Thailand Travel Information
All visitors to Thailand usually experience a warm welcome from Thai people, and almost always leave with a sense that the Thai are wonderfully hospitable and polite.
Thai people are naturally friendly and passive towards strangers, which is one of the chief attractions of the country, and much of it is a result of their refined etiquette towards one another.
Learning about Thai cultural habits and manners is considerate way to respond and will certainly make your travels in Thailand more enjoyable. It also helps you figure out some of their more bewildering vices!
But, it’s not as easy as shaking hands and speaking politely. Getting off the plane on your first visit to Asia, you will immediately notice how different the Far East can be from our own Western societies, and without the flow of usual tourist service you could easily become confused with all the different behaviour, even offended or offensive by their or your actions.
Of all the Asian countries, Thailand is one of the least diluted in terms of culture, having never been colonised. The locals are quite used to foreigners stomping unmindfully through their country but protocol is important here, and though they might tolerate, most Thais might inwardly not be impressed if you appear rude.
The Kingdom of Thailand, covering an area of 514,000 square kilometres, lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, roughly in between India and China. It shares borders with Myanmar to the west and north, Lao P.D.R. to the north and northeast, Cambodia to the east and Malaysia to the south.
Thailand is divided into 76 provinces
Thailand is divided into four distinct areas : the mountainous North, the fertile Central Plains, the semi-arid plateau of the Northeast, and the peninsula South, distinguished by its many beautiful tropical beaches and offshore islands.
Population and Language
Thailand has a population of about 65 million. Ethnic Thais form the majority, though the area has historically been a migratory crossroad, and thus strains of Mon, Khmer, Burmese, Lao, Malay, Indian and most strongly, Chinese stock produce a degree of ethnic diversity.
A general breakdown of nationalities would be 80% Thai 10% Chinese 3% Malay and the remainder is made up of minority nationalities previously mentioned.
Thai is the official language, but English is widely understood in Bangkok and in the main tourist resorts. Tour guides and translators in many European and Asian languages are available.
Thailand is in the humid tropics and is hot throughout the year. Average temperatures are about 29oC, ranging in Bangkok from 35oC in April to 17oC in December. There are three seasons: the cool season (November to February), the hot season (April to May), and the rainy season (June to October), though downpours rarely last more than a couple of hours.
Try here more detailed information on Thailand's weather
Theravada Buddhism 95%, Muslim 4%, other religions 1%.
A constitutional monarchy headed by His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun or King Rama X, He accepted the throne, after his fathers death on 1 December 2016. King Bhumibol Adulyadejthe ninth king of the Chakri Dynasty. The King reigned for more than 70 years, making him the longest reigning Thai monarch and the world's longest-reigning head of state.
The Parliment has been in place since 1932 and is made up of 2 houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Currently Priminister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted during a political but peaceful coupe. An interim government is now in place with full elections later this year.
GMT + 7 hours. Thailand observes the western 12-month calendar. Religious and seasonal ceremonies follow lunar time.
Thailand has greatly relaxed its customs clearing procedures in order to facilitate the import and export of materials. With the introduction of the ATA carnet System, temporary importation procedures have been brought in line with international practices.
Any consignment will be exempt from tax, provided that
a) it is used to benefit the Kingdom socially, economically or technologically b) it has no commercial value and it is to be distributed for delegates' use. c) It is re-exported within 3 months by the importer who has given the necessary assurances.
Visitors may bring into Thailand free of duty: Tobacco-200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, Liquor-one litre bottle of wine or spirits, Perfume-60 millilitres
Visitors are allowed to bring with them up to US $10,000. All higher amounts must be declared at the point of entry.
Thailand prohibits the import of narcotics, firearms, dangerous chemicals and pornography.
Visitors to Thailand who hold valid passports or travelling documents issued by any of the officially eligible countries are given a 1 month tourist visa.
If planning a longer stay, a Tourist Visa valid for 60 days must be obtained from a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate abroad. Visa extensions can be applied for at the Immigration Department in Bangkok.
An easier solution is to join one of the many organised visa runs to the nearest boarder. This will get you a 30 day tourist visa. Recent changes to Thai Immigration Laws restrict travelers to 3 consecutive tourist visas only.
For further information Ministry of Foreign Affairs website: http://www.mfa.go.th/web/12.phpPhuket Immigration Office website: http://www.phuketimmigration.com/
If you are coming to Thailand to work or you wish to take up temporary residence in Phuket, see non-immigrant visa information
Respect for the police is a must and rude language or shouting should be avoided in every case, guilty or not. Thai police officers have much greater powers of action than for example their European counterparts and will not accept disrespectful behavior.
Common offences such as not wearing a helmet will get you a 300 Baht fine and a 2 hour wait at the local police station to pay your fine.
Parking on the wrong side of the road will get your bike or car chained up and another long wait to pay your fine. The trick is to know which side of the road to park on. Just look to see where everyone else has parked and park on that side of the road.
If you rent a motorcycle and you get involved in an accident you will pay for all the damages including costly medical expenses regardless of if you're right or wrong. Basically that's the way it is, motorcycles are not insured.
Having said that, the tourist police are also aware of the little tricks, rip-off merchants use (such as short changing at money exchange booths) so if you feel that you've been done an injustice then stand your ground, remain cool at all times while you wait for their arrival.
Phuket tourist police Tel: 1699 toll free.
Thailand is a country in the tropical region, so light summer wear, particularly thin cotton, is the most comfortable. A jacket or sweater is recommended in the northern areas during the cool season. Suits or jackets are necessary for business meetings. Neat clothes are required for entering Thai temples or places of worship.
When exploring the night-life, tight dresses and miniskirts are no problem. On the other hand, naked or topless sunbathing in public places is considered rude and is generally not accepted. You can be arrested for exposing yourself such as topless sun-bathing but to date no tourist has been arrested for such an offence.
Even though the country has modernised and become a lot more prosperous over the past three decades, Thais at heart are still very traditional and bound by modest behavioural habits. They also have a profoundly superstitious approach to life, based on Buddhist and spiritual fortune.
Thai's are flexible in nature and most times understand, that foreigners can not know their code of behavior. Mostly, they are too polite to complain about anything you do out of ignorance. There are however, a few basic rules that you should observe.
Read More About Thai Culture and Code of Behaviour
Tipping is not a usual practice in Thailand although it has become more common. Most hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge to the bill. Taxi drivers do not require a tip but the gesture is appreciated. Although tipping is not expected or required, it is a nice gesture to leave a small amount, when you receive good service.
Most restaurants, bars, supermarkets, department stores, pharmacies, public transport (except taxis and tuk-tuks), and larger hotels do not offer discounts.
On the other hand, many small businesses, from jewelry stores to street vendors, are open to bargaining. But of course, you cannot take a discount for granted or expect that all businesses offer discounts, so you should bargain right from the start. All discussions should be done in a friendly manner.
As far as safety in Thailand, there are some things travelers should watch out for. Pickpockets are more likely to be found in tourist areas, on buses, at festivals, markets and at boat harbours, so keep an eye on your valuables.
Bring only what you have to, and leave all valuables in your hotel safe. Credit card fraud is not uncommon in Thailand, so be cautious with your cards, even those left in your hotel room and allow them to be used only at reliable places of business.
Visitors have also been robbed after a stranger who has befriended them, slips a sleeping drug in their food or drink. Do not accept food or drink from strangers. If you do go on a tour or dive, try to do so with a reputable company.
Electricity in Thailand is 220 Volts AC at 50 cycles. Several different plugs and sockets are in use, so travelers will need to be aware of this when using appliances that require power mains. A plug adapter kit can be readily purchased.
There are occasional blackouts and power surges, especially during rainy season. Care should be taken to protect delicate equipment like notebooks.
Drink only bottled or boiled water. More information on Thai food and drinks
Most Hotels have international direct dialing. The country code for Thailand is 66. Local calls at a phone box are 5 baht. The Thai market is predominantly prepaid with 84.8 million prepaid subscribers. You can purchase a SIM card from most mini-marts
The local bus (songthaew)
The basic unit of Thai currency is the baht. There are 100 satangs in 1 baht. (B=baht) Notes are issued in denominations of B1000 (gray), B500 (purple), B100 (red), B50 (blue) and b20 (green).
There are 10, 5, 2 and 1 baht coins and 50 and 25 satangs. Outside of banks and very large department stores satang is not generally accepted as payment. If you try and give beggars satang they will refuse!
Most foreign currencies and travelers' cheques are easily changed at banks, hotels or money changers, All major credit cards are widely accepted throughout Thailand.
There are three major English language daily papers-The Bangkok Post, The Nation and Thailand Times. International newspapers and magazines are readily available in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Phuket. Phuket Gazette is the newspaper to read to stay up-to-date on what's happening in Phuket.
Thailand receives a number of Satellite TV transmissions. STAR TV (satellite Television Asia Region) offers five 24-hour channels including BBC World, Prime Sports, Music TV and two movie channels. CNN and ESPN are available via local cable operators. Tourist-class hotels have at least one satellite channel plus in-house videos.
Suvarnabhumi Airport. The name Suvarnabhumi was chosen by HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej which means "The Golden Land", specifically referring to the continental Indochina. "Golden Peninsula"or "Golden Land" is a traditional name for the Thailand-Cambodia-Laos-Burma region
How it is pronounced "su-wan-na-poom"
Airport Code Suvarnabhumi Airport inherited its IATA airport code BKK from Bangkok Don Muang International Airport. In the interim period while both airports were operating (from September 15th to September 28th) Suvarnabhumi used the code NBK.
Location The airport is located in Racha Thewa in the Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan province, 30 kilometers east of Bangkok.
Hours of operation 24 hours.
130 passport control checkpoints for arrivals, 72 for departures.
26 customs control checkpoints for arrivals, 8 for departures.
22 baggage conveyor belts.
360 check-in counters. There are 100 additional counters for passengers without luggage.
107 moving walkways.
You can also click here for most Asian airline contact numbers and details for Thai Airways telephone numbers are at the top of this page.
International B500. Domestic B 30.
Office and Banking Hours
Most offices open from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday, except on and around public holidays when business hours may vary widely. General banking hours are Monday to Friday 8.30 am to 3.30 pm. Many stores are open 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Some of the big department stores in Phuket such as Tesco-Lotus and Big C are open until 10pm.
The post offices are usually open from 8 am to 4.30 pm. Phuket has 2 post offices in Phuket town. One near the local bus station and one near the Royal Phuket City Hotel. You will also find post offices in most of the town centres such as Patong, Kata beach, Bang Tao, Thalang.
Bangkok's GPO is on Charoen Krung Road; open 8 am-5 pm weekdays, 9 am-noon weekends and public holidays.Thailand's postal service is reliable and efficient. Most hotels provide basic postal services.
Thailand's postal service is generally reliable but for safety always send your mail registered. Important items can be sent by Express Mail Service (EMS). This is faster and safer but the cost is higher. Private air couriers like TNT have representatives in most cities in Thailand.
Local postal charges:
B1 (postcard) and B2 (letter, 20g) International postal charges: B9 (postcard) and B14 (letter, 10g).
An update on postal services and charges can be found here.
There are many Internet Cafes in the small communities around Phuket island and especially in the more developed tourist locations. For people with a laptop computer, access to internet service providers is possible through one of the many computer shops throughout the island.
ADSL and wireless connections are usually a standard in many hotels.
No vaccination is required unless you are coming from an infected zone.
Phuket, Bangkok and the major cities have hospitals of a high standard. Care is generally good with a higher ratio of nurses to patients than found in many Western hospitals.
The majority of first class hotels have doctors on call for medical emergencies. For minor problems, there are numerous clinics in Phuket as well as in the major towns and resorts.
If you like to dabble in the traditional medicine side Thailand is famous for the medicinal properties of many of it's indigenous herbs and plants.
January 1st -New Year's Day
Mid February -Macha Bucha
April 6 -Chakri Day
April 12, 13, 14 -Songkran (Thai New year's Day)
May 5 -Cornation Day
May -Visakha Bucha
July -Asaraha Bucha
August 12 -Her Majesty The Queen's Birthday
October 14 - 22 Phuket Vegetarian Festival
October 23 -Chulalongkorn Day
November Full Moon - Loy Kratong
December 5 -His majesty The King's Birthday
December 10 -Constitution Day
December 31 - New year's Eve
Thai New Year (Songkran)