Region: South East Asia
Buddhism is the national religion and is extremely widespread, with approximately 95% of the population practising Theravada Buddhism. Theravada is an early and, according to the Thais, uncorrupted school of Buddhism. It has been entrenched since the Sukhothai Period in the 13th Century. Socially every male Thai is expected to serve some period of his life as a monk, ideally in the time between study and the beginning of a career or family. Traditionally, this time is three months, but may be as little as a few weeks. When visiting temples, please ensure you are not dressed inappropriately; i.e. no shorts or sleeveless shirts. Please show consideration if you wish to take photographs or enter Buddhist temples. Monks are not allowed to touch or be touched by women or even handed anything directly by a woman. Shoes should also be taken off when entering any building that houses a Buddha image. When sitting in a temple your feet should not be pointed in the direction of the Buddha image. The best way to ensure you avoid offence is to be aware of the actions of the Thai people around you and follow their lead.
Thai is the official language.Thai is a tonal language that is very difficult for English-speaking people to get right. However, if you attempt to make an effort, you will find that it will be appreciated by the local people. If you are male then some phrases/words will end with ‘Krahp’ and if you are female the same phrases/words will end with ‘Kah’.
Area (sq. km):
514,000 square meters
GMT +7 hours
Thailand has three distinct seasons: - hot from March to May - rainy from June to October - cool and dry from November to February Thailand is affected by monsoons and, as a general rule, hot tropical temperatures predominate all year round. Regional variations do exist, however, and these should be noted when planning a visit to Thailand. In northern and central Thailand, the monsoon arrives as early as May and lasts right through to November. Drier conditions then predominate between November and May, with comparatively lower temperatures between November and end-February. Hilltribe treks can be quite cold at night. These lower temperatures are then replaced by higher temperatures between March and May. Throughout the dry season travellers to Thailand's north are advised to carry some warmer clothing for the cool evenings.
Anytime of year is a great time to visit Thailand. From June to October, it is monsoon season, but the rains only tend to be in short afternoon bursts, clearing the air and refreshing the spirit. From March to June northern and central Thailand are hot and dry. The cooler dry season runs from November to February, with monsoons on the east coast until January.
Bangkok Bangkok's new Suvarnabhumi (pronounced 'Suwannaphoom') International Airport is located in the Samut Prakan District, 30 kilometres east of the city. For your transfer to your hotel - after collecting your luggage and clearing customs please make your way to the main Yellow AOT desk at the arrivals area C and report to the desk staff. You will then be allocated a driver who will take you to your joining hotel. If you need assistance with your airport transfer, please call Peung on +66 89 1295544. If you are finding your own way into town, it is possible to catch taxis and buses. The meters on metered taxis into town should read no more than 350 Baht, but there is also an additional 50 Baht airport surcharge and 70 Baht for tolls. Allow for a total of just under 500 Baht (approximately US$14). From the arrivals hall in Level 2, passengers should head down to Level 1, where the taxi rank is located. All airport buses, no matter where you get off, cost 150 Baht (approximately US$4) per person. The best route for Peregrine passengers for travelling to the airport at the end of their tour is to catch the 'AE 3', which runs along Sukhumvit Road. Please note that as they are currently working on the extension to the skytrain, this route can be very slow during peak hour and this will be so for the next few years.
Chiang Mai Chiang Mai International Airport is located a short distance out of town. Peregrine provides an arrival transfer, but if you are finding your own way into town, it is possible to catch a taxi. Taxis into town should be around the 200 Baht mark.
Phuket There is a minibus service that will cost around 80 Baht into town (depending on passenger numbers). Alternatively taxis will cost around 540 Baht to the Patong or Karon beach.
The international dialling code for Thailand is +66. If you are in Bangkok and are dialling another landline number in Bangkok, you must still dial the (02) prefix before dialling that number. Telephone calls, especially international calls, made from hotels, often attract significant service charges, even when the number dialled is not available. Where possible, endeavour to make calls from local telephone offices, which are usually situated in or near the post offices. It is always advisable to confirm the rates you will be paying before you make your call. Should any extra assistance be required when you are on tour, please contact our local offices first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange ‘global roaming’ with your service provider; however, charges are generally very high so be sure to check this option thoroughly. You should also check with your service provider to see if your mobile phone is compatible with the networks used in Thailand.
The electricity supply in Thailand is rated at 220 volts (220V/50 cycles), and appliances requiring 240 volts will also work normally. If you bring electrical appliances you should also bring an international adaptor. Plug design varies, depending where you are; however, two flat pins (USA style) or three-pronged angled pins (Australian style) are fairly common. A torch (or flashlight) is useful when travelling in more remote areas. Note that whilst trekking, and in more remote areas, electricity will not be available. Here, the best option is small, battery-operated appliances.
There is a veritable feast awaiting the visitor to Thailand. Thai food is generally cooked totally from fresh ingredients of vegetables, meat and seasonings. These ‘seasonings’ make Thai food some of the spiciest and hottest in the culinary world. Be on the lookout for small chillies and peppers in your meals. If you don't spot them early enough you will soon know!
In the main cities, especially Bangkok and Chiang Mai, the most common form of public transport is the 'saamlaw' (meaning 'three wheels') and the 'tuk-tuk'. Although very noisy, these three wheeled vehicles will get you to most places around town very cheaply. In other areas, the 'sawngthaew', (a utility vehicle with 2 rows of bench seats down the sides), are found and again are very inexpensive.
There is so much to buy it is hard to know where to start! In Bangkok there are many outlets selling imitation-brand watches and clothing. It is a shopper's delight. Further to the north there are good hilltribe-made artefacts and local handicrafts. At all times your tour leader is only too happy to offer you advice on where the best place is to get that particular little ‘souvenir’ you are seeking. Bargaining is an accepted part of the culture here and really adds to the fun, once you get the knack of it! WARNING - Beware of any touts on the streets of Bangkok offering cheap deals on semi-precious stones. Very often these stones are fakes or not worth as much as the asking price. Stay away from these people and just say you are not interested.
If you are flying into Thailand you will be issued with a 30 day stay on arrival.
There are a number of books that make interesting reading and provide insight into the country's history, politics and culture. A few suggestions are: Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind-Carol Hollinger Monsoon Country-Pira Sudham The Hilltribes of Northern Thailand-Gordon Young Thailand-Lonely Planet Thai Ways-Dennis Segaller Thailand: A Short History-David Wyatt Culture Shock! Thailand & How to Survive It-Robert& Nanthapa Cooper The English Governess at the Siamese Court-Anna Leonowens The Beach-Alex Garland Travelers’ Tales Thailand -Charles Nicholls, Pico Iyer, et al. Borderlines -Charles Nicholls