Officially known as the Kingdom of Thailand, the country is a constitutional monarchy with a prime minister as head of the government and a king as Head of State and the Armed Forces. The monarchy is an integral part of Thai society and the royal family is earnestly protected and respected. With over 64 million people, Thailand is a newly industrialized country and a major exporter of thai rice, textiles, footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewelry, computers and electrical appliances. Rice is the most important crop in the country and Thailand is the world’s largest rice producer with over 6.5 million tons of milled rice exported annually.
Bangkok is Thailand’s capital and the largest city in Thailand. It is the seat of all branches of the national government and the home of the Grand Palace and Chitralada Villa, the two residences of the king. Most international flights arrive and depart from Bangkok. The new Suvarnabhumi Airport was opened in September of 2006 and replaced the former airport at Don Muang for all international flights.
The best time to travel to Thailand is between November and March when it is not too hot or wet. This is also Thailand’s main season for festivals and the main tourist season. Check the area that you plan to visit for more specific information on temperatures and rainfall which will vary dramatically from region to region.
Before You Leave
Passports and Required Travel Documents
As a US citizen, you will need a valid passport and a return or continuing airline ticket to enter Thailand. If you already have a valid passport, check that your passport will not expire for at least six months from your return date. If you need a passport visit the State Department’s website to find out how to apply for either your first passport or to renew a previous passport. There are also several private companies that can assist you with obtaining your passport. We suggest checking with: http://www.passportsandvisas.com or http://visacentral.com if you need help or are short on time.
A visa is not required if you are staying less than 30 days and are arriving by air. If you arrive by land you are only allowed a 15 day stay without a visa. Once you enter the country, your passport will be stamped with the expiration date of your stay. You must leave Thailand by the date stamped in your passport or be prepared for daily fines. Check that your passport is stamped with the correct expiration date of your stay. Trying to get this fixed later has been costly and time consuming. You will be charged a Passenger Service Charge payable in Thai currency (baht) when you leave Thailand.
Health Concerns and Vaccinations
Any international traveller should be up-to-date with all routine vaccinations such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT), and influenza (Flu). Travellers to Thailand should also receive vaccinations against typhoid and hepatitis A and B. If you will be staying in Thailand for over a month or will be visiting rural areas outside of the city centers, check with your doctor regarding the recommended Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine and anti-Malaria drugs. Check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for information on these vaccinations and current precautions or updates.
Pack all necessary medications in their original containers and bring a letter from your doctor describing any serious medical conditions if you have any concerns. A small first aid kit with bandages, antibacterial cream, a pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, a sunscreen, mosquito repellent and an anti diarrhea medication is also useful. Make sure you get your teeth checked before you travel, and if you wear glasses take a spare pair and your prescription.
Because of the humidity of Thailand, take precautions to avoid dehydration and drink plenty of sealed, bottled water. Be sure to ask and never assume the tap water is safe without boiling first. Use bottled water to brush your teeth, especially the first few days as your body acclimates to a new diet and a new environment. Be sure to use a mosquito repellent with DEET at least twice a day as dengue fever and malaria can be present.
Statistically, the most serious safety concern for tourists in Thailand are motorcycles. Over 12,000 people are killed each year on a motorcycle. While they present a cheap and easy mode of transportation, they are also the most dangerous and have been responsible for the most injuries. If you must use a motorcycle, insist on wearing a helmet.
When checking flights to compare travel prices and itineraries we suggest checking:
www.cheaptickets.com , www.travelocity.com or www.expedia.com for airfare and hotel bookings. They often have the best prices for flights and flight hotel packages.
You may also want to look into trip cancellation insurance. Check out travel insurance at squaremouth.com where you can compare hundreds of travel insurance products. Oftentimes getting a combination of trip cancellation, medical, and medical evacuation insurances is the best value for your money.
Thailand does recognize a valid International Drivers License but not a foreign drivers license. To apply for an international license you must visit the US Embassy in Bangkok. Please check their website at: http://bangkok.usembassy.gov/driving_in_thailand.html for more specific information regarding driving in Thailand.
These travel guides should also help you with any questions you may have about getting around in Thailand:
www.lonelyplanet.com www.fodor’s.com www.frommer’s.com
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
This program is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. This program allows the Department of State to better assist you in case of an emergency. Your itinerary is submitted and you can also receive updates on Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts and other information for a particular country.
You can enroll in the Smart Traveler Program by clicking here: Smart Traveler Program
Electricity in Thailand
Thailand uses 220V, 50HZ, AC so you will need voltage converters and plug adapters for any electronics you plan to take with you. If you’re bringing a laptop or tablet with you, don’t forget a surge protector too. Check out these sites for more information on voltage converters, plug adapters and surge protectors.
www.walkabouttravelgear.com www.radioshack.com www.amazon.com
Common Wall Sockets in Thailand:
LANI- INSERT PHOTO OF WALL SOCKETS PLEASE!
LANI – INSERT THAI MONEY PHOTO HERE
The basic unit of Thai currency is the baht. There are 100 satang in one baht. Coins include 25-satang and 50-satang pieces and baht in 1B, 2B, 5B and 10B coins. Older coins have Thai numerals only, while newer coins have Thai and Arabic numerals. The 2B coin was introduced in 2007 and is confusingly similar in size and design to the 1B coin.Paper currency is issued in20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 denominations. The 10B note was phased out in 1990, but there are still a few in circulation. The most commonly used coin in Thailand is the 10 baht and the most popular note used is the 100 baht. The current exchange rate from US dollars to Thai baht (THB) can be found at: www.oanda.com. Current exchange rates are also printed in the Bangkok Post and the Nation newspaper and any Thai bank can also give you the current daily exchange rate.
Changing cash in Thailand is easy and less expensive than trying to change US dollars to Thai baht in the United States. Forex (Foreign Exchange) booths are common and their daily exchange rates are always posted. Cash exchanges in Thailand are also not subject to commissions or extra fees.
Travelers Checks are usually only accepted at dedicated foreign exchange shops or banks. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are common throughout Thailand and most will accept major international banking networks such as Plus and Cirrus. Major credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, JCB and American Express are accepted at most hotels, airlines, restaurants and larger department stores. To prevent your credit card from being declined, be sure to let your credit card company know you will be travelling abroad prior to leaving the US.
Thailand is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. There is no daylight savings time in Thailand, and the local Thai time is known as ICT time or Indonesia Time.
Is it Safe?
When traveling in Thailand, you should exercise caution especially in crowded areas and during demonstrations. Avoid political rallies and large crowds that could turn angry or violent quickly. Thailand has experienced political unrest and travelers need to stay alert and aware of any local disturbances. Check the US Embassy website and the Bureau of Consular Affairs website for current travel warnings and alerts covering the areas you plan to visit.
If you need assistance, the local equivalents to the “911” line in Thailand are 191 for police, 199 for medical or fire. 999 connects to all emergency services.
Always take extra precautions while travelling, such as:
- Keep your passport and cash in a concealed travel wallet. Some examples of travel wallets can be found at http://amazon.com
- Keep your valuables in the hotel safe.
- Use your common sense. Stick to well traveled roads and don’t walk down dark alleys.
- Avoid traveling alone or walking alone at night or in isolated areas
- Never flash a lot of cash, jewelry or expensive camera equipment
Check the “Threats to Safety and Securitiy” page on the US State Department’s website by clicking here: US State Department. You will find other valuable country specific information on this website under “International Travel.”
While you are traveling in Thailand , you are subject to the laws of Thailand even if you are a U.S. citizen. If you are arrested, contact the US Embassy immediately.
Cell phones in China
Most of the cell phones used in the US will not work in Thailand until they are unlocked. Check with your cell phone company prior to leaving for Thailand. International roaming charges can be extremely expensive and you should consider other options if you will be using a cell phone regularly in Thailand.
You can also buy a cell phone in Thailand for $50.00 or less from any 7-11 or phone store. Once you purchase a phone, you will need a SIM card and a prepaid phone card. When you purchase a SIM card be sure to purchase a prepaid phone card from the same company. SIM cards are usually very cheap ($5 to $10USD) and prepaid phone cards are also very affordable.
One service you can check for renting or purchasing a worldwide cellphone is www.Mobal.com.
Availability of Healthcare:
Medical facilities and healthcare in Thailand are usually adequate in the city centers. Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya all have good facilities for routine, emergency or long-term health care.
Rural areas provide basic medical care but English-speaking doctors are rare. If you take any type of prescription medication or supplements, bring you own supply in the original container, including each drug’s generic name and carry the doctor’s prescription with you. Many commonly known drugs, vitamins or supplements from the US are not available in Thailand or do not have the same ingredients or potency. Many Thai pharmacies do not require a prescription and medications are not monitored the same as in the US.
Emergency transportation (ambulance) is not common in Thailand. You will rarely see an ambulance in Bangkok. Volunteer organizations are normally the respondents to traffic accidents. Heavy, congested traffic is a huge obstacle for emergency care and you should not assume you will be transported easily or quickly.
Do not assume your health insurance will go with you when you travel. It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
- Does my policy apply when I’m out of the United States?
- Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation?
Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy does not cover you while you are on your trip, it may be a good idea to take out another health insurance policy that will cover you while you are away. For more information, please see the list of Medical Insurance Companies on the US Department of State website at:
For information on traveler’s insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, we suggest: http://www.squaremouth.com
For information on medical transfers and evacuations, visit: http://medjetassist.com
US Embassy and Consulate in Thailand
U.S. Embassy in Bangkok
95 Wireless Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Call Center Service: 001-800-13-202-2457
U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai
387 Witchayanond Road, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand
Call Center Service: 001-800-13-202-2457
American Citizen Services, U.S. Embassy Bangkok
95 Wireless Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Hours of Operations: Monday – Friday,7:30 am – 11:00 am
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm, excluding official holidays.
American Citizen Services, U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai
387 Witchayanond Road, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand