Thailand, once called Siam, occupies an area of 518,000 square kilometres (about
the same size as France). The Kingdom has a population of some 60 million
people, of whom over ten percent live in the capital city, Bangkok.
Over 95 percent of the population are Buddhist, with Muslim, Christian, Hindu and animist minorities. Their national language is Thai, although many speak local and Chinese dialects. English is also widely spoken, especially in cities and towns. Thailand shares borders with Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Cambodia. THAI's international gateways: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Hat Yai.
Thailand's climate is tropical, with three main seasons:
Hot: March to June
Rainy (monsoon): July to October
Cool: November to February.
Average temperatures range from 20-35C. The weather is always cooler in northern and forested hill regions.
Most nationalities do not need prearranged visa, this being granted on arrival for a stay of up to 30 days. other nationalities can obtain a 15-day visa on arrival (two photos needed). For a longer stay of up to 60 days, a tourist visa can be obtained in advance from overseas Thai diplomatic missions and embassies.
Duty-free allowance for visitors is 200 cigarettes and one litre of wine or spirits. Import of weapons or pornography is forbidden. Penalties for attempted smuggling of drugs are very severe. Any amount of travellers cheques or drafts may be imported, but cash in excess of US$ 10,000 must be declared on arrival. Not more than 50,000 Baht may be exported in cash. Antiques and Buddha images require export licences, applied for at Bangkok Department of Fine Arts.
Certificates of inoculation for cholera or yellow fever are only required if arriving from an infected area. Some border areas of Thailand are malarial, so appropriate precautions should be taken. Bangkok, major cities and resorts have excellent medical facilities and most hotels have doctors on 24-hour call. Do not drink tap water. Purified bottled water is available everywhere.
In Bangkok, THAI operates a reliable airport/city transfer service. An air-conditioned limousine costs between B500 and B650 depending on model, to any city destination. A regular free shuttle bus operates between Bangkok's International and Domestic air terminals. A THAI limousine from Bangkok Airport to Pattaya costs B1,500 one-way. THAI also operates a bus service, daily, from the airport to Pattaya, fare is B200. In Bangkok a multiroute Airport Bus service operates to key points in the city centre, fare B70. All airports have free baggage trolleys. Airport departure tax: B500 for international flights, B30 for domestic.
Currency, Credit Cards & Tipping Click Here For Currency Exchange
Thai currency is the Baht, divided into 10O Satang. Notes are in denominations of Bl,000, B500, B100, B50, B20 and B1O. Coins are of B1O, B5, B1 and S50, S25. Cash and travellers cheques can be exchanged freely, with banks or money changers giving better rates than hotels. Major international credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and shops.
Tipping is widely practised. In restaurants give 10% if service charge is not included. Hall porters and bag boys BI1O-20. Taxis are not tipped.
Travelling In Thailand
THAI operates regular domestic flights to all major cities and towns throughout the country. Thailand's rail services are efficient, with overnight sleepers available on trunk routes.
Self-drive or chauffeur-driven cars are available, with leading car rental companies having desks at main airports. Self-drive is not recommended in Bangkok, but is a good way to explore upcountry areas. An international driving licence is required, although most agencies accept American, EU or Australian national licences. Driving is on the left.
Getting Around Bangkok
Most hotels operate reliable limousine services, but these are more expensive than public taxis, which are numerous at all times of day. Use only those with rooftop 'taxi meter' sign, and ensure that the meter is switched on before you start. Take a hotel card, with name in Thai, to assist return journey. Tuk-tuks (three-wheel mini taxis) are cheaper, but must be bargained for in advance and drivers do not usually speak much English. Bangkok has a new skytrain system serving key central areas and comprehensive public bus service throughout the city.
Thailand time is GMT + 7 hours.
Electric current is usually 220 volts A/C (50 cycles). Various plug sockets are in use; better hotels supply adaptors and transformers for 110V equipment.
Government offices work a five day week, Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm., except public holidays. Business offices usually open and close half an hour later than these times and some work Saturday mornings. Banks open Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3.30pm.
Bargaining is widely practised, except in department stores and up-market shops where prices are usually fixed. Be cautious when buying jewellery, insisting on a guarantee of quality and fully descriptive receipt, in case of subsequent claim. Visitors are strongly advised not to accept the services of shopping touts who may approach them in the streets. The shops to which you are directed will pay the touts a hefty commission, which will be included in the price you pay.