Thailand – Know Before You Go

Information to know before traveling to Thailand 

Thailand is Asia’s number one holiday destination welcoming over 12 million visitors a year. 

maesalong thailand

The Tea Plantations in Maesalong North Thailand

Many of these visitors return, as Thailand is a diverse place and it is impossible to soak up all that the country has to offer in just one holiday, unless you are intending an extended stay.  

From beautiful beaches to bustling Bangkok.  Stunning temples to sprawling National Parks.  From diving to trekking, the rugged North to the tempting South, traditional or touristy, luxury hotel resorts or bamboo huts, rest and relaxation to action packed. 

Thailand has it all.

If you are new to Thailand, I have written this ‘Know Before You Go’ post for some quick tips, advice and information on your upcoming trip to this Asian hot spot.
There are no compulsory inoculations needed to visit Thailand, however doctors will recommend vaccinations or a booster against Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Polio. These should be given at least 4 weeks before your departure.    

Mosquitoes in Thailand are everywhere and they can carry Malaria and Dengue Fever.  As there is no vaccine against either, the best protection is to try and avoid getting bitten as much as you can, especially during the rainy season.  
The main malarial risk is in the rural areas of Thailand and along the border of Myanmar and Laos.  So if you are planning to venture into these areas, take extra care and apply a mosquito repellent, cover up at dawn and dusk and sleep under a mosquito net.  
Not all hotels will have mosquito nets available and so it is recommended that you bring your own.  They can be purchased in Thailand at a cheaper price than buying it in the West.  
Mosquito repellent coils are cheap and a good idea to have one lit at the main mosquito hours.  You can get bitten at any time of day but around 06:00-07:00 and 18:00-20:00 is when the mosquito’s come out in force.   

Mosquito Repellents 
Mosquito bite protection 

Rabies is present in Thailand and can be fatal.  Rabies is mainly carried by stray dogs, but a bite or scratch from a cat or monkey can also put you at risk of rabies.  Should you come into contact with stray dogs or animals in Thailand be wary and avoid stroking them.  Seek medical advice straight away if you are worried.  

Pharmacies are wide spread in Thailand and are well stocked with international brands.  There is no need to bring large supplies of non prescription medicines with you as it can all be purchased out here at cheaper costs.  Even the contraceptive pill can be purchased over the counter.   The British pharmacy chain Boots has branches in many of the big towns and cities.   

boots pharmacy in Thailand
Boots Pharmacy in Chiang Mai city center 

You can also go to a pharmacy if you are experiencing symptoms that don’t quite warrant a hospital visit, most pharmacies are run by English speakers. 

Pharmacy Sign, Thailand
Pharmacy Sign 

Hospitals in Thailand are generally of a good hygiene and health standard and the ratio of staff to patients is much higher than what you would experience in the West.  
Doctors speak English and many do some training in the West before returning to Thailand.
Some of the city hospitals, especially in Bangkok are very highly regarded.   

Emergency Contacts:
The general emergency number in Thailand for Fire, Police or Ambulance is 191.
There is a Tourist Police service in Thailand which is 1155 and both numbers are free to call.  The Tourist Police are English speaking and operate 24 hours.

Crime, Scams and Legalities:
By law tourists are required to carry their passports with them at all times, but it is often better advised to carry a photocopy rather than the original. 

Gambling is illegal in Thailand and smoking in public areas is banned. 

The age limit to buy cigarettes in Thailand is 18 and you have to be aged 20 or over to buy alcohol and be able to gain entry into a bar/club. 

The Duty Free allowance on entering Thailand is 200 cigarettes and one litre of wine or spirits.

Drug use in Thailand is a serious crime and a life sentence in prison will be handed to you if you are caught with drugs on your possession.  Drug smuggling in Thailand carries the death penalty.  Even carrying just a small amount of cannabis will get you quickly deported.
In tourist areas and events such as the full moon parties on Koh Pha Ngan, it has been known for drinks to be spiked leading to assaults and attacks on female tourists.  The police actively look for tourists taking drugs and random searches are common in tourist hot spots.  
It is also known for tourists to be sucked into a set up by being sold drugs then quickly shopped to the police with the dealer given financial reward for turning you in.

Theft and pick-pocketing in the cities and on buses is common and is best to keep your wits about you at all times when in crowds. 

Like anywhere, never travel in an unlicensed taxi, lock your doors and avoid walking around alone late at night.

You must always have a valid visa whilst in Thailand and never overstay your visit as this can also land you with a hefty fine or a trip to jail.

Scams in Thailand are easily avoidable yet hundreds of gullible travellers get duped each year.
The main scam, which mainly happens in Bangkok, is from the tuk-tuk drivers who earn a commission by taking tourists into shops that you haven’t asked to go to, where you will then be pressured in to buying things. The easiest way to avoid this is to stay strong, if a driver offers to take you somewhere other than where you have asked to go, be firm and if they persist, get out and try your luck with another tuk-tuk or just take a metered taxi.   Metered taxis are generally much cheaper than opting for the novelty of a tuk-tuk journey.  Just make sure the meter is turned on before you start driving.

Tuk Tuk in Thailand
Tuk Tuk in Thailand 

Many touts and tuk-tuk drivers especially around train and bus stations will also try their best to get you into a hotel other than the one that you request.  The hotel will usually be run by a friend or family member of theirs or they will be on a commission to get guests in.  They will sometimes try to tell you that the hotel you have asked to go to is closed, or they don’t know where it is.  Again the only way around this is to state where it is you want to go and stick to it, never be swayed on changing your mind. 

Religion & the Monarchy:

The Monarchy in Thailand, the Thai King and Royal family are held in incredibly high regard and treated with respect at all times.  As well as it being socially unacceptable, you can be arrested if you are heard speaking ill of the Royals. 

Thai King Thai King
The Thai Monarchy can be seen everywhere you go 

If you go to watch a film at the cinema in Thailand, bear in mind that a short montage film of the King and his work is played before every feature film is shown.  Everyone is expected to stand and show respect during this film, not only Thai’s.

The main practised religion in Thailand is Buddhism with 85% of the country Buddhists. There are thousands of temples in Thailand with over 300 in Chiang Mai alone.

When visiting a Temple or Buddhist site, it is important to keep in mind to treat it with respect at all times, regardless of your chosen religion or views.

Buddhist Temple
Buddhist Temple

Covering up wearing trousers or knee length skirts and keep shoulders covered as well as removing shoes is a requirement. 

Take off shoes sign, Buddhist temple

Some temples will supply wraps to anyone that isn’t covered appropriately. 

rules in a Buddhist temple rules in a Buddhist temple
The rules when visiting a Buddhist temple

In Thai hierarchy Monks come just below the Monarchy in terms of respect.
Monks are forbidden to come into close contact with females and women should never pass anything directly to a monk, nor sit or stand close to them. 

Costs vary dramatically in Thailand depending on where you go and at what time of year. 

A budget traveller could get by on just 500 baht (£10) per day, staying in a traveller orientated, no frills hostel, eating from Thai street vendors, travelling as the locals do and staying away from expensive island resorts.

Thai Street food cheap hostel dorm
Cheap living in Thailand 

However if you were after a few more luxuries and extras, such as air conditioning, eating at a proper restaurant and taking a taxi rather than a shared local bus, you would be looking at a daily cost of around 1000-1500 baht (£20-25) per person.
Staying at a quality hotel or on one of the island resorts, eating out in nice restaurants, drinking alcohol and enjoying a massage or two, you should budget for around 2500+ baht (£50+) per person, per day. Day trips, excursions and other activities on top.   

Accommodation can range from a budget 200 Baht (£2.00) for a backpacker hostel to a wallet busting 30,000 baht plus (£600+) a night for a beach front villa at a top resort.
Prices for accommodation rise during the peak tourist season of Nov-Feb and even more over the Christmas and New Year period. 
A meal in Thailand can be as cheap as 30 baht (0.60p) for simple noodles, fried rice or street food. 

Thai Fried rice
Fried Rice 

Restaurants can vary from cheap and cheerful cafes where a dinner for two can be enjoyed for less than 300 baht (£6.00) or a more up market establishment costing around 1,500 baht (£30) per person with a set menu.
Dining in Western style restaurants will always cost more than eating local Thai food.  This is only a rough guideline and should be taken as just that, prices change depending on where you are and your choice of food.

A bottle of Thai beer can cost just 30 baht from a supermarket though a bottle of wine will be considerably more.  We found a large selection of wines in the local supermarket with prices ranging from 199B – 2500B. Although the majority of the bottles cost around 500B, the equivalent of £10 (at the time of writing) 

Entry into National Parks for foreigners in Thailand is somewhat considerably more than a local.  Tourist prices for some parks are 200 baht each (£4.00) while a Thai will gain entry for just 20 baht (0.40p).  

Mopeds and scooters can be rented in some places for just 100 baht per day (£2.00). 
Car rental can be between 1,500 baht a day for a small car to 15,000 baht per monthly rental.
Petrol prices are currently at around 35 baht per litre. 

moped rental in Thailand

Other Useful Information:
You will need travel adapter plugs in Thailand.  The plugs are of the 2 pin variety and the plug sockets can take both flat and round pin plugs.  The electricity runs at 220 volts.  
Thai plugs have no earth and so static shocks are common from laptops with metal casings ect.

Travel adapter plugs

The currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB) and can be purchased before arrival into the country. 
The current exchange rate at the time of writing is 31 baht to the USD and 50 baht to the GBP.

The International dialling code for phone calls into Thailand is 66. 

There is no daylight savings in Thailand and so the time stays the same year round. 
Thailand is 7 hours ahead of GMT, 12 hours ahead of US standard time, 3 hours behind Australia and five hours behind New Zealand.

Never drink the tap water in Thailand.  It is not safe for consumption and not even the locals will drink it.  Drinking water is very cheap to buy and if you buy a big bottle, you can then re-fill it at one of the many coin operated water points around the country.   

There should be no problem withdrawing money from your UK/US bank at any ATM in Thailand, just be aware that charges apply, usually around £5 from your UK provider plus 150 baht from the Thai bank.
You can avoid the 150 baht fee by going inside a branch and withdrawing the money over the counter, you will need to show your passport to be able to do this.    

Internet access and Internet Cafes are widespread in Thailand.  Lots of hotels and guesthouses offer free Wi-Fi as well as some cafes and bars.        

free wi-fi sign in Thailand

The Thai language is the most common spoken in Thailand which can cause a big language barrier if you cannot speak Thai, especially if you visit more rural areas or villages outside of the main tourist areas. 
English is widely spoken in the main tourist areas, hotels, hostels, guesthouses and resorts.  

Removing your shoes when entering someone’s house will normally be expected.  Shoes are regarded as very dirty and are best kept at the door.
Some shops, businesses and internet cafes also require you to remove your shoes before entering, if there is no sign, you will generally know by the pile of other shoes left outside. 

shoes left outside in Thailand

The Thai’s believe that the head is the most sacred part of the body and so it is considered very rude to touch a person on the head or hair without prior permission.
The feet are seen as the dirtiest part of the body and should never be pointed directly towards others.  If you sit down on a temple floor, tucking your legs and feet underneath you rather than stretching them out front is the best way to avoid causing any offense.

Happy Travelling!

Sacha El-Haj – 8 Miles from Home 

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