. Either by hotel staff, airport staff or pickpockets.

Leave it in a safe in your hotel

If you’re planning something, like swimming or a scuba dive where you feel like you won’t have a safe place to lock up your passport or keep it on you, you might want to leave it back at the hotel. I would.

Lock it up in the safe in your room. They are typically very safe and secure. Yes, I know they can be broken into if someone is really trying, but they typically are quite safe and unless you have someone who is really out to get you, or you have done something to make the hotel staff really grumpy, you will be fine.

Typically, people who try to tell you that hotel safes aren’t secure, are trying to sell you something… or are paranoid. Yes, even if it is a legit website or a close friend.

It boils down to personal preference and how much risk you’re willing to take on for yourself and those traveling with you during your trip abroad.

So You Know – You might get hassled by your insurance company if you don’t lock up your ID or passport in the hotel safe.

Carry a color copy of my passport and/or your driver’s license

You could carry another form of ID as well. If you were to lose your passport it could be hard to re-enter the US. It’s doable, but a bit of a hassle. Consider carrying a color copy of the Bio/identity page and the latest entry stamp if you do this.

Keep a digital copy on your phone

This could come in handy as well, especially in combination with the paper one.

If you need to, for any reason, be quickly admitted to the Embassy of your country, then carrying something that can prove your citizenship can be very beneficial for you.

Be careful if someone starts talking to you in the middle of a busy touristy spot.

It might be fine, but it might not. It could be a distraction ploy by a pickpocket. They work in teams where one distracts, the other steals.

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Thai Tent Marketplace

Be careful if a vendor requires you to leave your passport 

They might do it legitimately, with no ill-intent, as security to rent a car boat or scooter. Feel the situation out and see if you can leave them your paper copy. 

I just did that in Mexico to rent a scooter but they looked pretty legit, and I knew we weren’t going to be rally-driving the scooter so I felt the risk was pretty low. It turned out fine.

Though they could have scammed us by claiming that we damaged their vehicle… or kept it if we legitimately damaged the vehicle.

If it gets stolen, notify the authorities asap

If you do get your passport stolen, it’s important to notify the nearest authority and file a police report with as much information as possible:

The date, time, location (street address if possible), what color was the vehicle, license plate number, details of how you had your belongings (wallet or bag) open, etc.

Photocopy your passport two times

Make sure one of them is kept with someone who can email, text or fax it to you in an emergency, and the other you could keep with you at all times. 

Do the opposite of what I have suggested

Or carry the original passport and leave a copy in the hotel and pic of it on your phone in case you need to replace a lost original.  

To avoid losing any of these documents while traveling, I store copies of all documents, as well as a list of credit card numbers and phone numbers online.

Note – Having a copy of your passport is of use if the original document is lost or stolen and you need the actual document in your given situation. Although a copy might make things easier for the embassy staff and yourself if you need to get a replacement, it does not have any ability to replace or work in the place of the original ID (passport or driver’s license, etc.) 

Make sure someone at home has a copy of your passport in case of an emergency

If you have any issues or if there is some unforeseen emergency, having someone who isn’t on the trip but is highly responsive and responsible keep a copy of your passport, digital or hardcopy, can be helpful. 

It certainly isn’t necessary, but for the same reasons that organizations ask for emergency contact on their applications and waivers, it could be good to have someone available to help with proof of your identity back home. 

Put an emergency contact person’s information inside your passport

And on that note, it would be good to paperclip in the back cover of your passport an emergency contact that has critical information about you and backups of your important documents. 

Can you fly domestically without a passport in Thailand?

Passports are not required for domestic flights within Thailand, as you won’t need to pass through immigration, but you will have to present your passport as identification.

Thai boats on a beach

Can I visit Thailand without a visa?

You can visit Thailand without a visa if you are from one of 64 nations identified under the visa exemption rule. Tourism must be the only reason for your visit. It is essential that you have a confirmed return ticket to demonstrate you will be leaving Thailand within 30 days of your arrival. The United States is one of the 64 countries. For the complete list, click here.

How long can I stay in Thailand with a US passport

The passport of foreigners who travel by air or land to Thailand will contain an immigration stamp granting a 30-day stay. After 30 days, the Thai Immigration Bureau office will extend the time limit for an additional 1,900 baht if necessary.

How long can you live in Thailand without a visa?

Without a visa granting you a longer stay, you can live in Thailand for 30 days. You must meet certain criteria, but 30 days is the maximum you will be able to live there.

Can a US citizen live permanently in Thailand?

There are many benefits of becoming a Permanent Resident (PR) in Thailand. By obtaining it, you can live permanently in Thailand without requiring your stay to be extended. Furthermore, non-Thai family members may also apply for a stay extension or Permanent Resident status.

Hope you have found this post helpful! 

Related: Do I have to carry my passport in Italy?