Lonely Planet Writer

Travellers to Thailand may have to buy compulsory travel insurance

Thailand is considering making travel insurance compulsory with travellers obliged to purchase a special policy from airports when they arrive.

Thailand is considering introducing compulsory travel insurance for tourists. Image by Nopkamon Tanayakorn/Shutterstock

Pending approval from the the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the new policy – which would cost 20 baht (£0.52/€0.58/US$0.65) for 30 days’ cover – is likely to be rolled out later this year, according to the Thai Office of the Insurance Commission.

All proceeds would go to Thailand’s Tourism Promotion Fund and used to cover payments in the event of a claim, said secretary-general Suthiphon Thaveechaiyagarn. The policy, available to purchase at immigration offices at Thailand’s airports, would offer up to one million baht (£26,000/€28,957/$32,467) of cover in case of death.

It’s hoped that compulsory travel insurance will boost travellers’ confidence in the country. Rates of road deaths in Thailand are some of the highest in the world, especially from motorcycle accidents. There are 5500 motorcyclist deaths a year and the United Nations ranks Thailand’s roads as the second most-deadly in the world.

But even if  the policy is introduced, Nel Mooy, head of travel at AXA Insurance, says that tourists should still continue to purchase their own cover as the terms are too narrow. It looks like the policy will only pay out if someone should die in the country and it doesn’t appear to include medical expenses and costs linked to cancellations, delays, lost luggage and other mishaps.

Tourists relaxing in the shade of palm trees at Surin beach. Image by Shutterstock

“The compulsory insurance contemplated by Thailand appears to only be covering tourists if they die and not if they are injured. Yet, medical expenses abroad can be very expensive – we recently paid a £164,000 claim for a British tourist involved in a road traffic accident in Thailand,” Mooy told Lonely Planet.

“Travellers need cover for medical care. They also need to ensure their insurance includes the activities they’ll engage in, like scuba diving or rafting for instance.”