Get to know Thailand
Thailand has a land area of 513,115 sq.km. (approx. 127,008 acres) bordered by Malaysia (South), Myanmar (West & North), Laos (North & East) and Cambodia (Southeast). The country's east coast borders the Gulf of Thailand and the west coast abuts the Andaman Sea. The country is divided geographically into four main zones - the fertile central plains, dominated by the Chao Phraya River; the 300-metre-high northeast plateau, the kingdom's most barren region; the mountainous North; and the tropical southern peninsula.
The temperature varies from 38°C to 19°C with the annual average at about 29°C. The humidity is from 66% to 82.8%.
There are three seasons in Northern, Northeastern and Central Thailand - hot (March to May), rainy (June to October), and cool (November to February). And there are two seasons in the South - rainy (April to November) and hot (December to March).
In the North and the Northeast in winter, the temperatures are much lower during night time, especially on the mountains, with temperatures lower than 10°C.
GMT + 7 hours.
Thai is the national language. English is widely understood in Bangkok and big cities.
Buddhists 95%, Muslims 4%, Christians 0.5%, and others 0.5%
Telephone Country Code
Thai telephone country code is +66.
- Government offices: open from Monday to Friday, from 08.30 to 16.30 hours.
- Banking: most banks are open from Monday to Friday, from 08.30 to 15.30 hours. Some bank branches, particularly in shopping malls, are open on weekends. Currency exchange booths in Bangkok and other tourist destinations are open on weekends and until evenings.
- Clinics or Doctor’s surgeries: major hospitals in Bangkok have 24- hour emergency rooms, but typical doctor appointments should be scheduled between 08.00 am and 18.00 hours, Monday – Friday. Some larger hospitals offer off-hours and weekend services. If you have a medical emergency, you should go to the accident and emergency department of the nearest hospital. Emergency services can be reached by dialing 191 on any phone and are generally available 24 hours.
- Museums and Galleries: Thai museums and galleries are open daily from 09.00 to 16.00 hours. Time may vary and some museums and galleries may be closed one day a week and/or on public holidays.
- Shops and Department Stores: most shops are open seven days a week from 10.00 to 22.00 hours. The convenience stores may be open earlier and remain open until after midnight. Thai markets are open various hours depending on products they sell, with markets selling fresh food products from 06.00 hours until around 20.00 hours, while night markets are typically open around sunset and remain open until 22.00 hours or occasionally midnight. Convenience stores e.g. 7-11, Family Mart etc., located throughout Thailand are generally open 24 hours.
- Post offices: Thailand postal service is reliable and efficient. Thailand post offices are open from Monday to Friday from 08.00 to 16.30 hours and Saturday from 09.00 hours until noon. All Thai post offices are closed on public holidays, though most major hotels can arrange to mail letters and parcels on your behalf.
- Restaurants: restaurant operating hours are highly variable and, street side restaurants frequently stay well past midnight. Restaurants have typically later closing hours in Bangkok and tourist destinations than in rural provinces.
- BTS Skytrain: BTS skytrain runs daily between 06.00 hours to midnight with frequent service throughout the day, increased during rush hours.
- MRT Subway: MRT underground operates from 6.00 hours to midnight daily. The frequency is less than 5 minutes during the peak hours 06.00 to 09.00 hours and 16.30 to 19.30 hours.
- Most business offices are open from 08.30 to 18.00 hours, from Monday to Friday. Some work on Saturdays.
Money and Financial Matters
- Thai currency is called the “Baht” or “Thai Baht”. The currency code for Baht is THB. There are several currency exchanges at Bangkok’s international airport, and around most major tourist areas.
- The currency exchange rate is 1 US Dollar, equal about 32 Thai Baht (THB) (as of March, 2018)
- You can check out http://finance.yahoo.com/currency-converter to get more information about Exchange Rate.
- There are 5 kinds of banknotes that are 1,000 Baht, 500 Baht, 100 Baht, 50 Baht and 20 Baht. Also, there are 6 kinds of coins that are 10 Baht, 5 Baht, 2 Baht, 1 Baht, 50 Satang and 25 Satang (1 Baht = 100 Satang).
- It may be best to not carry too much money into Thailand, or even carry on while traveling around within Thailand, because you can get Thai Baht from ATM machines using major credit cards, even in small towns around Thailand. Withdrawal fees are usually around 150 Baht per transaction, and you can withdraw up to 20,000 Baht from some ATMs, and more from others.
- Major credit cards — Visa, Mastercard and American Express — are accepted at most hotels and restaurants. Department stores and other large shops will also generally accept all cards. However, smaller merchants may not accept any cards, or add on the credit card processing fee (3% for Visa and Mastercard, 5% for American Express) to the price of items purchased.
The electric current in Thailand is 220 Volts (50 cycles/sec.) throughout the country. Better hotels will make available 110 Volt transformers. Power sockets in Thailand are both flat prongs and round prongs. Below you can find pictures of these power sockets and corresponding plugs.
Though tap water in Bangkok is technically safe to drink, the plumbing in certain buildings may make water inadvisable to ingest. Furthermore, travelers’ unaccustomed to otherwise harmless bacteria in the water could get upset stomachs from drinking ice that is technically ‘safe’ to consume. Bottled water in Thailand is recommended as it is cheap and ubiquitous and most ice is safe to consume as it is produced with potable water, with cube ice generally safer than crushed ice.
Getting to Thailand
Most people travel to Thailand by plane. Bangkok is a major air hub, with almost every international carrier landing at Bangkok’s international airports.
Suvarnabhumi International Airport
Around 50 million passengers travel through Suvarnabhumi Airport every year, and as well as being the international arrival point for Thailand, it is also a transfer airport for South East Asia. The airport is located 16 miles outside town, but it is easy to get to Bangkok city center, either via the airport link or taxi. Transit passengers will need to proceed to the airline checkpoints located on the same floor of Bangkok Airport. If you have many hours to spare until your next flight and would like to catch up on sleep, proceed to the fourth floor (do not pass through Immigration) and check yourself into the Louis Tavern Dayrooms located in Concourse G. Here, you will be charged the rate of 2,200-2,400 Baht every four hour (contact call center at +66 2132 1888). All departures at Bangkok Airport are handled at the airline check-in counters located on the 4th floor of the Departure Terminal. Domestic check-ins are from Rows B to C. Row A is dedicated to Thai Airways’ Royal First Class and Royal Silk passengers. For international departures, proceed to Rows D to W. Always be prepared to arrive at least two-and-a-half hours before international departures or 80 minutes before domestic departures.
Don Mueang International Airport
Don Mueang International Airport was reopened in October 2012 to take the pressure off Suvarnabhumi International Airport. It is now the main hub for budget and domestic flights. Although this 90-year-old airport might not be pretty, with recent renovations and less air traffic, travelling via Don Mueang is usually trouble-free.
From the Arrivals Hall on the second floor of Suvarnabhumi Airport and on the first floor of Don Mueang International Airport, you will find the designated taxi stands at Entry Gate 4. Simply queue up and tell your final destination to the booth officer, then a taxi driver will escort you to his vehicle. Please note that you need to pay the driver an extra 50 baht courtesy fee, on top of all toll way fees and the final taxi fare. Taken all these fees into account, it should cost you a total of 350-400 Baht for a 40-minute ride to downtown Bangkok. Service is available 24 hours.
From other areas, not the airport, the starting price is 35 Baht. At rush hours / heavy traffic, the taxi is not as a fast alternative as the Sky train or Metro but the price is relatively low and it might be nice to relax in the backseat of a cool, air conditioned cab after a day of intense shopping etc. The cars are painted in different color combinations but the prices are the same as long as the taximeter is turned on.
There are many public bus routes in Bangkok and the bus tickets are very cheap, but at rush hours a bus trip can be a rather time consuming and it is also easy to get confused by all different bus routes. To end up in the right bus, ask at a tourist information office, a travel agency or a Thai citizen waiting at the bus stop. Most often, they will do their best to help you.More information: http://www.bmta.co.th
By Motorcycle Taxi
The price for a trip on a motorbike taxi is very low (at least if you negotiate with the driver in advance) and it can be a fast alternative at peak hours if the driver master the art of slalom driving, between all cars and buses. Just be aware that motorcycle accidents aren’t extremely rare in this city and ensure that the driver lend you a helmet.
By Tuk-Tuk (Sam-Lor)
This three-wheeled taxi has definitely become an icon and symbol of Bangkok. The vehicle is not that environment friendly, but often a little faster than a taxicab at rush hours.
Try to bargain the price before taking a ride and watch out for drivers who offer you to go around the city for 10-30 baht for an hour. They will probably bring you to a tailor or a jewelry shop etc. The starting price for a ride is not often less than 30-40 Baht. The price for a 20-30 minute ride is normally 100-200 Baht.
By Sky Train – BTS (Rot-Fai-Fah)
BTS Skytrain, started its operation in December 1999, just in time for the millennium celebration. It has now two lines; the Sukhumvit Line and the Silom Line, with a total of 35 stations. The two lines crosses at Siam Station, which is the central station of the BTS Sky Train. The cars are air-conditioned and has both seats and standing areas. The price for a ticket starts at 15 Baht up to 42 Baht per journey.
Be sure that you keep your ticket until the destination station, otherwise you will have to pay an additional fee.More information: http://www.bts.co.th
By Bangkok Metro – MRT
The Bangkok underground started its operation at Songkran (the Thai traditional New Year) in April, 2004. One of the two end stations is located close to Hualamphong Railway Station (the main train station in Bangkok), which is practical if you are going to continue to travel with a long-distance train. The prices are rather low and the design and system are top modern. Be sure to keep your ticket until the station of your destination.More information: http://www.bangkokmetro.co.th
Airport Rail Link (ARL)
The Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link service between Phaya Thai Station to Suvarnabhumi Station.
The services are comprised of 2 lines, non-stop Express services and City Train services. Both lines operate from 06.00 am. to midnight. Non-stop Express services start at Suvarnabhumi Airport and terminate at Makkasan Station. The journey takes only 15 minutes and runs every 30 minutes. City Train or Commuter services run between Suvarnabhumi Airport and stop at Lat Krabang, Ban Thup Chang, Hua Mak, Makkasan, Ratchaprarop and Phaya Thai. The journey takes 27 minutes and runs every 15 minutes.
Facilitating the tourists and commuters to travel to other parts of Bangkok, both lines have interchange station at Makkasan Station for MRT (Underground train) at Phetchaburi Station. City Train line is linked at Phaya Thai station for BTS Skytrain, Phaya Thai Station.
By River Boat
A cheap and refreshing alternative at the Chao Praya River. An excellent way to travel, for example between Banglamphu (Khao San Road), The Grand Palace and Chinatown.