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THAILAND
 

The Land of Smiles is famous the world over for its remarkable hospitality, friendliness, and rich culture.  Nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand offers an abundance of destinations, from modern city life to the exquisite scenery of lush green mountains and warm blue seas.  It is a place where pleasure merges with tranquility. The Thai people have ever maintained their precious qualities of kindness and generosity; indeed, "Take good care of your guests, make the best for them" is a traditional Thai saying.

There are literally hundreds of web-sites about Thailand's beauty, culture, and tourist opportunities. Here are a few especially helpful for first-time visitors to Thailand:

Tourism Authority of Thailand http://www.tourismthailand.org/
The Lonely Planet 
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/south_east_asia/thailand/index.htm
Prachuap http://en.wikipedia.org:80/wiki/Prachuap_Khiri_Khan_Province
Hua Hin  http://www.hua-hin.com/

 
Thailand
The Venues
Blue area on Thailand Map magnified
   
Thailand Tips
compliments of Niels Steeman

AIRPORT
DEPARTURE TAX

Tax for international flights is now added to your ticket in advance.  Whew!

BANKING, ATM
and CREDIT CARDS

Many banks around in the country offer ATM services both in Thai and English. Note that for some withdrawals from banks using a foreign (non-Thai) bank cards, fees can be applied for withdrawing Thai Baht in Thailand.  Contact your bank for more details.

Credit Cards are widely accepted around Thailand, both at hotels, large restaurants and department stores.  In Thailand, it may be common for extra fees to be applied for credit card purchases, and/or for non-Thai credit cards.  Smaller stores, hotels, and street vendors cannot accept credit cards.

BUSINESS HOURS As in most countries, there are some standard opening and closing times in Thailand. Here are the most common ones
      Banks:  Mon – Fri 09.30 – 15.30 hrs   (Closed on public holidays)
      Businesses:  Mon – Fri 08.30 – 17.00 hrs   (Closed on public holidays)
      Post offices:  Mon – Fri 08:30 – 16:00 hrs   (Closed on public holidays, some may be open on weekends)
      Shops and department stores:  normally open 12 hours a day and 7 days per week (most from 10:00 – 22:00 hrs)
CLIMATE

Thailand enjoys three seasons: Cool, Hot and Wet

  • Cool: From November to February with a temperature range from +10C to +25C in the North and mountainous areas, between +20 to +27C in the Central, South and low lying areas.
  • Hot : From March through May with temperatures ranging from +26C to +35C
  • Wet : The monsoon season is from mid-May to October. Temperatures range from +26C to +35C with humidity above 70%. Short bursts of rain showers can be expected in the evening,

The SUN in Thailand is strong even on overcast days. The use of high SPF sunscreen in conjunction with sunglasses and clothing to protect against sunburn is strongly recommended.

CLOTHING

Due to the hot and humid climate, cotton clothing is advised. A sweater is useful for the cool season’s evenings or when visiting mountainous areas.  If you have the time, don't pack much - shop instead!   Much good quality clothing at reasonable prices can be found in Thailand, though the sizing tends to be small.  Recommended to bring with you are – when required – spare glasses, extra contact lenses, and a small emergency kit of things you cannot live without.

Dress Code for Entering Temples and Palaces: Temples and palaces are considered sacred.  Visitors must not wear the following when entering, and you can always ask somebody if what you are wearing is appropriate to enter a sacred place:

  • See through clothing
  • Sleeveless shirt
  • Sportswear
  • Tights / leggings
  • Shorts
  • Short skirts
  • Three-quarters length trousers
  • Robes
  • Scarves
  • Flip flops/sandals without a strap behind the heel
  • Swim wear / Beachwear
  • Shirts with offensive texts or images

Dress Code for other Occasions/Situations: If one remembers that the Thai people are, for the most part, extremely modest, this knowledge can be helpful when considering what to wear for certain occasions and situations.   The Thai dress code may look quite conservative to foreigners, but should be respected as much as possible.  As a rule, dressing properly with sleeved shirts, clean clothes, and pants or skirts will be more respectful than wearing short, skimpy, tight, or dirty clothes.

Showing nudity is an offense; topless sunbathing is not allowed and is considered extremely obscene.

Tank tops, shorts, and (not-too-revealing) bathing suits are acceptable at the Drop Zone. 

CURRENCY

Currency is the Thai Baht, with bank notes from 1000, 500, 100, 50, 20 and 10 in denomination.  Coin denominations are 10, 5, 2 and 1 Baht down to smaller divisions of 50 and 25 Satangs (100 Satangs = 1 Baht).
Check the current exchange rate

Most major overseas currencies and travellers cheques can be exchanged at banks and hotels throughout Thailand. Travellers are advised to check the exchange rates prior to the transaction.  There is a small transaction fee per Travellers Check exchanged, but the exchange rate is usually higher than it is for bank notes.  The exchange rate is better for USD 100 bills than it is for smaller denominations.

ELECTRICITY 220 Volt AC (50 cycles) using two-pin plugs with variations of flat or rounded pins.   Be careful!  Many electrical outlets in Thailand look the same as those in North America and Japan, but they are not!   It is always advisable to travel with dual-voltage appliances but, when that is not possible, please remember to bring the proper currency converters for your 110 Volt appliances.  Try to bring all necessary adaptors from your home country, as well, as there is no guarantee that those you need will be available on-site. 
FOOD
and
WATER

The Thai kitchen is well known throughout the world, catering for each and every single person’s personal taste. Please feel free to sample the vast range of cuisine on offer. However, we recommend that you exercise care when consuming food from street stalls, making sure that they are clean and hygienic.  Thai food is a blend of basic ingredients (rice, meat, vegetables, seafood and noodles) where the addition of a huge variety of spices gives it that special taste.  For those who have not developed a taste for Thai food, hotel restaurants generally serve a variety of international foods.

Please do not drink tap water - just don't.  Bottled water is often available in your hotel rooms, and always available for sale. Cheap.  Everywhere.

MEDICAL
ASSISTANCE

Please refer to your health insurance policy to insure that you are covered for medical and emergency services in Thailand, as charges will be levied should you require treatment. If you are not covered by your policy, please consider arranging for travel insurance before you depart.  There is a good hospital in Prachuap, and several excellent internationally-renowned hospitals in Bangkok.

MOBILE
TELEPHONES
For most mobile telephones (cellphones), it is fairly easy to buy a Thai SIM card in Bangkok, and top-up cards can be purchased at any 7-11.  This is not true, however, of cell phones from the USA, which don't work anywhere else.  New cellphones can be purchased in Bangkok for under USD 70, and used ones for much less (but, Buyer Beware!)
PRICES

The prices of many articles, services, and products are lower than in most western countries, and the salary level of the Thai is generally much lower, as well.  With some average monthly salaries not exceeding USD 200 per month, many Thais work 6 – 7 days a week and, to them, western visitors are considered to be rich in all aspects. 

Please be mindful and considerate of this reality if/when you are confronted by a Thai with it.  They do not mean to insult you, but do not insult them by angrily denying that you are 'rich.'  Compared to them, you are. 

SAFETY
and
TOUTS

Although the country has a reputation of being safe and the amount of criminality is low, it does not mean that you can walk around careless of your personal belongings. Thais are attentive when you forget something or drop something while walking, but please bear in mind that pick pockets are around, mostly at busy areas (bus stops, markets and tourism attractions)

  • Make use of the safety deposit boxes at the hotels, in your room or at the front des, if they are available.  In most cases, these are free of charge.
  • Do not carry too many valuables, money, or travel documents with you (but always at least one legal form of identification)
  • During your stay you may be approached by a variety of people, called 'touts,'who will initially befriend you. Once they have established your trust they will try to sell you something at inflated prices. Please be aware that there are NO government shops in Thailand.
  • Do not buy any jewelry without a certificate of authenticity
  • If you become victim of a crime, always go directly to the police station to report or – when in larger tourism destinations – to the tourism police. For stolen passports, always get in touch with your local embassy
  • Always contact your insurance company for anything in case of a loss of theft. They may be of more assistance to you than you imagine.
THAI
MASSAGE
Coming back from Thailand without having experienced this is like not having visited Thailand at all!  The choices are many – feet, head, body, aroma therapy and other variations of massage.  The duration is between 1 to 2 hours and the prices are very reasonable (approx 200 Baht per hour). At some hotels you have the option to let a masseuse come to your room; otherwise you can visit one of the many massage shops on the street and try it out.  Many of the masseuses have undergone months of intense training and some can even give you a medical diagnosis.  Be careful with some ailments (hernia, pregnancy or weak joints) that may not be suitable for a traditional Thai Massage.
TIME

Local time in Thailand is GMT +7 hours all year round.
Check the current time in Bangkok

TIPPING

Tipping is not compulsory but is welcomed.  Here are some guidelines – Bell Boys 20 Baht per suitcase, maids 20 Baht per day, tour guides and drivers 100 Baht per person per tour. In restaurants, when the service is good, 10% of the bill is appropriate. 

TRANSPORTATION
in
THAILAND

Thailand has an extensive local transportation network, covering the whole country. Here are the most commonly used means of transportation. It is not common or recommended to hitchhike in Thailand.

Train
There are 4 major lines, all leading to Bangkok (West, East, Northeast and South). Trains offer a comfortable and cheap way to travel. Train schedules between larger cities as well as in between towns operate frequently and, sometimes, around the clock. Trips over 10 hours in length offer both 1st and 2nd class sleepers with bed and pillow.  Click here for the State Railway of Thailand web-site (includes schedules and fares).

Coach/Bus
Thailand has one of the most extensive bus and coach schedules around the world. Servicing main cities with frequent departures. Bangkok itself has 3 major bus terminals with a variety of services from local non-air-conditioned bus services to fully air-conditioned coaches with all facilities you can find on a bus. Tickets can be purchased at the bus terminals. 

Plane
With an open skies policy in place in the beginning of the 21st century, Thailand has a wide and extensive network of domestic flights connecting all major cities from Bangkok. Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, are among the most used airlines for domestic stretches; flights on these airlines can be pre-booked in all the usual ways.  Thai AirAsia and Nok Air are active players on the low cost/no thrills segment, but can only be booked via the airline web sites.

Tuk Tuks
“ Tuk Tuks” are three-wheeled motorized taxis; its name is derived for the sound the engine makes.   It is normal to agree on the fare before the trip has begun. Tuk tuks are a fun and fast way to explore the town and to get from one side to the other in Thai style.  Be mindful not to accept “ free trips around the town” by tuk tuk drivers, as they may try to force you to buy at tailors, jewelry stores and handicraft centres, where the drivers receive commission from the shops

Taxi
Mostly seen in Bangkok, they can be recognized by the “Taxi Meter” sign on top of the roof.  You can stop them everywhere by putting your hand out to a taxi with a red light on in its front window. The meter always starts at 35 Baht.   Should the taxi driver refuse to turn on the meter and begin to arrange a price, please leave the taxi immediately and call the next one.  Insist on using the meter at all times. Always bring sufficient small money with you; taxi drivers never have sufficient change in hand.

Busses
Again, mostly found in Bangkok, a maze of business with various colors and price schemes drive around the city centre and even further. It may be hard to find the right bus number, which brings you to the destination you may need to go to, as routings and bus numbers frequently change. It is a very cheap way to travel. There are green and red busses (non-air-conditioned) as well as orange and blue ones (air-conditioned) travelling all around the city. You pay the fee inside the bus to a bus boy/girl who runs around the bus, collecting the fee for the stretch you plan to drive.  Correct change is required.

Express boats
Mainly in Bangkok and sailing over the Chaophraya River, this is a nice way to sail around and see Bangkok from the water.   The main access point for water taxis is the River City Boat pier, close to the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel, where a detailed map of all the water routes and fees is displayed. If you bring electronic equipment, make sure that you have a protective, water-proof bag for your valuables. Water can be very destructive!

Song Taew’s
This kind of transportation you can find mainly at the beach destinations; open, covered trucks with 2 benches (song taew) who drive you where you want to go. Cheap and always be prepared to bargain about the price!

Sky Train
Opened in December of 1999, the Bangkok Sky Train is an elevated electrical train system connecting the city from north to southwest and to the river — no traffic jams, connecting all the major roads around in Bangkok, clean, air-conditioned, and frequent.  There are currently only 2 lines, connecting with each other at Siam Square, yet more are planned. The fare is paid via coin machines and/or staff at the Skytrain stations. The prices are determined by distance. Maps of the Skytrain can be obtained free of charge at each Skytrain station.

Subway
Opened in 2004, the subway is the latest addition to beat traffic in Bangkok. It connects the city from north to west via an extensive network underground and has connections with the Sky Train at 2 stations (Sukhumvit and Saladaeng). Works in the same way as the Skytrain (prices are according to the distance you plan to travel, they run 7 days a week, and trains arrive basically every 5 minutes).

TRANSPORTATION
RENTALS

Cars:  In order to rent a car in Thailand, either a Thai Driver's license or an International Driver's license is required.

Motorcycles: Only recommendable outside the larger cities (not in Bangkok, even though there are loads of motorcycles around in this city, please do not try this yourself). Rates for renting a motorcycle are around 200-250 Baht per day, but this can vary a lot from town to town.  These motorcycle shops are never properly insured and you, as the renter, can be held liable for any damage or loss of the motorcycle. It is compulsory to wear a helmet at all times.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

It is highly recommended that you arrange for travel insurance. This may include coverage for medical services, emergency evacuation, repatriation, trip interruptions, and lost luggage. Short-term policies can be arranged by your travel agent, or directly with an insurance company, for a relatively low cost.

 

HABITS, MANNERS AND RELIGION

As with all the countries in the world, Thailand has its own (un) written rules about how to act. Here are the most common ones you may want to consider:

  • In Thailand, it is rude to use your feet to point to something and almost unforgivable when it comes to Buddhist artifacts. Feet are literally the lowest part of the body, and the head is the most sacred part.  When Thais sit on the floor, they keep their feet always under their body.  It is impolite to touch a person’s head.  Resist the temptation to tousle a child's hair; it is considered rude.
  • Whenever you enter somebody’s house, it is customary to take off your shoes. Should you enter another establishment (such as a restaurant or other public place), please respect their customs
  • An important expression in Thailand is “Jai Yen” (translated as “cool heart”). Losing one's temper and/or showing emotions is not “Jai Yen.” It is of importance to remain calm and patient, even in frustrating situations. Handle all with a smile and you will see that you can get much more done. For a Thai, losing your face is something really bad and it can result in losing respect. Thais are not the strongest when it comes to direct confrontation.  It is said that it can take 20 or more years to gain a Thai's trust, yet all can be wiped away in just 5 seconds
  • Try not to shout (either in English or in Thai) to a Thai when on the street or in a public area; it may result in totally the opposite of what you intend to say
  • Thais love to smile (the expression “Land of Smiles” says enough) but that does not mean that he/she is happy all the time. Each member of the kingdom loves “Sanuk;” “cozy” and “feeling good”  are expressed with this simple word. 
  • Being a Buddhist country,Thais are very tolerant of other religions
  • The correct greeting in Thailand is the “Wai."  Place both of your hand palms together in front of your chest/chin region and make a small bow, you can use this for both welcoming saying farewell
  • The Royal Family in Thailand is one of the most important (if not the most important) institutions. Any jokes or insults when referring to the Royal Family are extremely inappropriate.   The popularity of H.M. The King, H.M. The Queen, and all other members of the Royal Family is immense, due to their good work and caring for the Thai nation. Some indecent acts against the Royal Family are considered a criminal offense
  • Wats (the Thai word for “Temple”) are the homes for the Buddhist monks, as well as a place for worship. Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand (over 90% of the country's inhabitants are Buddhist).  Buddhism is more a philosophy of life than the other worldwide known religions.  When visiting a temple, please dress respectfully (see Clothing above) and respect the monks at all times. Taking pictures of a monk is only allowed if the monk gives approval.  Women are not allowed to touch a monk in any way.   Becoming a monk (male only) gives a Thai family status and is highly respected by the outside world. Monks do not have to choose to become a monk for life; it depends on the person himself how long he wants to stay in the monkhood
  • Showing affection (like kissing in public or embracing each other) is not acceptable. Walking hand in hand is tolerated.
  • Drinking alcohol, smoking, and going out are very popular with the Thais; karaoke is among one of the most favorite past times in Thailand.  As in other countries, however, the over-consumption of alcohol is frowned upon.  Opening and closing times of bars, discotheques, and other entertainment venues are strictly controlled and enforced.
  • Smuggling drugs, weapons, and other narcotics into Thailand is strictly forbidden.  The death penalty can be given to those breaking this law.
  • Haggling and bargaining about a price of a product is a highly competitive and fun thing to do.  At local markets and large open-air markets, it is a sport to try to get something off the initial offered price.  Larger shops, department stores, restaurants and other public areas where prices are fixed are not for bargaining.
 
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