Thailand

From South to North, East to West, Thailand has a huge diversity of landscape and activities. With hundreds of beautiful Islands, the south of Thailand offers a plethora of picture-perfect beaches to suit all tastes; from resort-style luxury to idyllic island escapes or remote and jungle-clad stretches of sand. The North part of the country is a spiritual haven with a vast range of beautiful Buddhist temples; marvelous mountainous terrain, terrific trekking paths, lush jungle and riveting river activities.

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is a massive, glittering metropolis where one can find both old and new, East and West, traditional and fashionable, blended together in a harmonious way. Amphawa Floating Market is one of the must-see attractions near Bangkok for those who love to experience local lifestyle. The river-enclosed temples of the ancient capital, Ayutthaya, a Unesco World Heritage City, give a fascinating glimpse into the historic roots of religion and royalty in Thailand. The town of Nakhon Pathom boasts the tallest Buddhist pagoda, not only in Thailand, but also in the world. Just off Bangkok Bay, in Khao Sam Muk, is the highly revered hillside shrine of Chao Mae Sam Muk, famed for the star-crossed lovers who ended their lives here; spectacular panoramic views and the wild monkeys that live here.

Beaches are never far wherever you are in Thailand and Bangkok is no exception, Bang Saen, is a popular family beach resort near Bangkok; Ko Sichang, just a couple of hours by ferry is a paradise island whose name has become the title of a song. The hugely popular hedonistic town of Pattaya, on the east coast, is a mere  2 hours’ drive from Bangkok. Its powder-white sand, clear blue sky and calm, turquoise waters, coupled with fantastic nightlife, shopping and food have long heralded it as a firm favorite of both foreign and domestic tourists alike. Over on the west coast of Thailand lies the stunning coastline of the Andaman Sea, home to numerous offshore islands and an amazing underwater world. Snuggled into one of the southernmost provinces of Thailand and surrounded by the sparkling turquoise- colored Andaman sea is Phuket, Thailand’s biggest island.  Also known as ‘the pearl of the Andaman’, this beautiful island has it all; nightlife, shopping and fabulous food (particularly seafood), but it’s the stunning coastline on Phuket and the surrounding islands that make this the premier beach destination in Thailand and indeed the world.

The irresistible appeal of Northern Thailand includes its fantastic climate, lush and mountainous scenery, intricate handicrafts, wonderful cuisine and rich spiritual culture. Perched amidst the mountains is the little, peaceful province of Nan, where culture fuses with nature to fascinating effect and where the adventurous can ride the rapids.

Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second biggest city, nestled near the cool confines of the highest mountains in the country, provides a plentitude of cultural and natural sightseeing opportunities; from the moat-encircled medieval Old Quarter with its temples, and wandering monks to Doi Suthep, one of the country’s most sacred temples and Thailand’s highest peak at Doi Inthanon National Peak, where trekking trails, jungle and waterfalls abound. Located on the northernmost tip of Thailand and at the heart of the famous Golden Triangle is the tropical wilderness of Chiang Rai; revered for its scenic views, spectacular temples, exotic hill tribes and exhilarating elephant riding tours.

A valid passport with at least six months validity prior to the expired date is required for entry into Thailand. Visas for Thailand are not required by all nationals referred to in the chart below for tourist stays of up to 30 days if entering via an international airport. If entering by land, you will usually be granted a stay of 15 days (apart from nationals of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the USA, who will be granted a 30-day stay). All visitors must hold valid passports, sufficient funds and confirmed airline tickets to leave Thailand within the time allowed by their entry stamp.

Countries Free visa 14 day by land / 30 days by air Free visa 30 day by land / 30 days by air
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil*, Bahrain, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Korea*, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Peru*, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. YES NO
UK, US, Japan, Germany, France, Canada or Italy YES YES

Exceptions to the visa requirements are:

  1. Nationals of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Romania who may apply for visas on arrival for stays of up to 15 days.
  2. Nationals of Croatia, who must apply for a visa in advance from the embassy.

Nationals of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK are also eligible to apply for an ACMECS visa, which is a 90-day joint visa allowing entry to Thailand and Cambodia. It’s only really worth obtaining this visa if you’re planning on spending more than 30 days in Thailand however.

Nationals not referred to in the chart are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements.

The Baht is the currency unit of Thailand and is presently available in distributions of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000, Baht banknotes. Coins are in denominations of ฿1, 2, 5 and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 satang. Baht (THB; symbol ฿) = 100 satang. US dollars and Euros are also accepted in many places and are certainly more convenient to carry than great wads of the local currency. Banks, hotels, and jewelry shops all offer currency exchange. However, the government of Thailand encourages the use of local money.

Banks are open Monday to Friday from 08:30 to 15:30. ATMs are found in all major cities and almost all provincial banks. American Express, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted. ATMs are found in all major cities and almost all provincial banks. Most ATMs have an English language version. Ask your tour guide for help when you need to locate an ATM.

Travelers’ cheques are accepted by all banks and large hotels and shops. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveler’s cheques in US Dollars, Euros or Pounds Sterling.

For everyday expenses, we recommend carrying a mix of US dollars and Baht. For larger items or when the exchange rate works in your favour, use US dollars. For tuk tuks, local food stalls and small purchases, it’s best to use Baht. Make sure you always have a stock of small notes so that you don’t have to worry about change especially in the countryside.

Hoi An Express employs arguably the best Tour Guides in Thailand and we specialise in arranging tours with a private driver and tour guide.  If you require private transportation only, without a Tour Guide, we can also provide this, however please bear in mind that a Thai Driver is unlikely to speak much English. Similarly, if you wish to hire one of our Tour Guides, but arrange your own transport, this is possible.

If arranging your own transport, for in-town transportation, 3-4 seater tuk tuks (motorcycle-pulled carts) are the most popular options with larger sangthaews available to carry up to 12 people.  Thailand towns are small enough to be toured by bicycle and most hotels and guesthouses have them for rent at reasonable rates.

Thai food is internationally famous for its fabulous flavor; whether chili-hot or mild but flavorful, harmony is the guiding principle behind each dish and flavors of sweet, sour, fragrant and spicy are expertly combined. A marriage of both Eastern and Western influence are what give Thai cuisine its unique flavor; from the Buddhist method of avoiding large chunks of meat in favor of using shredded meat morsels infused with herbs and spices; to the 17th century culinary influence of the Portuguese who introduced chilies to Thailand; and the Chinese influence of frying, stir frying and deep-frying.

The most popular dishes include world-famous Thai Green Curry-meat, fish or vegetables cooked in coconut milk and infused with a fragrant paste of lemongrass, galangal, garlic, Thai basil and of course (green) chili; and street-food favorite-Pad Thai; a mild noodle dish consisting of wide rice noodles stir-fried with tangy tamarind, fish sauce, palm sugar, tofu, eggs, dried shrimp, garlic chives and beansprouts, dried red chili pepper and served with chopped roasted peanuts and lime wedges.

Thai people have a sweet-tooth and love to snack; street-food favorites include Mango with sticky rice (fresh mango slices with coconut milk-infused rice) and fresh-fruit smoothies.

Thailand has a monsoon climate featuring a dry and a wet season. The dry season lasts from November to May with the cooler period in December and January. At its coldest, temperatures fall to as low as 15ºC. It is coldest at night, in the early mornings and at higher altitudes. During the hot period of the dry season, between March and May, temperatures can reach the high 30’s ºC.  Rainfall in the wet season varies according to altitude; generally speaking, the monsoon season produces severe rain that lasts for short periods of time. The wet months vary according to location. Thailand is sunny year-round and we highly recommend bringing sun protection from your home country.  Wearing sun screen and a hat are the best ways to avoid heatstroke and sunburn.  The coolest part of the dry season from November to February is probably the best time to visit Thailand.

Date Public Holidays & Special Events
1st January International New Year´s Day (Public Holiday)
10th January Children’s Day: Children’s day is celebrated on the second Saturday of January. On this special day many events are held for children, and parents take their children out, for instance to amusement parks.
February Chinese New Year: Around 10% of Thai people are of Chinese descent, and the Chinese New Year is a big event. If you are in Bangkok, dress in red and join the celebrations in Chinatown!
4th March Makha Bucha: It commemorates the day when 1250 disciples gathered without prior notice and listened to Buddha elaborate some of his most important teachings in a sermon. Thai people usually go to the temple from early morning, participate in ceremonies, and at night they walk three times around the temple with candles. (Public Holiday)
6th April Chakri Day: It commemorates the founding of the Chakri Dynasty, of which the present ruling monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is the ninth king (Rama IX). (Public Holiday)
 13-15 April Songran Festival: Thai’s traditional New Year, and the most important holiday of the year. Water is sprayed on statues of Buddha as a means of purification. If you are in Thailand, prepare yourself to get wet too, as Thai people also splash water on each other! (Public Holiday)
1st May Labor Day: Celebrates the international labor movement (Public Holiday)
5th May Coronation Day: Commemorates the coronation of the ruling monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, on May 5, 1950. (Public Holiday)
1st June

 

Visakha Bucha: This day commemorates the birth, the enlightenment and the entry into the nirvana of Buddha. Temples throughout the country are crowded with people listening to sermons about Dharma (Buddha’s teaching) and in the evening there is a candlelit procession around the main building of the temple containing the Buddha statues (Public Holiday)
1st July Mid-year Holiday: Bank mid-year holiday. (Public Holiday)
30th July Asahara Bucha: Just before the Buddhist Lent day, Asahara Bucha commemorates the day Buddha preached his first sermon to his five first disciples. (Public Holiday).
12th August Queen’s birthday: The birthday of Queen Sirikit, who was born in 1932, is also celebrated as Mother’s Day. As the Queen was born on a Friday, and light blue is the color associated to Friday, people usually dress in light blue, to show their love and respect.
23rd October Chulalongkorn Day: Commemorates the day the King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) died, in 1910. Under his reign, Siam had become a semi-modern country, and had continued to escape colonial rule. Nowadays Rama V is worshipped as a semi-god, many people bringing offerings in front of his statues or portraits in the hope of having their prayers answered. (Public Holiday).
27th October Awk Phansa: The end of the Buddhist Lent. Monks are allowed to go out of temples, and people gather to bring them offerings of robes and food, in a ceremony called Thot Kathin, which lasts one month.
5th December King’s birthday: This is the birthday of Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great, “the beloved King and father of all Thai people”, and it is also Father’s Day (like the Queen’s birthday is also Mother’s Day). All Thailand is dressed in yellow on this special day, as the King was born on a Monday, the day of the week to which yellow is associated. Thai people often wears a yellow shirt on Mondays, throughout the year, or on every occasion where they want to show their love and respect of the King.
1oth December Constitution Day: This day commemorates the first constitution of Thailand, which came into effect in 1932. It marks the transformation of Thailand from an absolute monarchy to a consitutional monarchy. (Public Holiday).
25th December Christmas: Christmas is of course a Christian tradition and doesn’t belong to Thai culture. But Thai people love to offer gifts to each other, and Christmas, like elsewhere, has also become a commercial and marketing event. Not surprisingly, Christmas trees can be found in Bangkok’s shopping centers, rather than in people’s living rooms!

Visitors to Thailand often worry about contracting infectious diseases, but actually serious illnesses are rare.  Accidental injury such as traffic accidents are the most common life-threatening problems. However HAE greatly reduces this risk for guests on our tour by only using modern, safe, comfortable transportation and fully licensed drivers who drive sensibly and carefully.

Minor sickness and ailments such as travellers’ diarrhea, heat exhaustion, sunburn and fungal rashes are more common than major problems whilst traveling in Thailand. Fortunately, most minor common illnesses can either be prevented with common-sense behavior or be treated easily with a well-stocked traveler’s medical kit. If you are feeling sick whilst in Thailand, please let us know and we will do all we can to help get you better.

Please find advice below on what to do before and during your trip to Thailand to prevent and treat sickness. Please bear in mind that this advice is a general guide only and does not replace the advice of a doctor trained in travel medicine.

Before You Go

Pack medications in original, clearly labeled, containers. A signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medication, including generic names, is also recommended. If carrying syringes or needles, be sure to have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity.

If you do need to take any regular medication, bring double your needs in case of loss or theft. In Thailand it can be difficult to find some newer drugs, particularly the latest antidepressant drugs, blood-pressure medications and contraceptive pills.

Vaccinations

Yellow Fever is the only vaccination required by international regulations and is only required if you have visited a country in the yellow-fever zone within six days of entering Thailand.

It’s advisable to get any vaccines at least two weeks before departure, so it’s recommended to visit your doctor four to eight weeks before departure.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following vaccinations for travellers to Thailand:

Adult diphtheria and tetanus .

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Measles, mumps and rubella

Typhoid

Varicella

Personal medical kit

Minor sickness and ailments such as; travellers’ diarrhea, heat exhaustion, sunburn and fungal rashes, are more common than major problems whilst traveling in Thailand, and can often be self-treated by over-the-counter medicine.  Whilst you can buy over-the-counter medicine here (and we can help you with this), we recommend that you bring a personal medical kit with a few items from home.  Recommended items include;

  • Antibacterial cream
  • Antihistamine for allergies
  • Antiseptic for cuts and scrapes,
  • DEET-based insect repellent
  • Diarrhea ‘stopper’, e.g. loperamide
  • Rehydration solution (for diarrhea)
  • First-aid items, such as scissors, plasters (such as Band-Aids), bandages, gauze, safety pins and tweezers
  • Paracetamol
  • Steroid cream for allergic/itchy rashes, e.g. 1% hydrocortisone
  • Sunscreen

Taking precautions to prevent risk of sickness

Some of the most common travel ailments/sicknesses in Thailand can be prevented through taking precautions;

Travellers’ diarrhea

Often caused by consuming unclean food and water from local eateries; ways to avoid this include;

Food

  • only eating freshly-cooked food
  • only eating peeled fruit and cooked vegetables
  • avoiding shellfish and buffets
  • avoiding eating raw or undercooked fish
  • Avoiding uncooked Ъąh dàak (an unpasteurized fermented fish used as an accompaniment for many Lao foods) when travelling in rural Laos.
  • Choosing to eat in busy restaurants with a high turnover of customers

Water

  • Drink only bottled water, ice added to drinks in resorts and cities is usually safe, avoid it elsewhere

Never drink tap water Bottled water is generally safe, but do check the seal is intact at purchase.

Sunburn & Heat Exhaustion/Heatstroke

  • The sun is strong in Thailand, sunburn can even happen on a cloudy day
  • Always wear at least Factor 30 Sunscreen when you are outside
  • Wear a hat
  • Reapply sunscreen after swimming
  • Avoid being in direct sunlight between 10am and 3pm
  • Avoid strenuous activity outside between 10am and 3pm
  • Keep well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water

Mosquito bites

Mosquito bites are a common ailment in Thailand, whilst not usually a serious problem, there is a slight risk of contracting Dengue and Malaria.

Dengue: The fatality rate for Dengue is less than 0.3%, symptoms include high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes and body ache (joints, muscles, bone).  See a doctor immediately if you have these symptoms. The treatment is to rest and take paracetamol, don’t take aspirin, it increases the risk of hemorrhaging.  There is no vaccine available, the mosquito that carries dengue can bite both day and night, therefore constant insect-protection is important.

Malaria: Most of Thailand has minimal, to no risk of malaria; however rural areas pose some risk.  The most serious symptom of malaria is fever; other general symptoms include headache, diarrhea, cough or chills.  Diagnosis is made via a blood sample.  There are various anti-malarial medications-seek the advice of your doctor before you travel about whether you need to take one.  Avoidance of mosquito bites is the best strategy for preventing the risk of contracting Dengue or Malaria.  The following precautions should be made;

Choose accommodation with air-conditioning, or fans and mosquito nets/window screens

  • Sleep under a mosquito net
  • Impregnate clothing with permethrin (insect repellent) in high-risk areas
  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET on all exposed areas of skin.  Citronella can be effective but must be applied more frequently
  • Wear long sleeves and trousers/pants
  • Use mosquito coils

Treatment of common health problems

Travellers’ diarrhea: The most common problem amongst visitors, this can simply be caused by the change of diet and will settle down after a few days; drink plenty of water, avoid dairy and taking rehydration solutions is recommended. Loperamide is just a temporary stopper and doesn’t deal with the cause of the problem, but does give some relief for long journeys.  80% of travellers’ diarrhea is a result of bacteria and is best treated by antibiotics which can easily be obtained via a visit to the doctor.

Heat exhaustion: Symptoms include; feeling weak, headache, irritability, nausea, sweaty skin, fast weak pulse.  Rest and cool down in a room with air-conditioning and rehydrate with water and rehydration solution or by adding a teaspoon of salt per liter of water.

Heatstroke: More serious than heat exhaustion, symptoms appear suddenly and include; nausea, weakness, confusion, temperature of over 41degrees and even collapse and loss of consciousness.  Rest in an air-conditioned room and seek medical help.

Availability & Cost of Healthcare:

Bangkok has some facilities for major medical emergencies. The state-run hospitals and clinics are among the most develop in Southeast Asia in terms of the standards, staff training, supplies and equipment.

For minor to moderate conditions, including malaria, Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital in Bangkok has a decent reputation. For any serious conditions, Thailand is the destination of choice. If a medical problem can wait until Bangkok, that’s better, as there are excellent hospitals there.

Buying medication over the counter has to be checked carefully because some medicines are out-of-date.

Emergency Phone Numbers

Police: 191

Tourist Police: 1155

Fire: 199

Ambulance: 1554

Thailand is generally a safe country; nevertheless and as a global rule, never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. Money or items going missing from hotel rooms is becoming more common, so don’t leave cash or other tempting belongings on show and always use a safety deposit box when available. When riding a bicycle or motorcycle, don’t place anything of value in the basket, as thieves on motorbikes may ride by and snatch a bag.

Bangkok has some places you should take an extra care of your belongings. Near Kao San Road, a lot of stealing has been observed.

During your time in Thailand, always keep a photocopy of your passport, airline tickets and credit card numbers. These copies should be kept in a safe place and separate from the originals. You should keep valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes wherever possible.

Thai, also known as Siamese or Central Thai, is the national and official language of Thailand and the native language of the Thai people and the vast majority of Thai Chinese. Thai is a member of the Tai group of the Tai–Kadai language family. Over half of the words in Thai are borrowed from Pali, Sanskrit and Old Khmer. It is a tonal and analytic language. Thai also has a complex orthography and relational markers. Spoken Thai is mutually intelligible with Lao; the two languages are written with slightly different scripts, but linguistically similar.

Thai Language Basics:

Hello  sa  wat  dee  kha

What is your name?  khoon  cheuu  a  rai ?

My name is…..  phohm  cheuu …….

Please  chuay

Thank you  khaawp  khoon  khrap

Yes  Khaa

No  Mai

Excuse me/I’m Sorry. (Begging Pardon khaaw tho:h

Goodbye sa  wat  dee

How much is this? Nee thao rai?

That’s too expensive  khaawng  phuaak  nee  phaaeng  geern  bpai

Internet Access

Free Wi-Fi is common nowadays and available in most hotels and cafes in the main tourist destinations around Thailand. Internet cafes are pretty common in most provincial capitals

Mobile Phones

Several local companies offer mobile phone services on the GSM and 3G systems. You can buy a local SIM card from almost anywhere. Calls are cheap and recharge cards are widely available. Network coverage varies depending on the company and the region

Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in Thailand. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped a small amount for their troubles.

Bargaining:

In common with its neighbors, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, bargaining is a big part of daily life in Thailand, and requires the right balance of humor, patience and tact. Although restaurants and some shops have fixed prices, generally merchandise rarely has a price tag. Prices, unless marked or for food in a market, should usually be negotiated. Generally speaking, Thai people, except for drivers of vehicles for hire and souvenir sellers are less likely to rip off tourists than the people of  Vietnam do.  They’ll start off by quoting a fairly realistic price and expect to come down only a little. Before you attempt to bargain, it’s a good idea try to find out the usual price, or before you buy, try a few different traders to compare prices.

When communicating or trying to purchase something, if things don’t work out the way you’d like, be careful not to raise your voice, show anger or lose your temper, this is a big insult in Thailand.

In some tourist sites you may encounter some insistent souvenir sellers, if you’re not interested, a polite but firm “No, thank you” usually will suffice.

Etiquette:

  • The head is considered high. It is not acceptable to touch Thai people’s heads, so bear that in mind
  • Feet are low. Placing them on furniture or pointing at things or people with your feet is not acceptable

Before entering a Thai person’s home, take your shoes off and leave them outside the house or on stairs

  • In Thai homes, if the host (especially elderly person) sits on the floor you should sit there as well, don’t sit anywhere higher if you want to be seen as a respectful person
  • It is embarrassing for Thai, who are very softly spoken, to come across people who speak loudly. It is also very frowned upon to get excited and worked up, for whatever reason
  • It’s very impolite to kiss in public; holding hands is tolerated, but it is preferable not to do so in public
  • Ask permission, before taking photos; Thai people normally laugh a lot and are often honored and proud to pose for photos, but it is rude to just snap away without permission

Clothing:

  • Dress neatly when visiting religious shrines or temples
  • It is okay to wear shoes if you just walk around a temple compound, but remember to remove them before entering the chapel.
  • At some temples, women in pants or short skirts are required to put on a skirt as another layer before entering the place. If this is required, skirts are usually provided or available for hire
  • Despite the heat, Thai dress conservatively. It’s advisable to dress neatly and moderately (don’t show too much skin) to avoid strange looks from the locals.
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