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What to expect
Thailand is a welcoming, diverse country with everything from beach resorts to wildlife treks, historical sites and fascinating cities.
The bustling capital, Bangkok, is a feast for the senses and home to fabulous shopping, delicious cuisine and many interesting sites, including the glittering Grand Palace and impressive reclining Buddha at Wat Po. In the countryside, visit waterfalls, hilltribe villages and elephant camps.
Beyond the larger cities and tourist sites, facilities may be less developed than what you are used to. English is less prevalent in the countryside, yet despite this, the Thai people are warm, gracious hosts. The concept of 'saving face' is important in Thailand, so it is essential to remain calm and polite in your interactions with people.
From Los Angeles
approximately 19 hours
From New York
approximately 18 hours
Banks, public offices and some tourist sites will be closed on the vacations listed here. As major vacations are set according to the lunar calendar, dates change every year. Please check with our USA-based Asia specialists for details.
1 January is New Year's Day
, a public vacation. 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 vacation 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 vacation. 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 vacation commemorating the birth, enlightenment and passing of Buddha.
July/August (full moon, 8th Thai lunar month) is Asarlha Buch Day
, a religious vacation 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 vacation 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 vacation 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
Travelers should take the same health and safety precautions in Thailand as they would elsewhere in the region. Should you require medical assistance, Thailand features some excellent international standard hospitals in Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai. Elsewhere in the country, options are more basic.
Diseases that can be found in Thailand include dengue fever, tetanus, malaria, hepatitis A and B, diphtheria and HIV/AIDS. It is important to minimize the possibility of exposure to these and other illnesses by taking sufficient preventative measures. We strongly advise consulting your doctor for current health advice at least one month before departure.
Citizens of the US, UK, Australia, EU Countries, New Zealand and Canada do not need to acquire a visa prior to arrival in Thailand for visits of up to 30 days. All other nationalities should consult with the Thai embassy or consulate in their home country.
To enter Thailand your passport must be valid for at least six months past your departure date from Thailand. You will receive a tourist visa for stays of thirty days or less upon arrival by air. It is essential that you carry proof of your onward travel arrangements, confirming that you will leave Thailand within 30 days, should you need to produce this at immigration.
If you are entering Thailand at an overland border crossing, only a 15 day tourist visa will be granted. If you require a longer stay you must apply for a tourist visa prior to arriving in Thailand, or there is the option to leave and re-enter Thailand before the 15 day visa expires.
Please note Thailand visa regulations and arrangements are subject to change and that your visa arrangements are your responsibility. We strongly suggest that you check with the relevant embassies in your home country for current visa guidelines.
Safety and security
Thailand is a relatively safe destination by international standards, though the usual safety precautions apply. Petty theft can occur in popular areas, so it is advisable to wear minimal jewelery and secure cash close to your body when out and about.
For transport in Thailand, we suggest taking a taxi at night rather than other modes such as tuk-tuk. Taxis are metered and very affordable. It is a good idea to keep a hotel address card handy to show drivers. Always keep a copy of your passport, flight tickets and credit card details. It is best to keep these copies in a safe place apart from the originals. Whenever possible, secure your valuables in a hotel safety deposit box.
Be cautious of strangers offering you things such as sweets or drinks, and be mindful that Thailand has extremely strict drug laws. Read our safety 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 journeys throughout Thailand with Travel Indochina are generally in comfortable minibuses with air-conditioning. Toyota Coaster or Hyundai with 25-40 seats are used for groups of 6 or larger. Most domestic flights in Thailand use modern Airbus, ATR-72 or Boeing aircraft.
Travel schedules are subject to change, which may impact overall travel plans. In the towns and cities, tuk-tuks can be used to get around, though we recommend taxis as they are safer, metered and more comfortable. Your trip may involve boat travel, and you can also cover much of Thailand by train. Overnight train travel is in well equipped sleeper carriages.
Internet access can be found all over Thailand, and is generally inexpensive. Most hotels offer internet services, sometimes with a fee. Complimentary Wi-Fi is becoming more common and can be found in some restaurants, cafes and popular public places. Internet cafes are also common.
Costs for international phone calls and faxes are reasonable, and most affordable at post offices or when using a prepaid card at a Lenso payphone. There is a small cost involved for making reverse charge calls.
Cell phones can be used in Thailand, though you will need to ensure you have roaming enabled with your service provider prior to travel. International postage rates are slightly more affordable than home and mail generally takes 7-10 days to reach its destination.
Food & drink
Thai food is fragrant, exotic and delicious. Popular dishes include curries, noodles, soups, grilled meats, spicy salads and rice. In Northern Thailand, sticky rice often takes the place of normal rice. Common ingredients in Thai cuisine include lemongrass, galangal, chilli, ginger, tamarind, lime and coconut milk.
A standout feature of Thai cuisine is the excellent and affordable fresh seafood available, particularly in the country's south. Each region of Thailand features distinct local flavors and dishes, such as Isaan's spicy salads and Chiang Mai's famous noodle dish, khao soy.
There are usually vegetarian options available should you require them, such as vegetable soups, curries and rice dishes. You should not consume tap water in Thailand, however bottled water is commonly available and is usually complimentary in your hotel room.
Tipping is not obligatory in Asia as it is in the US, though is always a highly appreciated gesture. It is an accepted way to show gratitude for good service, however is entirely optional. At the start of your trip, your Western tour leader or local guide will request a small amount (such as 50 cents per day) to use as tips for boat crews and hotel porters encountered along the way. The reason for this is to avoid over-tipping, and to lessen the need for you to carry small change.
We are sure you will enjoy excellent service levels from your guides, tour leaders and drivers, and if so, you may decide to tip them. We do not include compulsory tipping for Travel Indochina staff on any of our trips, so the decision to provide a tip is entirely up to you.
Thailand's abundance of beautiful beaches, islands, swimming pools and waterfalls means there are many opportunities to swim.
Although most of Thailand's beaches appear inviting and calm, it is still essential to remain aware of personal safety. It is possible there may be currents, rips or obstacles under the water's surface. It is important to keep a close watch on any accompanying children, as there are generally no lifeguards patrolling the beaches.
As Thailand's tourism industry continues to mature, there are now some travel options where you can help make a difference to communities in need. There are several interesting eco-tourism and community operated projects to support, particularly in the country's north near Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
These include some of our favorite accommodation experiences, Lisu Lodge and Lanna Farm. These basic yet comfortable lodges offer training and employment opportunities to people from local hilltribes. Learn more about our stance on responsible travel.