By Chawala Kongsaeng
The clarification follows an inquiry to The Phuket News from an expatriate reader asking for help to clarify the long-running confusion on whether legitimately working foreigners are entitled to the Thai rate at national parks.
“I have gone to several national parks and most charge only the Thai admission charge when I show my passport and work permit. However, there have been two around Krabi who refuse. I was wondering what is the actual rule for this for foreigners. Surely there is a standard agreement across all national parks throughout Thailand,” wrote Celi Harper.
To shed some light on the matter, The Phuket News contacted the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation headquarters in Bangkok, as well the offices of various national parks in/near Phuket.
All officers we spoke to were in agreement that there are only two main charging standards – for Thais and non-Thais – and that work, tax or visa status are irrelevant.
Based on our accumulative experience and accounts, flexibility for resident-status foreigners visiting national parks throughout the kingdom has been inconsistent. Some have been allowed to pay the Thai fee simply by speaking Thai to the officer, or showing the park officer their Thai TIN card, work permit, student ID and/or driving license, while others have been outright refused and told they must pay the “foreigner fee”.
Our inquiries have confirmed this.
“Depending on the park, or specific park duty officer, foreigners may be allowed to pay the Thai rate,” explained the Chief of Tourism Promotion office of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Wanlapha Yuttiwong.
However, she confirmed that this “flexibility” was not based on any laws or regulations, which on the contrary, she insisted, stipulate that foreigners, regardless of their official status in Thailand, are obliged to pay the foreign price.
Foreigners even do not qualify for free entry if under 3 or over 60 years of age.
She noted one exception: students who are part of a qualified academic institution group activity at a national park will collectively be figured into a group discount rate, for which nationality of individual group members is not scrutinised.
Throughout the Kingdom of Thailand, there are 124 National Parks, as listed on the Department of National Parks Website here. That's the English version, listing with the prices for foreigners. The prices for Thai are here.
The Thai rates range from B10-40, while the foreigner rates range from B50-400, or five to 10 times more.
The DPN classifies adults as people aged 15-59, and children 3-14.
“Regardless if you have lived and worked here for many years, you [foreigners] aren’t entitled to the same privileges as Thais. You need to pay the same amount as foreign tourists, but if you are lucky, you might benefit from the flexibility [exercised by some park officers],” she said.
Asked why she thought the fees were so high, Ms Wanlapha remarked “We don’t get enough budget from the government to maintain the parks, and lately the number of foreign visitors to national parks has declined.”