Thailand Travel Tips

Thailand Travel Tips

Location
For centuries known by outsiders as Siam, Thailand has been something of a south-east Asian migratory, cultural and religious crossroads. With an area of some 510,000 square kilometres, Thailand is approximately the same size as France. Thailand shares borders with Myanmar to the west and north, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the east, and Malaysia to the south.

The capital Bangkok, an attractive mixture of western and Thai architecture and living styles, was established in 1782. Local Thai people always call it, in Thai, "Krung Thep".

Time
Time in Thailand is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +7)

Topography
Thailand could be divided into four areas: the moutainous north, the fertile central plains, the semi-arid plateau of the north-east, and the peninsula south. The southern area, sandwiched between andaman sea on the west and gulf of Thailand on the east, is distinguished by its many beautiful tropical beaches and offshore islands.

Climate/weather
Until early 1990's there had been 3 distinct seasons: summer time from March through May, rainy season with plenty of sunshine from June to October and cool season from November through February.

However some people now say Thailand (and the whole south-east Asia region) has a mixture of two features: hot and rainy nearly whole year with the exception of some cool months (yes, it is still from November to February) in the high lands. The average annual temperature is 29ºC , ranging in Bangkok from 38ºC in April to 17ºC in the coldest nights of December-January.

Communications
Fax, telex and telegram and internet services are available in hotels, telegraph offices, and private shops in all cities and towns.

Clothing
Normally the tropical climate calls for washable-cotton, light and loose dresses with comfortable shoes or sandals. Nylon should be avoided. Sweaters are needed during cool season evenings or when visiting mountainous areas and remote national parks. Umbrellas are necessary during the rainy season.

Brief history
There are conflicting opinions as to the origins of Thais. One theory says that Thais originated in north-western Szechuan province in China about 4,500 years ago and later migrated south to their present land.

However the discovery of of 3500 years old prehistoric artifacts in the village of Ban Chiang in the Nong Han District of Udon Thani province in the north-east suggests that Thais might have orginated in today Thailand and later scattered to various parts of Asia, including some parts of China.

Siam is the name by which the country was known to the world until 1939 and again between 1945 and 1949. On May 11, 1949, an official proclamation changed the name of the country to "Prathet Thai" or "Thailand". The word "Thai" means "free", and therefore "Thailand" means "Land of the free."

Government and economy
Thailand adopts constitutional monarchy with power vested in a freely-elected parliament and a senate appointed by His Majesty the King. The executive branch comprises a coatition of political parties who select a prime minister who rules through a cabinet.

Thailand enjoys a free-enterprise economy. Tourism is the principal money earner, followed by agricultural produce and commodities. In the late 1980s, it embarked on an ambitious programme of industrialization. It has a well-developed telecommunications, road and power infrastructure.

But with the so-called rapid growth there are many social and cultural problems. Nonetheless, Thailand's economic development rates is seen as one of the admirable success stories of Asia.

Population and people
Thailand has a population of some 60 million in 2001. Ethnic Thais form the majority, though the area has historically been a migratory crossroads, and thus strains of Mon, Khmer, Myanmar, Lao, Malay, Indian and most strongly Chinese stock produce a degree of ethnic diversity.

Languages
Spoken and written Thai remain largely incomprehensible to the casual visitor. However, English is widely understood in hotels, shops and restaurants in major tourist destinations. Thai and English road and street signs are found nationwide.

Religions
More than 90% of the population profess their faith in Theravada Buddhism. 5% are Muslims, most of whom inhabit the southern region. The rest of the population is Christian, Hindu, Sikh and so on. Hilltribes practice animism but many tribes: Karens and Lahu fvor instance, have been converted to Christianity.

Thai embassies abroad
To know the locations and contact details of Thai embassies and consulates abroad, please go to Ministry of Foreign Affairs web site.

Health regulations
No inoculations or vaccinations are required unless you are coming from or passing through contaminated areas.

Traveling with children
Children can travel with their parents safely in Thailand. However when doing village home stay, or cheap guesthouse stay in towns, make sure the children do not get mosquito bite. Get a good mosquito net.
Sun is quite strong especially during the afternoon times of summer (February to July). Use a hat and / or apply good sun block lotion.
Do not let children wander into a long quiet side road alone. The dogs may be waiting for strangers.
Entry and exist points
Most visitors arrive through Bangkok's Don Muang International Airport which is connected by daily flights to all major airports in Asia, Europe, North America, Australia.

Flights from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Penang (Malaysia) and Hong Kong land on a regular basis at Chiangmai, Koh Samui, Phuket and Hat Yai.

Charter flights land in Bangkok, Phuket, and at U-Taphao airport near Pattaya.

Regular rail service links Singapore and Bangkok with intermediary stops at Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth, Penang and major towns in southern Thailand.

Overland entry and exist points with Malaysia
  1. Sadao district (Songkhla province) to Changlun in Malaysian
  2. Betong (Yala province) to Keroh in Malaysia
  3. Su-Ngai Golok (Narathaiwat province) to Kota Baru in Malaysia
  4. Tak Bai sub-district (Narathiwat province) to Kota Baru in Malaysia
Buses run between Hat Yai, a major city in the south, and Alor Setar in Malaysia.

Overland border check points with Cambodia
  1. Ban Hat Lek (Trat province in the east) to Kong Kaob Kont in southern Cambodia, by boat crossing sea
  2. Aranya Prathet (Sakaeo province in the east) to Poipet in Cambodia, by land
Visa on arrival to Cambodia are possible at the border immigration. Please check with the respective embassies.

Overland border check points with Laos
  1. Chong Mek (Ubon Ratchathani province in the north-east) to Vaeng Tao and Pakse in Laos, by land
  2. Mukdahan (Mukdahan province in the north-east) to Savannakhet in Laos, by ferry boat and bridge (finished in 2006) across Mekong river
  3. Nakhon Phanom (Nakhon Phanom province in the north-east) to Thakhet in Laos, by ferry boat across Mekong river
  4. Nong Khai (Nong Khai province in the north-east) to Vientiane in Laos, by bridge over Mekong river
  5. Ban Na Kraseng village of Tha Li district in Loei province to Kaen Thao district of Lao Xayabouri province, by bridge over Heung river
  6. Chiang Khong (Chiang Rai province in the north) to Huayxai in Laos, by ferry boat across Mekong river
At no. (3), (4) and (6) foreign tourists can get visa on arrival.

Overland border check points with Myanmar
  1. Ranong (Ranong province in the south) to Kaw Thaung (southern tip of Myanmar), by boat ferry crossing sea
  2. Mae Sot (Tak province in the north-west) to Mya Waddy, by a bridge over Mong river
  3. Mae Sai (Chiang Rai province in the north) to Tachileik, by a bridge over Mae Sai river
There a land check point at Sangklaburi (Kanchanaburi province) to the opposite Mon state in Myanmar. But it is possible for tourists to make day return trip only. The traveling inside Myanmar via a land check point is a complicated matter. Please consult a local travel agency in Myanmar.

There are no regular steamship connection. Cargo ships calling at Bangkok's Khlong Toei port sometimes have passenger cabin facilities. Luxury cruise ships frequently visit some sea ports in Thailand.

Transportation
(please also see "Thailand maps" that includes train routes, and "Air, land, sea transports")
Various modes of transport are available. Domestic flights fly to many cities and towns across the country. For the flight details on Thai Airways International, please check their web site. Excellent highway and road networks expend to all towns and large villages. Some villages (especially the hilltribe villages) on the hills need walking to reach.

Taking a train to travel is one good reason to closely encounter the country side. Followings are the major rail roads from Bangkok:
  • To the north: Bangkok - Ayutthaya - Lopburi - Nakhon Sawan - Phichit - Phitsanulok - Uttaradit - Lampang - Lamphun - Chiang Mai
  • To the north-east (Laos border): Bangkok - Ayutthaya - Saraburi - Nakhon Ratchasima - Khon Kaen - Udon Thani - Nong Khai (Laos border across Mekong river)
  • To the north-east: Bangkok - Ayutthaya - Saraburi - Nakhon Ratchasima - Buri ram - Surin - Si sa ket - Ubon Ratchathani
  • To the east (Cambodia border): Bangkok - Chachoen sao - Prachin buri - Sakeo - Aranyaprathet (Border with Cambodia)
  • To the east: Bangkok - Chachoen sao - Chonburi -Siracha - Pattaya - Sattahip - Rayong
  • To the west: Bangkok - Nakhon Pathom - Kanchanaburi
  • To the north-west: Bangkok - Nakhon Pathom - Suphan buri
  • To the south: Bangkok - Nakhon Pathom - Ratchaburi - Phetchaburi - Prachuap Khiri khan - Chumphon - Suratthani - (Trang) - Nakhon Sri Thammarat - Phattalung - Hat Rai - (Sadao at Malaysia border) - Yala - Sungai Kolok (Malaysia border)
Important phone numbers in Bangkok
North and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Moh-Chit-Mai): 02-936 2841-48
New Southern regular Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai): 02--435 1200, 435 5605, 434 7192
Eastern Air Conditioned Bus Terminal or (Ekemai): 02-382 2098, 391 8097
Bangkok International Airport Information: 02-535 1111
Bangkok International Airport Arrival: 02-535 1149, 535 1310
Bangkok International Airport Departure: 02-535 1254, 535 1123
Bangkok Railway Station or Hua Lam Phong: 02-223-7461, 223 7010, 223 7020
Bus Route In formation in Bangkok Metropolis: 184

Electricity
Electrical outlets are rated at 220 volts, 50 cycles.

Food and water
Contrary to popular myth, all Thai food is not fiery hot (althouth some dishes from the northeast and the south could be extremely spicy) and wonderful meals can be enjoyed without worrying about the ubiquitous chilli. The beauty of Thai cuisine is in its variety and wonderful assortment of flavours: rich curries and tangy soups, tart salads, stir-fred dishes of meats and vegetables and succulent seafood. All eaten with liberal heapings of fragarant rice.

As in any country there are wonderful regional specialities. In Chiang Mai for instance a "Khan Toke" or formal northern dinner consists of five dishes served in elegant bowls on a low lacquer table with guests sitting on the floor. And in Phuket and Pattaya fresh Lobsters and crabs are the order of the day.

The traditional ending to a Thai meal is normally fruit and here again the variety is everything from tender young pineapples and banana to the exotic tastes and textures of mango, durian and pomelo.

In most tourist destinations you will also find a commendable range of international cuisines: so you are never far from a taste of home.

It is advisedthat you drink only the bottled or boiled water.

Shopping
Thailand is a huge emporium of art and craft products. While each region has its own specialities, goods from all regions are available in big cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. You find the widest selection of goods in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

Pay street vendors in cash; shops will accept cash or credit cards. However please expect a 3 to 5% surcharge for credit cards payment. Shops can arrange packing, shipping, and documentation at reasonable prices.

Currency
The Thai baht is divided into 100 satangs. Bank note denominations include 1,000 (gray), 500 (purple), 100 (red), 50 (blue), 20 (green), and 10 (brown) baht notes.

Ten-baht coins are brass discs encircled by a silver frame. Five-baht coins are silver with copper rims. There are three silver one-baht coins but only the small one will fit in a public telephone. There are two types of 50 and 25 satang coins.

Most newspapers list daily exchange rates between Thai Baht and major world currencies. You can also check the exchange rates at Bangkok bank web site.

ATM machines are found in all cities and towns, normally close to the banks and department stores. Many of them accept major credit cards. The maximum amount that you can take out within one day vary, but it could be assumed as 20000 Thai Baht.

This page needs to be updated


Photos essays, field reports - adventure, minority culture, beautiful life & environment
Pictures & information of unique travels in - Thailand | Laos
Salawin river, Mae Hong Son province, northern Thailand
Hike & Hilltribe village homestay to Salawin river, Mae Hong Son


Thai English Translator, Editor, Teacher/tutor : Physics & Math Tutoring, Education, Rural development