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Country Guides for Asia

Thailand

Thailand

Thailand is a country of contrasts, where bustling cities combine with centuries old culture and architecture, and where one can haggle at an open-air bazaar or stroll through a modern (air conditioned) mall. Whether your pleasure is visiting ancient temples, enjoying the night-life of Bangkok, spending the day birding, or just relaxing on the beach, you'll understand why Thailand is one of Southeast Asia's most popular travel destinations.

Language: Thai, English (secondary language of the elite), ethnic and regional dialects.

Major International Airports Include:

City

Airport
Airport
Code
Distance
From City
BangkokBangkok Int'lBKK15 miles N
Chiang MaiChaing Mai Int'lCNX4 miles S

Food and waterborne diseases are the number one cause of illness in travelers. Travelers' diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout the region and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E.coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (Typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.

Malaria is a serious, but preventable infection that can be fatal. Your risk of malaria may be high in these countries, including some cities. Prevent this deadly disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites. Travelers to malaria-risk areas, including infants, children, and former residents of Southeast Asia, should take an antimalarial drug.

Dengue, filariasis, Japanese encephalitis, and plague are diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases.

Do not swim in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) in certain areas of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, and Thailand to avoid infection with schistosomiasis.

Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid travel at night if possible and always use seat belts.

The CDC recommends the following vaccines as appropriate for age (See your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect):

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
  • Hepatitis B if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months in the region, or be exposed through medical treatment.
  • Japanese encephalitis, only if you plan to visit rural areas for 4 weeks or more, except under special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese encephalitis.
  • Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
  • Typhoid vaccination is particularly important because of the presence of S. typhi strains resistant to multiple antibiotics in this region.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles, and a one-time dose of polio for adults.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not complete the series as infants.

All travelers should take the following precautions, no matter the destination:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water. Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid travel at night if possible and always use seat belts.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Don't eat or drink dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.
  • Don't share needles with anyone.
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it. Never eat undercooked ground beef and poultry, raw eggs, and unpasteurized dairy products. Raw shellfish is particularly dangerous to persons who have liver disease or compromised immune systems.


Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Those traveling to Thailand are at risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, filariasis, and Japanese encephalitis transmitted by mosquitoes, and plague from flea bites. To prevent insect bites, travelers should use topical insect repellent and wear insecticide-treated clothing.

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

With the exception of urban resort areas, the water supply in Thailand is considered high risk due to viral, bacterial and protozoan contamination. Travelers should treat water before drinking to avoid potentially serious health problems.

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

The State Department is concerned that there is an increased risk of terrorism in Southeast Asia, including in Thailand. American citizens traveling to Thailand should therefore exercise caution, especially in locations where Westerners congregate, such as clubs, discos, bars, restaurants, hotels, places of worship, schools, outdoor recreation venues, tourist areas, beach resorts, and other places frequented by foreigners. They should remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and avoid crowds and demonstrations. For more information on terrorist threats against Americans worldwide, and steps that U.S. citizens should take as a result of these threats, please see the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement at http://www.travel.state.gov.

The far south of Thailand has experienced incidents of criminally and politically motivated violence, including incidents attributed to armed local separatist/extremist groups. Although these groups have focused primarily on Thai government interests, some of the recent violence in the area has targeted public places, including areas where tourists may congregate. As such, the Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid nonessential travel to the far south of Thailand, including Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala, and Songkhla provinces, including the town of Hat Yai, and that they exercise special caution and remain vigilant with regard to their personal security if they must travel in those areas. Since January 2004, a series of incidents in the far southern provinces has included arson attacks directed at schools and other buildings associated with the government, the placement of bombs in public areas and near local government offices, killings of police and other officials, and the theft of weapons and explosives. Travelers should be aware that Thai authorities have on occasion instituted special security measures in affected areas, such as curfews, military patrols, or random searches of train passengers.

Tourists should also exercise caution in remote areas along the border with Burma. The Thai/Burma border is the site of on-going conflicts between the Burmese Army and armed opposition groups as well as of clashes between Thai security forces and armed drug traffickers. In addition, pirates, bandits and drug traffickers operate in these border areas.

In light of the continuing unsettled situation along Thailand border with Burma, which is subject to frequent closings to all traffic, the Department of State recommends that all Americans exercise caution when traveling in remote or rural areas immediately adjacent to the Burma border. There remains a possibility of significant flare-ups of military activity on the Burmese side of the border that could spill over into immediately adjacent areas of northern Thailand. Visitors should travel off-road in undeveloped areas only with local guides who are familiar with the area. Border closings and re-openings occur frequently, and U.S. citizens considering traveling into Burma from Thailand should be aware that in the event of a border closure they may not be able to re-enter Thailand.

Tourists should obtain information from Thai authorities about whether official border crossing points are open, and should cross into neighboring countries only at designated crossing points. Licensed guides can help ensure that trekkers do not cross inadvertently into a neighboring country.

Travelers should be aware that there have been occasional incidents of violence on Thailand's northern and eastern borders with Laos. In July 2000, five people were killed and several fled from Laos to Thailand during a skirmish between apparent insurgents and government forces in Laos near the eastern border crossing at Chong Mek. Additionally, two U.S. citizens in 1999 and one in early 2000 were reported missing after attempting to cross illegally into Laos at the Lao-Thai border.

Although tourists have not been targeted specifically by this occasional violence, caution remains advisable. It is recommended that persons wishing to travel to border areas check with the Thai Tourist Police and the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai or the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

Strong seasonal undercurrents at popular beach resorts pose a sometimes fatal threat to surfers and swimmers. During the monsoon season from May through October, drowning is the leading cause of death for tourists visiting the resort island of Phuket. Some, but not all, beaches have warning flags to indicate the degree of risk (red flag: sea condition dangerous for swimming; yellow flag: sea condition rough, swim with caution; green flag: sea condition stable). In recent years there have been several water-related drownings as a result of strong currents.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel/.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement , Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

CRIME INFORMATION: Although the crime threat in Bangkok remains lower than that in many American cities, crimes of opportunity such as pickpocketing, purse-snatching, and burglary have become more common in recent years. Travelers should be especially wary when walking in crowded markets, tourist sites and bus or train stations. Many American citizens have reported having passports, wallets, and other valuables stolen in Bangkok's Chatuchak Weekend Market, usually by thieves who cut into purses or bags with a razor and remove items surreptitiously. Police at the Market usually refuse to issue police reports for foreign victims of theft, requiring them instead to travel several miles to the central Tourist Police office. Violent crimes against foreigners are relatively rare.

Reports of serious crimes involving taxis or "tuk-tuks" (three-wheeled taxis) are also relatively rare, although attempts to charge excessive fares occur regularly. In 2003, there we re several taxi-related incidents in Bangkok involving foreign passengers. In one, a taxi driver stabbed two English teachers, an American and a Canadian, after an argument; in another, a taxi driver stole over $9,000 from an American passenger after the American dozed off; and in yet another, a taxi driver shot a Japanese flight attendant riding in his cab. Americans should not hesitate to ask to be let out of a taxi immediately if the driver is acting suspiciously or driving erratically.

When arriving at Bangkok's airport, travelers should use only taxis from the airport's official taxi stand, cars from the airport limousine counters, or airport buses. All major hotels in Bangkok can also arrange to have a car and driver meet incoming flights. It is not common for Thai taxis to pick up additional passengers. Travelers should be wary of drivers seeking to do so, and should never enter a cab that has someone besides the driver in it. In March 2000, a U.S. citizen was attacked and robbed by a taxi driver and an accomplice whom the driver had picked up en route.

Americans frequently encounter taxi drivers and others who tout gem stores or entertainment venues. These touts receive kickbacks or commissions which drive up the prices of the goods or services, and travelers should not accept tours or other offers from them. Scams involving gems, city tours, entertainment venues and credit cards are common, especially in areas heavily visited by tourists. Credit cards should only be used in reputable, established businesses, and the amount charged should be checked for accuracy.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) receives over 1,000 complaints each year from visitors who have been cheated on gem purchases. Gem scams usually follow a predictable pattern. Someone will approach a tourist outside of a well-known tourist attraction such as the Grand Palace or the Jim Thompson House, and will say that the attraction is closed. The friendly stranger will quickly gain the tourist's confidence, and will suggest a visit to a temple which is supposedly open only one day per year; the stranger will then mention in passing that a special once-a-year government-sponsored gem sale is going on, and will direct the tourist to a waiting tuk-tuk. At the temple, another stranger - sometimes a foreigner - will engage the tourist in conversation and will, by seeming coincidence, also mention the "special" gem sale. The tourist agrees to go look at the gem shop, and is soon convinced to buy thousands of dollars worth of jewels which can supposedly be sold in the U.S. for a 100% profit. When the tourist actually has the goods appraised, they turn out to be of minimal value, and the shop's money-back guarantee is not honored. No matter what a tout may say, no jewelry stores are owned, operated, or sponsored by the Thai Government or by the Thai royal family. A traveler who has fallen victim to a gem scam should contact the local branch of the Tourist Police, or call their country-wide toll-free number: 1155.

Although most bars and entertainment venues operate honestly, some, especially in tourist areas such as Patpong, may at times try to charge exorbitant amounts for drinks or unadvertised cover charges, and to threaten violence if the charges aren't paid. If victimized in this fashion, travelers should not attempt to resolve the problem themselves, but should instead pay the price demanded and then seek out a nearby Tourist Police officer for help in getting restitution. (If no officer is nearby, the Tourist Police may be contacted toll-free by dialing 1155.)

There have been occasional reports of scopolamine druggings perpetrated by prostitutes or unscrupulous bar workers for the purpose of robbery. Tourists have also been victimized by drugged food and drink, usually offered by a friendly stranger, sometimes posing as fellow traveler on an overnight bus or train. In addition, casual acquaintances met in a bar or on the street may pose a threat. Travelers are advised to avoid leaving drinks or food unattended, and should avoid going to unfamiliar venues alone. Some trekking tour companies, particularly in Northern Thailand, have been known to make drugs available to trekkers. In July 2001, an American died after smoking opium in a northern hilltribe village. Travelers should not accept drugs of any kind, as the drugs may be altered or harmful, and the use or sale of narcotic drugs is illegal.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.



Source: U.S. Department of State

Thailand's climate is tropical - hot and humid all year round with only minor seasonal temperature variations. Monsoon season officially runs from mid-May to October, with the heaviest rains usually beginning in September. The coolest and driest period is typically from November through February.


City
Annual
Precip. Days
Annual
Precip. Totals
Bangkok10059"
Chiang Mai11645"
Phuket16887"

Thailand's electrical current is 220/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Please note: Not all electrical sockets in these countries provide grounding. Many North American appliances are designed to operate only within the 100-125 volt range. These appliances will suffer damage if plugged into 220-250 volts without the proper transformer or converter.

To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

Download Magellan's Guide to World Electrical ConnectionsDownload Magellan's Guide to World Electrical Connections

U.S. citizen tourists staying for less than 30 days do not require a visa, but must possess a passport and may be asked to show an onward/return ticket. A Passenger Service Charge must be paid in Thai baht when departing the country from any of Thailand's international airports.

When a traveler enters the country, Thai Immigration stamps the date on which the traveler's authorized stay in Thailand will expire in his or her passport. Any traveler remaining in Thailand beyond this date without having received an official extension will be assessed an immediate cash fine when departing Thailand. Any foreigner found by police to be out of legal status prior to departure (during a Thai Immigration "sweep" through a guesthouse, for example) will be jailed, fined, and then deported at his or her own expense, and may be barred from re-entering Thailand.

In this regard, American citizens should be aware that private "visa extension services," even those advertising in major periodicals or located close to Immigration offices or police stations, are illegal. In 2003, more than ten Americans were arrested at border crossings when the visas and entry stamps they had obtained through these illegal services were discovered to be counterfeit.

Thailand's Entry/Exit information is subject to change without notice. For further information on Thailand's entry/exit requirements, contact the Royal Thai Embassy, 1024 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20007, telephone (202) 944-3600, or Internet website http://www.thaiembdc.org , or the Thai consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York City.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.



Source: U.S. Department of State

The time zone for Thailand is 7 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Thailand would be 12:00 am

The unit of currency in Thailand is the baht (THB).

Look up the current exchange rate using XE.com's Universal Currency Converter

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Other Travelers' Experiences in Thailand

"It has been a couple of years since I was in Chiang Mai but...nothing like it for welcoming in the new year. I sat across from my hotel with hundreds of paper balloons rising through the air and fireworks going off all around me. So many wonderful things about Thailand including the new white temple, the hot lotus toss, the monk chat with the monk who knows more about our football teams than we do and the memorial at the River Kwai. To top it off are the people. I plan to go back this year and possibly retire there a year or two later."