Thailand has been described as the ‘Country of a Thousand Smiles’; make sure you join them! It has fabulous beaches, great natural scenery, cuisine that has begun to conquer the world as well as rich history and culture. There are plenty of internal flights for those wishing to get to different parts of the Country quickly but if you have plenty of time then take it and enjoy the experience every day.
The Region as a whole, widely known as Indo China, is a region of contrasts and similarities. Each country within Indo China has internal variations but many things are common across the whole region. Come for a Thailand holidaywith an open mind and you will leave with it filled full of wonderful memories.
When is the Best Time to Visit?
It is important to read a Thailand Travel Guide. Rainy season between July and October is perhaps low season although it has to be said that the rain in nowhere near constant and actually temperatures drop after it finishes. It can be very pleasant. The seasons are fairly similar throughout the Country though in the southern part there is no real winter.
• Central and Eastern Thailand. Summer’s hot weather begins in February with temperatures touching 40C at times. The rains can usually begin in May and might last right around until October. Winter does not really involve too many days that can actually be described as cold. Those visiting the eastern resorts are probably best to travel there any time from the calendar year end until May.
• North and North East have similar seasons to the central part of Thailand though winters tend to be somewhat cooler, especially in the mountainous regions. However it is dry and the flowers are in bloom so arguably this is the time to see this area of Thailand.
• South is slightly different. Mid November until April will be dry but after that the monsoons arrive and can last right round to the dry season. The islands can even be inaccessible at times during this period because of the rains. There may be a slight difference between the two coastlines; east of the peninsula December to June are the peak periods while the Gulf of Thailand is more viable throughout the year.
The important thing to remember on entry and exit from Thailand is that the authorities take a very dim view of anyone that is looking to smuggle prohibited items. Drugs top the list and get the majority of the publicity but tourists should not have any form of weaponry, pornography or anything that is likely to offend Thailand, its royalty, religion or people.
Tourists coming for Thailand tours should not attempt to take religious symbols out of the country nor bring offensive ones in.
Fairly standard alcohol and tobacco allowances apply and purchases to a specified value.
The Thai language is tonal and not easy to learn quickly. However locals will be happy when a visitor attempts a few words. There are regional dialects which reflect the influence of the origins of many of the people; Malay in the south and Cantonese in the north as typical examples.
Tourists can expect to see English written below Thai on many signs though few Thais will speak the language, certainly not outside the popular tourist areas.
The currency of Thailand is the baht in note and coin form. The most useful notes are the 20, 50 and 100 though there are 500 and 1000 as well. They are in different colors which helps in avoiding mistakes. The most common counterfeits are the 1000 incidentally. Please note that the baht is also a measurement of weight so be careful to avoid confusion if you are contemplating buying gold because a baht’s worth of gold costs several thousand baht (currency). The exchange rate is around 35 to the US$.
ATMs are fairly common in large towns, tourist areas and cities. Debit cards are actually likely to get a better rate of exchange that that given at currency exchanges. In remote areas travelers’ checks are useful because there may be no banks or ATMs. Small denominations of currency or checks are best in all cases during Thailand travel.
The problem of using a credit card for purchases is that there are times when they have no got the security of PIN number and therefore fraud is much easier so use your discretion about where and when you want to use your credit card.
Shopping is a major reason visitors enjoy a Thailand holiday with silk, leather, precious metals and stones high on the list. Local crafts make great souvenirs as well. Thailand is still relatively cheap but not as much as it used to be, especially in Bangkok. Tourists are likely to find they will pay much more than locals; one way to learn about the real price is to go to a local market just to observe things.
Night markets are an experience in themselves and especially in Bangkok you are expected to haggle over the price. If you give the indication of having an idea of the real price you will have more success.
Banks are open, Monday to Friday, 0830 – 1530 Monday to Friday while Government Offices will stay open until 1630 though there will be a lunch hour, 1300-1400.
Commercial Offices are similar though lunch may be 1200-1300 and open half an hour longer.
Post Offices will also open on Saturdays until noon.
Shops and stores are open seven days a week, sometimes as late as 2100 with night markets open long after that. Many will stay open even on public holidays, especially in tourist areas.
There are a number of holidays in Thailand generally relating to Buddhism or royalty. Banks will observe all of them, including in tourist areas but other establishments may not observe them all. This Thailand Travel Guidewill tell you more:
• Wisakha Bucha on the full moon of the 6th lunar month (May/June) commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha. There will be candle-lit processions, candles, flowers and incense.
• Makha Bucha on the full moon of the 4th lunar month (February/March) commemorating the spontaneous gathering of people in front of Buddha.
• Asanha Bucha on the full moon of the 8th lunar month (July) commemorating Buddha’s first sermon.
• Chinese New Year. The celebrations are similar to Wisakha Bucha.
• Songkran is the Thai New Year (13th – 15th April) and definitely a fun holiday. It has evolved into a huge 3 day water fight so expect to get wet in many popular areas in the Country.
• Loy Krathong on the full moon of the 12th lunar month (November) which thanks the river goddess for life. It is a time when many locals will launch a small candle-lit ‘’boat’’, usually a banana leaf, hoping that any troubles they have may float away.
• Coronation Day is 5th May to commemorate the crowning of the current king in 1950. He is the longest serving monarch in the world because he actually took the throne in 1946.
• The King’s Birthday is 5th December and the Queen’s 12th August.
• Royal Ploughing Ceremony is an old tradition aimed at boosting the morale of farmers.
• Children’s Day is the second Saturday in January and there are many bodies who will give out presents to children on this day.
Some people arrive in Thailand and never want to leave. They have to because the Country has visa requirements. Citizens of some countries can stay for 90 days without a visa but for the majority it is 30 days if arriving by air but just14 if coming overland. There is a fine system for anyone who stays beyond the permitted period and while previously many simply left Thailand for a day then returned things have been tightened up.
Recent changes do allow extensions to be done to 30 day visas, another 30 days, at the nearest immigration office for a specified fee.
Serious examples of over-staying will lead to people being denied entry for five years or more. Reading this Thailand Travel Guide should persuade you to find out more and avoid getting into trouble in any aspect of daily life.
Dos and Don’ts
It is important that visitors on a Thailand holiday show respect to its culture and people. That very much includes all images of Buddha which are held as sacred in every case. It is important to dress modestly and respectfully when visiting temples and other religious sites. You should remove your shoes when about to enter temples, the homes of locals and even some shops.
• Eat with a spoon and use the fork to load food. The concept of food on a table is that it is shared.
• Avoid saying or doing anything that insults the Royal family or government. It is best to avoid mentioning anything political.
• Remember that it is polite when you move in front of anyone or indeed between any two to slightly lower your body
• Learn a few basic words and phrases if possible; it will be appreciated
• Smile wherever possible and avoid getting upset
• Cross your legs in front of monk when sitting on the floor
• Touch a Thai woman without her consent
• Be over affectionate in public
• Touch a Thai person’s head or hair. The head is the most important part of the body and must be treated as such.
• Put your feet on a table when seated or point with your feet in any way. The feet are the dirtiest part of the body.
• Raise your voice
• Take a Buddha image out of the Country
It makes perfect sense to photocopy all your important documents and use a security deposit box to keep things secure if you have no direct need of them. If you are staying at a fairly cheap hotel then there may be spare keys around.
Sometimes clubs require an original passport for entry so decide whether you really want to go in.
Thailand has extremely strict drug laws and a foreign passport is no answer to a problem so steer well clear.
Theft does happen. There are pickpockets in crowded and tourist places and cheap buses can be a problem; always avoid accepting a drink on an overnight bus because there have been instances of people being drugged and robbed.
Avoid getting into any conflict, especially fights with local Thai people because very soon you are likely to be outnumbered quite markedly.
The scams are more a nuisance than anything else. They tend to revolve around transport; the cost of tuk-tuks and taxis and the supposedly helpful drivers who will be earning commission to get you to specific sites, shops, hotels and restaurants. Often drivers will say a particular site is closed in order to do that when in fact it isn’t.
Likewise avoid unsolicited tours because there will be times you have little way to return to where you want to be unless you see all the shops etc. that can earn the driver money.
You should politely decline to get involved in conversation with even seemingly well-dressed and respectable people who may be trying to sell you something fairly quickly; tickets for a show, gems etc. Likewise young ladies doing questionnaires will have an ulterior motive.
There is a recent scam, often in duty free areas where people have been given what is described at the time as a gift only to find themselves accused of shoplifting. Don’t accept anything and keep receipts for everything you buy.
It is important to smile and be friendly in Thailand but there are times to simply politely decline.
There are no unreasonable restrictions placed upon tourists who show the respect they would expect to receive themselves. There is plenty of information about any behaviour that is not acceptable and tourists are expected to follow it.
It is important to embrace the country and its people and not be unduly defensive just because there are some ‘nuisance’ scams from a tiny minority of people. Thailand travel has become hugely popular and that has changed some things, especially in tourist areas. Common sense is a good guide while you enjoy all this country has to offer.
Thailand is an ideal country to visit in combination with its neighbors and there is increasing demand from tourists to do so. Hopefully this Thailand Travel Guide will have persuaded you to join them.