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What to expect
Thailand offers something for everyone, from beach breaks to adventurous treks and interactions with wildlife, to shopping and dining in buzzing Bangkok. Tourism is well developed in Thailand, but there may be some aspects of travel that are different to what you are used to.
Facilities and accommodation outside the major tourists centres may be more basic, and English less widely spoken. Regardless, Thai people are famed for their warm hospitality, and your interactions with people may be one of the highlights of your trip.
It is important to remain patient and courteous in all your interactions in Thailand, as there is a cultural importance placed on remaining calm and 'keeping face'.
approximately 12 hours
Banks, public offices and some tourist sites will be closed on the holidays listed below. As major holidays are set according to the lunar calendar, dates change every year. Please check with our UK-based Asia specialists for details.
1 January is New Year's Day
, a public holiday. While the international rather than Thai new year, it is nevertheless celebrated with food promotions and fireworks displays, such as those along the banks of the Chao Phraya River.
February (full moon, 3rd Thai lunar month) is Makha Bucha Day
, a Buddhist holiday commemorating Buddha's teaching of the Ovada Patimokkha.
6 April is Chakri Memorial Day
, commemorating the establishment of the Chakri Dynasty, the current ruling royal family.
13-17 April is Songkran
, the traditional Thai new year and the year's major holiday. Many Thais return to their family home during this period, and it is marked by celebrations and throwing water on the streets.
1 May is National Labor Day
, commemorating the contribution of workers to society.
5 May is Coronation Day
, marking the coronation of Thailand's current king, known as Rama IX, in 1946.
May (astrologically determined) is the Royal Ploughing Ceremony
, where the country's farmers are blessed.
May/June (full moon, 6th Thai lunar month) is Visakha Bucha Day
, a religious holiday commemorating the birth, enlightenment and passing of Buddha.
July/August (full moon, 8th Thai lunar month) is Asarlha Buch Day
, a religious holiday remembering Buddha's first discourse.
July/August (first waning moon, 8th Thai lunar month) is Vassa
, the start of Buddhist Lent.
12 August is National Mothers' Day
and a holiday celebrating the birthday of Queen Sirikit in 1932.
23 October is Chulalongkorn Memorial Day
, commemorating the passing of King Chulalongkorn in 1910.
5 December is Fathers' Day
and a holiday celebrating the current King's birthday (born in 1927).
10 December is Constitution Day
, marking the introduction of the first permanent constitution in 1932.
31 December is New Year's Eve
, which is celebrated in Thailand as it is in much of the world.
Health & Fitness
Travellers to Thailand should take precautions as they would elsewhere in Asia. Thailand offers some of the best health care in the region. International-standard medical facilities are available in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket, however elsewhere facilities can be basic.
Some of the diseases known to exist in Thailand include hepatitis A and B, dengue fever, malaria, tetanus, diphtheria and HIV/AIDS. We recommend you take adequate preventative measures to minimise your risk of exposure to these health risks. We strongly recommend you consult your preferred doctor for the most up-to-date health advice at least one month prior to travel.
Citizens of the United Kingdom are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival in Thailand, for stays of up to 30 days.
As with most destinations, to enter Thailand you will require a passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of your departure from Thailand. Tourist visas for stays of thirty days or less are issued upon arrival by air, but please note that you must carry proof of your onward travel arrangements, confirming that you will depart Thailand within 30 days, to present at immigration upon request.
Those travellers planning to enter Thailand via an overland border crossing will only be given a 15 day tourist visa. If you wish to stay longer than this you must apply for a tourist visa before you arrive in Thailand or leave and re-enter Thailand before the end of the 15 days.
Safety and security
Thailand is relatively safe by world standards though the usual common sense precautions apply. Petty theft can be a problem in tourist centres so we recommend you wear as little jewellery as possible and keep your spending money close to your body in a secure place when out on the street.
We advise you take taxis rather than tuk-tuks at night. Taxis are metered and inexpensive. To assist in finding your way back to your hotel, make sure you obtain a hotel address card to show taxi drivers. Throughout your stay, always keep a photocopy of your passport, airline tickets and credit card numbers.
These documents should be kept in a safe place separate from the originals. You should leave valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes wherever possible. Be wary of strangers offering you drinks and sweets and remember that Thailand has some very strict laws relating to drug use. Read oursafety guidelines for further information.
‘Gentlemen of the Parlour’ by Somerset Maugham
is an interesting account of the author's travels on foot and elephant-back through parts of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. It provides an idea of how much the Thailand and Indochina area has changed over the past century.
‘Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind’ by Carol Hollinger
is a delightful read by an American woman who made Thailand her home and worked as a frustrated English teacher at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.
‘Travels in Siam, Cambodia, Laos and Annam’, by Henri Mouhot
. Written in 1860, this is an intriguing account of travels through Indochina and Thailand by the Frenchman who rediscovered Angkor in Cambodia. It reveals lots of interesting information on the Thailand of yesteryear.
‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ by Pierre Boulle
is a fictional account based on historical fact, focusing on the construction of the Burma Railway in Kanchanaburi by prisoners of war during World War Two.
‘Letters from Thailand’, translated by Susan Fulop Kepner
is an English translation of a Thai book telling the story of a Chinese migrant to urban Thailand, post World War Two. It reveals how he found adapating to his new surrounds and culture.
‘Thailand: A Short History’ by Joseph Wright Jr
is a readable guide to the history of the ‘land of smiles’.
Useful words & phrases
Hello (or hi)
Sa wat dee
How are you?
Khun sabai dee mai
I'm fine, thank you
Chan sabai dee
What is your name?
Khun chue are rai
My name is…
How old are you?
Khun are you thao rai
I am …years old
Chan are you ... Pee
How much is ...?
Ra ca thao rai
It's too expensive!
Mun Phaeng mak
Excuse me /I'm sony
Khor tod/ chan sia jai
Mai jam phen
Arrival and departure transfers
Road travel in Thailand with Travel Indochina is generally in comfortable, air-conditioned minibuses. For groups of 6 or more, you will travel in 25-40 seat Toyota Coaster or Hyundai. Most domestic flights within Thailand are on modern Airbus, Boeing or ATR-72 planes.
Schedules can sometimes change and may alter travel plans. Tuk-tuks can be used for short trips in the towns and cities and are generally safe, though taxis are recommended as they are metered, safer and more comfortable.
You may also encounter boat journeys, and can traverse Thailand by train using its extensive rail network. Overnight train journeys are in comfortable, modern sleeper carriages.
Internet access is widely available throughout Thailand, and is generally very affordable. Internet is offered in most hotels, though sometimes for a fee. You may encounter free Wi-Fi in some cafes, restaurants and other public places in larger towns and cities.
Internet cafes are also widely available. International phone and fax charges are reasonable, and cheapest when made at a post office or using a prepaid card at a Lenso payphone. Reverse charge phone calls can be made for a minimal fee.
Mobile phones can be used in Thailand, though you will need to arrange roaming with your service provider beforehand. International post takes around 7-10 days to reach its destination, and rates are slightly cheaper than in Western countries.
Food & drink
Thai cuisine is exotic, spicy and very flavoursome. Fresh local herbs and spices such as lemongrass, chilli, ginger and galangal are used, along with lime, tamarind and coconut milk. Curries, spicy salads, grilled meats, noodles and soups feature heavily, and rice is a staple. In the north, sticky rice is consumed.
Fantastic seafood is incorporated into many dishes, and there are regional variations found throughout the country. In the south, try a massaman curry, or in the north, try the noodle dish khao soy or some fragrant Chiang Mai sausage. The cuisine of Isaan province is spicy and tasty, with similarities to Lao cuisine.
Vegetarians are catered for with vegetarian curries, noodle and rice based dishes and an abundance of fresh, tropical fruits. Tap water should not be consumed in Thailand, though bottled water is readily available and provided for free in many hotel rooms.
We believe tipping is a great way to show your appreciation for receiving great service, and while it is accepted practice in Asia, it should never feel like an obligation. At the beginning of each trip, your Western tour leader or local guide will ask for a small sum (around 50 cents a day) to cover tips for hotel porters and boat crews throughout the trip.
This helps prevent over tipping and having to always carry small change. We are confident that you will be extremely happy with the service you receive from our guides, drivers and tour leaders, and in many cases will choose to show this through a tip, so we do not include compulsory tipping for any Travel Indochina representatives on any of our trips. The choice to tip is always completely up to you.
There are ample opportunities for swimming in Thailand, with many of the world's most idyllic stretches of white sand beaches surrounding its islands and lining its coastline.
Despite most beaches having calm and inviting water, it is important to remain vigilant about personal safety and to keep an eye on any children travelling with you, as beaches are generally unpatrolled by lifeguards.
Rips, currents and other obstacles may still be present underneath the water's surface. Many hotels and resorts in Thailand feature swimming pools, and there may also be opportunities to swim in waterfalls.
Thailand's well-developed tourism infrastructure means that there are now a number of community run and eco tourism projects on offer, particularly in the northern regions around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
Two of our favourite places to stay are Lisu Lodge and Lanna Farm, both simple but comfortable lodges which incorporate the local style aesthetic while offering direct training and employment to local hilltribe villagers. Learn more about our focus on responsible travel.