Travel Guide

Thailand Travel Guide

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Religion: Buddhism is the main religion, and every part of Mainland Thai culture is heavily influenced by it. Thai’s Buddhists differ from the Buddhists of other South East Asian countries, though. They follow the Theravada school of Buddhism, which is much closer to Buddhism’s original roots in India. Indian Buddhism places a heavier emphasis on monasticism, which is why you find so many monastic Buddhist temples all over Thailand. In fact, young Thai men become orange-robed monks for a period of 3 months or so, as a sort of rite of passage into manhood. Thai temples are known as wats; they are highly colored, and resplendent with gold leaf, with pointy roofs. You can spot them from a mile away.

Other Religions and Cultures: Apart from the mainland Thai culture, the country has several hill tribes in its northern mountainous regions of Hmong, Karen, Lisu, Lahu and Akha. There are also Muslims in the south, and several indigenous island peoples from the Andaman Sea tribes. Most Thai are indigenous, except the ethnic Chinese minorities and the assimilated Thai-Chinese community. There are a handful of adherents to Confucianism, Islam, Christianity and animist faiths as well.

Arts and Dancing: Thai dance and arts are also heavily influenced by the Indian culture. Many dances and cultural performances are based on scenes from the great Indian mythological epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. These performances are colorful. The dancers wear exotic costumes and jewelry and colorful makeup to depict the warriors and princesses from the epics.

Martial Sports: Thailand is famous for its extremely brutal Thai boxing (muay Thai), which is derived from Thai warriors’ military training during the days of old.

The Monarchy: The there’s a strict rule in Thailand that no one can talk ill of the king and the royal family. They are protected by lèse majesté laws, with long jail sentences for people convicted of insulting the royal family, even if it’s a joke.

Currency: Thailand’s currency is the baht (THB, ฿), which comprises of six coins and six notes:

  • 25 and 50 satang which amount to 100th of a baht in copper or gold colored coins and is almost worthless
  • Baht coins in denominations of 1, 5, 2 and 10 in gold and silver color
  • Baht notes in 20 (green), 50 (blue), 100 (red), 500 (purple) and 1000 (light gray/brown)

People mostly prefer to spend 20s and 100s in notes. It’s hard to obtain small change even in small shops. Taxi drivers and small business owners make it a point not to offer small change, which creates a loss for the service buyer. 1000-baht notes are a problem, as counterfeits are rampant.

If you’re in need of exchange, use an ATM instead of taking your dollars to a money exchange counter. You’ll get a better exchange at ATMs. If your card does not carry a transaction fee for overseas withdrawals the better. Although large malls and establishments accept credit cards, they are frowned upon at small businesses. Let your bank know when you’re about to use your card, as credit card fraud can happen. Make sure you keep your credit card covered while using it so no one gets a look. Given the surcharge and the other complications, it might be best to just pay in cash and be done with it.

Economy: Thailand is the second-largest economy, coming next to Indonesia in Southeast Asia. Thailand’s economy is highly-dependent on its exports, which accounts for more than two-thirds of its GDP. Apart from exports and the service and hospitality sector which manage tourism, Thailand has an agricultural sector, a trade sector and a logistics and communication sector which contribute various percentages to the GDP. Thailand economy is booming, and its unemployment rate is low.

From Medieval Times Till Now: We can map Thailand’s history from 1238, when the earliest Thai kingdom was founded in Sukhothai. This kingdom fell under the king of Ayutthaya, which ruled Thailand and huge parts of Laos and Cambodia as well. in 1767, the Burmese King Taksin sacked Ayuthaya, and set up kingdom in Thailand. His successor, General Chakri, make Bangkok his capital and founding the Chakri dynasty as King Rama the First. It’s the same Chakri dynasty that rules Thailand, albeit constitutionally, to this day. Thailand was known as Siam until 1939, when the name was changed permanently to Thailand.

Monarchy and Anarchy: Thailand struggled through a string of military dictatorships till the country stabilized and tourism boomed, bringing in much-needed exchange. King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) is the world's longest-reigning monarch in the world. He’s loved and worshipped by the Thai people. However, he was overthrown in 2006 after a bloodless military coup overthrew Taksin Shinawatra's democratically elected government. After this, the Thai Rak Thai party dueled with the royalist-conservative People's Alliance for Democracy party for government control. It got so bad that Bangkok's airports were seized and shut down for a week in November 2008.

The King is still seen as a highly revered Head of State, but his role is mostly ceremonial. It’s the Prime Minister that holds the governmental authority. The political scene remains in a state of flux, and the world is not sure of the direction Thailand will take once the ruling but ailing King passes away.

Proud Historical Facts
  • Of all the Southeast Asian nations, Thailand is the one nation that has not been colonized by a foreign power.
  • From a total monarchy, Thailand entered constitutional monarchy after a bloodless revolution in 1932.
  • Thailand’s smart political moves prevented the country from being conquered by the Japanese During World War II, even as other Southeast Asian countries fell prey.
  • Thailand allied with Japan during World War II and then turned around and became a US ally following the war.
If you think you’ve got Thailand all figured out, you’ll be really surprised when you read these most interesting facts about Thailand!
  • The bumblebee bat is the smallest mammal in the world and the whale shark is the largest and both call Thailand home.
  • The whole of northern island was once covered by hardwood trees, but only a quarter of that forest remains now. Understandable why logging is banned in Thailand huh?
  • One-tenth of Thailand’s entire population lives in Bangkok, the country’s largest city.
  • There are more than 35,000 temples in Thailand.
  • Thai culture forbids touching others on their heads; heads are considered almost holy and the feet are lower than low.
  • Close to a tenth of the world’s animal and bird species call Thailand home.
  • Thailand has its National Flag which is flown daily and royal flags which are flown during state occasions.
  • In Thailand, gifting a pair of Siamese cats to a bride is considered to bring good luck. The land was once known as Siam because of these cats. There were once 23 types of Siamese cats in Thailand but only 6 remain.
  • Red Bull, that superb globally-renowned energy drink is based on a Thai drink called Krating Daeng.
  • Bangkok was like Venice at one point; mostly water, with homes built on stilts. The water canals were slowly filled up to become the streets you see today.
  • The country of Thailand is made up of about 1,430 islands, many of which have been featured in Hollywood movies for their incredible beauty.
  • An estimated 80,000 people died while making the Burma-Siam railway. The bridge over the railway, near Kanchanburi, was made famous in the movie “Bridge Over the River Kwai”.
  • The residents of Lopburi province hold a Monkey Buffet in front of the Pra Prang Sam Yot temple each year, to thank the monkeys for drawing thousands of tourists to the village. The feast has everything that monkeys love – fruits, peanuts, biscuits, ice-cream and more.

Thailand is a tropical country, so the weather is mostly hot and humid for the most part of the year. Peak temperatures range from 28-35°C (82-95°F). Thailand does have a distinct summer, winter and monsoon. Spring and summer are wrapped into a single season, without much difference marking them.

Hot Weather: Summer is from March to June when temperatures can be as high as 40°C (104°F). If you’re out on the beach with a cold drink in hand and a beach umbrella over your head, it’s pleasant enough. If you’re sightseeing in this weather, good luck to you. It’s not just the heat, but the humidity that gets you during summer.

Rainy Weather: From July to October, it rains in Thailand, but the rains are usually bearable except when it pours in September. Be wary of tropical monsoon warnings; flooding is not uncommon so heed the warnings and protect yourself during the worst rains. In the south-east coast of Thailand, the peak rainy season is from May-October. If you’re traveling in Thailand during the rains, be sure to carry a foldable umbrella and a rain jacket with you.

Cool Weather: Thailand’s so-called winter begins in November and carries on till the end of February. There’s not much rain to speak of during winter, though rain does make it presence felt. You won’t need warm clothing – just the odd sweater will do especially when you’re hiking in the northern mountains, where temperatures can go down to 5°C. Winter is the best time to visit Thailand, especially during Christmas and New Year's, or even during the Chinese New Year a few weeks later. Off-season travel is cheaper, of course, but the weather makes it tough to be comfortable during summer. If the rain warnings are not severe, you can travel during the monsoon, and have a good time.

You can travel to Thailand by plane, by bus or by boat.

By Plane: You can land at the international airports either at Bangkok or Phuket. Almost all intercontinental flights to Asia fly to Bangkok; this keeps the competition high and the prices down. Thailand has other international airports as well, at Hat Yai, Krabi, Ko Samui and Chiang Mai, though these are usually kept for flights from other Southeast Asian countries. If you’re in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, it makes sense to fly to these smaller Thai cities and skip the long queues at Bangkok.

By Road: You can travel to Thailand by road either by car or bus if you’re in Cambodia, Singapore or Malaysia. There are multiple border crossings in each case, though maybe not with a rented vehicle. If you’re traveling by road, be sure to carry passports with at least six months validity, original car registration document, Thailand Visa (if applicable to your nationality) and 3rd party liability car insurance. Note that if you have third party liability coverage from Malaysia or Singapore, the insurance does not extend to the territory of Thailand. You’ll need to purchase fresh insurance at the border before proceeding.

By Train: You can travel to Thailand from Malaysia or Singapore by train. You have regular and luxury trains to choose from; the Eastern & Oriental Express is a super-luxury train that plies this route once every week. You can enjoy gourmet dining, personal butler service and other perks on board.

By Ferry: During tourist season (November to May), you can hop between Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia by ferry. Daily ferries fly the route between Satun in southern Thailand to Langkawi in Malaysia. Regular cruises travel occasionally from Malaysia and Singapore to Phuket and Bangkok.

You can apply for visa in person at the nearest Thai embassy or by post. If you’re applying by post, don’t forget to include a self-addressed prepaid express envelope so that the embassy can send your passport back.

Applying For Online Visa
  • Click the following URL: to fill your online visa application form.
  • Once you’re done filling it in, download and print your visa application form; keep it and the barcode sheet that’s generated.
  • Submit the visa application form and barcode sheet along with all the necessary documents to the Thailand Visa Application Centre in your area.
  • Supporting documents:
  • Passport that’s valid for at least 6 months
  • Address where you’ll be staying in Thailand
  • Details of the inviting person/organization
  • Travel itinerary
  • One recent photograph measuring 4 x 6cms
  • Round-trip flight tickets or e-tickets, paid in full
  • Proof of financial means, via bank documents; you need to show at least 20,000 baht in savings if you’re traveling alone. If you’re traveling with family, then the amount in your savings should be at least 40,000 baht
Tourist Visa ValidityYour tourist visa will be stamped for any period between 3 months to 6 months. The more times you’ve visited Thailand, the greater your visa’s validity.If you enter Thailand by road, you will be issued a tourist visa valid for 15 days only. You can get your visa extended by applying for extension at the Office of Immigration Bureau. Visa Exemption Rule (VER) Updates for 2017The earlier restriction of obtaining a visa before coming to Thailand is now abolished. You can land at any Thai international airport, and apply for a short-term tourist visa. If approved, you will be issued a 30 day visa, which can be extended once or twice, but not several times. In this way, Thailand encourages visitors to visit Thailand regularly. However, despite this facility, immigration officials recommend obtaining tourist visas before arriving in Thailand.
When you visit Thailand, try and squeeze in a trip to the neighboring Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia as well.

Singapore: Singapore is a fabulous Country/State/City which has become a hot tourist spot in the last few decades. Singapore is great to visit throughout the year, though the climate is uniformly hot and humid all across the year. Visit Singapore to enjoy incredible views of the city, theme parks, artwork, festivals, cosmopolitan culture, shopping and more.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong is uniquely Chinese in its character. Visit this vibrant city for sightseeing, shopping, art appreciation, food and culture. Be sure to visit Victoria Peak for a great view of the entire city; also ride the famous junk boat along the coast, checking out the tiny islands there. Island-hopping in Hong Kong is great fun, so don’t miss out on that. Hong Kong is a mere hour by ferry from the gambling capital of the east, Macau. Delight in the unique Euro-Chinese culture of the city; Macau was once a Portuguese colony and now a Chinese city.

Indonesia: Indonesia, with its incredible beaches and wonderful culture is a must-visit destination. The country has a rich food culture, and some truly exotic and beautiful cultural performances, especially dance. The incredibly-lovely rice paddy fields, rainforests, waterfalls, lakes and beaches make this a favorite haunt for vacationers. Don’t miss a visit to the colorful and extremely welcoming capital city, Bali. Bali is famous for its arts, culture and cultural experiences, especially dance and music.

Malaysia: Malaysia has much to offer the traveler, from shopping, to fabulous colonial architecture, incredible view points and wonderful natural landscapes. Malaysia’s mainland is surrounded by many islands and island-hopping and discovering new experiences is a way of life there. Be sure to visit Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers for a scintillating view of the entire city. Also be sure to visit Cameron Highlands to experience what Scotland must feel like, if it were placed in the middle of a hot and humid tropical country.

Thailand’s food is so famous that the food alone is reason enough to visit this fabulously-gastronomic country. The locals whip up various curries, stir fries, fruit shakes and fresh fish cooked in a myriad ways. The beauty about Thai food is its presentation. Every dish is presented beautifully; vegetables are carved into delightful shapes, and fruit salads are offered in actual fruit shells. For example, watermelon and papaya are carefully hallowed out and the shells are used to serve salads.

Unique Way Of Cooking: Thai people mix carefully shredded cooked meat with fruits and vegetables, creating a taste that’s uniquely Thai. The Thai believe in mixing tastes and putting similarly-colored things together to create a poetic medley of tastes that you simply must experience.

Cheap Food: You can buy food for cheap in Thailand; for example a bowl of Thai fried noodles can be had for 25 baht from a street stall; filling, nutritious and tasty. There are floating markets as well as street stalls literally everywhere selling food. The best is that food from stalls and small sidewalk restaurants is quite safe.

How To Eat Thai Food: The Thai use a fork in their left hands to hold down their food. They use the spoons in their right hands to pile food on and put it into their mouths. Chopsticks are used but only with noodles and noodle soups and East Asian-style dishes. Using your fork to shove food into your mouth is not considered acceptable and might even be seen as offensive.

Sharing Food: In Thailand, you get your own plate of rice and a tiny soup bowl but that’s it. Every other dish is laid out in the middle of the table, and you serve yourself bits of this and bits of that from different dishes. People consider that taking the last piece of food from a plate is unlucky, so if you’re eating with very traditional people, try not to grab for the last piece.

Thailand sees countless festivals and special events throughout the year. Some are nationwide festivals while others are specific to region. The exact date may vary with some festivals, especially if they’re Thai festivals and Buddhist holidays, since these are based on the lunar calendar. We’ve listed some of the better known events; do attend a few of them while you’re in Thailand!
  • Chinese Lunar New Year: Sometime within January/February; dates can change owing to lunar calculations.
  • Pattaya Bike Week: Takes place in mid-February and is one of the biggest gathering of motorbike enthusiasts in South-east Asia
  • Phuket International Blues Rock Festival: Cool rock festival conducted sometime in mid-to-late February.
  • National Elephant Day: A fun festival when all the elephants in Thailand are given a good wash and are decorated with garlands and taken out on parades.
  • National Muay Thai Day: National day of the Muay Thai boxing style hosted by Ayutthaya.
  • Pattaya International Music Festival: This festival occurs sometime in mid-to-late March in the town of Pattaya.
  • Songkran Thai New Year Water Festival: This public holiday occurs somewhere from 13th to 15th of April.
  • Rocket Festivals: The Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival takes place at Yasothon in north-east Thailand in mid-to-late May
  • Ko Samui Yacht Regatta: Usually held either in May or June, this is a famous, well-attended yacht regatta.
  • Hua Hin Jazz Festival: Famous jazz festival usually held in June
  • Phuket Yachting Race Week: Is held sometime in Mid-July
  • Por Tor Hungry Ghost Festival: Held in Phuket between August and September
  • Buffalo Racing Festival: Held in Chonburi between October and November.
  • Yi Peng Lantern Festival: This colorful lantern festival is held at Chiang Mai to coincide with Loy Krathong in November
  • Monkey Banquet Festival: The village of Lopburi holds a banquet for monkeys to thank them for increased tourism on November 26.

For all its religious overtones, Thailand has a brisk and exciting nightlife, where people of all kinds of sexual orientation, sexuality and all walks of life party together. Thailand is famous for what’s known as ‘Sex Tourism’. There are a large number of transgenders and transvestites offering sexual experiences at clubs, bars and beach parties.

Bangkok: Look up parties in Patpong, Nana and Soi Cowboy and Go-Go bars for pretty barmaids who provide other services. Khao San Road has several bars and clubs that put on cabarets which feature Thai ladyboys, cute-looking transgender and transvestite performers. Bangkok’s nightlife is vibrant and exciting; there’s a special vibe on the streets of the city that’s is very infectious.

Chiang Mai: Riverside watering holes and bars offer fabulous nightlife options here. Head to the Nimmanheimin Road for live music, live performances and great food along with all drinks you can consume in one night. There are several rooftop bars in Chiang Mai fronting the Ping River and these offer top nightlife options along with a fabulous view over the river and the city.

Thai Islands: Night partying is always good at Thailand’s islands. Check out Koh Phi Phi where parties spill out on the seashore. Visit the Lotus and Vibe bars and the beachfront clubs in turn for some scintillating drinks, music and sex tourism. For those with more expensive taste, head to Koh Samui Isle, and for a more laid back nightlife with lively pubs and live music and beach bars, head to Koh Chang Isle. Koh Phangan hosts the infamous Full Moon Party which attracts 30,000 people every month. Revelers dress in fluorescent tutus with their faces painted. Music is a wide variety of trance, dance and drum till dawn. There are fireworks, fire-eating, and bucket-beer drinking challenges. Drugs and drinks are readily available and assaults are not uncommon.

Thailand is a shopper's paradise; in a year, many people visit Thailand just for the fabulous shopping options available in the countless markets and malls.

Thai Night Markets

There are several night markets in almost every Thai town. The largest night markets in Thailand are found in Bangkok, and in Chiang Mai. A variety of vendors sell designer clothing and handicraft items and goods that aren’t sold in day markets. Night markets have attached open food courts. Check out the night markets along Mahboonkrong (MBK) Mall in Bangkok and the world's biggest weekend bazaar - The Chatuchak Weekend Market, spread out over 1.1 kilometer square of space. Look out for the following items while shopping in Thailand’s night markets:

  • Cheap clothing is a great buy in Thailand. Cheap, locally produced street-wear made of cotton and other fabrics and cut in the latest fashionable styles are a great buy.
  • Thailand’s night markets often sell tacky modern clothing accessories such as pink shoes with clear acrylic heels that are filled with colorful plastic flowers.
  • Thai silk is made out of the cocoon of the silk worm using a very painstaking process in the Northeast region of Thailand. Thai silk is a real work of art.
  • Celadon ceramics are a signature handicraft in Thailand that you don’t want to miss. These have been around for centuries and were at first thought of as manmade jade.
  • Hard-carved wooden items like toys and carvings are made by master Thai craftsmen. These items are carved out of sandalwood, teak and coconut palm wood and the coconut shells.
  • You can pick up electronics and computer gear fairly cheaply at malls and street stalls. It’s possible to purchase these for lesser at Singapore, but the prices are still less compared to the west.

Thailand has so much to see and enjoy in terms of attractions that it’s impossible to encompass all of them here. We’ve curated a list of the best things to see in Thailand for your travels.

  • The Grand Palace & Wat Prakeaw, Bangkok: The dazzling, brilliantly-colored Grand Palace & Wat Prakeaw was built in 1782 and served as the royal residence for 150 years. Please do cover your shoulders and legs while entering the Grand Palace.
  • Phang Nga Bay Phang Nga Province: This region is home to vertical limestone cliffs that literally jut out of the emerald green water. Be sure to visit James Bond Island and Koh Pannyi bays for their spectacular scenery.
  • Floating Markets Near Bangkok: You’ll find many colorful floating markets everywhere in Thailand, and especially in Bangkok, piled high with tropical fruit and vegetables and cooked local food from local kitchens.
  • Phi Phi Islands Krabi Province: The ultimate picture-postcard islands of the Krabi Province are perfect getaways with their vivid blue waters, white sands beaches, stunning rock formations and colorful marine life.
  • Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai: Enjoy the fabulous view from the regal mountain Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai of the surrounding countryside. The peak houses the lovely Wat Prathat Doi Suthep Temple as well as Bhubing Palace
  • Railay Beach, Krabi Province: No trip to Thailand is complete without visiting one of Thailand’s best beaches, Railay. The gorgeous beach is surrounded by soaring limestone cliffs which are rife with caves and a hidden lagoon.
  • Wat Arun: Visit the beautiful Temple of Dawn on the bank of the Chao Phraya River, which is an excellent architecture of Buddhist architecture.
  • Khao Yai: Get away from crowded cities to relax in the lush landscape of mountains, waterfalls, fertile valleys and magnificent scenery all around. About 320 species of birds and 67 species of mammals live here, amidst thousands of plant types.

The ideal way to see the best of Thailand is to sign up for tours and excursions. Check out the following curated list of tours in Thailand:

  • Thailand's Ayutthaya Temples and River Cruise: Enjoy visiting the fabulous temples of Ayutthaya along with a pleasant river cruise on this cultural day trip.
  • Phi Phi Island Adventure Day Trip by Speedboat: The Phi Phi islands are breathtakingly beautiful. Be sure to visit this archipelago of lush, tropical islands set in the loveliest turquoise waters you’ve seen.
  • Sea Cave Kayaking and Loy Krathong Floating Market: An afternoon of adventure, exploring sea caves in a kayak in Phang Nga Bay. Your tour ends with an introduction to the Loy Krathong floating market.
  • Ao Phang Nga Bay Day Trip: On this day trip from Phuket, you’ll enjoy observing stunning limestone karst formations, lovely beaches and much more.
  • Canoe Cave Explorer Phang Nga Bay: Sign up for this exciting canoeing and kayaking tour and explore Phang Nga Bay Tour from Phuket.
  • Full-Day Similan Island by Speed Boat: Here’s a full day tour of Similan Island by speedboat from Phuket. Enjoy long white coral sand beaches and the turquoise waters for which The Similan Islands National Park is well known.
  • Ang Thong Islands by Speedboat: This trip takes you on a full day trip to Ang Thong Islands by speedboat for sunbathing, canoeing, swimming and snorkeling activities. Lunch at a great restaurant is part of the package.
  • Chiang Rai Day Trip: On this day trip from Chiang Mai City, you’ll be able to explore Chiang Mai’s architecture, its temples and its many entertainment options.
  • Elephant's Friend Day: A whole day enjoying yourselves with friendly elephants at the Baanchang Elephant Park in Chiang Mai
  • Phuket Canoeing Tour of Phang Nga Bay: Enjoy a full day canoe trip of the Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island in Phuket.
  • Phuket Sightseeing Tour with Cocktail: Obtain an insider look of Phuket Island’s culture and the Sino-Portuguese heritage.

Thailand’s main tourism activities begin during the winter months, when it’s mild enough for people from around the world to enjoy the country. The waters are just warm enough during winter for water sports and swimming. Sightseeing and traveling within the country is possible without sweating buckets, which is a huge plus point. Towards the end of the year, rain lessens around the country, and the sun begins to shine for at least 6 hours per day. September and October do see 16 days of rainfall during the month, though. October alone sees around 190mm of rain throughout the month, while the temperature settles down between 25°C and 32°C. Conditions are better in November, with the sun shining for 8 hours a day and temperatures between 24°C and 31°C. Pack a raincoat just in case, but for the most part it’ll be dry during October and November.

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