Thailand Travel Facts

Thank you for choosing TUI for your journey into Thailand.

Much has been said and written about the beauty of Thailand and the Thai people. One of the joys of a visit to Thailand is that despite its development, visitors have a special opportunity to experience the magic of the country and the authenticity of the Thai spirit. To assist with your travel arrangements we have prepared the following pre-departure information. Please read this carefully before your travel to Thailand and be mindful of some of our suggestions while you are travelling.

What to Expect:
Thailand is a country with enough variety and captivating diversity to satisfy even the most discerning of travellers. It is a kingdom spread over 514,000 sq km with a population in excess of 61,000,000. A country which, unlike its neighbours in Southeast Asia, was never colonized by a European power.

Travellers to Thailand can explore deserted stretches of spectacular coastline, visit mountainous terrain in the north, stop at traditional hill tribe villages, see classic pagodas and temples, and experience famous Thai hospitality. This is a country of fascinating traditions, an intriguing history, and a warm, open approach to the presence of foreigners.

The travel industry in Thailand has been growing at a rapid pace for some time now and the country offers many facilities and services at western standards. However, travelling throughout the more remote areas of Thailand may involve some bumpy road conditions, trains that are prone to delay, and some clean but simple accommodation.

Responsibility:
Information herein was correct at the time of preparation, however the rapid development of tourism in Thailand has the potential to make some of the information in this guide irrelevant. This information is intended as a guide only and TUI is not responsible for any inaccuracies. This document does not, in any way, alter the booking terms and conditions in our small group journey brochure. Please contact us with your comments if you find during the course of your travels that the information in this guide is incorrect or out of date.

Visa Requirements & Departure Taxes:
To enter Thailand you will require a passport valid for at least six months from the time of entry. Tourist visas for stays of thirty days or less are issued on arrival at Bangkok airport. An arrival/departure card will be issued to you on the plane prior to your arrival in Thailand. The departure section of this card must be retained until your departure from Thailand. Please ensure this is kept in a safe place while in Thailand. International departure tax is currently 500 Thai baht. From the 01 February this will be increased to 700 Thai baht.

Please note that it is now law in Thailand to carry your passport at all times. For tourists, a photocopy will suffice on most occasions but the photocopy must be of both the entry stamp with arrival date in Thailand and also the page with photograph and personal details. Some bars or other establishments where entry is strictly controlled will only accept your original passport. If you fail to carry either your passport or a copy, this can result in a brief period spent in custody whilst the police establish your identity. Please also note that pickpocketing can occur in major cities and please take all due precaution when carrying your passport.

Arrival Instructions:
Arrival (and departure) transfers are included for all Small Group Journeys. When arriving in Bangkok please use Exit 10 of level 2 (Arrival floor) where your TUI guide will be waiting for you with a sign with your name on it. If you are unable to find your transfer driver, assistance can be found at ATTA (Association of Thai Travel Agents) service counters which are located at level 2 (Arrival floor) in front of Gate 1 (domestic area), Gate 6 and Gate 10 (international area)

Insurance:
You must be comprehensively insured as a condition of travelling with TUI. Insurance should include unlimited coverage for personal accident and medical expenses, full provision for evacuation and a minimum of $25,000USD cover for repatriation expenses, baggage loss, and cancellation or curtailment of your holiday.

We will ask you to confirm your insurance details as part of our travel registration process at the start of your journey. If you do not have appropriate insurance we will insist you obtain insurance. We reserve the right not to provide the services booked with us until insurance is purchased.

Note that travel insurance may be ‘attached’ to your credit card, although usually such cover is effective only if your travel arrangements have been purchased with the card. Insurance cover from credit cards often does not include payment of medical expenses or emergency repatriation. Please check your policy carefully.

Please note that government regulations in Asia do not always require or enforce the possession of hotel, transport supplier and other supplier public liability insurance. Even when this insurance is in place, it can be for very limited cover only. TUI does its best to work with suppliers who possess public liability insurance, however this is not always possible. Regardless of length of stay and type of service, you must have adequate insurance to cover you in the event you suffer a medical problem while travelling.

A Responsible TUI
TUI practices a thorough, realistic Responsible Travel Policy. We believe that travel should entail an exchange of knowledge and perspectives, a sharing of wealth, and a genuine appreciation of Asia’s beautiful natural environments. This philosophy underpins the heart and soul of our style of travel. It drives all that we strive to deliver to our travellers, and shapes the contact we have with our supplier colleagues in Asia. We recognise that poorly planned itineraries or poorly informed tourists contribute less to cross-cultural understanding and less to the livelihoods of local people. We also recognise that we work in a developing part of the world. Political and social factors sometimes impede the short term implementation of our responsible travel initiatives, so we do not make blanket, unrealistic statements about the achievability of our goals – doing so would make us ‘irresponsible’. We aspire to short or medium term implementation of our policies where this is realistic and to incremental change where there are constraints of a governmental or cultural nature. We strongly encourage you to refer to our website and read our Responsible Travel Policy, as well as the TUI Guide to Responsible Travel (full of pointers which we hope will make for a more informed, more ‘responsible’ holiday).

The Political Situtation
The Thai people, originating from the mountainous border region between China and South-East Asia, established their first independent kingdom in the lowlands of modern Thailand in 1238. They gradually chipped away at the territory of the crumbling Khmer Empire, sacking the capital, Angkor, in 1434. Over the next several hundred years they faced repeated invasions themselves from successive kingdoms in neighbouring Burma.

In the 18th century the Burmese briefly occupied Ayutthaya, the capital of Siam, as the main Thai kingdom was then known. A more secure capital was established in Bangkok in 1782 by King Rama I, founder of the current Chakkri dynasty. By then, however, the greatest threat to Thailand came from European colonialism. During the 19th century, the British conquered Burma, while the French seized Siam’s former vassal states, Laos and Cambodia.

The two western powers accepted Siam as a buffer state between them, in part due to the diplomacy of King Mongkut (Rama IV, ruled 1851-1868) and his successor, Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868-1910), who conceded territorial claims in exchange for independence. Chulalongkorn also instituted a series of reforms, abolishing slavery and overhauling the administrative system, though absolute political power remained in the king’s hands. Siam’s first railroad and first girls’ school opened during his reign.

In 1932 Phibul Songgram, an ambitious junior army officer, and Pridi Phanomyang, a French-educated civilian and leader of the secret People’s Party, led a bloodless coup and established a constitutional monarchy. In 1939 Siam became Thailand. In the second world war, the Japanese pressured Thailand, under Phibul, to support it in exchange for territory, while Pridi led militant anti-Japanese opposition forces. Pridi led a post-war civilian government, only to be overthrown in 1947 by Phibul, who established a military dictatorship.

The military dominated Thailand for most of the subsequent decades, despite brief attempts at civilian rule. Only in 1992, after large-scale student-led protests, did the popular King Bhumibol (Rama IX) finally put an end to military rule. In 1997, following several months of warning, the Thai currency crashed and the economy was in tatters. Two months later the Thai parliament voted on a new constitution giving more rights to the people than they had ever known and fostering hope in people suffering greatly from the economic crisis. Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, the leader of the parliament during this time failed to effectively manage the economic crisis and was forced to resign in November 1997.

In 2001, billionaire and former police colonel Thaksin Shinawatra was named prime minister after winning a landslide victory in national compulsory elections, the first to be held in Thailand after the establishment of the 1997 establishment. Prime Minister Thaksin’s efficient handling of the tsunami disaster of 2004 brought his party a landslide victory in the general election of February 2005, however disquiet was building in many parts of the country. Thaksin was in power until 19 September 2006,when the Thai military staged a coup d’état. Since that time, it has been governed by a military dictatorship headed by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin. The coup and the governing junta have been endorsed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej in a royal decree on the day following the coup.

Money:
The currency in Thailand is the Baht (BHT). Current approximate exchange rate:

  • BHT72 equals 1GBP
  • BHT40 equals 1USD
  • BHT30 equals 1AUD
  • BHT35 equals 1CAD
  • BHT28 equals 1NZD

You are advised to carry a mix of cash and travellers cheques (USD, AUD, CAD & GBP are accepted throughout the country). Credit cards can be used in most shops and restaurants in major cities. Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly accepted cards. Cash advances can be obtained using these cards at major banks throughout the country, and at ATMs.

Climate:
Thailand spans several climatic zones resulting in substantial weather condition variations between the north and the south. Average temperatures in Bangkok range from 20 to 35 degrees Celsius, however the weather in the capital feels hot and humid year-round. In Southern Thailand, tropical conditions prevail, and there are two seasons – wet and dry. The wet season lasts from May to October and is characterised by high humidity levels and a refreshing afternoon downpour. The exception is the east coast of Southern Thailand, where rainfall is highest between October and December.

Humidity in the south during the months of June and July ranges between 75% and 85%. Northern Thailand has four seasons. The months from December to May are ‘dry’ and it can be a little cooler at night in the north. The months of July and August are the wettest, in the north.

Thailand spans several climatic zones resulting in substantial weather condition variations between the north and the south. Average temperatures in Bangkok range from 20 to 35 degrees Celsius (68 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit), however the weather in the capital feels hot and humid year-round.

WEATHER
Central & South Thailand (Bangkok, Phuket, Khao Sok) The hottest period is from March to May with temperatures averaging 20 – 35 degrees Celsius (68 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit). December to February are the coolest months. The rainy season is June to September in Central Thailand and May to October in Southern Thailand. Expect high humidity and a refreshing afternoon downpour.
Northern & Northeast Thailand (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai) Northern Thailand has four seasons. In the hottest months (March to May) expect temperatures up to 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). During the cool season (December to February) the average temperature is 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). Night temperatures drop to as low as 12 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit) in Chiang Mai and lower still in nearby hilltribe areas. July and August are the wettest months, while December to May are relatively dry.

Baggage & Clothing:
Standard sized bags (preferably soft bags), backpacks or soft cases only are permitted on our journeys. Your baggage should be clearly labelled and kept to a reasonable minimum. Luggage limits on airlines are strictly enforced and space on vehicles and trains is limited. Any flights booked through TUI (domestic and international) have a luggage limit of 20 kilograms per person. You may be required to carry your own luggage at times where porters are not available – you should be capable of carrying your own bags on and off trains, and up and down stairs. If you are doing lots of shopping during your travels, it may be necessary for you to forward any excess to the city where your tour concludes, or ship purchases directly home. Keeping the amount of luggage you carry in check will ensure your safety and comfort, and the safety and comfort of your fellow travellers. Porterage is not included in the cost of your journey. Please ensure you pay porters around $1USD per person for carrying your luggage. Should you wish to avoid such payments, please carry and take responsibility for your luggage.

Comfortable casual clothes made of cotton are best in tropical and semi tropical climates – packing one set of smart casual clothes is advisable. Laundry services are available throughout the country, although hotel laundry costs can be expensive. We suggest you include:

  • Flat walking shoes and sandals
  • Hat & sunglasses
  • Jumper/coat/thermals – if visiting in winter
  • Bathers
  • Money belt
  • Raincoat or umbrella
  • Basic first aid kit (see below)
  • Insect repellent
  • Alarm clock
  • Small torch
  • Swiss Army pocketknife
  • Power adapter
  • Women’s sanitary products
  • Ear plugs and eye patches for the train

Please note that airlines insist all sharp items (knives, scissors, nail clippers etc.) are packed in your ‘check-in’ luggage. Alcohol is no longer permitted onboard domestic flights and must also be stored in your check-in luggage.

Electricity:
The electric current in Thailand is 220 volts at 50 cycles. Electrical plugs of the two rounded pin type are the most commonly required. You may want to bring a small hair dryer – not all hotels provide one.

Health & Fitness:
Some of the diseases known to exist in Thailand include malaria, dengue fever, diphtheria, tetanus, and HIV/ AIDS. We recommend you take adequate preventative measures to minimise your risk of exposure to these health risks. We are a travel company and we are not qualified to provide detailed medical information appropriate to your individual needs. Western standard medical facilities are available in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket but in most other areas of the country, medical facilities are basic. We recommend therefore recommend you consult with your local doctor or a specialist travel medical centre for up to date health information on vaccinations and medicine for your trip, at least one month prior to departure.

We suggest you bring a simple medical kit. Your doctor should advise you what to include, but as a minimum we suggest you bring:

  • Aspirin or paracetamol (for pain or fever)
  • Antihistamines (for allergies and itches)
  • Cold and flu tablets
  • Something to stop diarrhoea
  • Something appropriate for nausea and vomiting
  • Rehydration mixture (to prevent dehydration)
  • Insect repellant
  • Antiseptic and bandages
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Antibiotics (discuss with your doctor)

As part of our travel registration process at the start of any journey with TUI, you will be asked to declare any serious pre-existing medical conditions or allergies.

Small Group Journey Gradings:
Each Small Group Journey in our brochure has a “grading” to assist you in choosing a holiday best suited to your level of health and fitness. A guide to the gradings is as follows:

Easy
These tours avoid the more arduous road travel by flying between major cities. They are suitable for travellers of all ages and levels of fitness. However, an average level of mobility and agility is required as these tours still include some walking in often hot and humid conditions, as well as getting on/off boats and walking up/down flights of stairs. Accommodation is generally comfortable by international standards.

Moderate
These tours involve some long distance overland/overnight travel and can include one or two nights of basic accommodation in more remote areas. The tours are suitable for most travellers of average fitness and mobility with a spirit for “soft” adventure. Clients will be expected on occasions to carry their own luggage for short distances.

Adventurous
These tours involve some long distance travel and at least 2 nights in very basic accommodation. On these tours there may be nights when clients will sleep out on boats, on trains, in a hilltribe village or in other basic accommodation. A client should be quite fit and be prepared for travelling in remote parts of developing Asia to get the most out of an “adventurous” tour. Clients will be expected on occasions to carry their own luggage for short distances.

Minimum Fitness Levels
It is essential for a good group dynamic on our Small Group Journeys that a less able client does not significantly impact on the enjoyment of the rest of the group during the touring days. We ask you please to consider the above tour gradings and think carefully about the Small Group Journeys most appropriate for your level of health and fitness. As a minimum requirement for our tours graded Easy, you should ask yourselves the following questions:

  • Am I able to walk 2-3 kilometres comfortably in hot and humid conditions?
  • Am I able to walk up 4 flights of stairs without losing breath?
  • Am I able to walk along rough and unstable surfaces?
  • Am I able to board small boats, trains etc?
  • Am I able to carry my own luggage?

If, upon commencement of a Small Group Journey, our Tour Leader takes the view that a client’s physical capabilities are not to the standard set out in by the above criteria (also stipulated in the “Fitness Form” which is required to be completed upon booking) then, in the interests of the client and fellow travellers, we reserve the right to prevent the client from participating in the tour. In such instances, we will assist with onward travel arrangements. Cancellation penalties will apply. You should therefore ensure that you are physically capable and prepared for undertaking our journeys.

Food/ Water:
Thai cuisine is an exotic mix of the best ingredients and flavours that Asia has to offer. Fresh produce and seafood is plentiful, of good quality, and affordable. Thai food is renowned for being spicy and incorporates lots of garlic, chillies, lime, and lemon grass. Vegetarians are generally well catered for. Breakfast is included each day on our tours and is usually a mix of buffet and continental style. Lunch should cost around 3USD and dinner approx 6USD, depending on the restaurant. Bottled water is inexpensive and available everywhere. Do not drink the local tap water.

Tipping Policy:
If you are happy with the services provided by your local guides, drivers and your tour leader, a tip is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, tipping inspires great service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across TUI destinations. As a general guide on Small Group or Special Group Journeys, please allow 2USD to 3USD per day per traveller for each of your local guide, driver and tour leader. If your tour is private, please allow 3USD to 5USD per day per traveller for each of your local guide and driver. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Should you be dissatisfied with the services provided by your local guide, driver or tour leader, please let us know.

Safety & Security:
Thailand is generally a safe country and the usual commonsense safety precautions should be adhered to. We recommended that you take taxis rather than tuk tuks at night. Taxis are metered and inexpensive. You should leave valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes at all times and carry photocopies of your passport, credit card numbers, and airline tickets, and a detailed record of your encashed travellers cheques. These items should be kept in a safe place. Be wary of strangers offering you drinks and sweets and remember that Thailand has some very strict laws relating to drug use.

Post & Communication:
International mail is quite reliable and generally takes seven to ten days to reach its destination. Prices are slightly lower than western postal charges. International phone and fax charges are quite reasonable, and cheaper if made from a post office or telephone office. Reverse charge (collect) calls are possible but you may be charged a small fee. Email services are inexpensive and available in the major tourist areas, but connection is often slow.

Photography:
Thailand has good and fast processing facilities. A roll of 24 exposures can be developed for approximately 4USD. Slide film and Hi8/V8 video cassettes are available in Bangkok. The x-ray machines at all airports are film safe.

1. Memory cards sell in most Cities.

2. Bring extra batteries and adaptor units for recharging batteries.

3. Keep weather conditions in mind to gain the best photographic effects.

4. Do not take photos in politically sensitive areas such as military bases, customs or airports. Otherwise, you might be regarded as a terrorist or a person who has certain threat.

5. Certain places or backgrounds may incur fees. Be sure to clarify the amount before taking photos.

6. For religious reasons and for relic protection, many scenic spots such as museums, grottoes, temples, monasteries, palaces and cultural relics do not allow the taking of photos. ‘No Photos’ signs mark restricted areas.

7. Before taking photos of Local people which show their way of life or a street scene, you should first ask permission.

8. In some special wildlife reserves, taking photos close to the animals is not allowed for the sake of tourists’ safety. Please pay attention to the signs in these places.

9. In special areas such as Private Places, photography is strictly limited. Typical local customs and religious places such as palaces or monasteries can not be photographed unless you pay for your photo taking or get the permission.

10. It is illegal to take photos regarding other people’s private actions or some embarrassing scenes by using the telephoto lens.

11. Film processing is convenient and fast, with good print quality. Photography studios can be easily found in most Local cities.

12. As you take photos in museums or some exhibition halls, for the protection of cultural relic, photoflash lamp and A-frame camera should be avoided.

13. Besides photography, videography is also a good way to remember your trip.

Hotels:
Our Standard hotels have private western-style bathrooms, hot water, air-conditioning, satellite television, IDD telephones, laundry, and other facilities. Generally they have swimming pools. Where possible we endeavour at passenger request to accommodate couples in double rooms. Please note however that on occasions during your journey, this may not be possible and a twin room will be provided.

Asia is home to some of the world’s most beautiful and historic hotels. With this in mind, we designed our range of Deluxe (Essence of Asia) journeys. The emphasis by day is unchanged – small groups and an authentic experience of Asia. At night however, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the ambience of these specially selected hotels. Please note that in some cases Deluxe accommodation is not available. In these places we use the best hotels available. This will be clearly marked in your itinerary.

Check-in and check-out times can vary but most hotels in Cambodia require guests to check out by 12 noon and do not allow check in until 2 pm. Many hotels may allow an earlier check in or later check out subject to availability on the day.

Transport:
On the road we generally use late model air-conditioned mini-vans or mini-coaches. Depending on the size of the group, we may use larger vehicles. Some tours include domestic flights on Thai Airways or Bangkok Airways. Some tours also involve a ten hour rail trip between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Accommodation is in a cooled sleeper carriage which is comfortable and modern. Sheets and blankets are provided and are clean and of high quality.

Group Dynamics:
Our small group journeys provide you with a good balance of group activity and personal discovery. Travellers need to be aware of certain personal responsibilities when travelling with a group. Simple things – like being ready at agreed times and keeping to schedule will ensure the smooth running of the programme. Furthermore, the traditions and culture of the country you are visiting should be respected. Correct behaviour includes wearing the appropriate dress when visiting religious sites and refraining from making comments or acting in a manner that would be viewed as unacceptable by your fellow group members or by the local people in the country you are visiting. Please ask your tour leader for further clarification of the issues mentioned above.

Tour Leaders/ Guides:
Providing the group tour reaches a minimum of seven passengers a Western tour leader will guide you on your entire journey through Thailand. All of our tour leaders have an in-depth knowledge of Thailand and an enthusiasm for the country that is contagious. Your tour leader is your link with Thailand and is there to ensure the smooth running of the trip. Your tour leader will try – wherever practical – to cater for your individual interests. Local English-speaking guides also accompany you on your tour. They impart local information about history, customs and culture that can only come from living in the area. Generally, we have a different local guide for each city or region we visit. Thus, local guides are usually only with the group for a few days.

Local Time:

Thailand is:

  • 7hrs ahead of GMT
  • 3hrs behind Australian Eastern Standard Time
  • 5hrs behind New Zealand
  • 12hrs ahead of Canada Eastern Time
  • 15hrs ahead of Canada Pacific Time
  • 12hrs ahead of US Eastern Time.
  • 15 hrs ahead of US Pacific Time.

Shopping:
Thailand is well known for its fabulous shopping. Ceramics, lacquer ware, silverware, wood carvings and jewellery are just some of the many good buys. Many travellers also have clothes tailored due to the low prices – standards vary. A few guidelines to follow when shopping:

  • Except in department stores, bargaining is the norm. To get the best price you will have to haggle hard.
  • Export of certain antiques and religious images (eg. Buddha images) is not permitted. Make sure you are aware of these regulations before purchasing.
  • Fake reproductions are common. Make sure you know what you are buying, especially in the case of antiques.

Massage Services:
Many countries in Asia are deservedly renowned for their massage techniques and the quality and value for money of these services. Unfortunately, many massage parlours including some in otherwise ‘reputable’ hotels are also linked to the paid sex industry. We advise you to check carefully before using massage services in Asia.

Language:
The Thai language is tonal and written in a Mon-Khmer script which is very different from the Latin script. Because the language is tonal, the same spelt word can have several different meanings. This makes it fairly difficult to learn, but any attempt to speak the language will be well received by the local people. English is widely spoken throughout the country, especially in tourist areas. The Lonely Planet Thai phrasebook is recommended for those wanting to learn more about the language. To help you get the most out of your contact with the Thai people,try learning how to say these key phrases:

Please note:

for polite speaking male speaks at the end of sentence with KRAP and female speaks at the end of sentence with KA

  • I = chan (for both male and female)
  • Dichan = Female, Phom = Male
  • You = Khun (for both male and female)
Thailand English
Sa wat dee Hello (or hi)
Khun sabai dee mai? How are you?
Chan sabai dee I’m fine
Khob khun Thank you
Khun chue are rai What is your name?
Chan chue… My name is …
Khun are you thao rai? How old are you?
Chan are you…. Pee I am … years old
Ra ca thao rai? How much is …?
Mun phaeng mak! Its too expensive!
Mai No
Chai Yes
Khor tod / chan sia jai Excuse me / I’m sorry
Mai jam phen No need
Khob khun tae chan mai tong karn thung plasatic Thank you, but I don’t need a plastic bag.
Prod chauy rak sa sing-vad-lom khongrao Please help protect our environment
Prod yha pian pha kuon noo khong chan Please do not change my bath towels
Prod yha pian pha linen khong chan Please do not change my linen
La gon Good bye!
Choke dee Good luck!

Important Dates Affecting Touring

01 Jan – International New Year’s Day:
Public holiday. Banks and public offices will be closed, as will some businesses.

1 Feb – Makha Bucha Day:
Public holiday. Banks and public offices will be closed, as will some businesses.

06 Apr – Chakri Memorial Day:
Public holiday. Banks and public offices will be closed, as will some businesses.

13 to 15 Apr – Songkran Festival Days:
Public holiday. Banks and public offices will be closed, as will some businesses.

2 May – Visakha Bucha Day:
Public holiday. Banks and public offices will be closed, as will some businesses.

05 May – Coronation Day:
Public holiday. Banks and public offices will be closed, as will some businesses.

12 Aug. – H.M. The Queen’s Birthday & 13 Aug – Substitution for the Queen’s birthday:
Public holiday. Banks and public offices will be closed, as will some businesses.

23 Oct – Chulalongkorn Memorial Day:
Public holiday. Banks and public offices will be closed, as will some businesses.

24 Nov – Loy Kratong Festival:
Not a public holiday. Dates of this festival and compulsory meals rates at hotels TBA.

05 Dec – H.M. The King’s Birthday:
Public holiday. Banks and public offices will be closed, as will some businesses.

10 Dec – Constitution Day:
Public holiday. Banks and public offices will be closed, as will some businesses.

24 to 25 Dec. – Christmas Eve:
Some businesses will be closed but it is not a public holiday in Thailand and it should not affect touring. There will be compulsory Christmas Eve dinners at a number of hotels. The cost of these dinners must be settled directly with the hotel. At time of writing, 2006 compulsory meal rates had not yet been finalised. Please contact us for further information.

31 Dec 2006 – New Year’s Eve:
There will be compulsory dinners at a number of hotels. The cost of these dinners must be settled directly with the hotel. At time of writing, 2006 compulsory meal rates had not yet been finalised. Please contact us for further information.

New Year’s Eve is not a public holiday so there are no other effects on touring.

Over the festive period, there will be compulsory dinners at a number of hotels. The cost of these dinners must be settled directly with the hotel. At time of writing, 2006 compulsory meal rates had not yet been finalised. Please contact us for further information.

Recommended Reading:
Mobile libraries are carried in the minibus when the group is at least seven people in size. Libraries include guide books, books about local history, and fiction written by local authors. Feel free to use these books at any time during the tour.

Books worth reading include those outlined below. Please refer to our website for a wider list of suggested reading.

Guide Books

  • “Lonely Planet Guide to Thailand” by Lonely Planet Publications.
  • Rough Guide to Thailand by Rough Guide Publications.

General

  • Gentlemen of the Parlour, (Vintage) by Somerset Maugham – An interesting account of the author’s travels by foot and elephant-back through eastern and central Thailand, and parts of Cambodia and Laos. Gives you an idea of how much the Thailand and Indochina area has changed over the past century.
  • Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind, (Asia Books), by Carol Hollinger – A delightful read by an American woman who made Thailand her home and worked as a frustrated English teacher at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.
  • Travels in Siam, Cambodia, Laos and Annam, by Henri Mouhot (White Lotus) – Written in 1860, this is an intriguing account of travels through Indochina and Thailand by the Frenchman who rediscovered Angkor in Cambodia. Lots of interesting information on Thailand of yesteryear.
  • Bridge on the River Kwai’. by Pierre Boulle.
  • Letters from Thailand (Botan). translated by Susan Fulop Kepner.

History

  • Thailand: A Short History’ (Trasvin Publications)by Joseph Wright Jr. Readable guide to the history of the ‘land of smiles’.

 

THAILAND Q & A

Q: When is the best time to travel to Thailand?
A: All year is fine. Travellers should note that Thailand is especially hot and humid (high of 35–38 degrees) between April/May and September, with April to May typically the hottest months. Temperatures can fall below 10 degrees at night in Chang Mai and Mae Hong Son during winter (December to February). Travelling in the rainy season (May – October) is not unpleasant and many travellers think Thailand is at its most beautiful.

Q: What kinds of transport are used on tour?
A: For road journeys and inner city touring, air conditioned buses and mini buses are used – ideal for small group travel. In cities and towns we also use a combination of open-air vehicles, boats, bicycles (optional) and, of course we do plenty of walking through the towns and villages. Domestic flights are on modern Airbus 320 or Boeing 737’s.

Q: What type of restaurants and food will be available on tour?
A: Thai cuisine is an exotic mix of the best ingredients and flavours that Asia has to offer. We eat at a variety of Thai restaurants, from the more sophisticated in the cities to simple but clean country style restaurants. Thai food can be quite spicy and we take this into consideration when choosing dishes. Some travellers prefer a mixture of International (Western) and Thai while touring – in many places this is available. Breakfast is included each day on our tours and is usually a mix of western buffet and continental style. Vegetarians will find a good selection of fresh foods available. In remote areas, Western food is not available and only a limited Thai selection is on offer.

Q: What is train travel like in Thailand?
A: Train travel is a fun, interesting and comfortable way of moving around Thailand. Each passenger has an individual seat, which is converted into a bed for sleeping at night (comfortable and plenty of room). Train attendants make up the bed and provide clean sheets and blankets. Western style washrooms and toilets are located at both ends of the compartment. Meals and drinks can be purchased in the train’s restaurant carriage or from trolley carts. Compartments are air conditioned.

Q: Will I be spending too much time at religious sites?
A: We believe our Thailand tours are a nice balance of people, culture, history, natural landscapes and food. Religion is a fundamental part of Thai life and culture, and the time we spend at such sites gives us an opportunity to understand and experience these aspects of Thailand.

Q: How much money will I spend per day touring?
A: Approximately US$12 per person for day to day living. Thailand is a country that offers great value for your money. For around US$12 you will be able to buy lunch and dinner at good restaurants, as well as refreshments (non-alcoholic) during the day.

 

Money

How should I take money to Thailand?
How much money will I need each day for food and other expenses?
Do I need to tip in Thailand?
Will I need to bargain for everything I want to buy?

Health & Safety

What vaccinations will I need to have?
Are western toilets available?
Is Thailand a safe country?
I’m traveling alone – is it safe to go out at night?
Is Thailand a good place to take children?

Food & Water

Can I drink the water?
Is there vegetarian food and western food available?
I have special dietary requirements/allergies – can these be accommodated?
What general food and water precautions should I take?

Getting There and Away and Around

What is the flight time to Thailand?
Do I need a visa for Thailand?
Are the domestic flights safe and reliable?
Is it safe to catch a taxi or tuk-tuk at night?

Packing

Should I take a suitcase or a backpack?
What is the baggage allowance on domestic flights?
What should I pack for a vacation in Thailand?
Will I need wet weather gear?

Communications & Technology

Will I be able to use my mobile phone?
Are there many internet cafes in Thailand?
I am traveling with my laptop – will I be able to access WiFi?

Responsible Travel

I would like to bring some gifts for the local children – what do you suggest?
What are some of the local customs I should be aware of?
Looking for further information on how you can travel responsibly?

For information on our responsible travel polices visit our Responsible Travel page.

Money

How should I take money to Thailand?
Bring a combination of credit and debit cards and cash. ATMs accepting international cards are available throughout Thailand and are the easiest way to obtain cash. Money is dispensed in the local currency baht (BHT). Most hotels, banks and exchange booths change cash at reasonable rates. Credit cards are widely accepted at hotels, mid-range and upmarket restaurants and shops. Traveler’s checks in USD, AUD, CAD & GBP are accepted throughout the country, but these are now becoming harder to cash.

How much money will I need each day for food and other expenses?
Thailand is an inexpensive country to visit by almost any standards. Allow approximately 15 USD per person for day-to-day living, which will buy you lunch and dinner at good local restaurants (your breakfast is always included), as well as refreshments during the day. Transport such as tuk-tuks is inexpensive, and should cost you no more than 3 USD per trip on average, and often much less. If you are traveling independently, you will need to factor in any entrance fees, which are generally between 1-5 USD. For meals in local restaurants, you should budget for around 4-5 USD for a 2-course meal in a local restaurant or café and approximately 10 USD for a 3-course meal in a comfortable mid-range Thai restaurant. Beverages in local restaurants and cafes will cost around 2 USD for soft drinks and tea/coffee and approximately 3 USD for alcoholic drinks such as beer. Food and drinks in high-end and Western restaurants will cost considerably more. Clothes, jewelry and handicrafts are generally cheap, with good buys to be found throughout the country in both markets and shopping malls.

Do I need to tip in Thailand?
Tipping inspires great service and, while it is not generally expected in Thailand, it is appreciated. If you would like to tip, 10% of the bill is appropriate. If you are happy with the services provided by your guides and drivers, we suggest a tip of 3-5 USD per person per day for guides and 2 USD per day for drivers. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality.

Will I need to bargain for everything I want to buy?
Bargaining in markets is the norm in Thailand, however shops and boutiques normally mark items with price tags and therefore, prices are fixed. Bargaining should always be good-natured – a smile and friendly attitude are a must. In some cases (particularly in tourist areas) you may be able to get a 50% discount or more, at other times this may only be 10%. Once you start bargaining, if the vendor accepts the price, then you should buy the good. In most cases you will not need to bargain for basic items such as bottled water, toiletries and food.

Health & Safety

What vaccinations will I need to have?
Some of the diseases known to exist in Thailand include hepatitis A and B, malaria, dengue, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, rabies and HIV/AIDS. Consult with your local doctor or a specialist travel medical centre for up-to-date health information on vaccinations and medicine for your trip at least one month prior to departure.

Are western toilets available?
All hotels and guesthouses, including home-stays, are equipped with western toilets, as are most restaurants. Squat toilets are the norm on boats. On long drives, we endeavour to time stops according to acceptable and hygienic toilet facilities which will, in most cases, include a western toilet. Toilet facilities on boats can be basic. We recommend that you carry hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

Is Thailand a safe country?
Thailand is relatively safe by world standards though usual common sense precautions apply. Petty theft can be a problem in tourist centres so we recommend you wear as little jewelry as possible and keep your spending money close to your body in a secure place when out on the street. We advise you take taxis rather than tuk-tuks at night. Taxis are metered and inexpensive. Always keep a photocopy of your passport, airline tickets and credit card numbers, and a detailed record of your traveler’s checks. You should leave valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes wherever possible.

I’m traveling alone – is it safe to go out at night?
Our hotels are centrally located in safe neighborhoods. In most cases you will feel quite safe walking outside even at night. Common sense precautions apply, and it is best to avoid poorly lit streets at night. Most hotels we use have a restaurant or can arrange a tuk-tuk or a taxi to take you directly to your destination if you’d prefer. To assist in finding your way back to your hotel, make sure that you obtain a hotel address card, to show taxi drivers where you want to go.

Is Thailand a good place to take children?
Thailand is very child-friendly. If you are traveling with children aged 5-17, our Family Journeys, featuring a combination of fun and educational activities, might best suit your needs. Some hotels cater well to families with triple share options or adjoining rooms.

Food & Water

Can I drink the water?
We advise against drinking tap water in Thailand. Bottled water is provided on a complimentary basis by many hotels and is otherwise inexpensive and readily available.

Is there vegetarian food and western food available?
Vegetarian dishes are widely available and fresh fruit is abundant throughout Thailand. Even vegetable dishes may use fish sauce as a base so if you’re a strict Vegetarian it’s a good idea to ask about the ingredients used. Western food is available in most tourist centres, though is generally more expensive than local cuisine.

I have special dietary requirements/allergies – can these be accommodated?
It is generally possible to accommodate special dietary requirements and allergies, though it is a good idea to have someone prepare a Thai translation of the details of your needs to show restaurant staff. Even non-seafood dishes may contain fish sauce as a base. Peanuts are a common ingredient.

What general food and water precautions should I take?
We advise you to use bottled water, even to clean your teeth. Always wash your hands thoroughly, particularly after handling local money. Ensure meats are thoroughly cooked. It is not necessary to avoid salads and herbs out of hand but remember uncooked foods do carry a greater risk. In general, water provided in restaurants will have been boiled. Ice is generally made from filtered water that is delivered in blocks from local factories and should be safe. If in doubt as to the origin of ice, it’s a good idea to ask.

Getting There and Away and Around

What is the flight time to Thailand?
From Australia: Flight times range from 7 hours (Perth) to 10 Hours (Sydney, Brisbane ,Melbourne)
From New Zealand: 13 hours from Auckland
From UK: 12 hours from London
From USA: Flight times range from 19 hours (Los Angeles) to 20 hours (New York)

Do I need a visa for Thailand?
To enter Thailand you will need a passport with at least six-months validity and a tourist visa. Travelers on Australian, British, US, NZ and Canadian passports will receive a 30-day tourist visa on arrival when they arrive by air, or a 15-day visa if they arrive by land (or boat). For further details see our visa information page, speak to one of our experts or contact your local Thai consulate or embassy.

Are the domestic flights safe and reliable?
Most domestic flights within Thailand are with Thai or Bangkok Airways on modern ATR – 72, Airbus 319 & 320 and Boeing 717 & 737s. Schedules sometimes change and this can result in alterations to your itinerary.

Is it safe to catch a taxi or tuk-tuk at night?
Though tuk-tuks are generally safe, we advise you take taxis at night. Taxis are safe and metered. To assist in finding your way back to your hotel, make sure that you obtain a hotel address card, to show taxi drivers where you want to go.

Packing

Should I take a suitcase or a backpack?
We recommend one piece of medium-sized lightweight luggage with wheels and preferably a soft cover. If you are traveling on a train during your stay, bear in mind that you will need to travel with your luggage in your compartment, where space is limited, as there is no separate baggage car.

What is the baggage allowance on domestic flights?
The baggage allowance on Thai or Bangkok Airways domestic flights in economy class is 20kg (44 pounds) for checked luggage, plus one piece of hand luggage weighing no more than 5kg (11 pounds).

What should I pack for a vacation in Thailand?
Please refer to the following checklist as a guide. You may need to carry your own bags at certain stages during the trip so you should be able to lift them! Laundry service is available in most hotels but can be expensive.

Travel documents: passport, visas, travel insurance certificate, air tickets,
Money: traveler’s checks/cash/credit card and money pouch
Day pack and/or shoulder bag that can be slung across the body for security
First aid kit
Medication/prescriptions (it is a good idea to have a doctors letter if you are carrying a large amount of medication), travel sickness tablets if required
Torch/flashlight
Hairdryer (not all hotels supply them)
Travel plug/international adapter
Insect repellent
A range of comfortable, quick dry, loose fitting clothes
Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses
Swimming costume
Lightweight travel towel
Ear plugs/eye mask
Comfortable walking shoes
Camera, film and/or memory cards with spare batteries (or battery charger)
Raincoat/umbrella
Waterproof jacket
Clothes for temples – long pants or long skirts, long sleeve tops, shoes which are easy to slip on/off

Will I need wet weather gear?
We do advise you bring wet weather gear however raincoats and umbrellas can easily be purchased in Thailand.

Communications & Technology

Will I be able to use my mobile phone?
Mobile phone networks cover much of the country and global roaming is available – check with your service provider before leaving home. Reception is generally good.

Are there many internet cafes in Thailand?
You will find many internet cafes throughout Thailand and connection speed is generally good. Rates are very reasonable. Most hotels offer an internet service however rates are generally higher than in internet cafes.

I am traveling with my laptop – will I be able to access WiFi?
WiFi is offered in some hotels, either in-room or in certain public areas such as the lobby. Check with your travel expert for availability of WiFi at your chosen hotel/s before departure.

Responsible Travel

I would like to bring some gifts for the local children – what do you suggest?
Gifts such as text books and pencils are most appropriate and best given to organizations (such as schools or clinics) rather than to individuals, as distribution through a community channel is more likely to occur equitably, and with dignity. We generally advise against giving gifts directly to children on the street, at home or in village communities. Gift giving creates inequality within communities and encourages children to start begging. Giving money (even to children who offer to act as guides) can also make children the primary income earners in their family, resulting in long-term school truancy.

What are some of the local customs I should be aware of?
Thailand is a devoutly Buddhist country people are generally very polite. The traditional greeting known as the wai, where you press your hands together as is in prayer and bow slightly, is still widely practised. Dress standards can be conservative outside the major cities and tourist areas. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong. At temples and in rural areas, women should try to keep your shoulders covered. It is illegal to show disrespect to the royal family. The head is considered to be the holiest part of the body so try to avoid touching people’s heads. As a general rule, try to travel with patience and a sense of humour and try to resolve any difficulties in a calm, friendly matter.