Thailand is a South East Asian Kingdom, predominantly Buddhist , and almost equidistant between India and China. For centuries known by outsiders as Siam, Thailand has been something of a Southeast Asian migratory, cultural and religious crossroads.
With an area of some 510,000 square kilometers and a population of some 60 million, Thailand is approximately the same size as France. Thailand shares borders with Myanmar to the west and north, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the east, and Malaysia to the south.
Geographically speaking, Thailand is divided into six major regions: the mountainous north where elephants work forests and winter temperatures are sufficiently cool to permit cultivation of temperate fruits such as strawberries and peaches; the sprawling northeast plateau, largely bordered by the Mekong River, where the world’s oldest Bronze Age civilization flourished some 5,000 years ago,- the central plain, one of the world’s most fertile rice and fruit-growing areas; the eastern coastal plain, where fine sandy beaches support the growth of summer resorts’, western mountains and valleys, suitable for the development of hydro-electric power; and the peninsular south where arresting scenic beauty complements economically vital tin mining, rubber cultivation and fishing.
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 characterized by high humidity levels and a refreshing afternoon downpour.
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.
* 7 hrs ahead of GMT
* 3 hrs behind Australian Eastern Standard Time
* 5 hrs behind New Zealand
* 12 hrs ahead of Canada Eastern Time
* 15 hrs ahead of Canada Pacific Time
* 12 hrs ahead of US Eastern Time
* 15 hrs ahead of US Pacific Time
The currency in Thailand is the Baht (BHT). The Thai unit of currency is the baht, which is worth a little less than 3 US cents. One US dollar approximately 30 baht. The baht is divided into 100 satang. “Copper” coins are valued at 25 and 50 satang. “Silver” coins are in denominations of 1′ 2 and 5 baht. A 10 baht coin is composed of both “silver” and “copper”. Banknotes are valued at 10 baht (brown), 20 baht (green), 50 baht (blue), 100 baht (red), 500 baht (purple) and 1,000 baht (khaki).
You are advised to carry a mix of cash and travelers 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.
US dollar traveler cheques can be conveniently cashed at all provincial banks and authorized moneychangers. Travelers cheques in other currencies are best changed in Bangkok where better rates prevail. Generally, hotel exchange rates are lower then those offered by banks and authorized money changers.
Major banks, restaurants, hotels and shops accept major international credit cards, such as American Express, Diners, Carte Blanche, Master Card and VISA.
Thai and foreign banks provide standard services nationwide, Monday through Friday, except public and bank holidays, between 9.30 AM and 3.30 PM.
Major banks such as Bangkok Bank, Thai Danu Bank, Thai Farmers Bank and Siam Commercial Bank operate currency exchange centers in most tourist areas from 7.00 AM to 9.00 PM, seven days a week, including holidays.
Visa Requirements in Thailand
To enter Thailand you will require a passport valid for at least six months from the time of entry. Temporary visitors to Thailand for the purpose of pleasure who are exempted from applying for entry visas, and who can stay for a maximum of 30 days in Thailand. 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.
Customs Regulations in Thailand
All kinds of narcotics (hemp, opium, cocaine, morphine, heroin), obscene literature, pictures or articles. Fire Arms: Importation of firearms and ammunition can be done only after a permit has been obtained from The Police Department or local Registration Office Personal Effects: A reasonable amount of clothing for personal use, toilet articles, and professional instruments may be brought in duty free. Cameras: One still-camera or one movie camera can be brought in. Five rolls of still-camera film or three rolls of 8 or 16 m.m. movie-camera film may be brought. Tobacco, Alcoholic Beverages: Cigarettes, cigars, or smoking tobacco each or in total must not exceed 250 grams in weight but cigarettes not exceeding 200 in quantity. One liter each of wine or spirits may be brought in free of duty. Household Effects: A reasonable amount of used household effects, accompanied by the owner on change of domicile are also free of duty. Plants and Animals: Certain species of fruits, vegetables and plants are prohibited. Please contact the Agricultural Regulatory Division, Bangkhen, and Bangkok for details. A permission of entry for animals coming in by air can be obtained at the airport. If by sea, application must be made at the Department of Livestock Development, Bangkok. Vaccination certificates are required.
Bangkok is Thailand’s major gateway. Most visitors arrive through Bangkok’s Don Muang International Airport, which is connected by daily flights to Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia aboard the world’s major airlines. Further international flights, mostly from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Hong Kong, land on a less regular basis at the southern airports of Phuket and Hat Yai and Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Charter flights from Europe and the Orient sometimes land in Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai and at U-Taphao for Pattaya.
You can travel using railways. Regular rail services link Singapore and Bangkok. Intermediary stops include Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth and major southern Thai towns.
If you prefer by road, overland entrance to Thailand is restricted to three road crossings on the Thai-Malaysian border in Songkhla, Yala and Narathiwat.
Traveling by water is an option. There are no regular steamship connections with Thailand. Cargo ships calling at Bangkok’s Klong Toey port sometimes have passenger cabin facilities. Cruise ships, such as Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 11, Royal Viking, or Pearl of Scandinavia periodically visit Pattaya.
Thai Airways International (TG), Angle Air (8G), and Bangkok Airways (PG) operate daily domestic flights to the North, Northeast, and South Thailand. Air Andaman also flies to Krabi, Hua Hin, Chumphon, Phuket and Pattaya.
Bangkok – Suvarnabhumi Int´l Airport (BKK/VTBS
Bangkok – Don Muang Int´l Airport (BKK/VTBD)
Chiang Mai Int´l Airport (CNX/VTCC)
Chiang Rai International Airport (CEI/VTCR)
Hat Yai Int´l Airport (HDY/VTSS)
Khon Kaen Airport (KKC/VTUK)
Phuket International Airport (HKT/VTSP)
There are a number of International couriers servicing Thailand:
Federal Express: www.federalexpress.com
The electric current in Thailand is 220 volts at 50 cycles. Electrical plugs of the two-rounded pin type are the most commonly required.
The Thai capital is most visitors entry point to Thailand. Bangkok, sprawls over an area of some 1,500 square kilometers on both sides of the Chao Phraya River. Established in 1782 by King Rama I, founder of the Chakri Dynasty, Bangkok has thereafter been the place of residence of the Royal Family. This fast-paced city is home to government ministries, the police and military headquarters, the Supreme Patriarch of the Buddhist faith, the most prestigious universities and schools, the best medical facilities, important international organizations, and the greatest collections of art, museums, newspaper publishers, and television stations in the country.
Chiang Mai presents a wonderful contrast to Bangkok. It is Thailand’s second largest city, though only one fourth the size of the capital and quite unlike it in most other respects. Of great antiquity and molded by a distinct history, Chiang Mai is a most attractive destination with sights and charms peculiar to itself and the picturesque Northern region of which it is the centre. Located 700 kilometers north of Bangkok, Chiang Mai is less than an hour from the capital by plane and is served by several daily flights. Air-conditioned overnight train or coach can also reach it conveniently. Although readily accessible, the city popularly known as the “Rose of the North” presents a superb contrast.
Thailand’s furthest northern province is about 785 kms. From Bangkok and 580 meters above sea level. Its area, mostly covered with mountains, is 11,678 square kilometers. The most important river is Mae Kok; which is about 130 kilometers long. The main attraction for tourists is the so-called Golden Triangle, where opium was once grown in abundance. However, those expecting a ‘wild-west’ atmosphere will be disappointed.
Pattaya’s location just two hours from Bangkok makes it a popular weekend destination for people wanting to escape the big city. This in turn guarantees that there is plenty of accommodation in just about every price category. Pattaya is Thailand’s oldest international beach resort. It was “discovered” as it were, by American servicemen during the Vietnam War. There aren’t many sights in Pattaya. The main attraction is the beach.
Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, an idyllic site for the country’s premier international beach resort. Much of the island’s charm is that the ocean facing west coast is lined with a series of bays where white sand beaches span between two rocky points. This makes for a series of relatively intimate places rather than one big unbroken stretch of sand lined with high-rise hotels and packed with people. Phuket has a large variety of sun and surf activities so there’s something for just about everyone.