If you consider taking coral from Thailand as a souvenir, it might not be the best thing to do. Human impact is one of the several reasons why the decline of coral reefs in Thailand has become a real problem. With so many tourists willing to bring home corals that they have found on the beach, Thai authorities have to act.
So, can you take a coral home from Thailand? No, you should not take a coral home from Thailand under any circumstances. The maximum fine for taking a coral home from Thailand is imprisonment of 5 years or a fine of 100 000 Baht (3290 USD, 2970 EUR, 2530 GBP). It is forbidden to take both living and dead coral out of the country.
Several laws and regulations protect coral reefs in Thailand:
- Fisheries Law of 1974;
- National Park Act of 1961;
- Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act (NEQA) of 1975 and others.
Because of global warming, corals are in decline. That’s why, in the past years, Thailand has increased its effort to protect corals. For that reason, it is recommended to choose other things to bring home as a souvenir. There are plenty of Thailand specific items to choose from – Buddha statues, Thai silk scarf, coconut oil, etc.
Do Not Touch Coral During Snorkeling Trips
Snorkeling is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand. Sadly it is also one of the reasons why corals are being damaged.
Many do not know that small touch to coral can have a negative impact or even destroy large groups of corals.
So when going snorkeling, try not to touch or step on corals. It is better to admire them from a distance.
Also, corals might be sharp, and you could cut yourself.
One thing you can not impact is anchoring a boat. Anchors are heavy, and they often damage corals.
So the best thing you could do is to leave corals as they are. Don’t touch them, and you will not do any harm to nature nor put yourself at risk to be fined for having coral with you when leaving the country.
Why Shouldn’t You Try Taking Coral With You?
There was an experiment held at Krabi International Airport.
During three months, Thai customs seized all the corals, various types of seashells, clams, and other types of marine life from tourists who wanted to bring these things to their home countries as a souvenir.
When three months passed, they did weighting, and the total weight of all of these things which were about to be brought outside the country was 1895 pounds (860 kilograms).
What happened next is they brought many of the sea life back to where it belongs – to the Andaman Sea.
Of course, this experiment raised awareness and explained the problem for locals, but for most of the foreigners, it is something they do not know nor care about. And how could they if all that they see when doing their research about the best snorkeling spots in Thailand are beautiful beaches and underwater world.
Probably the first attempt to raise awareness about this problem outside the country was in 2018 when two girls from Russia were arrested for carrying coral fragments with them.
Soon after their arrest, they were released on 150 000 Baht (4930 USD, 4450 EUR, 3760 GBP) bail, and their passports were held until the trial court date.
As girls explained, they believed they didn’t do anything wrong because they purchased corals and shells from the man on the beach, and they were packed in a plastic bag as a souvenir. Girls said that they had paid 100 Baht (3.30 USD) to the man.
In the end, girls were fined 20 000 Baht (660 USD, 594 USD, 500 GBP).
You should know that there are plenty more Thai laws which could get you in serious trouble. When in Thailand, you should watch out for the signs that forbid vaping, smoking, flying a drone, and others.
Also if you would like to read a PDF document (Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act, B.E. 2535 (1992)) which explains the Thai law towards animal protection, how big are the fines for various infringements and contains the list of the preserved wild animals in Thailand then click here.
So the main takeaway is that either you’ve found coral fragments on the beach or picked them from the sea, or bought from someone you can find yourself in a situation dealing with Thai authorities.
Can You Take Coral On An Airplane?
As I’ve already explained and reminded several times, you should not do it. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t.
Loads people have commented online that they have managed to take corals on board of the plane in both carry-on and checked baggage.
Some people comment that they have been asked to open their bags to show their home country customs what is that they’re carrying. They also mention that no further questions followed, and they were okay to go.
On the Transportation Security Administration (USA) website says that it is okay to have live coral in a carry-on bag, but not in a checked bag.
Interestingly enough, it doesn’t say anything about having dead coral in either of those bags.
It is safe to assume that other countries would have different laws.
Note that in several airports in Thailand, they might search your bags and deny boarding if corals, shells, and clams of any species and size will be found. Seizing these things will be the least they will do.
One of such airports is Krabi International Airport. The nearest airport to many of the beaches where people collect corals.
So if you will try to bring coral to your home country, you will have to survive security checks in at least two airports – Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok and the airport of your home country. This article was written by Thailandtravelessentials.com.
It doesn’t matter either it is living or dead coral. Without a license, it is illegal to bring both of them across the border. While in reality, you might get past customs, it is also a very real risk that you will get caught and fined.
And it is not only about being caught. It is also about not damaging nature.
Also, I recommend reading my article 22 Thailand Safety Tips Every Tourist Should Know.
It contains information about Thailand’s strict and sometimes strange laws that might get you in serious trouble. Just like this article – it is a warning and a reminder to respect Thai culture and nature.
Being respectful and using common sense is the best way how to travel around Thailand.