Taking a trip to Thailand for the first time? Here are some basic practical information you can keep in mind so your stay in the Land of Smiles will be one unforgettable experience.
Thailand is seven hours ahead of GMT, so make sure you set your timepiece and other devices upon your arrival.
The local currency is the Baht (B) which comes in denominations of B.10 (brown), B.20 (green), B.50 (blue), B.100 (red), B.500 (purple) and B.1,000 (beige). Keep in mind that the larger the note, the larger the denomination. Numerals are printed in Arabic as well as Thai, so the notes are quite easy to get accustomed to. Coins include denominations in B.10, B.5, B.2 and B.1 as well as 25 and 50 satang or cents, but due to the on-going inflation, satangs are now of little use. All denominations bear the image of King Rama IX and are supposed to be handled with the utmost respect, so take care not to crumple your bills nor throw away your coins.
There is no black market exchange for being the Baht and legal moneychangers offer the best rate. US dollars are the readily accepted currency. The rate for the past few years has fluctuated around B. 34 for one U.S. dollar.
Travelers’ cheques get a better rate with a commission of 1% of the amount plus B.3 per cheque cashed. Visa and Master cardholders can get cash advance of up to USD500 a day through some branches of local banks. ATM accepting debit cards are also available all around Bangkok and in many smaller towns.
Being a gateway for tourists, Thailand knows how to make things easy for visitors. There are after all very few countries in the world that would purposely make provision for overstaying by one month or more will land you in serious trouble.
Most foreign passport holders are allowed to enter for a stay of up to 30days without having to apply for a visa. This is granted upon entry at no cost but one is supposed to show proof of onward travel arrangements, such as a return ticket. The 30-day no-visa stay can be extended for a maximum of 7 to 10 days at the immigration. If you desire a longer stay, you should apply for a 60-day Tourist Visa from a Thai Embassy or consulate.
Being a regional hub, Bangkok is a convenient place to get visas for onward travel to numerous countries. There are altogether 33 foreign diplomatic missions in Bangkok, generally listed and indicated on all tourist maps. The visa sections of most embassies are open from around 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Monday to Friday.
WHERE TO FIND USEFUL INFORMATION
For brochures, city maps and other information that you may need, check with BTB or TAT, two invaluable resources for tourists in need of help. There are also Bangkok maps provided for free at the sky train stations.
BTB stands for Bangkok Tourist Bureau (Tel: 0-2225-7612 – 17/1 Phra Athit Road, Bannglamphu – 9 AM to 7 PM daily) Managed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, it is conveniently located near Chao Phraya River and it cal also help with the chartering of boats from the nearby pier.
TAT stands for Tourism Authority of Thailand, the governmental arm to promote the tourism industry. They have desks in both Terminal One, Counter 4 (Tel: 0-2535-2669) and Terminal Two, Counter 8 (Tel: 0-2504-2703) of the airport but the main office on New Petchaburi Road is better equipped (Tel: 0-2250-5500 – open 8 AM to 4:30 PM daily)
The TAT also maintains a 24 hours Tourist Assistance Center run by a paramilitary body called the Tourist Police. They are present in many of hotspots in and outside Bangkok and are likely to prove much more helpful than the normal police in case of trouble. They speak fairly good English (24 hours hotline Tel: 1672).
COMMUNICATIONS and other CONNECTIONS
All modern forms of communication, be it telephones, mobiles, faxes or the Internet, are available. Postcards, the good old fashioned snail-mail way, are also available for B.12 for size 105 x 148 mm. and B.15 for size 130 x 180 mm, which you can send to anywhere in the world. The 1972 Thai art deco building housing Bangkok’s main post office is worth a visit. The service is very efficient particularly for parcels, and it includes packaging facilities. Worldwide courier services are also available.
The telephone system is efficient but a little costly. The country code is 66 and Bangkok is 02. For international calls, dial 001 before the number and for operator assistance, dial 100. Public payphones do also allow international calls and hotels mostly have 30% surcharge. Cellular phones use the NMT 900MZ and GSM standards.
The internet is rapidly gaining popularity all over the country and cyber-cafes are now a common sight. To plug in your own machine, RJ11 phone jacks are the standard in most hotels.
Electric current is 220V, 50 current. Electrical wall outlets are usually of the two-pole type. International plug adapters are readily available in department stores. Weights and measures are expressed in the Metric system.
Public offices work a 50day week. Most shops are open from Monday to Saturday from about 8 AM to 8 PM but shopping fever is at its peak on Sundays in the many shopping centers and department stores.
This isn’t really a common practice although leaving the smaller change of restaurant bill or rounding up a taxi fare are generally appreciated.
The 7% VAT is refundable in Bangkok airport when leaving the country upon presentation of the goods and corresponding receipts.
Drinking water from the tap is not recommended; drink boiled or bottled water instead. Ice is generally produced from purified water under hygienic conditions and can be regarded as safe. Use your common sense in any way when traveling in the country. The same thing goes for food; a packed and clean looking place will most likely be safe.
Overall, Thailand Is a fairly clean country and few travelers experience anything more than an upset stomach. Urban Thailand is malaria-free. There are three university research hospitals, about a dozen private and public hospitals as well as hundreds of medical clinics serving locals and tourists alike. Three hospitals offering a comprehensive range of services including Bangkok General Hospital on New Phetchaburi, the Bangkok Nursing Home on Convent Road and the Chao Phraya Hospital on Baromratchachonni Road.