Situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, the Kingdom of Thailand is a natural gateway to Indochina, Myanmar and South China. The country consists of 76 administrative provinces or changwat each of which is divided into districts or amphoe, sub-districts or tambon and villages or mu ban. Bangkok is the capital city and center of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities. It is also the seat of Thailand’s revered Royal Family. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, or King Rama IX, the ninth king of the Chakri Dynasty. The national flag is in horizontal red, white, and blue stripes symbolizing the nation, Buddhism, and the monarchy.
The people of Thailand are 80% Thai, 10% Chinese, 3% Malay. The remainder are ethnic communities such as Mon, Khmer and several small hill tribes. Buddhism is by far the most important religion with 95% of the population. Four per cent of Thais are Muslim with one percent Christian and other faiths.
Spoken and written Thai is largely incomprehensible to the casual visitor, English is widely understood, especially in Bangkok where it is probably the major commercial language. English and some European languages are spoken in most hotels, shops and restaurants in major tourist destinations, and road and street signs are in both Thai and English throughout the country.
Thailand enjoys a tropical climate with three distinct seasons:
- Summer: from March to May brings hot and dry weather throughout Thailand with temperatures averaging 28 degree Celsius to 33 degree Celsius and 75% humidity.
- Rainy: from May to September is perhaps the driest monsoon period of any country in Southeast Asia with plenty of sunshine and temperatures averaging 27 degree Celsius to 30 degree Celsius and 87% humidity.
- Cool: from November to February is mild and very sunny with temperatures averaging 24 degree Celsius to 27 degree Celsius with a drop in humidity.
The average annual temperature in Thailand is 28 degree Celsius (82.4 degree Fahrenheit)
Time in the Kingdom of Thailand is seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+7)
The Thai unit of currency is the baht, divided into 100 satangs. Notes are in denominations of 1,000 (grey), 500 (purple), 100 (red), 50 (blue), 20 (green) and 10 (brown) baht. There are also coins of 25 satang, 50 satang, 1 baht, 5 baht and 10 baht. For current exchange rate, please visit www.bot.or.th
The electric current is 220 volts AC (50 cycles) throughout the country. Many different types of plugs and sockets are in use, and travelers with electric shavers, hair dryers, tape recorders and other appliances should carry a plug adapter kit. The better hotels will provide 110-volt transformers.
Tap water is clean, but drinking it directly is not advisable. Bottled water is recommended.
Weights & Measures
The metric system is used throughout Thailand, and numerals on speedometers, highway markers and speed limits are all in kilometers.
Light, cool clothing advisable and a jacket may be needed for formal meetings and dining in top restaurants. Shorts (except knee length walking shorts), sleeveless shirts, tank tops and other beach-style attire are considered inappropriate dress when not actually at the beach or in a resort area.
Most commercial concerns in Bangkok work a five-day week, usually from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Government offices are generally open between 8.30 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. with a noon to 1 p.m. lunch break, Monday to Friday except on public holidays. Banks are open Mondays to Fridays from 9.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. except on public holidays. Many stores are open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Thailand’s mail service is reliable and efficient. Major hotels provide basic postal services on their premises. Provincial post offices are usually open from 8 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
At present, home telephone numbers for local calls and long distance calls within the country have nine digits while mobile phone numbers have 10 digits. Bangkok calls are prefaced by the numbers 02.
For provincial calls, an area code is added to the existing numbers. For example, area code for Chiang Mai is 053 followed by the number. The area code for Phuket is 076 followed by the number.
The international dialing code for Thailand is 66. When making international calls to Thailand, add 66 and omit the leading 0. When making international calls from Thailand, first dial 001 then the country code, area code and the telephone number.
- For calls to Laos or Malaysia there is a special code which is charged at a semi-domestic rate.
- When calling Laos, first dial 007+856+area code + telephone number.
- When calling Malaysia, first dial 09+06+area code + telephone number.
- For direct assistance, call 1133 for local numbers, 100 for overseas.
Mobile phone numbers begin with 01, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08 and 09. With the new 10-digit system, users of all mobile phone systems must now dial the prefix 08, followed with the existing numbers. For example: the number 01 123 4567 changes to 081 123 4567 and 09 123 4567 changes to 089 123 4567.
A Subscriber Identity Module Card (SIM Card) is available for Thai and foreign customers whose work requires travel. The SIM Card must be used in conjunction with a Digital GSM mobile phone within the 900-MHz range or a Digital PCN mobile phone within the 1800-MHz range.
Emergency Telephone Numbers
- Central Emergency (Police, Ambulance, Fire): 191
- Highway Patrol 1193
- Crime Suppression 195 or 0 2513 3844
- Tourist Police (English, French and German spoken) 1155
- Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Call Centre 1672
- Immigration Bureau 0 2287 3101-10
Fax and E-Mail
All of Thailand’s leading hotels offer fax and e-mail services. Numerous private businesses also offer these facilities, most often in conjunction with translation services.
Thailand has been expanding its information service for residents and tourists alike through the Internet system. Services are now available at Thailand’s leading hotels and at the many cyber-cafes that have opened up in all major tourist destinations.
Tipping is not standard practice in Thailand, although it is becoming so. Most larger hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge to the bill. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip, but the gesture is always appreciated. A tip of 20-50 baht is acceptable for porters.
- Bargaining: Fixed prices are the norm in department stores, but at most other places bargaining is to be expected. Usually you can obtain a final price of between 10-40% lower than the asking price. Much depends on your skill and the shopkeeper’s mood, but remember that Thais appreciate a sense of humor. With patience and a smile, you will not only get a better price, but you will also enjoy making a purchase. Providing you have the time, it is best to shop around at different places selling the kind of items you want before making a final decision.
- Gems & Jewelry: Remember there is no such thing as a bargain when buying gems or jewelry, there is only good value. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Choose jewelry stores carefully and do compare prices from shop to shop.
- Touts: Avoid touts or unsolicited new-found friends who offer to take you shopping. Stores give commissions to such people and the cost is reflected in the price you pay.
- Receipts: When purchasing gems, jewelry or other luxury items, obtain a receipt and check it is correct before leaving the shop.
Visitors entering the Kingdom on tourist visas are entitled to refunds of the 7% value-added tax (VAT) paid on goods purchased at shops and department stores displaying a VAT Refund for Tourists sign. The refund may be claimed on purchases amounting to 5,000 baht or more. Tourists will receive a form P.P.10 when purchases of 2,000 baht or more are made at the same store on the same day.
Before checking in at an international airport (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Phuket, U-Taphao), visitors must show their purchases, with the completed P.P.10 form and tax invoices to the Customs officer for inspection. Refunds may be in the form of a bank draft or credited to a credit card.
Two of the VAT Refund Offices at Suvarnabhumi Airport are located on concourse D, Gate D1-D4 and D5-D8, 4th Floor. The Customs Office is at the Passenger Terminal, 4th Floor, behind check-in counter, Row H near Gate 4th.
For more information, contact the VAT Refund for Tourists Office, Tel: 0 2272 9388, 0 2272 8195-8 or visit www.rd.go.th/vrt/engindex.html
Traveler’s Check & Credit Cards
Traveler’s checks in US dollars can be cashed at provincial banks and authorized money changers, but the best rates can be obtained in Bangkok. Hotel rates are usually lower than those offered by banks and authorized money changers.
Major credit cards (American Express, Diners Club, JCB, Master Card and VISA) are accepted at all major banks, restaurants, hotels and shops.
Thai and foreign banks provide a standard service nationwide. Opening hours are from 9.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on bank holidays and public holidays. The currency exchange service of major banks such as Bangkok Bank, Kasikorn, Krungthai and Siam Commercial operate every day including holidays.
Many first-class hotels provide 24-hour money exchange services, but only for major currencies such as US dollar, pound sterling, German marks and Swiss francs. Traveler’s checks are generally accepted at all hotels.
Source. Tourism Authority of Thailand