Thailand

Thailand, situated in the southeast of Asia, offers a host of places to visit. It is the most visited country in Asia, yet despite the influx of visitors, Thailand’s cultural integrity remains largely undamaged.  Though the high-rises and neon lights occupy the foreground of the tourist picture, the typical Thai community is still the farming village, and you need not venture far to encounter a more traditional scene of fishing communities, rubber plantations and Buddhist temples. Around forty percent of Thais earn their living from the land, based around the staple rice, which forms the foundation of the country’s unique and famously sophisticated cuisine.

Main Attractions

There are six regions in Thailand, each with their own unique attractions: North, Northeast, East, Central, West and South. Three of the regions are the most visited. Chiang Mai Province is in Northern Thailand. The Chiang Mai weather is always cooler than the rest of the country. The city has plethora of things to see and things to do. The beauty of the mountains, hill tribe villages, and botanical gardens attracts millions of tourists to Chiang Mai every year. You can also enjoy a zoo and aquarium, a nocturnal zoo, and classic Northern Thai temples and architecture which are a fusion of Lanna, Mon, and Burmese styles. In the Central region, Bangkok is always among the world’s top tourist destinations. There are a great variety of tourist spots in Bangkok, mostly historical attractions and temples with elaborate architecture and art, it is a true tourist paradise, proven by the growing number of travelers coming each year. There are also palaces, museums, parks, and a wide variety of shopping; from luxury malls to flea and street markets like the Chatuchak Weekend Market, Sampeng Market, and Pahurat Textile Market.  Bangkok nightlife is another highlight that has attracted multitudes of tourists from all over the world. In the Southern region are the beaches. With clear water, white sand, and iconic longtail boats, there is something for everyone on the islands and mainland beaches. Railay Beach in Krabi, Long Beach in Koh Lanta, and Kata Noi Beach in Phuket are all beautiful and very popular. Lamai Beach in Koh Samui is a great choice for families.

Time Needed

The recommended amount of time is 14 days (2 weeks) for a proper tour of Thailand. This allows for the adjustment of the time difference and acclimation to the heat and humidity in Thailand, which is nearly always present, and is an adequate amount of time to see three different regions.

Know Before You Go

Currency

Thai Baht. When using ATM’s in Thailand, it’s best to request the maximum amount allowed. Sometimes breaking large denominations can be a challenge. Experienced travelers know to ask for 5,900 baht rather than 6,000 baht — that way they get some smaller denominations, too. Tipping is not the norm in Thailand and only done in rare instances.
 

Electricity

Socket 220V AC electricity. Power outlets are usually two-prong round or flat sockets. Be sure to pack a universal travel adaptor so you can still use all your electronic gadgets.
 

Thailand Visa

Generally speaking, US citizens are given a free 30-day visa when you enter Thailand by air and 15 days if you enter overland. This visa is easily extendable if you want to stay in the country for longer. 
Passport Validity 6 months from date of entry. Blank passport pages: 1 page per stamp
Vaccinations needed Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and a TDap (for tetanus) are always recommended. Yellow fever may be required, but only if arriving from certain countries with yellow fever.

Language

The official language of Thailand is Thai. English is a more commonly spoken in the Thai islands, as many people work in the tourism industry, and in the larger cities as well.  Most people, especially those who work in tour activities and hotels will be able to help you out. In Northern Thailand and more rural areas, chances are greater you will encounter people who don’t speak English.
 

Climate

While you can visit Thailand all year round, avoiding the monsoon season might be smart if much of your vacation plans involve relaxing outdoors in exotic islands. The best time to go to Thailand is December to March (All of Thailand). In a nutshell, the weather in Thailand can be broken down into three parts: Rainy (roughly May-Oct), Cool (Nov–Feb), Hot (March-May).
 

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance

Sidewalks and street crossings are not suitable for travelers with mobility issues. Newly constructed buildings, facilities, and transportation equipment should be accessible. However, enforcement of these provisions is not uniform.
 

Getting There

Average flight time from the United States is 17 hours, whether departing from the East Coast or the West Coast.

Getting Around

  • Mass transit: In Bangkok, the BTS elevated "Skytrain," “Airport Rail Link” mass transit, and the underground MRT systems are reliable, inexpensive, air conditioned, and often faster than Bangkok traffic.
     

  • Bus system: Bangkok also has an extensive bus system, but buses can be overcrowded and are often driven with little or no regard for passenger safety.
     

  • For hire vehicles: Cities outside of Bangkok typically have only rudimentary public transportation and usually do not have metered taxis. In many cases, motorcycle taxis, tuk-tuks, bicycle-powered rickshaws, and pick-up trucks will be the only options available for travelers without their own transport.
     

  • Smartphone-based for-hire vehicle services such as Uber or GrabTaxi exist, although such services are under legal review.

Interesting (and important) Facts

Cover up your elbows and knees when visiting temples, wats, monasteries, palaces, etc.  Bring along a light jacket or cover-up even on days when a temple isn’t on the itinerary — you never know when you’ll stumble across a beautiful wat that you’ll want to check out.

Don’t talk about the king. Thais will not appreciate even the friendliest jest about their monarch. Thai people have a deep respect for their King, an affection that reciprocates his many accomplishments and sacrifices for the country. Remember, respect for the King isn’t just polite, it’s the law.

Carry your own tissues and hand sanitizer if you’re not comfortable air drying or using a spray hose next to a squat toilet. Most places have “Western” toilets (sometimes called “sitting toilets”), but you may encounter a fair number of squat toilets as well.

Touching someone’s head is highly offensive; at the same time, you must never show the soles of your feet to anyone, or use your feet to point to something. Based on Buddhist beliefs, the head is the most valued part of the body while the feet are the lowest.

The wai, or pressing your palms together at chest or nose level and bowing your head slightly, is a gesture that you will encounter almost immediately upon arrival in Thailand. An integral part of Thai etiquette, it denotes respect (or reverence when performed in front of a Buddha image), and can be used to express a hello, thank you, or goodbye.

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