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Thailand

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Duangtawan Hotel Chiang Mai
Duangtawan Hotel Chiang Mai - dream vacation

132 Loykroh Road Changklan Muang, Chiang Mai

D Varee Jomtien Beach Pattaya
D Varee Jomtien Beach Pattaya - dream vacation

457 Moo 12, Soi 13-14 Jomtien Beach Road, Nongprue, Banglamung, Pattaya

Thailand (ประเทศไทย), officially the Kingdom of Thailand (ราชอาณาจักรไทย), is a country in Southeast Asia with coasts on the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. It borders Myanmar (Burma) to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the southeast, and Malaysia to the south.

With great food, a tropical climate, fascinating culture and superb beaches, Thailand is a magnet for travellers the world over. It is called the "Land of Smiles".

Regions

Thailand can be conveniently divided into five geographic and cultural regions:

Cities

  • Ayutthaya — a historical city, UNESCO World Heritage Site and old capital of Siam
  • Bangkok — Thailand's bustling, frenetic capital, known among the Thai as Krung Thep
  • Chiang Mai — de facto capital of Northern Thailand and the heart of Lanna culture
  • Chiang Rai — gateway to the Golden Triangle, ethnic minorities and mountain treks
  • Kanchanaburi — home of the Bridge over the River Kwai and numerous World War II museums
  • Nakhon Ratchasima — largest city of the Isaan region
  • Pattaya — one of the main tourist destinations, known for its wild nightlife
  • Sukhothai — Thailand's first capital, still with amazing ruins
  • Surat Thani — home of the Srivijaya Empire, gateway to the Samui archipelago

Other destinations

  • Khao Sok National Park — one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in Thailand
  • Khao Yai National Park — take a night time Jeep safari spotting deer or visit the spectacular waterfalls
  • Ko Chang — once a quiet island, now undergoing major tourism development
  • Ko Lipe — small island in the middle of Tarutao National Park, with great reefs and beaches
  • Ko Pha Ngan — site of the famous Full Moon Party with miles of quiet coastline
  • Ko Samet — the nearest island beach escape from Bangkok
  • Ko Samui — comfortable, nature, and entertainment hippie mecca gone upmarket
  • Krabi Province — beach and water sports mecca in the south, includes Ao Nang, Rai Leh, Ko Phi Phi, and Ko Lanta
  • Phuket — the original Thai paradise island, now very developed but with some still beautiful beaches

Understand

Thailand is the country in Southeast Asia most visited by tourists, and for good reason. You can find almost anything here: thick jungle as green as can be, crystal blue waters that feel more like a warm bath than a swim in the ocean, and food that can curl your nose hairs while tap dancing across your taste buds. Exotic, yet safe; cheap, yet equipped with every modern amenity you need, there is something for every interest and every price bracket, from beach front backpacker bungalows to some of the best luxury hotels in the world. And despite the heavy flow of tourism, Thailand retains its quintessential identity, with a culture and history all its own and a carefree people famed for their smiles and their fun-seeking sanuk lifestyle. Many travellers come to Thailand and extend their stay well beyond their original plans and others never find a reason to leave. Whatever your cup of tea is, they know how to make it in Thailand.

This is not to say that Thailand doesn't have its downsides, including the considerable growing pains of an economy where an agricultural labourer is lucky to earn 100 baht per day while the nouveaux riches cruise past in their BMWs, Bangkok, the capital, is notorious for its traffic jams and rampant development has wrecked much of once-beautiful Pattaya and Phuket. In heavily touristed areas, some lowlifes, both Thai and farang, have made scamming tourists into an art form.

History

The earliest identifiable Thai kingdom was founded in Sukhothai in 1238, reaching its zenith under King Ramkhamhaeng in the 14th century before falling under the control of the kingdom of Ayutthaya, which ruled most of present-day Thailand and much of today's Laos and Cambodia as well, eventually also absorbing the northern kingdom of Lanna. Ayutthaya was sacked in 1767 by the Burmese, but King Taksin regrouped and founded a new capital at Thonburi. His successor, General Chakri, moved across the river to Bangkok and became King Rama I, the founding father of the Chakri dynasty that rules (constitutionally) to this day.

Known as Siam until 1939, Thailand is Southeast Asia's oldest independent country and the only never to have been colonised by a foreign power despite attempts of British occupation, and the country's inhabitants are fiercely proud of that fact. A bloodless revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy. During World War II, while Japan conquered the rest of Southeast Asia (see Pacific War), only Thailand was not conquered by the Japanese due to smart political moves. Allied with Japan during World War II, Thailand became a US ally following the conflict. Thailand was a base of US air operations during the Vietnam War. There was a communist insurgency, with little success, that only ended in 1983. After a string of military dictatorships and quickly toppled civilian prime ministers, Thailand finally stabilized into a fair approximation of a democracy and the economy boomed through tourism and industry. Above it all presided King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), the world's longest-reigning monarch and a deeply loved and respected figure of near-mythic proportions.

On December 26, 2004, an earthquake in the Indian Ocean caused a tsunami to hit Thailand's western coast, causing tremendous damage, killing thousands of people, especially at the seaside resorts.

In September 2006, a swift and bloodless military coup overthrew populist tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra's democratically-elected but widely criticized government, exposing a fault line between the urban elite that has ruled Thailand traditionally and the rural masses that supported Thaksin. Thaksin went into exile and a series of unstable governments followed, with the successors of Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party and the royalist-conservative People's Alliance for Democracy duking it out both behind the scenes and, occasionally, out in the streets, culminating in Bangkok's airports being seized and shut down for a week in Nov 2008.

A new party led by Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, won the 2011 elections, but while like Thaksin, she maintained popularity in the countryside, the South, the North, and Isaan, powerful people in the Thai military and the Bangkok establishment never accepted the legitimacy of her government, and on May 7, 2014, Thailand's Constitutional Court ordered her and her cabinet to step down. On May 22, 2014, the Thai army staged a bloodless coup, declared a nationwide curfew, and went about arresting members of Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party. The curfew was lifted on June 13, 2014, but the basic elements that have led to the conflict are still unresolved.

King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (Rama X) acceded to the throne after the death of his father in late 2016. There have been no national parliamentary elections since the military coup and effectively the same government remains in power.

Politics

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, with the king as head of state. The Thai parliament is bicameral, consisting of a senate, of which about half are directly elected with each province electing one member, and the other half being appointed by a committee, as well as a lower house which is directly elected by the people. The prime minister is the head of government, and is usually the leader of the party with the most seats in the lower house.

In practice, the king's role is largely ceremonial, with the prime minister holding the most authority in government. However, the king and the royal family are still protected by strict lèse majesté laws, which stipulates long jail terms for anybody convicted of insulting the king or any other members of the royal family.

Climate

Thailand is largely tropical. It's hot and humid all year around with temperatures in the 28-35°C range (82-95°F), a degree of relief provided only in the mountains in the far north of Thailand. The careful observer will, however, note three seasons:

  • Cool: From Nov to the end of Feb, it doesn't rain much and temperatures are at their lowest, although you will barely notice the difference in the south and will only need to pack a sweater if hiking in the northern mountains, where temperatures can fall as low as 5°C. This is the most popular time to visit and, especially around Christmas and New Year's or at Chinese New Year a few weeks later, finding flights and accommodation can be expensive and difficult.
  • Hot: From Mar-Jun, Thailand swelters in temperatures as high as 40°C (104°F) and heat indices in the 50-60°C range (122-140°F). Pleasant enough when sitting on the beach with a drink in hand, but not the best time of year to go temple-tramping in Bangkok.
  • Rainy: From Jul-Oct, although it only really gets underway in Sep, tropical monsoons hit most of the country. This doesn't mean it rains non-stop, but when it does it pours and flooding is not uncommon.

There are local variations to these general patterns. In particular, the southeast coast of Thailand (including Ko Samui) has the rains reversed, with the peak season being May-Oct and the rainy off-season in Nov-Feb.

People

Thailand's people are largely ethnically Thai, although there are significant minorities of Chinese and assimilated Thai-Chinese throughout the country, Malays in the south near the Malaysian border and hill tribes such as the Karen and the Hmong in the north of the country. Bangkok has a noticeable minority of indigenous Indians. The overwhelmingly dominant religion (95%) is Theravada Buddhism, although Confucianism, Islam, Christianity and animist faiths also jostle for position. .

Culture

Mainland Thai culture is heavily influenced by Buddhism. However, unlike the Buddhist countries of East Asia, Thailand's Buddhists follow the Therevada school, which is arguably closer to its Indian roots and places a heavier emphasis on monasticism. Thai temples known as wats, resplendent with gold and easily identifiable with their ornate, multicolored, pointy roofs are ubiquitous. Becoming an orange-robed monk for a short period, typically the three-month rainy season, is a common rite of passage for young Thai boys and men.

One pre-Buddhist tradition that still survives is the spirit house (ศาลพระภูมิ saan phraphuum), usually found at the corner of any house or business, which houses spirits so they don't enter the house and cause trouble. The grander the building, the larger the spirit house, and buildings placed in particularly unlucky spots may have very large ones. Perhaps the most famous spirit house in Thailand is the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, which protects the Erawan Hotel (now the Grand Hyatt Erawan), built in 1956 on a former execution ground, and is now one of the busiest and most popular shrines in the city. It and several other popular shrines pay homage to Hindu deities.

Some traditional arts popular in Thailand include traditional Thai dancing and music, based on religious rituals and court entertainment. There is vibrant popular music scene with morlam and lukthung not at all overshadowed by Western style pop. Famously brutal Thai boxing (muay Thai), derived from the military training of Thai warriors, is undoubtedly the country's best known indigenous sport.

In addition to the mainland Thai culture, there are many other cultures in Thailand including those of the "hill tribes" in the northern mountainous regions of Thailand (e.g., Hmong, Karen, Lisu, Lahu, Akha), the southern Muslims, and indigenous island peoples of the Andaman Sea. The ethnic Chinese population has been largely assimmilated into Thai culture, though vestiges of their Chinese heritage can still be found in Bangkok's Chinatown.

Calendar

In addition to the Gregorian calendar, Thailand also uses the Thai solar calendar, the Thai version of the Buddhist calendar, which is 543 years ahead of the common era calendar. Thus, Thai year 2560 corresponds to the Western year 2017. Thai dates in English are often written as B.E., short for "Buddhist Era".

Some Thai holidays are based on the Thai lunar calendar, so their dates change every year.

Holidays

Thailand has many holidays, mostly related to Buddhism and the monarchy. Nobody celebrates all of them, except for banks, which seem to be closed a lot.

  • Chinese New Year (ตรุษจีน). The Chinese New Year for 2017 is on 28 January and marks the start of the Year of the Rooster. It is also known as the Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year and celebrations can last for about 15 days. Chinese Thais, who are numerous in Bangkok, celebrate by cleaning their houses and offering food to their ancestors. This is mainly a time of abundant feasting. Visit Bangkok's Chinatown or Yaowarat to fully embrace the festivity.
  • Makha Bucha (มาฆบูชา). Falls on the full moon of the third lunar month, which usually falls in February or March, and commemorates the spontaneous gathering of 1,250 people before the Buddha, which led to their ordination and subsequent enlightenment. At temples in Bangkok and throughout Thailand, Buddhists carry candles and walk around the main shrine three times in a clockwise direction.
  • Songkran (สงกรานต์). Undoubtedly the most fun holiday, is the celebration of the Thai New Year, sometime in April (officially 13-15 Apr, but the date varies in some locations). What started off as polite ritual to wash away the sins of the prior year has evolved into the world's largest water fight, which lasts for three full days. Water pistols and Super Soakers are advised and are on sale everywhere. The best places to participate are Chiang Mai, the Khao San Road area in Bangkok, and holiday resorts like Pattaya, Ko Samui and Phuket. Be advised that you will get very wet, this is not a spectator sport. In recent years, the water-throwing has been getting more and more unpleasant as people have started splashing iced water onto each other. It is advisable to wear dark clothing, as light colours may become transparent when wet.
  • Coronation Day. 5 May, commemorates the crowning of the current king in 1950 (although his reign actually began on 9 Jun 1946 - making him not only the longest-serving monarch in Thai history, but also the world's longest-serving current head of state).
  • Loy Krathong (ลอยกระทง). Falls on the first full moon day in the twelfth month of the lunar calendar, usually in November, when people head to rivers, lakes and even hotel swimming pools to float flower and candle-laden banana leaves (or, these days, Styrofoam) floats called krathong (กระทง). The krathong is meant as an offering to thank the river goddess who gives life to the people. Thais also believe that this is a good time to float away your bad luck and many will place a few strands of hair or finger nail clippings in the krathong. According to tradition, if you make a wish when you set down your krathong and it floats out of sight before the candle burns out, your wish will come true. Some provinces have their own version of Loy Krathong, such as Sukhothai where a spectacular show takes place. To the north, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai have their own unique tradition of launching kom or hot-air lanterns. This sight can be breath-taking as the sky is suddenly filled with lights, rivalling the full moon.
  • King's Birthday (Father's Day). 5 Dec, the King's birthday is the country's National Day and also celebrated as Father's Day, when Thais pay respect to and show their love for his majesty the king. Buildings and homes are decorated with the King's flag (yellow with his insignia in the middle) and his portrait. Government buildings, as well as commercial buildings, are decorated with lights. In Old Bangkok (Rattanakosin) in particular, around the royal palace, you will see lavish light displays on trees, buildings, and the roads. The Queen's Birthday (12 Aug) is Mother's Day, and is celebrated similarly if with a little less pomp.

Get in

Entry requirements

Ordinary passport holders of many Western and Asian countries, including most ASEAN countries, Australia, Canada, most European Union countries, Hong Kong, Japan and the United States do not need a visa if their purpose of visit is tourism. Visitors receive 30-day permits (except for citizens of Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru who get 90 days), but effective 31 Dec 2016, an exemption is granted only twice per calendar year when not arriving by air. Visitors from several countries, mostly nearby ones, but notably including Russians, still get an unlimited number of exemptions due to bilateral agreements. Thai immigration requires visitors' passports to have a minimum of 6 months validity and at least one completely blank visa page remaining. Visa-on-arrival is available at certain entry points for passport holders of 21 other nations (Andorra, Bhutan, Bulgaria, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan). Check the latest information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Those with passports from countries not widely known, including European city-states, or that have problems with document forgery, should obtain a visa in advance from the nearest Thai embassy. This is true even if visa on arrival is technically permitted. There are reports of tourists being detained using valid passports not commonly presented in Thailand. In addition, ask for a business card from the person or embassy which granted the visa, so they may be contacted on arrival, if necessary. Anyone whose nationality does not have its own embassy in Bangkok, should find out which third country represents your interests there, along with local contact information.

Proof of onward travel, long happily ignored by Thai immigration, has been known to be strictly applied in some instances. Airlines, that have to pay for your return flight if immigration doesn't let you in, are more rigorous about checking for it. A print-out of an e-ticket on a budget airline is sufficient to convince the enforcers, but those planning on continuing by land may have to get a little creative. Buying a fully refundable ticket and getting it refunded once in Thailand is also an option. Land crossings, on the other hand, are a very straightforward process and no proof of onward journey required (unless the border officials decide otherwise).

Overstaying in Thailand is risky. If you make it to Immigration and are fewer than 10 days over, you'll probably be allowed out with a fine of 500 baht per day. However, if for any reason you're caught overstaying by the police you'll be carted off to the notoriously unpleasant illegal immigrant holding pens and may be blacklisted from Thailand entirely. For most people it's not worth the risk: get a legal extension or do a visa run to the nearest border instead. Now that the number of visa exemptions at land borders is limited it is even more attractive to visit an immigration office to extend your visa or visa exemption with 30 days.

Thai immigration officers at land border crossings are known to ask foreigners for bribes of about 20 baht per person before they stamp your passport. Immigration officers at airports generally do not ask for bribes.

It's controversial whether you must carry your passport with you at all times, but police are known to have tried to extort bribes for this. In some situations it has proven to be enough to carry a photocopy of the passport ID page and the page with the latest entry stamp.

By plane

The main international airports in Thailand are at Bangkok and Phuket, and both are well-served by intercontinental flights. Practically every airline that flies to Asia also flies into Bangkok, this means there are plenty of services and the competition on the routes helps to keep the ticket prices down. Be aware, Bangkok as two major airports: Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) which serves most larger carriers and is the main airport and the smaller Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) which serves primarily smaller carriers both internationally and domestically.

International airports are also located at Hat YaiKrabi, Ko Samui and Chiang Mai, though these largely restricted to flights from other Southeast Asian countries. Kuala Lumpur and Singapore make excellent places to catch flights into these smaller Thai cities, meaning you can skip the ever-present touts and queues at Bangkok.

The national carrier is the well-regarded Thai Airways, with Bangkok Airways filling in some gaps in the region. Bangkok Airways offers free Internet access while you wait for boarding to start at your gate. Thai Airways subsidiary Thai Smile (low cost carrier) has also started international operations from India. In addition, Malaysian discount carrier AirAsia has also set up a subsidiary in Thailand, and is often the cheapest option for flights into Thailand.

Chartered flights from and to Thailand from international destinations are operated by Hi Flying group. They fly to Bangkok, Phuket, Ko Samui and Udon Thani.

Many low-cost carriers serve Thailand - see Discount airlines in Asia for an up-to-date list.

For a full at-a-glance list of all Thai-based carriers, see the Thai airlines section (below).

By road

Cambodia - six international border crossings. The highway from Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor via Poipet to Aranyaprathet, once the stuff of nightmares, is now merely bad and can usually be covered in less than 3 hours. However, the queues at the Poipet crossing are infamous; the other crossing like Koh Kong / Hat Lek on the southern route from Sihanoukville to Trat are much quieter and less stressful. The land borders close for the night.

Laos - the busiest border crossing is at the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong between Nong Khai and the Lao capital Vientiane. It's also possible to cross the Mekong at Chiang Khong / Huay Xai, Nakhon Phanom / Tha Khaek, Mukdahan / Savannakhet, and elsewhere.

  • Vientiane / Udon Thani - A bus service runs from the Morning Market bus station in Vientiane to the bus station in Udon Thani. The cost is 80 baht or 22,000 kip and the journey takes two hours. The Udon Thani airport is 30 minutes by tuk-tuk from the bus station and is served by Thai Airways, Nok Air, and Air Asia.

Malaysia and Singapore - driving up is entirely possible, although not with a rented vehicle. Main crossings (with the name of the town on Malaysian side in brackets) between Thailand and Malaysia are Padang Besar (Padang Besar) and Sadao (Bukit Kayu Hitam) in Songkhla Province, Betong (Pengkalan Hulu) in Yala Province, and Sungai Kolok (Rantau Panjang) in Narathiwat Province. There are regular buses from Singapore to the southern hub of Hat Yai.

Myanmar - The border crossings with Myanmar are located at Mae Sai/Tachileik, Mae Sot/Myawaddy, the Three Pagodas Pass (Sangkhlaburi/Payathonzu) and Ranong/Kawthoung. As of 2013, the Burmese government has lifted all restrictions on foreigners entering and leaving Myanmar via the Thai border, so it is now possible to travel between Yangon and Bangkok overland. Just make sure that both your Thai (if required) and Burmese visas are in order, as no visa-on-arrival is available at the border.

As traffic moves on the left in Thailand, but moves on the right in all the neighbouring countries except Malaysia, you will generally need to change sides of the road when crossing an international border into Thailand.

By train

Thailand's sole international train service links to Butterworth (near Penang) and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, continuing all the way to Singapore. Tickets are cheap even in first class sleepers, but it can be a slow ride. What is a 2-hour flight to Singapore will take you close to 48 hours by rail, as you have to change trains twice. The luxury option is to take the Eastern & Oriental Express, a refurbished super-luxury train that runs from Singapore to Bangkok once per week, with gourmet dining, personal butler service, and every other colonial perk you can think of. However, at around USD1,000 one-way just from Bangkok to Butterworth, it is approximately 30 times more expensive than an ordinary first-class sleeper!

While you can't get to Laos or Cambodia by train, you can get very close, with rail terminals just across the border at Nong Khai (across the river from Vientiane) and Aranyaprathet (for Poipet, on the road to Siem Reap). A link across the Mekong to Laos opened in March 2009, but service to Cambodia remains on the drawing board.

There are no rail services to Myanmar, but the Thai part of the infamous Burma Death Railway is still operating near Kanchanaburi.

By ferry

It is possible now to travel by ferries in high season (Nov-May) from Phuket and island hop your way down the coast all the way to Indonesia.

This can now be done without ever touching the mainland,

Phuket (Thailand) to Penang (Malaysia), islands en route:

  • Ko Phi Phi
  • Ko Lanta
  • Ko Ngai
  • Ko Mook
  • Ko Bulon
  • Ko Lipe— Ko Lipe being the hub on the border between Thailand and Malaysia having a Thai immigration office.
  • Langkawi- Malaysian immigration here.
  • Penang

The Thai portion can be done in a day.

Ferries cross from Satun in southern Thailand to the Malaysian island of Langkawi, while over in Narathiwat Province, a vehicular ferry shuttles between Tak Bai and Pengkalan Kubur, near Kota Bharu in Malaysia's Kelantan state.

There are also occasional cruises from Malaysia and Singapore to Phuket and Bangkok, the main operator being Star Cruises, but no scheduled services.

Get around

By plane

Thailand is a large country, and if sitting in a bus for 11 hours is not your idea of a fun time, you may well want to consider domestic flights. Never terribly expensive to begin with (at least by Western standards), the deregulation of the industry has brought in a crop of new operators: with a little research, it's possible to fly pretty much anywhere in the country for less than 2,000 baht. On highly competitive routes like Bangkok / Phuket it is possible to fly for less than a bus ticket if you book in advance. Note that various taxes and (often hefty) surcharges are invariably added to advertised prices.

The airlines have moved away from routing all flights via Bangkok and offer non-stop connections between popular destinations like Chiang Mai / Phuket, Chiang Mai / Hat Yai, Phuket / Ko Samui and Phuket / Siem Reap. The budget airlines are also selling 'flights' that are actually packages combining flights with ferry and bus transfers to extend their reach to destinations without usable airports. Few airlines limit themselves to domestic operations; you are likely to find that some budget airline offers better connections to Myanmar or China. The numerous airlines and changing routes make flight price comparison websites useful as long as you buy tickets directly from the airline; you are not going to get Thai budget airline tickets cheaper through a third party.

Thai airlines

Pan-ASEAN low-cost carrier AirAsia has great coverage of international and domestic routes in Thailand and offers steeply discounted tickets if booked well in advance; however, prices rise steadily as planes fill up. It's often the cheapest option, sometimes even cheaper than bus or train, if booked at least a week or two in advance. They fly their A320s from Bangkok to a number of places domestically, as well as to Cambodia, China, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia. Recently, they started to display "all-inclusive" prices during booking (which, however, still do not include optional surcharges such as baggage fees). On-line booking is straightforward and can be done even using the mobile phone, but must be done at least twenty-four hours in advance; ticket sales at the check-in desk close one hour before the departure time.

Bangkok Airways promotes itself as "Asia's Boutique Airline", and has a monopoly on flights to its own airports at Ko Samui (now shared with Thai Airways), Sukhothai, and Trat. Quite an expensive and "posh" option; however, their Discovery Airpass with fixed per segment rates can be good value, especially if used to fly to Siem Reap, (Cambodia) or Luang Prabang, (Laos). The Discovery Airpass can only be purchased abroad.

Kan Airlines uses Chiang Mai as its hub and specializes in routes poorly served by its bigger competitors. For example, it is the only airline flying to Hua Hin.

Nok Air took to the skies in 2004 sporting lurid paint schemes with a bird's beak painted on the nose. Owned mostly by Thai Airways, they compete with Air Asia on price and, with a fairly comprehensive domestic network, are a pretty good choice overall. They've run into some serious turbulence in 2008, cutting their flights by two-thirds, but now seem to have recovered.

Orient Thai, previously One-Two-Go, is easily the dodgiest of Thailand's main carriers, flying a ragtag bunch of ancient planes with a poor safety record, including a crash in Phuket in 2007 that killed 90 people. The fleet has been grounded on and off, but as of late-2010 they're flying again. Unlike most LCCs, their ticket prices don't change much, meaning they're often the cheapest option for last-minute flights. If you're taller than about 1.80m, get an exit row seat unless you want to ride the whole flight with your knees resting against the seat in front.

Thai Airways International is the most reliable, frequent, and comfortable Thai airline, but usually more expensive than the alternatives (look for their promotions). Travel agents often sell only Thai Airways (and Bangkok Airways) tickets; you can also book on-line. Thai Airways is a member of Star Alliance; all domestic flights, except some promotional fares, give at least 500 Star Alliance miles, which may (partially) compensate the price difference.

Thai Lion Air is a budget airline started in 2013 as an offshoot of the Indonesian Lion Air. It still runs aggressive price promotions on most popular routes but you may have to fly very late or very early with inconvenient airport transfers.

Thai VietJet Air operates flights on behalf of the Vietnamese VietJet Air using Suvarnabhumi as its hub.

By train

State Railway of Thailand (SRT) has a 4,000km network covering most of the country, from Chiang Mai in the north all the way to (and beyond) the Malaysian border in the south. Compared to buses, most trains are relatively slow and prone to delays, but safer. You can pick up fruits, snacks and cooked food from vendors at most stations.

Point-to-point fares depend on the type (speed) of the train and the class of the carriage. There are three classes of service:

  • First class (chan neung) 2-berth sleeping compartments with individually regulated air conditioning are available on some trains, but prices are sometimes matched by budget airfares.
  • Second class (chan song) is a good compromise, costing about the same as 1st class buses and with a comparable level of comfort. Some 2nd class trains are air-con, others aren't; air-con costs a little more. Second class sleeper berths are comfortable and good value, with the narrower upper bunks costing a little less than the wider lower bunks. Food and WCs are basic. 2nd class Express Railcar trains have reclining seats and refreshments are included in the fare; unlike all other Thai passenger trains, they can match buses for speed, but cannot carry bicycles.
  • Third class (chan saam) is the cheapest way to travel in Thailand, with virtually nominal fares, and can be great fun. Sometimes packed with tuk-tuk drivers heading home with a sack of rice and a bottle of cheap whisky for company, as a farang (foreigner) you're guaranteed to be the centre of attention - quite enjoyable in small doses, but 10 hours of this might be a bit much. Some 3rd class trains have wooden seats, others are upholstered; some services can be pre-booked, others cannot; refreshments are available from hawkers who roam the aisles.

Tickets may be purchased on-line starting 1 February 2017 from Thairailwayticket.com. Tickets may be purchased from 60 days in advance to two hours before departure.

You can ship your motorbike on the same train on which you travel. All trains do not have baggage cars, so check with the ticket office. Shipping costs for motorbikes are roughly equivalent to the price of a first-class ticket on the same train.

Full information regarding routes, timetables and up-to-date ticket costs along with interesting videos can be found at seat61.com.

By road

Thailand's roads are head and shoulders above its neighbors Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, but driving habits are still quite dangerous. Drunk driving, speeding and reckless passing are depressingly common, and bus and taxi drivers (especially for private companies) work inhuman shifts and often take drugs to keep themselves awake, with predictable and tragic results. There are an estimated 24000 fatalities on Thai roads annually. It's common for motorbikes — even police! — to drive close to the curb on the wrong side of the road. Death tolls sky-rocket around major holidays, especially Songkhran, when bystanders often throw water on passing cars and bikes. Many drivers don't use headlights at night, multiplying risks, and it is wise to avoid or minimize overnight travel by road.

Note that unlike in its neighbours (except Malaysia), traffic moves on the left side of the road in Thailand and Thai cars are generally right-hand drive. All official road directional signs are written in both Thai and English.

Renting a car to explore on your own is a cost-effective way of getting off the beaten track, and avoids the constant hassle of haggling with local taxi/tuk-tuk drivers. Most major roads are marked in both Thai and English, and traffic culture is not as bad as some might lead you to believe. Keep a sharp lookout in both mirrors from passing traffic including 18-wheelers and scooters.

Traffic on major highways moves at 100-120 km/h, while smaller highways are generally 80 km/h. Gas stations are common and most Thai are more than willing to give directions in spite of any language barriers.

Drive very defensively at first and watch what the locals do. Of course, it helps if you are accustomed to driving on the left side of the road, which in itself could be enough to distract some Western drivers.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is both illegal and dangerous, and driving at night also increased the risk of accidents — even if you're sober, many others aren't.

If you're traveling by public conveyance-bus, train, airplane-you may be shocked at the difference in cost between long distance and local travel. A 119 km journey between Khon Kaen and Udon Thani in a minivan costs 84 baht, or 0.71 baht per kilometre. Traveling the three kilometres from the bus station to a hotel will cost 60-100 baht, or 20-33 baht per kilometre (Nov 2015).

Rental cars

Renting a car usually costs between 1,200-1,500 baht if you want to go for an economical one like a Toyota Vios. Most international companies can be found in Thailand. Also check guides to particular cities for reputable local car rental companies, which are often a little cheaper. You can choose among international companies such as Budget, Avis or you can choose to book with local company like www.thailandcarsrentals.com. Check the documentation and make sure that everything is done according to rules. Perform required checks and notify the car company about any damage before using the vehicle.

Bus

Buses travel throughout the country and the government's bus company BKS (บขส Baw Kaw Saw), known in English simply as the Transport Company , has a terminal in every province of any size.

Generally speaking, BKS buses are a good option for both price and comfort. There are also private buses sanctioned by BKS, which operate on the same routes from the same terminals with the same fares, and these are also fine. The ones to watch out for are the illegal bus companies, which operate from tourist areas (especially Khao San Road) and subsidize slightly cheaper tickets with worse amenities, schedules and safety. In particular, beware of non-government "VIP" buses, which often turn out to be cramped minivans - and you'll only find this out after paying in advance.

The basic BKS bus types are:

  • Local - relatively slow, can be cramped when full (nevertheless there's always room for one more), and stop at every village and cowshed along the way. Many are of larger songthaew flavour. Not suitable for long-distance travel, but may be the only cheap way to get around locally.
  • Express (rot duan) - skip some stops, but no other frills. Identifiable by their orange colour. Size varies, with the largest having around 65 seats (five seats per row) as well as an open space across the width of the bus by the back door for you to sling your backpack, bicycle, sack of rice, live chickens, etc.
  • Second class (chan song) - skip more stops, but often take a less direct route than 1st class / VIP / S-VIP. Blue and white with an orange stripe, usually 45-48 seats per bus, air conditioned (some provide blankets, some do not). Most have no on-board toilet, although the frequent stops mean this isn't a problem.
  • First class (chan neung) - generally take the most direct routes and make very few stops. Blue and white in colour, air conditioned, blanket usually provided, fewer (larger, longer pitch) seats (typically 40, but some double-decker types seat 60+), snack and drinking water included. Toilet on board for all but the shortest services.
  • "VIP" - as per 1st class, but with only 32-34 seats, which have more leg room and recline further. Basic meal included and freshly laundered shrink-wrapped blanket provided. Also blue and white (or sometimes blue and silver) but usually signed "VIP".
  • "S-VIP" - Super-VIP is very similar to VIP, except there are only 24 seats, which are wider - the aisle is offset, each row having a pair of seats on the right and only a single seat on the left. Primarily used on overnight services.

Some buses may have TVs and sound systems blaring, so earplugs are well worth having, just in case. On long-haul buses, if your ticket allocates you a front seat, you may have to switch seats if a monk boards.

If you are travelling a long distance on a daytime bus, take a minute to figure out the sunny side and the shady side of the bus. E.g., going from Chiang Mai to Bangkok on a 09:00 bus (south), seats on the right side will be bathed in sunlight all day (curtains are provided), so the left side is preferred by most.

Like travelling by train, pre-booking and e-ticketing is also available in some bus lines routing from Bangkok to reachable provinces and vice-versa. e-Tickets can be booked and purchased through travel agencies, bus-line websites and online ticketing systems such as, 12go.asia.

Other tour bus companies:

  • Green Bus Corporation (Chiang Mai-based).
  • Nakhonchaiair Co., Ltd.
  • Phetprasert
  • Sombat Tour Co., Ltd.

Minivan

Minivan services are ubiquitous, although under the radar as minivans typically are anonymous grey Toyota vans with no company markings. They serve shorter routes, such as Krabi to Phuket, about 180 km or Bangkok to Hua Hin, about 200 km. The purported advantage of taking a minibus is speed, as they move quickly once they get going. Disadvantages are that they are expensive compared with standard bus travel, they can be uncomfortable as they are usually crammed full, and they offer little room for luggage. Take minivans from bus stations. Do not take minivans that offer to pick you up at your hotel. They will pick you up, but then you will spend the next hour driving to other hotels to pick up more passengers. You will then be driven to an aggregator where all the collected passengers will disembark to wait for the minivan to their respective destinations. Then you will likely be driven to a bus station to change to a third and final minivan. Better just to sleep in, then go to bus station to book your (cheaper) minivan ticket, thus saving 2 hours of pointless discomfort.

Songthaew

A songthaew (สองแถว) is a truck-based vehicle with a pair of bench seats in the back, one on either side — hence the name, which means "two rows" in Thai. In English tourist literature, they're occasionally called "minibuses". By far the most common type is based on a pick-up truck and has a roof and open sides. Larger types start life as small lorries, and may have windows, and an additional central bench; smaller types are converted micro-vans, with a front bench facing backwards and a rear bench facing forwards.

Songthaews are operated extensively as local buses (generally the most economical way to travel shorter distances) and also as taxis; sometimes the same vehicle will be used for both. Be careful if asking a songthaew to take you to someplace if there is nobody in the back, the driver might charge you the taxi price. In this case, check the price of the ride before embarking.

Tuk-tuk

The name tuk-tuk is used to describe a wide variety of small/lightweight vehicles. The vast majority have three wheels; some are entirely purpose-built (e.g., the ubiquitous Bangkok tuk-tuk), others are partially based on motorcycle components (primarily engines, steering, front suspension, fuel tank, drivers seat). A relatively recent development is the four wheeled tuk-tuk (basically a microvan-songthaew) as found in Phuket.

Tuk-tuks are small, noisy, and perhaps dangerous; but possibly the worst thing about them is that, as a passenger, you cannot see a damned thing due to the low roof line. To catch even a glimpse of the passing scene you will find yourself practically supine.

You will often find yourself at the mercy of the tuk-tuk driver when it comes to pricing as you will likely have no clue as to the acceptable raa kaa Thai ("Thai price") and will probably have to cough up a raa kaa farang ("farang price"). Even if you do know the Thai price, the driver may just not bother to accept it on principle. If you pay with a larger denomination bill, it is also probable that the driver will whine that he has no change. If this happens, try to break the note in a nearby shop.

Taxi

Metered taxis are ubiquitous in Bangkok and starting to become more popular in Chiang Mai, but rare elsewhere in the country. When available, they are an excellent means of transport - insist on the meter. Beware of taxis which idle around touristy areas and wait for people. They are looking for a tourist who will take their taxi without using a meter. Always use the meter! Most drivers do not speak English, so be sure to have your hotel staff write the names of your destinations in Thai to show the driver.

Motorbike

As is the case throughout virtually all of Southeast Asia, motorcycles (motosai) are the most common form of transport overall; the most popular type are the 100 cc-125 cc step-through models. These are very widely used as taxis, with fares starting from as low as 10 baht. Negotiate the fare with the driver before using his service otherwise you may be charged more than you expect.

Motorcycles can be rented without difficulty in many locations. Rates start at around 125 baht/day for recent 100-125 cc semi-automatic (foot-operated gear change, automatic clutch) step-through models, 150 baht/day for fully automatic scooters; larger capacity models can also easily be found, although the rates reflect the risks: up to around 2,500 baht/day for the very latest model high capacity sport bikes, such as the Honda CBR1000RR. In all cases, lower prices will apply if paying upfront for more than a week or so; in some cases, long-distance travel may be prohibited. Motorcycle rentals do not include insurance, and both motorcycling accidents and motorbike thefts are common.

Many places will rent to you without requiring a license, but legally speaking you must have a valid Thai license or International Driver's Permit. Often a deposit will be required; sometimes a passport photocopy, or even the passport itself will be requested (Don't do this. Bargain to leave some baht instead). Helmets are normally included, but are usually ultra-basic models with very flimsy chin-strap fasteners. If you're intending to travel by motorcycle and have a good quality helmet at home, then bring it with you. If supplied a helmet with a chin-cup (many cheap rental helmets are), slide the cup up the strap out of the way and securely fasten the bare strap directly under the jaw, as this is much safer.

Insurance is usually not included (or even available), so try to ensure in advance that the insurance you leave home with is going to cover you; alternatively, arrange cover with an insurance broker locally in Thailand. If you rent a vehicle without insurance and it's damaged or stolen (take photos of the bike at the time of rental!), the bottom line is that you will be required to pay in full the cost of repairing or replacing it. Furthermore, some travel insurance policies will only provide medical cover in the event of an accident if you hold a motorcycle license in your home country.

According to the WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013, Thailand in 2010 had 38.1 road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants. This is the second highest in the world. 74% of those fatalities involved "motorized two or three wheelers". Motorcyclists (including passengers) are required to wear crash helmets and to keep their headlights switched on at all times. Enforcement varies widely, but in tourist areas spot checks for helmets and/or licenses are commonplace. While the fines are light (typically 400 baht) the inconvenience can be considerable as offender's vehicle and/or driver's license is impounded until the fine is paid, and the queue at the police station can be lengthy.

Some (but not all) border crossings allow motorcycles through. At those which do, documentation including proof of ownership must be produced (with the possible exception of day visits to Payathonzu, Myanmar via Three Pagodas Pass).

Rental car

Driving your own car in Thailand is not for the faint-hearted, and many rental companies can supply drivers at a very reasonable price. Prices without insurance for a self-driven car start from around 800 baht/day for small cars, and from as little as 600 baht/day for open-topped Jeeps. Cars with insurance start at just under 1,000 baht/day, and come down to around 5,600 baht/week or 18,000 baht/month.

Driving is (usually, but not always!) on the left hand side of the road. Fuel at large petrol stations is 37-45 baht/litre. Small kerbside vendors who pump by hand from drums and/or pour from bottles charge a few baht more.

Cars can be rented without difficulty in many locations. It's worth paying a little more than the absolute minimum to use one of the international franchises (e.g. Avis, Budget, and Hertz) to minimize the risk of hassles, and to ensure that any included insurance is actually worth something.

More reputable agencies require that valid licences be produced. Foreigners who do not have a Thai driving licence must carry a valid International Driving Permit. Even if you manage to rent a car without an IDP, not having one will invalidate the insurance and count against you in the event of an accident.

A common rental scam involves the owner taking a deposit, and then later refusing to refund it in full on the basis that the customer is responsible for previous damage; the Tourist Police (dial 1155) may be able to help. Another common scam involves the owner having someone follow the rented vehicle and later "steal" it, using a set of spare keys. Always report thefts: a "stolen" vehicle may mysteriously turn up as soon as the police become involved.

By boat

One of the Thais' many names for themselves is jao naam, the Water Lords, and from the river expresses of Bangkok to the fishing trawlers of Phuket, boats remain an indispensable way of getting around many parts of the country.

Perhaps the most identifiably Thai boat is the longtail boat (reua hang yao), a long, narrow wooden boat with the propeller at the end of a long "tail" stretching from the boat. This makes them supremely manoeuvrable even in shallow waters, but they're a little underpowered for longer trips and you'll get wet if it's even a little choppy. Longtails usually act as taxis that can be chartered, although prices vary widely. Figure on 300-400 baht for a few hours' rental, or up to 1,500 baht for a full day. In some locations like Krabi, longtails run along set routes and charge fixed prices per passenger.

Modern, air-conditioned speedboat services, sometimes ferries (departure every 30 min) also run from the Surat Thani to popular islands like Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan. Truly long-distance services (e.g., Bangkok to any other major city) have, however, effectively ceased to exist as buses, planes, and even trains are faster. Safety measures are rudimentary and ferries and speedboats do sink occasionally, so avoid overloaded ships in poor weather, and scope out the nearest life jackets when on board.

See

Historical and cultural attractions

Bangkok is at the start of many visitors' itineraries, and while a modern city, it has a rich cultural heritage. Most visitors at least take in the Grand Palace, a collection of highly decorated buildings and monuments. It is home to Wat Phra Kaew, the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand that houses the Emerald Buddha. Other cultural attractions include Wat Pho, Wat Arun and Jim Thompson's House, but these are just a fraction of possible sights you could visit.

The former capitals of Siam, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, make excellent stops for those interested in Thai history. The latter could be combined with a visit to Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Khmer architecture is mostly found in Isaan, with the historical remains of Phimai and Phanom Rung being the most significant.

In the northern provinces live unique hill-tribe peoples, often visited as part of a trekking. The six major hill tribes in Thailand are the Akha, Lahu, Karen, Hmong, Mien and Lisu, each with a distinct language and culture. Chiang Mai makes a good base for arranging these treks, and has some cultural sights of its own, such as Wat Doi Suthep.

For those interested in recent history, Kanchanaburi has a lot of sights related to WWII. The Bridge over the River Kwai, popularised by the film of the same name, is the most famous one, but the museums in its vicinity are a lot more moving. The "The Dead Railway"(tang rod fai sai morana) is the railway constructed by captive allied soldiers during WWII. This railway has a nice view all along its route.

Beaches and islands

Thailand's beaches and islands attract millions of visitors each year from all over the globe. Hua Hin is Thailand's oldest beach resort, made famous by King Rama VII in the 1920s as an ideal getaway from Bangkok. Things have considerably changed since then. Pattaya, Phuket, and Ko Samui only came to prominence in the 1970s, and these are now by far the most developed beach resorts.

Krabi Province has some beautiful spots, including Ao Nang, Rai Leh and the long golden beaches of Ko Lanta. Ko Phi Phi, renowned as a true island paradise, has been undergoing massive development since the release of the film The Beach in 2000. Ko Pha Ngan offers the best of both worlds, with both well-developed beaches and empty ones a short ride away. It is also where the infamous "Full Moon Party" takes place.

Ko Chang is a bit like Ko Samui used to be. It has a backpacker vibe, but is fairly laid-back and there is accommodation in all price ranges. If you're looking for unspoiled beaches, Ko Kut is very thinly populated, but also difficult to explore. Ko Samet is the closest island beach to Bangkok, but its northern beaches are quite developed and hotels are pretty much sold out on weekends and public holidays.

Natural scenery

While not as beautiful as Malaysia or Indonesia, Thailand does have its fair share of tropical forest. Khao Yai National Park, the first national park of Thailand, is the closest to Bangkok. Wild tigers and elephants are increasingly rare, but you can't miss the macaques, gibbons, deer, and species of birds. The stretch of jungle at Khao Sok National Park is probably even more impressive, and you can spend the night in the middle of the jungle.

Waterfalls can be found all over Thailand. The Heo Suwat Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park and the 7-tiered Erawan Falls in Kanchanaburi are among the most visited, but the Thee Lor Sue Waterfall in Umphang and the 11-tiered Pa La-u Falls in Kaeng Krachan National Park are equally exciting. Finally, the gravity-defying limestone formations of the Phang Nga Bay shouldn't be missed by anyone who stays in the region.

Itineraries

  • Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai in 3 days — three-day tour through parts of Northern Thailand that are largely undiscovered by tourists
  • Mae Hong Son Loop — A journey through mountainous Mae Hong Son Province
  • Northern Thailand Loop Tour — Explore the heart of rural northern Thailand
  • One day in Bangkok — if you have just one day to spare and want to catch a feel for the city
  • Rattanakosin Tour — a quick tour along Bangkok's famed historic district
  • Samoeng Loop — a 100 km loop popular with bicyclists and motorcyclists through the mountains starting and ending in Chiang Mai
  • Yaowarat and Phahurat Tour — a full-day walking tour through this multicultural district

Do

Golf

Golf arrived in Thailand during the reign of King Rama V one hundred years ago. It was first played by nobles and other high society elites, but since then, things have certainly changed. Over the past decade or so, the popularity of golf in Thailand has escalated; it is now popular with Thais and visiting tourists and expatriates.

Catering to the needs of an average of 400,000 foreign golfers coming to Thailand annually, golf in Thailand has turned into a huge local industry with new courses constantly being churned out. Golf alone annually brings 8 billion baht into the local economy. Thailand offers over two hundred courses with high standards. Internationally renowned courses can be found in tourist-spots like BangkokPattaya, and Phuket.

There is an abundance of reasons why golf in Thailand has become so popular. First, if you compare the cost to most golfing countries in the world, membership and course fees are exceptionally low. The general low cost of travel in Thailand itself makes the country ideal for cost-efficiency minded tourists. Also, many of the golf courses in Thailand have been designed by top names in the game such as Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Greg Norman.

  • Thailand Golf Courses Association, 96 Moo 3, Viphavadi-Rangsit Rd, Bangkok, ☎ +66 2 6625234.

Outdoors

Thailand's a big enough country, the size of Spain, that you can find a place to practice almost any outdoor sport. Ko Tao is becoming one of Asia's great scuba diving centres, with Ang Thong National Marine Park near Ko Samui and the Similan Islands off Khao Lak also drawing crowds. One of the newest hot spots for diving is Ko Lipe, a small island that is relatively unspoiled with great reefs and stunning beaches. Snorkelling can be done at pretty much every beach, but the coral reefs of the Similan Islands stand out as particularly worthwhile.

While Thailand does not match surf paradises like Bali, surfing does have its place. The waves are generally small, good for longboarding and those wanting to learn to surf. Khao Lak and Phuket's west coast beaches are among the better ones, but the best waves are to be found at the relatively unknown Ko Kradan on the west coast of Trang Province. Other surf-spots include Rayong and Ko Samui, but the waves of the Gulf Coast are less reliable.

Phang Nga Bay's gravity-defying limestone formations are usually seen with boat tours, but if you go sea-canoeing, you can get into areas unexplored by the tourist masses. The limestone cliffs of Rai Leh are among the best in the world for rock-climbing.

Pampering

Traditional Thai massage has a history of more than 2,500 years. Practitioners of Thai massage operate on the belief that many invisible lines of energy run through the body. The masseur uses his or her hands, elbows, feet, heels and knees to exert pressure on these lines, releasing blockages that may exist, allowing a free flow of energy through the body. Many Thais believe that these massages are beneficial both for treating diseases and aiding general well-being. You're supposed to feel both relaxed and energised after a session.

Although spas weren't introduced here until the early 1990s, Thailand has quickly become one of the highest ranking spa destinations in the world. Besides traditional Thai massage, there is a phenomenal variety of international treatments, including aromatherapy, Swedish massage and many others. There is usually an option for every budget, varying from extravagant wellness centres in luxury hotels to the ubiquitous little massage shops found on many street corners.

Talk

See also: Thai phrasebook

The official language of Thailand is Thai. Like Mandarin and Vietnamese, Thai is a tonal language (think about the difference in your voice when saying "yes" versus "yes?". That's tonal.) which can make it tricky for speakers of non-tonal languages to learn quickly, but despite this, everyone will appreciate any attempt you do make so pick up a phrasebook and give it a go. Thai is a language with many dialects, though the Bangkok dialect, also known as Central Thai, is used as the standard and is taught in all schools. Language schools can be found in all larger Thai cities, including Bangkok and Phuket.

In the Muslim-dominated south, dialects of Malay that are largely incomprehensible to speakers of standard Malay/Indonesian are spoken. Various dialects of Chinese are spoken by the ethnic Chinese community, with Teochew being the dominant dialect in Bangkok's Chinatown, and Cantonese speakers also forming a sizable minority among the Chinese community. Down south in Hat Yai, Hokkien is also widely understood due to the large number of tourists from Penang. The eastern Isaan dialects are closely related to Lao and there are dozens of small language groups in the tribal areas of the north, some so remote that Thai speakers are few and far between.

Public signage is generally bilingual, written in both Thai and English. There is also some prevalence of Japanese and Chinese signs. Where there is English, it will usually be fairly phonetic - for example "Sawatdee" (meaning hello) is pronounced just as it reads: sa-wat-dee. There is no universal agreement on how to transcribe Thai letters that don't have an English equivalent, so Khao San Road for example is also commonly spelled Kao Sarn, Kao Sahn, Khao San, Koh Saan, Khaosan, and many other variations. Maps with names in both Thai and English make it easier for locals to try and help you.

Most Thai youths learn English in school, so many young people have a basic grasp of English, though few are fluent, and the average Thai person cannot speak English. Most "front desk" people in the travel industry speak at least enough English to communicate, and many are relatively fluent; some also speak one or more other languages popular with their clientèle, such as Chinese, Japanese, German, etc.

Many Thais have trouble pronouncing the consonant clusters of the English language. Common confusion comes from the fact that Thais often pronounce "twenty" as "TEH-wen-ty", making it sound like they're saying "seventy". Therefore it is a good idea to make use of the calculators that street vendors may offer you to avoid confusion about prices offered when buying goods.

Buy

Money

The currency of Thailand is the baht, denoted by the symbol "฿" (ISO code: THB,), written in Thai as บาท or บ. It is divided into 100 satang (สตางค์). There are six coins and six notes:

  • 25 and 50 satang (cent, copper colour) coins - nearly worthless and only readily accepted (and handed out) by buses, supermarkets and 7-Elevens
  • 1, 2 (in 2 versions: silver and gold), 5 (silver colour) and 10 baht (silver/gold) coins
  • 20 (green), 50 (blue), 100 (red), 500 (purple) and 1000 (grey-brown) baht notes

The most useful bills tend to be 20s and 100s, as many small shops and stalls don't carry much change. Taxi drivers also like to pull the "no change" trick; if caught, hop into the nearest convenience store and make a small purchase. Beware of 1,000 baht notes, as counterfeits are not uncommon: feel the embossing, look for the watermark and tilt to see colour-changing ink to make sure the note is real.

Tax refund - VAT

Foreign visitors (with a few exceptions) have the benefit to receive a 7% VAT refund on luxury goods purchased from shops that participate in the 'VAT Refund for Tourists' scheme. When you see a 'VAT Refund for Tourists' sign, you can receive a 7% refund of the VAT levied on goods at the shop. However, certain conditions apply, and you won't be able to claim your refund until you depart Thailand from an international airport.

The goods must be purchased from participating shops that display a "VAT Refund For Tourists" sign. You may not claim VAT refund for services or goods that you use or "consume" while in Thailand; such as hotel or restaurant expenses.On any one day, the goods purchased from any one individual participating shop must be at least 2,000 baht including VAT.When you purchase the goods, ask the sales assistant to complete a VAT refund form, known as the P.P.10, and attach the original tax/sales invoices to that form. Each P.P.10 must show a value of 2,000 Baht or more. You will need to show your passport to the sales assistant when you purchase the goods, to allow her to fill in the above mentioned form. When you exit the country, the goods must be inspected by VAT Refund for Tourist (at Gate 10 on the 4th level) prior to check in and your completed P.P. 10's stamped. Since you must give away the original receipts it is a good idea to take photos or make copies in case you need to prove the value of your purchases to customs officers when going home.

Banking

ATMs are everywhere, and international withdrawals are not a problem. When using a debit card, an ATM will typically provide a much better exchange rate than a money exchange counter, and this is especially the case if you have a card that does not charge a transaction fee for overseas withdrawals (becoming common in countries such as Australia). ATMs are available at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport (BKK) after collecting your bag and clearing customs, and while it is advisable to arrive with a small amount of baht if possible, you may obtain cash from an ATM after landing as well. There's a 150-180 baht surcharge for using foreign cards at all ATMs, you'll be notified about this fee in any ATM which charges it, so you always have an option to cancel.Citibank do not charge foreign cards but they are only located in Bangkok. AEON ATM which used to apply no fee now charge 150 baht. Yellow Ayudhya (Krungsri) ATM's should be avoided; not only do they charge 150 baht surcharge, but the exchange rate is horrible.

One notable money exchanger is SuperRich, with branches in Bangkok at Silom, Ratchadamri, Khao San Road, and Chatuchak. No fees are charged and the exchange rate is typically better than at ATMs (even before you consider ATM and your local bank fees), with a very small buy/sell spread. For a comparison of all the bank's exchange rate (updated every 10 min)check out DaytoDayData.

More remote areas (including smaller islands) don't have banks or ATMs, so cash or traveller's cheques are essential. Many hotels and guesthouses will change money for guests, but hefty commissions and poor rates may apply. US dollars in small bills (USD1, 5, and 20) are invaluable for onward travel to neighbouring countries other than Malaysia, but are only useful in Thailand for exceptional purchases (e.g., paying visa fees for Cambodia).

Credit cards are widely accepted in the tourist industry such as in restaurants, shopping malls and shops catering to tourists. Fraud is regrettably common though, so use them sparingly and tell your bank in advance, so your card doesn't get locked down because you are using it. Some businesses add a surcharge (usually 2-3%) if you're paying by credit card; in this case, it can turn out cheaper to pay them in cash.

Tipping

Tipping is not common in Thailand and the Thais themselves don't do it. Thais do round up (or down) the taxi fare to get it to an amount that is easier to pay for (such as from 59 or 61 to 60 baht). Sometimes they also leave the change in restaurants, but even this is a rare occurrence.

You don't have to feel odd if you don't tip at all, as that's what the locals do. But the many foreign visitors attending Thailand have changed some practices. Tipping is starting to become more common in high-end hotels and restaurants, and even lower-end restaurants frequently attended by foreigners. Don't go overboard when tipping — never give more than 50 baht. In some tourist places, especially along Khao San Road, there are even restaurants hinting for a tip. This is not common (and even rude) in Thai culture, so you can easily ignore it.

Do not tip when a customer service charge is applied, as this is supposed to be the tip, applied only in luxury restaurants and hotels.

Costs

Thailand is not as cheap as it used to be, with Bangkok recently being named the second most expensive city in SE Asia behind Singapore. However, budget travellers who are careful with what they spend will still find that 1,000 baht will get a backpacker a dorm bed or cheap room, three square meals a day and leave enough for transport, sightseeing, and even partying. Doubling that budget will let you stay in decent hotels, and if you're willing to fork out 5,000 baht per day or more you can live like a king. Bangkok requires a more generous budget than upcountry destinations, but also offers by far the most competitive prices for shoppers who shop around. The most popular tourism islands such as Phuket and Ko Samui tend to have higher prices in general. It is common for tourists to be charged several times the actual price in tourist areas of other places as well. If you want to have an idea what the real Thai prices are, consider visiting malls like Big C, Tesco, or Carrefour where locals and expats routinely shop. Those are available in major cities (in Bangkok, there are dozens of them) and on larger islands such as Phuket or Ko Samui. Tax hikes have made alcohol clearly more expensive than in some neighbouring countries.

Shopping

Thailand is a shopper's paradise and many visitors to Bangkok in particular end up spending much of their time in the countless markets and malls. Particularly good buys are clothing, both cheap locally produced street wear and fancy Thai silk, and all sorts of handicrafts. Electronics and computer gear are also widely available, but prices are slightly higher than in Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines, and Kuala Lumpur.

A Thai speciality is the night markets found in almost every town, the largest and best-known of which are in Bangkok and the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai. Here a variety of vendors from designers to handicraft sellers have stalls selling goods which cannot normally be found in malls and day markets. Most night markets also have large open air food courts attached.

You can also find marvellously tacky modern clothing accessories. Witness pink sandals with clear plastic platform heels filled with fake flowers. Night markets along the main roads and Bangkok's Mahboonkrong (MBK) Mall, near the Siam Skytrain stop, are particularly good sources. Not to be left out is what is often touted as the world's biggest weekend bazaar - The Chatuchak Weekend Market or known to locals simply as "JJ" Market. Chatuchak sells a myriad of products ranging from clothes to antiques, covers over 35 acres (1.1km²) and is growing by the day!

Haggling is the norm and often market and road-side vendors will try to charge you as much as they think you can afford to pay. It's not uncommon to buy something, walk outside, and find somebody who bought the same item for half or one third what you paid (or even less). Try to figure out the item's rough value first. Adjacent stalls, government-run fixed price shops and even hotel gift shops are a good starting point. You'll find that prices drop drastically when the seller realizes you have some idea of what it costs.

Learn

  • Thai meditation
  • Thai language

Bangkok has many language schools for studying Thai:

  • AUA (American University Alumni) Language Center Bangkok AUA uses a non-traditional method where all teaching is done in Thai without books or any use of English. Students learn by looking and listening and eventually after a certain number of hours are expected to begin to speak Thai "naturally".
  • Duke Language School Bangkok Duke Language School is conveniently located near BTS Nana station and has a very high success rate.
  • Chulalongkorn University Intensive Thai classes Intensive Thai courses with an emphasis on learning to read and write academic Thai at a university level.
  • Jentana & Associates Thai Language School
  • Piammitr (Plenty of Friends) Language School Near BTS Asok [1] Courses are 60-hours of class time and last one month.
  • Thai Language Achievement School in Silom
  • Unity Thai Language School
  • My Thai Language School On Ratchada Rd, you can apply for a student ed Visa
  • Walen School

An on-line site for studying Thai:

  • Thai Language Reference documents, interactive lessons, dictionary, and forums for learning Thai

Work

The two main opportunities for work for foreigners are teaching English and dive instructor, but both are very competitive and dive masters in particular are paid a pittance.

To become a dive instructor, the most popular destination is Ko Tao (Turtle Island) a few hours off the coast of Chumphon in the Gulf of Thailand. There are dozens of dive shops that provide training and internships.

Anyone with a four-year degree can gain employment as an English teacher in Thailand, and even those without a degree can usually find work under the table. Normal starting salary is approximately 30,000 baht per month and this goes up and down slightly depending upon location (higher in Bangkok, lower in some up-country towns).

One way to start working as a teacher is to gain a TESOL/TEFL Certificate. One of the largest TESOL schools in the world is head quartered in the small village of Ban Phe, Rayong. Other provinces in Thailand offer TEFL/TESOL Certification Courses. In Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai University [2] has a comprehensive teacher training program located on its main campus.

Finding any other kind of work in Thailand can be difficult, as wages are poor and a large number of occupations are legally off limits to non-Thais. Thai law requires that a foreigner earn quite a high wage to be eligible for a work permit. Companies and schools may assist employees to obtain visas and work permits, but some schools avoid the extra work involved.

Volunteering is a great way to meet locals and experience the culture and traditions of Thailand. There are many worldwide organizations that offer volunteer work on such projects as community development, conservation, wildlife sanctuary maintenance & development, scientific research, & education programs. And they won't ask you for money! Here are three of them:

  • Child's Dream Foundation, 238/3 Wualai Rd, Haiya, Muang, Chiang Mai 50100, ☎ +66 53 201811, e-mail: info@childsdream.org. Founded by two Swiss financiers with good hearts, Child's Dream places volunteers in schools in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia in addition to other good works. They are highly regarded for their ethics and efficiency. Does not charge volunteers.
  • Foundation for Education and Development (formerly known as Grassroots Human Rights and Development), Moo 4 Khuk Khak, Takua Pa, Phang Nga 82120 (at km790 on Hwy 4 in Khuk Khak (Khao Lak)), ☎ +66 76 486351. A joint Burmese-Thai NGO committed to assisting Burmese migrant workers in Phang Nga Province, just north of Ko Phuket in the region better known as Khao Lak. FED runs schools, health clinics, women's empowerment programs, and provides legal assistance to political and economic refugees. The organisation runs on a shoe-string and depends on the commitment of paid staff and volunteers. Does not charge volunteers.
  • Isara Foundation, 897/1 Mee Chai Rd, Amphur Muang, Nong Khai 43000, ☎ +66 42 460827. Provides help directly to those who are in need. Isara projects focus on the improvement of education (free Learning Centre, government school volunteer teachers, and scholarships), health and safety (helmet campaign), and the environment (Recycling Centre and trash clean-up campaigns). Do not charge you for volunteering.

IMPORTANT: Volunteering is defined as a form of employment by the Thai authorities. Foreigners must obtain a work permit even to volunteer for small projects. This is easier to obtain than a normal work permit, and can be issued even for one or two days. Tourists are advised to take these rules seriously. Thai jails are not comfortable; if you are arrested on a Friday you may not be able to contact anyone before Monday.

Eat

The food alone is really reason enough for a trip to Thailand. Curries, fruit shakes, stir fries, fresh fish made a zillion ways - and that's just the beginning. Food in Thailand can be as cheap and easy as 25 baht pad Thai (ผัดไทย, Thai fried noodles) cooked at a street stall or as expensive and complicated as a USD100 ten-course meal by a royal chef served in one of Bangkok's luxury hotels.

Since most backpackers will be sticking closer to the first than the second, one of the great things about Thailand is that food from stalls and tiny sidewalk restaurants is usually quite safe. Unlike some Asian countries, travellers should worry more about overeating or too much curry spice than about unclean kitchens and bad food. In fact, street restaurants, where you can see what you'll get and everything is cooked on the spot can be a safe option.

Etiquette

Thai food is most commonly eaten with fork and spoon. Hold the spoon in your right hand and use it to eat, and reserve the fork for piling food onto your spoon. Chopsticks are only employed for noodle soups and East Asian-style dishes. Eat sticky rice with your right hand.

Thai food is meant for sharing. Everybody gets their own plate of rice and tiny soup bowl, but all the other dishes are laid out in the centre of the table and you're free to eat what you wish. Though some people believe that taking the last piece from a shared plate is considered slightly unlucky, and you may hear people make wishes for others to compensate for their own misfortune. A popular wish is that "may my girlfriend/boyfriend be good-looking!"

Food is also generally brought out a dish at a time as it is prepared. It is not expected of diners to wait until all meals are brought out before they start eating as is polite in Western culture. Instead they should tuck into the nearest dish as it arrives.

Thai cuisine

Thai cuisine is characterized by balance and strong flavours, especially lime juice, lemon grass and fresh coriander, the combination of which gives Thai food its distinctive taste. In addition, Thai food has a deserved reputation for being spicy, with hot little torpedo-shaped chillies called phrik khii nuu (พริกขี้หนู, lit. "mouse shit chillies") making their way into many a dish. Thais are well aware that these can be more than Westerners can handle and will often ask if you like it hot (เผ็ด phet). Answer "yes" at your own risk! Another condiment that features prominently in Thai cuisine is fish sauce (น้ำปลา naam plaa), a pungent and very salty sauce that is used to flavour a wide variety of dishes.

Thai dishes can be roughly categorized into central Thai food (around Bangkok), northern Thai food (from the northern region around Chiang Mai, with Burmese and Chinese influence), northeastern Thai food (from the Isaan region bordering with Laos) and southern Thai food (with heavy influences from Malaysia). The following list covers some better-known dishes. See Isaan for Isaan food, which is widely available throughout the country.

Rice

The Thai staple food is rice (ข้าว khao), so much so that in Thai eating a meal, gin khao, literally means "eat rice".

  • Khao suai (ข้าวสวย) or "beautiful rice" is the plain white steamed rice that serves as the base of almost every meal.
  • Khao pat (ข้าวผัด) is simple fried rice, usually with some crab (pu), pork (muu) or chicken (kai) mixed in, and flavoured with fish sauce.
  • Khao tom (ข้าวต้ม) is a salty and watery rice porridge served with condiments, quite popular at breakfast.
  • Khao niao (ข้าวเหนียว) or "sticky rice" is glutinous rice - usually eaten dry, traditionally by hand, with grilled/fried pork or chicken or beef. It is especially popular (more than plain rice) in northeastern (Isaan) and northern provinces, but is widely available throughout the country, especially in places specializing on Isaan or Lao cuisine.

Noodles

Thais are great noodle eaters. The most common kind is rice noodles, served angel-hair (เส้นหมี่ sen mii), small (เส้นเล็ก sen lek), large (เส้นใหญ่ sen yai) and giant (ก๋วยเตี๋ยว kuay tiao), but egg noodles (บะหมี่ ba mii), Chinese-style stuffed wonton ravioli (เกี๊ยว kio) and glass noodles made from mung beans (วุ้นเส้น wun sen) are also popular.

Unlike other Thai foods, noodles are usually eaten with chopsticks. They are also usually served with a rack of four condiments, namely dried red chillies, fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar which diners can add to their own taste.

  • Pad Thai (ผัดไทย), literally "fried Thai", means thin rice noodles fried in a tamarind-based sauce. Ubiquitous, cheap and often excellent. As an added bonus, it's usually chili-free (you can add yourself, however, or ask to do so if buying of the street, but be warned, it is often really hot).
  • Ba mii muu daeng (บะหมี่หมูเเดง) is egg noodles with slices of Chinese-style barbecued pork.
  • Kuai tiao ruea (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ) is a rice noodle soup with a fiery pork blood stock and an assortment of offal. An acquired taste, but an addictive one.

Soups and curries

The line between soups (ต้ม tom, literally just "boiled") and curries (แกง kaeng) is a little fuzzy, and many dishes the Thais call curries would be soups to an Indian. A plate of rice with a ladle-full of a curry or two on top, known as khao kaeng (ข้าวแกง), is a very popular quick meal if eating alone.

  • Tom yam kung (ต้มยำกุ้ง) is the quintessential Thai dish, a sour soup with prawns, lemon grass and galangal. The real thing is quite spicy, but toned-down versions are often available on request.
  • Tom kha kai (ต้มข่าไก่) is the Thai version of chicken soup in a rich galangal-flavored coconut stock, with mushrooms and not a few chillies.
  • Kaeng daeng (แกงเเดง, "red curry") and kaeng phet (แกงเผ็ด, "hot curry") are the same dish and, as you might guess, this coconut-based dish can be spicy. Red curry with roast duck (kaeng phet pet yaang แกงเผ็ดเป็ดย่าง) is particularly popular.
  • Kaeng khio-waan (แกงเขียวหวาน), sweet green curry, is a coconut-based curry with strong accents of lemongrass and kaffir lime. Usually milder than the red variety.
  • Kaeng som (แกงส้ม), orange curry, is more like tamarind soup than curry, usually served with pieces of herb omelette in the soup.

Mains

Thais like their mains fried (ทอด thot or ผัด phat) or grilled (yaang ย่าง). Fish, in particular, is often deep-fried until the meat turns brown and crispy.

  • Ka-phrao kai (กะเพราไก่), literally "basil chicken" is a simple but intensely fragrant stir-fry made from peppery holy basil leaves, chillies and chicken.

Salads

About the only thing Thai salads (ยำ yam) have in common with the Western variety is that they are both based on raw vegetables. A uniquely Thai flavour is achieved by drowning the ingredients in fish sauce, lime juice and chillies. The end result can be very spicy indeed!

  • Som tam (ส้มตำ), a salad made from shredded and pounded raw papaya is often considered a classic Thai dish, but it actually originates from neighboring Laos. However, the Thai version is less sour and more sweet than the original, with peanuts and dried shrimp mixed in.
  • Yam pon la mai (ยำผลไม้) is Thai-style fruit salad, meaning that instead of canned maraschino cherries it has fresh fruit topped with oodles of fish sauce and chillies.
  • Yam som-o (ยำส้มโอ) is an unusual salad made from pomelo (a mutant version of grapefruit) and anything else on hand, often including chicken or dried shrimp.
  • Yam wunsen (ยำวุ้นเส้น) is perhaps the most common yam, with glass noodles and shrimp.

Dessert

Thais don't usually eat "dessert" in the Western after-meal sense, although you may get a few slices of fresh fruit (ผลไม้ pon la mai) for free at fancier places, but they certainly have a finely honed sweet tooth.

  • Khanom (ขนม) covers a vast range of cookies, biscuits, chips and anything else snackable, and piles of the stuff can be found in any Thai office after lunch. One common variety called khanom khrok (ขนมครก) is worth a special mention: these are little lens-shaped pancakes of rice and coconut, freshly cooked and served by street vendors everywhere.
  • Khao niao ma-muang (ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง) means "sticky rice with mango", and that's what you get, with some coconut milk drizzled on top. Filling and delicious and an excellent way to cool the palate after a spicey Thai dish! Alternatively, for the more adventurous type, an equally popular dish is Khao nio tu-rean in which you get durian instead of mango with your sticky rice.
  • Waan yen (หวานเย็น), literally "sweet cold", consists of a pile of ingredients of your choice (including things like sweet corn and kidney beans) topped with syrup, coconut cream and a pile of ice, and is great for cooling down on a hot day or after a searing curry.

Vegetarian food

Vegetarians won't have too many problems surviving in Thailand, with one significant exception: fish sauce (น้ำปลา naam plaa) is to Thai cuisine what soy sauce is to Chinese food, and keeping it out of soups, curries and stir-fries will be a challenge.

That said, Thailand is a Buddhist country and vegetarianism is a fairly well-understood concept, especially among Chinese Thais (many of whom eat only vegetarian food during several festivals). Tofu is a traditional Thai ingredient and they aren't afraid to mix it up in some non-traditional dishes such as omelettes (with or without eggs), submarine sandwiches, and burritos. Since Thai dishes are usually made to order, it's easy to ask for anything on the menu to be made without meat or fish. Bangkok features several fantastic veggie and vegan restaurants, but outside of big cities make sure to check that your idea of "veggie" matches the chef's.

Some key phrases for vegetarians:

  • phom kin je (m) / di-chan kin je (f) ผม(ดิฉัน)กินเจ "I eat only vegetarian food"
  • karunaa mai sai naam plaa กรุณาไม่ใส่น้ำปลา "Please don't use fish sauce"

Restaurant chains

Thailand has a large number of indigenous restaurant chains offering much the same fare as your average street stall, but with the added advantages of air conditioning, printed menus (often in English), clean storefront. All the chains are heavily concentrated in Bangkok, but larger cities and popular tourist spots may have an outlet or two.

  • Coca and MK. Near-ubiquitous chains specializing in what the Thais call suki, perhaps better known as "hotpot" or "steamboat". A cauldron boils in the middle of your table, you buy ingredients (10-30 baht a pop) and brew your own soup. The longer you spend, the better it tastes, and the bigger the group you're with, the more fun this is!
  • Fuji. And Zen specialize in surprisingly passable Japanese food at very cheap prices (at least compared to Japanese restaurants almost anywhere else). Rice/noodle mains are less than 100 baht, and you can stuff yourself full of sushi for less than 500 baht.
  • Kuaytiew Ruea Siam (Signs in Thai; look for the boat-shaped decor and hungry red pig logo). Dirt-cheap noodles with prices starting at 25 baht. Portions aren't too generous, but at that price you can get two! No concessions to English speakers in menu or taste, so point and choose from the pictures and watch out for the spicier soups.
  • S&P. Outlets are a bakery, a café and a restaurant all rolled into one, but their menu's a lot larger than you'd expect: it has all the Thai mainstays you can think of and then some, and most all of it is good. Portions are generally rather small, with prices mostly in the 50-100 baht range.
  • Yum Saap (Signs in Thai; look for the big yellow smiley logo). Known for their Thai-style salads (yam), but they offer all the usual as well. Quite cheap with mains around 50 baht.

And yes, you can find the usual McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Komalas etc. if you insist. If you do end up at McDs, at least try the un-Maclike fried chicken with McSomTam (green papaya salad). For those craving American-style pizza, try the ubiquitous The Pizza Company, which is a less expensive and (arguably) tastier local chain.

Drink

Tap water is usually not drinkable in Thailand outside of Bangkok. In many places in Bangkok however, particularly in new buildings, drinking tap water is perfectly safe. However, if you don't want to chance it, buying a bottle of water is the obvious solution. Bottled water (น้ำเปล่า naam plao) is cheap and ubiquitous at 5-20 baht a bottle depending on its size and brand, and drinking water served in restaurants is always at least boiled (น้ำต้ม naam tom). Ice (น้ำแข็ง naam khaeng) in Thailand usually comes packaged straight from the factory and is safe; there is only reason to worry if you are served hand-cut ice. You can buy a large package of ice in most 7-Elevens for 7 baht, too.

Mainly in residential areas, machines selling water into your own bottle (1 baht/L, or 50 satang (0.5 baht/L) if paid more than 5 baht) are often available, located in some (Thai mostly) hotels, local shops, or just on the street near one. This is a clean (the water is cleaned and UV-treated on the spot) and extremely cheap option, also, this way you'll avoid making unnecessary plastic waste from empty bottles.

Iced drinks

Coconut water (น้ำมะพร้าว naam ma-phrao), iced and drunk directly from a fresh coconut is a cheap and healthy way to cool the body. Available at restaurants and also from fruit juice vendors.

Fruit juices, freezes and milkshakes of all kinds are very popular with Thais and visitors alike. Most cafés and restaurants charge 20-40 baht, but a bottle of freshly squeezed Thai sweet orange juice (น้ำส้ม naam som) - which really is orange in colour! - can be sold on the street for 15-30 baht. Thais often add salt to their fruit juices-- an acquired taste that you might just learn to like. Thais also like to have basil seeds in their iced fruit juice sold on the road. They look like small jelly balls down in the bottle.

Tea and coffee

One of Thailand's most characteristic drinks is Thai iced tea (ชาเย็น chaa yen, lit. "cold tea"). Instantly identifiable thanks to its lurid orange colour, this is the side effect of adding ground tamarind seed (or, these days, artificial colour) during the curing process. The iced tea is always very strong and very sweet, and usually served with a dash of condensed milk; ask for chaa dam yen to skip the milk.

Naam chaa and chaa jiin are weak and full-strength Chinese tea, often served in restaurants for free. Western-style black tea is chaa ron (ชาร้อน). Coffee (กาแฟ kaafae) is also widely available, and is usually served with condensed milk and lots of sugar. Ask for kaafae thung to get traditional filtered "bag" coffee instead of instant.

Starbucks is present in Thailand, but for the moment local competitors Black Canyon Coffee and S&P still have the edge in market share. These are the places to look for if you want that triple-mocha latte with hazelnut swirl and are willing to pay 75 baht for the privilege.

  • Black Canyon Coffee. Is Thailand's home-brewed Starbucks, but while coffee is their mainstay they also offer a limited meal menu. Try the chaa yen (lurid orange Thai iced tea with milk).

Energy drinks

Thailand is the original home of the Red Bull brand energy drink - a licensed and re-branded version of Thailand's original Krathing Daeng (กระทิงแดง, "Red Bull"), complete with the familiar logo of two bulls charging at each other.

The Thai version, however, is syrupy sweet, uncarbonated and comes packaged in medicinal-looking brown glass bottles, as the target customers are not trendy clubbers, but Thailand's working class of construction workers and bus drivers in need of a pick-me-up. And a pick-me-up it most certainly is; the caffeine content is higher even than Western-style Red Bull, and packs a punch equivalent to two or three shots of espresso coffee. Krathing Daeng and its many competitors (including M150, Shark, .357 and the inevitable Karabao Daeng, "Red Buffalo") are available in any convenience store for 10 baht a pop, although in some places you can now buy imported Red Bull for five times the price.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol in Thailand, especially if you like Western tipples, is actually comparatively expensive, but still very affordable by Western standards.

Retail sales of alcohol in supermarkets and multi-national convenience stores, are limited to between 11:00-14:00 and 17:00-24:00. Restaurants and bars are not affected, and smaller, non-chain stores rarely observe this rule. 7-Eleven is a stickler for following this rule. However, in certain circumstances these rules are relaxed for alcohol purchases above a particular quantity. For example, if you try to purchase 5 litres of wine during the restricted period, it will not be allowed. However, if you were to purchase, say 10 litres of wine, in the same period then this might be permitted. Convenience stores at gas stations are not permitted to sell alcohol at any time.

There are also occasional days throughout the year when alcohol can't be sold anywhere, even the small mom & pop shops normally adhere to the rules on these days, and most bars and pubs do too (although you can probably find a beer somewhere if you're desperate enough). Upmarket hotel bars and restaurants are probably the only places that are realistically likely to be exempt. Religious holidays and elections are normally the reason for these restrictions.

Beer

Western-style beer (เบียร์ bia) is a bit of an upmarket drink in Thailand, with the price of a small bottle hovering between 40 and 100 baht in most pubs, bars and restaurants. Thais like their lagers with relatively high alcohol content (around 6%), as it is designed to be drunk with ice, so the beer in Thailand may pack more of a punch than you are used to. However, if you are an experienced drinker from Western Europe, namely Belgium or Germany, you will find it familiar.

  • Local brews: For many years the only locally brewed beer was Singha (pronounced just Sing) but it has lost market to cheaper and stronger Chang. Both are pretty strong (Chang especially, being 6%, and Singha 5%), but for those who prefer something a bit lighter, both local brands have introduced low-alcohol versions of their beers. Singha Light comes in at 3.5%, Chang Draught is 5% and Chang Light is 4.2%. Both are strong in alcohol percentage, gives a little spicy taste (for Europeans, you can compare them to Leffe or Duvel) rather than blended smoothness of German beers (Erdinger or Paulaner). There are also some cheaper local beers - Leo (very popular among locals and expats, with price 10-20% cheaper than Singha) and Archa (cheapest, but the taste is not as nice, it's not sold in the bars often, but is available in almost any 7-Eleven) being among the most popular.
  • Premium brands: The two most popular premium brands are Heineken and Tiger, but San Miguel, Federbrau and other Asian beers such as the Japanese Asahi are also fairly commonplace. The premium beers tend to be a bit weaker than the full-strength local beers, and are about 10-20% more expensive.
  • Imported beers: Most upmarket pubs in touristy areas will have at least a couple of imported beers available along with the usual local brands, either on draught, in bottles or both. Belgian and German beers can often be found, as well as Irish stouts and ales such as Guinness, British bitters such as John Smiths and the light Mexican beer Corona is gaining in popularity. Regional favourite Beerlao has also started to make an appearance in bars and pubs around the country. All imported beers (with the exception of Beerlao) are very expensive though, being about twice the price of locally sourced beers.
  • Other non-beers: The usual range of "alcopops" is available in Thailand, with Bacardi Breezer enjoying the lion's share of the market. Spy wine cooler (of about 10 varieties) is also popular. Cider is harder to find, although some pubs have started to stock Magners and Bulmers.

Imported drinks

Imported liquors, wines and beers are widely available but prohibitively priced for the average Thai. A shot of any brand-name liquor is at least 100 baht, a pint of Guinness will set you back at least 200 baht and, thanks to an inexplicable 340% tax, even the cheapest bottle of wine will set you back over 500 baht. Note that, in cheaper bars (especially the go-go kind), the content of that familiar bottle of Jack Daniels may be something entirely different.

Rice wine

Thai rice wine (สาโท sato) is actually a beer brewed from glutinous rice, and thus a spiritual cousin of Japanese sake. While traditionally associated with Isaan, it's now sold nationwide under the brand Siam Sato, available in any 7-Eleven at 25 baht for a 0.65L bottle. At 8% alcohol, it's cheap and potent, but you may regret it the next morning! The original style of brewing and serving sato is in earthenware jars called hai, hence the drink's other name lao hai (เหล้าไห). These are served by breaking the seal on the jar, adding water, and drinking immediately with either glasses or, traditionally, with a straw directly from the pot.

Whisky

The misnamed Thai whisky (lao) refers to a number of liquors. The best known are the infamous Mae Khong (แม่โขง "Mekong") brand and its competitor, the sweeter Saeng Som ("Sangsom"), which are both brewed primarily from sugarcane and thus technically rum. Indeed, the only resemblances to whisky are the brown color and high alcohol content, and indeed many people liken the smell to nail polish remover, but the taste is not quite as bad, especially when diluted with cola or tonic water. This is also by far the cheapest way to get blotto, as a pocket flask of the stuff (available in any convenience store or supermarket) costs only around 50 baht.

The "real" Thai whisky is lao khao (เหล้าขาว "white liquor"), which is distilled from rice. While commercial versions are available, it's mostly distilled at home as moonshine, in which case it also goes by the name lao theuan ("jungle liquor"). White liquor with herbs added for flavor and medical effect is called ya dong (ยาดอง). Strictly speaking, both are is illegal, but nobody seems to mind very much, especially when hill tribe trekking in the North you're likely to be invited to sample some, and it's polite to at least take a sip.

Sleep

Thailand has accommodation in every price bracket. Always take a look at the room (or better still several rooms, sometimes owners offer not the best/cheaper rooms first) before agreeing a price. In smaller establishments also do ask for the agreed price in writing to avoid problems during check out.

The best prices (30-50% off rack rates) for accommodation can be found during Thailand's low season, which is during May-Aug, which not surprisingly also coincides with the region's monsoon season. The peak season is during Dec-Feb.

The prices listed are average for the country, and vary depending on the region and season. Smaller provincial towns will not have fancy hotels or resorts, while on popular island beaches it may be hard to find something cheaper than 300-400 baht even during the low season.

Homestays are common in rural areas. Typically, what this means is that you will be staying at your host's home, or on the host's property in something less than a commercial lodging. Usually, meals are included.

Guesthouses are usually the cheapest option, basic ones cost 100-200 baht per room per night (100 or less for a dorm bed). This gets you a room with a fan, a squat toilet (often shared), shower (shared or private), and not much else. Better guesthouses, especially in towns with significant amount of foreign guests, have more amenities (European-style toilet, 24 hour hot shower, bigger room or even a balcony, free Wi-Fi, sometimes TV, everyday room service, fridge), with prices, subsequently, in the range of 200-500 baht. This makes them close to Thai hotels. The difference is they're more oriented to a Western clientèle, and as such, often offer various tours (sometimes overpriced), computers, and/or in-room Internet access, or even have a ground floor restaurant.

If you're satisfied with the guesthouse of your choice and plan to stay there for more than several days (especially during the low season or in the places with abundant accommodation options such as Chiang Mai), ask for a discount; this may not be offered everywhere, but if it is, the weekly rate may be 25% less or so, and for monthly rates it's not uncommon to be half as much. Normally, you'll have to pay for the entire period asked, but note that if something changes and you have to check out early refunds are not customary in Thailand. As such, if an early departure is possible (but unlikely enough to pay a week/month in advance), you should discuss this option with the owner/manager beforehand.

Hostels are not typical in Thailand. The reason is obvious: given the abundance of budget accommodation and that hostels are unfamiliar to Thais and, as such, purely Westerner-oriented, the price for a private room in a guesthouse will be almost the same, or even cheaper, than for a dorm bed in a hostel. You may get a bit more Westernised and hotel-like interiors, but at the cost of privacy. If you do insist on staying in a hostel, you can find some in the big cities by checking the web. Don't expect to find them just by walking by the streets, though.

Thai hotels start around 200 baht and go up to around 800 baht. The upper-end of this range will be air-conditioned, the lower end will not. The primary difference is that with a hotel room, your bathroom should be private, bed linen, and towels will be provided, and there may be a hot shower. The guests are mostly Thais. TVs are available except at the lower end; Internet access, though, is less likely to be present than in guesthouses; and is even less likely to be free or in-room.

Tourist hotels are generally around 1,000 baht and offer the basics for a beach vacation: swimming pool, room service, and colour TV.

Boutique hotels, 2,000 baht and up, have mushroomed during the past few years, they provide a limited number of rooms (10 or fewer) and more personalized service. While these can be excellent, quality varies widely, so research is essential.

Business and luxury hotels, 4,000 baht and up, offer every modern amenity you can think of and are largely indistinguishable from hotels anywhere else in the world. Some, notably Bangkok's The Oriental, The Sukhothai and The Peninsula are among the world's best hotels. The most luxurious resorts also fall in this price category, with some of the very best and most private adding a few zeros to the price.

Stay safe

The number one cause of death for visitors to Thailand is motorbike accidents, especially on the often narrow, mountainous and twisty roads of Phuket and Samui. Drive defensively, wear a helmet, don't drink and avoid travel at night.

Political unrest

Long-simmering tension between pro- and anti-government groups came to head in 2008, with the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) first blockading several airports in the South for a few days in summer and in November taking over both of Bangkok's airports for a week, causing immense disruption to tourism and the Thai economy. However, while several protesters were killed or injured in scuffles, by and large the protests were peaceful and no tourists were harmed.

Following the resignation of the prime minister in December 2008, things have gone back to normal for the time being, but the situation remains unstable. Keep an eye on the news and try to keep your plans flexible. Avoid demonstrations and other political gatherings.

Do not under any circumstances say anything negative about the Thai royal family. This will usually land you in prison and your embassy/consulate will have little consular assistance (power) in getting you out.

Bad news again in May 2010 when Red Shirt demonstrators occupied a large area of Bangkok, which was not dispersed for 2 months. This resulted in much violence, arson, etc., and some deaths. This problem is still simmering and although it poses no real threat to tourists it should always be borne in mind that things could easily flare up again.

Thailand's military seized control of government in May 2014, making it the country's 12th successful coup since 1932. Despite sensationalist headlines warning of the dangers of Thailand, travellers using common sense and avoiding potentially risky areas or situations should enjoy a trouble-free holiday.

Corruption

While not as bad as in neighbouring Myanmar, Laos or Cambodia, corruption is unfortunately still fairly common in Thailand relative to Western countries or Malaysia. Traffic police in Thailand often request bribes on the order of 200 baht or so from tourists who are stopped for seemingly minor traffic infringements. Immigration officers at land border crossings often ask for a bribe of about 20 baht per person before they stamp your passport, though those at airports generally do not ask for bribes.

Scams

Thailand has more than its fair share of scams, but most are easily avoided with some common sense.

More a nuisance than a danger, a common scam by touts, taxi drivers and tuk-tuk drivers in Thailand is to wait by important monuments and temples and waylay Western travellers, telling them that the site is closed for a "Buddhist holiday", "repairs" or a similar reason. The "helpful" driver will then offer to take the traveller to another site, such as a market or store. Travellers who accept these offers will often end up at out-of-the-way markets with outrageous prices - and no way to get back to the centre of town where they came from. Always check at the front gate of the site you're visiting to make sure it's really closed.

Some tuk-tuk drivers might demand much higher price than agreed, or they might take you to a sex show, pretending they didn't understand the address (they get commissions from sex shows). For the same reason, avoid drivers who propose their services without being asked, especially near major tourist attractions.

Don't buy any sightseeing tours at the airport. If you do, they will phone several times to your hotel to remind you about the tour. During the tour, you will be shortly taken to a small temple, without a guide, and then one shop after another (they get commissions). They might refuse to take you back home until you see all the shops. On your way back, they pressure you to buy more tours.

Easily identified with practice, it is not uncommon in tourist areas to be approached by a clean cut, well dressed man who will often be toting a cellphone. These scammers will start up polite conversation, showing interest in the unsuspecting tourist's background, family, or itinerary. Inevitably, the conversation will drift to the meat of the scam. This may be something as innocuous as over-priced tickets to a kantoke meal and show, or as serious as a gambling scam or (particularly in Bangkok) the infamous gem scam. Once identified, the wary traveller should have no trouble picking out these scammers from a crowd. The tell-tale well-pressed slacks and button-down shirt, freshly cut hair in a conservative style, and late-model cellphone comprise their uniform. Milling around tourist areas without any clear purpose for doing so, the careful traveller should have no difficulty detecting and avoiding these scammers.

Many visitors will encounter young Thai ladies armed with a clipboard and a smile enquiring as to their nationality, often with an aside along the lines of "please help me to earn 30 baht". The suggestion is that the visitor completes a tourism questionnaire (which includes supplying their hotel name and room number) with the incentive that they just might win a prize - the reality is that everyone gets a call to say that they are a "winner"; however, the prize can only be collected by attending an arduous time-share presentation. Note that the lady with the clipboard doesn't get her 30 baht if you don't attend the presentation; also that only English-speaking nationalities are targeted.

A more recent serious scam involves being accused of shoplifting in the duty free shops in the Bangkok airport. This may involve accidentally straying across ill defined boundaries between shops with merchandise in hand, or being given a "free gift". Always get a receipt. Those accused are threatened with long prison sentences, then given the opportunity to pay USD10,000 or more as "bail" to make the problem disappear and to be allowed to leave Thailand. If you end up in this pickle, contact your embassy and use their lawyer or translator, not the "helpful" guy hanging around.

Fake monks

Theravada Buddhism is an integral part of Thai culture, and it is customary for Buddhist monks to roam the streets collecting alms in the morning. Unfortunately, the presence of foreign tourists unaware of local Buddhist customs has led to some imposters preying on unsuspecting visitors. Note that genuine monks only go on alms rounds in the morning, as they are not allowed to eat after noon, and are also not allowed to accept or touch money. Alms bowls are solely for the purpose of collecting food. If you see a "monk" soliciting monetary donations, or with money in his alms bowl, he is fake.

Robbery on overnight buses

Thailand is quite safe for tourists. However, there have been some reports about people getting drugged and robbed while traveling on overnight buses. To avoid this, steer away from cheapish and non-government buses, make sure you have all your money stored safely in a money belt or another hard-to-reach place and always check your money balance before getting off. Warning your travel companions about this danger is also advised. In case this happens, firmly refuse to get off the bus, tell the rest of the people about the situation and immediately call the police. It may not be possible to stay on the bus, as your refusal may prompt the staff to unload your hold luggage onto the street and then continue to drive the bus without your luggage, forcing you to disembark or lose it.

Prostitution

Thailand's age of consent is 15 but a higher minimum age of 18 applies in the case of prostitutes. Thai penalties for sex with minors are harsh, and even if your partner is over the age of consent in Thailand, tourists who have sex with minors may be prosecuted by their home country. As far as ascertaining the age of your partner goes, all adult Thais must carry an identity card, which will state that they were born in 2538 or earlier if they were over the age of 18 on 1 Jan 2013 (in the Thai calendar, 2013 is the year 2556).

Some prostitutes are "freelancers", but most are employed by bars or similar businesses and if hiring a prostitute from a bar or similar business, you will have to pay a fee for the establishment called a "bar fine", usually 300-500 baht. This entitles you to take them out of their place of employment. It does not pay for additional services. That is contracted separately.

Bar girls, go-go girls and freelancers are all professionals, who are far more likely to be interested in money you can give them than in any continuing relationship for its own sake. Cases of visitors falling desperately in love and then being milked out of all they are worth abound. Thailand has a high rate of STD infection, including HIV/AIDS, both among the general population and among prostitutes. Condoms can be bought easily in Thailand in all convenience shops and pharmacies but may not be as safe as Western ones.

Technically, some aspects of prostitution in Thailand are illegal (e.g., soliciting, pimping), but enforcement is liberal and brothels are commonplace. It's not illegal to pay for sex due to the "Special Services" exemption in Thai law or to pay a "bar fine".

Drugs

Thailand has extremely strict drug laws and your foreign passport is not enough to get you out of legal hot water. Possession and trafficking offenses that would merit traffic-ticket misdemeanors in other countries can result in life imprisonment or even death in Thailand. Police frequently raid nightclubs, particularly in Bangkok, with urine tests and full body searches on all patrons. Ko Pha Ngan's notoriously drug-fueled Full Moon Parties also often draw police attention.

Possession of cannabis (กัญชา ganchaa), while illegal, is treated less harshly and, if busted, you may be able to pay an "on the spot fine" to get out, although even this can set you back tens of thousands of baht. It's highly unwise to rely on this. While some police will accept payments on the spot for violating drug laws, others will strictly follow the harsh drug laws to the letter.

Penalties for drug possession in Thailand vary in harshness depending on the following: category of drug, amount of drug, and intent of the possessor. If you do take the risk and get arrested on drug-related charges, you would do well to immediately contact your embassy as a first step. The embassy usually cannot get you out of jail but can alert your home country of your arrest and can often put you in contact with a lawyer in Thailand. The availability of drugs in Thailand can mislead tourists into making light of the penalties for possessing or selling drugs, but that is unwise.

Civil conflict

In 2004, long-simmering resentment in the southern-most Muslim-majority provinces burst into violence in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces. All are off the beaten tourist trail, although the eastern rail line from Hat Yai to Sungai Kolok (gateway to Malaysia's east coast) passes through the area and has been disrupted several times by attacks.

Hat Yai (Thailand's largest city after Bangkok and its Nonthaburi suburbs) in Songkhla has also been hit by a series of related bombings; however, the main cross-border rail line connecting Hat Yai and Butterworth (on the west coast) has not been affected, and none of the islands or the west coast beaches have been targeted.

In September 2006, three foreigners were killed in bombings in Hat Yai. Some rebel groups have threatened foreigners, but while targets have included hotels, karaoke lounges and shopping malls, Westerners have not been singled out for attacks. There are Islamist and jihadist groups in south Thailand, such as Jemaah Islamiyah.

Passport

Make a photocopy of your passport and the page with your visa stamp. Always keep your passport or the photocopy with you (the law requires that you carry your actual passport at all times, but in practice a photocopy will usually suffice). Many night clubs insist on a passport (and ONLY a passport) as proof of age. It is not required that you leave your passport with a hotel when you check in.

Security

Carrying your own padlock is a good idea, as budget rooms sometimes use them instead of (or as well as) normal door locks; carry a spare key someplace safe, like your money belt, otherwise considerable expense as well as inconvenience may result should you lose the original. Also consider some type of cable to lock your bag to something too big to fit through the door or window.

Wildlife

Thailand has a few dangerous animals. The most common menace is stray dogs which frequent even the streets of Bangkok. The vast majority of which are passive and harmless, but a few of which may carry rabies, so steer clear of them and do not, by any means, feed or pet them. If they try to attack you, don't run as this will encourage them to chase you as if you were prey. Instead, try to walk away slowly.

Monkeys may be cute and friendly, but in any area where unaware tourists have corrupted them, they expect to get food from humans. They can be very sneaky thieves, and they can bite. As with dogs, you won't want to get bitten, whether or not they have rabies. Most urban areas do not have "stray" monkeys, but Lopburi is famous for them.

Poisonous cobras can be found throughout Thailand, hiding in tall brush or along streams. You're unlikely to ever see one, as they shy away from humans, but they may bite if surprised or provoked. The Siamese crocodile, on the other hand, is nearly extinct and found only in a few remote national parks. Monitor lizards are common in jungles, but despite their scary reptilian appearance they're harmless.

Racial issues

Thais are normally very tolerant of people and tourists, regardless of skin colour, are very unlikely to encounter aggressive racial abuse. However some visitors may notice their ethnicity attracting some innocent attention. Usually these situations are limited to stares or unwanted attention in shops. Most Thais are often curious to find out the nationality of the black travellers they meet. Apart from this curiosity displayed by Thais, most travellers from more diverse backgrounds will enjoy their time in the country and will find it easy to strike up a rapport with Thais, who are often a bit weary of the younger Caucasian backpackers who treat the country as nothing but a big drinking holiday.

Fights

Do not get into fights with Thais. Foreigners will eventually be outnumbered 15 to 1 (even against Thai people not initially involved) and weapons (metals, sharp objects, beer bottles, martial arts) are usually involved. Trying to break up someone else's fight is a bad idea, and your intention to help may get you hurt.

Earthquakes & Tsunami

Southern Thailand is seismically active, with earthquakes and tsunami. The chief culprit is the Indian tectonic plate (carrying the Indian ocean & subcontinent) which, like a skidding truck, is barrelling northwards while spinning anti-clockwise. In this region it collides with the small Burma plate, which carries the Andaman Sea. When the plates grind past each other (a “slip-strike” collision), they cause earthquakes. But the Indian plate is also being subducted – forced beneath the Burma plate – which lifts the sea-bed, displaces the water, and sets off a tsunami. A most violent event occurred on 26 Dec 2004, when along 1000 miles of fault line the sea-bed was suddenly jacked up by several metres. Two hours later, tsunami hit the west coast of Thailand in three waves 20 mins apart, and over 8000 people here were killed.

There was, and is, no effective local warning system, as (unlike the Pacific) major tsunamis in the Indian Ocean are seen as a once-in-a-century event: “Not since Krakatoa in 1883” is the stock refrain. But memory of the 2004 tragedy remains strong. Expect frantic fleeing from the coast if an earthquake is felt, with gridlock and traffic casualties. Your decision will be whether to rush out of the building before it collapses, or rush indoors to try and get above the third floor.

The Burma plate is in turn being shunted against the Sundah plate, which carries the Peninsula mainland and eastern sea. This movement is less violent, but this fault line lies right under the western coastline, so these earthquakes have more local impact and tsunami could strike immediately. Central and Northern Thailand are less quake-prone but the 2014 Mae Lao earthquake, centred on Chiang Rai, caused one death.

Stay healthy

Being a tropical country, Thailand has its fair share of exotic tropical diseases. Malaria is generally not a problem in any of the major tourist destinations, but is endemic in rural areas along the borders with Cambodia (including Ko Chang in Trat Province), Laos, and Myanmar. As is the case throughout Southeast Asia, dengue fever can be encountered just about anywhere, including the most modern cities. The only prevention is avoiding mosquito bites. Wear long pants and long sleeves at dusk in mosquito areas and use repellent (available at any corner shop or pharmacy).

Food hygiene levels in Thailand are reasonably high, and it's generally safe to eat at street markets and to drink any water offered to you in restaurants. Using common sense — e.g., avoiding the vendor who leaves raw meat sitting in the sun with flies buzzing around — and following the precautions listed in our article on travellers' diarrhea is still advisable.

The sun is harsher than at higher latitudes. A couple of hours in the sun with unprotected skin will result in redness and a painful night even on a cloudy day.

HIV

Thailand has a high rate of HIV . (Estimated adult (15-49) HIV prevalence is (1.3% of population in 2014) and other sexually transmitted diseases are common, especially among sex workers. Condoms are sold in all convenience stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, etc. Avoid injection drug use.

Pharmacy

There's a pharmacy on every block in Thailand and most are happy to sell you anything you want without a prescription. Technically, however, this is illegal, and police have been known to bust tourists occasionally for possessing medicines without a prescription, even innocuous stuff like asthma medication.

Healthcare

Thailand is a popular destination for medical tourism, and is particularly well-known for gender reassignment surgery. Healthcare standards and medical facilities at the best hospitals are on par with the West, with much lower treatment costs. Public hospitals in Bangkok are usually of an acceptable standard and have English-speaking doctors available, though they tend to be understaffed and consequently, waiting times are long. However, the quality of healthcare and availability of English-speaking medical staff can fall sharply once you leave Bangkok and head into the smaller cities and rural areas.

Most major cities in Thailand have at least one private hospital that is used by Western expatriates, and while they are more expensive than public hospitals, they provide a higher standard of care with English-speaking doctors and nurses, and are still reasonably priced by Western standards. Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok is a world-renowned hospital for various surgical procedures that attracts medical tourists from far and wide, while the Bangkok Hospital group is Thailand's largest private healthcare group, and operates hospitals in many of Thailand's major cities.

Respect

Thais are a polite people and, while remarkably tolerant of foreigners gallivanting on their beaches and with their women, you'll find that you will get more respect if you in turn treat them and their customs with respect.

The wai

The traditional greeting known as the wai, where you press your hands together as is in prayer and bow slightly, is derived from the Hindu cultural influence from India, and still widely practised. Among Thais, there are strict rules of hierarchy that dictate how and when the wai should be given. In brief, inferiors salute superiors first. You should not wai service people or street vendors. The higher your hands go, the more respectful you are. You will also often see Thais doing a wai as they walk past temples and spirit houses. As a foreign visitor, you are not expected to know how to wai, nor to reciprocate when wai'd to; while you're unlikely to cause offense if you do, you may well look slightly strange. If somebody makes a wai to you, a slight bow alone is more than sufficient for ordinary occasions, and for business, most Thais will shake hands with foreigners instead of waiing anyway.

Dress

Personal appearance is very important in Thailand as a measure of respect to other people, you will find that dressing appropriately means that you are shown more respect in return. This translates in many ways, even sometimes lowering initial offering prices at markets. While some allowance is made for the differing customs of foreigners, Thais respond more positively to well-dressed Westerners.

While BangkokPattaya and Phuket are exceptions, traditionally, Thais are modest and conservative dressers. At a minimum your clothes should be neat, clean, and free from holes or tears. Except at the beach or at sacred sites normal western dress is acceptable for both men and women, except that you should avoid clothing showing a lot of skin. Pants are preferable to shorts, blouses should have capped sleeves, and if tank tops are worn, the straps should be thick (i.e., not spaghetti straps). Outside of the major temples and royal palaces, men wearing shorts is generally acceptable.

Taking off one's shoes at temples and private homes is mandatory etiquette, and this may even be requested at some shops. Wear shoes that slip on and off easily. Flip-flops, hiking sandals, and clog-type shoes are usually a good pragmatic choice for traveling in Thailand; only in the most top-end establishments are shoes required.

It is best to play it safe with wats and other sacred sites in Thailand; your dress should be unambiguously modest and cover your entire torso and most of your limbs. For men, ankle-length pants are mandatory; on top, t-shirts are acceptable, though a button-front or polo shirt would be best. Many recommend that women wear only full length dresses and skirts; you should make sure that your clothing covers at least your shoulders and your knees and some places may require that you wear ankle-length pants or skirts and long sleeved tops. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are highly inappropriate, as are short skirts. The rules are even more strict for foreign visitors, so even if you see a local in shorts it's not OK for everyone.

Topless sunbathing is common by Western women at many tourist beaches. At beaches which are primarily Thai visitors however, this is not advised.

Religion

Monks are an integral part of Buddhism in Thailand, and Thai men are generally expected to spend a certain amount of time living as a monk at least once in their lifetime.

Buddhist monks are meant to avoid sexual temptations, and in particular they do not touch women or take things from women's hands. Women should make every effort to make way for monks on the street and give them room so they do not have to make contact with you. Women should avoid offering anything to a monk with their hands. Objects or donations should be placed in front of a monk so he can pick it up, or place it on a special cloth he carries with him. Monks will sometimes be aided by a layman who will accept things from women merit-makers on their behalf.

Theravada Buddhist monks are also supposed to avoid material temptations and as such, are not allowed to touch money, so offering money to a monk is considered to be a sign of disrespect in most Theravada Buddhist cultures. Therefore, should you wish to donate to a monk, you should only offer food, and put your monetary donation in the appropriate donation box at the temple. Those monks that accept money are almost always fakes.

As in neighbouring countries, the swastika is widely used in Thailand as a Buddhist religious symbol. It pre-dates Nazism by 2,500 years and has no anti-Semitic connotations.

When entering temples, always take off your shoes before you do so, as entering a temple with footwear is considered to be a major faux pas. When sitting on the floor in a temple, make sure you cross your legs under you "mermaid-style" so your feet do not point at any person or statue. Do not pose alongside a Buddha statue for a photo and certainly don't clamber on them. It's OK to take photos of a statue, but everyone should be facing it. Also, as doorway thresholds are considered a sanctuary for spirits, it's important not to step on a raised threshold, but rather to step over it.

The Royal Family

It's illegal to show disrespect to royalty (lèse-majesté), a crime which carries up to 15 to 20 years imprisonment. Do not make any negative remarks, or any remarks which might be perceived as disrespectful about the King or any members of the Royal Family. Since the King is on the country's currency, don't burn, tear, or mutilate it - especially in the presence of other Thais. If you drop a coin or bill, do not step on it to stop it - this is very rude, since you are stomping on the picture of the King's head that is printed on the coin. Also, anything related to the stories and movies The King and I and Anna and the King is illegal to possess in Thailand. Almost all Thais, even those in other countries, feel very strongly when it comes to any version of this story. They feel that it makes a mockery of their age-old monarchy and is entirely inaccurate. In 2007, a Swiss man (Oliver Juffer) was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for spraying graffiti on the King's portrait, although he later expressed remorse and was pardoned by His Majesty personally (quote: "It troubles me when such harsh sentences are passed.") and deported to Switzerland.

Animal Abuse

Elephants are a large part of Thailand's tourist business, and the smuggling and mistreatment of elephants for tourist attractions is a widespread practice. Be aware that elephants are often separated from their mothers at a young age to be cruelly trained under captivity for the rest of their lives. If you intend to go on an elephant ride, purchase an elephant painting, or "use" elephants for other activities, please take their mistreatment into account. There are a few ethical animal tourism operators in Thailand such as Elephant Nature Park and Maetang Elephant Park in Chiang Mai.

A depressingly common sight on the congested streets of Bangkok and other tourist centers is elephant begging. During night hours, mahouts (trainers) with lumbering elephants approach tourists to feed the creatures bananas or take a photo with them for a fee. The elephants are brought to the city to beg in this way because they are out of work and are mistreated and visibly distressed under the conditions of the city. Please avoid supporting this cruelty by rejecting the mahouts as they offer you bananas to feed the elephants.

Drugged animals such as lizards and birds are sometimes used by touts as photo subjects. These touts are often seen plying the main tourist beaches of Thailand. The tout will take a photo with you and the doped up animal and then demand payment.

Rare and endangered species are often sold at markets for pets, and many other animal products are sold as luxury items. Avoid buying rare pets, leather, ivory, talons, dried sea creatures (such as starfish), fur, feathers, teeth, wool, and other products since they are most likely the result of illegal poaching, and buying them contributes greatly to animal endangerment and abuse.

Other

  • The head is considered the most exalted part of the body, feet the lowliest. Never touch or pat a Thai on the head, including children. If you accidentally touch or bump someone's head, apologize immediately or you'll be perceived as very rude. Similarly, do not touch people with your feet, or even point with them. If someone is sitting with outstretched feet, avoid stepping over them, as this is very rude and could even spark a confrontation. Squeeze around them or ask them to move. Even if the person is sleeping, it is best to go around, as others are likely to notice.
  • Thais are conservative compared to Westerners. Public displays of affection are rarely seen, even handholding by married couples, and is generally considered to be distasteful, though due to the dependence of the Thai economy on tourism, Thais grudgingly tolerate such displays by foreigners. Don't make out in public. You'll embarrass yourself and inflame Thai sensibilities.
  • It is considered impolite and disrespectful to visibly sniff food before eating it, particularly when eating in someone's home (this is true even if the sniffing is done in appreciation).
  • Do not audibly blow your nose in public, especially not at the dinner table, but it is perfectly acceptable to pick your nose at any time or place.
  • In Thailand, expression of negative emotion such as anger or sadness is almost never overt, and it is possible to enjoy a vacation in Thailand without ever seeming to see an argument or an unhappy person. Thai people smile constantly, and to outsiders this is seen as happiness or friendliness. In reality, smiling is a very subtle way to communicate, and to those who live in Thailand, a smile can indicate any emotion — from fear, to anger, to sadness, to joy, etc. "Saving face" is a very important aspect of Thai culture and they will try to avoid embarrassment and confrontation.
  • In public places (such as large markets) the national anthem is played over loudspeakers at 08:00 and 18:00. When this is played, many will stop what they are doing and stand still for the duration. You should do the same. The royal anthem (not national anthem) is played in cinemas before the film, and everyone must stand. It lasts about a minute, then everyone will continue where they left off. In MRT and SkyTrain stations in Bangkok, the escalators will also lurch to a halt to prevent a large human pile-up.

Cope

Bring an open mind and a sense of humour. Don't come with too many preconceived ideas about what Thailand is like, as media and friends’ experiences have a habit of distorting reality.

If you're sticking to major cities and tourist areas, don't worry too much about under-packing; you can get hold of any essentials you've forgotten. Essentials are a swimming costume, a day pack, an umbrella in rainy season and some warm clothes if travelling in Oct-Dec, as some areas get cool. Some sources say there is no point in bringing a raincoat during the warm rainy season because it is so hot and sticky your raincoat will be uncomfortable.

You will only need a couple of changes of clothes as you can get washing done anywhere cheaply. Sandals for when your hiking shoes are too hot can be bought cheaply in Thailand, although large sizes for women are harder to come by. If female and anything above a size 2 (US), size 6 (UK & IRL), size 36 (rest of EU), busty, or tall, it is often difficult to find clothes that will fit you in any of the Thai shops. If you are male and have a waist more than 38" you will have trouble finding pants. You will largely be limited to backpacker gear (the omnipresent fisherman pants and "Same Same" t-shirts) or Western imports in Bangkok malls, for the same prices as back home or more. While laundry is cheap, it is useful to bring a few changes of clothes, as you may sweat your way through several outfits a day in the Thai weather.

Take enough padlocks for every double zipper to stop wandering hands and lock up your belongings, even in your hotel room. Lock zippers through the lower holes, not the upper ones on the pull tabs — although even this precaution won't help much if you encounter a razor-blade artist.

Take snorkeling gear or buy it on arrival if you plan to spend a lot of your time in the water. Alternatively put up a notice looking for gear from someone who is leaving. A tent for camping if you are a national park buff is a good idea, as is a compass. You might like to bring compact binoculars too if wildlife is your thing. A good map of Thailand is also handy.

Take earplugs for when you're stuck in a noisy room or want to sleep on the bus. Take a mirror for shaving, as often budget places won’t have any. String is very handy for hanging up washing. Cigarette papers can be difficult to find, except in tourist centres. Climbing shoes for rock climbing are useful as Thailand has some of the best cliffs in Southeast Asia.

If you have prescription glasses, it is a good idea to bring a spare pair of glasses or contact lenses plus a copy of your prescription. Bring a book you're prepared to swap. A personal music player is great as a huge range of cheap music is available everywhere.

Into the toiletries bag throw sun screen and insect repellent. Mosquito coils are also a good idea. A small pocket size torch / flashlight will come in handy when the electricity goes out or for investigating caves. Passport photos come in handy for visas.

If you plan to travel long distances by motorbike, purchase a good quality helmet, which you can do in Thailand. Last but not least, pack your stuff in plastic bags to stop them from getting wet, especially when travelling in the rainy season or on boats.

Aside from the above, the following are recommended:

  • Prescriptions for any prescription medications being brought through customs
  • Travel insurance
  • Blood donor/type card
  • Details of your next of kin
  • A second photo ID other than your passport
  • Credit card plus a backup card for a separate account

Connect

Electricity

Electrical power in Thailand is 220V, 50Hz. There is a mix of plug types in use. Most typical is the standard ungrounded North American two-bladed plug. Caution: appliances from North America, Japan, and Taiwan meant for only 120 V will overheat and be destroyed without a transformer. Most outlets are ungrounded. Connecting your laptop to mains power will in many cases require that you use an adapter for a two-bladed outlet. They are widely available, even in shops like 7-Eleven. See the article electrical systems for more information.

Internet

The Thai government actively censors Internet access. 2010 estimates place the number of blocked websites at 110,000 and growing. Roughly 77% are blocked for reasons of lèse majesté, content (content that defames, insults, threatens, or is unflattering to the king, including national security and some political issues), 22% for pornography, which is illegal in Thailand. Some web pages from BBC One, BBC Two, CNN, Yahoo! News, the Post-Intelligencer newspaper (Seattle, USA), and The Age newspaper (Melbourne, Australia) dealing with Thai political content are blocked. Wikileaks is blocked.

Internet cafés are widespread and most are inexpensive. Prices as low as 15 baht/hour are commonplace, and speed of connection is generally reasonable, but many cafes close at midnight. Higher prices prevail in major package-tourist destinations (60 baht/hour is typical, 120 baht/hour is not unusual). Islands with multiple Internet cafés include Ko Phi Phi (Don), Ko Lanta (Yai), Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko TaoKo Chang (Trat), Ko Samet (Rayong), Ko Si Chang (Chonburi), and of course Phuket.

Outside the most competitive tourist areas, free Wi-Fi is not as common as in neighbouring countries in many budget hotels and guesthouses ("mansions") and they may charge small fee for Internet by LAN or Wi-Fi even if you bring your own laptop. Wi-Fi is commonly available in cafes and restaurants serving Westerners. It's sometimes provided by telecoms who charge fees using them, and it usually requires a telecom account to finish the registration process.

Keyloggers are all too often installed on the computers in cheap cafes, so be on your guard if using online banking, stock broking or even PayPal. Using cut and paste to enter part of your password may defeat some of them. Or typing part of the user name and password inside the text input field (for password or username) then clicking outside of it someplace in the browser window and typing some characters and then clicking back into the text input field and continuing to type the other part and doing this several times. Otherwise take your own laptop to the Internet cafe.

If you suddenly and unexpectedly find yourself typing in Thai (or any other script) you've probably accidentally hit whatever key-combination the computer you're using has been configured to use for switching between languages (often Ctrl+spacebar). To change back, use the "Text Services and Input Languages" option (a quick-access menu is usually available via a "TH" icon visible on the task bar. Simply switch it to "EN").

Telephone

Mobile phones in Thailand have 10 digits, including the leading zero. Land-line telephones have 9 digits, including the leading zero.

To place an international call, you can buy a prepaid card (available for 300 baht at many convenience stores and guesthouses) to use with one of the bright yellow Lenso payphones. You should rarely have trouble finding either of these unless you're way out in the countryside. The international access code is 001.

For mobile phone users, Thailand has three GSM mobile service providers: AIS, DTAC and TrueMove), which may be useful if you have a mobile phone that will work on either one or both of the GSM 900 or 1800 frequency bands (consult your phone's technical specifications). If you have one, you can buy a prepaid SIM card for any of the Thai carriers in any convenience store for as little as 50-200 baht and charge it up as you go. The Bangkok airport is a good place to buy a SIM card, since the people working at the counters there speak relatively good English. Since 2015 you must provide your passport details when buying a SIM card.

Most phones sold by major carriers are "locked" to the carrier. That means that the phone won't work with a SIM card on another network, unless you get it unlocked. Unlocking a phone involves entering a special code into the phone. The procedure for entering this code depends on the specific phone. Most carriers will give you the unlock code, and instructions on how to unlock it, if you have been a subscriber in good standing (bills paid) for a certain period (about 3 months, but depends on the carrier). Contact your carrier's customer service department, and tell them you plan to use your phone overseas. They will usually give you the unlock code. Once unlocked, you can use any SIM card in the phone. Alternatively, the wizards at Bangkok's MBK shopping mall can unlock most phones for less than 500 baht. If you need to buy a mobile phone, you can pick those up at MBK as well, as a huge selection of cheap second-hand mobiles can be found on the 4th floor.

International rates from Thai carriers are surprisingly good. DTAC, for example, charges 10 baht/minute to call the USA. Moreover, you can reduce rates even further, from 1.5x and up to 5-6x for some countries like Russia, by pre-dialing 009 or 008 instead of + before the international country code. For instance, 009 1(xxx)xxx-xxxx for the USA will give you a 5 baht/minute rate, at the expense of slight voice quality decrease, which is often unnoticeable.

TrueMove offers very good international call rates from 1 baht per minute to destinations including the USA, Canada, Australia, UK, France, and Germany with its Inter-SIM promotion. You may find the SIM cards handed out for free at some airports, branded as an AOT SIM and including 5 minutes of free calls back home. Note that you should also use prefixes (006 for better quality, 00600 for a cheaper rate. However, for some countries, the rate is same for both promotions. How to get cheaper rates, as well as rates for selected countries, is clearly listed on SIM card packages.

Coverage is very good throughout the country, all cities and tourist destinations (including resort islands) are well covered, and even in the countryside it's more likely you'll get a network signal than not, especially with an AIS or DTAC SIM. However, if you plan extended stays in remote non-tourist areas, AIS (their prepaid service name is "1-2-Call") is a better choice, at the expense of more pricey local calls than DTAC. But the difference, once very significant, is becoming less and less over time, both in call rates and coverage. TrueMove coverage is considered the worst, with phones occasionally losing signal even in towns. Nevertheless, if you plan to stay only in major cities/islands, and/or don't need your phone available all the time when outside of them, True SIM is OK too. As a benefit, now they have 3G (850 MHz only). Not all handsets, especially older ones, support this band. Coverage in Bangkok (centre, airport and some other areas), Chiang Mai (entire city), Phuket, and Pattaya.

If you plan to visit Thailand at least once a year for short visits, consider buying the SIM with minimal validity restrictions (usually one year from the last top up, even if it was 10 baht). By doing this, you can re-use this SIM on the next trip, thus avoiding hassle of buying a new one every time, keeping your Thai number the same, as well as saving a bit. For example, DTAC offers the Simple SIM plan for that, and before 7-Elevens sold this one by default, but now they seem to offer cheaper (but with limited validity) Happy SIMs instead. Just ask for the former one. Local calls will be a bit more pricey (international are not affected), but usually this is not of much concern for the short-time visitor. AIS (1-2-Call) has similar (but more expensive) offerings too, as well as True. If you already have a Thai SIM and want to switch plans, that is possible for free or with at a small charge. Consult your operator's website for details.

For short-term visitors, international roaming onto Thailand's GSM networks is possible, subject to agreements between operators.

  • CAT Telecom 009 IP Telephony service rates - see how much you'll save on international calls if using 009 instead of +.
  • Thai Prepaid Card - On-line top up credit for Thai pre-paid SIM cards.
  • Thai SIM Top Up - Top up all Thai SIM networks on-line.

Smart Phones / tablets / aircards

A smart phone is an incredibly useful thing to have while travelling. All three big GSM operators offer nationwide GPRS/EDGE and 3G service with 4G already rolled out in major tourist towns. They all offer a bewildering number of SIM card and add-on service packages and competition keeps changing what is available. If you just want to get connected it is enough to know that all three operators cover the country well enough and the prices are not far apart. If you visit for some weeks it is good enough to buy one of the packages offered to tourists at the mobile operator shop that has the shortest queue. AIS has "Traveller SIM", DTAC has "Tourist SIM" and TRUE has "TOURIST SIM". As of 2016 you will pay 299-599 baht to get 7-15 days of unlimited mobile data and call credit enough for over an hour of local calls. You can buy additional data packages if you stay several weeks. Meticulous research can pay off if you stay for months, want to use the same phone number for years, upload gigabytes of videos or simply insist on paying nothing but the lowest possible price for your kind of usage.

From 2014 all the operators offer 3G WCDMA at the standard 2100 MHz band in addition to the less common 850 and 900 MHz bands. As a result your device will work whichever operator you choose.

Usually data service is already pre-activated on a prepaid SIM. Internet usage is billed by the minute. Any minute within which your phone accesses the Internet is billed to you. The price of this pay-as-you-use access is not cheap, around 0.5 to 1 baht/minute. That is comparable to Internet cafes. However, Internet packages can be purchased, which can save you quite a lot, especially if you use this service often. These come in three types: time-based (good for laptop users who are on-line just a couple of hours a day), volume-based (appropriate for smartphones or chatting) and unlimited. See this useful guide to 3G data plans in Thailand.

Many smartphones will access the Internet in the background, even when you're not actually using the phone or the Internet. This can eat up your minutes quickly, and then will start to consume your remaining baht much faster,if you have a time-based package. It's best to use either volume-based or unlimited package in this case. Alternatively, make sure your phone has a reliable way of turning off the Internet usage.

  • AIS One-2-Call Internet packages can be ordered using phone key codes as long as you have sufficient credit in your SIM. The codes can be found on the Web or in leaflets available in operator shops. Credit top up is available in FamilyMart and MaxValu convenience stores in addition to AIS and TeleWiz shops. Large enough packages provide complimentary unlimited access to the AIS Wi-Fi network available in some urban areas.
  • DTAC Happy Internet packages can be ordered using phone key codes as long as you have sufficient credit in your SIM. The codes can be found on the Web or in leaflets available in DTAC shops. Credit refill is available in 7-Eleven and FamilyMart convenience stores in addition to DTAC shops, as well as on DTAC web pages using credit cards. Large enough packages provide complimentary unlimited access to the DTAC Wi-Fi network available in some urban areas.
  • TrueMove's packages can be ordered using phone key codes as long as you have sufficient credit in your SIM. The codes can be found on the Web or in leaflets available in TRUE shops. Credit top up is available in 7-Eleven and FamilyMart convenience stores in addition to TRUE shops, as well as on TruveMove H web pages using credit cards. Even the cheaper packages include some access to the TrueMove Wi-Fi network available in some urban areas. To use True Wi-Fi, look for "@truewifi" network, enter your phone '08xxxxxxxx@truemove' as a login and receive your password via SMS.

There are also some less known 3G and 4G network providers and resellers: i-kool 3G, Mojo 3G, MY by CAT, Penguin SIM, TOT 3G, Tune Talk.

Some smart phones may require you to manually enter the APN (Access Point Name) for the Internet to work. APNs have many configurable parameters, but typically only a few pieces of data are necessary. Check your phone's settings; the procedure for editing APNs varies for different phones.

  • DTAC - APN Name: www.dtac.co.th, Username: guest, Password: guest
  • AIS - APN Name: internet, Username: ais (may not be necessary), Password: ais (may not be necessary)
  • TrueMove - APN Name: internet, Username: internet, Password: internet

Topping up an Internet package isn't as straightforward as topping up voice minutes, but not impossible even if you can't speak Thai. While you can easily top up voice minutes at any convenience store, you will likely get a blank stare if you ask for Internet packages. Internet packages can be topped up at cell phone stores, which are easy enough to find in populated areas - however, it is not likely that they'll be aware of all current promotions and options. More services, obviously, will be available at numerous operator's outlets (DTAC shop, TRUE shop, AIS shop, TeleWiz shop for AIS) generally available at the big malls/trade centres (Big C, Tesco, etc.) as well as other public places - refer to your operator's website for details. Alternatively, you can just call the customer support (1678 for DTAC, 1331 for True, 1175 for AIS) - they can both advice you about the nearest office location, if you still need it, or turn off/on any Internet (or SMS or MMS) package you request. However, calls to these service numbers often aren't free for prepaid SIM users, with calling rate up to (DTAC) 3 baht/minute. If you do not want to spend that every time you need to switch - there are numbers where you can do-it-yourself using a voice menu (free of charge): *1004 for DTAC Happy (Thai language only), *9000 for True (in English, at least for the Inter-SIM handed out in the airports).

Go next

Thailand borders on Malaysia, Burma, Cambodia, and Laos. Vietnam is beyond Cambodia and Laos, and southern China, Singapore and Indonesia are also in the overall region. Budget airlines offer flights from Bangkok to destinations as far as in Japan and Australia.

The first time I landed in Bangkok back in 2010, I did everything wrong.

I was so excited, I didn’t get myself close to the schedule before I arrived.

Even though I was arriving close to midnight, I slept on the final flight there.

I gave my guesthouse address written in Thai to my driver, but he couldn’t find it and had to keep stopping and asking people where it was.

I chose a guesthouse with a windowless room that was essentially a twin bed with an extra two feet of space around it. No outlets. No wifi. No A/C. Not even a top sheet.

I didn’t sleep a wink the entire first night and basically twiddled my thumbs until 6:00 AM, when I figured it was a socially acceptable time to visit some temples.

I slept a few hours in the afternoon the first day — and didn’t sleep a wink the second night, either. I then got a nasty cold due to sleep deprivation and missed out on some social gatherings.

Here I am on my first day in Bangkok in 2010. I was a mess, but I was so happy just to be there.

Here I am on my first day in Bangkok in 2015. By this time, my tenth visit to Bangkok, I had my arrival down to a science.

Here’s how to do the same when you touch down in Bangkok:

Adjust yourself to the time zone ahead of time.

Granted, this is most difficult from the East Coast of the U.S., where we’re usually on a 12-hour time difference. But anything you can do to get yourself slightly closer to Thailand’s time zone will have you in much better shape, even if it means you’ll be sleeping fewer hours.

Hit up the ATM.

You don’t need to get cash before your trip — just hit up the ATM in the airport as soon as you land.

You also might want to visit a 7-11 and buy a bottle of water so you can break a large bills.

Get a taxi from the airport.

When you arrive in Bangkok, chances are you’re going to be exhausted and ready to just fall into bed. This is an occasion that warrants paying for a taxi, even if you’re backpacking and trying to save money.

Airport taxis have rates set, so you will be charged a meter rate. Keep in mind that depending on where you’re going, some drivers will offer to take you via highway, which will cost you extra toll fees that you will need to pay when you go through the toll booth.

Have your accommodation’s name and address ready, and pinpoint it on Google Maps.

When I first got to Bangkok, I was shocked at how often taxi drivers would have no idea where my destination was. It’s a far cry from London, where taxi drivers are required to memorize every street in the city!

It’s a good idea to have the address written in Thai as well as English — but it’s even better to have it saved on Google Maps.

Check into an extremely comfortable hotel or guesthouse.

Why a comfortable place? Because you’ll be exhausted and sleeping at odd hours for the next few days. Having a nice place to stay can make such a huge difference. I stayed at the Amari Watergate — more on that below.

Take melatonin right before you go to bed.

I first started bought melatonin when I flew from Boston to Sri Lanka last year, knowing that I’d have a busy schedule and wouldn’t have the luxury of going at my own pace.

Melatonin is a natural supplement that helps your body realize that it’s bedtime. It’s best to take it about an hour before you go to bed, but I find that it affects me within around 30 minutes.

For the first several days, take melatonin at night — it will help you beat jet lag faster. You can get it on Amazon.

Get on a normal schedule as soon as you can.

Avoid napping! Believe me, it’s better to go to bed at 9:00 PM and sleep until 4:30 AM than to take a midday nap. Because as soon as you start midday napping, you’ll be falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon every day.

Pick up a SIM card. 

I always go to Siam Paragon, a luxury shopping mall near Siam Square, and visit the AIS store. AIS provides some of the best coverage in Thailand, has great data plans, and they’re used to assisting foreigners in this store.

Don’t forget to bring your passport! It’s required to get a SIM card.

Go easy on the food if you have a sensitive stomach.

When I first arrived in Asia, I went vegetarian for the first few days and gradually eased into eating meat. You might want to do the same if you’re nervous about the food. Always stick to bottled water, too!

Indulge in massages.

One of my favorite things about Thailand is that Thais consider massage a normal, frequent part of staying healthy. As a result, massage is available for cheap in Bangkok — think around 250 baht ($7) for one hour.

Traditional Thai massage is done with your clothes on (they may give you loose pajama-like garments to wear). It’s a lot like assisted yoga. Personally, I’m a big fan of foot massages and get them almost every day.

Give yourself at least a few days in Bangkok.

Bangkok is one of my top five favorite cities in the world. You could spend weeks here discovering all that the city has to offer. If you’re a returning Thailand visitor, you probably know what you want to do, but if you’re new to Thailand, please don’t listen to people telling you to skip Bangkok. This city is beautifully chaotic and I love it for that reason.

A few of my favorite activities:

Visit Chatuchak Market. Held on Saturday and Sunday, this is the largest market in the world and they sell everything from unique clothing to fancy furniture to tiny puppies.

Hang out in Siam Square. This is where young Thais hang out and where you’ll find lots of cool shops, along with several high-end malls. Keep in mind that Asian sizes tend to be tiny, but accessories are universal!

Go to a luxury movie theater. I love SF World Cinema on top of the Central World mall, where around 700 baht ($20) buys you a pre-movie buffet with a mocktail and tons of food, a plush leather recliner, a blanket (!!), a waitress, and your choice of flavored popcorn and soda. (If you don’t want to spend the cash, you can see new releases for around 100 baht ($3)!)

Visit Jim Thompson’s house. If you love architecture, luxury, and mystery, make this a priority. Jim Thompson was an American CIA agent turned silk merchant who ended up disappearing in Malaysia. His house is near Siam Square and is like a time capsule.

Explore and chow down in Chinatown. Chinatown is one of the most distinctive neighborhoods in the city, and you can easily get lost in the mazes here. The food is excellent, too.

Visit Buddhist temples. Some good ones for first-timers are Wat Pho, the Grand Palace, and Wat Arun, which are close together and close to the Khao San Road area.

See Muay Thai at Lumpinee Stadium. Not just a sports experience, but a cultural experience unlike any other.

Enjoy Khao San Road. The backpacker center of Southeast Asia, if not the world. Fun for a wild night out, but keep in mind merchandise here costs a lot more than on surrounding streets.

Chill out on Soi Rambuttri. Close to Khao San Road but much quieter and calmer, this is actually my favorite street in Bangkok. I love getting a foot massage while having a cocktail from the mobile VW van bar.

This is just scratching the surface — there is far more to do in Bangkok than I could include in a single post!

Staying at the Amari Watergate Bangkok

I always tell people that Bangkok and Las Vegas are the two best cities in the world for luxury hotels — there are tons to choose from and the prices are excellent.

Well, to be honest, I’ve never stayed in a luxury hotel in Bangkok until my most recent visit! A few months back, the Amari Watergate Bangkok offered me a complimentary three-night stay in exchange for some social media coverage, and I accepted it.

I really loved this hotel. And to be honest, having SUCH a nice place to stay made adjusting to Bangkok a far more pleasant experience than in recent years.

I stayed in an Executive Suite — one of the top suites in the hotel. Executive Suites are enormous with a king-sized bed, plenty of seating, a separate sitting room with an office section, and a giant bathroom with a tub you could practically do laps in.

Hello, New Best Friend.

The room, as you can see, is nothing short of glorious. Some of the other room amenities include multiple TVs, fruit upon arrival (so needed!), coffee and tea, lots of bottled water, and a view over downtown Bangkok.

But what I actually enjoyed most was being on an executive floor and having access to the executive lounge, which was airy, quiet, and luxurious. Just being there made me feel like I was part of an exclusive club. They also have happy hours in the executive suite each night!

November in Bangkok can be a bit of a mixed bag weather-wise, and there were mostly stormy skies — but that didn’t keep some people from jumping into the pool.

Getting a nice massage is the perfect way to settle into a new time zone, and the Breeze Spa at the Amari Watergate is excellent. You can choose a massage to reflect your mood — I went with invigorated (dreamy, serene, rejuvenated, and energized are other options). Because when you can get a massage on the street anywhere in Thailand, getting a high-end massage makes you feel pampered. I found it blissful, especially with the tea and macaron served at the end.

As for other benefits of the hotel, the location was ideal — walking distance from Siam Square and my favorite malls, making it a perfect hub for my first-day-in-Bangkok errands. You’re near the BTS, which will get you all over most of the city, and if you want to head to Khao San Road, you can take a nearby canal boat!

There’s a nice-looking gym, if you’re into that sort of thing. I wasn’t quite motivated enough to go inside!

And on my first night, I was able to experience a brand new event at the hotel — a Thai street market-inspired dining experience around the pool! I spent my time hanging out with new Thai friends and pretending not to cry from the spicier dishes. (I think they caught on when they saw how many Thai iced teas I was drinking.)

So basically, my first luxury hotel stay in Bangkok was a really wonderful experience. If you want to dip your toes into luxury travel in Asia, the Amari Watergate is a high value choice. I couldn’t have found a better way to land in my favorite Asian city.

Essential Info: Rates at the Amari Watergate Bangkok start at 2,635 baht ($73). Executive suites start at 8,325 baht ($229). While these are luxury rates, this is very good value for money, both in Bangkok and throughout the world.

I recommend taking a taxi to and from the airport, but you can also take the BTS (Skytrain) from nearby Ratchathewi Station.

Many thanks to the Amari Watergate Bangkok for providing me with a complimentary three-night stay, including breakfast and a massage. All opinions, as always, are my own.

What’s your favorite way to arrive in a new city?

“What’s your favorite place?”

I asked get that question at least once a day and often several times. It’s not an easy question to answer, as most travelers can attest. Our lists are long and we can’t pick one place above all.

…or can we?

Yes, it’s true — I actually have a favorite place in the world now. It’s a little place called Koh Lanta, Thailand.

Koh Lanta Overview

I first visited Koh Lanta just a few weeks into my long-term travels in 2010. I fell immediately in love.

Koh Lanta hits the development spot perfectly. Much of the island has a rustic feel, characterized by jungle huts and a few mountains. Prices are lower than the more popular neighboring islands. The people are incredibly friendly. And the sunsets? THE BEST ANYWHERE.

You don’t come to Koh Lanta for posh resorts (go to Phuket for that). You don’t come here to party your face off (Koh Phi Phi is a better bet).

You come here to relax and enjoy yourself.

Our Thirty-Something Girls’ Getaway

For this trip, I’d have a companion. Brenna of This Battered Suitcase (which you should definitely read, it’s one of the best travel blogs out there) and I were going to be in Thailand at the same time, so we decided to plan a trip to Koh Lanta together.

Now, here’s the beauty of our trip: Brenna and I had both been to Koh Lanta in our twenties, and now we were both 31. We had both done the Koh-Lanta-with-a-boy thing. And we had both done the twenty-something-bucket-guzzling-Southeast-Asia-backpacker thing.

This time in our lives, we were looking for something different. This would be a trip back to our beloved island where we could splash out a bit more, getting a much nicer guesthouse and going out to eat without watching our pennies. A trip where we wouldn’t feel pressure to do a ton of sightseeing or activities.

We were getting away from chilly temperatures (Boston for me and London for her) and wanted to chill out, hang out on the beach, read some books, hit up some bars, and meet some cool people.

When you’re in your early thirties, you’re not into partying as much as you used to be, and you probably have more money to spend. It was in this state of mind that we enjoyed a fabulous week in Koh Lanta.

Living it Up at Soontreya Lanta Resort

I discovered Soontreya Lanta Resort on my last trip, when friends staying there invited me to come visit one evening. I was impressed by the hotel’s grounds and pool, not to mention my friends’ raves about the comfy beds, and vowed that once I started making more money, I would come back to Koh Lanta and stay here.

Promise kept. This is a GREAT place to stay on Koh Lanta.

Image: Agoda

We had a very comfortable bungalow with twin beds and a bathroom with hot water. Comfortable beds and pillows are a rarity in Thailand, so when you finally get them, you enjoy them!

A standard bungalow, available with twin beds or a queen bed, cost us a very reasonable 2,700 baht ($75 USD) per night during high season (November 1-December 14 and March 1-April 30), which was even more reasonable when split between two. (Peak season of December 15-February 29 costs 3,500 baht/$97 per night; low season of May 1-October 31 costs 1,800 baht/$50 per night.)

Also, the wifi here is good enough to get your work done, whether by the pool or in your room! It did go out briefly during a few storms, but they have a generator for backup.

Soontreya is located at the bottom of Long Beach, an eight-minute walk from the outstanding beach at Relax Bay. It’s a five-minute walk from the main road, where you can flag down a tuk-tuk anywhere on the island.

One small flaw — like most Thai island resorts, the food here is mostly mediocre Western dishes and dumbed-down Thai fare. That said, their spring rolls are nice and I ate a ton of their chicken burgers!

Lazy Days at Relax Bay

I had never visited Relax Bay on my previous visits to Koh Lanta, but now it’s my favorite beach on the island.

Relax Bay is a small beach located just south of Pra Ae (Long Beach). It’s much quieter than the other big beaches and most of the crowd are guests at the Relax Bay Resort.

The water is the clearest of any beach I’ve been to on the island!

HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?! You don’t see water that clear on the popular islands on the Andaman Coast!

(Two years ago, I met a woman who told me she first came to Lanta in the 90s and all the beaches used to look like that. Sad.)

A bar called Moloko came recommended by our guesthouse owner and it soon became our regular place. They have exactly one shaded bungalow, so I’d recommend getting there early, especially in peak season, to claim your spot!

A spot to sit and read…fruit shakes and light lunches…a nearby hammock…massages a few doors down.

You can tell why we always ended up there!

Explore the Island by Motorbike

The best way to explore Koh Lanta is to rent a motorbike. The roads are in good condition and they’re not too busy, making it a good place to ride.

We actually didn’t rent bikes this time, but I recommend that first-time visitors do.

(Either way, please be sure to have travel insurance. I use and recommend World Nomads. You should have it every single time you travel, and it will protect you if you get injured while on a motorbike, which can happen even if you’re cautious.)

Kitty and Puppy Love

Brenna is a self-declared Dog Whisperer. (She even had a conversation with Carrie Fisher in London the other day — because she started talking to her about her dog!) Me, I’m not a dog person at all. But Brenna wanted to go spend time with dogs and I love Lanta Animal Welfare and the work that they do, so we went to the animal sanctuary together.

If you’re visiting the island, you can show up at Lanta Animal Welfare, take a tour, walk the dogs, and cuddle the cats as much as you’d like. You can even apply to volunteer long-term if you’d like to. (The volunteer who greeted us was actually one of my readers!)

After a few kitty scratches, the volunteers brought out two little dogs and suggested we take them to Relax Bay, a short walk away.

Oh, the dogs LOVED the beach! They were skittish and nervous at first, especially when we walked past a crowd of kids, but as soon as they got to the water, they were so happy.

And this so-not-a-dog-person fell completely and totally in love with her little doggie! Her name was Monroe and she was SO soft. I came pretty close to packing her in my suitcase.

By the way, you can adopt animals from Lanta Animal Welfare! It’s actually a lot easier than you think, especially if you’re based in Europe or North America.

Also, at one point Monroe spun me around and I hit my camera‘s settings and accidentally set them to miniature — but look at how this picture came out! I really like it!

The World’s Best Sunsets

Koh Lanta is my favorite sunset destination in the world (though Boracay is a close second).

To show you just how good the sunsets are, I’m going to show you the progression on a sunset that looked like it was going to be nonexistent.

Eh, kind of boring. Doesn’t look like it’s going to be anything.

Pretty lavender, but no bright streaks…

Ooh. What’s that giant pink thing?

I’ve never seen a sunset like this before!

OF COURSE THE LONGTAIL BOATS SAIL BY AT THE BEST MOMENT POSSIBLE!!

PERFECT cotton candy skies!

OH MY GOD, THIS IS ABSOLUTELY UNREAL. I CAN’T BELIEVE I ALMOST MISSED THIS!

I shall dance in the surf to celebrate!

And the grand finale. I can’t believe this sunset turned out so good.

Sunset Drinks on the Beach

This sunset shot-by-shot above took place on Relax Bay, but one of my favorite places for sunset viewings is Sanctuary, a bar and guesthouse on Long Beach. It’s nothing unusual or extraordinary — just a nice bar with nice people and a great place to watch the sun sink into the sea.

There are tons of bars on all the beaches and you might be able to get some happy hour prices on cocktails.

Eat Well

Koh Lanta has a ton of great places to eat, including one of my favorite restaurants in the world!

Here are three excellent options:

Red Snapper in Long Beach — This is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. I even spent Thanksgiving Day here once! Red Snapper’s chef is from Holland and she’s always changing the menu, which features international dishes and small plates. I’d recommend making a reservation here if you’re visiting in high or shoulder season. Try everything.

Best dish: chorizo fried with brandy and garlic. My favorite since 2010 and I still dream about smashing those garlic cloves over the slivers of meat!

Kwan’s Cookery in Klong Khong — If you’re not planning on visiting Chiang Mai or the north, you must come here to experience some outstanding northern Thai dishes! Even if you’ve already been to Chiang Mai, the food here is so good that you’ll be coming back again and again. Everything on the menu is fantastic here, and nowhere near the usual bland Thai-for-tourists fare.

Kwan’s also offers cooking classes.

Best dish: khao soi. Pretty much every travel blogger is obsessed with this coconut-based noodle soup, and there’s a reason for that!

Time for Lime on Khlong Dao — Nothing but a six-course Thai tasting menu. Oh, and the best cocktails on the island! They’re famous for their mojitos and the tasting menus, which can be made at different spicy levels, are a lot of fun. They also offer popular cooking classes and have an adults-only upper seating area.

Best of all, profits here go to Lanta Animal Welfare.

Best dish: the famous Time for Lime soup. Like all good Thai food, it’s a combination of sweet, sour, salty, and umami, all pureed down into a wondrous blend.

Besides these three, there are plenty of casual places along the main road, some with names, some without. Islands can often be hit or miss, offering bland tourist-friendly Thai dishes, and Lanta can be challenging in that aspect. Look for casual places where locals are eating, not just tourists.

Party Up

Koh Lanta isn’t a rollicking party island like Koh Phi Phi or Koh Phangan. Instead, there tends to be one place to be each night of the week.

Ask around for where the parties are. Two of our favorite places were Irie Bar for live music on Mondays and Pangea Beach Bar for the Tuesday beach party, both on Long Beach.

The beach party was especially fun! It’s known as the night where I was exhausted and promised Brenna I’d stay three hours — then I got my second wind and we were dancing until 4:00 AM. The DJ was playing incredible music and it was the perfect level of a crowd. There were enough people that it felt like a big party, but it was sparse enough that the bartenders were dancing as hard as we were!

We ended up meeting three English guys who were our age at the party. Dude, meeting multiple cool thirty-something guys on the backpacker trail in Southeast Asia is like meeting a herd of unicorns! (Southeast Asia backpackers tend to skew young; Europe backpackers are even younger. Latin America backpackers skew closer to thirty-somethings.) We ended up hanging out for the rest of our time on the island.

When to Go: November or December

I’ve visited Koh Lanta twice in November and once in December and January. High season on the Andaman Coast runs roughly from December through April and this is when you’ll have the sunniest weather.

November is my absolute favorite. It’s still shoulder season, so you get sunny days about 2/3 of the time and big storms about 1/3 of the time. That picture above is November weather in a nutshell — a gorgeous sunny day with a big storm on the way!

Because of this, the skies are streaked with clouds, making bolder and more dramatic sunsets than during the sunniest season from late December to February.

That said, I know some people who came in November and had much worse luck, where it rained almost constantly. If you’re nervous, I’d recommend pushing to December, just in case, but keep in mind rates are at their highest from mid-December to February.

My Favorite Place in the World

The night of the beach party, one of the guys and I were chatting about blogging and he asked me that same question that I always get: “So, what’s your favorite place?”

“Here!” I exclaimed. “It’s actually here. I’ve loved this island for five years and this is my favorite trip yet.”

Since visiting Koh Lanta for the first time, I’ve sent more than 30 of my readers here as well. It has made me so happy to hear about more people falling in love with my beloved island.

Consider visiting Koh Lanta later this year. Whether you visit with a friend, like I did, or solo or with a partner or with your family, I know you’ll appreciate what a special place this island is.

Essential Info: To get to Koh Lanta, take a ferry from Krabi town or Ao Nang. Tickets should be around 400-500 baht ($11-14). There are also ferries from smaller islands further south like Koh Mok and Koh Lipe. If you’re flying in, you can book a transfer to Krabi’s pier from the airport.

I recommend staying at least a week to get the full relaxed experience, but if you’re short on time, stay for at least three days. Less than that and you’re doing yourself a disservice.

To get around the island, flag down a tuk-tuk on the main road. Know the beach where your destination is located. Most of the time it should cost less than 100 baht ($3) for two people, more with more people.

Koh Lanta is a Muslim island. If you’re a light sleeper, don’t choose a guesthouse next to a mosque, as the call of prayer will ring out early. Swimwear is fine at the beach and at resorts but wear real clothes when you’re in town.

Lanta Animal Welfare runs tours at 12:00 PM and 5:00 PM. Dogs are walked before 11:00 AM and after 3:00 PM to avoid the heat. Find out about volunteering here and pet adoption here.

If you’re interested in renting a motorbike, talk to your guesthouse and they’ll either rent to you or recommend someone who will. You’ll need to leave your passport as a deposit.

Soontreya Lanta Resort‘s rates for a bungalow with two twin beds or a queen bed start at 1,800 baht ($50) in low season (May 1-October 31), 2,700 baht ($75) in high season (November 1-December 14 and March 1-April 30), and 3,500 baht ($. The cheapest rates tend to be on Agoda.

Want more? Read Brenna’s post about our trip here! All photos in this post with me in them (excluding selfies) were taken by Brenna.

What’s your favorite place in the world?

After years of returning over and over again to Thailand, I’m always awed at how much of this fascinating country I have left to discover. I kicked off this week with three crazy stormy days on my island base of Koh Tao. It was a surprise after last week’s beautiful weather in Koh Phangan, and it meant my crew of visitors and I almost got stuck on the islands entirely. Thankfully, our scheduled ferry was the first successful departure off the island. But we did, and a mere twenty hours — and a motorbike ride, a ferry, a minivan, two trains, a long walk and another motorbike ride — later, we arrived at the gateway to our destination, Khao Yai National Park.

WOW. Traveling independently overnight to Khao Yai, traveling by motorbike and sleeping within the National Park, was not super easy to coordinate. But was it ever worth it. Khao Yai was Thailand’s first National Park, and we went with fingers crossed for an encounter with the park’s rowdy herd of wild elephants. While we didn’t end up pal-ing around with any pachyderms, our wildlife spottings were extensive, the park was pristine, and I left on a fresh-air induced high.

I look forward to posting extensive and detailed guides to DIY-ing a trip to this pristine park in the future, as it’s a secret that’s just too good to keep. In the meantime, I’ve put together a special extended Photo of the Week edition. Why? Because it was hard enough to narrow it down to just these shots! I can’t wait to hear which ones stand out:

Photo A

One of the park’s many scenic outlooks

Photo B

The waterfall from the movie The Beach!

Photo C

Deep in nature

Photo D

By our own two wheels

Photo E

Khao Yai!

Photo F

Rich morning hues

Photo G

Looking (in vain) for elephants

Photo H

Millions of bats escaping a cave at dusk

Which photo is your favorite?

Looking for new travel blogs to obsess over? Curious about new content? Searching for the perfect gift for the wanderluster in your life? Each month, I’m sharing an inspiring selection of travel blogs, travel projects and travel shops right here! Not only are these fellow entrepreneurs following their passions and creating beautiful content, they’re also supporting Alex in Wanderland by advertising in my sidebar this month — please support them back by checking out their sites and cheering them along.

Introducing Alex in Wanderland’s featured bloggers for February!

Katie is a fellow American obsessed with living abroad — she’s currently exploring Oz as part of the one year working holiday visa. Hummingbird Away is equal parts travelogue and travel resource, a balance I always look for in the blogs I bookmark and frequently go back to.

Why I Love This Blog: Katie’s timing is almost clairvoyant. She just posted an amazing travelogue from Penang — just as I’m considering booking a ticket.

The quirkily named #LJOJLO blog chronicles the adventures of two teachers from Australia seeing the world one summer at a time. So far, they’ve tackled bits of Asia, Europe, and Oceania.

Why I Love This Blog: Peppered with limericks and rhymes, this hashtag fest is just my kind of quirky.

Co-bloggers Bonnie and Liora have covered a staggering number of destinations on their itinerary-based Daytripper365 blog. Favorite series include Homegrown New York, about our mutual home state, and Collegetripper, aimed at prospective undergrads traveling to check out their schools of choice.

Why I Love This Blog: I first discovered Daytripper through their gushing posts about Martha’s Vineyard — an instant assurance of their wonderful taste! (It’s one of my favorite places on earth for those who have thus far been spared my own swooning.)

Blogger-after-my-own-heart Angelica is all about islands. This Brooklyn born flight attendant travels the world in search of sun and sea — a mission I can get behind.

Why I Love This Blog: Angelica is a passionate diver and frequently blogs about her underwater adventures.

Southern-US based blogger Bryan has a palpable excitement for both travel and the business of blogging. His travels often revolve around a passion for food and craft beer — cheers to that!

Why I Love This Blog: Bryan is an open book when it comes to his journey in blogging and freelance writing. He publishes monthly income reports and frequent, honesty-filled posts about the hurdles and joys it comes with.

Interested in becoming a featured blogger or shop? Read more here. Limited spots still remaining for April and beyond.

Greetings from Koh Tao! After a whirlwind three days in Bangkok following our adventures in Khao Yai, we ventured back down to our little island once again. Bangkok was busy as both Ian and I juggled out-of-country guests (his parents, my college BFF and co.), big city errands, an immigration appointment, and some good old fashioned fun. The highlights for me were a night bar hopping in the trendy Thonglor district, a shopping trip to Chatuchak Market, and an elegant dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya. More on that trip to come, of course.

While I’ve spent most of my time since we docked scrambling to catch up on the emails that built up while I was away, we’ve also done some fun entertaining with Ian’s parents. I love when having visitors nudges you to finally check things off your bucket list, like a class at Koh Tao’s own cooking school. I’m pumped to finally have a rainy day activity to write about on Koh Tao!

This week on Koh Tao I’ll be relishing in getting back to my routine. Here on the blog, you can look forward to a few final posts about Las Vegas as well as my next chronological roundup post. Happy Monday!

Photo A

Bangkok golds

Photo B

An exploratory weekend trek along a new route

Photo C

Chop happy at Koh Tao Cooking School

Photo D

Artfully arranged ingredients

Photo E

A clouded-over sunset from Mango Bay

Which photo is your favorite?

Greetings from Koh Tao! It’s been a crazy week. I’m still playing catch-up after a jam-packed two weeks of travel within Thailand and hosting visitors from across the world, and yet my next escape off the island is already right around the corner — I knew February would be crazy, but I didn’t know it would be this crazy!

Still, I’m never too busy to grab an amazing opportunity when it comes my way. So when I had the chance to jump on a PADI Self Reliant Diver course with my friends at Master Divers, I cleared the board in order to spend two days learning how to dive safely sans scuba buddy. It was the first step towards completing my goal of three new dive certifications this year, and so it felt great to sign off on (even if it meant one of my blog posts for the week didn’t go up as scheduled!) Additionally, I spent a very fun Valentine’s Day baking breakfast for my man, spending a few hours at the beach, and going out for a hilarious ladies night with all my girls. It felt very indulgent to take a whole day off work when I have such a looming to-do list, but it was the most fun I’ve had in ages!

Next week, I’ll be checking in from Thailand’s wine region. Yup, you read that right. Vineyards! In Thailand! I couldn’t be more excited about this trip. In the meantime, I’m pausing from coverage of my American Southwest adventures to jump ahead and bring you a few posts about my neighboring isles of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Can’t wait to see you all in the comments. Happy Monday!

Photo A

Enjoying the beauty of Koh Tao

Photo B

Admiring the Buddhist boat blessing on the Master Divers vessel

Photo C

Getting my baking on for Valentine’s Day, in the form of banana cinnamon pancake goodness!

Which photo is your favorite? How was your week?

While I continue to recap the remainder of my endless summer, I’ve decided to jump out of chronological order and start sharing snippets of what I’ve been up to since I reached Southeast Asia this fall. Thanks for coming along on this roller coaster ride!

At first glance, the three islands occupying the Gulf of Thailand have a lot in common — a thick coating of palm trees, an abundance of fresh coconuts, and a surrounding ring of turquoise waters.

But dig a little deeper and the differences feel more significant than the similarities. Tiny Koh Tao is a diver and backpacker paradise. Mid-sized Koh Phangan has a split personality, hosting both a rave-hungry party crowd and a nirvana-seeking yogic one. And big ‘ol Koh Samui is a bustling tourism powerhouse, with outposts of many of the world’s top travel brands. Each island has its loyalists. It’s no secret that my home-away-from-home of Koh Tao is my personal favorite.

Koh Tao people tend to go to Samui for three reasons: immigration, airport, and fast food; luxuries we don’t have on our smaller and more remote island. I recall distinctly that the highlight of my first trip there while living on Koh Tao in 2011 was shopping at Tesco Lotus and reveling in a McFlurry. But as the years have gone on and my travel budget has slowly increased, I’ve been able to take advantage of some of the finer things that Koh Samui offers.

When it came time for Ian and I to extend our visas after our first sixty days in Thailand, we decided to turn what can be an exhausting administrative day trip to Samui into a relaxing three-day vacation.

Originally, we’d planned to stay at Lanna Samui in Bophut, but at the last minute changed to their sister hotel in Mae Nam, Code. Both hotels are among the island’s top rated on Tripadvisor, a ranking I attribute at least in part to their fantastic value. We took this trip in mid-November, which is the heart of low season, and the perfect time to nab great deals in the Gulf.

Can you believe this room was just $50 per night during our stay? (The same room is $162 for a random night next week, still a pretty tempting offer.)

The best thing about Code’s spacious rooms is the views. On a clear day, we could see all the way to not just Koh Phangan but also Koh Tao! Every single room enjoys a panorama of the ocean, with many of them overlooking the beautiful pool as well. Each unit is also stocked with a full kitchen, a nice amenity for those planning longer stays.

The included breakfast at onsite Vanilla Restaurant was a nice combination of a lá carte options and a well-done buffet, and was the perfect way to start the day each morning. While the restaurant was bustling for breakfast, it was near deserted for lunch and dinner, though we assumed that was due to a combination of low season and guests taking advantage of ordering room service to their amazing rooms.

We had a great indulgent dinner sent up to our suite one night, and enjoyed a beautiful healthy lunch poolside one afternoon. We weren’t crazy about the small poolside menu, but the staff was more than happy to deliver food from the regular menu at Vanilla straight to our loungers.

What would a relaxing holiday be without some scheduled pool time? Again, we mostly had the pool — and all those delicious views — to ourselves.

Other amenities included a sweet gym where we snuck in a sunset workout, a tennis court, a pool-side steam room, and Cinnamon, an in-house spa.

silly spa selfie alert!

Be sure to book ahead if you’re excited about the spa — it’s a small one, and thus reservations are limited. We were all about the amazing package special happening while we were there, but the staff couldn’t find a time when there was room for them to sneak us in for the whole thing. We settled for one-hour Thai massages, which set us back about $30 each.

Other than enjoying all the amenities Code had to offer, we also planned a few more far-flung adventures. One of them was a class at Yogarden, one of Koh Samui’s few truly independent yoga studios. I fell in love with this peaceful space as soon as we entered the courtyard — I have a feeling I’d be a regular here had I taken a different path and ended up on this island instead of its neighbor.

I was excited when I realized that our vinyasa flow would be led by a Thai yogi, Kom. Though I’ve been practicing yoga in Thailand for years, I’ve yet to take a class with a local Thai instructor. I enjoyed the acro elements he added towards the end of the group session, and Ian reckoned that a class with this hyper-flexible man once a week for a few months would leave us bendier than ever.

While drop-in classes are quite pricey at 500 baht or $14, I can’t wait to return to Yogarden — and next time, I’m staying for lunch!

Speaking of food. Our biggest goal for our three days on the island — aside from that pure zen relaxation I mentioned — was to eat and drink as well as humanely possible. A bartender by trade and a chef by passion, traveling with Ian has definitely given me a greater appreciation for planning what restaurants and bars we visit when we travel. We even took a full on booze tour of the island, but more on that in my next post. We had a pretty well-researched list of where we wanted to hit up long before arrival, and it didn’t disappoint.

Our big lunch stop? Stacked in Chaweng Beach a craft burger and cocktail joint with what might just be the best and most consistent service I’ve ever received in Thailand, from the entire staff. I’ll absolutely return for dinner next time. A lunch of two burgers, two cocktails and a bonus bucket of popcorn set us back a fairly reasonable $32 (there was daytime discount on food at the time to celebrate the launch of the lunch menu).

Another of our big dining destinations was The Larder, also in Chaweng. This spot came highly recommended to us by friends on the island who warned that we should make a reservation. We did, which was entertaining in light of the fact that we arrived to a totally empty restaurant. Personally I prefer eating in a bustling eatery, but I suppose another benefit of low season is you don’t ever have to worry about snagging a table even at one of the most popular restaurants on the island.

I was a tad concerned that the menu was a little too out-there for this still relatively picky eater. But though my food options as a non-seafood eater were somewhat limited, the creativity of the cocktail menu more than made up for it. Dinner here was a serious indulgence compared to our usual meals on Koh Tao (how indulgent I’m not sure, since Ian treated us to this one) but it was a great date night experience.

Our final meal in Samui brought us back to — you guessed it — Chaweng, again. This time, we headed to Drink Gallery, the chic cocktail bar of The Library, a sleek hotel that has long topped my Thailand bucket list.

Drink Gallery is almost overwhelming, visually. The modern bar wouldn’t be out of place on a trendy thoroughfare in Bangkok, making it quite a sight on the main beach road in Samui. The small food menu was perfectly sized to match our small appetites for the evening, while the drink menu left us endlessly debating which of the dozens of signature cocktails to try next. The presentation was flawless, with each concoction we ordered delivered in a different, equally flair-adorned vessel. While we weren’t overly impressed with the food, the drinks were fantastic and I look forward to sampling more of the menu on a future trip.

After, we unwound with a cheap massage at one of the endless spas lining Chaweng Road — always a treat in Koh Samui.

The only downside to our getaway was time spent on the back of our rental bike and money thrown away on really expensive cabs. We’re pretty spoiled with non-existent commutes on the tiny island of Koh Tao, and so the long drives back and forth between Mae Nam, where Code was located, and Bophut and Chaweng, where we did most of our eating and drinking, was a long one — the drive home from Drinks Gallery was forty-five minutes! In retrospect, we probably should have adjusted our itinerary when we changed hotels rather than stubbornly sticking to our original plan — but we were so excited about all the places we’d picked to eat, drink, and play that we just decided to go with it.

However, the location of Code is great if you need to near immigration — it’s just a twelve minute drive — or are looking for a more quiet and remote corner of the island to enjoy. After all, any annoyance I had at our back-and-forth on the bike melted away when stumbled upon this sunset at Bang Por beach, just down the hill from Code. While the hotel provides free shuttles a couple times per day, we just happened to catch the perfect timing when returning back to the hotel one evening by motorbike.

For divers and backpackers, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan are where it’s at. But for families and luxury aficionados, Samui has got it going in. This trip was my fifth overnight journey to the island, and I found myself enjoying and understanding its magnetism more than ever before.

Looking to snag luxury for a song in the low season? Hungry for a fix of cosmopolitan dining options? Need a little taste of the big city on a beautiful island? You’ll find it here.

Stay tuned for one more post from Koh Samui! Do you like your islands laid-back or luxury-filled?

Many thanks to Code for hosting me on Samui. As always, you receive my honest thoughts, full opinions and poorly written jokes regardless of who is footing the bill.

I’ve had a busy week since we last checked in. I prepped tons of content for the upcoming weeks, trained for an upcoming 5K run, answered a bazillion emails, had a blast for St. Patrick’s Day, oh… and went to Burma.

Unfortunately, no, it wasn’t for the two-week girl’s trip I was so excitedly planning this year — a post on why that trip got cancelled is still in the works — nor for the liveaboard I’ve been dreaming of joining for ages. It was for a visa run. A bureaucratic necessity for many living in Thailand, a visa run in the south consists literally of shuttling to the border, boating into the special district of Kawthaung, getting your passport stamped, boating back into Rayong, and going about your merry way.

The funny thing is you can’t actually enter Burma from Kawthaung beyond a small zone tightly surrounding the city, unless you’ve already obtained a visa for the country in Bangkok. But you can go in and get that stamp, paying Burma ten American dollars for the privilege. Not that I’m complaining. In my case that stamp bought me an extra thirty days in the country beyond my two already-extended visas, for a total of seven months altogether in Thailand.

I promised myself I wouldn’t do any visa runs this year as I’d rather take the excuse to do a weekend away in a neighboring country. But ah well. With so much on my plate and so little time left in Thailand, it seemed crazy to leave for any longer than a boat ride back and forth to Kawthaung.

Since I otherwise left my cameras up on the shelf this week, today’s snaps come courtesy of my ever-so-brief time in Burma. I hope you’ll enjoy.

Photo A

Photo B

Photo C

Photo D

Which photo is your favorite?

Note: If you’re wondering why I call the country in these photos Burma instead of Myanmar, it’s simply because on the island I currently live on in Thailand about a third of the population is Burmese, and they unequivocally refer to their home country as Burma. I just follow their lead.

Happy Easter, if you’re one of those who spent the day eating chocolate shaped like bunnies or dying eggs funky colors! I’ve always loved Easter weekend as a time to connect with family and friends over a good meal, do all the crafting, and celebrate the arrival of Spring. While Thailand isn’t a traditionally Easter-celebrating country, I managed to tick several of those boxes this weekend with a girl’s weekend away in Koh Samui.

We planned the trip around running a Midnight 5K, something I’d loved doing last year in Bangkok. This time, instead of “training” by consuming fast food and partying for three days straight, I thought I’d go the more traditional route of actually doing practice runs and see how that would go. Turns out, it’s a solid strategy! I managed to talk a couple girlfriends from Koh Tao into joining me, and we headed over to our neighboring isle for a few days of giggling by the pool, dragging ourselves across a finish line, and toasting to our friendship with a fun Easter Sunday brunch.

The photos I took were mostly of the silly and/or sweaty selfie variety, which left little options for Photo of the Week. But I did manage a few civilized snaps of our beautiful brunch this morning, which gives you a little more of a peek at our weekend (more to come on Facebook and Instagram — and of course the blog — too!)

Happy Sunday! How did you spend your weekend?

Two down, one to go — our weekend of hopping Thailand’s wineries was so far a smashing success. After spending our first day at Khao Yai’s first vineyard and Thailand’s one and only winery helmed by a women, we were excited to see what our third and final stop of the weekend would have in store.

After a home-cooked group breakfast at our Airbnb, we hit the road for Alcidini Winery, a small, family-run and organic vineyard about an hour east of PB Valley and GranMonte. We ooh-ed and ahh-ed as we pulled up the winding road to Alcidini, soaking up the idyllic setting.

Piling out of the car, we were greeted by a flock of the family’s freshly-bathed and obscenely-adorable goats, who were hanging out next to a fence while they air-dried.

Unlike the other wineries we visited, there was no tour of the forty acre vineyards. However, we were free to poke around the immaculate vines on our own. Wine grapes take up about half the planting area, with table grapes and another favorite — avocados! — taking up the rest.

Inside, we were given a private tasting and talk by the Alcidini family’s prodigal son, Tony, who was also the family winemaker. The entire facility was run by Tony and his parents, along with ten farmers who assist with the harvest. Plus, the goats — turns out they don’t just sit around and look cute, they actively help clear the vineyards of weeds!

While Alcidini proudly uses no pesticides and no chemicals, Tony explained that they need a 2km buffer around any plantings in order to be “certified organic,” and with such a small plot they can’t afford to give up that much acreage. Still, staying dedicated to sustainable farming and organic methods is tantamount at Alcidini.

Without a tour attached to the tasting it was our briefest stop, however it was also perhaps our most informative.

Tony studied in San Francisco (there’s a mini Golden Gate bridge on the property!) and spoke impeccable English, and thus was able to teach us much about the wines we were tasting as well as the unique struggles and joys of running a vineyard in Thailand.

We loved the offerings at Alcidini and all walked away with some treats — including not just wine but also special organic spiced raisins made by Ton’s mom. After, rather than hop right back in the van, we took some time to explore the gorgeous grounds! With a bit of wine in us, we were happy to traipse around and entertain ourselves for a bit.

After one more goodbye kiss to our new favorite goats, we were back on the road.

We had just one more stop ahead of us. On my previous trip through the Khao Yai region to visit Khao Yai National Park, I’d spotted something that left me rubbing my eyes and wondering if I was seeing things: a castle.

Yes, a castle. Khao Yai is one of the most popular domestic tourist destinations in the country, and the region is chock full of faux-European homes, shopping centers, restaurants, and even a mini Leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s where high society Bangkokians go for a weekend in Italy without having to get on a plane — and where Koh Tao expats go to guzzle wine and wear fancy clothes.

Midwinter Green was the perfect final stop for our lovely weekend away. Though we were disappointed that the extensive wine selection only included one or two options from Khao Yai (where’s the local pride, Midwinter Green?!), we couldn’t have asked for a greater menu, more beautiful vista, or more swoon-worthy setting with which to toast to our weekend.

As usual with our crew, things got more than a little silly.

And with that, we were back to the big city! What had originally started as a short and sweet low-key wine weekend morphed into something a bit more, and so stay tuned for coverage of our continued adventures in Bangkok and beyond. But alas, the first chapter was over.

While it may have been brief, these two days made up one of my favorite trips I’ve ever taken in Thailand. Part of it was the amazing crew we had assembled, with whom I could have fun in a parking lot, but much of it was the thrill of planning a truly offbeat trip in such a well-trodden country.

In fact, this trip really sparked an obsession for me to visit all of Thailand’s wineries, and I’d tick off another in Hua Hin not long after! Coming up, I have plans to check off one or two more. Wondering how you too can visit these fabulous places? Stay tuned for my upcoming guide on hiring a driver, finding accommodation, and arranging tours in Thailand’s burgeoning wine country.

I’ll wrap this post with a thank you to my wonderful Koh Tao friends who make every day an adventure, and who generously trust me with their precious vacation time and funds. I can’t wait to see where life takes us next!

But I do hope wherever it may be… there will be wine.

Cheers for reading! Which of the Khao Yai wineries would you most want to visit? 

Fellow scuba enthusiasts, do you want your dives to be safer, to stay down longer, and to have more energy for celebratory drinks after rinsing out your gear? I’ll take that as a duh — which is why it’s so crazy it took me so many years to get my nitrox certification.

Earlier in 2016, before leaving Thailand for the summer, I realized I’d hit a bit of a diving rut. My solution? I signed up for three different continuing education courses at three different dive schools on Koh Tao to shake myself out of it! And I chose topics that challenged me. After tackling the Self Reliant Diver certification at Master Divers — which you can read about here — I moved onto the Enriched Air Diver certification course at Ban’s, the largest dive school in the world by volume of divers certified.

The Enriched Air Diver course, also often referred to as “nitrox,” is PADI’s most popular speciality — and it’s easy to see why. (I’ll use the two terms interchangeably throughout this post.) This simple one-day course can be done and dusted in a matter of hours, and in fact as a “dry course,” it can technically be completely without stepping a single fin underwater — though, ahem, why would you want to miss the fun part?!

I chose to take this certification quite seriously. As a PADI Divemaster, I have always felt self-conscious about the gaps in my understanding of dive theory, and I figured this course would be the perfect opportunity to fill them out. And so I turned to my longtime friend and Senior Instructor at Ban’s, Chris Pearson.

As the local coordinator at Hyperbaric Services Thailand, a key member of Koh Tao Rescue, and a PADI Staff Instructor, he was almost over-qualified to certify little ‘ol me in a simple Enriched Air course. I mean, just look at this list of qualification!

• PADI Staff Instructor • Diver Medical Technician (IMCA) • Emergency First Responder Instructor Trainer • C.E.E.R – (Chalenging Environments Emergency Responder) Instructor • M.I.R.A – (Medicine In Remote Areas) Instructor • DMR Level IV – (Diver Medical Responder) Instructor • Hyperbaric Chamber Tender & Operator (SSS Recompression Chamber Network)

Phew! Thankfully, Chris was more than willing to take me on as a student. I knew he’d know exactly how to get the information through to me — Diet Coke lecture analogies, coconut quiz-passing bribes and all.

So, let’s start with the basics. What is enriched air? It all comes down to what’s in the tank. A standard scuba tank is filled with compressed air identical to what we breathe on land, which is 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. Nitrox tanks on the other hand have an oxygen content of 22-40%, with 32% and 36% being the standard mixes.

Don’t worry, this blog post does not require a calculator — I just wanted to impress you all with the use of fancy fractions. (Did it work? Discuss amongst yourselves.) Yet the real benefits of diving nitrox go beyond wowing your friends with math and the fashion potential of coordinating with those sassy green and yellow tanks.

Less nitrogen is, for the most part, a good thing. Nitrogen is enemy numero uno when it comes to decompression sickness, long breaks between dives, post-diving naps and something called “no decompression limits,” which calculate how long you can stay at certain depths. Diving enriched air allows you to dive longer (due to less nitrogen exposure), safer (you can dive an air profile on a nitrox tank for super conservative dives), with shorter surface intervals (as there’s less nitrogen to off-gas) and with less fatigue (yup, you guessed it, another byproduct of less nitrogen exposure).

So what keeps the entire dive community from ditching standard air and breathing nothing but nitrox? Good question. The answer, for most divers, is simply price. It’s more expensive! Other factors include limited availability, the hassle of checking the blend in your tank for each dive, and stricter depth limits due to the increased risk of oxygen toxicity (there’s always a trade-off, eh?).

The course itself is straightforward. In fact, it is the only PADI dive course ever to be streamlined rather than expanded. Why? Because, dive computers! In some ways, these magic little wrist machines have made diving nitrox as simple as the touch of a button.

But yet you still need to understand the concepts behind the calculations, and that’s where the certification comes in. Things like partial pressure and oxygen toxicity are, in my opinion, quite complicated, and I didn’t want to just pass the test and move on. I really wanted to understand. And so I didn’t move past a single sentence in the course manual until I felt confident I could explain it to a child if necessary. Bottom line? Praise Chris for his patience.

The course kicked off with an introductory video by PADI followed by a custom lecture from Chris and many interruptions by me to ask questions. Next, I sat down for some quality time with my manual, completing a simple knowledge reviews at the end of each chapter to seal in new concepts. Finally came the exam, which I aced with the humble pride that some accept PHD’s with.

And then we put it into practice. After learning to set my dive computer for various nitrox blends, I mastered how to check tanks with an analyzer tool and record my findings, and finally how to read the markings on a nitrox tank. One thing I didn’t realize before taking this course is you MUST check your own gas blend each and every single dive so you can plan accordingly. While oxygen poisoning is incredibly rare, it is serious, and thus divers have to be vigilant about checking their air blend, making a dive plan and staying within their computer’s dive limits.

Ideally, though this step is technically optional, you’ll conclude your course with a dive or two on nitrox so you can see what all the fuss is about. Which is exactly what Chris and I did, to the HTMS Sattakut, one of my old favorite dive sites on Koh Tao.

While it was interesting to note the different readings on my dive computer and to see the different markings on my snazzy new tank, the contents were indiscernible otherwise from standard compressed air — it doesn’t taste, feel, or smell any differently.

Thanks to our longer dive time and shorter surface intervals, we were the last ones back on the boat from the first dive and the first ones back in the water for the second, at good ‘ol White Rock dive site.

And then I was certified, sealed with a high-five at the surface! As we hopped off the dive boat, I felt ready to take on the world — a far cry from my normal post-dive sluggishness.

So what divers should consider getting their Enriched Air certification? Anyone who wants to dive longer and feel sprightlier! Those doing multiple dives over multiple days — on liveaboards, at dive resorts, etc. — are the primary targets. Those looking to brush up on certain dive concepts (like me!) will also find it a great catch-all little course to really check your comprehension of dive theory, with the right instructor. And finally, those pursuing other specialities like Intro to Tech, Photography, Sidemount, and other courses that involve staying underwater for longer will find nitrox to be a natural step in their continuing education.

If you too are considering this course, you’ll walk away with a comprehensive understanding of what nitrox is, when and when not to dive it, what the risks are, and how to plan for enriched air dives.

I feel strongly that finding the right PADI dive shop and instructor are key when it comes to this course. I’ve heard it described by so many in the diving industry as “an easy sign off” and “a throwaway course” and while I don’t want anyone reading this to be discouraged or intimidated from signing up, I also don’t like to see it treated dismissively. So look for the right fit.

Only a handful of shops on Koh Tao compress their own enriched air. I recommend taking the course at a school that does, and asking your instructor if they actually use it. Ban’s is one of those schools, and Chris is one of those instructors. Clearly, I was thrilled with my experience and can’t recommend Chris more highly. If you’re looking to take this or any other recreational diving or dive medic training course on Koh Tao, reach out to him!

Personally, I’ll be diving nitrox whenever it’s available and affordable to me from here forward. It just feels good!

And as someone who used to joke that I had to stop watching Bill Nye the Science Guy because all the theory was a bit over my head, I was proud to really wrap my mind around this course. If these things come easy to you, kudos! If not, don’t be discouraged. Science has never come easy to me, and for too long I let that mental block dictate what I thought I could and couldn’t achieve with diving. These days I know that with the right instructor, the right attitude, and a bribe of one fresh coconut for passing my final exams, there’s little in diving I can’t do.

Do you dive nitrox? Let’s get gassy in the comments!

This post is brought to you by PADI as part of the PADI AmbassaDiver initiative. Read my latest ramblings on the PADI blog!

Lonely Planet Thailand (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

#1 best-selling guide to Thailand*

Lonely Planet Thailand is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Wander through wild orchids in Mae Hong Son, charter a longtail boat on the Andaman Coast or look for tigers and monkeys in national parks; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Thailand and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Thailand Travel Guide:

Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - current affairs, history, politics, arts, architecture, environment, food & drink, responsible travel Free, convenient pull-out Bangkok map (included in print version), plus over 100 maps Covers Bangkok, Central Thailand, Ko ChangChiang Mai Province, Northern Thailand, Hua Hin, Southern Gulf, Ko Samui, Lower Gulf, Phuket, Andaman Coast and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Thailand , our most comprehensive guide to Thailand, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

Looking for just the highlights? Check out Discover Thailand, a photo-rich guide to the country's most popular attractions. Looking for a beach escape? Check out Lonely Planet Thailand's Islands and Beaches. Looking for a guide focused on Bangkok or Phuket? Check out Lonely Planet's Bangkok or Phuket guides for a comprehensive look at all the city has to offer; or Pocket  Bangkok or Pocket Phuket, handy-sized guides focused on the can't-miss sights for quick city visits. Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Southeast Asia on a shoestring, a comprehensive guide to stretching money for an extended trip across the region.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

*Source: Nielsen BookScan. Australia, UK and USA

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Thailand

DK

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Thailand will lead you straight to the best attractions this country has to offer.

Whether you're traveling to major destinations such as Bangkok and Phuket or want to experience diving in Ko Tao, elephant riding in Chiang Mai, or the monuments in Wat Si Chum, DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Thailand explores the culture, history, and architecture of this beautiful and diverse nation.

Discover DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Thailand.

   • Detailed itineraries and "don't-miss" destination highlights at a glance.    • Illustrated cutaway 3-D drawings of important sights.    • Floor plans and guided visitor information for major museums.    • Guided walking tours, local drink and dining specialties to try, things to do, and places to eat, drink, and shop by area.    • Area maps marked with sights.    • Detailed city maps include a street finder index for easy navigation.    • Insights into history and culture to help you understand the stories behind the sights.    • Hotel and restaurant listings highlight DK Choice special recommendations.

With hundreds of full-color photographs, hand-drawn illustrations, and custom maps that illuminate every page, DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Thailand truly shows you what others only tell you.

Series Overview: For more than two decades, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides have helped travelers experience the world through the history, art, architecture, and culture of their destinations. Expert travel writers and researchers provide independent editorial advice, recommendations, and reviews. With guidebooks to hundreds of places around the globe available in print and digital formats, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides show travelers how they can discover more.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: the most maps, photographs, and illustrations of any guide.

Bangkok: Bangkok Travel Guide for Men, Travel Thailand Like You Really Want To, Thailand Escorts, Body Massages, Online Dating (Bangkok Travel Guide, Thailand Travel Guide)

Christopher Street

Bangkok Travel Guide for Men  Bangkok is one of the most exciting cities in the world, the Venice of the East, Asia’s City of Sin, it has much to offer from its delicious and plentiful food to its rich cultural history and bustling street life, and of course its abundance of beautiful women. In the past to find out how to get around Bangkok on a budget and enjoy its many salacious wonders you would need to buy your respectable guide that would tell you where to get the best Pad Thai and when all the temples opened and then consult unconvincing three year old online guides to meeting Thai girls. With this Bangkok Guide you get all the information you need to get the most out of your trip to Bangkok. With wit, insight and street smarts you will be shown how to stay and visit Bangkok on a low budget while seeing the sites, whether that be the majestic Golden Palace or the majestic Go-go girls of Soi Cowboy. Discover the best places to stay in Bangkok and compare the advantages of staying in all the most popular locations while getting the best prices. Learn how to stay safe and have the most fun with Bangkok’s working and non-working girls while getting the most bang for your buck. Find out how to take to the Thai way of life, how to get the local price for everything and how to get around without getting ripped off. Learn about online dating in Thailand, what websites are the best. Discover how to find good Thai girls and stay out of trouble in Bangkok, Learn how much to pay and how to negotiate price. Learn about go go bars and soapy massage parlors in Bangkok. Click the Buy Now button to order now!

Lonely Planet Thai Phrasebook & Dictionary (Lonely Planet Phrasebook and Dictionary)

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet: The world's #1 phrasebook publisher*

Lonely Planet Thai Phrasebook & Dictionary is your handy passport to culturally enriching travels with the most relevant and useful Thai phrases and vocabulary for all your travel needs. Bargain with your samlor driver, find locally made souvenirs and order authentic street food; all with your trusted travel companion. With language tools in your back pocket, you can truly get to the heart of wherever you go, so begin your journey now!

Get More From Your Trip with Easy-to-Find Phrases for Every Travel Situation!

Feel at ease with essential tips on culture, manners, idioms and multiple meanings Order with confidence, explain food allergies, and try new foods with the menu decoder Save time and hassles with vital phrases at your fingertips Never get stuck for words with the 3500-word two-way, quick-reference dictionary Be prepared for both common and emergency travel situations with practical phrases and terminology Meet friends with conversation starter phrases Get your message across with easy-to-use pronunciation guides

Inside Lonely Planet Thai Phrasebook & Dictionary:

Full-color throughout User-friendly layout organized by travel scenario categories Survival phrases inside front cover for at-a-glance on-the-fly cues

Convenient features

10 Ways to Start a Sentence Phrases to Sound like a Local Listen For - phrases you may hear Look For - phrases you may see on signs Shortcuts - easy-to-remember alternatives to the full phrases Q&A - suggested answers to questions asked

Covers

Basics - time, dates, numbers, amounts, pronunciation, reading tips, grammar rules Practical - travel with kids, disabled travellers, sightseeing, business, banking, post office, internet, phones, repairs, bargaining, accommodations, directions, border crossing, transport Social - meeting people, interests, feelings, opinions, going out, romance, culture, activities, weather Safe Travel - emergencies, police, doctor, chemist, dentist, symptoms, conditions Food - ordering, at the market, at the bar, dishes, ingredients

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Thai Phrasebook & Dictionary, a pocket-sized comprehensive language guide, provides on-the-go language assistance; great for language students and travellers looking to interact with locals and immerse themselves in local culture.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet

About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet is the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, and has been connecting travellers and locals for over 25 years with phrasebooks for 120 languages, more than any other publisher! With an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community, Lonely Planet enables curious travellers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves. The world awaits!

Check out our Fast Talk Phrasebook mobile app for on-the-go language needs. (Available languages: German, Latin Spanish, European Spanish, French, and Italian.)

*#1 phrasebook publisher. Source: Nielsen Bookscan UK, US & AUS

Lonely Planet Thailand's Islands & Beaches (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

#1 best-selling guide to Thailand's islands and beaches*

Lonely Planet Thailand's Islands and Beaches is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Swim with sea life in crystal-clear coves, laze in hammocks under limestone peaks, or motorcycle along curved bays; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Thailand and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Thailand's Islands and Beaches Travel Guide:

Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, politics, peoples, lifestyle, economy, religion, arts, the sex industry in Thailand, cuisine, environment, wildlife, environmental issues Free, convenient pull-out Bangkok map (included in print version), plus over 65 maps Covers Bangkok, Phuket, Northern Andaman Coast, Ko Chang, Eastern Seaboard, Hua Hin, Southern Gulf, Ko Samui, Lower Gulf, Ko Phi-Phi, Southern Andaman Coast and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Thailand's Islands and Beaches is our most comprehensive guide to the country's island and beach getaways.

Looking for more coverage? Check out Lonely Planet Thailand for a comprehensive look at what the whole country has to offer; or Discover Thailand, a photo-rich guide to the country's most popular attractions. Looking for a guide focused on Phuket or Bangkok? Check out Pocket Phuket or Pocket Bangkok, handy-sized guides focused on the can't-miss sights for quick city visits.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

*Source: Nielsen BookScan. Australia, UK and USA

Wrong Attitude: A brief guide to living and visiting Thailand

Steve Price

This is not a comprehensive guide book telling you where to go and what to see. It does not have pretty pictures. It is a guide on how you should act and behave in Thailand. It is written in a truthful way and sometimes a little hard. People come to Thailand with the wrong attitude. Thailand is not the western world, but it is a beautiful place with beautiful people. You just need to open your eyes and mind.

 

Fodor's Thailand: with Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia & Laos (Full-color Travel Guide)

Fodor's Travel Guides

Written by locals, Fodor's travel guides have been offering expert advice for all tastes and budgets for 80 years. Sandy beaches, grand Buddhist temples, spicy cuisine, world-class spas, and a rich language--Thailand is unique among Southeast Asian nations and a not-to-be-missed destination. Thais have a deep cultural history and contrasts abound in the country, both geographically and socially. In a land the size of France, beach resorts run the gamut from popular-with-partiers Pattaya to fashionable Hua Hin. Idyllic island hideaways of virgin beaches sheltered by palm groves and lapped by gentle waters contrast with Bangkok, the busy capital.This travel guide includes:· Dozens of full-color maps · Hundreds of hotel and restaurant recommendations, with Fodor's Choice designating our top picks· Multiple itineraries to explore the top attractions and what’s off the beaten path· In-depth breakout features on The Grand Palace, Bangkok Street Food, and beaches· Major sights such as Ancient SukhothaiChiang Mai, The Grand Palace, The Ruins of Ayutthaya, Khao Sok National Park, Koh Samui, Ao Phang Nga, and Wat Po· Coverage of Bangkok, The Gulf Coast Beaches, Phuket and the Andaman Coast, Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar

Thailand: Thailand Travel Guide: 101 Coolest Things to Do in Thailand (Travel to Thailand, Thailand, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Thailand Tour Guide)

101 Coolest Things

Your Ultimate Guide to Thailand Travel!Forget those long and boring guidebooks! 101 Coolest Things to Do in Thailand cuts out the nonsense and gives you all the essential information for traveling in Thailand that you really want. You’ll learn all of the most amazing things to see, eat, buy, and do in Thailand’s tourist destinations, like BangkokChiang Mai, Phuket, Ko Phangan, Ko Phi Phi, PattayaKo LantaKo Chang, and more! Why You Need 101 Coolest Things to Do in ThailandWe tell you the things that other Thailand travel guides don’t. Here’s a snippet of what you’ll learn from the book. - The best things to eat on the streets of Thailand, from spicy sausages to mango and sticky rice! - Where to hang out and party with locals, and escape other tourists! - The most incredible historical and cultural sights and attractions! - Unusual accommodation choices like staying on a floating riverboat in a treehouse! - The most exciting adventure activities from abseiling down a waterfall to kayaking in the open sea!Get Your Copy TODAY!

Exercise a high degree of caution; see also regional advisories.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

Political tensions and demonstrations

Political instability in Thailand has created a volatile and unpredictable security environment, which has persisted throughout the country, particularly in the capital, Bangkok, since November 2013. National elections were held on February 2, 2014, but the final outcome may not be available for several months. Further rounds of elections and other associated political processes are ongoing and the unrest is expected to continue during this period. Large-scale political demonstrations and associated events such as rallies, processions and political gatherings have been taking place in several areas across Bangkok, as well as in other parts of the country, including Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Surat Thani. They have intensified since January 2014, and several incidents of violence have occurred.

Protesters have blocked key intersections in Bangkok, including those in proximity to the Embassy of Canada and to major tourist sites and commercial centres, causing major traffic disruptions. These blockages have the potential to limit access to various goods and services. Asok-Sukhumvit, Pathumwan, Lumpini, Ratchaprasong, Silom, and the Chaeng Wattana Government Complex have been identified as important demonstration sites and should therefore be avoided. Other areas of the city may also be affected. Certain government buildings may be closed, including the Chaeng Wattana Government Complex where visitor and resident visas are processed.

On February 14, authorities began dismantling key protest sites in Bangkok. This led to violent clashes in the streets between protesters and police. Firearms, hand-grenades and other weapons were used during confrontations, leading to multiple deaths and injuries.

Incidents of violence associated with demonstrations have resulted in deaths and injuries. Indiscriminate attacks using explosive devices and firearms have taken place in busy public areas during the day and at night. Clashes have also occurred between pro- and anti-government demonstrators. On occasion, police have responded with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets in their attempts to deter protesters. Attacks do not specifically target tourists or foreigners, but the danger of being in the wrong place at the wrong time is always present. Avoid all protest sites and movements, political events and rallies, as well as large gatherings due to the high risk that they turn violent without warning.

The Thai Government has declared a state of emergency, effective until March 23, in all of Bangkok Capital district, Nonthaburi, Lad Lumkaew in Pathumthai, and Bang Phli in Samuprakan (Suvarnabhumi International Airport). This enables the government to impose curfews, ban political gatherings of more than five people, detain suspects without charge and restrict political demonstrations.

In 2010, similar demonstrations led to violent clashes, occasionally involving the use of explosive devices, and resulted in more than 90 deaths and several injuries. Demonstrations, civil unrest, sporadic violence and attacks remain an important risk anywhere in the country at any time.

Maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times. Carefully plan your movements throughout Bangkok, allowing for extra commuting time (including to the airport) and identify alternate routes in case of blockages. Avoid military installations and concentrations of security personnel. Follow the advice of local authorities and remain informed of current events by monitoring local media.

Preah Vihear temple area and surrounding border region (see Advisory)

There have been frequent clashes between Thailand and Cambodia over a border dispute in this region, including exchanges of gunfire and artillery, which resulted in numerous fatalities and the evacuation of civilians. Martial law is in effect in the area and the presence of landmines has been reported. Tensions are high and military hostilities could further escalate without warning. Exercise a high degree of caution if you are travelling to all other areas of the Thai-Cambodian border.

Southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Songkhla (see Advisory)

Violence in the Muslim-majority southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Songkhla is highly unpredictable. Attacks against military and civilian targets occur almost daily, and include shootings, bombings, beheadings and arson. You risk becoming victim of an indiscriminate attack if you travel in the region. Deadly attacks occur frequently and are regularly directed at government and security buildings and personnel, but have also occurred in a variety of public places, including shopping districts, entertainment venues, public transit and hotels that may be frequented by tourists. Since January 2004, more than 4,700 people have been killed and many more injured, including foreigners.

Heavily enhanced security measures—including martial law in the provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, as well as the Sadao district of Songkhla—are in place to provide authorities with increased enforcement powers that may be used to address ongoing violence in the region. These measures allow authorities to detain suspects without charge, conduct searches, seize objects or documents, and impose curfews.

Border areas in the provinces of Tak and Mae Hong Son (border with Burma)

Be particularly vigilant when travelling to the border areas in the Thai provinces of Tak and Mae Hong Son due to banditry and occasional armed clashes on the Burmese side of the border, and between Thai security forces and armed criminal groups, such as drug traffickers. Incursions and shelling into Thailand have occurred. Border crossing points may be closed without notice.

Terrorism

There is a threat of terrorism throughout Southeast Asia, including Thailand. Maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times as the security situation could deteriorate without notice. Exercise caution, particularly in commercial and public establishments (hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, places of worship), outdoor recreation events and tourist areas frequented by foreigners.

On February 14, 2012, three explosions occurred in the area of Sukhumvit Soi 71, Bangkok. Reports indicate that five people were injured. In January 2012, following warnings of possible terrorist threats against tourist areas, particularly in Bangkok, Thai authorities increased security measures and made arrests and seizures in relation to an alleged terrorist plot.

Crime

Violent crime against foreigners occurs occasionally. Petty crime, such as purse snatching, pickpocketing and theft, is common. Do not leave bags unattended. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times, especially in tourist areas, crowded markets, and bus or train stations. Thieves sometimes use razors to slit open purses or bags to remove the contents. Use only reputable transportation companies. Thefts have been reported on the buses and vans that provide transport services throughout the country. Personal belongings, including passports, have been stolen from luggage compartments under buses, especially on long distance journeys. Break-ins occur at budget guesthouses, sometimes while guests are asleep in their rooms.

Be careful at night in entertainment areas throughout the country, particularly during Full Moon parties in Koh Phangan and similar events in other popular tourist locations. Robberies, injuries, drug abuse, arrests, assaults (including sexual assaults) and deaths related to these parties have been reported. Passport thefts and losses are extremely common at these parties and their replacement may cause significant travel delays.

Foreigners have been targeted in incidents of drink spiking, often combined with sexual assault or theft. Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers, and pay attention when drinks are being prepared and served. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that you have been drugged.

Exercise caution when travelling to the border areas with Burma (Myanmar). Occasional violence, banditry and clashes between government forces, rebel units, and drug traffickers have been reported. Consult the Thai Tourist Police, by calling 1155 toll-free, to determine if official border crossing points are open. Cross at designated border crossing points only, with the required travel documentation.

Women’s safety

Sexual assaults against foreign women have occurred. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.

General safety information

Some media reports indicate that there have been recent cases of poisoning allegedly linked to the consumption of a Thai beverage containing DEET.

Transportation

Traffic drives on the left. Paved roads connect major cities, but most have only two lanes. Motorcycle accidents kill or maim Canadians in Thailand each year. You should avoid driving or riding motorcycles in Thailand, even if you are an experienced motorcyclist. Substandard road conditions, local disregard for traffic laws, and drunk driving result in frequent accidents, particularly in the areas of BangkokPattaya, Phuket and Koh Samui. Although motorcycles can easily be rented in Thailand, it is illegal to operate them without a valid Thai motorcycle licence or an international driving permit with a motorcycle endorsement. Helmets are mandatory for motorcycle drivers and passengers, but many do not meet international safety standards. Carry your identification card, driver’s licence and vehicle registration book at all times.

Private vehicle, minivan and bus accidents caused by dangerous road conditions, poor weather, driver fatigue, dangerous driving practices and driver intoxication are common. Canadians have been injured or killed in such accidents. Slow-moving trucks limit speed and visibility. Speeding and reckless passing are common. Avoid driving on mountain roads at night, especially during the rainy season (June-October).

When arriving by air, use licensed taxis from official taxi stands, limousine services or official airport buses, or arrange to be picked up by hotel shuttle services. Unlicensed vehicles (black and white licence plates) are not properly insured to carry passengers and may not use meters. Do not share a taxi with strangers. Disputes with operators of taxis, tuk tuks, etc., have occurred and have occasionally resulted in violence or intimidation. Seek the assistance of local police in settling the matter if this happens to you and you feel threatened.

There have been several incidents of passenger boats sinking due to overcrowding and poor maintenance. Vessels often lack adequate safety equipment. Rail lines in the far south have been the target of acts of sabotage and armed attack.

A number of train accidents have occurred in the past few years, some causing injuries and deaths.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Scams

Canadians visiting Thailand regularly report having fallen victim to a variety of scams. Before renting a motorcycle or jet-ski, read all rental contracts thoroughly to ensure that the vehicle is insured to cover damage and theft. Only rent from reputable companies and never leave your passport as collateral. It has been reported that, upon return of the rental, claims of damage allegedly caused by the renter have been made. In some cases, renters who refused to pay were harassed and threatened, and their passports (left as collateral) were held. If your passport is inaccessible because of such a situation, you may be subject to investigation by Passport Canada and may receive limited passport services. In other cases, particularly with jet-skis, accidents have been allegedly staged to create damage for which the rental company seeks compensation from the renter. In cases of motorcycle rentals, some companies have been known to steal the motorcycle and claim compensation from the renter for the loss.

When dealing with travel agencies, ensure that the company is a reputable tour organization before providing payment. Disputes may be reported to the Tourism Authority of Thailand by calling 1672.
 
In known scams involving gems and jewellery, merchants sell lower-quality items at inflated prices with promises that the items can be resold at a profit. The guarantees that merchants offer are not always honoured. Carefully consider all purchases if you are not knowledgeable about gems and jewellery. The Government of Canada cannot assist in obtaining refunds for purchases made. For further information, contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
 
Report all incidents of crime or scams to the Thai police in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred, and before leaving Thailand. Contact the Tourist Police and the Tourist Assistance Centre by calling 1155 toll-free.

Swimming and water sports

Deaths have occurred as a result of contact with poisonous sea jellies. There have been reports of sea jellies off Koh Pha-ngan, Phuket, Krabi, Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi. Exercise extreme caution when swimming in these areas. If stung, seek immediate medical attention.

Riptides in coastal areas can be strong, including the popular destinations of Phuket, Koh Samui, PattayaRayong and Cha-am/Hua Hin. There have been a number of deaths due to drowning. Heed flag warnings and under no circumstances swim when a red flag is displayed.

Diving schools and rescue services may not adhere to international standards. Rent water sports equipment only from operators affiliated with major international training organizations.

Piracy

Pirate attacks occur in coastal waters and, in some cases, farther out at sea. Mariners should take appropriate precautions. For additional information, consult the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Japanese encephalitis

Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is low for most travellers. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to mosquito bites (e.g., spending time outdoors in rural areas) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Southeast Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, leptospirosis, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Southeast Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Cholera

There have been cases of cholera reported in this country in the last year. Cholera is a bacterial disease that typically causes diarrhea. In severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.

Most travellers are generally at low risk. Humanitarian workers and those visiting areas with limited access to safe food and water are at higher risk. Practise safe food and water precautions. Travellers at high risk should get vaccinated.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In Southeastern Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in Southeastern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.

Avian Influenza

There have been human cases of avian influenza ("bird flu”) in this country. Avian influenza is a viral infection that can spread by contact with infected birds or surfaces and objects contaminated by their feces or other secretions.

Avoid unnecessary contact with domestic poultry and wild birds as well as surfaces contaminated with their feces or other secretions. Ensure all poultry dishes and eggs are thoroughly cooked.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.

Hand, foot and mouth disease

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common viral illness that mainly affects infants and children. Travellers are at increased risk if visiting or living in overcrowded conditions. There is no vaccine for this disease.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical care varies in quality across the country. You are encouraged to go to Bangkok, where there are hospitals that meet international standards, if you are in need of medical care. In some areas of Thailand, proof of insurance may be required to obtain emergency medical care. Emergency evacuation may cost tens of thousands of dollars or more, depending on the location and severity of the condition.

Psychiatric or psychological facilities and services in Thailand may not meet international standards. Canadians with mental illness have been committed to state facilities, arrested and deported.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Laws

Enforcement action against people involved in all aspects of illicit drugs has increased. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are very strict and include the death penalty for serious offences. The possession of even small amounts of illegal drugs, including marijuana, can result in severe fines and prison sentences. Arrested offenders may be prevented from leaving Thailand while legal proceedings are in process.

Night-time police spot-checks to search for illegal drugs occur, particularly in and around entertainment venues in Thailand. Uniformed or undercover police may search pockets, purses and bags, as well as vehicles. You may be asked to consent to a urine test. If you carry prescription or other medicines, it is preferable that they be in clearly marked, original packaging.

Foreigners are required to carry identification at all times. You may wish to carry a photocopy of your passport; however, police may require that you produce the original.

Gambling, with the exception of some horse racing, is illegal in Thailand.

Actions or words that are considered offensive or insulting to the King or the Royal Family are illegal and may result in criminal prosecution.

An International Driving Permit or a Thai driver’s licence is required to drive in Thailand.

Money

The currency is the baht (THB). Automated banking machines (ABMs) are widely available, and major credit cards are widely accepted. Traveller’s cheques are accepted at banks, large hotels and shops. U.S. dollar traveller’s cheques are recommended.

Climate

The rainy (or monsoon) season extends from June to October. Severe rainstorms can cause flash floods and landslides, interrupt essential services and delay overland travel, especially in remote locations. Jungle treks are not advisable during the rainy season, due to the possibility of mudslides. Flash flooding in caves has caused fatalities.

From July to November 2011, widespread flooding (including flash flooding) and landslides occurred in the central, northeast, northern and southern regions of Thailand. More than 800 deaths have been attributed to the flooding, many of which were caused by drowning or electrocution.

Consult our Typhoons and monsoons page for more information.