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PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Useful, practical information regarding money, credit cards, ATMs, health & safety, food & drink, transportation, communication, and much more…

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MONEY

The currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht. Baht come in both coin and banknote form.

Thai bank hours are generally Monday through Friday, 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, though certain banks have shorter Saturday hours and currency exchange booths are open considerably longer hours in Bangkok and other tourist destinations.

For up-to-date exchange rates, please visit e.g. www.oanda.com

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Health & Safety

Health care

Some people may worry about their health in Thailand or about Thailand safety, but Thailand is a very safe country, generally free of crime and most dangerous diseases. Regardless, travellers should take standard precautions. Avoid walking alone at night in remote areas and keep tabs on your valuables (such as your wallet or camera) when in crowded public areas. Some diseases that travellers may be exposed to, such as Dengue Fever, are mosquito borne and should be protected against with quality mosquito repellent. Minor stomach illnesses can be avoided by drinking bottled water and by eating made-to-order foods. Fortunately, if you need to go to a Thailand hospital, there are many hospitals with world class services around the kingdom, particularly in Bangkok. Furthermore, there are police stations and tourist police booths located in and around all major tourist areas and police are typically very helpful to foreigners.

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Recommended Vaccinations

  1. The following vaccinations are those recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for travellers to Thailand:
  2. Adult Diphtheria, Tetanus & Pertussis Single booster recommended if none in the previous 10 years. Side effects include sore arm and fever.
  3. Hepatitis A Provides almost 100% protection for up to a year, a booster after six to 12 months likely provides lifetime protection. Mild side effects such as headache and sore arm occur in 5% to 10% of people.
  4. Hepatitis B Now considered routine for most travellers. Given as three shots over six months. A rapid schedule is available, as is a combined vaccination with Hepatitis A. Side effects are mild and uncommon, usually headache and sore arm. Lifetime protection occurs in 95% of people.
  5. Measles, Mumps & Rubella Two doses of MMR required unless you have had the diseases. Occasionally a rash and flu-like illness can develop a week after receiving the vaccine. Many young adults require a booster.
  6. Polio There have been no cases for many years in Thailand so no booster required. Note that only one booster is required as an adult for lifetime protection.
  7. Typhoid Recommended unless your trip is less than a week and only to the major cities. The vaccine offers around 70% protection, lasts for two to three years and comes as a single shot. Tablets are also available, however the injection is usually recommended as it has fewer side effects. Sore arm and fever may occur.
  8. Varicella If you haven’t had chickenpox, discuss this vaccination with your doctor.
  9. The following immunisations are recommended for long-term travellers (more than one month) or those at special risk
  10. Influenza Particularly recommended for travellers over 55 years of age or with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Influenza is however common in all ages and the vaccine should be considered by all travellers.
  11. Japanese B Encephalitis Three injections in all. Booster recommended after three years. Sore arm and headache are the most common side effects. Rarely, an allergic reaction comprising hives and swelling can occur up to 10 days after any of the three doses.
  12. Rabies Three injections in all. No booster required for travellers. Those at continued risk (animal workers etc) should discuss booster recommendations with their doctor. Side effects are rare – occasionally headache and sore arm.
  13. Tuberculosis A complex issue. Adult long-term travellers or expats are usually recommended to have a TB skin test or Quantiferon blood test before and after travel, rather than vaccination. For expatriate children under five, BCG vaccination is highly recommended. Only one vaccine given in a lifetime.

 

Required vaccinations

  1. The only vaccine required by international regulations is yellow fever. Proof of vaccination will only be required if you have visited a country in the yellow-fever zone within the six days prior to entering Thailand. If you are travelling to Thailand from Africa or South America you should check to see if you require proof of vaccination.

 

Transportation

Thailand travel is convenient for visitors as there are many ways to get to Thailand and even more ways to travel in Thailand, whether your destination is Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, or the most remote provinces.

For both visitors and Thais, travel in Thailand is very convenient, the Thailand transportation infrastructure is modern and well-organized, and exploring the country is a very straightforward experience. Whether your Thailand travel preference is air, rail, bus, road, or water, most modes of Thailand transportation are used to catering to foreign visitors and have frequent departures.

Consequently it’s easy to move about the country or explore sights around particular destinations. The inland cities and coastal resorts are well connected to each other, so when you travel in Thailand you can spend a few days in Bangkok, a few more at the beach, and still visit Chiang Mai or Ayutthaya alternatively travelling via bus, boat, train, or plane to get from A to B to C.

Bookings and reservations for travel in Thailand should be done in advance as even in the “low season” many Thai people holiday in their own country and transportation is often booked well in advance. Nonetheless, when you travel in Thailand, there are always options for travellers, even at the last minute, particularly as departures of busses, planes, and trains are very frequent. When you travel in Thailand you can select from many domestic air carriers that service a majority of Thailand’s large provincial cities, local trains that connect Bangkok to all regions of the country, and long distance coaches that connect all major cities.

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COMMUNICATION

Telephones

Thailand has area codes for the different provinces for land-line. Bangkok is 02 and the provinces will have 0XX. It is now necessary to dial your own area code. Bangkok has 7 digit numbers. Many provinces have 6 digit numbers.

If you see a number written xxx xxx1-5 or xxx xx1-5, that means no rotary system is available at that location so they have 5 lines. A different final digit from 1 to 5 will connect to a different line . . . if that one isn’t busy as well.

Mobile numbers are 7 digits and will be prefixed with 01, 06 or 09. Some land-line telephones, especially standard telephone booths, will not allow calls to cell phones. Public telephones that will access mobile phones as well as international numbers are available in most cities. Calling cards are widely available.

Internet

Internet access is widely available in tourist areas like Bangkok and Phuket, which have many internet cafes and Wi-Fi hot-spots. Internet access is less frequent in rural and remote areas.

If Internet connections at hotels are vital for you during your visit to Cambodia, please advise your Focus Asia travel consultant.

Mail

The Thai postal system is very reliable, efficient and economical.

A common service used is EMS or Express Mail Service, which requires a signature by the recipient. The EMS service is offered both domestically and internationally.

For sending packages overseas, you can do the packing at the post office, as they have a packing counter where you can buy packing materials at a very economical rate, and sometimes get assistance. If you are shipping anything in a box, then the standard procedure is to tie a string around the box so that it can be opened and peeked into by customs to verify that what’s on the customs slip is what’s in the box. If you seal it, then you pay a much higher rate.
There are post offices conveniently located all over the city, and are listed on some of the maps in the map section.

The post offices are open from 8am to 4:30pm, though some don’t like to take international parcel shipments after 3:30.

 

FOOD & DRINK

HINTS

  1. Thailand features not only one of the finest cuisines in the world but also a wide selection of restaurants serving authentic Italian, Japanese, Middle Eastern, and other global cuisines.
  2. Thai food has a reputation for being spicy
  3. Use of fresh herbs and spices as well as the inclusion of fermented fish sauce in nearly every dish –a potential problem for vegetarians, though saying “jay” to indicate you are vegetarian goes a long way.
  4. Eating is a Thailand nightlife attraction in its own right!
  5. Be adventurous and try some exotic dishes

While Thai food has a reputation for being spicy, Thai food is actually based on a balance between different flavours including spicy, sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. This goes beyond simply combining the flavours within an individual dish to incorporate the contrast in flavours between two or three different dishes, which is one reason Thai’s share meals and eat family style.

One distinctive aspect of Thai food is the use of fresh herbs and spices as well as the inclusion of fermented fish sauce in nearly every dish –a potential problem for vegetarians, though saying “jay” to indicate you are vegetarian goes a long way.

However, there are certainly regional variations in what is typically considered Thai food, these are due to the influences of neighbouring countries, such as China, Laos, Burma, and Malaysia. While some Thai restaurants specialize in specific dishes, most have a huge menu of Thai and western fare and prepare Thai food from throughout the kingdom.

Thai people eat Thai food for more than mere sustenance, enjoyably snacking throughout the day and well into the hours of the morning. Thai restaurants, street stalls, and bars are more than eateries, they are places for people to get together and enjoy each other’s company as well as dine on some incredibly tasty Thai food. Eating is a Thailand nightlife attraction in its own right!

Most menus in Thai restaurants read like phone books: filled with pages upon pages of different dishes. Be adventurous and try some exotic dishes; if you are eating with a group, you should order Thai family style so that everyone can order something and all can try to find something that you enjoy.

In addition to restaurants however, Thai people frequently eat food at food stalls along the street or at outdoor markets. Furthermore, many parts of Thailand feature numerous foreign eateries that serve European, Middle Eastern, and other Asian cuisines.

EVENTS

January

Bo Sang Umbrella Fair & San Kamphaeng Handicrafts Festival, Bo Sang, near Chiang Mai has become renowned for its exquisitely painted paper umbrellas, which are sought after by visitors from all over the world. An annual fair, held on the main street, celebrates the traditional art of umbrella making and painting, as well as features contests, exhibitions, sales of handicrafts, and a Miss Bo Sang beauty pageant.

FEBRUARY

Flower Festival Chiang Mai, The North is noted for its abundance of flowering plants, especially temperate zone species, which burst into full bloom towards the end of the cool season. Spectacular beautiful florals are the memorable feature of this three-day festival in Chiang Mai also known as the “Rose of the North.” There are floral displays, local handicrafts sales, and enchanting beauty pageants.

Lampang’s Annual Elephant Satok Fair, Thai Elephants Conservation Centre, Lampang
Every year, an Elephant Fair is conducted and the Centre organizes a khantoke, a northern style meal, as part of the festivities. The fair also features a spectacular northern style procession as well as typical northern cultural shows and music.

MARCH

ASEAN Barred Ground Dove Festival. Yala Dove-lovers from all over Thailand, as well as from other neighbouring countries come to this southern city for this event. The major highlight is a dove-cooing competition involving more than 1,400 participants.

APRIL

Songkran Festival, Nationwide, The traditional Thai New year is an occasion for celebration throughout the country. This occasion is marked with religious ceremonies as well as public festivities. Water throwing among the people in a spirit of fun and goodwill is the main activity of this festival.

Pattaya Festival, Pattaya, This seaside city enjoys the summer by holding an annual festival. Food and floral floats, beauty pageants, stalls selling delicious cuisine, and a spectacular display of fireworks on the beach are some of the activities that attract those who want to participate in the fun.

Poi sang Long, Mae Hong Son, One of Thailand’s most naturally scenic areas, this province is home to a number of hill tribe groups. Poi Sang Long, the ordination of novices, is a religious ceremony of the Thai Yai. A spectacular colourful procession displaying the offerings for monks is paraded through the town.

MAY

Fruit Fairs, Rayong, Chanthaburi, Trat, The eastern provinces of Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat are known for their abundance of tropical fruits. When the fruits are at the peak of luscious ripeness, a fair is held in which the locals sell fruits from the surrounding orchards together with other local products. Spectacular colourful floats decorated with fruit and flowers are paraded through the streets of these provincial capitals.

Royal Ploughing Ceremony, Bangkok, This is an ancient Brahman ritual, conducted at Sanam Luang, which farmers believe is able to forecast the abundance of the next rice crop. The event is a result of a series of ceremonies that are conducted by Phraya Raek Na, portrayed by a high-ranking official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperative who wears colourful traditional costumes.

Yasothon Bun Bangfai Rocket Festival, Yasothon . Traditionally, northeastern villages have created and launched rockets of all kinds and sizes as a belief that this will ensure that the gods will send plenty of rain for the rice-planting season. As part of this two-day festival, there are beauty pageants and various forms of folk and cultural entertainment full of merriment.

JUNE

Phi Ta Khon Festival, Loei, With origins from a well-known Buddhist tale, the colourful and vibrant Phi Ta Khon procession feature young men who dress up as spirits to accompany a scared Buddha image and taunt villagers. Included are competitions of masked dances and processions. Everyone is welcome to participate.

JULY

Candle Festival, Ubon Ratchathani, Khao Phansa, or the Buddhist Lent, is the time when all Buddhist monks must stay in their temples. In Ubon Ratchathani, a unique festival that highlights the talented skills of local artisans as well as display of religious devotion is held each year. Elaborately carved beeswax candles of various sizes and shapes are exhibited in high-spirited processions around the city before being presentation to local temples.

AUGUST

Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Celebration August 12, To display their loyalty and to honour Her Majesty Queen Sirikit on the occasion of her royal birthday, the Thai people decorate their houses and public buildings. Around Bangkok, Ratchadamnoen Avenue, the area around the Grand Palace and other well-known locations are bedecked with coloured lights and magnificent adornments.

SEPTEMBER

Boat Races, Phichit, Phisanulok, Narathiwat, Boat racing has been a part of Thai culture for centuries and regattas are held in various parts of the country. This annual event takes place on the various rivers throughout Thailand. The events feature boats competing against each other with great excitement and cheering from the spectators.

OCTOBER

Wax Cast & Boat Racing Festival, Sakon Nakhon, To celebrate the end of Buddhist Lent (Phansa), people in the northeast (I-san) mould beeswax into miniature Buddhist temple and shrines (wax castles) in order to gain merit, which will determine their future rebirth. These crafted models can be witnessed especially in Sakon Nakhon where there is an annual festival with a grand wax procession, competitive boat racing as well as traditional northeastern cultural performances among many other joyous activities.

NOVEMBER

Loi Krathong, Sukhothai and Chiang Mai, It is believed that the Loi Krathong Festival originated in Sukhothai, the first Thai capital. It is therefore appropriate that this captivating event is held on the month amid the breathtaking ruins of the glorious ancient city. Activities include krathong floating a fireworks display, cultural performances and an amazing light and sound show. In Chiang Mai there is an unusual ritual associated with the Loi Krathong Festival. This is the launching of Lanna-style hot air balloons, which are considered by local art and cultural performances, various fun-filled competitions, and local products sales and exhibitions.

Traditional Boat Races, Buri Ram, Nakhon Ratchasima and Nakhon Phanom, These annual festivals held for more than a century, the traditional longboat races draw thousands of visions from all over. These events are further enhanced by local art and cultural performances, various fun-filled competitions, and local products sales and exhibitions.

Surin Elephant Round-Up Show, Surin, Introduced in 1960, this internationally famous yearly event attracts people from all over the world to Surin to see more than one hundred elephants participate in spectacular shows that include colourful processions, tug-of-war between elephants and demonstrations of log-pulling skills along with various other extraordinary acts set in a carnival atmosphere.

Rever Kwai Bridge Week Fair, Kanchanaburi, Each year in late November to early December, the world famous River Kwai Bridge, which was built by allied prisoners-Bridge, which was War II, becomes the focal point of celebrations. Highlights include historical and archaeological exhibitions, a carnival, folk and cultural performance, rides on World War II vintage trains, and a spectacular light and sound presentation re-enacting the bridge’s World War II history.

DECEMBER

His Majesty The King’s Birthday Celebrations, December 5, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch, is well beloved and deeply respected by all Thais old and young. The occasion of his royal birthday provides his loyal subjects the opportunity to express their reverence for him. All over the country, buildings and homes are elaborately decorated and the area around the Grand Palace is spectacularly illuminated.

Ayutthaya World Heritage Site Celebration Ayutthaya, Designated a UNESCO World heritage site in 1991, Ayutthaya, an ancient Siamese capital, celebrates its glorious past with displays of traditional culture and lifestyles, numerous forms of entertainment, as well as spectacular light and sound presentations amid the ruins of this ancient city.

The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, Phuket, Designated a UNESCO World heritage Site in 1991, Ayutthaya, an ancient Siamese capital, celebrates its glorious past with displays of traditional culture and lifestyles, numerous forms of entertainment, as well as spectacular light and sound presentations amid the ruins of this ancient city.

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PUBLIC HOLIDAYS IN INDONESIA

  1. January 1
    New Year’s Day
  2. February 14
    Magha Puja
  3. April 6
    Chakri Memorial Day
  4. April 7
    Chakri Day – Observed
  5. April 13 – 16
    Songkran
  6. May 1
    Labor Day
  7. May 5
    Coronation Day
  8. May 13
    Vesak Day
  9. July 11
    Asalha Puja
  10. August 12
    The Queen’s Birthday
  11. October 23
    Chulalongkorn Day
  12. December 5
    The King’s Birthday
  13. December 10
    Constitution Day
  14. December 31
    New Year’s Eve

 

SHOPPING

Bangkok’s night markets on Patpong and Sukhumvit Roads are ideal places to pick up souvenirs or gifts for those back home, while more impressive gifts can be procured from retailers such as certified antiques dealers, gem and jewellery shops, or Jim Thompson, the famous silk pioneer. In regards to gems and antiques, it should be noted that there are numerous occurrences of scams involving antiques and gems, and restrictions on the export of Buddha images. Otherwise, with the right guidance there are genuine opportunities to make some brilliant shopping discoveries.

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Getting clothes tailor made in Bangkok is a top priority for many, though boutique shops in Siam Square feature the latest ready-to-wear designs from the city’s chic young designers. Meanwhile, in Chinatown, almost every conceivable knick-knack and trinket is for sale in the myriad mazes of back alleys, while those shopping for gold can do so along the district’s Yaowarat Road.

TIPS TO SAVVY SHOPPING

  1. Check everything you can check before handing over your money
  2. Always ask around to get an idea of basic prices for common necessities. For more important purchases, try and get a local friend to go along with you, or better still, let them do the buying without you
  3. Don’t feel awkward or rude about bargaining, everyone bargains in Thailand and you’ll look like a green tourist if you don’t
  4. Don’t look happy or resigned about paying what you’re asked; always begin by showing your gentle disapproval
  5. Walk away if you cannot agree on a price: either they’ll come after you or you’ll find the same thing on sale somewhere else

 

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