THAILAND / GENERAL INFO
Area: 514,000 sq km.
Population: about 69,000,000 people.
Language: Thai. English is spoken in tourist areas.
Religion: Buddhist, 95%. Muslim minorities concentrated in the southern provinces bordering Malaysia. Christian minorities focused mainly in Bangkok and the east of the country.
Neighbouring countries: North-West: Myanmar, North-East: Laos, East: Cambodia, South: Malaysia.
Currency: Thai Baht. 1 Euro equals about 35 Thai Baht.
Time zone: UCT +7 (ICT).
Electricity: power 220/240 voltage. The plugs used are generally with two flat pins, but the power sockets often have insertions adaptable to the two flat pins to the 2 round ones and third non-aligned contact.
Form of government: Since 1932, Thailand (Kingdom of Thailand) has been a constitutional monarchy with a parliament elected by the people.
Capital: Bangkok. The central area of the city has about 12 million inhabitants. According to unofficial estimates, the metropolitan area on working days reaches 20 million residents.
CLIMATE IN THAILAND:
Bangkok and central Thailand: Dry winters from the end of October, temperatures during the evening and night hours can occasionally drop even below twenty degrees, especially from mid-December to the end of January. Wet summers with the possibility of heavy rainfall, albeit of short duration and seldom daily. Rainfalls intensify during September and then gradually decrease in October.
Northern Thailand: Dry winters from mid-October, in Chiang Mai temperatures about 5/6 degrees lower than in Bangkok. In mountainous areas, they drop even further, especially during the night. Wet summers and most concentrated rainfalls from late August to September. In the North and in Central Thailand, however, these tropical thunderstorms are usually short and seldom daily occurrences. Therefore, rainfalls do not hinder ecursions. On the contrary, during the wet season, overland paths benefit from a much lusher and more suggestive landscape. Nature will give us the best of itself: rivers have lots of water; waterfalls look luxuriant and valleys are covered by dense jungle.
Southern Thailand: The west side, facing the Andaman Sea (Phuket, Khao Lak, Krabi, PP Islands, Koh Lanta, Trang, Koh Lipe etc.), is subject to a monsoon climate. The wet summer monsoons start from mid/late May, continuing to late October.
In Phuket, rainfalls reach the highest level in September while in Krabi the rainiest month is October. Krabi Province is also the least wet location in the region; therefore, it is also ideal for island hopping tours to discover beautiful islands and National Marine Parks. The best period to travel to this area is from November to mid-May, but the storms may continue even during November (Phuket) or start already in late April (Khao Lak). During March and April, the weather can turn torrid.
From February to June the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao) is recommended for a seaside stay. In this area, July, August and September offer variable weather conditions with scattered thundershowers. From mid-October to November, rainfalls increase considerably then gradually decrease from mid-December to mid-January.
Eastern Thailand: Koh Samed Island is recommended for beach holidays from the end of October to April. From May to August, the climate is variable with the possibility of tropical storms, while from September the rains intensify until mid/end of October. That said, Koh Samed has a mainly dry micro-climate and is the island with the driest climate during the rainy season in the whole of Thailand; obviously there are effects on the island’s vegetation, less luxuriant than all the other seaside resorts. The nearby islands of Koh Chang and Koh Kood are very rainy from June to September, with very variable weather and possible (frequent but less intense) thunderstorms, especially during the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of October. The best period for a beach holiday on these islands is from November to April.
We would like to point out that the climate changes that have occurred everywhere in the world during the last few years could make the weather conditions subject to changes compared to the descriptions above.
VISA & DOCUMENTS:
Visitors to Thailand must obtain a visa from one of the Thai diplomatic missions, unless they come from a visa-exempt country or a country whose citizens are eligible to receive permits on arrival. Thailand currently offers visa-free travel to nationals of 64 countries and territories. The Thai government maintains bilateral agreements on visa waivers with some of these countries. Citizens of 18 countries can obtain a visa on arrival (VOA).
Please refer to the link below for a summary of countries entitled for Visa Exemption or VOA.
HEALTH AND TRAVEL INSURANCE:
Hospitals and clinics with international standards are available in Bangkok and the most popular tourist destinations. A travel health insurance policy is strongly recommended to all travellers in Thailand.
VACCINATIONS AND PROPHYLAXIS:
The Thai government does not require mandatory treatments for travellers. As a precautionary measure, vaccinations against Typhus, Hepatitis A and B may be useful. We recommend an Anti-malaria prophylaxis for travellers who intend to travel to rural areas during the wet season, especially if you are planning ecotourism activities with overnight stays in tents or tribal villages. For more information, please contact your doctor.
EXCHANGE, ATMS AND CREDIT CARDS:
The Thai Bath is the official currency of Thailand. Payment in US Dollars and other foreign currencies are not accepted. Money exchanges are commonly available inside airports, around popular tourist areas and shopping malls.
There are many ATMs where you can withdraw cash with cards linked to the most important international credit circuits (Cirrus, Maestro and Plus are the most readily available). Credit cards can be used everywhere (in some shops additional fees are applied, make sure of the exact amount before confirming the payment).
In Thailand, there are some essential restrictions on purchases and exports.
We mention all sacred religious images, objects made from the skins of endangered animals, corals and other items taken from the sea or beaches. We also would like to remind you that it is forbidden to import into Thailand large quantities of tobacco, alcohol or other products subject to monopoly control. For up-to-date information on customs regulations relating to the import and export of goods from Thailand, please refer to the relevant section on the Thai Customs Department website.
THE THAI WAY - A CULTURE OF HOSPITALITY:
Thailand is famous for the kindness and sense of hospitality of his people. However, it is beneficial to understand some of their customs and traditions to fit in nicely with the local culture. Thai people generally do not like to express their emotions blatantly, and doing so can be seen as a sign of rudeness. Exclaiming loudly, showing intrusive attitudes or getting angry with blatant outbursts are behaviours to be avoided.
RELIGION AND ROYAL FAMILY:
During visits to religious places, it will be essential to take off your shoes and maintain a respectful behaviour. Inside the Royal Residences, it is a must to cover shoulders and knees. Generally, we do not accept shoes that leave your ankles exposed or too informal. The members of the Royal Family should always be treated with the utmost respect, maintaining a correct and polite language.
In Thailand, it is a good practice to give tips to tour guide and vehicle drivers. Depending on the number of participants, about 300-500 THB per day is a gratifying tip for drivers while about 1000-1500 THB for a full day tour can certainly be a tip appreciated by Tour Guides.