Thailand Tourist Guide
Info for tourists visiting Thailand
The Kingdom of Thailand is one of the World’s top tourist destinations with wonderful attractions both on land and off the coast. Stunning beaches in the south and mountains in the north. Friendly people, a rich culture, deliciously spicy food and a tropical climate. Thailand has something for everyone.
Did you know that the full name for Bangkok is, “Krungthepmahanakhon Amornrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat Ratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphiiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.”
The English Translation is, “The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in the enourmous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated God, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.”
General Thailand Tourist Information
- Thailand is surrounded by Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. The west coast faces the Andaman Sea and the east coast faces the Gulf of Thailand.
- Thailand is the 49th largest country in the world with 513,119 sq kilometres of area.
- Thailand is a 99% Buddhist country with some Muslim provinces in the south close to Malaysia. The national religion is Theravada Buddhism.
- The main international airport in Bangkok is Suvarnabhumi Airport (pronounced Suvanabum).
- Most divers heading for a liveaboard departing Phuket or Khao Lak will head for Phuket International Airport which is approximately 1.5hours flight from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
- Domestic flights are available between major cities in Thailand with the domestic carrier Thai Air or with the rather good budget airline Air Asia. Bangkok Air, a local boutique airline also run good services in Thailand and surrounding countries.
- It is also possible to enter Thailand overland from Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia and by sea.
- Meter taxis and airport limousines are available on arrival as are shared buses.
- All travelers to Thailand require a valid passport. Many nationalities will be issued with a 30 day Visa On Arrival at the airport (15 days if travelling overland).
- Visa requirements change regularly so it’s worth checking the requirements before your trip.
- The climate in Thailand is tropical, with a mean annual temperature of 28°C and high humidity.
- It is very hot in the central and southern regions, cooler in the northern hilly areas.
- The best time to visit the west coast of Thailand is November to March when the days are mostly dry and the humidity lower. It’s t-shirt and shorts weather day and night, no need for sweaters.
- May to October is rainy season with more humid temperatures. Tropical downpours are short and sharp, clearing quickly.
- Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangnan is best from June to September.
- Check with your local GP. Vaccinations may be recommended for Thailand are Hep A and B, Cholera, Typhoid, Tetanus and Polio if you have not already had them although many tourists don’t bother and none are compulsory.
- Malaria is not normally a problem in the tourist areas but may be in more off the beaten tracks parts of the country, particularly in the Northern and Mekong regions.
- Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Samui and other big cities have full, international standard medical facilities.
- Many tourists combine a trip to Thailand with some medical treatment or dental work because the standards are high and the costs are significantly lower than the west. Plastic surgery is especially popular.
- Don’t drink the tap water in Thailand. Bottled water is readily available everywhere. Ice in drinks is normally safe.
- Despite SARS, Bird Flu, a Tsunami, a couple of military coups and other political unrest most tourists consider Thailand a very safe country to travel around in.
- Crimes of violence are rare. Slightly more common are scams and petty theft so the same common sense precautions that you would use anywhere else in the world are recommended.
- A common cause of injury in Thailand is the motorcycle accident. If you must hire one, wear a helmet and keep off the booze.
- This is a no brainer. You should have insurance. The peace of mind is worth the small outlay, especially considering the tumultuous events in Thailand’s recent past. We recommend World Nomads travel insurance which includes SCUBA diving coverage among other adventure sports.
- The Thai baht is the local currency.
- Tourist areas have currency exchanges everywhere and ATM’s are also all over the country.
- ATM’s accept overseas VISA and MASTERCARDS but most charge a small handling fee.
- Credit cards are accepted in resorts and in most large stores but cash is still king in most small stores, bars and restaurants.
- Travelers cheques can be cashed at currency exchange booths and banks.
- Duty free shopping is available at the airports.
- Tipping is not required but is becoming more common in tourist areas.
Email, Internet, Telephones and Post
- The Thailand country code is 66
- Public phones often don’t allow overseas calls, it’s better to buy a local SIM card.
- WIFI Internet is common in tourist areas.
- The postal service is generally reliable
- The time zone is GMT +7
- All levels of accommodation are available from backpacker to luxury.
- Many tourists arrive as part of all inclusive package deals and some of these deals can be excellent value but self catering seems a better option in Thailand as there are so many great restaurants everywhere.
- We can offer advise on Phuket, Khao Lak, Krabi and Phi Phi hotels. Please ask us for our recommendations.
- The electricity system is 220v (50 cycles) 2 pin plug system.
- A pretty efficient but slow bus service runs around the country. A night trip from Bangkok to Phuket takes about 12 hours.
- Budget airlines Air Asia and Nok air fly all over the country as does the national carrier Thai airways and boutique airline Bangkok airways.
Ferries and speedboats run between the many islands.
Bangkok has cheap metered taxis as well as tuk tuks.
Phuket has a few local buses but the rather unpopular tuk tuks run Phuket’s transport network like a cartel and can be pricey.
Motorbikes and cars are available to rent. It is also possible to hire cars (or tuktuks) with drivers for a day of sightseeing.
Thai’s drive on the left (most of the time). Watching the locals drive is either good fun or scary as hell depending on your disposition.
Food and Drink
- Many would say that Thai food is the best in the world, it is certainly a highlight of many tourists holiday. There are so many restaurants and road side stalls you will never be able to try it all.
- Food is fresh and healthy. In coastal areas seafood plays a big part. Fresh tropical fruits are also popular.
- Seek out local advice for the best places to go.
- Noodle soup is one of the few dishes eaten with chopsticks. Rice dishes are eaten with a spoon.
- Restaurants serving all types of international food can be found in tourist areas. Unfortunately fast food chains have also made it to Thailand.
- The local beer is Singha (pronounced Sing), Leo, or Chang. Thai beers are quite strong and taste great cold with spicy Thai food. Imported beers include Heineken, Carlesberg and Tiger.
- Wine and imported spirits are rather expensive.
- The local Sangsom whiskey is often drunk with Coke (or redbull). It tastes more like rum and carries a punch.
Public Holidays and Festivals
- There are normally 16 public holidays per year in Thailand and if they fall on a weekend the following weekday will be a public holiday.
- Bars usually close on religious holidays.
Dos and Don’ts
- The Thai’s revere Buddha and their Royal Family above all else. Never say anything even slightly derogatory about either, it could land you in jail.
- Be polite and smile. Getting angry will only make things worse in Thailand.
- Slow down and expect delays.
- Avoid touching a Thai persons head, avoid pointing your feet at Thai people.
- Drugs are illegal in Thailand. If you are caught in possession of even a tiny bit of weed you can expect at best a heavy fine, possibly jail time. You are unlikely to be offered drugs, except maybe at a Full Moon party. Never accept, the dealer will probably report your to his mate the undercover cop.
- Thai is the official language and Thai’s are not as good at English as all their Asian neighbours.
- It is easy enough to get by in tourist areas, in more rural areas it’ll be harder.
- Although there can be a language barrier, meeting the friendly local people is one of the joys of the country. Everyone will have a smile for you and smiling back will get you far.
Things to do and see:
- Water sports is a major draw including diving, snorkeling, fishing and sailing, windsurfing and swimming.
- Visit Buddhist temples in Bangkok and Ayudhya.
- Mountain trek on foot or on Elephant. It’s excellent in Northern Thailand but possible in other areas too such as Khao Sok near Khao Lak.
- Sea Canoe in Phang Nga bay is deservedly popular. Phang Nga bay is one of the world’s most beautiful areas and a kayak trip into the caves there is highly recommended.
- Rock climbing in Krabi.
- Learn Thai cooking, massage, meditation or the language.
- Chill out on the beach or by the pool.
- Get a tailor made suit.
This post is also available in: Italian