Electricity

220 volts, 50Hz. Both flat and round two-pin plugs are used.

Language

Thai is the official language, but English is widely spoken in tourist areas.

Money

The unit of currency is the Baht (THB), which is divided into 100 satang. Currency can be exchanged at the airport, banks, hotels, and bureaux de change. Banks are open Monday to Friday. ATMs are available in most cities and tourist resorts, but there is a surcharge for each withdrawal. Most major credit cards are accepted at hotels and larger businesses.

Tipping

Tipping is becoming more common in places frequented by tourists. If a service charge is not included in a restaurant bill, customers should add 10 to 15 percent as a tip. Porters and hotel staff will expect a tip; taxi drivers generally won't.

Health

There is no risk of malaria in major tourist resorts or in the cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pattaya, Ko Samui, and Ko Phangan, but preventions against malaria are recommended in rural and forested areas that border Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Laos. Immunisation against hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid fever is also advised; yellow fever vaccination certificates are required for travellers from infected areas. Rabid dogs are fairly common, so travellers should consider rabies vaccination before visiting. Everyone 16 years of age and older should get fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before travel.

There has been an increase in reported cases of dengue fever, particularly in the south, and vaccination against Japanese encephalitis is also recommended. Outbreaks of leptospirosis occur during the rainy season and after flooding. Travellers should drink bottled water and avoid ice in drinks, and seek immediate medical attention if they suffer from diarrhoea during their visit. Medical facilities are good in major cities, but good medical insurance is vital.

Safety

Though most visits to Thailand are trouble-free, tourists should avoid all political gatherings and marches, and stay well informed about the political situation in the country before and during their stay.

Like many parts of the world, South East Asia has been a victim of terrorism, so travellers should be vigilant in public places. They should also avoid the border regions and shouldn't camp in undesignated areas in national parks. The security situation in the southern provinces near the Malaysian border is unstable and travel to Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat and Songkhla is to be avoided.

Visitors to major cities are advised to secure their passports and credit cards and not carry too much money or jewellery. In Bangkok, visitors should be aware of scams, often involving gems recommended by kind strangers. In tourist areas, particularly at Full Moon Parties on Ko Phan Ngan, travellers should be careful about accepting drinks from strangers, as there have been reports of drinks being drugged. Incidents of sexual assault do occur and female travellers should be cautious.

The monsoon season in September and October (November to March on Koh Samui) brings about flooding in the north, northeast and central regions, causing mudslides and flash floods; visitors planning to trek in the jungle during this time should check conditions with licensed tour guides before leaving.

Local customs

While Thais are well known for their friendliness, they frown on public displays of affection. Visitors must save their beachwear for the beach and respect the custom of taking off shoes when entering a home. Many shops and restaurants will also expect tourists to remove their footwear.

Foreigners should avoid putting their feet on tables or chairs, or pointing their foot toward anyone. The touching of others' hair or heads (rubbing a child's hair, for example) should also be avoided. Thais rarely shake hands, instead using the wai as a way to say hello, to apologise, or show respect. The wai is a prayer-like gesture, made with raised hands. Thais are generally calm and softly spoken people, and tourists should avoid arguing loudly or raising their voices, even when haggling in markets, as this is considered crude and disrespectful.

The Thai royal family is revered and any image of Buddha, large or small, is considered sacred. Partygoers should note that drugs are illegal throughout the country, and that the possession of small quantities can land them in prison.

Doing business

Business culture in Thailand is considerably more relaxed than other Asian countries within the region. However, Thailand shares its neighbours' work ethic and value systems, as well as their emphasis on hierarchy and building relationships. Senior managers must be consulted on all matters and decisions. Appearance and age are important in Thai business culture, as they illustrate social standing and status. Older individuals are generally afforded a great deal of regard in Thailand and business people should become properly acquainted with their associates before they start negotiating.

The concept of 'face' and saving face is important in Thailand. So, if travellers make a mistake, they shouldn't expect it to be pointed out to them, and if a local business associate makes a mistake, it is impolite to draw attention to it or correct them.

English is the language of business in Thailand, but translators are often needed. Business hours are from 8am to 5pm or 9am to 6pm, with an hour for lunch. Dress styles tend to be quite formal, but due to the humid climate, heavy suits are rare. However, meetings with senior management tend to be slightly more formal and jackets are usually worn. Men generally wear shirts, slacks and a tie, while women wear below-the-knee skirts and blouses. Pantsuits for women are quite rare.

Shaking hands is not a popular form of greeting and the wai (putting a prayer-like gesture in front of oneself and bowing slightly) is more acceptable. The higher the hands compared to the face when bowing, the more respect is meant by the wai. It is customary to wai first to those older than oneself. When addressing others, Thais use first names rather than surnames, preceded by Kuhn for both men and women. As with many Asian nations, giving gifts to business associates is generally a good idea. When receiving gifts, foreigners shouldn't open them in front of the giver. They should also wait to be introduced to others, as it is an indication of rank. Often the hierarchical structures favour the elders in a group and respect must be given accordingly.

Duty free

Travellers to Thailand do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 250g tobacco or equivalent amount of cigars or 1 litre of alcohol. Goods to the value of THB 20,000 per person for holders of tourist visas are allowed; family allowances are double the individual allowances. Prohibited items include firearms and ammunition, fireworks, and drugs, and trafficking in drugs carries the maximum penalty. Restrictions apply to meat imported from countries affected by BSE or mad cow and foot-and-mouth diseases. Antiques or objects of art and religious articles may not be exported without a license.

Communications

The international country dialling code for Thailand is +66. The outgoing code is 001, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 00144 for the United Kingdom). Travellers can purchase local prepaid SIM cards for unlocked phones, and WiFi is available in cities and holiday resorts.

Passport & Visa

Travellers entering Thailand must have sufficient funds to cover the length of their stay, and are recommended to hold documentation for return or onward travel. Visitors who are using the 30-day visa exemption must enter Thailand by air or land; it is highly recommended that passports are valid for six months beyond travel.

Entry requirements

US passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for tourist stays of up to 30 days.

Passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. British nationals with passports endorsed 'British Citizen' or 'British National (Overseas)' do not require a visa for stays of up to 30 days. British travellers carrying passports with other endorsements should check official requirements.

Canadian Passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is needed for touristic stays of up to 30 days.

Australian passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for touristic stays of up to 30 days. APEC Business Travel Card holders endorsed for travel to Thailand may stay up to 90 days.

South African passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for touristic stays of up to 30 days.

Irish passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for stays of up to 30 days.

Passports from New Zealand must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival. No visa is required for touristic stays of up to 30 days. Holders of APEC Business Travel Cards endorsed for travel to Thailand may stay up to 90 days.

Useful contacts

Thailand Tourist Office: +66 2 250 5500 (Bangkok) or www.tourismthailand.org

191 (Police), 1155 (Tourist Police), 1669 (Ambulance).

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Royal Thai Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 (0)202 944 3600

Royal Thai Embassy, London, United Kingdom: (also responsible for Ireland) +44 (0)20 7589 2944

Royal Thai Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 (0)613 722 4444

Royal Thai Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6206 0100

Royal Thai Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 342 5470

Royal Thai Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 496 2900

Embassies / consulates in Thailand

United States Embassy, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 205 4000

British Embassy, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 305 8333

Canadian Embassy, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 646 4300

Australian Embassy, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 344 6300

South African Embassy, Bangkok: + 66 (0)2 659 2900

Irish Embassy, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 016 1360

New Zealand Embassy, Bangkok (also responsible for Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar): +66 (0)2 254 2530

Send a link to this travel guide