Details elude introduction of unpopular tax on foreigners entering Thailand

A new entry tax is proving difficult to introduce.

The Thai Cabinet has delayed the introduction of the 300 baht hello tax on foreigners entering the country. The travel tax was due to begin in April, but tourist minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said some unspecified details are still unresolved.

These problems are believed to include liaison with airlines who will need to include the tax in their tickets as they already do with the 700 baht universal airport departure tax. Earlier government announcements claimed that only foreigners would need to pay on entry, but the mechanics of absolving Thai nationals will likely prove an impossible tangle.

Another issue is entry by land and sea which again raises complex issues. For example, guest workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos would not expect to pay a new tax, whilst Thai nationals will also expect to have immunity. The prospect of long queues at check points as immigration officers examine passports and deal with change, sometimes in foreign currency, is a strong disincentive.

The new tax was initially heralded as a fund to pay for the hospital bills of sick foreigners, but it later transpired that 80 percent of the cash would be used to upgrade tourist sites including the building of public toilets or the repair of roofs in some landmarks. The residual 20 percent is a reserve slush fund to pay out when serious accidents, such as boats sinking or minibus crashes, result in the deaths of overseas visitors.

All foreigners entering Thailand now require initial medical insurance for the period specified in their visa or 30 days visa exempt provision. However, that cover may be very limited and visitors are being reminded that they are responsible for any costs over and beyond the insurance they have bought.