Western Couple sit on walkway in Bangkok with Sign saying.. “we are travelling the globe, please help support our travels”
BANGKOK – Thailand is cracking down on “beg-packers” — shameless Western backpackers begging for travel money on the streets of Southeast Asia.
According to reports, visitors entering Thailand may be required to show immigration officials they have 20,000 baht ($748) in cash on them before being allowed into the country.
Thaivisa, an online forum for expats in Thailand, says it has learned of several instances where immigration officials at a number of border checkpoints across Thailand have been asking people entering the country on tourist visas to prove they have the funds.
Reports of this have also been surfacing increasingly on social media in Thailand expat groups.
According to Thaivisa, people trying to enter with a history of tourist visa entries appear to be the ones under the most scrutiny, but education visa holders are also subject to similar scrutiny.
Last week, a Thaivisa member was held in an immigration detention center at Suvarnabhumi Airport, having been refused entry on the grounds that he could be working illegally.
During the same time, another Thaivisa member in possession of an education visa was also being held at Suvarnabhumi after he was asked to show 20,000 baht in cash. He was only able to show 8,000 baht.
The member told Thaivisa he previously had four tourist visas and a 30-day stamp on arrival.
A Thailand immigration officer, who spoke to Thaivisa under the condition on anonymity, confirmed that people entering Thailand on tourist visas should be able to show they can support their stay.
He said it is normal procedure and up to the discretion of the immigration officer to ask for more information if they suspect that the individual may not be a genuine tourist or may be working in Thailand illegally.
However, Thaivisa has been unable to confirm whether the 20,000 baht in cash is a requirement nationwide.
“Beg-packers” is the word sometimes used to describe young Western tourists who play music or sell knick-knacks in the streets of southeast Asia to pay for their trips or to purchase their ticket back home.
According to The Telegraph, there has been a recent rise in ‘begpackers’ – that’s backpackers who are begging – across some of the poorest countries in the world. Their attempts to fund their trips via begging, busking and occasionally selling their holiday photos have been snapped and shared on social media by more socially aware travellers – and disgusted locals.
Most of the begpackers have been spotted in South East Asia, along the well-trodden traveller’s trail of Thailand-Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam and across into Malaysia. One woman from Singapore, Maisarah Abu Samah, was shocked to see two white couples selling postcards and playing music for money.
“We find it extremely strange to ask other people for money to help you travel,” she told The Observers at France 24. “Selling things in the street or begging isn’t considered respectable. People who do so are really in need: they beg in order to buy food, pay their children’s school fees or pay off debts. But not in order to do something seen as a luxury.”
Travelling across the world – even if it’s in cheap hostels on a budget of £5 a day – is not a God-given right; it’s a luxury that millions will never have.
Backpackers might be able to justify their behaviour to themselves, saying that they’re not forcing anyone to give to them/they really can’t afford their next flight/they’re busking not begging, but deep down they surely know what they’re doing is wrong.
In recent years, there has also been a rise in people crowdfunding their travels. It’s no longer shocking for a couple to ask for donations to their 5* honeymoon instead of wedding presents, or for people to take to Kickstarter asking for others to help them fund a volunteering scheme abroad.
It’s the modern day equivalent of people pleading with your friends to sign your sponsorship form at school – and it’s getting out of hand.
Backpackers are so convinced they’re ‘giving back’ or ‘living a worthy cultural experience’ they lose sight of what they’re really doing: asking people to give their holiday a cash injection.
It’s bad enough when tourists go on ‘slum tours’ in underdeveloped countries and take photos of beggars, but when they join them so they can pay for white-water rafting, they’re taking their entitlement one step too far.