This post is for people travelling to Thailand for IPSC Shotgun World Shoot 2023 in Pattaya, Thailand. There's a lot of paperwork for this trip. There's a lot of info about flying internationally with firearms that you should know, and you can find all of that in my original post about travel to Thailand HERE.
This post is going to focus on things I learned after competing in IPSC Pistol World Shoot at the same venue last year.
1 - Requirements and paperwork:
There was NO covid test required last year. We travelled like normal people, only having to wear a mask on the flight. Each airline and airport you transit might have different requirements, so you need to research what YOUR airline and YOUR travel route will require.
We needed this paperwork: (this info is all in my original post in greater detail)
- Match invitation letter
- Customs form for returning to USA (done ahead at CBP - again, read my first post).
- Thai permit - it's 2 pages. (it's in Thai. Scan it with google translate app to make sure your passport # is correct)
2- General input after travelling to Thailand last year:
- Learn some of the Thai language. Find a tutorial online, learn some of the basics... like how to say hello or ask where something is located. Here's a good starting video. You will find basic greetings useful if you have to ask for information or directions. People will react to you better and be more likely to help you.
- The range is about 1/2 hour or more, depending on where you stay, from most hotels. The best plan seemed to be to hire a driver. The world shoot match page had several options listed for hiring a driver. The quote for a week was just a little more than renting a car. Make sure you explain to your driver that you cannot be late....we joked they were on "island time" all the time. And had to get pretty vocal after day 1 and 2 about them showing up on time for the match days.
Driving is on the opposite side of the road - someone who drove there described it as requiring a co-driver, watching for bikes, other, cars, etc. and helping them navigate. There is also the option to use Bolt, which is their version of Uber. There are also traditional cabs. I used Bolt a lot to get around when we were not with our driver. It's do-able to just use Bolt and taxies, but more$$. It was something like $15 one way to the range. Trips around town were just a few dollars.
- Groceries: Big C is the major store in the center of town, along with 711 on almost every block! There is a store something like Home Depot called Thai Wastadu (south Pattatya) that has basic hardware store type items. Index Living Mall is another place to get a cooler, chair, etc. And there's an Au Bon Pain right next to the entrance for some bread. Makro Cash and Carry had the best selection for bulk buys of drinks and snacks and a bakery, aside from Big C, https://maps.app.goo.gl/qXzVttbccX1opRyC7?g_st=ic Donuts sold in the lower level of Big C South Pattaya were great! There's a KFC there as well.
- Hotels: lots of people stayed at match hotels in downtown Pattaya, others stayed at AirBnBs, hotels in Jomtien Beach...the roads into downtown Pattaya are more congested and it's not what I'd call "family friendly" (think giant signs for prostitutes and Aids medication). We were at Davare Jomtien beach hotel...it was okay, close to food and laundry, but wasn't as nice as the photos. Nothing seems as nice as the photos. It was across the street from the beach. There was loud music somewhere nearby every night.
- Negotiate prices or ask how much something is before you buy it. That was an issue lots of people experienced. Get a price first. Not at legit stores, but any street vendors...
3 - Range info:
- The range is laid out well. You will do gun / equipment check at a building up the road from the range...maybe 1/2-3/4 mile. It's curvy and cars are driving crazy - would not advise walking from check-in to range.
- Ammo pickup is also at check in. They will verify your info for the match as / after you do gear check. Those lines got long quickly. There was no AC in that building.
- Parking for cars is across the street on right as you arrive. Drop off from vans, and waiting cabs are at the entrance to that area. The sight in bay is all the way left as you walk into the range side of road.
- Range is a giant, upside-down U shape, with a second set of bays on the sides of the U. You enter in the open section of U. There was a food court in the center, bathrooms nearby...then past that, stats, and then vendor area and more bathrooms as you progress into the U. Stages were laid out starting on left side of U, then the bottom, other side...then the outer two lines of bays.
- Range food. There were options. Noodles, etc. There was also a giant 711 in a Conex with about anything you'd see at a real 711. That was one of the best parts of the range - easy access to cold drinks, etc. You will have to buy water and bring it with you. None available on stages. Sending a family member who wasn't shooting for cold drinks was really nice!
- Seating. Unlike the 4 other world shoots I've been to, spectators just sat wherever, and this led to some competitors not having a seat or place for their gear under the canopy on the stage. You might want a cart or a chair. If you just drag a chair from stage-to-stage, that could work too.
Experiences in match:
- Some people ate up the walk-through time almost intentionally. One person in our squad would sit in the most important section and re-walk that section several times. We had to have the RO cut them off on some of the smaller stages so everyone could actually get a walk through.
- Scoring. Scoring was an issue. It seemed like every A that was on the edge of C was called a C until we challenged it. The normal process of arm-signals to relay hits was turned into hand signals thrown so fast, people might have missed it...and then they were pasting before we could see. Clays and knock-over steel will solve much of this for shotgun.
On any scored stages where there is paper (buckshot and slugs), work together to have two people verify (one person walks down either side, shooter down the center) and count any down...then meet at the tablet and make sure your count matches what's in the tablet (eg. 2Cs and 1D on right side + 3 C on right ). It was tough. You might have to be assertive in telling them that you expect to see your hits and not have them taped until your appointee verifies. Anything that's questionable, probably best to stand there and tell the people pasting: "Do not tape. They will want an overlay." And if the shooter walks by and says "no", no harm done. but help your teammates to at least have the opportunity to request an overlay. And stay with your teammates to help them - in France, we had some people leave the bay / stage after they were finished shooting and those of us left on the stage were without any help for verifying. Don't do that to your team!
- There might not be a dry place to set your bag on some stages (if the chairs are all taken).
- Safe areas were every few bays (between bays).
- You had to pay to use the sight in bay...it was just a bay, they were very regimented, and you got one free ticket in your check-in packet.
4 - AMMO:
Here's the details I have from a contact in Thailand.
5 - Opening Ceremonies and Awards
The opening ceremonies and awards were at Nong Nooch Tropical Garden. The opening ceremonies were indoors. The awards were outside...in the heat and humidity...and 6 hours long. Hydrate appropriately. 6 people went to the ER from awards. Eat with caution. It's about a 30 minute drive from Pattaya.
6 - Food:
- Best places we ate: Cave Beach Club south of Jomtien Beach and Street Bar Marine Beach Hotel Jomtien. (ate here at least 3x)
- Other good food: Armenian restaurant that delivered: https://maps.app.goo.gl/74jnxFLZeLwbY3j66?g_st=ic
- Beer garden in downtown Pattaya was fun, right on the water.
- Most restaurants did not do well with refills on water or drinks. Cave Beach Club was really bad. The Street Bar mentioned above was probably the best service, and why we kept going back.
- I'd say eat street food at your own risk or afterward. You can eat live squid, fresh from the ocean in the green, glowing tanks that you see on truck beds along the street/beach.
- Many people drank the iced coffee and drinks on the range made at the 711. We didn't.
- Pay for your drinks at bars as you go. Do not accumulate a bucket of receipts because people can add theirs to your tally. We never had issues with the restaurants we were at, but we also could barely get refills.
7 - Customs and Airport
- The airport was relatively easy to navigate. When we got off the plane, there was someone waiting to escort us to get our bags. They were all on a big cart and we walked over to customs office to sign the page in their book. We never needed the multiples of copies that we were told to bring. After that, people with signs for those who hired cars were down and to the right after leaving the customs office. There were several currency exchanges right there, but we found a slightly better rate on the one near Armenian restaurant in Jomtien Beach. The rental car counters were down to the right as well.
- Departure was it's own nightmare and hopefully will not be as painful this go around. Don't take a morning flight. I'd go no earlier than after 12 noon. The people checking firearms were SLOW. You can likely do all your guns on one person's form when you are leaving to make it faster. Don't bring any ammo and you'll go faster. Make sure your airline counter agent walks with you to the screening area in case you need help. We were 4 hours early and in line for an hour before they opened check-in and they still had to hold our flight 35 minutes. (This is because the counters do not open for check-in until 2 hours before flight, but the screening line after check-in was an hours long wait.)
Our airline agent pulled a Jedi mind trick and got us through without them looking at ammo, serial numbers, and putting all firearms on one form...then we had to sprint to special security and sprint to the gate. It was the worst 4-5 hours of travel I've ever experienced. The screening area was back wall, to the left of most gates. The line was hours long and someone got punched/shoved. Bring something to eat/drink and anticipate a long wait. You'll have to unbag your guns, send everything through x-ray machine, show serial numbers, show clear gun, give your firstborn child to Rumpelstiltskin and hopefully make your flight.
8 - BRING MEDS
- I gave my antibiotics away in the first 4 days of being in Thailand because a friend was very ill. I would advise that you obtain meds and tell your dr. where you are travelling - that you want something for food poisoning and some sort of general antibiotic. And read the portion in my other post about travel insurance / health insurance add-on.
Here's a visual hint as to why bringing meds and using care with what you eat matters...
This is how chicken is sold in some stores.
9 - Toilet Paper
Hotels and most public restrooms had toilet paper. The range ran out by the end of the match. I'd advise bringing a roll from home or buying some at Big C to keep in your range bag. Unlike the Philippines, most everywhere we went that was a "tourist" destination did have toilet paper.
I'll add more info as the year goes. But for the people who've never left the country with firearms, these two posts should get you up to speed.