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Thailand Travel Information

The Basics

Time

GMT +7

Electricity

220 volts, 50Hz. Both flat and round two-pin plugs are used.

Language

Thai is the official language, although English is widely spoken in tourist areas.

Travel Health

As a health precaution, travellers should take medical advice at least three weeks before travelling to Thailand. There is no malaria risk in major tourist resorts or in the cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pattaya, Ko Samui, and Ko Phangan. But in rural, forested areas that border Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Laos, preventions against malaria are recommended and immunisation against hepatitis A and typhoid fever is also advised. Yellow fever vaccination certificates are required for travellers from infected areas.

There has been an increase in reported cases of dengue fever, particularly in the south, and vaccination against Japanese encephalitis is also recommended. Outbreaks of leptospirosis occur during the rainy season and after flooding. There have been outbreaks of waterborne diseases in the Provinces of Khon Kaen, Lop Buri, Phitsanulok and Prachin Buri. Outbreaks of cholera have also been reported. Travellers should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. If they suffer from diarrhoea during their visit, they should seek immediate medical attention. HIV/AIDS is prevalent in the major cities and resorts. Medical facilities are good in major cities, but good medical insurance is vital - without insurance, or cash/credit card, travellers will not be treated. Bangkok has excellent international hospitals.

Note: Thailand has reported cases of Zika virus infections. The UK foreign office classifies the risk of transmission as moderate. Pregnant women are advised to postpone Thailand travel plans until after the pregnancy. Visitors should be sure to use mosquito repellent and be aware that the virus can be transmitted sexually; appropriate precautions should be taken.

Tipping

Tipping is not expected, but is becoming more common in places frequented by tourists. Tipping 10 to 15 percent on a restaurant bill is usual, but ultimately this is left up to the customer to decide based on service performance. Sometimes a 10 percent service charge is added to the bill at hotels and restaurants, but this is not common. All help with carrying bags, tour guides etc. welcome small tips. Taxi drivers are not generally tipped.

Safety Information

Though most visits to Thailand are trouble-free, tourists should follow a few safety precautions. They should avoid all political gatherings and marches and stay well-informed about the situation in the country - as they should when visiting any destination.

Like many parts of the world, South East Asia has been a victim of terrorism, meaning travellers should be vigilant in public places. They should also avoid the border regions and shouldn't camp in undesignated areas in national parks. The security situation in the southern provinces near the Malaysian border is unstable and travel to Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat and Songkhla is to be avoided.

Visitors to major cities are advised to secure their passports and credit cards and not carry too much money or jewellery. In Bangkok, visitors should be aware of scams, often involving gems recommended by kind strangers. In tourist areas, particularly at the Full Moon Party on Ko Phan Ngan, travellers should be careful about accepting drinks from strangers as there have been reports of drinks being drugged. Incidents of sexual assault do occur and female travellers should be cautious.

The monsoon season in September and October (November to March on Koh Samui) brings about flooding in the north, northeast and central regions, causing mudslides and flash floods; visitors planning to trek in the jungle during this time should check conditions with licensed tour guides before leaving.

Local Customs

While Thais are well known for their friendliness, visitors should remember that they frown on public displays of affection. Visitors should also save their beachwear for the beach and respect the custom of taking off shoes when entering a home. Most shops and restaurants won't expect tourists to remove their footwear.

Foreigners should avoid putting their feet on tables or chairs, as lifting a foot toward someone is disrespectful - especially the underside of the foot. And though haggling is common when buying items (especially at markets), Thais are generally very calm and soft spoken people. Tourists should avoid arguing loudly or raising their voices when haggling, as this is considered disrespectful in Thai culture. They should avoid touching others' hair or heads (rubbing a child's hair, for example) for the same reason.

Party goers should note that drugs are illegal throughout the country, and that the possession of small quantities can land them in prison.

Business

Business culture in Thailand is considerably more relaxed than other Asian countries within the region. However, Thailand shares its neighbours' work ethic and value systems, as well as emphasis on hierarchy and building relationships. Senior managers must be consulted on all matters and decisions. Appearance and age are important in Thai business culture as they illustrate social standing and status. Older individuals are generally afforded a great deal of regard in Thailand. Building relationships is central to business culture in Thailand. It is ill regarded for a businessman to start negotiating before being properly acquainted with his business associates.

The concept of 'face' and saving face is important in Thailand; so if travellers make a mistake, they shouldn't expect it to be pointed out to them. Also, if a business associate makes a mistake, it is impolite to draw attention to it or correct them. In 2010, Thailand was the fastest growing economy in SouthEast Asia. Despite this, Thais value family time and time to actually live life. Placing family in front of business priorities is the norm.

English is the language of business in Thailand, but translators are often needed. Business hours are from 8am to 5pm or 9am to 6pm with an hour for lunch. Dress styles tend to be quite formal, but due to the humid climate, heavy suits are rare. However, meetings with senior management tend to be slightly more formal and jackets are usually worn. Men generally wear shirts, slacks and a tie while women wear below-the-knee skirts and blouses. Pants-suits for women are quite rare.

Shaking hands is not a popular form of greeting and the wai (putting a prayer-like gesture in front of oneself and bowing slightly) is more acceptable. The higher the hands compared to the face when bowing, the more respect is meant by the wai. It is customary to wai first to those older than oneself. When addressing others, Thais use first names rather than surnames preceded by Kuhn for both men and women. As with many Asian nations, giving gifts to business associates is generally a good idea. When receiving gifts, foreigners shouldn't open them in front of the giver. Also, they should wait to be introduced to others, as it is an indication of rank. Often the hierarchical structures favour the elders in a group and respect must be given accordingly.

Communications

The international country dialling code for Thailand is +66. The outgoing code is 001, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 00144 for the United Kingdom). Mobile phone networks cover most towns, cities, and holiday resorts, and wifi is, relatively speaking, easily available.

Duty Free

Travellers to Thailand do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 250g tobacco or equivalent amount of cigars or 1 litre of alcohol. Goods to the value of THB 20,000 per person for holders of tourist visas are allowed. Family allowances are double the individual allowances. Prohibited items include firearms and ammunition, fireworks, and drugs. Trafficking in drugs carries the maximum penalty. Restrictions apply to meat imported from countries affected by BSE or mad cow and foot-and-mouth diseases. Antiques or objects of art and religious articles may not be exported without a license.

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