Thailand

Discover the Land of Smiles

flag of thailand

Asia

Bangkok

Thai Baht (THB)

67,01 mln

513,120 SQ. KM

Thai

1

TRAVEL INFORMATION

When to go

Getting to

Getting around

Health & Safety

Money & Costs

WHEN TO GO TO THAILAND

THAILAND EVENT CALENDAR

  • Best time to go: November - February
  • Hot season: March - May
  • Monsoon season: July - October

 

Thailand has a tropical climate with the weather being generally hot.

 

 

November to February (cool season) are the best months for traveling, with the weather being mostly cool and dry. Temperatures start climbing in February and by mid April are unbearably hot.

The monsoon season generally runs from July to October, when the climate is still hot and humid with heavy downpours.

However the rainy season varies slightly between the two coasts. The west coast (Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi etc.) witnesses heavy and continual rains from April to October. On the east coast (Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao etc.) the monsoon season is between September and December, and  is generally defined by sunny days with occasionally heavy downpours.

  • February

    Makha Puja Day
    commemorates the gathering of monks in Buddha’s presence
  • April 6

    Chakri Day
    founding of the Chakri dynasty
  • May 1

    Labour Day
  • April (around 13-15)

    Songkhran, Thai New Year
  • May 5

    Coronation Day
  • May

    Royal Ploughing Ceremony
  • May

    Visakha Pujathe
    celebration of birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha
  • July

    Khao Pansa
    ordination on new Buddhist monks
  • August 12

    Queen’s birthday and Mothers’ Day
  • October 13

    King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death
  • November

    Festival of Lights
    in Chiangmai, Ayutthaya and Sokhotai
  • December

    King’s birthday and Fathers’ Day
  • December 10

    Constitution Day

GETTING TO THAILAND

By Air

If you are travelling to Thailand from abroad, especially outside of Asia, your point of entry will most probably be Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (meaning Golden Land; pronounced “sue-wanna-poom”) Airport (BKK). It serves over 50 million passengers each year and has the most direct international flights.

Other major Thai airports are:

  • Bangkok Don Mueang International Airport (DMK)
  • Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX)
  • Phuket International Airport (HKT)

Some chartered flights and international airlines have direct service to some of the country’s hottest holiday destinations, such as Phuket or Koh Samui.

Thai Airways is the largest national airline with many direct flights to Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia/Pacific.

Low-cost airlines with flights to Thailand

If you are travelling to Thailand from other Southeast Asian countries, the following are some of the low-cost carriers servicing the country:

  • Thai AirAsia- biggest low-cost airline operating from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport, largest number of non-stop flights to other countries in Asia and the Middle East.
  • Bangkok Airways- flights to Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia; code-shared flights operated by other airlines to other Asian countries as well as Abu Dhabi (U.A.E.).
  • Nok Air- flights to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam); Singapore; Yangon (Myanmar); Fly’n’Ride service to Vientiane (Laos).
  • Jetstar- based in Singapore and with flights to Bangkok and Phuket, offers a vast flight network when traveling from Australia, New Zealand, Asia or the Pacifi
  • Tiger Air- Singapore-based budget carrier offering flights to Thailand via Singapore from 13 countries in Asia/Australia.
  • Thai Lion Air- international flights to Guangzhou (China), Yangon (Myanmar), Jakarta (Indonesia), Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam).

By Land

Listed below are the most popular land borders traversed by tourists when coming to Thailand:


MYANMAR - THAILAND

Myawaddy / Mae Sot- most popular border crossing between the countries because of the convenient onward transportation network. Used when traveling from the border town of Myawaddy (direct connections from Mount Kyaiktiyo, Hpa An, Mawlamyine, Yangon) in Myanmar to northern and central Thailand (connections to various cities from the town of Tak, 30 minutes by minibus from Mae Sot).

  • Kawthaung/ Ranong - used mostly by visa hoppers from Thailand. For travelers wishing to go by land from Myanmar directly to southern Thailand, there are public boats from Myeik and Dawei to Kawthaung in southern Myanmar.
  • Tachileik / Mae Sai - possible border crossing between eastern Myanmar Shan State and the northern Chiang Rai Province in Thailand. The Burmese border town can be reached only by flight to Kyaing Tong or Tachileik (e.g. from Mandalay or Yangon), as travailing by land to Kyaing Tong requires a permit.
  • Htee Kee / Phunaron- a remote and time-consuming border crossing point, used when traveling overland from Dawei (Myanmar) to Kanchanaburi and onwards to Bangkok.


LAOS - THAILAND

Huay Xai/ Chiang Khong - popular border when traveling from northern Laos (e.g. Luang Namtha or by boat from Pak Beng or Luan Prabang) to the Northern Region of Thailand (e.g. Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Pai).

  • Vientiane/ Nong Khai - convenient crossing if coming to Thailand from the Lao capital city.
  • Vang Tao / Chong Mek- frequently used border if traveling from Pakse, Champansak or the Four Thousand Islands (Si Phan Don) in Laos. Onward travel to Bangkok via Ubon Ratchathani.


CAMBODIA - THAILAND

Poipet / Aranyaprathet - most popular and convenient border when traveling from Cambodia (Siem Reap, Battambang, Phnom Penh) towards Thailand (e.g. Bangkok).

  • Koh Kong / Had Lek - most southern crossing point, convenient for travelers coming from Cambodia’s Sihanoukville, Koh Kong and traveling to Thailand’s Trat Privince (e.g. Koh Chang).


MALAYSIA - THAILAND

Padang Besar (MY) /Padang Besar (TH) - easiest border crossing when traveling from western Malaysia towards Thailand (e.g. Hat Yai and onwards) via train. This is also the railway crossing for the direct train from Butterworth in Penang to Bangkok.

Langkawi or Kuala Perlis / Satun - practical border crossing from Malaysia’s Langkawi Island or Kuala Perlis to Satun, Thailand. From there, various onward connections available.

Visas

Citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, USA, and most European countries* are not required a visa for stays under 30 days. The visa waivers are issued upon arrival at any airport in Thailand.

When entering the country by land, most nations will receive a visa waiver for a stay for up to15 days. Citizens of (G7) UK, USA, Canada, Italy, Germany, Japan and France who enter via a land crossing are entitled for a 30 day visa waiver.

At most, three Thai visa waivers can be granted within a period of 6 months, allowing a maximum stay of up to 3 x 30 days.

Upon arrival in Thailand you must be able to provide a proof of onward travel (i.e. bus, train, flight reservation). Also you must have a proof of sufficient finances for the duration of stay in Thailand (i.e. traveler's cheque or cash equivalent to 10,000 Baht per person and 20,000 Baht per family).

Passport holders of countries that do not appear on the lists below are required to obtain a visa before coming to Thailand.

If you are planning to stay in Thailand for longer than the limited periods you must obtain a tourist visa beforehand.

The penalty for overstaying your visa is typically 500B per day, with a 20,000B limit. Fines can be paid upon departure at the airport. If you've only overstayed one day, you may not have to pay any fine or you may have to pay 1,000 baht, depending on the current regulations.

Be aware that visa requirements change from time to time. Check with your nearest Thai Embassy or Consulate on most up to date visa information.

Countries with Thai visa exemptions

  • By air and land 30 days visa exemption: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States.
  • By air 30 days visa exemption, by land 15 days visa exemption: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahrain, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Laos, Macao, Malaysia, Monaco, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.
  • By air and land 90 days visa exemption: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and South Korea.

GETTING AROUND THAILAND

By Air

Thailand has numerous domestic airports and thanks to its low-fare airlines, flying around the country is fast and considerably cheap (though more expensive than buses and trains).

Domestic airlines

Nok Air- based in Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport, this is Thailand’s largest low-cost airline with the most extensive network of domestic flights. Convenient airport transfer services to islands and smaller cities (Fly’n’Ride and Fly’n’Ferry).

  • Thai AirAsia- operating from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport, the airline serves 19 airports in Thailand. Flight and ferry option to islands.
  • Bangkok Airways- based in Bangkok Suvarnabhum Airport, flights to 11 airports in the country.
  • Thai Airways/ Thai Smile - the national carrier and it’s subsidiary connects 11 airports in Thailand.


By Train

Train travel in Thailand offers far less routes compared to buses. Many people may chose to go by train and then continue onwards to smaller towns by minibus. Trains are comfortable and safe, prices are reasonable and vary depending on class. In November 2016, the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) introduced brand-new carriages on two long-haul routes (Bangkok-Chiang Mai and Bangkok-Ubon Ratchathani).


Train classes

There are various train travel classes. Generally speaking, you have a choice between hard and soft seats (fan / air-con), sleeper bunks and cabins (fan / air-con). Long-distance trains usually have dining cars, and meals can be brought to your seat.


Thailands train network

The train network in Thailand consists of four main lines and a few branches:

  • Northern Line: Bangkok - Ayutthaya - Lopburi - Phitsanulok - Lampang - Chiangmai
  • Northeastern Line:
    • Bangkok - Ayutthaya - Khorat - Surin - Ubon Ratchathani
    • Bangkok - Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Udon Thani - Nong Khai (and further into Laos)
  • Eastern Line:
    • Bangkok - Aranyaprathet (on the Cambodian border)
    • Bangkok - Si Racha - Pattaya
  • Southern Line:
    • Bangkok - Nakon Pathom - Kanchanaburi (famous Bridge on the River Kwai) - Nam Tok
    • Bangkok - Hua Hin - Chumphon - Surat Thani - Hat Yai - Padang Besar (further towards Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
    • Bangkok - Hua Hin - Chumphon - Surat Thani - Hat Yai - Yala - Sungai Kolok (further to Khota Bharu in Malaysia)


By Ferry

Getting to the Kingdom’s various islands by ferry is the most popular way, and sometimes the only one, as many smaller island do not have airports. Ferries between the main islands and ports run frequently, but can be delayed or cancelled if weather conditions are bad.

Safety conditions of ferries vary and do not always comply to international standards. In general, larger vessels are safer than small speedboats.

There are several ferry companies:

  • Lomprayah Ferry Company - fastest but also more expensive than other ferries. Bus and ferry combo services connecting Bangkok - Hua Hin - Chumphon - Surat Thani (departures from the train station, airport and Donsak pier) - Koh Samui - Koh Phangan - Koh Thao; bus transfers Surat Thani from/to Krabi and Phuket.
  • Songserm Ferry Company - the slower but cheaper option. Bus/train/boat services linking Bangkok - Chumphon - Koh Tao - Koh Phangan - Koh Samui - Surat Thani (town and Donsak pier) - Krabi - Phuket - Koh Phi Phi - Koh Lanta. Joint ticket options for multiple destinations.
  • Raja Ferry Company - linking Surat Thani - Koh Samui - Koh Phangan. Bus transfers from Surat Thani train station / airport, as well as other cities, such as Krabi, Railay, Ao Nang, Phuket, Hua Hin.
  • Seatran Ferry Company - Surat Thani Donsak Pier from/to Koh Samui, bus transfer service from town center and airport.


Surat Thani to Donsak Pier

Local buses (tickets are bought when onboard) go frequently from the Surat Thani "Downtown Transportation Hub Talad Kaset 2” (located in Soi 31 of Taladmai Rd.) to Donsak Pier. Travel time is about 40 minutes.

Ferry tickets can be bought at all piers or online at the given ferry’s website.

 

By bus

This is the most used mode of transportation in Thailand. By bus, you can go almost anywhere you want in the country. The prices are very affordable, especially for public buses, and more expensive with private VIP bus companies which offer more comfortable seats, more legroom and usually a bottle of water included in the price.

Tickets can be bought at bus stations, online directly with the bus companies, as well as at guesthouses and travel agencies (prices with commissions). There are no general ticket counters at the bus stations, instead each bus company has its own ticket booth. Usually, the companies have signs indicating the nearest departure hours for various destinations.

There is one state-owned bus company, The Transport Company 999, and numerous private bus operators. Green Bus, Nakorn Chai Air, Sombat Tour and Bangkok Busline are some of the reputable ones.

There are also buses to various tourist spots leaving directly from Khao San Road, but be aware that prices are higher and luggage theft can happen on such tourist buses (see Thailand: Health&Safety: Scams).

Bangkok bus terminals

There are three major bus terminals in Bangkok, each with a different range of destinations:

  • Mochit (Northern Bus Terminal) - connections to the north and north-east e.g. Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Nong Khai.
  • Sai Tai Mai (Southern Bus Terminal) - buses to the west and south e.g. Kanchanaburi, Hua Hin, Krabi, Phuket, the Islands.
  • Ekkamai (Eastern Bus Terminal) - services to the east e.g. Pattaya, Rayong, Trat, Koh Chang.

How to get to Mochit bus terminal?

  • By taxi: from Khao San Road it’s about 100-150 baht (40 minutes).
  • By city bus: from Khao San Rd. take bus No. 3 to the final station. It takes about 1-1,5h depending on traffic.
  • By BTS: go to Mochit BTS station. From there, you can take a tuk-tuk or taxi (around 20minutes and 60 baht), bus no. 136 or 145 (take exit 4 out of the BTS station, the bus stop is on the east side of Phahonyothin Road), or go by foot (2km / 30min).

How to get to Sai Tai Mai bus terminal?

There is no BTS or MRT station at the Southern Bus Terminal.

  • By taxi: from Khao San Road it’s about 100 baht (30 minutes).
  • By city bus from Khao San Road: go to the bus stop near Khok Wua Junction (on the same street as Democracy Monument). Take bus no. 79, 159, 183, 201, 511 or 556.
  • By city bus from Hua Lamphong Train Station: take bus no. 35, 40 or 507.
  • By city bus from Sala Daeng /Ratchadamri / Central World / Victory monument: take bus no. 164.

How to get to Ekkamai bus terminal?

The fastest and easiest way is to take the Sukhumvit BTS line to Ekkamai station.

Minibuses

Minibuses are more frequent and are usually faster (but not safer) and a bit more expensive than the large buses. They run on shorter distances, such as Bangkok to Kanchanaburi or Chiangmai to Pai. They can hold about 15 people and usually leave when full.

In Bangkok the minibus station is at the Victory Monument BTS station.

City transportation

Bangkok’s city transport consists of public buses, subway (MRT), sky train (BTS), as well as taxis, motorbike taxis, tuk-tuks, songthaews and local ferries.

If you want to use the public transportation system in Bangkok, a good website for checking connections is Transit Bangkok.

In other cities and towns in Thailand, city transport works similar to the capital city, with the exception of sky trains and subways.

Public buses and songthaews

While Bangkok has a vast network of local buses, which have numbers and go along fixed routes, the main public mode of transportation in other cities and towns are songthaews - modified pick-up trucks with two benches facing each other in the back.

In some towns songthaews follow fixed routes, while in others (such as Chiang Mai) they pick up people who are going roughly the same direction and take them right to their destination. There are no bus stops for songthaews, instead you can stand anywhere along the road and just flag one down. Tell the driver where you’re going and depending on his route, he will tell you if he’s going your direction. Fares are around 10-20 baht, but in tourist spots such as Koh Phangan prices vary between 100-350 baht depending on distance.

Tuk-tuks

A three-wheeled vehicle with no doors and windows, it is a motorised version of a rickshaw. It can hold up to 4 people. Generally speaking, they should be less expensive than taxis, however in touristy areas tuk-tuk drivers often take advantage of foreigners by over-charging (see Thailand: Health&Safety: Scams).

Whenever taking a tuk-tuk, agree on a price first and always ask for a discount. If the price seems too high, kindly refuse - you’ll find another tuk-tuk in no time. It is always a good idea to walk away a little bit from bus/train stations, where tuk-tuk drivers are more likely to ask higher prices.

Motorbike taxis

Cheaper than tuk-tuks and taxis, they are fast especially during rush hours, but only suitable for a single traveler. You can take a motorbike taxi with a big backpack, either carrying it or the driver will place it between his legs. The drivers usually wear coloured, numbered vests.

In towns you’ll pay 10-40 baht for short journeys, but expect to pay 150-200 baht for trips to the outskirts (15-20km).

Taxi

Always take public, metered taxis instead of private ones. In touristy areas and especially around Khao San Road in Bangkok, even some metered taxis will try to agree on a price in advance. Drivers might claim that your destination is “too far away” for the meter, but that’s not true. It’s always possible and always cheaper with the meter. If the driver refuses to put the meter on, you should kindly refuse and find another taxi. Don’t even try to start arguing  or haggling with the driver, there is no point in it, just get out and you will find a metered taxi in no time.

HEALTH & SAFETY IN CUBA

Vaccinations

There are no vaccinations required for entry into Cuba, expect for travelers coming from countries where yellow fever and cholera are endemic.

HIV/AIDS

Sexually transmitted diseases are widespread in Thailand, primarily because of the growing sex tourism. Condoms (in Thai: meechai) can be bought everywhere, for example in pharmacies, or convenience stores.

Dengue fever

The disease is spread by infected mosquitos primarily during daytime and densely populated places. Areas of high risk include Chiang Mai and the southern islands. Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, nausea, and joint and muscle pain. In more severe cases it may also cause a rash and diarrhea. There is no specific treatment, just rest and paracetamol (do not take aspirin or ibuprofen as they may increase the risk of hemorrhaging).

Malaria

The risks of malaria are minimal in cities and tourist areas. Prophylaxis is recommended when traveling to rural, forested areas that border with Myanmar (around Mae Hong Son, but not Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Kanchanaburi areas), Cambodia (excluding Ko Chang) and Laos.

Since the situation can change from year to year, it is best to consult with a travel doctor before going to Southeast Asia.
 

Insurance

Health insurance is not required when visiting Thailand, but is recommended since covering medical expenses can be costly.

Scams

Be especially careful with people offering various services in Bangkok and other busy tourist spots. Here are some of the most commonly occurring scams in the country:

Airport Taxi Scam

After clearing customs, you will be approached by people offering private taxi services. They will tell you that it’s 500-1000 THB to the city (Bangkok), which can be as much as 200% to 300% of normal metered taxi rates.

How to avoid: Ignore anyone who asks if you want a taxi and take a metered (public) taxi.

At the airport in Bangkok, follow the signs to “Public Taxi" on Level 1, and find a metered taxi outside at the taxi stand.

The taxi fare from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport is the metered taxi fare + 50 THB airport surcharge + 45-70 THB express-way tolls (depending on where you are going). For example, Eastern Bangkok is around 200 THB, central Bangkok 300-350 THB, and Khao San Road 350-400 THB. You can also take the Airport Rail Link, which costs 45 THB and connects with the MRT at Makkasan Station (MRT Petchaburi Station) and the BTS Skytrain at MRT Phayathai Station.

Tourist-oriented shops

In Bangkok, Tuk-tuk and private taxi drivers may try and take you to gem shops, suit tailors etc., where they get commissions. They may also tell you that the Grand Palace is closed for various reasons and offer to take you to some shops instead.

How to avoid: Do not take unlicensed taxis. If after all, you will find yourself in an unlicensed taxi or tuk-tuk that want to take you to such shops, kindly refuse and leave the taxi.

Stolen luggage on overnight buses

Long-distance buses in Thailand, especially overnight ones, have a poor safety record. Theft is especially common on routes popular with tourists. The main luggage is stowed in the below-deck compartment and since most people sleep on overnight buses, it makes them easy targets for thieves at night when the bus stops at various bus stations.

Routes that have an especially high risk of theft are Khao San Road to Chumphon and Surat Thani (with the connecting service to the islands) and Khao San Road to Chiang Mai.

How to avoid: Avoid night buses when possible to reduce the risk. Take buses from Bangkok’s bus station instead of Khao San Road. Do not under any circumstances store your valuables in your main luggage that is placed in the big luggage compartment.

Wrong or no change

This can happen with taxi drivers or in convenient stores like 7-Eleven and Family Mart in tourist areas. For example, they will give you change as if you gave them a 500 baht note instead of a 1,000 baht note.

How to avoid: Get familiar with Thai banknotes and check your change every time.

Surat Thani travel agents

Surat Thani is the main transfer hub to the islands on the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan). Be careful in this city as it is full of scammers.

There is a new long distance bus station which is about 5 km outside of town. Many overnight buses now go to this station and travelers end up very early in the morning in the middle of nowhere. You may end up paying as much as 200 THB for a short songthaew ride to the city center. The driver (who gets commissions from travel agencies) will drop you off at one of the scammers travel agents, which will charge a ridiculous price for bus/ferry transfers. Many of the travel agents are located around the two downtown bus stations, on Soi 27, 29, 31.

How to avoid: Go to or ask to be driven to "Downtown Transportation Hub Talad Kaset 2” (located in Soi 31 of Taladmai Rd; not to be confused with the city’s other bus station - Downtown Transportation Hub Talad Kaset 1). This is where the local buses to the ferry ports go from, as well as minibuses and buses to Krabi, Phuket, Chumphon etc.

There is a large blue sign in English and Thai at the entrance with the name of the bus station. If you are dropped off at the office of a travel agent, just walk down to the bus station (usually the scammers agencies are close to the bus station), or take a tuk-tuk.

MONEY & COSTS IN THAILAND

Currency

Thai Baht (THB)

Daily Budget

  • Backpacker
  • up to ฿1000
    per day
  • dorm 200฿
  • fruit shake 30฿
  • lunch 30-50฿
  • dinner 40-80฿
  • beer 45฿
  • bicycle 50฿ /day
  • motorbike 100-200฿ /day
  • massage 200฿
  • tourist attractions 0-200฿
  • Bangkok - Krabi express bus (~12h) 666฿
  • Mid-range
  • ฿1000-2000
    per day
  • double room with air-con 500-1500฿
  • continental breakfast 150฿
  • lunch 50-200฿
  • dinner 80-250฿
  • beer in a bar 100฿
  • tuk-tuk ride (3km) 50-100฿
  • motorbike 200฿ /day
  • massage 300฿
  • tourist attractions 100-500฿
  • Bangkok - Krabi VIP24 bus (~12h) 979฿

Sample prices

  • Meal (inexpensive rest. / night market)

    30-80฿
  • Meal for 2 (mid-range restaurant)

    400-800฿
  • Meal for 2 (mid-range restaurant)

    45฿
  • White Bread (500g/1,1lb)

    35฿
  • Egg (1)

    4฿
  • Chicken breast (1kg/2,2lb)

    80฿
  • Bananas (1kg/2,2lb)

    40฿
  • Tomatoes (1kg/2,2lb)

    40฿
  • Water (0,5l/17oz)

    13฿
  • Coke (0,33l/11.2oz)

    14฿
  • Pack of cigarettes

    98฿

TIPPING

Tipping is not common nor expected, but may be practised at some upscale hotels or western restaurants.

ATMs

ATMs are widely available, usually charging 200 THB withdrawal fee with foreign cards. Maximum withdrawal limit is 20,000-30,000 THB per transaction depending on the bank.

Bangkok Bank, Krungthai Bank and Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) are major banks in Thailand.

BARGAINING

If prices are not posted like in supermarkets or shopping malls, bargaining is accepted and sometimes necessary at markets and tourist spots, where shopkeepers, boat operators etc. often ask considerably higher prices.

Tourist attractions

  • Bangkok Grand Palace

    500฿
  • Bangkok Wat Pho

    100฿
  • Ayutthaya temples (each)

    80-100฿
  • Khao Yai National Park entrance fee

    400฿
  • Chiang Mai cooking class

    800-1000฿
  • Muay Thai fight in Bangkok (1st / 2nd class seats)

    1500 / 2000฿
  • Ko Tao Diving Class - 3 days

    8000฿
2

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

Background

Geography

Language

Food

Cultural Insights

THAILAND BACKGROUND

Ancestors of modern ethnic Thais are believed to have lived in southwestern China and migrated south between the 10th and the 13th century AD. The first mentioning of their existence in the Southeast Asian region is a twelfth century inscription at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which refers to syam (meaning “dark brown” people; the origin of the term Siam) as vassals of the Khmer Empire.

Sukhothai Kingdom

The first independent Thai kingdom was established in the 13th century when the city-state of Sukhothai was founded along the Chao Phraya River valley. The Sukhothai Period is often considered the golden era of Thai history. Under the reign of King Ram Khamhaeng the Great (1279–1298) the Thai alphabet was created and the kingdom expanded to much of what is now present-day Thailand. Following the death of King Ram Khamhaeng, the Sukhothai kingdom rapidly declined and was soon conquered by an emerging Thai state.

Ayutthaya Kingdom

Following the death of King Ram Khamhaeng, the Sukhothai kingdom rapidly declined and by mid fourteenth century it was conquered by the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, an expanding Thai state under the influence of the Khmers. It quickly became a a major power in Southeast Asia with one of the largest centers of trade at the time. At its greatest extent around 1600, the Kingdom of Siam (as it was known in the West) ruled parts of modern-day Cambodia, Laos and Burma. After repeated attempts, the neighbouring Burmese eventually invaded first Chiang Mai (Lanna Kingdom) and then Ayutthaya, destroying the capital in 1767 and bringing an end to over 400 years of prosperous times in Thai history.

Thon Buri Period

Not long after, a resistance to the Burmese rule was led by Taksin, a military leader of Chinese descent, and the Siamese kingdom recovered. In 1768, Taksin crowned himself king and moved the capital to Thonburi on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. King Taksin spent most of his short reign reunifying the old Siamese kingdom and expanding to nearby Laos and Cambodia. However the instability of the Thon Buri court eventually led to rebellions and a coup led by General Chakri (who was chief minister of the northern provinces) in 1782. King Taksin was deposed and executed to death.

The Chakri Dynasty

General Chakri ascended the throne as Rama I, the first king of the Chakri dynasty (which rules to this day). He moved the capital city across the Chao Phraya River, establishing the modern-day Bangkok. During the 19th century, the diplomatic skills and economic reforms of the Chakri monarchs, notably King Rama IV (known as Mongkut), made Thailand the only country in Southeast Asia to avoid European colonization. However Thailand was forced to cede Laos and Cambodia to France, and territories of Malaya to Britain. King Rama V (Chulalongkorn) continued to reform the country, abolishing slavery and improving the administrative system of the country by creating a formal court system and budget office. Educational reform followed soon after, and compulsory elementary education was introduced.

Constitutional monarchy

The early 20th century was a turning point in Thai history. A bloodless coup d'état in 1932 ended almost 700 years of absolute monarchy and a system of constitutional monarchy with parliamentary government was introduced. Development towards a stable political system was slow as the revolutionary government plunged into royalist, military and civilian factions. Under the authoritarian regime of prime minister Phibunsongkhram (known as Phibun) nationalism was promoted and in 1939 the country’s name was changed from Siam to Thailand ("Land of the Free”). Anti-French sentiment grew as the country sought to reclaim former Thai territories in Cambodia and Laos.

Thailand during World War II

In 1941 Thailand was invaded by Japanese forces and shortly after acceded to Japans demands to move troops across Thailand towards British-controlled Malaya and Burma. The infamous “death railway” across the River Kwai linking Thailand with Burma was built by the Japanese Army using more than 180,000 forced Southeast Asian laborers and 60,000 allied POWs, many of whom died during the construction. Under pressure from Japan, prime minister Phibun signed a mutual defense pact with Japan and declared war on Britain and the United States. However the Thai ambassador in Washington, Seni Pramoj, refused to deliver the declaration to the US government and the US never declared war on Thailand, considering it to be a puppet state of Japan.

Post-war Thailand

After the Second World War Thailand has experienced a continuation of political turmoil with people demonstrating for a democratic government. Since the abolishment of absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand has had 25 general elections and 19 coups d'état, 12 of them successful. In 2016, Thailand’s deeply revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, who died after seventy years of reign. Over the years, the king used his influence on Thai society, acting as a force of unity during times of political upheaval and military coups.

Famous Thai people

King Bhumibol

King Bhumibol

longest-serving monarch in Thai history
Tony Jaa

Tony Jaa

world famous Muay Thai fighter, stuntman and action movie actor
Tata Young

Tata Young

Thai-American singer, model and actress. One of the most famous singers in Thailand
Paradorn Srichaphan

Paradorn Srichaphan

first men's tennis player from Asia to be in the top 10 of the ATP rankings

GEOGRAPHY OF THAILAND

Thailand is located in the centre of Southast Asia. It borders with Myanmar to the west; Malaysia to the south and east; Cambodia to the east; and Laos in the north and east.

With an area of 513,120 km2 (198,115 sq. mi), Thailand is the 51st largest country in the world, most similar in its size to Spain.

Geographically, Thailand is very diverse and can be divided into four distinct regions:

  • Central Region- the most populated region containing the capital city of Bangkok; dominated by the Chao Phraya River, it is rich in soil and ideal for rice growing.
  • Southern Region - located on the Malay peninsula with the Andaman Sea to the West and the Gulf of Thailand to the East; known for its beautiful beaches and numerous islands.
  • Northern Region- with relatively high elevation, the area has cooler temperatures than other regions throughout the year.
  • Northeastern Region- Thailand’s largest region; a vast plateau of sandy, dry soil bordered by the Mekong River (along the border with Laos) to the north and east.

Mountains

Thailand’s mountains stretch along the border with Myanmar, in the country's Northern Region. Doi Inthanon at 2,565 meter (8,415 ft) is the highest peak.

Islands

Southern Thailand is formed by a narrow peninsula, which separates the Andaman Sea from the Gulf of Thailand. Along the opposing shores are hundreds of islands. The names of islands are usually preceded by the word koh or ko, which means island in Thai.

Some of the major islands in Thailand are:

  • in Surat Thani Province: Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Tao
  • in Krabi Province: Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi
  • in Phuket Province: Koh Phuket
  • in Trat Province: Koh Chang, Koh Kut, Koh Mak, Koh Rang

Rivers

Chao Praya (372 km /231 mi) - Thailand’s major river. It runs through the Central Plains where it irrigates the countries many rice paddies, and Bangkok before entering the Gulf of Thailand. Mekong – serving as border between Thailand and Laos in the north and northeast, the river feeds the Northeastern Region.

Waterfalls

Nam is the Thai word for waterfalls. There are hundreds of beautiful, natural waterfalls in every region of the Kingdom. They are great for swimming. In some waterfalls though, it’s not allowed to swim and they will have signs of prohibition. Thai people love to spend the hot summer days at waterfall sites. While you will probably enjoy some small, hidden waterfalls the most, here are some of the “top” waterfalls in Thailand, which are worth visiting:

  • Erawan Waterfall, Erawan National Park (near Kanchanaburi)
  • Heaw Suwat Waterfall, Khao Yai National Park (Leonardo DiCaprio jumped off it in the movie “The Beach”)
  • Mae Ya Waterfall, Doi Inthanon National Park (near Chiang Mai)
  • Palau Waterfall, Kaend Krachan National Park (near Hua Hin)
Thailand map

Worth seeing

  • Bangkok
  • Ayutthaya
  • Railay Beach
  • Bridge over the River Kwai

LANGUAGE IN TANZANIA

The Thai language is the official language of Thailand, which is based on central Thai dialect. English is widely spoken in touristy areas.

While most Thais speak and understand the central Thai dialect (also called Bangkok Thai), there are various regional dialects, such as Southern Thai, Northern Thai (known as Thai Yuan) and Northeastern Thailand (similar to Lao language). All variations of Thai use the same alphabet.

The Thai dialects should not be confused with the different registers used depending on the situation or social context:

  • Common Thai - the informal, spoken Thai without polite terms, as used between close relatives and friends.
  • Formal Thai - official and written version, includes polite terms of address; used for example in newspapers.
  • Rhetorical Thai - used for public speaking.
  • Religious Thai - influenced by Sanskrit and Pāli, used when discussing Buddhism or speaking to monks.
  • Royal Thai - influenced by Khmer, used only by the Thai royal family or when addressing or describing them.

The written script, based on Sanskrit, was adopted from the Khmers of Cambodia and standardised during the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng in the 13th century. The Thai alphabet consists of 44 consonants, 18 vowels.

There are five tones in the Thai language: high, mid, low, rising, and falling. The meaning of a word changes depending on the tone. In written Thai individual words are not separated by spaces, instead spaces in a Thai text indicate the end of a sentence.

Polite Particles

“Ka” and “krop” are added at the end of just about any sentence to make it sound more polite. “Ka” is used by females, “krop” by males.

Basics

English Thai
Hello sà-wàt-dee (kâ / króp)
สวัสดี (ค่ะ / คร้บ)
How are you? sà-baai dee măi (kâ / króp)
สบายดีไหม (ค่ะ / คร้บ)?
Fine, thank you. sà-baai dee (kâ / króp)
สบายดี (ค่ะ / คร้บ)
Thank you. kòp kun (kâ / króp)
ขอบคุณ (ค่ะ / คร้บ)
Goodbye sà-wàt-dee (kâ / króp)
สวัสดี (ค่ะ / คร้บ)
Yes châi  ใช่
No mâi  ไม่
OK gôr dâai  ก็ได้

Shopping

English Thai
How much? tâo rài  เท่าไหร่?
very expensive paeng mâak  แพงมาก
I want...  chăn (f.) / pŏm (m.)
kŏr…  
ฉัน / ผม ขอ
cheaper tòok gwàa  ถูก กว่า
this / these nêe  นี่
that / those nán  นั้น

Directions

English Thai
Where is…? ... yòo têe năi  …อยู่ที่ไหน?
Go straight. dtrong dìng  ตรงดิ่ง
Turn left líeow sáai  เลี้ยวซ้าย
Turn right líeow kwăa  เลี้ยวขวา

In a restaurant

English Thai
bill / check gèp ngern เก็บเงิน
menu menu  เมนู
delicious aròi  อร่อย
water nám  น้ำ
tea chaa  ชา
coffee gaa-fae  กาแฟ
beer bia  เบียร์
beef  néua wua  เนื้อวัว
pork mŏo  หมู
chicken gài  ไก่
fish bplaa  ปลา
noodles  sên  เส้น
rice kâao  ข้าว 
soup súp  ซุป

Numbers

Thai Thai numerals
1 nèung  หนึ่ง
2 sŏng  สอง
3 săam  สาม
4 sèe  สี่
5 hâa  ห้า
6 hòk  หก
7 jèt  เจ็ด
8 bpàet  แปด
9 gâo  เก้า
10 sìp  สิบ ๑๐
11 sìp èt  สิบเอ็ด ๑๑
20 yêe sìp  ยี่สิบ ๒๐
100 rói  ร้อย ๑๐๐

FOOD IN THAILAND

Thai cuisine is one of the most popular ones in the world. With a reputation of being spicy, it is actually based on the balance and combination of the five fundamental flavours: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and spicy. The use of fresh herbs and spices (such as lemon grass, basil, coriander, galangal, chilli, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, tamarind), as well as shrimp paste and fermented fish sauce are important aspects of Thai cooking culture.

Rice

Rice is the staple food for Thais, eaten with most meals, whether its for breakfast (e.g. Chok - rice porridge, or Khao Khai Chiao - an omelet with rice and chilli sauce) or dessert (such as Khao Niao Mamuang - delicious dessert made of sticky rice cooked in sweetened coconut milk, served with slices of mango; or Khao Neow Dam Sang Kaya - sweet black sticky rice with custard). In fact, rice is such an integral part of the Thai diet, that a common form of greeting is to say "Kin khao reu yang?" which literally translates as "Have you eaten rice yet?”.

Thai fruit

One of the things every visitor to Thailand loves is the country’s variety of fruits! Thai fruits include bananas (about 20 different kinds), papaya, pineapple, dragon fruit, durian, jackfruit, mango and many  more. You will see fruit vendors on street corners selling sliced fruits for as little as 10 baht per serving, and mixing fresh fruit shakes (with ice and sugar syrup) for 30-40 baht. If you want just the fruits mixed, without ice, you’ll pay around 60 baht. It is always up to you which fruits you want in your drink!

Regional specialities

The country’s cuisine can be divided into four regional cuisines, corresponding to the four geographic regions of the country:

Central Thai cuisine

With flat and wet plains, the region is home to the country’s best rice - jasmine rice (Hom Mali). Locally grown vegetables include watercress, morning glory, wing beans, eggplant and bamboo shoots. The region is also where the Thai royal cuisine of the Ayutthaya kingdom (14-18th century) originated. With its refined cooking techniques, beautiful presentation and use of various ingredients, it had great influence on the cooking style of the region. The famous Pad Thai, a dish of stir-fried rice noodles mixed with tofu (or shrimp or chicken), eggs, onion springs, and served with palm sugar, a lime and roasted peanuts comes from the Central Region. What makes the dish unique in flavour is its sauce - a combination of fish sauce, tamarind juice, dried shrimp, garlic and chilli. The area is also well known for other specialities such as the Tom Yam soup (a hot and sour soup prepared with kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass, chili and lime juice, served with prawns or chicken), Tom Kha Gai (a creamy coconut-milk chicken soup) and Kaeng Khieo Wan (green curry served with chicken or fish). The Chinese influence is especially strong in the region and is reflected in noodle dishes, steamed buns and plain soups with tofu or ground pork.

Northern Thai Cuisine (Lanna)

With a fairly cool climate and surrounded by forested mountains, the northern region, once ruled by former Lanna kingdom, is home to the majority of Thai ethnic groups. It’s cuisine is influenced by nearby Shan State in Myanmar, Laos as well as China. The region is abundant inwild mushrooms, forest vegetables and fruits. Must-try snacks when traveling to the region are Chiangmai’s Sai ua - a grilled sausage of ground pork mixed with spices and herbs (served with chopped fresh ginger and chilies at a meal) and Miang - a Burmese-influenced appetizer made of sour, sweet, hot, and salty ingredients wrapped in a fresh leaf and topped with a sweet and tangy sauce. Another typical dish of the North is Kaeng Pa - known as "jungle curry” abroad, it is a spicy and watery curry traditionally made with wild boar, but nowadays commonly served with pork or chicken.

Northeastern Thai Cuisine (Isan)

Sharing similarities with southern Lao cookery, the northeastern cuisine is rather simple and is traditionally eaten on a pa kao table made from bamboo or rattan. Meals are based on sticky rice (Khao Niaw) which, eaten with the fingers, is usually rolled up into small balls and dipped in a spicy paste called Nam Phrik Pla Ra (chili-based sauce made with fish or shrimp) accompanied by raw vegetables and herbs. Popular dishes of the northeast include Som Tam (shredded green papaya salad with raw chillies, green beans, tomatoes, peanuts and dried shrimps) and Laap (a type of meat salad flavoured with mint and lime, also a national dish of Laos).

Southern Thai Cuisine

Being surrounded on two sides by tropical seas and islands, food in the South is the hottest in Thailand, rich in coconut milk and seafood. It is influenced by Malaysian, Indian and Indonesian cuisine. The curries are usually red, yellow and orange due to the use of turmeric, spicy and sour in flavour. A typical curry dish from the region is Kaeng Som (meaning “sour curry”) which is made with fish, sour pineapple or pickled bamboo, and soured with tamarind. Kaeng Matsaman (known as “Massaman curry”) is a sweet Indian-style coconut-milk curry, usually made by Thai-Muslims. It’s made of stewed beef and with dried spices and fresh herbs. Sate, grilled meat (usually pork or chicken) is a popular southern street food of Indonesian origin, served with cucumber salad and peanut sauce.

Food in Pictures

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Stir-fried rice noodles
Thai Coconut-milk Soup with Shrimp

Thai Coconut-milk Soup with Shrimp

Tom Kha Gung
Yellow Curry with Chicken

Yellow Curry with Chicken

Gaeng Karee Gai
Spring rolls

Spring Rolls

Po Piat
Mango Sticky Rice

Mango Sticky Rice

Khao Niao Mamuang
Fruit stands in Thailand

Fruit shake stands

Thai Coconut-Rice Pancakes

Thai Coconut-Rice Pancakes

Khanom Krok
Fresh Vegetables at a Market

Fresh Vegetables at a Market

CULTURAL INSIGHTS ON THAILAND

Thailand's year of mourning (until October 2017)

With the death of King Bhumibol Adulyade on October 13th 2016, Thailand has entered a year of mourning. Tourists are asked to dress appropriately and respect the feelings and sensitivities of the Thai people. Therefore you should behave and dress modestly when in public areas.

King Bhumibol was one of the world’s longest-reigning monarchs. Born in the US and educated in Swiss, Bhumibol ascended the throne in 1946, just after Japan’s occupation of Thailand during the Second World War. During his 70 years as Thailand’s constitutional monarch, he has earned the deepest respect of the majority of Thais and was regarded as the country’s unifying figure. Although legally he had little power, the King used his influence on Thai society to try to defuse situations that threatened to destabilize the country during various political crises and military coups. The King’s only son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will succeed to the throne.

Thai Buddhist calendar

Even though Thailand adopted the Gregorian calendar, the solar calendar in which the years are counted in the Buddhist era is the official calendar of Thailand. It is mainly used for Theravada Buddhist festivals. The Buddhist calculation starts 543 years before the Christian Era. For example, the year 2016 is the year 2559 according to Thai calendar.

Greetings - The Wai

Thais generally don’t shake hands, instead they use the wai to say hello or goodbye, as well as to show gratitude, apology or respect. It is a prayer-like gesture with the hands placed in front of the chest.

Cultural Do's & Don'ts

Do’s       

  • Dress properly: Cover your shoulders and knees when entering a temple. Dress modestly in all places and keep short clothing to strictly tourist oriented spots.
  • Use your right hand: The left hand is considered dirty, as it is sometimes used for "toilet functions." Always use your right hand to pass objects to someone and when paying.
  • Remove shoes: In Thai culture, removing shoes before entering a temple or someone's home is essential.

Don’ts

  • Don't disrespect the Monarchy: It is considered a criminal offence to make critical or defamatory remarks about the royal family.
  • Don't point your feet: The feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest part of the body, therefore pointing your feet at someone, raising them above someone’s head or stepping over people who are sitting or lying on the ground is regarded as extremely rude.
  • Don't touch someone’s head: Being the highest part of the body, the head is considered most sacred. Never touch someone’s head or ruffle someone’s hair, including children’
  • Don't get into arguments: It is considered inappropriate to display anger or loose patience in Thai society. Conflicts are best resolved with a smile.

 

Books on Thailand

Movies on Thailand

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IN PICTURES

  • Chao Phraya River in Bangkok

    Chao Phraya River in Bangkok

  • Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya

    Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya

  • Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya

    Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya

  • Reclining Buddha in Ayutthaya

    Reclining Buddha in Ayutthaya

  • On the ferry to Koh Phangan

    On the ferry to Koh Phangan

  • Streach of sand between Koh Mo and Koh Phangan

    Streach of sand between Koh Mo and Koh Phangan

  • Ton Sai Beach near Krabi

    Ton Sai Beach near Krabi

  • Hiking in Khao Yai National Park

    Hiking in Khao Yai National Park

  • Pad Thai and Ice Coffee at a Beachside restaurant near Chumphon

    Pad Thai and Ice Coffee at a Beachside restaurant near Chumphon

  • Chiang Rai

    Chiang Rai

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