As with all things in this modern life of ours, there is the inevitable paperwork; there is a range of documentation that you need in order to travel to Thailand and a number of documents that you would be very ill advised to travel without.
I mention this right up front because it might well take you some time to obtain the following necessary documentation.
Must Have Documents
You must have the following documents:
A passport that is valid for at least six months after your planned arrival date. Depending where you are from your children may be allowed to share your passport, although I would advise they should have their own.
You must have a visa to enter Thailand. It is generally possible to get a visa on arrival, the rules vary depending on what passport you hold and they can change with time. Rather than try to keep up with the rules I suggest you visit the Thai Government’s own website http://www.mfa.go.th/web/2637.php or simply google 'Thai Government Visas"
Good comprehensive travel insurance in which each person travelling is named.
If you have recently been to Africa or South America you may need additional medical certificates again the rules vary and change, again see the website above.
Single parents need a letter from the other parent stating that children are travelling with that parent’s knowledge and consent regardless of who is the legal guardian. See the section on Single Parents Travelling with Children.
There are two requirements listed in the immigration entry requirements that I have never been challenged on, and I have been through Bangkok’s international airport dozens of times. There is a requirement to have either a return or an onward ticket and a requirement to have a stated amount of money at your disposal (see the website above for latest requirements). These might be a problem if you are on a restricted budget or if you are planning to travel through Thailand but have not yet bought a ticket. The only advice I can give is dress ‘smart casual’ when arriving at immigration, it really does reduce your chances of being the person who gets the thorough check.
Don’t travel without
You are strongly advised to carry the following documents:
Individual passports for each of your children
A letter from your doctor or a prescription detailing all medications being carried
Record of inoculations
Tip: If you are travelling as a lone parent with your children t’s a good idea that the non-travelling parent or a member of your family/friend has a passport and if necessary visa, just in case they have to rush out to help in an emergency.
Backup Copies of Documents
Loosing your travel documents, insurance or address book can cause you all manner of problems, so it’s always a good idea to make and keep copies of your documentation.
Of course the easiest way to do this, and one you should take advantage of is to make simple photocopies and keep them in your luggage Separate from your originals.
But in the age of the internet there are other options too.
Tip: Scan your documents and store them as attachments to an email in your email account so that you can access good quality copies if your originals are lost.
How do I do that?
The easiest way is to scan your documents and attach them to an email, then send the email to your own email address. Don’t forget to check that you can open the email you just sent yourself and that all the documents are intact and of course do not delete the email.
You also need to make sure that you can open your email from Thailand, if you have never accessed your email from anywhere but home, then you need to learn how to do this before you leave on your holiday. Ask a friend if you can use their computer to access your email just to have a dry run.
I recommend that as a minimum you make back-ups of the following documents.
The Bio Page of each passport
Each of your children’s birth certificates
National ID cards both sides if necessary
Air Tickets, all the front pages.
Traveller’s cheques, the list of numbers you are given or a list of cheque numbers you have written yourself.
The face of your credit cards.
Your National Drivers Licence and your international Drivers Licence
A list of important Addresses and Telephone Numbers
Now I think you’ll probably realise that there is enough information here for anyone with criminal intent to copy it and steal your identity, so please do make sure that you keep the password in a safe place and not in the same place as your email address.
I might add that if you do keep your information online it is going to be far safer than photocopies stuffed in the bottom of your bags. The people who steal bags are very likely the same people who forge identities.
That’s not Rubbish!
Do not be tempted to have a clearout during your holiday, you know the kind
of thing ‘purse, wallet, handbag’ is full of useless paper, I have seen a family of four stranded at Bangkok airport because someone had decided on a clear-out and in doing so had thrown out the return tickets.
If you lose your tickets the airline will not replace them, your insurance might refund them but you will have to pay first and claim later, if you are over your limit on your credit card… ouch!
Tip: Surprisingly one of the most common places tickets are lost is at the check-in desk. No matter how busy the airport is, when you check-in make sure you get all your travel documents back and do not leave the check-in desk until you are happy you have each and every document:
Passports (Count them and check the names in each one)
Tickets (Count them and check the names on each one)
Baggage receipts (Count them one for each bag checked in check it’s your name on the receipts).
A SINGLE PARENT TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN
I do not believe there is anything about Thailand that makes it unsuitable as a single parent travel destination; quite the contrary, Thailand has a well established tourism infrastructure that is very accommodating to single parents, you’ll find plenty of hotels and guesthouses are able to offer cheap baby sitters and the general relaxed atmosphere of Thailand will soon put you at ease. But there are a few things to consider and as always, the paperwork comes first.
This is extremely important so please take time to read it through if you are a single parent travelling with children, a lone parent travelling with children or an adult travelling with other peoples’ children. This is not just a Thailand issue either, it’s something you need to consider for all international travel.
Thailand is a signatory nation of the Hague Convention and as such is obliged to enact laws and regulations to prevent the abduction and trafficking of children. Thailand is particularly diligent in meeting these obligations.
I've put together a guide sheet on the Hague Convention and advice on obtaining/giving concent. You can download this from the "Downloads Page" of Thailand4Kids.
Other Single Parent Issues
The feedback I have received from single parents who have used my earlier guide sheet has been full of praise for Thailand as a single parent destination.
But of course they have all enjoyed a problem free holiday and while there is no real reason to think that you will not do the same, it is nevertheless wise to plan for problems. The specific problem you have that two parents don’t have is ‘what happens if you yourself are ill or unable for some reason to look after your children?’
Rather than give a list of instructions that treat you as being something out of the ordinary, I have added a section ‘If Things Go Wrong’ which all parents should read, I only suggest that as a single parent you give it a little more attention.
The section ‘If Things Go Wrong’ also includes suggestions of how to get help from home, and how the people at home can help you. So if you do take those suggestions up, do make sure you read that section well in advance of your travels.