Customs and Duties
Most people pass through customs at Suvarnabhumi without even so much as a glance from a customs officer. Officers worry more about people smuggling opium across borders than they do about an extra bottle of wine or your new camera. That said, if you're bringing any foreign-made equipment from home, such as cameras, it's wise to carry the original receipt with you or register it with U.S. Customs before you leave (Form 4457). Otherwise, you may end up paying duty on your return.
One liter of wine or liquor, 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of smoking tobacco, and all personal effects may be brought into Thailand duty-free. Visitors may bring in and leave with any amount of foreign currency; you cannot leave with more than B50,000 without obtaining a permit. Narcotics, pornographic materials, protected wild animals and wild animal parts, and firearms are strictly prohibited.
Some tourists dream of Thailand as a tropical paradise floating on a cloud of marijuana smoke—not so. Narcotics are strictly illegal, and jail terms for the transporting or possession of even the smallest amounts are extremely harsh.
If you purchase any Buddha images (originals or reproductions), artifacts, or true antiques and want to take them home, you need to get a certificate from the Fine Arts Department. Taking unregistered or unauthorized antiques out of the country is a major offense to the culture-conscious Thais. If you get a particularly good reproduction of an antique, get a letter or certificate from the seller saying it is a reproduction, or risk losing it on your way out of the country. Art or antiques requiring export permits must be taken to one of the museums listed here at least a week before the departure date. You will have to fill out an application and provide two photographs—front and side views—of the object as well as a photocopy of your passport information page.
Chiang Mai National Museum (053/221308.)
National Museum–Bangkok (02/224–1333.)
Cambodia and Laos
You are allowed to bring 200 cigarettes or the equivalent in cigars or tobacco and one bottle of liquor into Cambodia. You are not allowed to bring in or take out local currency, nor are you allowed to remove Angkor antiquities (even though, sadly, they can be found for sale in shops across Thailand). The export of other antiques or religious objects requires a permit. Contact your embassy for assistance in obtaining one before laying out money on an expensive purchase.
Tourists are allowed to bring up to one liter of spirits and two liters of wine into Laos, as well as 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, or 250 grams of tobacco. Bringing in or taking out local currency is prohibited, as is the export of antiques and religious artifacts without a permit.
Note that the dissemination of foreign religious and political materials is forbidden, and you should refrain from bringing such materials into the country.
Visitors to Myanmar are allowed to bring two bottles of liquor, 400 cigarettes, 100 cigars, 250 grams of tobacco and half a liter of perfume per person.
Thai Customs Department (www.customs.go.th/wps/wcm/connect/custen/home/homewelcome.)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (www.cbp.gov.)