Thailand Travel Tips

Before leaving on your Thailand tour, we suggest you to make two copies of your passport identification page. This will facilitate replacement if your passport is lost or stolen. Leave one copy at home with friends or relatives. Bring the other one with you with a passport-size photo, but keep it in a separate place from your passport. Leave a copy of your tour itinerary and contact information with family or friends at home so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.

Visa and Passport
Passport holders of the countries listed below are not required to obtain a visa when entering Thailand for tourism purposes and will be permitted to stay in Thailand for a period not exceeding 30 days on each visit. If such foreigners enter Thailand at immigration checkpoints, which border neighbouring countries (overland crossing), they will be allowed to stay for 15 days each time. The exemption to this is Malaysian nationals crossing overland from Malaysia who are granted a period of stay not exceeding 30 days each time.The following countries who enter via a land crossing or enter via an airport will be entitled to a 30 day visa exemption , UK, U.S.A, Canada, Italy, Germany, Japan, France. Foreigners who enter Thailand under the Tourist Visa Exemption category and would like to leave and re-enter may only stay for a cumulative duration, which does not exceed 90 days and is within a 6-month period from the date of first entry. (Passport or travel document must be valid for at least 6 months after the date of first entry). Foreigners entering Thailand under the Tourist Visa Exemption category must provide proof of adequate finances for the duration of stay in Thailand at the port of entry (i.e., traveller’s cheque or cash equivalent to 10,000 Baht per person and 20,000 Baht per family). Foreigners entering Thailand by any means under the Tourist Visa Exemption category are required at the port of entry to have proof of onward travel (confirmed air, train, bus or boat tickets) to leave Thailand within 30 days of the arrival date (otherwise a tourist visa must be obtained).

There are three main seasons in most of Thailand: rainy, caused by the southwest monsoon (the least predictable, but roughly May–Oct); cool (Nov–Feb; felt most distinctly in the far north, but hardly at all in the south); and hot (March–May). The Gulf coast’s climate is slightly different: it suffers less from the southwest monsoon, but is then hit by the northeast monsoon, making November its rainiest month.

Mains electricity is supplied at 220 volts AC and is available at all but the most remote villages and basic beach huts. Where electricity is supplied by generators and/or solar power, for example on the smaller, less populated islands, it is often rationed to evenings only. If you’re packing phone and camera chargers, a hair dryer, laptop or other appliance, you’ll need to take a set of travel-plug adapters with you as several plug types are commonly in use, most usually with two round pins, but also with two flat-blade pins, and sometimes with both options.

Internet access is very widespread and very cheap in Thailand. You’ll find traveller-oriented internet cafés in every touristed town and resort in the country – there are at least twenty in the Banglamphu district of Bangkok, for example. In untouristed neighbourhoods throughout the country you can always check your email at the ubiquitous online games centres, favourite after-school haunts that are easily spotted from the piles of schoolboy pumps outside the door. Competition keeps prices low: upcountry you could expect to pay as little as B20 per hour, while rates in tourist centres average B1 per minute.
Increasing numbers of hotels, especially in Bangkok, offer wi-fi in all or parts of their establishment; all upmarket hotels have it, though rates are sometimes astronomical. Plenty of cafés, restaurants, bars and other locations across the country provide wi-fi, which is usually free to customers.

Money, Banks, ATMs, Cards

Thailand’s unit of currency is the baht (abbreviated to “B”), divided into 100 satang – which are rarely seen these days. Coins come in B1 (silver), B2 (golden), B5 (silver) and B10 (mostly golden, encircled by a silver ring) denominations, notes in B20, B50, B100, B500 and B1000 denominations, inscribed with Western as well as Thai numerals, and generally increasing in size according to value.

At the time of writing, exchange rates were around B30 to US$1, B45 to €1 and B50 to £1. Note that Thailand has no black market in foreign currency.

Banking hours are Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 3.30 or 4.30pm, but exchange kiosks in the main tourist centres are always open till at least 5pm, sometimes 10pm, and upmarket hotels change money (at poor rates) 24 hours a day. The Suvarnabhumi Airport exchange counters also operate 24 hours, while exchange kiosks at overseas airports with flights to Thailand usually keep Thai currency.
Sterling and US dollar travellers’ cheques are accepted by banks and exchange booths in every sizeable Thai town, and most places also deal in a variety of other currencies; everyone offers better rates for cheques than for straight cash. Generally, a total of B33 in commission and duty is charged per cheque – though kiosks and hotels in isolated places may charge extra – so you’ll save money if you deal in larger cheque denominations. Note that Scottish and Northern Irish sterling notes may not be accepted in some places.
American Express, Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards are accepted at top hotels as well as in some posh restaurants, department stores, tourist shops and travel agents, but surcharging of up to seven percent is rife, and theft and forgery are major industries – try not to let the card out of your sight, always demand any carbon copies, and never leave cards in baggage storage. With a debit or credit card and personal identification number (PIN), you can also withdraw cash from hundreds of 24-hour ATMs around the country. Almost every town now has at least one bank with an ATM that accepts overseas cards (all the banks marked on our maps throughout the Guide have ATMs), and there are a growing number of stand-alone ATMs in supermarkets. However, Thai banks now make a charge of B150 per ATM withdrawal (on top of whatever your bank at home will be charging you); to get around this, go into a bank with your card and passport instead and ask for a cash advance.

Opening hours and public holidays
Most shops open long hours, usually Monday to Saturday from about 8am to 8pm, while department stores operate daily from around 10am to 9pm. Private office hours are generally Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm and Saturday 8am to noon, though in tourist areas these hours are longer, with weekends worked like any other day. Government offices work Monday to Friday 8.30am to noon and 1 to 4.30pm, and national museums tend to stick to these hours too, but some close on Mondays and Tuesdays rather than at weekends. Temples generally open their gates every day from dawn to dusk.
Many tourists only register national holidays because trains and buses suddenly get extraordinarily crowded: although government offices shut on these days, most shops and tourist-oriented businesses carry on regardless, and TAT branches continue to dispense information. (Bank holidays vary slightly from the government office holidays given below: banks close on May 1 and July 1, but not for the Royal Ploughing Ceremony nor for Khao Pansa.) Some national holidays are celebrated with theatrical festivals. The only time an inconvenient number of shops, restaurants and hotels do close is during Chinese New Year, which, though not marked as an official national holiday, brings many businesses to a standstill for several days in late January or February. You’ll notice it particularly in the south, where most service industries are Chinese-managed.
Thais use both the Western Gregorian calendar and a Buddhist calendar – the Buddha is said to have died (or entered Nirvana) in the year 543 BC, so Thai dates start from that point: thus 2013 AD becomes 2556 BE (Buddhist Era).

National holidays
+ Jan 1 Western New Year’s Day
+ Feb (day of full moon) Makha Puja. Commemorates the Buddha preaching to a spontaneously assembled crowd of 1250.
+ April 6 Chakri Day. The founding of the Chakri dynasty.
+ April (usually 13–15) Songkhran. Thai New Year.
+ May 5 Coronation Day
+ May (early in the month) Royal Ploughing Ceremony. Marks the start of the rice-planting season.
+ May (day of full moon) Visakha Puja. The holiest of all Buddhist holidays, which celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha.
+ July (day of full moon) Asanha Puja. The anniversary of the Buddha’s first sermon.
+ July (day after Asanha Puja) Khao Pansa. The start of the annual three-month Buddhist rains retreat, when new monks are ordained.
+ Aug 12 Queen’s birthday and Mothers’ Day
+ Oct 23 Chulalongkorn Day. The anniversary of Rama V’s death.
+ Dec 5 King’s birthday and Fathers’ Day. Also now celebrated as National Day (instead of Constitution Day).
+ Dec 10 Constitution Day
+ Dec 31 Western New Year’s Eve

Most foreign mobile-phone networks have links with Thai networks but you might want to check on roaming rates, which are often exorbitant, before you leave home. To get round this, most travellers purchase a Thai pre-paid SIM card – 1-2-Call is the biggest network with the best coverage – for their mobile phone (moe thoe). Available for as little as B50 (sometimes free at airports, for example with True Move) and refillable at 7-Elevens around the country, they offer very cheap calls, both domestically and internationally (especially if you use low-cost international prefixes such as 1-2-Call’s “005” or “009”). They also offer very cheap texting and are free of charge for all incoming calls; mobile internet and wi-fi packages are also generally available.

Thailand is in the same time zone year-round, with no daylight savings period. It’s five hours ahead of South Africa, seven hours ahead of GMT, twelve hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time, three hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time and five hours behind New Zealand Standard Time.

It is usual to tip hotel bellboys and porters B20–40, and to round up taxi fares to the nearest B10. Most guides, drivers, masseurs, waiters and maids also depend on tips, and although some upmarket hotels and restaurants will add an automatic ten percent service charge to your bill, this is not always shared out.