Thailand Travel Guide
The most well-known and popular travel destination in Southeast Asia, the lure of Thailand is felt by millions of tourists each year. Enticed by the sparkling beaches of the islands in the south, the enigmatic temples and hill-tribes of the north, and the neon lights of Bangkok in between, exotic Thailand has something for every traveller.
A great value-for-money holiday destination, Thailand is a favourite with both budget travellers and determined shoppers, who come to spend their baht at the many street markets, the affordable electronics shops or the infamous bars of Bangkok.
But once out of the bustling capital, the natural splendour of Thailand really shines. The limestone karst rock formations and lush rainforests of Khao Sok National Park and other nature reserves are popular spots for jungle trekking, and the crystal-clear waters around the southern beach playgrounds like Phuket, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Phi Phi are a paradise for scuba diving and watersports. Many travellers venture north to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai to see the many beautiful temples and the famous Hill-Tribes, while the even more adventurous stray off the beaten path to Isaan.
Thailand's unique culture is just as big an attraction however; hundreds of visually-stunning Buddhist temples and shrines are scattered across cities and villages, and visitors can tour the ruins of ancient cities like Ayutthaya to get a sense of the country's long history. No matter what part of the country you visit, a holiday in Thailand is an experience to be remembered for a lifetime.
Best time to visit Thailand
The weather in Thailand is divided into three seasons: the cool season (November to February), the hot season (March to May) and the rainy season (June to October). The cool season is usually considered the best time to visit Thailand, as it has the most sunshine and least rain. However, the December holidays tend to be busy and the prices inflated, so the overall best months to visit Thailand are November, January and February. Read more on Thailand's Climate and Weather.
What to see in Thailand
-See the enormous golden statues at the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
-Take in a Muay Thai match in Bangkok.
-Visit the many Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai.
What to do in Thailand
-Ride a boat through the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.
-Laze on the sunny beaches of Phuket.
-Indulge in the infamous nightlife of Bangkok.
Holiday resorts in Thailand
Thailand has many popular resorts for sun-seekers looking for the perfect beach holiday. Each resort has its own character, varying from lively nightlife to laidback and secluded, from single's heaven to family-friendly holiday. Find your perfect Thailand holiday resort here.
Getting to Thailand
Getting to Thailand is fairly easy. There are many cheap direct flights to Thailand from the UK and even more cheap indirect flights to Thailand from the UK. There are no direct flights to Thailand from the US, but many indirect flights to Thailand from major aiports in the US. Nearly all flights to Thailand arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. Get more information on Thailand Airports.
Thai Girl by Andrew Hicks and Bangkok People by James Eckardt.
Pumpuang Duangjan and Khruang Sai Orchestra.
The Beach (2000), Brokedown Palace (1999), The Hangover 2 (2011), and Anna and the King (1999).
Satho (traditional rice wine).
Khao phat (Thai-style fried rice), and Pad Thai (traditional fried noodles).
What to buy
Thai silk, precious stones, affordable local clothing, and cheap electronics.
What to pack
A padlock for your bags: leaving backpacks in hotel rooms and outside temples gives pickpockets a good opportunity to help themselves.
What's on in Thailand
The colourful Bor Sang Umbrella Festival celebrates traditional craftsmanship each January. Thailand celebrates New Year in April at Songkran. Floating candles and hot air balloons make Loy Krathong the most romantic day in November. More information on Thailand Events.
Did you know?
-Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that wasn't colonized by a Western power.
-The official ceremonial name of Bangkok is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.
-Popular energy drink Red Bull originated in Thailand and was originally called Red Guar.
A final word
Exotic and enticing, a holiday in Thailand is an unforgettable experience, promising both stunning cultural sights and a bit of fun and relaxation.
220 volts, 50Hz. Both flat and round two-pin plugs are used.
Thai is the official language, although English is widely spoken in tourist areas.
As a health precaution, travellers should take medical advice at least three weeks before travelling to Thailand. There is no malaria risk in major tourist resorts or in the cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pattaya, Ko Samui, and Ko Phangan. But in rural, forested areas that border Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Laos, preventions against malaria are recommended and immunisation against hepatitis A and typhoid fever is also advised. Yellow fever vaccination certificates are required for travellers from infected areas. There has been an increase in reported cases of dengue fever, particularly in the south, and vaccination against Japanese encephalitis is also recommended. Outbreaks of leptospirosis occur during the rainy season and after flooding. There have been outbreaks of waterborne diseases in the Provinces of Khon Kaen, Lop Buri, Phitsanulok and Prachin Buri. Outbreaks of cholera have also been reported. You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. If you suffer from diarrhoea during your visit you should seek immediate medical attention. HIV/AIDS is prevalent in the major cities and resorts. Medical facilities are good in major cities, but good medical insurance is vital - without insurance, or cash/credit card, travellers will not be treated. Bangkok has excellent international hospitals.
Tipping is not expected, but is becoming more common in places frequented by tourists. Tipping 10 to 15 percent on a restaurant bill is usual, but ultimately this is left up to the customer to decide based on service performance. Sometimes a 10 percent service charge is added to the bill at hotels and restaurants, but this is not common. All help with carrying bags, tour guides etc. welcome small tips. Taxi drivers are not generally tipped.
Although the political situation in Thailand is currently more stable than before, there have been major political demonstrations in Bangkok in recent months accompanied by outbreaks of violence. Tourists have not been targeted during the protests, but travellers are advised to avoid all political gatherings and marches and to stay well-informed about the situation in the country. Travellers should check out the official travel alerts for Thailand before visiting, and should be careful to abide by any curfews or other rules imposed by the Thai government.
There is a threat from terrorism throughout South East Asia and travellers should be particularly vigilant in public places, including tourist resorts. Avoid the border areas and don't camp in undesignated areas in national parks. The security situation in the southern provinces near the Malaysian border is unstable and travel to Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat and Songkhla is to be avoided. Violence near the Preah Vihear temple area has been recurrent and visitors are advised to avoid travel there.
Visitors to major cities are advised to secure their passports and credit cards and not carry too much money or jewellery. In Bangkok visitors should be aware of scams, often involving gems recommended by kind strangers. In tourist areas, particularly at the Full Moon Party on Ko Phan Ngan, be careful about accepting drinks from strangers as there have been reports of drinks being drugged. Incidents of sexual assault do occur and female travellers should be cautious.
The monsoon season in September and October (November to March on Koh Samui) brings about flooding in the north, northeast and central regions, causing mudslides and flash floods; visitors planning to trek in the jungle during this time should check conditions with licensed tour guides before leaving.
Public displays of affection are frowned upon. Dress is informal, although beachwear should be confined to the beach. Drugs are illegal and travellers should know that possession of even small quantities can lead to imprisonment, and that drug traffickers risk the death penalty. Avoid touching others hair or head (rubbing a child hair for example), as this is a disrespectful gesture. Taking off one's shoes when entering a home is customary, although most shops and restaurants do not always expect tourists to remove their footwear. Do not put your feet on table or chairs, as lifting a foot toward someone, especially the underside of the foot is considered a disrespectful gesture. Although haggling is common when buying items, especially at markets, Thais are generally very calm and soft spoken people. Arguing loudly or raising one's voice when haggling is deemed disrespectful in Thai culture.
Business culture in Thailand is considerably more relaxed than other Asian countries within the region. However, Thailand shares its neighbours' work ethic and value systems, as well as emphasis on hierarchy and building relationships. Senior managers must be consulted on all matters and decisions. Appearance and age are important in Thai business culture as they illustrate social standing and status. Older individuals are generally afforded a great deal of regard in Thailand. Building relationships is central to business culture in Thailand. It is ill regarded for a businessman to start negotiating before being properly acquainted with his business associates.
The concept of 'face' and saving face is important in Thailand; so if you make a mistake, don't expect it to be pointed out to you. Also, if a business associate makes a mistake, it is impolite to draw attention to it or correct them. In 2010, Thailand was the fastest growing economy in SouthEast Asia. Despite this, Thais value family time and time to actually live life. Placing family in front of business priorities is the norm.
English is the language of business in Thailand, but translators are often needed. Business hours are from 8am to 5pm or 9am to 6pm with an hour for lunch. Dress styles tend to be quite formal, but due to the humid climate, heavy suits are rare. However, meetings with senior management tend to be slightly more formal and jackets are usually worn. Men generally wear shirts, slacks and a tie while women wear below-the-knee skirts and blouses. Pants-suits for women are quite rare.
Shaking hands is not a popular form of greeting and the wai (putting cupped hands in front of oneself and bowing slightly) is more acceptable. The higher the hands compared to the face when bowing, the more respect is meant by the wai. It is customary to wai first to those older than oneself. Thais use first names rather than surnames preceded by Kuhn for both men and women. As with many Asian nations, giving gifts to business associates is generally a good idea. When receiving gifts, don't open them in front of the giver. Wait to be introduced to others, as it is an indication of rank. Often the hierarchical structures favour the elders in a group and respect must be given accordingly.
The international country dialling code for Thailand is +66. The outgoing code is 001, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 00144 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use. To dial a mobile in Thailand an 8 must precede the city code. International direct dial facilities are available throughout most of the country. Mobile phone networks cover most towns, cities and holiday resorts; operators use GSM 900, 1800 and 1900 networks. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts.
Travellers to Thailand do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 250g tobacco or equivalent amount of cigars, 1 litre of alcohol, 1 camera with 5 rolls of film or 1 movie camera with 3 rolls of 8 or 16 mm film. Goods to the value of THB 10,000 per person for non-residents with transit visas and THB 20,000 per person for holders of tourist visas are allowed. Family allowances are double the individual allowances. Prohibited items include firearms and ammunition without licenses, fireworks, and drugs. Trafficking in drugs carries the maximum penalty. Restrictions apply to meat imported from countries affected by BSE or mad cow and foot-and-mouth diseases. Antiques or objects of art and religious articles may not be exported without a license.
Entry requirements for Americans
US passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for touristic stays of up to 30 days.
Entry requirements for UK nationals
Passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. British nationals with passports endorsed 'British Citizen' do not require a visa for stays of up to 30 days. British travellers carrying passports with other endorsements should check official requirements.
Entry requirements for Canada
Canadian Passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is needed for touristic stays of up to 30 days.
Entry requirements for Australians
Australian passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for touristic stays of up to 30 days. APEC Business Travel Card holders endorsed for travel to Thailand may stay up to 90 days.
*Entry requirements for South Africans
South African passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for touristic stays of up to 30 days.
Entry requirements for New Zealanders
Passports from New Zealand must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for touristic stays of up to 30 days. Holders of APEC Business Travel Cards endorsed for travel to Thailand may stay up to 90 days.
Entry requirements for Irish nationals
Irish passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for stays of up to 30 days.
Travellers entering Thailand are required to prove they have sufficient funds to cover the length of their stay, and are recommended to hold documentation for return/onward travel. If issued a visa prior to arrival, travellers are permitted to travel on a one-way ticket. It is highly recommended that passports are valid for six months beyond travel.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.