Sailing in Thailand

Information on the rules on boat licences and sailing permits, the sea safety recommendations, maritime weather and more, with details of the ports and harbours and links to sailing associations...

Thailand has 3,219 Km of coastline which stretches along the Andaman Sea to the west and the Gulf of Thailand to the east. Boating has been targeted by the government as a lucrative industry and great efforts have been made to encourage boat owners to come to Thailand. These efforts include a vast expansion over recent years of marina development and charter operations. This is especially evident around Phuket and Phang-Nga Bay.

Thailand is world famous for its beautiful marine environment. The rapid growth of the boating industry has made exploration of the picturesque bays and islands more accessible. Several years ago, boating in Thailand was dominated by sail boats. However, recent years have seen an increase in the number of motor boats.

Sailing and boating in Thailand is greatly restricted during the monsoon season from May to October. At this time, there are many storms which can make travelling by boat dangerous. Phang-Nga Bay remains relatively sheltered and calm all year but the winds can be inconsistent which can make sailing slow.

For more information about sailing in Thailand see the Noonsite Thailand website.

Below find information about rules and regulations and licences, as well the procedures that must be followed when sailing a boat into Thailand, and importing a boat. Also find out about popular destinations, regattas and races, marinas and yacht clubs and national sailing associations.

Safety and Emergencies at Sea
Service Contact
Marine Police emergency number Tel: 1196
The National Police Commission (Marine Police Division) Tel: 02 394 1964-5 Ext 11
Fax: 02 394 1962
Phuket Marine Police Tel: 076 211 883
Chonburi Marine Police Tel: 038 311 285
Rules and Regulations
  • For information on sailing regulations in Thailand from Thai P&I: Click here
  • For information on the rules and regulations from the Port Authority of Thailand: Click here
  • For information from the Thai Shipowners Association: Click here (partly in Thai)
Licences

The Harbour or Marine Department is responsible for all licences regarding ownership and operation of boats in Thailand.

All boats in Thai waters need to be under the control of a suitably qualified individual, holding a licence for the appropriate size of vessel. For those boats staying in Thai waters for less than six months, a foreign sailing licence is generally considered adequate as long as it is suitable for the size of vessel.

To operate a Thai-registered vessel, a Thai boating licence is necessary. The following documents are required:

  • A passport
  • Letter of residency from the Immigration Bureau or the person's Embassy in Thailand
  • Medical certificate
  • All relevant licences and documentation showing foreign licences and experience (for example a seaman's book)

It may be possible to transfer a foreign sailing licence without sitting a test. All papers verifying past experience should be brought to the Harbour Office for consideration. If a test is necessary, some of the papers may be in English but it is advisable to bring a translator to the exam.

  • For detailed information on applying for boat certificates, boat licences and seaman book applications and renewals: Click here
Boats Staying in Thailand for Under Six Months

All foreign owned boats must register on entering Thailand. Boats reporting after seven days of leaving the last port may have problems at Immigration and Customs, unless the distance travelled indicates a longer voyage time.

Boats may stay in Thailand for a maximum period of six months or for one year if berthed in a marina. This can be extended for another six months, and then for a further six months up, to a maximum of two years. A fee is payable for each extension. If the boat is staying longer it has to be permanently imported into Thailand.

There are no import taxes or guarantees to pay for the temporary importation of a boat to Thailand as the Thai government is keen to develop the yachting industry.

Arriving or Departing

There is a four step process which must be completed on arrival/departure.

1. Immigration

All people aboard the boat (captain, crew and passengers) must report to Immigration to have their passports stamped. A 30-day stay is permitted, however, all persons arriving by boat are expected to leave on the same vessel. It can be arranged for crew or passengers to leave by a different means of transport, but this will involve extra paperwork and expense although this is easier for passengers than crew.

Overstay: Fines are due if a person overstays.

Fees: normal visa rules apply (extra charges if arriving on a weekend or holiday).

  • For more information on Thai visas and immigration: Click here

2. Customs

The captain and owner of the boat must report to Customs with the following papers:

  • Signed photocopy of the passport information page and visa page/s
  • Signed copy of the boat certificate
  • Port Clearance document from the last port of departure
  • Customs form, which can be obtained from the Customs Office
  • Declaration & Guarantee form, also obtained from the Customs Office

A copy of the Customs form and the Declaration & Guarantee form will be given to the captain/owner. This should be kept and produced when checking out.

Fees: If checking in/out during working hours, there is no fee. If checking in/out during weekends or public holidays, there is a fee.

  • For more information from the Customs Department: Click here (Note the website has not been updated to show the new rules regarding the temporary or permanent importation of pleasure vessels into Thailand.)

3. Harbour Master

The Harbour Clearance form is obtained from the Harbour Masters office.

Fees: No fee during check in; 100 baht during check out.

4. Provincial Office

Local Council Fees must be paid when checking in.

Permanently Importing a Boat to Thailand

The Thai Government has abolished all import taxes on sailing and motor pleasure vessels coming to Thailand, except for boats with outboard motors. The motor of boats with outboard motors will be subject to tax.

It is not necessary to apply for an import permit, however, VAT must still be paid to Customs at seven percent of the value of the boat.

The boat registration must then be transferred to Thailand, whatever the size of boat. This is done at the local Marine (Harbour) Department office. As well as all the ship's documents, the owner's passport and a letter of residency from the Immigration Bureau or the person's Embassy in Thailand will also be required.

A Thai-registered boat can only be owned by a foreigner if it is being used for non commercial use.

  • For more information on transferring a boat certificate: Click here
Destinations

Andaman Coast

Thailand's Andaman Coast has some of the most stunning seascapes in the world. The area around Phuket and Phang-nga Bay is very popular for the striking limestone karsts and turquoise waters. However, further down the Andaman Coast is just as beautiful. There are many caves and hidden lagoons in the many small islands off the coast of Krabi and Trang. These can be reached by boat, swimming or  by kayaking. The most popular of these islands are Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta but there are many more. Between November and April, there are also many boats travelling from Thailand to Singapore and Malaysia.

Gulf of Thailand

Although the Gulf of Thailand is less well known than the Andaman Coast, more boats are visiting it each year. It is less busy and more relaxed than the Andaman Coast. In the north of the gulf, Chonburi has a number of commercial ports. Pattaya has one large marina, a yacht club and some yacht services. It is a convenient base for exploring the nearby islands of Koh Samet and Koh Chang. Pattaya and Jomtien both have yacht charter companies and boats available for fishing excursions. Travelling further east the coast of Trat and on to Cambodia is also popular.

Further south, off the coast of Chumphon and Surat Thani, there are also many islands to visit. Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Dao are the most popular islands in the area.

Marinas and Yacht Clubs
Regattas and Races

Thailand, especially Phuket, is becoming a focal point of sailing events in Asia. The King's Cup Regatta is the most famous, bringing boats from all over the world to compete.

National Associations
Further Information

These are the official bodies in charge of ports and sailing in Thailand:

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