Q. Do I need a visa?
A. There are two fundamental visa options for a visitor to Thailand from most countries -:
1. Arrive by air without a visa and get a free 30 day “Visa Waiver” entry stamp on arrival, which can later be extended by up to 10 days at an immigration post in Thailand. (Arrival by land without a visa only provides 15 days entry.) Visa Waivers are only available to citizens of select nations.)
2. Apply to a Thai consulate or embassy for a visa before you travel. Details on types of visas and how to apply for them are given below.
Important change: Visa Runs
It used to be that you could arrive in Thailand with no proof of onward travel, be granted a free 30-day entry stamp, and extend your stay indefinitely by popping over the border and back every month to renew your entry stamp. This is no longer the case. Not only are you now limited to three visa waivers per any six month period, you must then obtain a legitimate visa or be physically absent from the country for an additional six months. You are still able to do up to two visa runs, extending your stay up to a maximum of 90 days, but the next time you leave the country you will not be permitted to return for a further 90 days.
Do not overstay your visa in Thailand, even by a few hours. If you want to stay longer, get the visa extended or do a visa run before your visa expires.
Some travelers may tell you that overstaying your visa by a few days isn’t a problem and that you’ll just have to pay a fine of 500 baht a day. While it is true that you will just be fined if you turn up at the airport or border with an expired visa, if you are discovered with an out-of-date visa in any other circumstances you will be arrested and detained at the Immigration Detention Centre - an exceptionally grim place which Amnesty International has been campaigning to have closed for a long time.
Q. What is the weather like?
Thailand is hot, all year round day and night - Bangkok was actually recognized as the hottest city in the world by the World Meteorological Organization
. This is mainly down to the fact that there's minimal variation between the daytime and nighttime temperature. Daytime temperatures will rarely dip much below 30 degrees and can go up above 40 degrees centigrade. The hottest months are April - June, and November - March are the coolest. The cool season is more pronounced in the north of the country, the south has little variation at any time of year.
There is a rainy season during July to October, but travel during this period is not so bad. We suggest you do a search by the location you are travelling to, to get a more accurate weather forecast before you travel/book.
Q. Should I take any precautionary medication before coming to Thailand in regards to Mosquitos and other diseases?
A. This is up to the individual and best to consult with your doctor prior to travelling to Thailand.
Mosquitoes are a part of life in Thailand. Some people suffer more than others from mosquito bites, but there are a few simple steps you can take to lessen the chances of being bitten. Whilst the risk of getting malaria is low, mosquitoes can also carry dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis. The first line of defense is to try and avoid getting bitten.
Mosquitoes tend to be most active at sunrise and dusk and are particularly attracted to people wearing aftershave, perfume or scented deodorants, so bear that in mind if you are preparing for a night out. Simply wearing long trousers as opposed to shorts or a skirt can greatly reduce the chances of being bitten. Wearing light-coloured clothing is supposed to help as mosquitoes are apparently more attracted to dark colours. Air-conditioning also helps to deter mozzies, who dislike the cooler temperatures.
Q. What are the costs, quality and availability of medicines and health care in Thailand like?
A.Medical care is pretty good in Bangkok, but gets less so the more into rural Thailand you go although you will find many of the tourist destinations such as the islands have the equivalent level of care and hospitals. Many doctors were trained in America, and some of Bangkok's hospitals (rohng pa-yah-bahn in Thai), such as Bumrungrad are rated the equal of anything in the west. The very top hospitals aren't cheap, but most others are very good value.
Pharmacies are widespread, but take care when using them. Many drugs that require a prescription elsewhere in the world can be got here without one, and they aren't necessarily kept in the best condition - check the sell by date and go to aircon pharmacies if you can.
Please also be aware that taking non-prescription medications back home with you may be illegal in your own country. Please consult with your government about travelling with medicines.
Q. How should I converse and interact with local Thai people?
A. Thai’s are generally soft spoken, courteous and polite and you will always find them smiling. Thai’s do not usually show aggression or anger as this is frowned upon and generally unacceptable so always keep your cool even if your anger is rising. Speaking politely to resolve a situation will get you a lot further than yelling and cursing.
To greet Thai people - Hello (Male speaker): Sawasdee Krup, Hello (Female speaker): Sawasdee Kaa. As Thais do not generally shake hands, foreigners can follow a simplified, albeit not technically exact, rule of returning the wai of anyone who wais them by pressing their hands together beneath their chin and slightly nodding their heads. In general the person of lower status should wai first, but foreigners are generally forgiven for not understanding the nuances of Thai greetings.
Q. What is the food like in Thailand?
Thai food is one of the highlights of a visit to Thailand for a lot of people. Restaurants are everywhere, and prices for an average meal in Thai restaurants are around 30-40B, rising to 80-150B in more touristy places.
Not all Thai Food is spicy but you can request how spicy you would like your dish at the time of ordering. Street Vendors also have an array of delicious stret food such as satay sticks, sausages, salads, pancakes, fresh fruit, ice cream, dumplings, soup and much much more. It is generally safe to eat from street vendors without fear of getting sick.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is a good source of information about Thai food
International food is widely available also and fast food chains can be found most places such as KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut etc...These are more expensive than Thai food, but still relatively cheap by western standards.
Q. Should I carry cash, travellers cheques or credit cards?
A. Thai Baht is accepted everywhere and currency exchange booths are available around Bangkok and all the major tourist destinations in banks across Thailand. While major credit and debit cards are also accepted in most establishments and shopping centers, there are occasionally additional fees from both the retailer and your card provider. Travelers cheques can be cashed at most banks throughout Thailand though less so at retail establishments.
Q. What is the currency of Thailand?
A. The currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht
Paper baht comes in denominations of 10 (brown), 20 (green), 50 (blue), 100 (red), 500 (purple) and 1000 (beige).
There are 100 satang in one baht; coins include 25-satang and 50-satang pieces and baht in denominations of 1, 2, 5 and 10.
Q. How much money would I need to travel in Thailand?
A. If you're travelling on a budget, you should be able to get by on around 500B a day anywhere in Thailand, particularly if you eat local food and take local transportation. Visitors staying in comfortable hotels and eating at restaurants should budget on 600-1500B a day outside of Bangkok and double this amount when in the capital. If money is no object, you can spend to your heart's content in Bangkok and other tourist destinations, since the capital has several of the world's most sumptuous hotels and some unbeatable shopping diversions.
Q. I have heard you can bargain for purchases when in Thailand?
A. Usually, fixed prices are the norm in department stores, while bargaining is expected at most other places. Generally, you can obtain a final figure of between 10-40% lower than the original asking price. Much depends on your skills and the shopkeeper's mood. But remember, Thais appreciate good manners and a sense of humor. With patience and a broad smile, you will not only get a better price, you will also enjoy shopping as an art.
Q. Should I tip when in Thailand?
A. Tipping is not a usual practice in Thailand although it is becoming more common. Most hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge to the bill which goes directly to the staff at the end of the month. Taxi drivers do not require a tip, but the gesture is appreciated and 20-50 baht is acceptable for porters. In restaurants it is common for Thai’s to leave the coins as a tip, though an additional 20-100 baht is not unheard of in nicer establishments, particularly if the service is good.
Q. Can I claim tax back after shopping in Thailand?
A. Visitors entering the Kingdom on a tourist visa are entitled to refund of the 7% V.A.T. on goods purchased at registered retail outlets. The refund may be claimed on a minimum total of purchases worth 5,000 baht with no less than 2,000 baht/receipt/day. Paperwork must be filled out before passing through immigration at the VAT office; at Suvarnabhumi the VAT office is near the entrance to Domestic Departures.
Q. How can I have money sent to me whilst travelling in Thailand?
A. Western Union is the easiest way to receive money, though the fees are substantial. You can also receive money via wire transfer at the foreign exchange sections of major banks. In most cases all you need is a passport. Western Union is available at Bank of Ayutthaya branches around the country (look for the yellow and black signs).