Thailand travel guide
From idyllic beaches with turquoise seas and white sands to bustling cities sporting exotic markets and a vibrant, colourful nightlife, it is easy to see why Thailand has become one of the most popular tourist destinations for the adventurous and young at heart.
A turbulent and often bloody history spanning several millennia has left Thailand scattered with ruins, forgotten temples and deserted cities, revealing a rich tableau of past eras that contrasts sharply with the more modern aspects of the nation's contemporary face.
As Thailand's tourist industry has boomed, helped to some extent by Hollywood's influence (the country has been the setting for movies like The Man with the Golden Gun, The Bridge over River Kwai and Alex Garland's The Beach), numerous large and luxurious resorts have been developed. Yet, for those with a smaller budget, many cheap, comfortable and more basic accommodation options are still readily available on the islands and beaches.
The size and geographical diversity of Thailand provides for a variety of activities: snorkelling, diving and a host of watersports are very popular around the islands, while inland enthusiasts can trek into the mountains or cycle along the flat river areas of the northeast. Bustling, crowded cities like Bangkok display the wilder urban side of Thailand, ensuring the country has something to offer everyone who visits.
The unit of currency is the Baht (THB), which is divided into 100 satang. Currency can be exchanged at the airport, banks, hotels and bureaux de change. Banks are open Monday to Friday. ATMs are available in most cities and tourist resorts, but there is a surcharge for each withdrawal. Most major credit cards are accepted at hotels and larger businesses.
Language : Thai is the official language, although English is widely spoken in tourist areas.
Electricity : 220 volts, 50Hz. Both flat and round two-pin plugs are used.
Entry Requirements :
US passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for touristic stays of up to 30 days.
Passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. British nationals with passports endorsed 'British Citizen' do not require a visa for stays of up to 30 days. British travellers carrying passports with other endorsements should check official requirements.
Canadian Passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is needed for touristic stays of up to 30 days.
Australian passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for touristic stays of up to 30 days. APEC Business Travel Card holders endorsed for travel to Thailand may stay up to 90 days.
South African passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for touristic stays of up to 30 days.
Irish passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for stays of up to 30 days.
Passports from New Zealand must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for touristic stays of up to 30 days. Holders of APEC Business Travel Cards endorsed for travel to Thailand may stay up to 90 days.
Passport/Visa Note :
Travellers entering Thailand are required to prove they have sufficient funds to cover the length of their stay, and are recommended to hold documentation for return/onward travel. If issued a visa prior to arrival, travellers are permitted to travel on a one-way ticket. It is highly recommended that passports are valid for six months beyond travel.
Travel Health :
As a health precaution, travellers should take medical advice at least three weeks before travelling to Thailand. There is no malaria risk in major tourist resorts or in the cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pattaya, Ko Samui, and Ko Phangan. But in rural, forested areas that border Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Laos, preventions against malaria are recommended and immunisation against hepatitis A and typhoid fever is also advised. Yellow fever vaccination certificates are required for travellers from infected areas. There has been an increase in reported cases of dengue fever, particularly in the south, and vaccination against Japanese encephalitis is also recommended. Outbreaks of leptospirosis occur during the rainy season and after flooding. There have been outbreaks of waterborne diseases in the Provinces of Khon Kaen, Lop Buri, Phitsanulok and Prachin Buri. Outbreaks of cholera have also been reported. You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. If you suffer from diarrhoea during your visit you should seek immediate medical attention. HIV/AIDS is prevalent in the major cities and resorts. Medical facilities are good in major cities, but good medical insurance is vital - without insurance, or cash/credit card, travellers will not be treated. Bangkok has excellent international hospitals.
Tipping is not expected, but is becoming more common in places frequented by tourists. Tipping 10 to 15 percent on a restaurant bill is usual, but ultimately this is left up to the customer to decide based on service performance. Sometimes a 10 percent service charge is added to the bill at hotels and restaurants, but this is not common. All help with carrying bags, tour guides etc. welcome small tips. Taxi drivers are not generally tipped.
Safety Information :
Although the political situation in Thailand is currently more stable than before, there have been major political demonstrations in Bangkok in recent months accompanied by outbreaks of violence. Tourists have not been targeted during the protests, but travellers are advised to avoid all political gatherings and marches and to stay well-informed about the situation in the country. Travellers should check out the official travel alerts for Thailand before visiting, and should be careful to abide by any curfews or other rules imposed by the Thai government.
There is a threat from terrorism throughout South East Asia and travellers should be particularly vigilant in public places, including tourist resorts. Avoid the border areas and don't camp in undesignated areas in national parks. The security situation in the southern provinces near the Malaysian border is unstable and travel to Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat and Songkhla is to be avoided. Violence near the Preah Vihear temple area has been recurrent and visitors are advised to avoid travel there.
Visitors to major cities are advised to secure their passports and credit cards and not carry too much money or jewellery. In Bangkok visitors should be aware of scams, often involving gems recommended by kind strangers. In tourist areas, particularly at the Full Moon Party on Ko Phan Ngan, be careful about accepting drinks from strangers as there have been reports of drinks being drugged. Incidents of sexual assault do occur and female travellers should be cautious.
The monsoon season in September and October (November to March on Koh Samui) brings about flooding in the north, northeast and central regions, causing mudslides and flash floods; visitors planning to trek in the jungle during this time should check conditions with licensed tour guides before leaving.
Local Customs :
Public displays of affection are frowned upon. Dress is informal, although beachwear should be confined to the beach. Drugs are illegal and travellers should know that possession of even small quantities can lead to imprisonment, and that drug traffickers risk the death penalty. Avoid touching others hair or head (rubbing a child hair for example), as this is a disrespectful gesture. Taking off one's shoes when entering a home is customary, although most shops and restaurants do not always expect tourists to remove their footwear. Do not put your feet on table or chairs, as lifting a foot toward someone, especially the underside of the foot is considered a disrespectful gesture. Although haggling is common when buying items, especially at markets, Thais are generally very calm and soft spoken people. Arguing loudly or raising one's voice when haggling is deemed disrespectful in Thai culture.
Business culture in Thailand is considerably more relaxed than other Asian countries within the region. However, Thailand shares its neighbours' work ethic and value systems, as well as emphasis on hierarchy and building relationships. Senior managers must be consulted on all matters and decisions. Appearance and age are important in Thai business culture as they illustrate social standing and status. Older individuals are generally afforded a great deal of regard in Thailand. Building relationships is central to business culture in Thailand. It is ill regarded for a businessman to start negotiating before being properly acquainted with his business associates.
The concept of 'face' and saving face is important in Thailand; so if you make a mistake, don't expect it to be pointed out to you. Also, if a business associate makes a mistake, it is impolite to draw attention to it or correct them. In 2010, Thailand was the fastest growing economy in SouthEast Asia. Despite this, Thais value family time and time to actually live life. Placing family in front of business priorities is the norm.
English is the language of business in Thailand, but translators are often needed. Business hours are from 8am to 5pm or 9am to 6pm with an hour for lunch. Dress styles tend to be quite formal, but due to the humid climate, heavy suits are rare. However, meetings with senior management tend to be slightly more formal and jackets are usually worn. Men generally wear shirts, slacks and a tie while women wear below-the-knee skirts and blouses. Pants-suits for women are quite rare.
Shaking hands is not a popular form of greeting and the wai (putting cupped hands in front of oneself and bowing slightly) is more acceptable. The higher the hands compared to the face when bowing, the more respect is meant by the wai. It is customary to wai first to those older than oneself. Thais use first names rather than surnames preceded by Kuhn for both men and women. As with many Asian nations, giving gifts to business associates is generally a good idea. When receiving gifts, don't open them in front of the giver. Wait to be introduced to others, as it is an indication of rank. Often the hierarchical structures favour the elders in a group and respect must be given accordingly.
The international country dialling code for Thailand is +66. The outgoing code is 001, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 00144 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use. To dial a mobile in Thailand an 8 must precede the city code. International direct dial facilities are available throughout most of the country. Mobile phone networks cover most towns, cities and holiday resorts; operators use GSM 900, 1800 and 1900 networks. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts.
Duty Free :
Travellers to Thailand do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 250g tobacco or equivalent amount of cigars, 1 litre of alcohol, 1 camera with 5 rolls of film or 1 movie camera with 3 rolls of 8 or 16 mm film. Goods to the value of THB 10,000 per person for non-residents with transit visas and THB 20,000 per person for holders of tourist visas are allowed. Family allowances are double the individual allowances. Prohibited items include firearms and ammunition without licenses, fireworks, and drugs. Trafficking in drugs carries the maximum penalty. Restrictions apply to meat imported from countries affected by BSE or mad cow and foot-and-mouth diseases. Antiques or objects of art and religious articles may not be exported without a license.
Suvarnabhumi International Airport
Location: The airport is situated 19 miles (30km) east of Bangkok.
Time: GMT +7
Contacts: Tel: +66 (0)2 132 1888 or +66 (0)2 132 3888.
Getting to the city: The Airport Rail Link (ARL) is the fastest way to get to central Bangkok. The service runs from the first floor of the airport and connects you to the MRT underground at Makkasan City Interchange Station (MRT Phetchaburi Station) and the BTS Skytrain at Phayathai Station. Public buses run several routes from the Transport Centre to Bangkok, while the Airport Express provides air-conditioned coaches between the airport and first-class hotels in downtown Bangkok. There is also a Limousine Service counter on the 2nd floor of the Arrivals Hall.
Car rental: Car hire is available from Avis, Budget, Hertz, Sixt and Thai Car Rental Association. Bookings can be made at the Car Rental service counter at Arrivals.
Airport Taxis: From the airport passengers can catch a taxi from the departure terminal. Travel time depends greatly on traffic but is at least 30 minutes and can be much more. An exit fee is expected to be paid by the passenger although this can be paid at the end of the ride. Passengers can request the driver use the expressway which will cost a small additional fee.
Facilities: Currency exchange is available on Level 2 at Arrivals, and ATMs are located throughout the terminal building. Public telephones are widely available. A tourist information service is located in the Arrivals hall on Level 2, duty-free shopping and a myriad of restaurants, wine bars and fast food outlets are also available.
Parking: Short and long-term parking is available at Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Short-term rates range from about THB 25 for the first hour to about THB 250 for the day. Long-term rates start at about THB 20 per hour and go up to about THB 140 per day.
Departure tax: None.
Chiang Mai International Airport
Location: The airport is situated two miles (4km) from Chiang Mai.
Time: GMT +7
Contacts: Tel: +66 (0)53 2702 2233.
Getting to the city: The airport does not allow public tricycle and pick-up cars to enter the airport area; those can be accessed outside the airport boundaries. These are the cheapest transport option from the airport, but can be uncomfortably crowded with luggage. Many hotels will arrange transport for guests with advance booking and there is a taxi rental counter on the first floor of the terminal.
Car rental: Car rental agencies at the airport include Hertz, Avis, and Thai Rent a Car.
Airport Taxis: Taxis are available for travel to Chiang Mai from outside the airport; fares should be agreed in advance.
Facilities: Facilities include currency exchange, lost and found, ATMs, business lounges, a sauna and spa, and shopping and dining options. There are limited facilities for disabled travellers; those with special needs should contact their airline in advance.
Parking: Parking is charged at about THB 10 for the first 30 minutes, THB 20 for 90 minutes, and THB 30 for two and a half hours, up to a daily limit of about THB 200.
Departure tax: None.
Phuket International Airport
Location: The airport is situated 20 miles (32km) northwest of Phuket.
Time: GMT +7
Contacts: Tel: +66 (0)76 327 2307.
Getting to the city: An airport bus offers transfers to town. Many hotels also offer transport for arriving guests. Several companies provide limousine and minibus services at the airport to transport passengers to their required destination.
Car rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include Thai Rent A Car, Budget, and Sixt.
Airport Taxis: A taxi stand is located outside of the airport. Metered taxis have limited space for luggage; if travellers have large luggage and there are more than two passengers, they should consider a limousine taxi or minibus transfer.
Facilities: Airport facilities include ATMs, shops (including duty-free shops), currency exchange services, an information counter, a sauna and spa, medical services, left luggage facilities, a restaurant and a bar.
Parking: The parking garage is located directly outside the terminal. Both short and long-term parking is available. Parking is free for the first 15 minutes, THB 20 for the first hour, THB 40 for two hours, THB 50 for three hours, THB 100 for up to six hours and THB 200 per 24 hours.
Departure tax: None.
Bangkok Don Mueang International Airport
Location: The airport is situated 15 miles (24km) north of Bangkok.
Time: GMT +7
Contacts: Tel: +66 (0)2 535 1111.
Getting to the city: Taxis are available from the stand in front of Arrivals. An airport surcharge of THB 50 is added to the fare. Airport buses are available for THB 100 and take you downtown. They leave from the platform in front of the Arrivals hall at Terminal 1 and from below 'Bus Stop Airport Bus' signs. Trains at Don Muang Railway Station (500m from the Arrivals Hall) run from 6am to 8pm. The fare to Bangkok with an ordinary diesel train is THB 5. Public buses to Bangkok railway station and other main destinations in the city are also available.
Car rental: Car rental agencies represented at the airport include Avis, Budget, Thai Rent a Car, Europcar and Hertz.
Airport Taxis: A taxi can be arranged from stands in the airport terminal. A surcharge of THB 50 is added to the fare. A typical fare to the city can cost anything between THB 300 and THB 400.
Facilities: Facilities include three banks, ATMs, bureaux de change, restaurants, supermarket, CIP lounge, medical facility, children's play area and a tourist information desk.
Parking: Parking is located opposite the main terminal building, starting at about THB 20 per hour and about THB 250 per day.
Departure tax: None.
Location: The airport is located about nine miles (15km) east of Krabi city centre.
Time: GMT +7
Getting to the city: There is a bus service linking the airport to Krabi and Ao Nang. Buses leave about five times daily, but the schedule is adjustable depending on demand - buses leave once sufficiently full of passengers. Taxis and motorcycle taxis are generally also available outside the terminal; note that 'limousine taxi' usually just means an air-conditioned taxi. Fares have been standardised and must be pre-paid in the airport.
Car rental: Car rental is possible at the airport.
Facilities: Facilities are fairly limited, but the airport provides the basics: souvenir and snack booths, a coffee shop, a restaurant, ATM machines, and a simple money exchanging facility are available.
Parking: Parking is available at Krabi Airport.
Koh Samui International Airport
Location: The airport is located on the island of Koh Samui.
Time: GMT +7
Getting to the city: Shared minivans are available, charging fixed fares to destinations around Koh Samui. These are generally cheaper for solo travellers, charging fares from THB 100. Note that some destinations are not covered by shared transport, and are only reachable by private taxi.
Car rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include Hertz, Avis, Budget and Sixt. The car rental desks are in the arrivals area of the airport.
Airport Taxis: Private taxis are available at fixed rates to a number of locations in Koh Samui. Minivans are also available for up to six people.
Facilities: The airport is small and attractive, and most facilities are outdoors. Airport facilities include cafes, restaurants, a spa, shopping and ATMs.
Location: The airport is located 16 miles (25km) from Sukhothai city centre.
Time: GMT +7
Getting to the city: Hotel shuttles and taxis are available from the airport to the city.
Airport Taxis: Taxis and shuttles are available from the airport to the city centre. A fare to the new city starts at about THB 180.
Facilities: The airport is a 'green facility' and does not have air-conditioning. There is a 'Boutique Lounge' and a small zoo located on the property.
Parking: Parking is available near the terminal.
Location: The airport is located 22 miles (35km) from Trat city centre.
Time: GMT +7
Getting to the city: Minibuses are available to the town centre and cost from THB 900.
Airport Taxis: Minibus taxi services are available from the airport.
Facilities: The open-air terminal has limited facilities including an ATM, clean restrooms and food outlets.
Parking: Parking is available near the terminal.
|Thank you||Khawp khun|
|My name is...||Cheu...|
|How much is this?||Nee tao-rai?|
|Where is...?||...yoo nai?|
|Does anyone speak English?||Mee krai pood pasa ang-grit dai bang mai?|
|I dont understand||Mai kao chai|
|One, two, three, four, five||Ne-ung, song, saam, see, haa|
|I need a doctor||Tong-gahn maw rahk-saa|
The climate in Thailand experiences high temperatures and humidity levels throughout the year. The hottest months in Thailand are between March and May, and monsoon season runs from June to October. In September and October much of the country suffers from flooding, particularly in the north, northeastern and central regions. The cool season is the best time to visit Thailand, running from November to February. Temperatures are fairly consistent throughout the year, especially in southern regions, ranging between 74°F (23°C) and 86°F (30°C).
Thailand Tourist Office: +66 (0)2 250 5500 (Bangkok) or
United States Embassy, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 205 4000.
British Embassy, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 305 8333.
Canadian Embassy, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 646 4300.
Australian Embassy, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 344 6300.
South African Embassy, Bangkok: + 66 (0)2 659 2900.
Honorary Consul of Ireland, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 632 6720.
New Zealand Embassy, Bangkok (also responsible for Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar): +66 (0)2 254 2530.
Royal Thai Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 944
Foreign Embassies in Thailand
Royal Thai Embassy, London, United Kingdom: (also responsible for Ireland) +44 (0)20 7589 2944 ext 5500.
Royal Thai Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 722 4444.
Royal Thai Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6206 0100.
Royal Thai Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 342 5470.
Royal Thai Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 496 2900.
Emergencies: 191. Tourist Police: 1155. Ambulance:
Thailand Emergency Numbers
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