Tourism in Thailand is now about to enter its peak period for 2010 when an army of Christmas and New Year holidaymakers head for Asia’s number one tourist destination in search of the perfect end of year vacation. Many will have endured the rigours and stress of a long haul flight and will want to negotiate immigration and customs as quickly as possible, before heading to their destination city or resort.
Thailand’s immigration control is a long slow shuffle during peak season, but adopting the Thais attitude of mai phen rai is the best subtlety for keeping your frustrations in order. No matter how much you fidget, moan and curse you won’t pass through immigration any quicker. Do it Thai style and stay cool, calm and relaxed.
The chances of you getting stopped at Suvarnabhumi Airport’s customs green channel are very slim, but in accordance with international standards a quota of inbound travellers are stopped and checked. The procedure will take the form of either your suitcase and hand luggage being x-rayed or a manual search by one of the customs officers present.
Over the past couple of years Thai customs have stepped up their efforts to stop excess import of cigarettes and alcohol. Staff routinely stop and search travellers prior to entering immigration control and also in the arrivals terminal after passing through customs red and green channels. I have been stopped five times on my last ten trips both before and after customs control but have always been within the law. You would be quite surprised at the number of people entering the Kingdom who are unaware of the maximum personal allowances for tobacco and spirits.
Green Channel – Nothing To Declare
- 200 cigarettes or 250 grammes of rolling tobacco or cigars, or a combination of rolling tobacco and cigars totalling no more than 250 grammes in weight
- One litre of alcoholic spirits
A fine of four times the value of undeclared items plus tax and duty will be applied on all goods over your duty free allowance. All items will be confiscated and a failure to pay your fine will lead to imprisonment.
Any newbie to Thailand should be aware of these rules before boarding their outbound flight, and even experienced Thailand travellers should ‘take on board’ the knowledge that the Thai authorities are now very serious about tobacco and spirits smuggled into the Kingdom.
So why would anyone want to smuggle cigarettes into a country where tobacco can be bought so cheaply. In my view there’s two clear reasons.
- Not all brands of cigarettes or tobacco and cigars are available in Thailand so having a stash of your favourite smokes makes the risk foolishly worthwhile to some people.
- If someone can smuggle through a large amount of cheap cigarettes, acquiring more whilst in Thailand gives them an even larger amount to either post back home or smuggle into their own country via their return flight. Black-market tobacco is big business in most western societies.
Thailand has wised up and is determined to stub out the habit.
If you are about to fly to Thailand over the coming weeks then please be aware of their customs duty free allowances. More information is available from the Thailand Customs Department website.
You won’t need reminding but I will do anyway, being caught in possession of drugs in Thailand can carry a sentence of the death penalty.
Smirnoff photo by Arne Hückelheim
Duty free photo by Wikipedia
© 2010 – 2011, Martyn. All rights reserved.