You will find here most of the practical information you need to prepare your trip :
Bangkok International Airport is a popular gateway to the country and Asia. Plane tickets are a big business in Bangkok and prices are indeed among the cheapest in Asia. Just be careful where you get your ticket from as not all the travel agents are reliable (paying the full fare before getting the ticket is always bad idea, so is signing a disclaimer form). Departure tax is an hefty B500.
The following countries offer land crossing with Thailand :
Citizens of most developed countries are welcomed with a 30 days visa-free stay. People from Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand and South Korea can even stay for 90 days !
Extending beyond this month is however expensive at B500 for a 7 to 10 days additional allowance. Much better therefore to cross any border and turn back : you will be given another 30 days, no question asked ! And you can do that every month for years !
60 days visa are also available for about US$15 plus three photos. Those are extendable for another month maximum for B500 plus one photo. You can apply for it at any immigration office in the country. Showing up 2-3 days in advance is recommended.
Overstaying a visa should cost B200 per day but it is always a bad idea.
Backpacker's Tips :
Anonymous (Oct 00)
From the weather point of view :
The best months are November to
February, when it is rather cool and sunny. It can even get cold in the
mountains of the north.
Plenty of festivals take place all over Thailand and you are very likely to locally bump into one. Most are centered around the temples.
If all the festivities are worth seeing, one is best experiencing (or avoiding) : the Thai New Year, also know as Songkran Festival, better described as Splashing Festival. It takes place yearly on the 12-14th of April but, in most places, last longer. Perfect with swimsuit but a bit annoying after a while with your non water proof bags.
Other National Festivals or Events which do not follow the lunar calendar are :
Year's day : 1 January
From the crowd point of view :
The best time to visit from the weather point of view is strangely the most crowded. December to February are the worst months and finding cheap accommodations on the islands becomes a very tricky adventure. But due to the western holidays, summer is also popular and therefore best avoided.
As long as possible off course !
From a practical point of view, the one month allowance is real too short for amazing Thailand but visiting other countries in between will fortunately grant you extensions.
If touring is what you have in mind, count 1-2 weeks for the Center, 3-4 weeks for the North, 2 weeks for the North-East and 3-4 weeks for the South. Two months would therefore be a minimum for a good circuit of Thailand. Three months would be better.
Retiring on an island, watching all the video of Khao San Road or waiting for a full moon party are not included in the above...
The Baht (B) has regained some strength to the US$ and is now exchanged at around B40 for one dollar. See the banknotes
Changing money or TC is no problem. Foreign exchange kiosks compete with banks for the best rates and are usually open long after the later are closed. Rates on the islands or in the hotels are usually poor.
The rates are adjusted at least 3 times a day and always after you have finished your market survey...
TC offer a slightly better rate but there is a B23 service charge per cheque. Avoid therefore small denominations. As a whole, TC is the safest bet as it is a bad idea to carry too much cash...
ATM services are available but cashing money from your western credit card usually involves a few commissions which make the operation costly. Check with your bank.
Credit cards can be used to make most purchase but smaller shops and nearly all travel agents will illegally charge an additional 2-3%.
Backpacker's Tips : Jeerawat Sitsankul, Thai (March
Thailand offer one of the best quality-price ratio in Asia.
There is however a big cost difference for accommodations depending on the season and the location : islands are expensive by Thailand standard and some like Phuket or Koh Samui are now clearly up market. On other islands, count B100 minimum per night in the off season and B200 in the high season. Do not expect much for those prices.
A good dinner in a basic "restaurant" should cost around B30-50 but eating at the night markets should cost you around B20. Beer however is expensive at B40-50 per big bottle.
Transportation is reasonably priced if you avoid the Super VIP buses.
Entrance fees to the sights are acceptably priced.
The National Parks and some natural sights have however recently (July 00) increased their tariffs from a few dozens Bahts to as high as B200 ! Thai people still pay the same as before (see below dangers & annoyances). This certainly will add to the cost of visiting Thailand !
On average, if you avoid a long stay on the expensive islands, eat at the markets and drink with moderation, count on US$6 all inclusive a day if you stay in dormitory or US$10 if you stay in a private room.
See Passplanet's Cost Table for more details.
Thailand is a fairly healthy country to travel in but precautions should be taken in some remote parts.
As in most countries of Asia, water straight from the tap is to be avoided. Distilled water is cheap and readily available everywhere.
Thailand is a good place to complete your health equipment as medicine are cheap and readily available. Avoid small shops however as fake pills do exist. Thai condoms have not a reputation of reliability.
Malaria ? All cities in Thailand are malaria free. However, some malaria
can be found in the hilly or forested areas, around the border with Myanmar, Laos or Cambodia and on some Islands (in particular Koh Chang). Risks increase at the rainy season but, with common sense, mosquito net and repellent, it remains low. A leaflet from the
Government read that "malaria chemoprophylaxis is not recommended". The hospital for Tropical
Deceases is at 420-6 Rajavithi Rd, Bangkok (2469000 ext 414, 415)
Thailand is, as a whole, a very pleasant place to visit but this is not paradise and a few things may irritate you from time to time for a couple of seconds or so :
The dogs : usually harmless but always noisy, especially when starting a fight in the middle of the night. In addition,
abandoned streets dogs sometimes offer a pity sight to animal lovers.
The dual pricing system : Entrances to National Parks have increased in July 2000 from B20 to B200. This is the case for the Erawan Falls, Ko Samet or Ko Chang for example. Adding insult to injury, the government went a step further by introducing an outrageous dual pricing system : Thai people still pay the same as before, that is ten times less ! This dual tarrification is also applied with other places & monuments. A strange and sad move at a time when other countries (China) are moving away from this kind of discrimination...
The hypocrisy behind the smiles : If Thailand is the Land of smiles, those aren't always as sincere as in other surrounding countries and it is rather difficult to make a real local friend, at least on the tourist path (The North-East is more sincere). Tourism is a big business and the smile sometimes not less than a marketing tool to get your money. Truly, looking at the look & behavior of some backpackers or at the tourist crowd (3 millions of people each year aged from 15 to 34 years old out of 5 millions in total), you may understand why some Thai have lost patience and developed interior animosity toward the "dropping of foreigners" ("Farang Kee Nok"). This expression is however (and fortunately) not directed at all foreigners without discrimination but at the ones that are perceived as dirty, low class and disrespectful of the Thai culture (they are usually easy indeed to spot !)
Backpacker's Tips :
Kathy, Canada (Feb 01)
negative aspects of Thailand are slightly more serious and may quite spoil your
holidays if you are not careful enough. Fortunately, common sense should protect
robberies in paradise :
Keeping lots of valuables in your open bungalow
while looking at the colorful fishes is definitively a bad idea. Theft do happen
and it is usually a westerners' activity. Indeed, you have to keep in mind that
a few "travelers" are ready to do anything to be able to stay a bit
longer or buy another beer. I had my B100 slippers (that is US$2.5 !) stolen in
my guesthouse in Bangkok !
Backpacker's Tips : John Arvidson,
Denmark (March 01)
The violence behind the smiles : If you like to fight and do not mind the bars atmosphere, then Thailand should run high on your list. Indeed, with so many drunk local people in the evening, the culture of Thai Boxing and the animosity toward foreigners, in particular toward those going out with a Thai lady, it does not take long to start a
fight. Thailand is certainly not as safe as the official propaganda would like us to believe and foreigners who have been around for years
reckon that Thailand may actually be more dangerous than Cambodia in terms of "accidents" involving foreigners !
Notwithstanding the above, let's remind you that 100% of the backpackers we asked said they liked Thailand, that 91% would happily come back and that 98% would recommend it around ! See "Why Go" for more details...
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