Plan before Departure to Thailand
Plan well beforehand prior to departure to make your Thailand vacation enjoyable. Below are a few tips on organizing your vacation. Visit your countries immigration website for notifications, warnings and advice on travelling to Thailand.
Visa for the Kingdom Of Thailand
It is your responsibility to organize a visa to enter the Kingdom Of Thailand. Visa requirements can change at any time and it is advisable to check with your immigration department. The official Thai websites are usually very limited and difficult to obtain information. Visit the Wikipedia website for visa information, but it could at times not be completely accurate.
Make a few color photocopies of your passport with the page that has your photo and details. Keep it separate from where you store your passport. Use these in the event you lose your passport and need to have another made at your countries embassy. It will save time and prove your identity. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months and blank pages to allow a visa stamp.
The other reason is to NEVER leave your passport for security for anything. Simply show your passport and leave a photocopy with any scooter hire or car rental business etc. Find another vendor if it is an issue.
Flying into Thailand
Suvarnabhumi (pronounced: soo-wun-a-poom) is the international airport for Thailand and is 25 kilometers (16 miles) east of Bangkok.
Before you arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport and passed through immigration control ensure you have filled out the entry form that the air crew should have supplied. This is a critical piece of card where Thai immigration will staple to your passport after processing. Do not lose it or you may have issues when departing.
If you only have carry on luggage size then you can take the train to Bangkok using the MRT Skytrain located on the ground floor.
There are fixed price taxis outside from the arrivals floor. Do not take any "private" taxi if you are approached by a stranger on the arrivals floor.
Busses also depart from the transport center and the prices are cheaper. They also go to destinations other than Bangkok. You will then need to organize transport from the city bus station to your hotel using a tuk-tuk, songthaew or taxi.
Don Muang Airport is the domestic airport for Bangkok located about kilometers (19 miles) north of Bangkok. But some airlines such as Thai Airways fly their domestic routes from Suvarnabhumi International airport.
Getting from Suvarnabhumi International Airport to Bangkok
Taxi Located outside from the arrivals. There is toll way fees to pay (about 100 Baht) and you will need to give to the taxi driver.
Bus Take the free shuttle bus to the transport station that is located away from the airport.
Train Skytrain into Bangkok. Take the escalator to the underground level . Only if you have hand held luggage as the train is not intended for taking full size luggage.
Flying back Home
Plan to arrive at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok at least 3 hours prior to departure as this is a very busy and large airport and it will take an hour to check-in, an hour waiting to get through immigration and a half hour to locate your departure lounge. This gives you little time to spare, so make it 4 hours!
Show your flight ticket to an information booth after passing through immigration to receive a free wifi voucher. Don't forget to claim back any eligible VAT sales tax. See "Money and VAT" below.
If your flight is in the evening then take a taxi to Suvarnabhumi International Airport after hotel checkout with your luggage and deposit it into a luggage room (check open and closing times) which will not cost much. Take the Skytrain from the airport underground level back to Bangkok and spend the remaining few hours in the city before taking the Skytrain back to the airport to collect your luggage and check into your flight.
Do not take any unprocessed foods back home and be aware of your countries restrictions on food and other items entering through airports. Clean all shoes as some countries have regulations regarding mud and debris from rural areas throughout Asian countries.
Money & VAT
Thailands' currency is the Thai Baht. The currency conversion rate from most western counties makes Thailand a popular destination for a vacation. If you eat and shop where the locals eat and shop, then your hard earned vacation money will go a long way.
If you want to take advantage of the better exchange rates then take your countries bank notes into Thailand and exchange at a bank in the city. The airport exchange rates can be lower. Notes must be of a high denomination and be clean and crisp or you will probably get a lower rate or be politely refused any exchange. The bank will photocopy your notes to record the numbers. Beware that your country will have restrictions on the amount of your currency that can be taken out and you should keep a withdrawal receipt from your bank to prove to immigration where the cash originated. There is no restriction of incoming foreign currency into Thailand, but there is a limit of Thai currency entering Thailand.
Keep receipts from participating shops displaying a VAT Refund for Tourist sign so that you can claim back sales tax at the airport prior to departure back home. You must ask for a VAT return form at the shop and produce your passport. The minimum single purchase is 2000 Baht and a minimum of 5000 Baht for the whole claim on departure. Immigration must stamp the forms prior to claiming inside the airport at the VAT return booth. Claims under 10,000 Baht can be taken as cash.
If you plan to use a credit card in Thailand then it is very advisable to inform your bank the dates you will be travelling and the main country you will be visiting. Your card may be "eaten" by an automatic bank teller machine if it thinks it is a fraudulent duplicate or a transaction could be refused when using a CC EFTPOS machine in a shop. Take TWO credit cards from DIFFERENT banks in case one does not work or is lost or cancelled.
Keep your credit cards in an RFID blocking wallet/purse because credit cards can have a "tap and go" / "paywave" wire-less feature which can be fraudulently taken advantage of with illegal devices used by criminals stealing your details. Travel luggage shops and airport shops have these items for sale.
Check whenever a store clerk uses your credit card to swipe a machine that you actually receive the same card back after a sales transaction, that applies from anywhere in the world. If you always swipe the card yourself, then that would be a safer option.
Take photos of all your possessions and keep them on different peoples mobile phones. Travel apps where you can record everything is a good idea so you can remember what to claim in the event of loss or damage. Check your travel insurance will cover your valuables because some have restrictions on the maximum claim amount per item, especially for electronic equipment such as cameras and jewellery.
Hospitals in Thailand are relatively cheap if you require a simple procedure such as cleaning and bandaging an abrasion after falling off a scooter but any major illness or bad accident will be expensive if major surgery and a prolonged stay is required. You will be stuck in Thailand if you cannot afford an emergency medical evacuation back to home if your insurance does not cover this event. Take a paper copy of your travel insurance with the emergency contact number.
Be aware that any travel insurance possibly may not cover you for certain sports activities such as paragliding, parachuting, bungee jumping etc. Also, you may need to possess a motorbike licence from your country before you are covered for a scooter accident in Thailand (or any other country).
Create a detailed itinery of your flights, accommodation, train and bus routes and where you plan to visit. Make two copies and give a copy along with a copy of your travel insurance to a friend or relative that is not going with you to Thailand.
Your countries immigration service should also have a travel registration on-line service where you can provide contact numbers, addresses and emergency contact people in case your embassy needs to contact you if some unfortunate circumstance arises or you are in an area which requires evacuation.
Like any other country in the world, you should take precautions with your valuables. Most hotels will have a security box in the room, but many may only have a hotel safe to store valuables at your own risk. You should record and insure all valuables with travel insurance but also store and hide valuables on yourself with money belts and securely strapped bags. Do not wear jewelry that would be easily snatched.
Metric is the measurement in Thailand. Distances are in metres/kilometres and weight is measured in grams/kilograms. There are many apps available for your smart device to convert metric to other measurement systems.
English is spoken throughout Thailand and is taught as a major subject in Thai schools, so you should have no issue in major hotels and tourist areas if you speak English. A Thai phrase book with translations to your language and with Thai writing will be useful for elsewhere. There are apps for your smart device that can translate between many languages.
Read more on learning some Thai words...
Traffic drives on the left side of the road throughout Thailand and there are local driving idiosyncrasies you should be aware of if you plan to self drive. Read more on transport...
Tipping by tourists for services in Thailand is not normally done because you should barter a set price when taking a tuk-tuk, songthaew or taxi. A taxi may not want to use their meter but if you insist then they should comply. Exceptions can be to tip when you get a good massage and tip 50 or 100 baht directly to the person before you pay for the massage at the front counter because the person would be on a low commission rate. Small service tips for a hotel porter would also be a nice gesture.
Hotel taxis are expensive when you want to depart to the airport, so the taxi rank in the street would be cheaper, even with a tip added to the metered fare.
Politeness by learning a few Thai words such as "Kob Khun Krup" (thank-you) will go a long way. Loudness of any kind is taken as aggressive behaviour and keeping "cool" in any situation is advisable. Learn a bit about Thai culture before travelling to Thailand as it is a very unique culture.
To get the best rate for hotels in Thailand always book on-line through a well known agency or through your travel agent. Walking into a hotel without a booking will incur a premium price! The highest cost factor besides the flight cost can be accommodation expenses and organising where you will stay in Thailand can be the difference between a cheap vacation and not so cheap. Dont forget to make two copies of your paid hotel vouchers and store each in different baggage. Without a printed voucher you will not be able to claim the accommodation at the hotel.
Food & Water
Street food and cafe style eateries is where you will see the locals eat. Thai food is cheap, tasty and usually safe just like any other country. I have never had a problem and the vendor will know to make your dish less spicy hot if you are a westerner. One great thing about buying fruit in Thailand from roadside stalls and markets is that they are usually tree ripened and very sweet, full of flavor and cheap.
Water from taps / faucets / showers etc. is NOT safe to drink and should never be drunk under any circumstance. Boiling the water will NOT kill bacterial spores or botulinum neuro-toxins. Bottled water is very cheap in Thailand from the local shop if you purchase a cheap brand. If you cook food then ALWAYS use bottled water if required. Beware of ice in drinks if it is not from a safe source.
Visit your health professional at least 3 months prior to visiting Thailand because inoculations against some illnesses require injections over a period of time to be effective.
Your doctor will be aware of what is required. If you are visiting any rural areas in Thailand then you should declare what areas as this may affect what is required. You may want to carry antibiotics for food poisoning as a precaution.
If you take any restricted drugs, then you should obtain advice from your immigration department prior to departure and obtain a letter from your health professional. Always ensure all drugs have pharmacy labels and you carry the prescription with you to prove legitimacy.
Water from taps / faucets / showers etc. in Thailand is NOT safe to drink and should never be drunk under any circumstance. Boiling the water will NOT kill bacterial spores or botulinum neuro-toxins. Bottled water is very cheap in Thailand from the local shop if you purchase a cheap brand.
Public toilets in Thailand at large service stations, shopping complexes, trains and large bus coaches, and tourist areas are usually very clean and some have attendants that charge a small fee. You can often purchase paper and toileteries at a cheap price from the attendant. You can usually find a western style toilet but it could be a squat toilet.
You should always carry toilet paper, hand sanitizer and deoderizer if you intend to travel in rural areas, cheap markets, small towns and very cheap accommodation. But this would be normal no matter what country you visit in the world.
Mobile Cell Phone
Turn off your mobile cell phones "Mobile Data" option to avoid expensive overseas data costs. You can purchase a simm card and data plan in Thailand, or if you have a locked phone then buy a second hand phone in MBK in Bangkok. Ensure your "Wireless" option is turned on to take advantage of free hotel Internet. Most hotels and other accommodation provide free wireless Internet connection, just ask for a voucher with the code and password.
Also very essential is to turn on "global roaming" for text and/or phone calls. This can usually be done on-line using your cell phone providers web site, or calling them before you depart. If you do not then you will need to use land line phones to call home, and no-body from home will be able to directly contact you in an emergency. Your mobile cell phone should be able to automatically connect to a preferred provider in Thailand, or you can select the recommended providor in Thailand in your cell phone options.
Here are few handy apps you could use on your mobile phone.
Most Hotels and accommodation in tourist areas have Internet available but remote and rural areas most likely do not have any Internet unless you come across an Internet cafe in a small town.
Disclaimer: Any advice in this article does not replace qualified expert advice that you should obtain prior to taking a vacation. Please read the disclaimer.