Thailand General Information
There is a lot of useful information and helpful tips presented here, worth a read.
Click here for information on visas for Thailand.
Documents and Money
You should make photocopies of your passport and birth certificate. You could make copies of your international drivers license, vaccination and Insurance papers. Keep the copies in a different place than your originals.
You could also list of serial numbers of your travelers checks, air tickets, emergency phone, fax numbers and e-mails for your home and family. Write down the contact information for your embassy or consul. Here is a list of embassies.
Credit cards, travelers checks, US Dollars in good condition and Euros are accepted in Thailand.
Banks and Currency Exchanges: Bank currency exchange booths are normally open seven days a week, 8 am to 8 pm or later, as are most shops and attractions! Actual banks are open 8.30 am to 3.30 pm Monday to Friday. Use a bank currency exchange booth instead of a booth that simply says "Exchange" as you will get a better rate.
Safeguarding your documents
Thievery is not a huge problem in Thailand, but does exist. Common sense safeguards, like you would use at home, is usually all you need to follow. A very popular place to leave them is hanging off the back of a chair. Look before you leave.
Seal your valuables in a number of smaller envelopes. Use tape in addition to sealing the envelope with the envelope's glue. It is nearly impossible to break this seal. This system is fairly foolproof.
If you are traveling with a partner, keep your own travelers checks. Don’t put all of them together.
In the Arrivals Hall of Don Muang International Airport there is a TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) which offers tourist information and a Thai Hotel Federation office for hotels. The standard, choice and quality of Hotels are first / world class and great value for money. 'Taxi Meter' taxis into the city cost about B300+ per car, 24 hours a day. The Airport Bus costs B70 per person 5 am to 11 pm. Only a couple of the budget airlines uses this airport now.
Here's info on the Suvarnabumi International Airport. Be aware that there are many "black taxis", meaning illegal taxis. You will likely be approached by various people as you exit the main terminal asking if you want a taxi. They are mostly operating illegally AND they are more expensive in many cases than the commissioned operators. Go to a proper taxi stand instead.
Clothing: This is your holiday so you should travel as comfortably as possible. Quality clothing may be bought cheaply. Bring a few changes of clothes and buy more on arrival. It is important in Thailand to be conservative in your dress and manner. The Thais are an extremely modest people and are very pleased when you respect their customs. Only in tourist areas are short-sleeved t-shirts and long shorts (not tight cycling shorts) just about acceptable. Ladies should wear a bra. Have one outfit that looks smart in case you are invited to someone's home.
Swim wear: Topless or nude sunbathing or swimming is absolutely not acceptable. A one piece swimsuit for ladies would be considered more polite, and in the countryside the visitor should swim fully clothed. Please respect our Thai customs!
Solo women travelers should have no problems; apply the same code of common sense as at home. It is easy to travel alone and can be more rewarding as you will probably meet more local people!
Toilets in Thailand are western style and squat style. Water is supplied rather than toilet paper as it is more hygienic. If you want to use paper, do not throw it into the toilet, but into the waste basket provided otherwise you will block the plumbing. Take care of your valuables and ensure that they don't fall down the toilet!! Don't forget your valuables in the toilet.
Toiletries: It is possible to buy toiletries and other western items in Thailand so buy them when you get here, they cost the same as at home. Insect repellent should be bought on arrival.
Bed linen: Most Guest Houses do not supply top sheets so bring a sheet bag for your own comfort.
Language: Speak slowly and clearly so that you can be understood. Learn to speak some Thai, buy a phrase book which has Thai script, and bring a smile to someone's face.
Your feet: Never point your foot. Never pick up anything with your toes. Never walk over food. Don't forget to take your shoes off in a Thai house or in a temple. The head is the highest part of the body, so resist the temptation to tousle a person's hair, do not point with your feet at a Buddha image. In a temple sit with your feet pointing away from the Buddha, do not sit cross-legged. Do not stand over a monk and ladies must not touch a monk or pass anything to him directly.
In the big cities such as Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai, western customs are well-known and widely accepted. In rural areas and upcountry, traditional customs and social behavior are still used. Here are a few customs to keep in mind.
Thais greet each other with a 'wai', a prayer-like, palms-together gesture, not a handshake. Generally, a younger person "wais" an elder or senior person first, who will then return the gesture. Even though most Thais are familiar with the Western handshake, a ‘wai’ is always appreciated.
Thais regard the head as the highest part of the body, literally and figuratively. Don't touch Thais on the head, even playfully. If you accidentally touch someone's head, offer an apology immediately.
Similarly, the foot is considered the lowest part of the body. Don't use your feet to point at either people or objects. Don't touch anyone with your feet. Don't rest your feet on tables or chairs. Don't step over people – always walk around or politely ask them to move. When sitting on the floor, try to tuck your feet underneath and to the side so they’re not pointing at anyone.
When handing objects to people, use both hands or the right hand only. Do not slide or toss objects across the room. Get up and pass them in person, no matter how inconvenient this may seem.
Public displays of affection are frowned upon. Some Thai couples may be seen holding hands, but this is the extent of public affection in polite society. Kissing in public is not acceptable behavior.
In Thai society, losing your temper or even speaking loudly is a sign of poor breeding. Keeping or saving 'face' is of paramount importance. Never raise your voice or show anger, it will get you nowhere. Keeping cool, hiding your emotions, and smiling is far more productive.
Warning: Be careful of touts and taxis who try to take you to buy gems and silk of low quality at inflated prices. When traveling by taxi, be clear about where you want to go, some taxis get a commission so they may try to persuade you to go to a place other than your original destination.
Thailand is a very modern and efficient country, we know you will be very pleasantly surprised at the ease with which you can travel and generally enjoy your holiday, this is one of the fastest developing country in South East Asia. Health and dental care is excellent and inexpensive. You will find first class spotlessly clean hospitals with internationally trained doctors, new sterile needles are standard, all medicines are available and patients are treated to exceptional care and attention!
For information on Dengue Fever, see this World Health Organization page.
Keep in mind that these "authorities" said that there would be as many deaths from disease after the tsunami than those that died due to the tsunami. That didn't happen at all. The Thai government, NGOs, locals and expats provided mountains of water bottles, tons of food and shelter within hours of the disaster.
Malaria is rare in southern Thailand, but it does exist. Dengue Fever is a minor threat. Common sense goes a long way here. Put bug repellent on during the twilight hours. The accommodations that Paddle Asia uses all offer either mosquito netting or screened windows.
Please let us know if there are any other tips you would like us to include in this page which you would have found useful traveling in Thailand.
If you're coming from the UK, check out this adventure travel insurance.
Without a doubt, one of the most dangerous things you could possibly do in Thailand is rent a motorcycle. Traffic laws are loosely enforced and locals regularly run red lights and turn without looking first.
Plus, as a foreigner if you have an accident it's most likely your fault, not always of course, but most likely.
Car rental agencies all say that they have insurance for the car, but in reality not all of them do. If you have an accident with a local, it's your fault. You will likely have to pay for the repairs on your vehicle and on the other person's as well.
The Thai Royal Family
The King and Queen of Thailand are revered for their great wisdom and for being 'in touch' with their subjects. Most of the projects in Thailand that help the poor and to protect Nature are initiated by the Royal Family.
No disrespect should be shown them, so, for example, if you drop a coin, do not step on it. It has the King’s face on one side.
Negative remarks about the monarchy are considered lese majeste. This is a crime which carries severe punishment in Thailand. This applies to His Majesty the King of Thailand and the entire Royal Family.
The National Anthem is usually played at 8:00 AM, 6:00 PM daily and before cinema movies, theatre performances or sports events. You should stand respectfully and stop doing whatever you were doing when you hear the National Anthem. Just watch what the locals do and copy them. Some places don't stop what they're doing.
It's best not to insult the Buddhist religion or any other religion in any way. It is a criminal offence to insult Buddhism in Thailand. This means you should conduct yourself properly in temples or any location containing religious images.
All Buddha images, large or small, are considered sacred. Don't climb atop or pose for photos in front of images of the Buddha!
Always dress neatly in temples – shorts and sleeveless shirts are considered inappropriate. Even if no one tells you that you can't enter a temple because of your dress, you should take care not to enter if you are not dressed like the Thais you see entering the temple. You should not wear shoes inside a temple. It is acceptable to wear shoes in the temple compound.
Monks are forbidden to touch or be touched by a woman. A woman wishing to present something to a monk or novice should first place it on a piece of cloth, this can then be retrieved by the monk.
In a Muslim mosque, men should wear hats and women should be well-covered with slacks or a long skirt, a long-sleeved blouse buttoned to the neck, and a head-scarf.
Basically, watch what the locals are doing and imitate them.
The standard electricity supply in Thailand is 220V, 50 cycles. Electricity sockets are usually of the flat or round two-pin type but there is a trend towards earthed three-pin outlets in many modern buildings.
Adapters and voltage converters for any international plug type are available at hardware stores and most department stores.
Emergency telephone numbers
Other useful addresses and telephone numbers
National Museum Division
Tourist Information Counter
Tourist Assistance Center
Bangkok International Airport
Bangkok Domestic Airport
Thai Airways International
Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lamphong)
Northern & Northeastern Bus Terminal
Southern Bus Terminal
Eastern Bus Terminal
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