Thailand: New rules for boat/yacht stays – with further updates

This report is now old – see link below to latest information on this directive.

Published 10 years ago, updated 5 years ago

February 25, 2014: Thailand Boat Stays: Old system back in place.

February 10, 2014: Original Report

Unfortunately, rules are being tightened up by Bangkok Customs meaning that longer stays in Thailand for yachts could be much more difficult. This interim report based on various sources now has a number of updates and it is hopeful that this new regulation will be withdrawn. More updates when we have them.

See news article dated 1 February 2014 by the Phuket Gazette concerning the reaction by boat owners with vessels in Phuket to the new rules.

See updates (last one 10th February) from marine contacts in Phuket at bottom of the report.

Original Interim Report: Posted 31 January 2014

These new rules are being enforced (albeit inconsistently) currently throughout Thailand. Attempts are being made by the marine industry and Phuket Customs to have the rule dropped so they can go back to the old system. It’s likely that other locations in Thailand are doing the same.

Previous yacht stay/visa rules

Prior to the new rules, a stay for 6 months initially was granted to new yacht arrivals and for the owner, entry stamps for 30 days or for the period of his or her visa.

Customs was able to extend the time limit to allow the yacht to remain in Thailand for up to 12 months and if major repairs were needed a further extension was granted taking the stay up to 18 months. Southern Thailand Customs waived an existing rule for this to occur as they recognized the need for yachts to stay in Phuket and other regional ports. That rule is the rule that has just been implemented by the Customs head office in Bangkok and the one that is now being enforced.

New yacht stay/visa rules

The new rules are in fact pre-existing rules that were not previously enforced and are the same rules that apply to cars brought into Thailand and fishing boats.

The new rules state that boats are given the same time in the country as the visa of the owner/owners (note: NOT the skipper if he is not the owner as well).

Therefore, the current visa/yacht stay options available to yacht owners, as we understand them, are:

Visa on Arrival

A 30-day visa is granted to most nationalities on arrival (a VOA). So, if the owner arrives on a 1-month permit to stay in the country, the boat is also allowed just one month. We have been told this visa cannot be renewed, BUT a recent report from a yacht owner who has checked in was told they could extend by 30 days.

Visa in Advance

A tourist visa applied for in advance will allow a stay of 2 months with a 1-month extension permitted for most nationalities. This is the common Tourist Visa for many countries, making a total stay of 3 months for the owner and in turn for the boat.

The owner has to be in Thailand throughout the extension period and extensions must be applied for before the expiry of the original allowance and only by the boat owner, not the skipper if different.

In order to extend beyond 3 months, boat owner and boat would have to leave the country to secure another visa and then return. Per the law, the owner must be with his boat in the country. If he leaves – the boat has to leave. He, therefore, cannot fly out and arrange another visa and come back in and extend the boat’s stay per that visa.


The big difference with these rules now being enforced is that the owner has to be in Thailand while the boat is in Thailand – he/she cannot go traveling abroad while work is done on the boat – or it is just left on the hard or in a marina (this still needs to be clarified 100% as some owners have been told by yards and marinas that they can apply while the owner is not there).

Lots of cruisers currently use Thailand for refits and extensive boat work while they themselves travel inland or abroad/back home. As Bob Mott, Noonsite’s regional editor in Thailand says;

“The owner having to be here is enough on its own to cause a problem. There are a lot of boats stored here and maintained by others – on the hard and in marinas – and owners travel back and forth from their own countries. In the past, you could sign on the boat and fly out and come back with a new visa etc. The officials in Bangkok have complicated the whole issue”.

There is a renewal fee for the boat at each extension – said to be 500B (US$15) – and could be raised to a higher amount.

The overstay fine of the boat has been raised from Baht500 per day to Baht1,000 per day, to a maximum of Baht10,000, instead of Baht5,000.

Porntip Logistics along with a number of other marine businesses in Phuket are formatting a letter/petition requesting that the new rule is dropped and the old system reintroduced. They are sighting damage to the income of Thai businesses in Phuket and the fact that boats will not come to Phuket and will go to Langkawi (Malaysia) instead of where there are no restrictions on stays of yachts. This letter/petition is being signed right now as this news gets posted on Noonsite.

Regarding longer visa options, Bob Mott reports, “Oddly enough when I asked what happens when the owner has a retirement visa that allows him to stay permanently with no need to leave the country, the answer was that the boat still cannot get equal rights to that visa?? Still trying to clarify that situation, as by the new rule the boat gets the same rights as the owner’s visa. This is a contradiction of the rule it seems”.

Editor’s Note: This document will be updated as and when we receive further clarification of how the new rules will be better-applied to visiting yachts. The situation remains very vague with different information from different sources.

We would like to hear from any cruisers that have recently checked-into Thailand or have recently renewed their length of stay. Contact [email protected].

4 February 2014 – update from Bob Mott in Phuket

So far no apparent mass exodus.  One friend came in on a 30-day visa and is happy to sail to Langkawi and come back. They are on a budget so do not want to apply for a visa. When I first arrived we all had to do that, arrive and check in a few days late to extend, checkout and cruise the islands to Langkawi taking around 14 days. Overall stay in Thai waters of nearly 7 weeks with no visa.

That can nearly be achieved now. We are only talking around 120NM from Chalong Bay to Telaga Harbour, the nearest Langkawi check-in location, and the trip is dotted with islands.

One couple has retirement visas that allow them to stay for 12 months – will be interesting how it works with their catamaran’s stay allowance per the new rules.

10 February 2014 – Quote from a prominent Thai marine business operator in Phuket

Our info. from Bangkok is that one more signature is needed to reverse the regulation – it was not a law so can be reversed. It was made with the illegal import of luxury vehicles (cars) in mind and as we have no law for our industry, so we were encompassed. It should be reversed within this month, hopefully even next week. Approx. 60 Thai names are on a petition, led by Khun Porntip. Add to that the power of the 5 marinas in Phuket means I am not worried about this not being reversed.

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