Thailand travel hints
Passengers arriving in the Kingdom of Thailand have to fill in the “Passenger Declaration Form” (Form No.211) and submit it to the Customs officer while bringing their luggage or belongings through the red or green channel. In case there are no dutiable, prohibited or restricted goods, please mark “nothing to declare” on the Passenger Declaration Form and submit it to the Customs officer at the green channel.
In case there are dutiable, prohibited or restricted goods or the passenger is unsure whether or not goods are subject to any of the three aforesaid categories, the passenger should mark “goods to declare” on the Passenger Declaration Form and submit it to the Customs officer at the red channel.
CLOTHING & LAUNDRY
In towns and at religious sights, it is courteous to avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless tops. Visitors who are inappropriately dressed may not be allowed into wats (temples); make sure your shoulders and knees are covered up and avoid wearing flip-flops. The same is true of mosques (in the Muslim-dominated far south). This does not apply on beaches and islands where (almost) anything goes and sarongs, flip-flops, etc are de rigueur. However, topless sunbathing or nudity is still very much frowned upon by Thais, especially in Muslim areas in the south. Bring a hat and
Laundry is not too expensive in Thailand. Most every hotel has the laundry service and you can find a cheaper choice by the local laundry services
Light cotton or other natural-fiber clothing is appropriate for Thailand; drip-dry is an especially good idea because the tropical sun and high humidity encourage frequent changes of clothing. A sweater is welcome on cool evenings or in overly air-conditioned restaurants, buses, and trains.
UV-protection sunglasses and use them. The tropical sun is powerful, and its effects long-lasting and painful.
Thailand has a huge range of clothing options at good prices, though it may be difficult to find the right sizes if you’re not petite. Basic toiletries and household items are sold in the convenient shop in every corner. So pack light! You don’t need too much
Traveler arriving by air needs only a valid passport, not a prearranged visa, to visit Thailand for less than 30 days. Tourists who arrive in Thailand by land from a neighboring country are now granted only a 14-day visa. As of this writing, tourists are not allowed to spend more than 90 days of any six-month period in Thailand, and immigration officials sometimes opt to count days and stamps in your passport.
Tourist visas can also be extended one month at a time once you’re in Thailand. You must apply in person at a Thai immigration office; expect the process to take a day. You application will be granted at the discretion of the immigration office where you apply.
Depending on route and class of travel, Thai Airways offers up to 30kg (66 pounds) if you possess a Royal Silk class. Otherwise, a 20kg (44 pounds) regulation is applied in all domestic flights and for the Economy class. Carry-on bags should weigh less than 7 kg and have a size limit of 56 x 45 x 25 cm (22″ x 18″ x 10″), the total sum of the three dimensions must not exceed 115 cm (45″).
When you take the flights out or within Vietnam, locking your suitcases or the duffel bags is legal and advisable.
The following are the recommended vaccinations for Thailand:
– Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all travelers over one year of age. It should be given at least two weeks (preferably four weeks or more) before departure. A booster should be given 6-12 months later to confer long-term immunity.
– Typhoid vaccine is recommended for all travelers, with the exception of short-term visitors who restrict their meals to major restaurants and hotels, such as business travelers.
– Japanese encephalitis vaccine is recommended for those who expect to spend a month or more in rural areas and for short-term travelers who may spend substantial time outdoors or engage in extensive outdoor activities in rural or agricultural areas, especially in the evening.
– Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all travelers if not previously vaccinated.
– Rabies vaccine is recommended for travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, for travelers at high risk for animal bites, such as veterinarians and animal handlers, for long-term travelers and expatriates, and for travelers involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats.
– Tetanus-diphtheria vaccine is recommended for all travelers who have not received a tetanus-diphtheria immunization within the last 10 years.
– Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine: two doses are recommended (if not previously given) for all travelers born after 1956 unless blood tests show immunity.
– Yellow fever vaccine is required for all travelers greater than one year of age arriving from a yellow-fever-infected country in Africa or the Americas and for travelers who have been in transit more than 12 hours in an airport located in a country with risk of yellow fever transmission but is not recommended or required otherwise.
The official currency of Thailand is the Thai BAHT (pronounced – baaht). One baht is divided into 100 satangs. Coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5 and 10 baht, as well as 25 and 50 satang. (You may get some 25 or 50 satang coins in change at a supermarket.). Banknotes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 baht. The most commonly used coin is the 10 baht and the most commonly used note is the 100 baht.
Travelers’ Cheques are generally accepted only at dedicated foreign exchange shops or banks. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are plentiful throughout Thailand, and most will accept cards issued by any of the major international banking networks (Plus, Cirrus, etc.) Since April 2009, most foreign debit and credit card withdrawals from Thai ATMs MAY incur a 150 baht fee levied by the local ATM owner, in addition to any fees added by your home financial institution.
Major credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, JCB and American Express, are readily accepted at most hotels, airlines, restaurants and upscale merchants. To prevent your credit/debit card from being declined, it is important to advise your card issuer of your travel plans in advance. Some institutions routinely block/deny unexpected charges from Thai merchants for fear of possible fraudulent use.
The electric current in Thailand is 220V and the cycle is 50Hz. The sockets in Thailand will take both the flat and round prongs but an adapter may be necessary.
MOBILE & INTERNET
Iphone and other up-to-date handhelds are very popular and convenient for connecting the internet as wifi is available everywhere. At the airport or phone shop, you can easily get a sim and data package for your stay in Thailand. A good package for two weeks will be ranging just from US$10 – US$15.
SHOPPING & SHIPPING
Bargaining is to be expected in many places you will shop in Thailand. The only places you are not expected to bargain are the shopping malls or high-end stores. In most other places the storekeepers expect it and, if you are polite, welcome it.
Expect to be able to bargain for a lower price anywhere from 10% to 40% off, but don’t be too insulting and begin your bargaining at 80% of the original asking price. I have seen some tourists do this and the shopkeeper immediately closes off to any further bargaining attempts.
Many tourists purchase things in Thailand that even the smallest shops and market stalls now can either arrange to have things shipped home for you or can point you in the direction of a place that will. The larger shops will often do it for you and will organize all the relevant paperwork, customs slips, insurance etc. The shipping businesses that are set up to do this will also do everything for you.
Most restaurants and hotels include a ten percent service charge in the bill, this surcharge already acts as a tip of sorts, which is combined and shared among all employees at the end of the month in addition to their meagre monthly salary.
Tipping in hotels is not expected, but again is always appreciated. i.e. 20 – 50 baht for the porter that carried your bags up to your room, or leave a small tip on your bed for the cleaning lady is also appreciated.
In all restaurants, it is customary to leave behind any coins from your change as a tip. Of course, if the service is unacceptable or ordinary then don’t tip.
Locate in Southeast Asia, making it a natural gateway to Indochina, Myanmar and Southern China. Thailand’s shape and geography divide into four natural regions: the mountains and forests of the North; the vast rice fields of the Central Plains; the semi-arid farm lands of the Northeast plateau; and the tropical islands and long coastline of the peninsula South.
The country comprises 76 provinces that are further divided into districts, sub-districts and villages. Bangkok is the capital city and centre of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities. It is also the seat of Thailand’s revered Royal Family, with His Majesty the King recognized as Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, Upholder of the Buddhist religion and upholder of all religions.
Thailand embraces a rich diversity of cultures and traditions. With its proud history, tropical climate and renowned hospitality, the Kingdom is a never-ending source of fascination and pleasure for international visitors.
The kingdom of Thailand lies in the heart of Southeast Neighboring countries:
Myanmar – west and north
Lao P.D.R. – north and northeast
Cambodia – southeast and
Malaysia – south
Thailand can best be described as tropical and humid for the majority of the country during most of the year. The area of Thailand north of Bangkok has a climate determined by three seasons whilst the southern peninsular region of Thailand has only two.
In northern Thailand the seasons are clearly defined. Between November and May the weather is mostly dry, however this is broken up into the periods November to February and March to May. The later of these two periods has the higher relative temperatures as although the northeast monsoon does not directly affect the northern area of Thailand, it does cause cooling breezes from November to February. The other northern season is from May to November and is dominated by the southwest monsoon, during which time rainfall in the north is at its heaviest.
The southern region of Thailand really has only two seasons — the wet and the dry. These seasons do not run at the same time on both the east and west side of the peninsular. On the west coast the southwest monsoon brings rain and often heavy storms from April through to October, whilst on the east coast the most rain falls between September and December.
Overall the southern parts of Thailand get by far the most rain with around 2,400 millimeters every year, compared with the central and northern regions of Thailand, both of which get around 1,400 millimeters.
The vast majority (roughly 80%) of Thailand’s nearly 65 million citizens are ethnically Thai. The remainder consists primarily of peoples of Chinese, Indian, Malay, Mon, Khmer, Burmese, and Lao decent. Of the 7 million citizens who live in the capital city, Bangkok, there is a greater diversity of ethnicities, including a large number of expatriate residents from across the globe. Other geographic distinctions of the population include a Muslim majority in the south near the Malaysian border, and hill tribe ethnic groups, such as the Hmong and Karen, who live in the northern mountains.
Spoken and written Thai remain largely incomprehensible to the casual visitor. However, English is widely understood, particularly in Bangkok where it is almost the major commercial language. English and other European languages are spoken in most hotels, shops and restaurants, in major tourist destinations, and Thai-English road and street signs are found nation-wide.
Thailand is one of the most strongly Buddhist countries in the world. The national religion is Theravada Buddhism, a branch of Hinayna Buddhism, practiced by more than 90 % of all Thais.
The remainder of the population adheres to lslam, Christianity, Hinduism and other faiths all of which are allowed full freedom of expression. Buddhism continues to cast strong influence on daily life. Senior monks are highly revered. Thus, in towns and villages, the temple (wat) is the heart of social and religious life. Meditation, one of the most popular aspects of Buddhism, is practiced regularly by numerous Thai as a means of promoting inner peace and happiness. Visitors can also learn the fundamentals of this practice at several places in Bangkok and elsewhere in the country.
Throughout its 800-year history, Thailand can boast the distinction of being the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized. Its history is divided into five major periods.
Nanchao Period (650-1250 A.D.)
The Thai people founded their kingdom in the southern part of China, which is Yunnan, Kwangsi and Canton today. A great number of people migrated south as far as the Chao Phraya Basin and settled down over the Central Plain under the sovereignty of the Khmer Empire, whose culture they probably accepted. The Thai people founded their independent state of Sukhothai around 1238 A.D., which marks the beginning of the Sukhothai Perio.
Sukhothai Period (1238-1378 A.D.)
Thais began to emerge as a dominant force in the region in the13th century, gradually asserting independence from existing Khmer and Mon kingdoms. Called by its rulers “the dawn of happiness”, this is often considered the golden era of Thai history, an ideal Thai state in a land of plenty governed by paternal and benevolent kings, the most famous of whom was King Ramkhamhaeng the Great. However in 1350, the mightier state of Ayutthaya exerted its influence over Sukhothai.
Ayutthaya Period (1350-1767)
The Ayutthaya kings adopted Khmer cultural influences from the very beginning. No longer the paternal and accessible rulers that the kings of Sukhothai had been, Ayutthaya’s sovereigns were absolute monarchs and assumed the title devaraja (god-king). The early part of this period saw Ayutthaya extend its sovereignty over neighboring Thai principalities and come into conflict with its neighbours, During the 17th century, Siam started diplomatic and commercial relations with western countries. In 1767, a Burmese invasion succeeded in capturing Ayutthaya. Despite their overwhelming victory, the Burmese did not retain control of Siam for long. A young general named Phya Taksin and his followers broke through the Burmese and escaped to Chantaburi. Seven months after the fall of Ayutthaya, he and his forces sailed back to the capital and expelled the Burmese occupation garrison.
Thon Buri Period (1767-1772)
General Taksin, as he is popularly known, decided to transfer the capital from Ayutthaya to a site nearer to the sea which would facilitate foreign trade, ensure the procurement of arms, and make defense and withdrawal easier in case of a renewed Burmese attack. He established his new capital at Thon Buri on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The rule of Taksin was not an easy one. The lack of central authority since the fall of Ayutthaya led to the rapid disintegration of the kingdom, and Taksin’s reign was spent reuniting the provinces.
Rattanakosin Period (1782 – the Present)
After Taksin’s death, General Chakri became the first king of the Chakri Dynasty, Rama I, ruling from 1782 to 1809. His first action as king was to transfer the royal capital across the river from Thon Buri to Bangkok and build the Grand Palace. Rama II (1809-1824) continued the restoration begun by his predecessor. King Nang Klao, Rama III (1824-1851) reopened relations with Western nations and developed trade with China. King Mongkut, Rama IV, (1851-1868) of “The King and I” concluded treaties with European countries, avoided colonialisation and established modern Thailand. He made many social and economic reforms during his reign.
King Chulalongkorn, Rama V (1869-1910) continued his father’s tradition of reform, abolishing slavery and improving the public welfare and administrative system. Compulsory education and other educational reforms were introduced by King Vajiravudh, Rama VI (1910-1925). During the reign of King Prajadhipok, (1925-1935), Thailand changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. The king abdicated in 1933 and was succeeded by his nephew, King Ananda Mahidol (1935-1946). The country’s name was changed from Siam to Thailand with the advent of a democratic government in 1939. Our present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is King Rama IX of the Chakri Dynasty.
Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles” for a reason: The people will usually forgive simple infractions of Thai etiquette anyway.
Don’t point your feet: Pointing your feet at someone, raising your feet higher than someone’s head, or simply putting your feet onto a desk or chair is considered extremely rude in Thailand. On that same note, avoid pointing your feet at Buddha statues as well. To follow strict Thailand etiquette, you should not cross your legs when sitting on the ground.
Don’t touch someone’s head: While the feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest parts of the body, the head is considered the most sacred. Never touch someone’s head or hair; this includes playfully ruffling a child’s hair. Avoid stepping over people who are sitting or sleeping on the ground.
Don’t point: Pointing at someone is considered rude in many cultures, but particularly so in Thailand. If you must indicate someone, do so by lifting your chin in their direction. When motioning for someone to come over, wave your hand with fingers straight and palm down. Pointing as inanimate objects and animals is usually acceptable.
Don’t lose your cool: Shouting, blowing your top, or displaying strong emotions is frowned upon in Thailand, where the rules of saving face apply. Keep your cool even when your bus breaks down; otherwise, innocent bystanders who witness your rage will actually become embarrassed for you.
Don’t disrespect the King: The King of Thailand is the world’s oldest monarch and the Thai people love him dearly. Never disrespect the king or images of the king, this includes currency. Openly disrespecting the king can mean imprisonment with an option for the death penalty!
Remove your shoes: As in many Asian cultures, removing your shoes before your enter a temple or someone’s home is essential. Some businesses, restaurants, and shops also ask that you remove your shoes. If unsure, just look to see if there is a pile of shoes at the entrance, or check to see if the staff are wearing shoes.
Return a Wai: The Wai is Thailand’s prayer-like gesture with the hands together in front and head slightly bowed. To not return a wai is considered impolite; only the king and monks do not have to return wais. Never attempt a wai while holding something. Read more about how to say hello in Thai.
Use your right hand: The left hand is considered dirty, as it is sometimes used for ‘functions’ in the squat toilet. Always use your right hand to pass objects and when paying. Touch your left hand to your right forearm if you wish to show extra respect.
Eat with a spoon: The proper way to delicious Thai food is with the spoon in your right hand and fork in your left. Use the fork to rake food onto your spoon; the fork never goes into the mouth. Chopsticks are usually only used for noodle dishes and treats such as spring rolls. See how to use chopsticks.
Show respect to monks: You will encounter many monks in places such as Chiang Mai; treat them with respect. When greeting a monk, monks receive a higher wai than ordinary people; monks do not have to return your gesture. Women should never touch a monk, brush a monk’s robes, or hand something to a monk. Monks should be allowed to eat first at ceremonies and gatherings. Read more about etiquette for visiting Buddhist temples.
Smile: The Thai smile is famous, essential to Thailand etiquette, and Thais show it whenever they can. Always return someone’s smile. Smiles are used during negotiation, in apology, to relax whenever something goes not as planned, and just in everyday life.
Violent crimes against tourists are so rare in Thailand that they make international news. Most crimes are petty such as pick-pocketing, credit card fraud and bag snatching. Even these do not pose a serious problem with a vast majority of the visitors. When possible, secure your valuables in the hotel safe. Remember to record your traveler cheque’s numbers and credit card information, just in case.
Pickpockets are not common but they do exist. Take the usual precautions with wallets, purses, and day packs. Do not “flash your cash”, be discreet when opening your wallet/purse to pay for something. You can learn a lot by watching Thai people, they are often very discreet when reaching for their cash, almost to the point of being secretive. Splitting up your money can be a good idea. Carry a small amount of instant access cash in your preferred receptacle, and carry the balance (along with your credit cards), in a more secure place (money belt, hidden pocket, in your shoes, etc).
It is required by Thai law that Thai citizens AND all visitors MUST carry proper identification at all times. This must be presented upon demand by a Police Officer or other legitimate Government Official.
Where Are You?: Always be aware of your surroundings, and be mindful of how you would describe your exact location in an emergency situation. Make a note of the Thai Tourist Police generic phone number which is 1155 and add it to your cell phone speed dial list. The Thai Tourist Police is a special arm of the National Royal Thai Police and specifically trained to deal with common situations involving a non-resident tourist. Many speak basic and passable English.
Some drug problems have been reported on trains and buses but guide books tend to overplay these rare occurrences. It is, however, prudent to refuse candy and drinks from strangers and caution is advised when approached by over-friendly touts. A good general rule of the thumb is to consider why a complete stranger suddenly approaches you and starts a probing conversation then they are probably not just being inquisitive and are after information on you so they can use this to “press the buttons” that get you spending.
Solo women travelers should avoid beaches at night and take general precautions to ensure that they are not left exposed to attack.
If you are confronted with any situation where trustworthy assistance is not close at hand, just dial 1155.
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