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Internet Access
Legal Matters
Photography & Video
Tourist Information
Travellers With Disabilities
Women Travellers


Thailand offers a wide variety of accommodation from cheap and basic to pricey and luxurious. Accommodation rates listed in this book
are high-season prices for either single or double rooms. Icons are included to indicate where
internet access, swimming pools or air-con are
available; otherwise, assume that theres a fan.
A two-tiered pricing system has been used
in this book to determine budget category
(budget, midrange, top end). In big cities and
beach resorts, rates under 1000B are budget,
under 3000B are midrange, with top end over
3000B. For small towns, rates under 600B are
budget, under 1500B are midrange and top
end over 1500B.
In places where spoken English might be
limited, it is handy to have the following:

hrng pt lom (room with fan) and hrng aa

(room with air-con).
The following are descriptions of the types
of lodging youll find in Thailand.

Guesthouses are generally the cheapest accommodation in Thailand and can be found all along
the backpacker trail. In areas like the northeast
and parts of the southeast, guesthouses (as well
as tourists) are not as widespread.
Rates vary according to facilities, from a
rock-bottom 150B for a room with shared
bathroom and a rickety fan to over 600B for a
room with private facilities, air-con and a TV.
Many guesthouses make their bread and butter
from their onsite restaurants that serve the classic backpacker fare (banana pancakes and fruit
shakes). Although these restaurants are convenient and a good way to meet other travellers,
dont measure Thai food based on dishes youve
eaten in famously mediocre guesthouses.
Most guesthouses cultivate a travellers ambience with friendly knowledgeable staff and
minor amenities like tourist information and
book exchanges. But there are also plenty of
guesthouses with grumpy, often disgruntled,
clerks who let customers know that they dislike their jobs.
Increasingly guesthouses can handle advance
reservations, but due to inconsistent cleanliness
and quality it is advisable to always look at a
room in person before committing. In tourist
centres, if your preferred place is full, there are
usually a dozen alternatives nearby. Guesthouses
typically only accept cash payments.
A subset of the traditional guesthouse is the
beach bungalow, which occupies the backpacker destinations along the Thai coastline.
For more accommodation reviews and recommendations by Lonely Planet authors,
check out the online booking service at Youll find the true,
insider lowdown on the best places to stay.
Reviews are thorough and independent.
Best of all, you can book online.


738 D I R E C T O R Y A c c o m m o d a t i o n

Bangkok Post and the Nation publish

national and international news daily.

There are more than 400 AM and FM
radio stations; short-wave radios can
pick up BBC, VOA, Radio Australia,
Deutsche Welle and Radio France International.
Six VHF TV networks carry Thai pro-

gramming, plus TrueVision UBC cable

with international programming.
The main video format is PAL.
Thailand uses 220V AC electricity;

power outlets most commonly feature

two-prong round or flat sockets.
Thailand follows the international met-

ric system. Gold and silver are weighed

in bat (15g).

Increasingly rare are the simple palm thatch

and bamboo huts, which have been replaced
by sturdier wooden or concrete bungalows.
Regardless of quality, many bungalows are
usually smack dab on the beach or built on a
hillside overlooking the ocean.

Hotels & Resorts

In provincial capitals and small towns, the only
options are often older Thai-Chinese hotels,
once the standard in all of Thailand. Most cater
to Thai guests and English is usually limited.
These hotels are multistorey buildings and
might offer a range of rooms from midrange
options like private bathrooms, air-con and
TV to cheaper ones with shared bath facilities and a fan. In some of the older hotels, the
toilets are squats and the shower is a klong
jar (a large terracotta basin from which you
scoop out water for bathing). Although the
Thai-Chinese hotels have got tons of accidental retro charm, unless the establishment has
been recently refurbished, weve found that
they are too old and worn to represent good
value compared to the guesthouses.
In recent years, there has been a push to fill
the budget gap for ageing backpackers or young
affluent travellers who want the ambience of a
guesthouse with the comforts of a hotel. Now
in major tourist towns, new flashpacker hotels
have dressed up the utilitarian options of the
past with stylish decor and creature comforts.

International chain hotels can be found

in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and other
high-end beach resorts. Many of these upscale
resorts incorporate traditional Thai architecture with modern minimalism.
Most top-end hotels and some midrange
hotels add a 7% government tax (VAT) and
an additional 10% service charge. The additional charges are often referred to as
plus plus. A buffet breakfast will often be
included in the room rate. If the hotel offers Western breakfast, it is usually referred
to as ABF, a strange shorthand meaning
American breakfast.
Midrange and chain hotels, especially in
major tourist destinations, can be booked in
advance and some offer internet discounts
through their websites or online agents. They
also accept most credit cards, but only a few
deluxe places accept American Express.
In most countries, resort refers to hotels
that offer substantial recreational facilities (eg
tennis, golf, swimming and sailing) in addition
to accommodation and dining. In Thai hotel
lingo, however, the term simply refers to any
hotel that isnt in an urban area. Hence a few
thatched beach huts or a cluster of bungalows in
a forest may be called a resort. Several places in
Thailand fully deserve the resort title under any
definition but it will pay for you to look into
the facilities before making a reservation.

National Parks Accommodation

Most national parks have bungalows or campsites available for overnight stays. Bungalows
typically sleep as many as 10 people and
rates range from 800B to 2000B, depending
on the park and the size of the bungalow.
These are popular with extended Thai families who bring enough provisions to survive
the Apocalypse. A few parks also have reuan
taou (longhouses).
Camping is available at many parks for
60B per night. Some parks rent tents (300B a
night) and other sleeping gear, but the condition of the equipment can be poor.
The National Parks department (
/parkreserve) now has a comprehensive, if slightly
clunky online booking system for all parks.
Do note that reservations for camp sites and
bungalows are handled on different pages
within the website. Advance bookings can be
made a month ahead and are recommended
for popular parks, especially on holidays
and weekends.

Cycling & Mountain Biking

Long-distance cycling is becoming a popular
touring option. Biking Southeast Asia with Mr
Pumpy ( contains route suggestions, tips and other details from spoke
folks. There are also countrywide cycling
and mountain biking tour programs available through SpiceRoads ( as well as
tours operators out of Bangkok and Chiang
Mai. Cycling around certain cities in Thailand
is a great alternative to public transport; for
details on bicycle hire see p762.

Diving & Snorkelling

Thailands two coastlines and countless islands are popular among divers for their
warm and calm waters and colourful marine
life. Lonely Planets richly illustrated Diving &
Snorkelling Thailand is full of vital information
for serious divers.
Reef dives along the Andaman Coast are
particularly rewarding with hundreds of
hard corals and reef fish catalogued in this fertile marine zone. The most spectacular diving
is in the marine parks of the Similan Islands
(p645) and Surin Islands (p644). Most dive
operators run live-aboard trips out of Phuket
(p649) and Khao Lak (p640).

Diving on the Gulf Coast is available just

about anywhere foreigners rest their luggage.
Ko Tao (p610) has the reputation of providing
the cheapest dive training but most courses
feel like factories instead of classrooms.
Although the water conditions are not the
best, Pattaya (p234) is the closest dive spot to
Bangkok, with several wreck dives.
Most islands have easily accessible snorkelling amid offshore reefs that are covered by
water no deeper than 2m. Local fisherman
will also take out groups for day-long snorkelling tours to various sites around the islands.
Masks, fins and snorkels are readily available
for rent at dive centres and guesthouses in
beach areas. If youre particular about the
quality and condition of the equipment you
use, however, you might be better off bringing your own mask and snorkel some of the
stuff for rent is second rate.

Other Watersports
The most dramatic scenery for kayaking is
along the Andaman Coast. Its littered with
bearded limestone mountains and semisubmerged caves. Many sea-kayaking tours
take visitors to scenic Ao Phang-Nga (p647).
Krabi (p681) is the one-stop beach destination
for sporty types, and sea-kayaking tours explore emerald lagoons and sea caves. Kayaking
trips through the Ang Thong Marine Park
(p623), off the coast of Ko Samui, is the Gulfs
premier paddling spot.
Most tour operators use open-deck kayaks
since water and air temperatures in Thailand


Before embarking on a scuba diving, skin diving or snorkelling trip, carefully consider the
following points to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:
Possess a current diving-certification card from a recognised scuba diving instructional

Obtain reliable information about physical and environmental conditions at the dive site (eg

from a reputable local dive operation).

Be aware of local laws, regulations and etiquette about marine life and the environment.
Dive only at sites within your realm of experience; if available, engage the services of a

competent, professionally trained dive instructor or dive master.

Be aware that underwater conditions vary significantly from one region, or even site, to an-

other. Seasonal changes can significantly alter any site and dive conditions. These differences
influence the way divers dress for a dive and what diving techniques they use.
Ask about the environmental characteristics that can affect your diving and how trained local

divers deal with these considerations.


Thailand has developed a thriving softadventure scene that matches a low-impact
activity with sightseeing. Most tours are glorified highlight trips in a minivan but a few allow
people to sweat and strain in the jungle.

D I R E C T O R Y A c t i v i t i e s 739


740 D I R E C T O R Y B u s i n e s s H o u r s

are warm. When signing up for a tour, find

out if you or a guide is the primary paddler;
some are more sightseeing than exercise.
The rivers of northern Thailand offer
white-knuckle white-water trips during and
after the monsoon season. Trips are organised
out of Pai (p441), Chiang Mai (p299) and to a
lesser extent in Nan province.
Windsurfing enjoys a modest following in
Pattaya (p237) and Phuket (p649). In general
the windy months on the Gulf of Thailand are
from mid-February to April. On the Andaman
Sea side of the peninsula the winds are strongest from September to December. At certain
times of year on Phuket, the normally subdued Andaman roars into shore with enough
energy to steer a surfboard.

Rock Climbing
Way back before the Stone Age, Thailand sat at
the bottom of a vast ocean that lapped against
the Tibetan Plateau. When the ocean eventually receded and mainland Southeast Asia
popped up, the skeletons of deceased marine
life left behind a swath of chalk-white caves
and cliffs the whole length of Thailand. While
the Tibetans lost backyard surfing rights, the
Thais got the milky-white, pock-marked,
medium-hard limestone perfect for chalky fingers and Scarpa-clad toes. Farng backpackers
were the first to slam bolt to stone in the mid1980s, but the Thais have quickly followed suit.
Rock climbing has become so popular that the
Thais have begun sending climbers to amateur
contests in the USA and Australia.
Krabis Hat Railay (p688) is Thailands
climbing mecca. The huge headland and tiny
islands nearby offer high-quality limestone
with steep pocketed walls, overhangs and the
occasional hanging stalactite. But what makes
climbing here so popular are the views. Your
reward for a vertical assault on a cliff isnt
just the challenge to gravity but also a birds
eye perspective of a sparkling blue bay and
humpbacked mountains.
If the crowds in Krabi are too much, check
out Ko Phi-Phi or head north to Chiang Mai

Wilderness walking or trekking is one of northern Thailands biggest draws. Many routes feature daily walks through forested mountain
areas coupled with overnight stays in hill-tribe
villages and elephant rides to satisfy both ethno-

and ecotourism urges. Chiang Mai and Chiang

Rai are the primary base points for these tours.
Other trekking areas in the north include Mae
Hong Son, Pai, Chiang Dao, Tha Ton, Nan
and Um Phang. In southwestern Thailand,
Kanchanaburi has become an outdoor trekking
destination with easier access to Bangkok.
These adventures rank high on most travellers to-do lists, but the final verdict is often
mixed. Hill-tribe trekking has many detractors
because of concerns over exploitation and tourism overload. Some companies and guesthouses
in less-touristed areas are actually able to live
up to travellers expectations of providing an
authentic cultural exchange with hill-tribe villagers and intense jungle experiences but were
not big fans of running off to the most far-flung
place to find same same but different.
It is difficult to recommend a particular
trekking company as guides often float between companies and the participants will
vary each trip. Officially all guides should
be licensed by the Tourism Authority of
Thailand (TAT). This means they have received at least regional and survival training, and they are registered, which is useful
if there are problems later. The guide should
be able to show you their licence and certificate. Green licences are for trekking only,
pink are for sightseeing only and silver ones
are for guides licensed to do both. In general
tour companies are safer and better regulated
now than years past but you should still talk
to fellow travellers for recommendations.
If an organised trek doesnt appeal to you,
consider travelling to Mae Salong (p358), an
interesting highland town where you can
arrange independent trekking trips.
The best time to trek is during the cool
season (roughly November to February)
when the weather is refreshing, the landscape is still green, the waterfalls are full
from the monsoon rains and the wildflowers
are in bloom. Between March and May the
hills are dry and the weather is quite hot.
The second-best time is early in the rainy
season, between June and July, before the
dirt roads become too saturated.
For a discussion about the responsibility
issues of entering hill-tribe villages see p47.

Most government offices are open from
8.30am to 4.30pm weekdays. Some government offices close from noon to 1pm for

Thais love children and will shower attention
and sweets on them as if they were celebrities.
Children can easily find ready playmates among
their Thai counterparts and a temporary
nanny service at practically every stop. Thais
are so family focused that youll find otherwise
disinterested parties wanting to pinch at your
childrens cheeks and play a game of peekaboo
(called j ir) with amusable babies.
To smooth out the usual road bumps of
dragging children from place to place, check
out Lonely Planets Travel with Children,
which contains useful advice on how to cope
with kids on the road, with a focus on travel
in developing countries.

Health & Safety

For the most part parents neednt worry
too much about health concerns, although
it pays to lay down a few ground rules (such
as regular hand washing) to head off potential medical problems. Children should be
warned not to play with animals as rabies
is relatively common in Thailand and many
dogs are better at being barkers and garbage
eaters than pets. All the usual health precautions apply (see p771).

Amenities specially geared towards young
children such as child-safety seats for cars,
high chairs in restaurants or nappy-changing
facilities in public restrooms are virtually
nonexistent in Thailand. Therefore parents
will have to be extra resourceful in seeking
out substitutes or just follow the example of
Thai families (which means holding smaller
children on their laps much of the time).


Bars 6pm-midnight or 1am (times vary

depending on local enforcement of

national curfew laws)
Department stores 10am-8pm or 9pm

Monday to Sunday
Discos 8pm-2am
Live-music venues 6pm-1am
Restaurants 10am-10pm
Local shops 10am-6pm Monday to

Saturday, some open Sunday

Baby formula and nappies (diapers) are

available at minimarkets and 7-Elevens in
the larger towns and cities, but the sizes are
usually small, smaller and smallish. If your
kid wears size 3 or larger, head to Tesco
Lotus, Big C or Tops Market stores. Nappy
rash cream is sold at the pharmacies.
Hauling around little ones can be a challenge. Thailands footpaths are oftentimes
too crowded to push a pram, especially todays full-sized SUV versions. Instead opt
for a compact umbrella stroller that can
squeeze past the fire hydrant and the mango
cart and that can be folded up and thrown
in a tk-tk. A baby pack is also useful but
make sure that the childs head doesnt sit
higher than yours: there are lots of hanging
obstacles poised at forehead level.
Although you might be in food heaven,
kids can be a little resistant to culinary adventures. In general Thai children dont start
to eat spicy food until elementary school,
before then they seemingly survive on kw
neo and jelly snacks. Other kid-friendly
meals include chicken in all of its non-spicy
permutations gi yhng (grilled chicken),
gi trt (fried chicken) and gi pt mt
mmoang (chicken stir-fried with cashew
nuts) as well as kw pt (fried rice), ki
jeeo (Thai-style omelette) and goay eo
(noodle soups). See also p90.

Sights & Activities

Of the many destinations in Thailand, children will especially enjoy the beaches, as
most are in gentle bays good for beginner
swimmers. Animal amusements abound in
Thailand, but animal conditions and treatment are often below par compared with


lunch, while others have Saturday hours

(9am-3pm). Banking hours are typically
9.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday. ATMs
are usually accessible 24 hours a day and bank
branches with extended hours can be found
at the big department stores such as Tesco
Lotus and Big C.
Privately owned stores usually operate between 10am and 5pm daily. Most local restaurants are open 10am until 10pm, with an hours
variation on either side. Some restaurants,
specialising in morning meals close by 3pm.
Please note that all government offices
and banks are closed on public holidays
(see p748).

D I R E C T O R Y C h i l d re n 741


742 D I R E C T O R Y C l i m a t e C h a r t s

standards in the West. Elephant rides, bamboo rafting and other outdoor activities
around Chiang Mai and Kanchanaburi are
more animal- and kid-friendly. Older children might enjoy the northeastern town of
Khon Kaen (p493), which is decorated with
dinosaur statues and boasts a nearby national
park and museum with dinosaur bones in
situ. Bangkok is great fun for those in awe
of construction sites: the city is filled with
cranes, jackhammers and concrete-pouring
trucks. Kids on a train kick might like an
overnight journey. On the train they can
walk around and theyre assigned the lower
sleeping berths with views of the stations.
For other itinerary ideas, see p28.


40 104

































40 104














































40 104




10m (33ft)






181m (597ft)




40 104























Cooking courses pop up wherever there

are tourists willing to dice some shallots.
Bangkoks courses (p144) tend to be more
formal, with dedicated kitchen facilities and
individual work stations; but Chiang Mai is
the undisputed cooking-course capital (see
p300). Elsewhere, a resourceful entrepreneur
might hang a sign on the front door and
students join the rhythm of a typical Thai
kitchen. See the individual destination chapters for recommended schools.












Formal, university-affiliated language programs are available in Bangkok (p145) and

Chiang Mai (p301). Both cities also offer an
array of short-term coursework tailored to
suit different communication needs from
business Thai to reading and writing.
















313m (1030ft)

40 104










20m (66ft)





121m (400ft)

40 104

See p18 for further information on choosing the best time of year for your visit
to Thailand.











10m (36ft)





One of the fastest growing sectors of

Thailands educational tourism, mooay tai
(Thai boxing; also spelt muay thai) training
takes place at dozens of camps around the
country. Traditional mooay tai camps, especially in the rural areas, are in the business
of training winning fighters, who elevate the
prestige and earnings of the teacher and the
school. The training sessions are gruelling,
the diet is rudimentary and the facilities are
little more than a dusty ring for sparring and
a few shared cabins. Some foreign fighters
with the potential for competitive success
have trained in these schools but they did so
through personal introductions and a dedication to the sport.
Better suited for the athlete interested in
the sport rather than becoming a potential
prize fighter are the camps that specialise in
training Westerners. Many of these facilities
have English-speaking trainers and better
equipment, and subsidise the training through
increased tuition fees. Training periods can
range from a one-day course to multi-week
sessions. Do be aware that the potential for
some camps to be interested only in tuition
fees is a concern and it pays to do a lot of
advance research. Bangkok and Chiang Mai
have long-established foreigner-friendly training camps. Phuket and other resort towns
have less serious schools intended for less
serious students.

Thailand has long been a popular place
for Buddhist meditation study. Unique
to Buddhism, particularly Theravada and
to a lesser extent Tibetan Buddhism, is a
system of meditation known as vipassana
(wtsnah in Thai), a Pali word that
roughly translates as insight. Foreigners
who come to Thailand to study vipassana
can choose from dozens of temples and
meditation centres specialising in these
teachings. Teaching methods vary but the
general emphasis is on observing mind-body
processes from moment to moment. Thai
language is usually the medium of instruction but several places also provide instruction in English.
Contact details for some of the more popular meditation-oriented temples and centres
are given in the destination chapters of this
guide. Instruction and accommodation are

free of charge at temples, although donations

are expected.
Some places require that you wear white
clothes when staying overnight. For even a
brief visit, wear clean and neat clothing (ie
long trousers or skirt and sleeves that cover
the shoulders).

Thai Massage
Thai massage is more like a yoga workout than
a deep-tissue massage. The theory behind the
tradition is to promote health by manipulating certain sn (pressure points) along the
body meridians so that energy is distributed
evenly throughout the nervous system. The
dynamic aspects of Thai massage also address
the muscular-skeletal system in a way that
is often compared to modern physiotherapy
and chiropractic. Training in Thai massage
is available in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The
centre of Thai massage pedagogy is at Wat
Pho (p146) in Bangkok.

Thailand prohibits the import of firearms and
ammunition (unless registered in advance
with the police department), illegal drugs and
pornographic media. A reasonable amount of
clothing, toiletries and professional instruments are allowed in duty free. Up to 200 cigarettes and 1L of wine or spirits can be brought
into the country duty free. The customs department ( maintains a helpful
website with more specific information.
When leaving Thailand, you must obtain an export licence for any antiques or
objects of art, including newly cast Buddha
images. Export licence applications can be
made by submitting two front-view photos
of the object(s), a photocopy of your passport, along with the purchase receipt and the
object(s) in question, to the Department of Fine
Arts (DFA; %0 2628 5032). Allow three to five days
for the application and inspection process to
be completed.


Although Thailand is in not a dangerous
country to visit, it is smart to exercise caution, especially when it comes to dealing with
strangers (both Thai and foreigners) and travelling alone. In reality, you are more likely
to be ripped off or have a personal possession surreptitiously stolen than you are to be
physically harmed.


Mooay Tai (Thai Boxing)

D I R E C T O R Y C u s t o m s R e g u l a t i o n s 743


744 D I R E C T O R Y D a n g e r s & A n n o y a n c e s

Assault of travellers is rare in Thailand, but it
does happen. Weve received letters detailing
fights between travellers and Thai guesthouse
workers or other Thai youths. While both parties are probably to blame (and alcohol is often
a factor), do be aware that causing a Thai to
lose face (feel public embarrassment or humiliation) might elicit an inexplicably strong
and violent reaction. While a good cuss-out
might be an acceptable way to vent anger in
the West, it is an invitation for fisticuffs, a
sneak attack or worse by a Thai. While gun
violence is almost unheard of in Thailand,
there have been a few instances of foreigners
getting into fights with off-duty police officers
who have used their weapons in retaliation.
There is a surprising amount of assaults
in Ko Samui and Ko Pha-Ngan considering
their idyllic settings. Oftentimes alcohol is the
number one contributor to bad choices and
worse outcomes. Ko Pha-Ngans Full Moon
party is becoming increasingly violent and
dangerous. There are often reports of fights,
rapes and robbings.
Women, especially solo travellers in Samui
or Pha-Ngan, need to be smart and somewhat sober when interacting with the opposite
sex, be they Thai or farng. Opportunists
pounce when too many whisky buckets are
involved. Also be aware that an innocent flirtation might convey firmer intentions to a
recipient who does not share your cultures
sexual norms.

Border Issues
Thailand enjoys much better relations with its
neighbours than it did a decade ago and many
land borders are now functional and safe passages for goods and people. The ongoing violence in the Deep South (see right) has made
the once popular crossing at Sungai Kolok a
potentially dangerous proposition.
Cross-border relations with Thailand and
Myanmar during the Thaksin era have resulted in increased cooperation between the
two governments and the discontinuation of
the Thai army providing assistance to minority resistance groups in Myanmar. Many of
the border crossings between Thailand and
Myanmar are day-use only and attract people renewing their visas or poking around
the border markets. On rare occasions the
Myanmar government has impetuously closed
these points without notice, leaving day-pass

visitors stranded. More likely closures are

due to news-making events like Thailands
2006 coup. Keeping abreast of current events
prior to arriving at the border will prevent
potential problems.
The long-contested border temple
of Khao Phra Wihan (known as Preah
Vihear in Cambodia), in the far northeast
of the country, resulted in a military buildup and violent clashes between Thai and
Cambodian forces in 2007. Although tensions have relaxed since, the temple is still
closed to visitors.

Deep South Violence

Currently Thailands southernmost Muslimmajority provinces (Yala, Pattani and
Narathiwat) experience frequent occurrences
of violence believed to be connected to an
amorphous but ongoing ethno-nationalist
struggle. Since 2002, violence has escalated
from attacks on perceived symbols of the
government (provincial officials, soldiers,
teachers and monks) to seemingly random
(though possibly vendetta-motivated) killings
on average citizens, and increasingly sophisticated, coordinated bombings of marketplaces, banks and train stations. From 2004
to 2007 there was an average of 160 violent
occurrences per month. Attacks varied from
insurgent-style activity to gang-like shootings, further complicating attempts to clearly
define the groups and their intentions. Most
violence is confined to the three provinces
known collectively as the Deep South and
primarily to more rural districts within these
provinces, though bombings have occurred in
downtown sections of the provincial capitals
of Yala and Pattani provinces.
Periodic bombings have also occurred in
the southern commercial and transport hub
of Hat Yai and in border districts of Songkhla
Province. Although the Thai government has
political motivations to connect the violence
in the Deep South to global terror networks
such as Al Qaeda and regional militant groups
such as Jemaah Islamiyah, most observers do
not believe that the regions insurgents are
closely linked to these groups.
At the time of writing, no foreign tourists had been directly targeted, but civilian
attacks have increased and it is a distinct
possibility that an unsuspecting traveller
might get caught in the wrong place. We
would discourage taking the train through

Druggings & Drug Possession

More common amongst sex tourists than
backpackers, male travellers have reported
accepting cigarettes, drinks or food from flirtatious Thai women only to wake up sometime later with a headache and without their
valuables. Inviting a prostitute to your hotel
room can have the same results.
It is illegal to buy, sell or possess opium,
heroin, amphetamines, hallucinogenic mushrooms and marijuana in Thailand. A new era
of vigilance against drug use and possession
was ushered in by former Prime Minister
Thaksins 2003 war on drugs; during the
height of the campaign police searched partygoers in Bangkok nightclubs and effectively
scared many of the recreational drug users
into abstinence for a time. Things have relaxed
somewhat since the 2006 coup but the country
is no longer a chemical free-for-all.
Belying Thailands anything-goes atmosphere are severely strict punishments for possession and trafficking that are not relaxed
for foreigners. Possession of drugs can result
in at least one year or more of prison time.
Drug smuggling defined as attempting to
cross a border with drugs in your possession carries considerably higher penalties,
including execution.
During citywide festivals, such as Bangkoks
New Years Eve and Ko Pha-Ngans Full Moon
parties, police set up road blocks and inspection stations in an attempt to apprehend drug
suppliers and their contraband. In some cases,
enforcement of the drug laws is merely leverage for exacting massive bribes. Ko PhaNgans police are notorious for bribable sting
operations in which a drug dealer makes an
exchange with a customer, followed shortly

by a police bust and an on-site demand of

70,000B to avoid arrest.
Another party town, Pai has seen a recent
revival of the Thaksin-era urine drug tests
on bar patrons by police. As of writing, the
strong-arm gift of freedom in such cases is
10,000B. The Pai police have been following
a policy of intimidation towards foreign revellers, often fining bars for creative applications
of the entertainment prohibitions and entering establishments visibly carrying weapons.

Thais can be so friendly and laid-back that
some visitors are lulled into a false sense of
security making them vulnerable to scams
of all kinds. Bangkok is especially good at
long-involved frauds that dupe travellers into
thinking that theyve made a friend and are
getting a bargain.
Most scams begin in the same way: a
friendly and well-dressed Thai, or sometimes even a foreigner, approaches you and
strikes up a conversation. Invariably your
destination is closed or being cleaned, but
your new friend offers several alternative activities, such as sightseeing at smaller temples or shopping at authentic markets. After
youve come to trust the person, you are next
invited to a gem and jewellery shop because
your new-found friend is picking up some
merchandise for himself. Somewhere along
the way he usually claims to have a connection, often a relative, in your home country
(what a coincidence!) with whom he has a
regular gem export-import business. One way
or another, you are convinced that you can
turn a profit by arranging a gem purchase and
reselling the merchandise at home. After all,
the jewellery shop just happens to be offering
a generous discount today its a government
or religious holiday, or perhaps its the shops
10th anniversary, or maybe theyve just taken
a liking to you!
There are seemingly infinite numbers of
variations on the scam described above, almost all of which end up with you making a
purchase of small low-quality gems and posting them to your home country. Once you
return home, of course, the cheap jewels turn
out to be worth much less than you paid for
them (perhaps one-tenth to one-half).
The Thai police are usually no help whatsoever, believing that merchants are entitled
to whatever price they can get.


the ThaiMalaysian border at Sungai Kolok

a popular crossing for tourists heading to the
Perhentian Islands in Malaysia. It would be
safer to cross the border on the western side
of the peninsula, either by bus or train from
Hat Yai or by boat from Satun.
Although Hat Yai is considered a target for
bombings, it is still a functioning city and for
now is safe enough to travel in and out of,
though this situation should be monitored.
The provincial capital of Songkhla should
also be fairly safe for visitors, although caution should be exercised. It is not advisable
to travel between Hat Yai and Songkhla
after dark.

D I R E C T O R Y D a n g e r s & A n n o y a n c e s 745


746 D I R E C T O R Y E m b a s s i e s & C o n s u l a t e s

Card games are another way to separate

travellers from their money. A friendly
stranger approaches the lone traveller on the
street, strikes up a conversation and then invites them to their house or apartment for a
drink or meal. After a bit of socialising a friend
or relative of the con arrives on the scene; it
just so happens a little high-stakes card game
is planned for later that day. Like the gem
scam, the card game has many variations, but
eventually the victim is shown some cheating
tactics to use with help from the dealer, some
practise sessions take place and finally the
game gets under way with several high rollers at the table. And if you dont know how
this ends, we suggest you watch the movie
The Hustler. Again, the police wont take any
action because gambling is illegal in Thailand
and youve actually broken the law.
Other minor scams involve tk-tk drivers,
hotel employees and bar girls who take new
arrivals on city tours; these almost always end
up in high-pressure sales situations at silk,
jewellery or handicraft shops. In this case the
victims greed isnt the ruling motivation its
simply a matter of weak sales resistance.
Follow TATs number-one suggestion to
tourists: Disregard all offers of free shopping or
sightseeing help from strangers. These invariably take a commission from your purchases.
Contact the tourist police (%1155) if you have
any problems with consumer fraud.

Theft & Fraud

Exercise diligence when it comes to your personal belongings. Ensure that your room is
securely locked and carry your most important effects (passport, money, credit cards) on
your person. Take care when leaving valuables
in hotel safes.
Follow the same practise when youre travelling. A locked bag will not prevent theft on
a long-haul bus when youre snoozing and
the practised thief has hours alone with your
luggage. This is a common occurrence on the
tourist buses from Khao San Rd to the southern beaches or north to Chiang Mai.
When using a credit card, dont let vendors take your credit card out of your sight
to run it through the machine. Unscrupulous
merchants have been known to rub off three
or four or more receipts with one purchase.
Sometimes they wait several weeks even
months between submitting each charge receipt to the bank, so that you cant remember

whether youd been billed by the same vendor

more than once.
To avoid losing all of your travel money
in an instant, always use a credit card that is
not directly linked to your bank account back
home so that the operator doesnt have access
to immediate funds.

Touting is a long-time tradition in Asia, and
while Thailand doesnt have as many touts as,
say, India, it has its share.
In the popular tourist spots youll be approached, sometimes surrounded, by guesthouse touts who get a commission for bringing
in potential guests. While it is annoying for
the traveller, it is an acceptable form of advertising among small-scale businesses. Take
anything a tout says with scepticism. Since
touts get paid for delivering you to a guesthouse or hotel (whether you check in or not),
theyll say anything to get you in the door.
Some places refuse to pay commissions so in
return the touts will steer customers to places
that do pay. This type of commission work is
not limited to low-budget guesthouses. Travel
agencies are notorious for talking newly arrived tourists into staying at badly located,
overpriced hotels.
Travel agencies often masquerade as TAT,
the government-funded tourist information
office. They might put up agents wearing fake
TAT badges or have signs that read TAT in
big letters to entice travellers into their offices where they can sell them overpriced bus
and train tickets. Be aware that the official
TAT offices do not make hotel or transport
bookings. If such a place offers to do this for
you then they are a travel agent not a tourist
information office.
When making transport arrangements, talk
to several travel agencies to look for the best
price, as the commission percentage varies
greatly between agents. Also resist any highsales tactics from an agent trying to sign you
up for everything: plane tickets, hotel, tours
etc. The most honest Thais are typically very
low-key and often sub-par salespeople.


Foreign embassies are located in Bangkok;
some nations also have consulates in
Chiang Mai.
Australia (Map p124; %0 2344 6300; www.aust; 37 Th Sathon Tai, Bangkok)

D I R E C T O R Y Fe s t i v a l s & E v e n t s 747

South Africa (Map p124; %0 2253 8473; www.saemb

Pracha Uthit/Soi Ramkamhaeng 39, Bangkok)

Canada Bangkok (Map p124; %0 2636 0540; www; 15th fl, Abdulrahim Bldg, 990
Th Phra Ram IV); Chiang Mai (Map pp276-7; %0 53850147; 151 Superhighway, Tambon Tahsala) Consulate only
at Chiang Mai.
China Bangkok (Map pp110-11; %0 2245 7044; www; 57 Th Ratchadaphisek); Chiang Mai
(Map pp284-5; %0 5327 6125; 111 Th Chang Lor)
Consulate only at Chiang Mai.
Denmark (Map p124; %0 2343 1100; www.amb; 10 Soi 1, Th Sathon Tai; Bangkok)
Consulates in Pattaya and Phuket.
France Bangkok (Embassy Map pp118-19; %0 2657
5100;; 35 Soi 36, Th Charoen
Krung; Consular Section Map p124; %0 2627 2150; 29 Th
Sathon Tai); Chiang Mai (Map pp284-5; %0 5328 1466;
138 Th Charoen Prathet) Consulates only in Chiang Mai,
Phuket and Surat Thani.
Germany (Map p124; %0 2287 9000; www.german; 9 Th Sathon Tai, Bangkok)
India Bangkok (Map pp122-3; %0 2258 0300-6; 46
Soi Prasanmit/Soi 23, Th Sukhumvit); Chiang Mai (Map
pp276-7; %0 5324 3066; 344 Th Charoenrat) Consulate
only in Chiang Mai.
Indonesia (Map pp120-1; %0 2252 3135; www.kbri; 600-602 Th Phetchaburi, Bangkok)
Ireland (Map p124; %0 2677 7500; www.irelandinthai; 28th fl, Q House, Th Sathon Tai, Bangkok) This is a
consulate only; the nearest Irish embassy is in Kuala Lumpur.
Israel (Map pp122-3; %0 2204 9200; Ocean Tower 2,
25th fl, 25 Soi 19, Th Sukhumvit, Bangkok)
Japan Bangkok (Map p124; %0 2207 8500; www; 177 Th Withayu); Chiang Mai (Map
pp276-7;%0 5320 3367; 104-107 Airport Business Park,
Th Mahidon) Consulate only in Chiang Mai.
Laos (Map pp110-11; %0 2539 6678; www.bkklao; 502/1-3 Soi Sahakarnpramoon, Pracha
Uthit/Soi 39, Th Ramakamhaeng, Bangkok)
Malaysia (Map p124; %0 2679 2190-9; 35 Th Sathon
Tai, Bangkok) Theres also a consulate in Songkhla.
Myanmar (Burma; Map pp118-19; %0 2233 2237, 0 2234
4698;; 132 Th Sathon Neua, Bangkok)
Nepal (Map pp110-11; %0 2391 7240;
.np; 189 Soi 71, Th Sukhumvit, Bangkok)
Netherlands (Map pp120-1; %0 2309 5200; www.nether; 15 Soi Tonson, Th Ploenchit, Bangkok)
New Zealand (Map pp120-1; %0 2254 2530; www; 14th fl, M Thai Tower, All Seasons Pl, 87
Th Withayu, Bangkok)
Philippines (Map pp122-3; %0 2259 0139; www.phil; 760 Th Sukhumvit, Bangkok)
Singapore (Map pp118-19; %0 2286 2111; www.mfa; 129 Th Sathon Tai, Bangkok); 12A fl, M Thai Tower, All Seasons Place, 87

Th Withayu, Bangkok)
Spain (Map pp122-3; %0 2661 8284; 23 fl, Lake Ratchada Office Complex, 193 Th Ratchadaphisek, Bangkok)
Switzerland (Map pp120-1; %0 2253 0156; 35 Th
Withayu, Bangkok)
UK Bangkok (Map pp120-1; %0 2305 8333; www.british; 14 Th Withayu); Chiang Mai (Map pp2845; %0 5326 2015; British Council, 198 Th Bamrungrat)
Consulate only in Chiang Mai.
USA Bangkok (Map pp120-1; %0 2205 4000; http://bang; 95 Th Withayu); Chiang Mai (Map
pp284-5; %0 5310 7700; 387 Th Wichayanon) Consulate
only in Chiang Mai.
Vietnam (Map pp120-1; %0 2251 5836-8; www.vietnam; 83/1 Th Withayu, Bangkok)


Thai festivals tend to be linked to the agricultural seasons or to Buddhist holidays. The
general word for festival in Thai is ngahn
ttsgahn. See the Events Calendar (p21)
for more information.

Most restaurants in Thailand are inexpensive
by international standards and food prices
tend to hold steady throughout the year.
The 2007 global spike in oil prices resulted
in one of the first nationwide increases of
food in almost a decade: a bowl of goay
eo in Bangkok jumped from 30B to 35B.
A typical meal at a street stall should cost
25B to 40B; a meal at a typical mum-anddad Thai restaurant for one should be about
80B to 150B. Guesthouses and restaurants
catering to foreigners tend to charge more
than local restaurants. See p83 for thorough
descriptions of the cuisine and the kinds of
restaurants youll find in Thailand.


Thai culture is relatively tolerant of both
male and female homosexuality. There is a
fairly prominent gay and lesbian scene in
Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. With regard
to dress or mannerism, lesbians and gays
are generally accepted without comment.
However, public displays of affection
whether heterosexual or homosexual are
frowned upon. Utopia ( posts
lots of Thailand information for gay and lesbian visitors and publishes a guidebook to
the kingdom for homosexuals.


Cambodia (Map pp110-11; %02957 5851-2; 518/4


748 D I R E C T O R Y H o l i d a y s



Government offices and banks close on the

following days.
January 1 New Years Day
April 6 Chakri Day, commemorating the founder of the

In general Thai police dont hassle foreigners,

especially tourists. If anything they generally
go out of their way not to arrest a foreigner
breaking minor traffic laws, instead taking the
approach that a warning will suffice.
One major exception is drugs, which most
Thai police view as either a social scourge
against which its their duty to enforce the
letter of the law, or an opportunity to make
untaxed income via bribes.
If you are arrested for any offence, the police will allow you the opportunity to make
a phone call to your embassy or consulate
in Thailand, if you have one, or to a friend
or relative if not. Theres a whole set of legal
codes governing the length of time and manner in which you can be detained before being
charged or put on trial, but a lot of discretion
is left to the police. In the case of foreigners
the police are more likely to bend these codes
in your favour. However, as with police worldwide, if you dont show respect you will make
matters worse.
Thai law does not presume an indicted
detainee to be either guilty or innocent
but rather a suspect, whose guilt or innocence will be decided in court. Trials are
usually speedy.
The tourist police (%1155) can be very helpful
in cases of arrest. Although they typically have
no jurisdiction over the kinds of cases handled
by regular cops, they may be able to help with
translations or with contacting your embassy.
You can call the hotline number 24 hours a
day to lodge complaints or to request assistance with regards to personal safety.

Chakri dynasty, Rama I

May 5 Coronation Day, commemorating the 1946

coronation of HM the King and HM the Queen
July (date varies) Khao Phansaa, the beginning of
Buddhist lent
August 12 Queens Birthday
October 23 Chulalongkorn Day
October/November (date varies) Ork Phansaa, the end
of Buddhist lent
December 5 Kings Birthday
December 10 Constitution Day

A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss
and medical problems is a good idea. Policies
offer differing medical-expense options. There
is a wide variety of policies available, so check
the small print. Be sure that the policy covers
ambulances or an emergency flight home.
Some policies specifically exclude dangerous activities, which can include scuba diving, motorcycling or even trekking. A locally
acquired motorcycle licence is not valid under
some policies.
You may prefer a policy that pays doctors or hospitals directly rather than you
having to pay on the spot and claim later. If
you have to claim later make sure you keep
all documentation.
See p771 for recommendations on health insurance and p766 for details on vehicle insurance. Worldwide travel insurance is available
at You
can buy, extend and claim online anytime
even if youre already on the road.

Youll find plenty of internet cafes in most
towns and cities, and in many guesthouses
and hotels as well. The going rate is anywhere
from 40B to 120B an hour, depending on how
much competition there is. Connections tend
to be pretty fast and have been sped up with
the proliferation of wireless access, which is
fairly widespread throughout the country including the rural northeast. Only Bangkok has
been slow to make wi-fi affordably accessible.
Most guesthouses will offer wi-fi for free while
high-end hotels offer it only in lobbies for a
usage fee.


ThinkNet ( produces a highquality city and country maps series, including interactive-map CDs to Bangkok.
For GPS users in Thailand, most prefer the
Garmin units and the associated map products that are accurate and fully routed. An
online world map showing adequate street
detail for Thailand can be found at Multimap
Do-it-yourself trekkers or anyone with a
keen interest in geography may find sheet
maps issued by the Thai military to be helpful.
These maps are available at a number of scales,
complete with elevations, contour lines, place
names (in both Thai and roman script) and
roads. These maps can be purchased at the

D I R E C T O R Y M o n e y 749


Foreign Exchange

Map pp114-15; %0 2222 8844;; Th

Kanlayana Maitri, Bangkok), opposite the Interior

The basic unit of Thai currency is the baht.

There are 100 satang in one baht; coins include
25-satang and 50-satang pieces and baht in 1B,
2B, 5B and 10B coins. Older coins have Thai
numerals only, while newer coins have Thai
and Arabic numerals. The 2B coin was introduced in 2007 and is confusingly similar in size
and design to the 1B coin. The two satang coins
are typically only issued at supermarkets where
prices arent rounded up to the nearest baht,
which is the convention elsewhere.
Paper currency is issued in the following
denominations: 20B (green), 50B (blue), 100B
(red), 500B (purple) and 1000B (beige). In the
1990s, the 10B bills were phased out in favour
of the 10B coin but occasionally you might
encounter a paper survivor.

ATMs & Credit/Debit Cards

Debit and ATM cards issued by a bank in your
own country can be used at ATM machines
around Thailand to withdraw cash (in Thai baht
only) directly from your account back home.
ATMs are widespread throughout the country
and can be relied on for the bulk of your spending cash. You can also use ATMs to buy baht at
foreign-exchange booths at some banks.
Credit cards as well as debit cards can be
used for purchases at many shops, hotels and
restaurants. The most commonly accepted
cards are Visa and MasterCard. American
Express is typically only accepted at high-end
hotels and restaurants.
To report a lost or stolen credit/debit card,
call the following hotlines in Bangkok.
American Express (%0 2273 5544)
Diners Club (%0 2238 3660)
MasterCard (%001 800 11887 0663)
Visa (%001 800 441 3485)

Changing Money
Banks or the rarer private moneychangers
offer the best foreign-exchange rates. When
buying baht, US dollars are the most accepted
currency, followed by British pounds and
euros. Most banks charge a commission and
duty for each travellers cheque cashed.

There is no limit to the amount of Thai

or foreign currency you may bring into
the country.
There are certain monetary requirements
for foreigners entering Thailand; demonstrations of adequate funds varies per visa type
but typically does not exceed a travellers estimated trip budget. Rarely will you be asked
to produce such financial evidence, but be
aware that such laws do exist. For specific
amounts for each visa type, visit the website of
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mfa
Upon leaving Thailand, youre permitted to
take out a maximum of 50,000B per person
without special authorisation; export of foreign currencies is unrestricted. An exception
is made if youre going to Cambodia, Laos,
Malaysia, Myanmar or Vietnam, where the
limit is 500,000B.
Its legal to open a foreign-currency account at any commercial bank in Thailand.
As long as the funds originate from out of
the country, there arent any restrictions on
maintenance or withdrawal.

Tipping is not generally expected in Thailand.
The exception is loose change from a large
restaurant bill; if a meal costs 488B and you
pay with a 500B note, some Thais will leave
the 12B change. Its not so much a tip as a
way of saying Im not so money grubbing as
to grab every last baht. Apart from this, it is
not customary to leave behind the change if
it is less than 10B.
At many hotel restaurants or other upmarket eateries, a 10% service charge will be added
to your bill. When this is the case, tipping
is not expected. Bangkok has adopted some
standards of tipping, especially in restaurants
frequented by foreigners.


Thais are gadget fans and most have made the
transition to digital. Memory cards for digital
cameras are generally widely available in the
more popular formats and available in the


Ministry on the western side of Th Ratchini in

Ko Ratanakosin. You can survey the surveys
maps at the website.

Current exchange rates are printed in the

Bangkok Post and the Nation every day, or
you can walk into any Thai bank to see a
daily rate chart.
See p18 for information on the cost of
travel in Thailand.

Royal Thai Survey Department (Krom Phaen Thi Thahan;


750 D I R E C T O R Y P o s t

If there isnt a sign stating the price for an item then the price is negotiable. Bargaining for nonfood items is common in street markets and some mum-and-dad shops. Prices in department
stores, minimarts, 7-Elevens and so forth are fixed.
Thais respect a good haggler. Always let the vendor make the first offer then ask Can you
lower the price?. This usually results is an immediate discount from the first price. Now its
your turn to make a counteroffer; always start low but dont bargain at all unless youre serious
about buying.
It helps immeasurably to keep the negotiations relaxed and friendly, and always remember to
smile. Dont loose your temper or raise your voice as drama is not a good leverage tool.

electronic sections of most shopping malls.

In the tourist areas, many internet shops have
CD-burning software if you want to offload
your pictures. Alternatively, most places have
sophisticated enough connections that you
can quickly upload digital photos to a remote
storage site.
Print film is still available but not as ubiquitous as it once was. Slide film can be hard
to find outside Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Dependable E6 processing is available at several labs in Bangkok but is untrustworthy
elsewhere. Image Quality Lab (IQ Lab; Map pp118-19;
%0 2266 4080;; 160/5 ITF Bldg, Th Silom,
Bangkok) offers the widest range of professional

services, with all types of processing for print

and digital printing.
Be considerate when taking photographs of
the locals. Learn how to ask politely in Thai
and wait for an embarrassed nod. In some of
the regularly visited hill-tribe areas be prepared
for the photographed subject to ask for money
in exchange for a picture. Other hill tribes will
not allow you to point a camera at them.

Thailand has a very efficient postal service
and local postage is inexpensive. Typical provincial post offices keep the following hours:
8.30am to 4.30pm weekdays and 9am to noon
on Saturdays. Larger main post offices in provincial capitals may also be open for a half-day
on Sundays.
Most provincial post offices will sell do-ityourself packing boxes, and some will pack
your parcels for you for a small fee. Dont send
cash or other valuables through the mail.
Thailands poste restante service is generally very reliable, though these days few
tourists use it. When you receive mail,
you must show your passport and fill out
some paperwork.

Many bargains await you in Thailand but
dont go shopping in the company of touts,
tour guides or friendly strangers as they will
inevitably take a commission on anything
you buy, thus driving prices up beyond an
acceptable value and creating a nuisance for
future visitors.

Real antiques cannot be taken out of
Thailand without a permit. No Buddha
image, new or old, may be exported without
the permission of the Department of Fine
Arts. See p743 for information.
Real Thai antiques are increasingly rare.
Today most dealers sell antique reproductions
or items from Myanmar. Bangkok and Chiang
Mai are the two centres for the antique and
reproduction trade.

Many kinds of hand-thrown pottery, old and
new, are available throughout the kingdom.
The best-known ceramics are the greenish
celadon products, red-earth clay of Dan
Kwian, and central Thailands benjrong
or five-colour style. Benjrong is based
on Chinese patterns while celadon is a Thai
original that has been imitated throughout
China and Southeast Asia. Rough unglazed
pottery from the north and northeast can also
be very appealing. Bangkok is full of modern
ceramic designs while Chiang Mai sticks to
traditional styles.

Clothes tend to be inexpensive in Thailand
but ready-made items are not usually cut
to fit Westerners body types. Increasingly
larger-sized clothes are available in metropolitan malls, like Bangkoks MBK and

In Bangkok, Chiang Mai and other tourist centres theres a thriving black-market
street trade in fake designer goods. No-one
pretends theyre the real thing, at least not
the vendors. Technically it is illegal for these
items to be produced and sold and Thailand
has often been pressured by intellectualproperty enforcement agencies to close down
the trade. Rarely does a crackdown by the
police last and often the vendors develop
more surreptitious means of distribution,
further highlighting the contraband character of the goods. In the Patpong market, for
example, a vendor might show you a picture
of a knock-off watch, you pay for it and they
go around the corner to fetch it. They usually come back but youll wait long enough
to wonder.

Rattan and hardwood furniture items are
often good purchases and can be made
to order. Chiang Mai is the countrys primary furniture producer with many retail
outlets in Bangkok. Due to the ban on
teak harvesting and the subsequent exhaustion of recycled teak, 70% of export
furniture produced in Thailand is made
from parawood, a processed wood from
rubber trees that can no longer be used for
latex production.

Gems & Jewellery

Thailand is the worlds largest exporter
of gems and ornaments, rivalled only by
India and Sri Lanka. Although rough-stone
sources in Thailand have decreased dramatically, stones are now imported from
Myanmar, Sri Lanka and other countries to
be cut, polished and traded.
Although there are a lot of gem and jewellery stores in Thailand, it has become so
difficult to dodge the scammers that the
country no longer represents a safe and enjoyable place to buy these goods. See p745
for a detailed warning on gem fraud.

Northern Thailand has long produced regionally distinctive lacquerware thanks to
the influence of ancient artisans originally
from Burma. Chiang Mai is known for goldon-black lacquerware. Lacquerware furniture
and decorative items were traditionally made
from bamboo and teak but these days mango
wood might be used as the base. Resin from
the Melanorrhea usitata (Burmese lacquer)
tree is mixed with paddy-husk ash to form a
light, flexible, waterproof coating. If the item
is top quality, only the frame is bamboo and
horse or donkey hairs will be wound round
it. With lower-quality lacquerware, the whole
object is made from bamboo. The lacquer is
then coated over the framework and allowed
to dry. After several days it is sanded down
with ash from rice husks, and another coating of lacquer is applied. A high-quality item
may have seven layers of lacquer. The piece
is then engraved and painted and polished to
remove the paint from everywhere except in
the engravings. Multicoloured lacquerware is
produced by repeated applications.
From start to finish it can take five or six
months to produce a high-quality piece of
lacquerware, which may have as many as
five colours. Flexibility is one characteristic
of good lacquerware: a well-made bowl can
have its rim squeezed together until the sides
meet without suffering damage. The quality and precision of the engraving is another
thing to look for.

Each region in Thailand has its own distinctive
silk-weaving tradition and colour palette that
can often be divided even further into village
characteristics. In ancient times woven textiles


Central Department Store as well touristoriented shops throughout the country.

Markets sell cheap everyday items and
are handy for picking up something when
everything else is dirty. For chic clothes,
Bangkok and Ko Samui lead the country
with design-minded fashions. Finding shoes
that fit larger feet is also a problem. The
custom of returns is not widely accepted in
Thailand, so be sure everything fits before
you leave the store.
Thailand has a long sartorial tradition,
practised mainly by Thai-Indian Sikh families. Youre more likely to get a good fit from
a custom-made piece by a tailor. But this
industry is filled with cut-rate operators and
commission-paying scams. Be wary of the
quickie 24-hour tailor shops; they often use
inferior fabric and have poor workmanship.
Its best to ask Thai or long-time foreign residents for a recommendation and then go for
two or three fittings.

D I R E C T O R Y S h o p p i n g 751


752 D I R E C T O R Y Te l e p h o n e

might have functioned much like business

cards do today demarcating tribal identity
and sometimes even married status. Today
village weaving traditions continue but have
become less geographically specific. Silk shops
throughout the country sell a variety of styles,
from the iridescent, single-colour smooth silk
to the naturally dyed raw silk with its knubby
texture. Woven silk pieces still retain their
regional characteristics.
The northeast is famous for mtme cloth
a thick cotton or silk fabric woven from tiedyed threads, similar to Indonesias ikat fabrics.
Surin Province is renowned for its mtme
silk often showcasing colours and geometric
patterns inherited from Khmer traditions.
In the north, silks reflect the influence of
the Lanna weaving traditions, brought to
Chiang Mai and the surrounding mountains
by the various Tai tribes.
Fairly nice ah (batik) is available in the
south in patterns that are more similar to the
batik found in Malaysia than in Indonesia.
Each hill tribe has a tradition of embroidery that has been translated into the modern
marketplace as bags and jewellery. Much of
what youll find in the marketplaces have been
machine made but there are many NGO cooperatives that help villagers get their handmade
goods to the consumers. Chiang Mai and
Chiang Rai are filled with handicraft outlets.

The telephone system in Thailand has been
deregulated and the once state-owned entities
have been privatised. The telecommunications
sector is dominated by the now private TOT
Public Company Limited (formerly Telephone
Organisation of Thailand or TOT) and CAT
Telecom Public Company Limited (formerly
Communications Authority of Thailand or
CAT). For domestic service, TOT and its
subsidiary TT&T are the primary service
providers, while CAT and TOT compete for
international service.
The telephone country code for Thailand
is %66 and is used when calling the country
from abroad. You must also dial an international exchange prefix (for Australia it is
%0011, for the UK %00 and for the US
%001) before the country code.
Thailand no longer uses separate area
codes for the provinces, so all phone numbers in the country use eight digits (preceded
by a 0 if youre dialling domestically). To

accommodate the growth in mobile (cell)

phone usage, Thailand has introduced an
8 prefix to all mobile numbers; ie % 01
234 5678 is now %081 234 5678. If youre
calling a mobile phone from overseas you
would omit the initial 0 for both mobile and
landline numbers.

International Calls
If you want to call an international number
from a telephone in Thailand, you must
first dial an international access code before
dialling the country code followed by the
subscriber number.
In Thailand, there are varying international access codes charging different rates
per minute. The standard direct-dial prefix is
%001; it is operated by CAT and is considered to have the best sound quality; it connects
to the largest number of countries but is the
most expensive. The next best is %007, a prefix operated by TOT with reliable quality and
slightly cheaper rates. Economy rates are available with %008 and %009; both of which
use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), with
varying but adequate sound quality.
Many expats are now using DeeDial (www, a direct-dial service that requires
a prepaid account managed through the internet. The cheapest service they offer is the
ring-back feature, which circumvents local
charges on your phone.
There are also a variety of international
phonecards available through CAT (www.cthai
.com) offering promotional rates as low as 1B
per minute.
Dial %100 for operator-assisted international calls. To make a reverse-charges (or collect) call, use this prefix. Alternatively contact
your long-distance carrier for their overseas
operator number, a toll-free call, or try %001
9991 2001 from a CAT phone and %1 800
000 120 from a TOT phone.

If you dont have access to a private landline
you can use a somewhat old-fashioned way to
call overseas through a service called Home
Country Direct, available at some post offices
and CAT centres throughout the country. This
service offers an easy one-button connection
to international operators in countries around
the world.
Calling overseas through phones in most
hotel rooms usually incurs additional sur-

Mobile Phones
Thailand is on a GSM network. Mobile
(cellular) phone operators in Thailand include AIS, DTAC and True Move (formerly
Orange). You have two hand-phone options: you can either buy a mobile phone in
Thailand at one of the shopping malls, like
Bangkoks MBK, or you can use an imported
phone that isnt SIM-locked. Most mobile
users in Thailand use the prepaid services
of a particular carrier (AIS and DTAC are
the most popular). To get started buy a SIM
card, which includes an assigned telephone
number. Once your phone is SIM-enabled
you can buy minutes with prepaid phonecards. SIM cards and refill cards can be
bought from 7-Elevens throughout the country. There are various promotions but rates
typically hover around 2B to 3B per minute
anywhere in Thailand and between 5B and
7B for international calls. SMS is usually 5B
per message, making it the cheapest talk
option for baht-strapped mobile users.

Thailands time zone is seven hours ahead of
GMT/UTC (London). At government offices
and local cinemas, times are often expressed
according to the 24-hour clock, eg 11pm is

written 2300. See also the World Time

Zone map at the end of this book.
The official year in Thailand is reckoned
from 543 BC, the beginning of the Buddhist
Era, so that AD 2009 is BE 2552, AD 2010
is BE 2553 etc.

As in many other Asian countries, the
squat toilet is the norm except in hotels
and guesthouses geared towards tourists
and international business travellers. These
sit more-or-less flush with the surface of the
floor, with two footpads on either side. For
travellers who have never used a squat toilet,
it takes a bit of getting used to.
Toilet users scoop water from an adjacent
bucket or tank with a plastic bowl and use it to
clean their nether regions while still squatting
over the toilet. A few extra scoops of water
must be poured into the toilet basin to flush
waste into the septic system.
Even in places where sit-down toilets are
installed, the septic system may not be designed to take toilet paper. In such cases the
usual washing bucket will be standing nearby
or there will be a waste basket where youre
supposed to place used toilet paper.

The government-operated tourist information and promotion service, Tourism Authority
of Thailand (TAT;, was founded
in 1960 and produces excellent pamphlets on
sightseeing, accommodation and transport.
TATs head office is in Bangkok and there are
22 regional offices spread throughout the country. Check the destination chapters for the TAT
office in the towns youre planning to visit.
The following are a few of TATs overseas
information offices; check TATs website for
contact information in Hong Kong, Taipei,
Seoul, Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Stockholm
and Rome.
Australia (%02 9247 7549;; Level
20, 75 Pitt St, Sydney, NSW 2000)

France (%01 53 53 47 00;; 90 Ave

des Champs Elyses, 75008 Paris)
Germany (%069 138 1390;;
Bethmannstrasse 58, D-60311 Frankfurt/Main)
Malaysia (%603 216 23480;;
Ste 22.01, Level 22, Menara Citibank, 165 Jalan Ampang,
50450 Kuala Lumpur)
Singapore (%65 6235 7901;;
c/o Royal Thai Embassy, 370 Orchard Rd, 238870)


charges (sometimes as much as 50% over and

above the CAT rate); however sometimes local
calls are free or at standard rates. Some guesthouses will have a mobile phone or landline
that customers can use for a per-minute fee
for overseas calls.
There are also a variety of public payphones
that use prepaid phonecards for calls (both international and domestic) and coin-operated
pay phones for local calls. Using the public
phones can be a bit of a pain: they are typically placed beside a main thoroughfare where
youre cooked by the sun and the conversation
is drowned out by traffic noise.
The red and blue public phones are for
local calls and are coin-operated; it typically
costs 5B to initiate a call. Then there are the
phonecard phone booths that accept only certain kinds of cards. The green phones take domestic TOT phonecards. The yellow phones
(labelled either domestic or international)
take the respective Lenso phonecards. These
phonecards can be bought from 7-Elevens in
300B and 500B denominations and rates vary
between 7B and 10B per call.

D I R E C T O R Y Ti m e 753


754 D I R E C T O R Y T r a v e l l e r s W i t h D i s a b i l i t i e s

UK (%020 7925 2511;; 3rd

fl, Brook House, 98-99 Jermyn St, London SW1Y 6EE)
USA New York (%212 432 0433;; 61
Broadway, Ste 2810, New York, NY 10006); Los Angeles
(%323 461 9814;; 1st fl, 611 North
Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004)


Thailand presents one large, ongoing obstacle
course for the mobility impaired. With its
high curbs, uneven footpaths and nonstop
traffic, Bangkok can be particularly difficult.
Many streets must be crossed via pedestrian
bridges flanked with steep stairways, while
buses and boats dont stop long enough even
for the fully abled. Rarely are there any ramps
or other access points for wheelchairs.
A number of more expensive top-end hotels
make consistent design efforts to provide disabled access to their properties. Other deluxe
hotels with high employee-to-guest ratios are
usually good about accommodating the mobility impaired by providing staff help where
building design fails. For the rest, youre pretty
much left to your own resources.
Counter to the prevailing trends, Worldwide
Dive & Sail ( offers liveaboard diving programs for the deaf and hard
of hearing.
Some organisations and publications that
offer tips on international travel include
the following.
Accessible Journeys (%610 521 0339; www.disability; 35 West Sellers Ave, Ridley Park, PA 19078, USA)
Mobility International USA (%541 343 1284; www; 132 E Broadway, Suite 343, Eugene, OR 97401,
Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (%212
447 7284;; 347 Fifth Ave, Suite 605, New
York, NY 10016, USA)


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs ( oversees immigration and visas issues. Check the
website or the nearest Thai embassy or consulate for application procedures and costs.
In the past five years there have been some
shifting rules on visas and visa extensions;
Thaivisa ( stays abreast of any
changes and developments.

Tourist Visas & Exemptions

The Thai government allows tourist-visa exemptions for 41 different nationalities, including those from Australia, New Zealand, the

USA and most of Europe, to enter the country

without a prearranged visa. Do note that in
2008, the length of stay for citizens from exempted countries was slightly altered from
years past. For those arriving in the kingdom
by air, a 30-day visa is issued without a fee.
For those arriving via a land border, the arrival visa has been shortened to 15 days (no
fee is charged). The exception to this rule is
for Malaysian nationals who will still receive a
30-day visa if arriving via a land border.
Without proof of an onward ticket and sufficient funds for ones projected stay any visitor can be denied entry, but in practise your
ticket and funds are rarely checked if youre
dressed neatly for the immigration check.
If you plan to stay in Thailand longer than
30 days (or 15 days for land arrivals), you
should apply for the 60-day tourist visa from
a Thai consulate or embassy before your trip.
Obtaining a tourist visa is a good idea for
overland travellers who need more time in
Thailand than the land-arrival visa allows.
Alternatively you can extend your visa in
Thailand (see Visa Extensions & Renewals
below), but it will be cheaper and youll get
more time if you arrange for a tourist visa
before your arrival. Contact the nearest Thai
embassy or consulate to obtain application
procedures and fees for tourist visas.

Non-Immigrant Visas
The Non-Immigrant Visa is good for 90 days
and is intended for foreigners entering the
country for business, study, retirement and
extended family visits. There are multipleentry visas available in this visa class; youre
more likely to be granted multiple entries if
you apply at a Thai consulate in Europe, the
US or Australia than elsewhere. If you plan to
apply for a Thai work permit, youll need to
possess a Non-Immigrant Visa first.

Visa Extensions & Renewals

You can apply at any immigration office in
Thailand for visa extensions. Most foreigners use the Bangkok immigration office (Map p124;
%0 2287 3101; Soi Suan Phlu, Th Sathon Tai; h9am-noon
& 1-4.30pm Mon-Fri, 9am-noon Sat) or the Chiang Mai
immigration office (Map pp276-7; %0 5320 1755-6; Th
Mahidon; h8.30am-4.30pm Mon-Fri) for extensions

of most types of visa. The usual fee for a visa

extension is 1900B.
Those issued with a standard stay of 15
or 30 days can extend their stay for seven

fice closest to their in-country address; this is

a recent procedural change so check with the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs for more details.

Women make up nearly half of all foreign
visitors to Thailand, a much higher ratio than
the worldwide average, and female travellers
generally face few problems. With the great
amount of respect afforded to women, an
equal measure should be returned.
In the provincial towns, it is advisable to
dress conservatively, covering shoulders, belly
buttons and thighs. Outside of Bangkok, most
Thai women cover up in the sun to avoid
unnecessary exposure since lighter skin is
considered more beautiful. That Westerners
believe the opposite is an endless source of
amusement and confusion.
Attacks and rapes are not common in
Thailand, but incidents do occur, especially
when an attacker observes a vulnerable target: a
drunk or solo woman. If you return home from
a bar alone, be sure to have your wits about you.
The regular Full Moon party at Ko Pha-Ngan is
a common trouble spot. Avoid accepting rides
from strangers late at night or travelling around
in isolated areas by yourself common sense
stuff that might escape your notice in a new
environment filled with hospitable people.
While Bangkok might be a mens paradise
to some, foreign women are finding their own
Romeos on the Thai beaches. As more couples
emerge, more Thai men will make themselves
available. Women who arent interested in
such romantic encounters should not presume that Thai men have merely platonic motives. Women should not encourage frivolous
flirting as some Thai men might feel a loss of
face if attention is then diverted to another
person and, in some cases where alcohol is
involved, violence can ensue.


to 10 days (depending on the immigration

office) if the extension is handled before the
visa expires. The 60-day tourist visa can be
extended by up to 30 days at the discretion
of Thai immigration authorities.
Another visa renewal option is to cross a
land border. Since 2006, Thailand has been
tweaking the border visa rules in an attempt
to crackdown on foreigners who work or live
in the country illegally (ie without the proper
documentation). As of 2008, passport holders from visa-exempt countries could only
obtain a 15-day visa upon arrival at a land
border. The 30-day visa is still available if
you arrive by air and many expats have been
booking flights to nearby Kuala Lumpur for
their visa runs. There was a short-lived limit
placed on the number of times immigration
would grant a stay to visitors crossing the
land borders, but this seems to have been
lifted with the new 15-day land visas. If youre
arriving in Thailand via a land border and
would like to stay longer than 15 days, you
should consider securing a tourist visa from
a Thai embassy or consulate in whichever
country youll be visiting prior to your arrival
in the kingdom.
For all types of visa extensions, bring along
two passport-sized photos and one copy each
of the photo and visa pages of your passport.
Remember to dress neatly and do all visa
extensions yourself, rather than hiring a
third party.
If you overstay your visa, the usual penalty
is a fine of 500B per day, with a 20,000B limit.
Fines can be paid at the airport or in advance
at an immigration office. If youve overstayed
only one day, you dont have to pay. Children
under 14 travelling with a parent do not have
to pay the penalty.
Foreign residents in Thailand should arrange visa extensions at the immigration of-

D I R E C T O R Y W o m e n T r a v e l l e r s 755




Getting There & Away
Entering The Country
Border Crossings
Getting Around
Car & Motorcycle
Local Transport



Entry procedures for Thailand, by air or by land,
are straightforward: youll have to show your
passport (see p754 for information about visa
requirements); and youll need to present completed arrival and departure cards. Blank arrival
and departure cards are usually distributed on
the incoming flight or, if arriving by land, can
be picked up at the immigration counter.
You do not have to fill in a customs form on
arrival unless you have imported goods to declare. In that case, you can get the proper form
from Thai customs officials at your point of
entry. See p749 for Thai customs information
about minimum funds requirements.
Flights, tours and rail tickets can be booked
online at


The Suvarnabhumi Airport ( p181 ;
swannpoom) opened in September
2006 and has replaced the airport at Don
Muang for all international flights and some
domestic flights. It is located in the Nong

Ngu Hao area of Samut Prakan 30km east

of Bangkok and 60km from Pattaya. The
airport code for Suvarnabhumi is BKK.
The old international airport, Don Muang
Airport (p181) in Bangkok, is now used for
some domestic flights by Thailands national
carrier, Thai Airways International (THAI),
as well as by Nok Air and One-Two-Go.
The airport code is DMK. When booking connecting flights, always check which
Bangkok airport you will be using.
While most international flights arrive
at and depart out of Bangkok, there are
a few routes using Thailands other international airports. Moderately up-todate information about these airports is
available online at
The countrys second-busiest airport for
passenger service is Phuket International
Airport (p678). Flights to certain Asian
destinations operate from here without a
layover in Bangkok.
Other airports with limited connections
to Asian capitals can be found in Chiang
Mai (with services to Taipei, Singapore,
Kuala Lumpur, Luang Prabang and
Vientiane), Udon Thani (with services to
Luang Prabang), Ko Samui (with services
to Singapore and Hong Kong) and Hat Yai
(with services to Kuala Lumpur).

Airlines Travelling to/from Thailand

Bangkok is one of the cheapest cities in the
world to fly into and out of, because of the
Thai governments loose restrictions on airfares, and close competition between airlines
and travel agencies. The following airlines fly
to and from Thailand.
Air Asia (%0 2515 9999;;
Suvarnabhumi International Airport)

For international departures from Bangkoks
Suvarnabhumi Airport, there is no longer a
separate departure tax. Do note however,
that international flights out of Ko Samui do
still incur a departure tax (300B).

G E T T I N G T H E R E & A W AY A i r 757


Climate change is a serious threat to the ecosystems that humans rely upon, and air travel is the
fastest-growing contributor to the problem. Lonely Planet regards travel, overall, as a global benefit, but believes we all have a responsibility to limit our personal impact on global warming.

Flying & Climate Change

Pretty much every form of motor travel generates CO2 (the main cause of human-induced climate
change) but planes are far and away the worst offenders, not just because of the sheer distances they
allow us to travel, but because they release greenhouse gases high into the atmosphere. The statistics
are frightening: two people taking a return flight between Europe and the US will contribute as much
to climate change as an average households gas and electricity consumption over a whole year. and other websites use carbon calculators that allow jetsetters to offset the
greenhouse gases they are responsible for with contributions to energy-saving projects and
other climate-friendly initiatives in the developing world including projects in India, Honduras,
Kazakhstan and Uganda.
Lonely Planet, together with Rough Guides and other concerned partners in the travel industry,
supports the carbon offset scheme run by Lonely Planet offsets all of its staff
and author travel.
For more information check out our website:

Air Canada (Map pp118-19; %0 2670 0400; www; Ste 1708, River Wing West, Empire Tower,
195 Th Sathon Tai)
Air China (Map pp118-19; %0 2634 8991; www; Bangkok Union Insurance Bldg, 175-177
Th Surawong)
Air France (Map pp118-19; %0 2635 1191; www; 20th fl, Vorawat Bldg, 849 Th Silom)
Air New Zealand (Map pp118-19; %0 2235 8280; www; 11th fl, 140/17 ITF Tower, Th Silom)
American Airlines (Map pp120-1; %0 2263 0225;; 11th fl Ploenchit Tower, 898 Th Ploenchit)
Bangkok Airways (%1771;;
Suvarnabhumi International Airport)
British Airways (Map pp118-19; %0 2627 1701;; 21st fl, Charn Issara Tower,
942/160-163 Th Phra Ram IV)
Cathay Pacific Airways (Map pp120-1; %0 2263
0606;; 11th fl, Ploenchit Tower,
898 Th Ploenchit)
China Airlines (Map pp120-1; %0 2250 9898;; 4th fl, Peninsula Plaza, 153 Th
Emirates (Map pp122-3; %0 2664 1040; www.emirates
.com; 2nd fl, BB Bldg, 54 Soi 21/Asoke, Th Sukhumvit)
Eva Air (Map pp110-11; %0 2269 6288; www.evaair
.com; 2nd fl, Green Tower, 3656/4-5 Th Phra Ram IV)
Garuda Indonesia (Map p124; %0 2679 7371; www; 27th fl, Lumphini Tower, 1168/77
Th Phra Ram IV)

Gulf Air (Map pp120-1; %0 2254 7931-4; www.gulf; 10th fl, Maneeya Center, 518/5 Th Ploenchit)
Japan Airlines (Map pp120-1;%0 2649 9520; www; 1st fl, Nantawan Bldg, 161 Th Ratchadamri)
Jetstar Airways (Map p189; %0 2267 5125; www; Suvarnabhumi International Airport)
KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines (Map pp118-19; %0 2635
2300;; 20th fl, Vorawat Bldg, 849 Th Silom)
Korean Air (Map pp118-19; %0 2635 0465; www; 1st fl, Kongboonma Bldg, 699 Th Silom)
Lao Airlines (Map pp118-19; %0 2236 9822; www; 1st fl, Silom Plaza, 491/17 Th Silom)
Lufthansa Airlines (Map pp122-3; %0 2264 2484,
reservations 0 2264 2400;; 18th fl, Q
House, Soi 21/Asoke, Th Sukhumvit)
Malaysia Airlines (Map pp120-1; %0 2263 0565;; 20th fl, Ploenchit Tower, 898 Th
Myanmar Airways International (Map pp122-3;
%0 2261 5060;; 8th fl, BB Bldg, 54 Soi
21/Asoke, Th Sukhumvit)
Northwest Airlines (Map pp120-1; %0 2660 6999;; 4th fl, Peninsula Plaza, 153 Th Ratchadamri)
Orient Thai (Map pp118-19; %0 2229 4260; www; 17th fl, Jewellery Centre Bldg, 138/70
Th Naret)
Philippine Airlines (Map pp110-11; %0 2633 5713;
Manorom Bldg, 3354/47 Th Phra Ram IV)
Qantas Airways (Map pp118-19; %0 2236 2800;; Tour East, 21st fl, Charn Issara Tower,
942/160-163 Th Phra Ram IV)


Carbon Offset Schemes


758 G E T T I N G T H E R E & A W AY A i r

Royal Brunei Airlines (Map p124; %0 2637 5151;; 17th fl, U Chu Liang Bldg, 968 Th
Phra Ram IV)
Royal Nepal Airlines (Map pp112-13; %0 2216 56915;; 9th fl Phayathai Plaza
Bldg, 128 Th Phayathai)
Scandinavian Airlines (Map pp122-3; %0 2645
8200;; 8th fl, Glas Haus Bldg, Th
Singapore Airlines (Map pp118-19; %0 2353 6000;; 12th fl, Silom Center Bldg, 2 Th
South African Airways (Map pp118-19; %0 2635
1410;; 20th fl, Vorawat Bldg, 849 Th Silom)
Thai Airways International (
Banglamphu (Map pp114-15; %0 2356 1111; 6 Th Lan
Luang); Silom (Map pp118-19; %0 2232 8000; 1st fl,
Bangkok Union Insurance Bldg, 175-177 Soi Anuman
Rajchathon, Th Surawong)
United Airlines (Map pp118-19; %0 2353 3900; www; 6th fl, TMB Bank Silom Bldg, 393 Th Silom)
Vietnam Airlines (Map pp120-1; %0 2655 4137-40;; 10th fl, Wave Place Bldg, 55 Th

Tickets can be purchased cheaply on the
internet through booking and airline websites, which often list fare sales or special
internet prices. In Thailand, most travel
arrangements are made through an agent.
Most firms are honest and solvent, but there
are some rogue fly-by-night outfits around.
What varies most is the amount of commission an agent will charge; shop around
to gauge the discrepancy in prices. Paying
by credit card generally offers protection,
because most card issuers provide refunds
if you can prove you didnt get what you
paid for. Agents who accept only cash should
hand over the tickets straight away and not
tell you to come back tomorrow. After
youve made a booking or paid your deposit,
call the airline and confirm that the booking
was made.
Booking flights in and out of Bangkok
during the high season (from December to
March) can be difficult and expensive. For
air travel during these months you should
make your bookings as far in advance
as you possibly can.
Also, be sure to reconfirm return or ongoing tickets when you arrive in Thailand.
Failure to reconfirm can mean losing
your reservation.

A round-the-world (RTW) ticket where

you pay a single discounted price for several
connections may be the most economical
way to go.
Here are a few online companies that can
arrange RTW tickets.
Airtreks (
Air Brokers International (
Around the Worlds (
Avia Travel (

There are regular flights to Suvarnabhumi
International Airport from almost every
major city in Asia. With the emergence
of budget airlines, quick hops from, say,
Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or
Hong Kong are now commonly used in
Asia for a weekend getaway. Air Asia and
Dragon are two discount carriers that run
frequent promotions.
Recommended booking agencies for
reserving flights from Asia include STA
Travel (, which has offices in
Bangkok, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.
Another resource in Japan is No1 Travel (www; in Hong Kong try Four Seas Tours
( In India, try STIC Travels
(, which has offices in dozens
of Indian cities.

THAI and Qantas both have direct flights
to Bangkok. Qantas low-budget subsidiary,
Jetstar, travels to Thailand from Sydney and
Melbourne. Garuda Indonesia, Singapore
Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Malaysia
Airlines, China Airlines, Cathay Pacific
Airways and Emirates Airlines also have
frequent flights to Bangkok from Australia.
Online ticket sites include the following.
Expedia (%1 300 397 3342;
Flight Centre (%133 133;
STA Travel (%134 782;

Air Canada, THAI, Cathay Pacific, Japan
Airlines, Singapore Airlines and several
US-based airlines fly from various Canadian
cities to Bangkok. Travel Cuts (%866 246 9762; is Canadas national student
travel agency. North South Travel (www.northsouth is an independent travel agency
located in Vancouver.

Continental Europe
Following are some recommended agencies
across Europe.

Anyway (%0 892 302 301;

Lastminute (%0 466 923 029;
Nouvelles Frontires (%0 149 206 587; www

Voyageurs du Monde (



CTS Viaggi (%06 462 0431; Specialises in

student and youth travel.

Airfair (%0 900 7717 717;


Barcelo Viajes (%902 116 226; www.barceloviajes


Middle East
Egypt Panorama Tours (%2359 0200;
is a long-running agency located in Cairo.

New Zealand
Air New Zealand, British Airways, THAI
and Australian-based airlines have direct
flights to Bangkok. Malaysia Airlines, Qantas
and Garuda Indonesia also have flights to
Bangkok, with stopovers.
Both Flight Centre (%0800 243 544; www.flight and STA Travel (%0800 474 400; www have branches throughout the
country. Go Holidays ( is
recommended for online bookings.

South America
Some recommended agencies include the
ASATEJ ( In Argentina.
Student Travel Bureau (%3038 1555;
.br) In Brazil.

At least two dozen airlines fly between
London and Bangkok, although only three
of them British Airways, EVA Airways and
THAI fly nonstop. Discount air-travel ads

The information in this chapter is particularly vulnerable to change. Check directly
with the airline or a travel agent to make
sure you understand how a fare (and ticket
you may buy) works and be aware of the
security requirements for international
travel. Shop carefully. The details given in
this chapter should be regarded as pointers
and are not a substitute for your own careful,
up-to-date research.

appear in Time Out, the Evening Standard and

in the free magazine TNT. Low Cost Lux (www discusses stopover ideas and nonstop travel between London and Bangkok.
Recommended travel agencies include the
Ebookers (%0871 223 5000;
Expedia (
Flight Centre (%0870 499 0040;
STA Travel (%0871 230 0040;
Trailfinders (%0845 058 5858;
Travel Bag (%0800 804 8911;
Quest Travel (%0845 263 6963;

Its cheaper to fly to Bangkok from West Coast
cities than from the East Coast. The airlines
that generally offer the lowest fares from the US
include China Airlines, EVA Airways, Korean
Air and Northwest. EVA Airways (Taiwan)
offers the Evergreen Deluxe class between
the US and Bangkok, via Taipei, which has
business classsized seats and personal movie
screens for about the same cost as regular
economy fares on most other airlines.
Reliable discounters include the
Cheap Tickets (%888 922 8849; www.cheaptickets

Expedia (%800 397 3342;

Lowest Fare (%800 678 0998;
Orbitz (%888 656 4546;
Smarter Living (%617 886 5555; www.smarterliving

STA Travel (%800 781 4040;

Travelocity (%888 872 8336;

You can cross into and out of Thailand via
public boat from the west coast of Malaysia.
For visa-run purposes you can do a one-day


Just Travel (%089 747 3330;

Lastminute (%0 1805 284 366;
STA Travel (%0 6974 303 292;

G E T T I N G T H E R E & A W AY B o a t 759


760 G E T T I N G T H E R E & A W AY L a n d

crossing from the Andaman coast town of

Ranong to Myanmars Victoria Point (also
known as Kawthoung).
All foreign-registered private vessels,
skippers and crew must check in with the
relevant Thai authorities as soon as possible
after entering Thai waters. Although major
ports throughout Thailand offer port checkins, most leisure-boating visitors check in at
Phuket, Krabi, Ko Samui, Pranburi or Pattaya.
Before departing from Thailand by boat,
you must also check out with immigration,
customs and the harbourmaster.

Thailand shares land borders with Laos,
Malaysia, Cambodia and Myanmar. Travel
between all of these countries can be done by
land via sanctioned border crossings. With
improved highways, it is also becoming easier
to travel from Thailand to China. See right for
specific border crossing immigration points
and transport summaries.

Many visitors bring their own touring bicycles
to Thailand. No special permits are needed for
bringing a bicycle into the country, although it
may be registered by customs which means
if you dont leave the country with your bicycle, youll have to pay a customs duty. See
p762 for more information about travelling
by bike. Its advisable to bring a well-stocked
repair kit.

Bus, Car & Motorcycle

Road connections exist between all of
Thailands neighbours, and these routes can
be travelled by bus, shared taxi and private
car. In some cases, youll take a bus to the
border point, pass through immigration and
then pick up another bus or shared taxi on
the other side. In other cases, especially when
crossing the Malaysian border, the bus will
stop for immigration formalities and then
continue to its destination across the border.
Private passenger vehicles (eg cars, vans,
trucks or motorcycles) can be brought into
Thailand for tourist purposes for up to six
months, provided that you have a valid
International Driving Permit, a passport, vehicle registration papers (or in the case of a
borrowed or hired vehicle, authorisation from
the owner) and a cash or bank guarantee equal
to the value of the vehicle plus 20%. For entry

through Khlong Toey Port or Suvarnabhumi

International Airport, this means a letter
of bank credit; for overland crossings via
Malaysia, Cambodia or Laos a self-guarantee
filled in at the border is sufficient.

If everything goes according to plan, Thailand
will soon have a new international rail link
with Laos. Slated for completion in April
2009, the extended 3.5km rail line will go from
the Nong Khai station in Thailand across the
Thai-Lao Friendship bridge to Ban Tanalaeng,
which is just north of Vientiane. The rail line
offers very little advantage for passenger service as surface roads are faster and easier ways
to cross the border, but it may help expedite
cargo transport.
Other rail services that travel across international borders can be found on the western
part of the Malay peninsula between Thailand
and Malaysia. The two countries state railways meet at Butterworth (93km south of the
ThaiMalaysian border), which is a transfer
point to Penang (by boat) or to Kuala Lumpur
and Singapore (by Malaysian train).
There are several border crossings for
which you can take a train to the border and
then switch to automobile transport on the
other side. The ThaiCambodian border is
accessible by train from Bangkok to the border town of Aranya Prathet. There is talk of
restoring the train line on the Cambodian
side all the way to Sisophon, though little
has materialised.
Another rail line travels to the Malaysian
east coast border town of Sungai Kolok, but
because of ongoing violence in Thailands
deep south we dont recommend this route
for travellers.


Between Cambodia and Thailand, most visitors cross from Poipet (Cambodia) to Aranya
Prathet (Thailand; p272). This is the most direct land route between Bangkok and Angkor
Wat. Cambodian visas can be arranged upon
arrival at the Cambodian immigration office. Do note however, that there are many
transport and visa scams on the Poipet side of
the border; read up on some of the common
problems online before setting off. Tales of Asia
( monitors this Cambodian
border crossing.

Land and rail links between China and member countries of the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Thailand,
Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, have been increasing since the turn of the millennium,
making overland travel between Southeast
Asia and the interior of southern China an
easier proposition than in years past.
The ChinaThailand highway (also
called Rte 3) officially opened in mid-2008.
Following a former opium smuggling trail, it
comprises 1800km of paved road intended to
link Kunming, in Chinas Yunnan Province,
to Bangkok. The once rough tracks, mainly
in Laos and southern China, are now modern enough to handle passenger and freight
shipping, with only a slight interruption by
the Mekong River at the ThaiLao border (at
Chiang KhongHuay Xai). The river crossing is
now done by boat, but a planned Mekong River
bridge is due to be completed in 2011. For more
information about this crossing, see p374.
The ambitious ChinaMyanmar highway
plans to reopen stretches of the old Stillwell
Rd (an invasion route built during WWII by
Allied forces), which would eventually link
Chinas Yunnan province to Indias Assam
state through the Pangsaw Pass. Although
portions of road are now functional, the
project has stalled because of the diverging political and economic interests of the
three countries. It was once also possible to
travel overland from the Thai town of Mae
Sai through Myanmar and across the border
near Mong La to the Chinese town of Daluo,
but this border has been closed since 2005.

You can also take a slow boat along the

Mekong River from the northern Thai town
of Chian Saen to Jinghong in Chinas Yunnan
Province. See p369 for more information.

The Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (1174m)
spans a section of the Mekong River between
Nong Khai, Thailand, and Tha Na Leng (near
Vientiane), Laos, and is the main transport
gateway between the two countries. The
border crossing is currently undertaken by
hired or public transport across the bridge. A
planned rail link along this route is expected
to open in mid-2009, but it will offer little advantage to travellers heading to Vientiane and
would require a Lao visa in advance; while for
the bridge crossing, Lao visas can be obtained
on arrival. For more information, see p515.
A second Mekong bridge, between
Mukdahan and Savannakhet, opened in
2006 and provides a fundamental trilateral
link between Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
This crossing is done by bus. A Lao visa is
available on arrival, and many Bangkok-based
expats use this route for visa runs. See p540
for more information.
Its legal for non-Thais to cross the
Mekong River by ferry between Thailand and
Laos at the following points: Chiang Khong
(opposite Huay Xai), Nakhon Phanom
(opposite Tha Khaek) and Beung Kan (opposite Pakson), although this route is used
less frequently. Lao visas are available upon
arrival at Huay Xai and Tha Khaek, but not
at Pakson.
The only land crossing open to foreigners
is from Chong Mek into the Laos town of
Vangtao. On the Thai side, the border is best
accessed via bus from Ubon Ratchathani; Lao
visas are available upon arrival. See p489 for
more information.
Another crossing is via little-visited Loei
Province; a bridge links the Thai town of Thai
Li to the Lao town of Nam Hoeng. Weve
heard conflicting reports about issuances of
Lao visas on arrival here, and only private or
chartered transport is available. Expats who
live in the area have used this as a hassle-free
visa run.

The train line heading into Malaysia from
Bangkok splits at Hat Yai. One spur heads
west through Padang Besar to Butterworth,


If youre travelling along the southeastern coast of Thailand, you can cross into
Cambodia from Hat Lek to Koh Kong, which
has boat access to Sihanoukville. Cambodian
visas are available upon arrival. For more
information, see p257.
Several more remote crossings exist between southeastern Thailand and southwestern Cambodia, including O SmachChong
Chom, Chong Sa NgamAnlong Veng, Ban
LaemDaun Lem, Ban PhakkatPailin and
Ban LaemDeun Lem. Private or hired transport is required to access most of these crossings; Ban Phakkat is an exception because
minibuses connect this border crossing to
Chanthaburi, making it an underutilised
crossing point to Battambang.

G E T T I N G T H E R E & A W AY B o r d e r C r o s s i n g s 761


762 G E T T I N G A R O U N D A i r

which is the transfer point to Penang or other

destinations along the west coast of Malaysia.
Another spur heads east to the border town
of Sungai Kolok, which was once a popular
traveller migration point through Malaysias
Kota Bahru and on to the Perhentian
Islands. Due to unrest in the far southern
provinces of Thailand, it is not advisable to
take the train east; stick to the western side
of the peninsula.
Buses and minibuses also cross the border
into the Malaysian towns of Padang Besar
and Dan Nawk (south of Thailands Sadao).
By boat you can cross to several points
along the Malaysian west coast, including
Pulau Langkawi, from the mainland town of
Satun or from Ko Lipe. See p728 for more
details. There are also a few lesser-used land
crossings, but those mentioned here are the
easiest to reach with public transport.

Most of the land crossings into Myanmar
have restrictions that dont allow full access
to the country. These border points are also
subject to unannounced closures, which can
last anywhere from a day to years.
The crossing at Mae SaiTachileik is the
only land point through which foreigners
can travel into portions of Myanmar. From
the border you can continue to Kengtung,
as far as Mong La on the ThaiChina border
(see p365). Prior to 2005, foreigners could
continue on to China as long as they had
the appropriate visas beforehand, but this
is no longer an option. Interestingly, the
bridge that spans the two border towns is
Lo Hsing-hans former Golden Triangle
passageway for the opium and heroin trade.
Many travellers use this border as a way to
renew their Thai visas, especially if they are
based in or have just visited Chiang Mai and
Chiang Rai.
The Mae SotMyawadi border crossing
is open to foreigners only as a day trip into
a Burmese border market, even though the
road continues to Mawlamyaing (Moulmein)
via Kawkareik. This border is also a busy
crossing for renewing Thai visas. For more
information, see p411.
Once a gateway for various invading armies and an important smuggling route,
Three Pagodas Pass (p226) has been closed
to foreigners since 2006. Prior to its closure,
the border was open for day-pass trips to the

Burmese border market only and no visa

extensions/renewals were issued.
In the southern part of Thailand, you can
legally enter Myanmar by boat from Ranong
to the island of Kawthoung, but you cant
travel onward from here into mainland
Myanmar. Many people use this crossing
only as a day trip in order to renew their
Thai visas; see the boxed text, p636, for
more information.

Hopping around the country by air is becoming more and more affordable thanks to
airline deregulation. Most routes originate
from Bangkok, but Chiang Mai, Ko Samui
and Phuket all have routes to other Thai
towns. See the Thai Airfares and Rail Lines
map (p763) for routes and estimated costs; for
airline contact information, see the respective
city sections.
THAI operates many domestic air routes
from Bangkok to provincial capitals. Bangkok
Air is another established domestic carrier.
One-Two-Go, Nok Air and Air Asia all tend
to be cheaper than the older carriers.

For travelling just about anywhere outside Bangkok, bicycles are an ideal form of
local transport cheap, nonpolluting and
slow moving enough to allow travellers to
see everything.
Bicycle touring is also a popular way to see
the country, and most roads are sealed and
have roomy shoulders. Grades in most parts of
the country are moderate; exceptions include
the far north, especially Mae Hong Son and
Nan Provinces.
You can take bicycles on the train for a little
less than the equivalent of one 3rd-class fare.
On ordinary buses theyll place your bike on
the roof, and on air-con buses it will be put
in the cargo hold. Biking Southeast Asia with Mr
Pumpy ( contains route suggestions, tips and other details from spoke
folks. The Thailand Cycling Club (%08 1555 2901;, established in 1959, serves
as an information clearing house on biking
tours and cycle clubs.
See p760 for more information on bringing
a bike into Thailand.

T HA I A I R FA R E S & R A I L L I N E S 763


(B U R M A)


Pai 1690
Hong Son




Gulf of

Chiang Mai


Nong Khai



Udon Thani








Roi Et








Aranya Prathet

















Nakhon Si


Air fares and major railways in Thailand.

Full one-way economy air fares in baht
(discounts available on most flights).
Note these fares are subject to change.

Hat Yai
Padang Besar

Kota Bharu

Sungai Kolok



764 G E T T I N G A R O U N D B o a t

Hire & Purchase

Bicycles can be hired in many locations, especially guesthouses, for as little as 50B per day.
A security deposit isnt usually required.
Because duties are high on imported bikes,
in most cases youll do better to bring your
own bike to Thailand rather than purchase
one here. One of the best shops for cycling
gear in Thailand is Bangkoks Probike (Map p124;
%0 2253 3384;; 237/1 Soi Sarasin).

The true Thai river transport is the reua
hhng yow (long-tail boat), so-called because
the propeller is mounted at the end of a long
drive shaft extending from the engine. The
long-tail boats are a staple of transport on rivers and canals in Bangkok and neighbouring
provinces. See p185 for details.
Between the mainland and islands in the
Gulf of Thailand or the Andaman Sea, the
standard craft is a wooden boat, 8m to 10m
long, with an inboard engine, a wheelhouse and
a simple roof to shelter passengers and cargo.
Faster, more expensive hovercraft or jetfoils are
sometimes available in tourist areas.


hand along the highway. Only a few of these

ordinary buses, in rural locations or for local
destinations, still exist since most have been
replaced by air-con buses.
The bulk of the bus service is faster, more
comfortable air-con buses, called rt aa (air
bus), rt rp ahght (air-con bus) or rt
tooa (tour bus). Longer routes offer at least
two classes of air-con buses: 2nd class and 1st
class; the latter have toilets. VIP and Super
VIP buses have fewer seats so that each seat
reclines further. Sometimes these are called
rt norn (sleeper bus).
It is handy to bring along a jacket, especially
for long-distance trips, as the air-con can turn
the cabin into a deep freeze.
The service on these buses is usually quite
good and on certain routes sometimes includes a beverage service and video, courtesy
of an air hostess, a young woman dressed in
a polyester uniform.
On overnight journeys the buses usually
stop somewhere en route and passengers are
awakened to get off the bus for a free meal
of fried rice or rice soup. A few companies even treat you to a meal before a long
overnight trip.

Bus Companies


The bus network in Thailand is prolific and

reliable, and is a great way to see the countryside and sit among the locals. The Thai
government subsidises the Transport Company

The most reputable bus companies depart from

the public, BKS bus terminals. Private buses
and minivans that pick up customers from
tourist centres such as Th Khao San in Bangkok
experience a higher incidence of reported theft,
lateness and unreliability. Sometimes these
tourist-oriented services pick up passengers
from their guesthouse only to drop them off
at the public bus terminal. Other complaints
include the alleged VIP bus turning out to be a
cramped minibus that arrives four hours late.
Readers have also consistently reported having their stowed bags rifled through and valuables stolen. Keep all valuables on your person,
not stored in your luggage because even locked
bags can be tampered with and you might not
realise anything is missing until days later.

(brst kn sng; % 0 2936 2841; www.transport, usually abbreviated to Baw Khaw Saw

(BKS). Every city and town in Thailand linked

by bus has a BKS station, even if its just a
patch of dirt by the side of the road.
By far the most reliable bus companies in
Thailand are the ones that operate out of the
government-run BKS stations. In some cases
the companies are entirely state owned, in
others they are private concessions.
We do not recommend using bus companies that operate directly out of tourist centres, like Bangkoks Th Khao San, because of
repeated instances of theft. Be sure to read the
Dangers & Annoyances section in the relevant
destination chapter to be aware of bus scams
and problems.

The cheapest and slowest are the rt

tammdah (ordinary non air-con buses) that
stop in every little town and for every waving

You can book air-con BKS buses at any BKS
terminal. Ordinary (fan) buses cannot be
booked in advance. Privately run buses can
be booked through most hotels or any travel
agency, but its best to book directly through
a bus office to be sure that you get what you
pay for.





Surat Thani


Sungai Kolok






Nong Khai


Nakhon Sawan


Nakhon Ratchasima




Mae Sai


Mae Hong Son


Khon Kaen


Hua Hin


Hat Yai





















Chiang Rai




















Chiang Mai

































































Aranya Prathet



Chiang Mai

Chiang Rai


Hat Yai

Hua Hin

Khon Kaen

Mae Hong Son

Mae Sai


Nakhon Ratchasima

Nakhon Sawan

Nong Khai



Sungai Kolok

Surat Thani



Ubon Ratchathani






Ubon Ratchathani

Aranya Prathet

G E T T I N G A R O U N D R o a d D i s t a n c e s 765

766 G E T T I N G A R O U N D C a r & M o t o r c y c l e



Distance from Bangkok


1st class (B)

2nd class (B)

Chiang Mai
Hat Yai







Bring Your Own Vehicle

See p760 for information on how to bring
a private vehicle into Thailand for tourist

Driving Licence
Short-term visitors who wish to drive vehicles (including motorcycles) in Thailand
need an International Driving Permit. Longterm visitors can apply for a Thai drivers
licence through the provincial office of the
Department of Land Transport (%0 2272 3814).
Contact the main office to determine the
location of your assigned office (based
on residence).

Fuel & Spare Parts

Modern petrol (gasoline) stations are in
plentiful supply all over Thailand wherever
there are paved roads. In more-remote, offroad areas bensin/nmman rt yon (petrol
containing benzene) is usually available at
small roadside or village stands. All fuel in
Thailand is unleaded, and diesel is used by
trucks and some passenger cars. Because of
the global increase in petrol prices, Thailand
has introduced several alternative fuels, including gasohol (a blend of petrol and ethanol that comes in different ratios, either
91% or 95%) and compressed natural gas,
used by taxis with bifuel capabilities. For
news and updates about fuel options, and
other car talk, see the website of BKK Auto
If youre driving a motorcycle for distances
of more than 100km, take an extra supply of
motor oil; if riding a two-stroke machine,
carry two-stroke engine oil.
If youre bringing your own vehicle, youd
be wise to bring a box of crucial spare parts
that might not be available in Thailand. The
same goes for motorcycles especially so for
bikes larger than 125cc.

Hire & Purchase

Cars, jeeps and vans can be rented in most
major cities and airports from local companies as well as international chains. Local
companies tend to have cheaper rates than the
international chains, but their fleets of cars
tend to be older and not as well maintained.
Check the tyre treads and general upkeep of
the vehicle before committing.
Motorcycles can be rented in major towns
and many smaller tourist centres from guesthouses and small mum-and-dad businesses.
Renting a motorcycle in Thailand is relatively
easy and a great way to independently tour the
countryside, especially in northern Thailand
and on the southern beaches. For daily rentals,
most businesses will ask that you leave your
passport as a deposit. Before renting a motorcycle, check the vehicles condition and ask for
a helmet (which is required by law).
Many tourists are injured riding motorcycles in Thailand because they dont know
how to handle the vehicle and are unfamiliar with road rules and conditions. Drive
sensibly to avoid damage to yourself and
to the vehicle, and be sure to have adequate
health insurance. If youve never driven a
motorcycle before, stick to the smaller 100cc
step-through bikes with automatic clutches.
Remember to distribute weight as evenly
as possible across the frame of the bike to
improve handling.
It is also possible to buy a new or used
motorcycle and sell it before you leave
the country.

Thailand requires a minimum of liability
insurance for all registered vehicles on the
road. The better hire companies include
comprehensive coverage for their vehicles.
Always verify that a vehicle is insured for
liability before signing a rental contract; you
should also ask to see the dated insurance
documents. If you have an accident while

driving an uninsured vehicle, youre in for

some major hassles.
If you need auto insurance, a policy can
be purchased inexpensively through local
companies. Two of the more reliable ones
are Bangkok Insurance (%0 2285 8888; www.bki and AIA Thailand (www.aiatha

Road Rules & Hazards

Hitching is never entirely safe in any country and we dont recommend it. Travellers
who decide to hitch should understand that
they are taking a small but potentially serious risk. Hitching is rarely seen these days
in Thailand, so most passing motorists
might not realise the intentions of the for-

eigner standing on the side of the road with

a thumb out. Firstly, Thais dont thumb it,
instead when they want a ride they wave
their hand with the palm facing the ground
and the arm slightly outstretched. This is
the same gesture used to flag a taxi or bus,
which is why some drivers might stop and
point to a bus stop if one is nearby.
In general, hitching isnt worth the hassle
as buses are frequent and cheap. In some of
the national parks where there isnt public
transport Thais are often willing to pick up a
passenger standing by the side of the road.


City Bus & Srngtaou

Bangkok has the largest city-bus system in the
country. Elsewhere, public transport is typically supplied by srngtaou that run established routes, although Udon Thani and a few
other provincial capitals have city buses.
The etiquette for riding public transport
is to hail the vehicle by waving your hand
palm-side downward, You typically pay
the fare once youve taken a seat or when
you disembark.
A srngtaou (literally, two rows) is a
small pick-up truck with two rows of bench
seats down both sides of the truck bed. They
sometimes operate on fixed routes, just like
buses, but they may also run a share-taxi service where they pick-up passengers going in
the same general direction. In tourist centres,
srngtaou can be chartered individually just
like a regular taxi, but youll need to negotiate
the fare beforehand. Occasionally in tourist centres, drivers operating a srngtaou
intended for shared use will try to convince
foreigners to charter the vehicle by quoting
a large fare before boarding.
Depending on the region, srngtaou
might also run a fixed route from the centre of
town to outlying areas or even points within
the provinces. Sometimes these vehicles are
converted pick-up trucks, while in other
cases they are larger six-wheeled vehicles
(sometimes called rt hk lr).

Mass Transit
Bangkok is the only city in Thailand to have
either an above-ground or underground lightrail public transport system. Known as the
Skytrain and the Metro, respectively, both
systems have helped to alleviate the capital
citys notorious traffic jams.


Thais drive on the left-hand side of the road

(most of the time!). Other than that, just
about anything goes, in spite of road signs
and speed limits.
The main rule to be aware of is that right
of way goes to the bigger vehicle; this is not
what it says in the Thai traffic law, but its the
reality. Maximum speed limits are 50km/h
on urban roads and 80km/h to 100km/h on
most highways but on any given stretch of
highway youll see various vehicles travelling
as slowly as 30km/h and as fast as 150km/h.
Speed traps are common along Hwy 4 in the
south and Hwy 2 in the northeast.
Indicators are often used to warn passing
drivers about oncoming traffic. A flashing left
indicator means its OK to pass, while a right
indicator means that someones approaching
from the other direction. Horns are used to
tell other vehicles that the driver plans to pass.
When drivers flash their lights, theyre telling
you not to pass.
In Bangkok traffic is chaotic, roads are
poorly signposted and motorcycles and random contra flows mean you can suddenly
find yourself facing a wall of cars coming the
other way.
Outside of the capital, the principal hazard
when driving in Thailand, besides the general
disregard for traffic laws, is having to contend
with so many different types of vehicles on the
same road 18-wheelers, bicycles, tk-tk
(motorised pedicabs) and motorcycles. This
danger is often compounded by the lack of
working lights. In village areas the vehicular
traffic is lighter but you have to contend with
stray chickens, dogs and water buffaloes.

G E T T I N G A R O U N D H i t c h i n g 767

768 G E T T I N G A R O U N D T o u r s


Motorcycle Taxi
Many cities in Thailand also have moreusai
rp jhng (100cc to 125cc motorcycles) that
can be hired, with a driver, for short distances.
Theyre not very suitable if youre carrying more
than a backpack or small suitcase, but if youre
empty-handed they cant be beaten for quick
transport over short distances. In addition to
the lack of space for luggage, motorcycle taxis
also suffer from lack of shelter from rain and
sun. Although most drivers around the country operate at safe, sane speeds, the kamikaze
drivers of Bangkok are a major exception.
In most cities, youll find motorcycle taxis
clustered near street intersections, rather than
cruising the streets looking for fares. Usually
they wear numbered jerseys. Fares tend to run
from 10B to 50B, depending on distance.

Shmlr & Tk-tk

Shmlr means three wheels and thats
just what they are three-wheeled vehicles.
There are two types of shmlr motorised
and nonmotorised.
Youll find motorised shmlr (better
known as tk-tk) throughout the country.
Theyre small utility vehicles, powered by
horrendously noisy engines (usually LPGpowered); if the noise and vibration dont get
you, the fumes will.
The nonmotorised shmlr, ie the bicycle
rickshaw or pedicab, is similar to what you
may see in other parts of Asia. There are no
bicycle shmlr in Bangkok, but you will find
them elsewhere in the country. With either
form of shmlr the fare must be established
by bargaining before departure.
Readers interested in pedicab lore and
design may want to have a look at Lonely
Planets hardcover pictorial book, Chasing
Rickshaws, by Lonely Planet founder
Tony Wheeler.

Bangkok has the most formal system of
metered taxis. In other cities, a taxi can be
a private vehicle with negotiable rates. You
can also travel between cities by taxi but
youll need to negotiate a price as few taxi
drivers will run a meter for intercity travel.

Many operators around the world can arrange guided tours of Thailand. Most of
them simply serve as brokers for tour com-

panies based in Thailand; they buy their

trips from a wholesaler and resell them
under various names in travel markets overseas. Long-running, reliable tour wholesalers
in Thailand include the following.
Asian Trails (Map pp120-1; %0 2626 2000; www; 9th fl, SG Tower, 161/1 Soi Mahatlek
Leung 3, Th Ratchadamri, Bangkok)
Diethelm Travel (Map p124; %0 2660 7000; www; 12th fl, Kian Gwan Bldg II, 140/1 Th
Withayu, Bangkok)
World Travel Service (Map pp118-19; %0 2233 5900;; 1053 Th Charoen Krung, Bangkok)

Overseas Companies
The better overseas tour companies build
their own Thailand itineraries from scratch
and choose their local suppliers based on
which best serve these itineraries. Of these,
several specialise in adventure and/or
ecological tours.
Asia Transpacific Journeys (%800 642 2742; www; 2995 Center Green Dr, Boulder, CO
80301, USA) Small group highlight tours and speciality trips.
Club Adventure (%514 527 0999; www.clubaventure
.com; 757 ave du Mont-Royal Est, Montreal, QUE H2J 1W8,
Canada) French-language tour operators.
Exodus (%800 843 4272;;
1311 63rd St, Ste 200, Emeryville, CA 94608, USA)
Award-winning agency for its environmentally
responsible tours.
Hands Up Holidays (%0 800 783 3554; www.hands; 5 Kendal Pl, London SW15 2QZ, UK)
Volunteer and sightseeing programmes for comfort travellers.
Intrepid Travel ( Specialises in
small-group travel geared toward young people; visit the
website for country-specific contact details.
I-to-I (%800 985 4852; Volunteer and
sightseeing tours.
Starfish Ventures (%44 800 1974817; www Organises a gap year volunteer
and sightseeing package.
Tours with Kasma Loha-Unchit (%510 655 8900;; PO Box 21165, Oakland, CA
94620, USA) This Thai cookbook author offers personalised
cultural immersion tours of Thailand.

The government rail network, operated
by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT; %1690;, covers four main lines: the
northern, southern, northeastern and eastern
lines (see Map p763 for major routes). The
train is most convenient as an alternative to
buses for the long journey north to Chiang

Main Terminals & Routes

Almost all the long-distance trains originate from Bangkoks Hualamphong station.
Bangkok Noi station in Thonburi serves the
commuter and the short-line trains running
to Kanchanaburi/Nam Tok and Nakhon
Pathom. You can also get to Nakhon Pathom
by train from Hualamphong. Thonburis
Wong Wian Yai station runs a short
commuter line to Samut Songkhram.
Four main rail lines cover 4500km along
northern, southern, northeastern and eastern routes. There are several side routes,
notably from the Bangkok Noi station in
Thonburi (p183) to Nam Tok (stopping in
Kanchanaburi and Nakhon Pathom), and between Thung Song and Kantang (stopping in
Trang) in the south. The southern line splits
at Hat Yai: one route goes to Sungai Kolok on
the Malaysian east coast border, via Yala; the
other goes to Padang Besar in the west, also
on the Malaysian border. A BangkokPattaya
spur exists but is slower and less convenient
than a bus.

The SRT operates passenger trains in three
classes 1st, 2nd and 3rd but each class varies considerably depending on whether youre
on an ordinary, rapid or express train.

A typical 3rd-class carriage consists of two

rows of bench seats divided into facing pairs.
Each bench seat is designed to seat two or
three passengers, but on a crowded rural line
nobody seems to care about design considerations. On some ordinary 3rd-class-only trains,
seats are sometimes made of hard wooden
slats, although these cars are being phased out.

Express trains do not carry 3rd-class carriages

at all. Commuter trains in the Bangkok area
are all 3rd class.

The seating arrangements in a 2nd-class, nonsleeper carriage are similar to those on a bus,
with pairs of padded seats, usually recliners,
all facing toward the front of the train.
On 2nd-class sleeper cars, pairs of seats face
one another and convert into two fold-down
berths, one over the other. Curtains provide
a modicum of privacy and the berths are
fairly comfortable, with fresh linen for every
trip. The lower berth has more headroom
than the upper berth and this is reflected in
a higher fare. Children are always assigned a
lower berth.
Second-class carriages are found only on
rapid and express trains. Air-con 2nd class
is more common nowadays than ordinary
(fan) 2nd class (with the latter available only
on rapid lines).

Each private cabin in a 1st-class carriage has

individually controlled air-con (older trains
also have an electric fan), a washbasin and
mirror, a small table and long bench seats
that convert into beds. Drinking water and
soap are provided free of charge. First-class
carriages are available only on rapid, express
and special-express trains.

Fares are determined on a base price with
surcharges added for distance, class and
train type (special express, express, rapid,
ordinary). There is a 150B surcharge above
the basic fare for rt doan (express trains)
and 110B for rt reou (rapid trains). These
trains are somewhat faster than the ordinary
trains, as they make fewer stops. Note that
there are no 3rd-class carriages on either
rapid or express trains. For the rt doan
psht (special-express trains) that run between Bangkok and Padang Besar, and between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, there is a
170B to 180B surcharge.
For distances under 300km, the base price
is 50B to 80B; over 301km, 110B.
Some 2nd- and 3rd-class cars have aircon, in which case there is a 60B to 110B
surcharge. Sleeping berths in 2nd class
accrue another 120B to 240B surcharge.


Mai or south to Surat Thani. The train is

also ideal for trips to Ayuthaya and Lopburi
from Bangkok.
Although they can take longer (trains generally dont run on time), the trains offer
many advantages over buses. To start with,
there is more room to move and stretch out
and the scenery rolling by the windows is
grander from the vantage point of rail than
highway. On the 3rd-class trains theres also
more local commotion: hawkers selling food
and drinks, babies staring wide-eyed at foreigners, sarong-clad villagers to name just
a few.

G E T T I N G A R O U N D T r a i n 769

770 G E T T I N G A R O U N D T r a i n

For a 1st-class cabin the surcharge is

300/500B for upper/lower berth. Single 1stclass cabins are not available, so if youre
travelling alone you may be paired with
another passenger, although the SRT takes
great care not to mix genders.



The SRT issues a Thailand Rail Pass that may

save on fares if you plan to use the trains extensively over a relatively short interval. This pass
is only available in Thailand and may be purchased at Bangkoks Hualamphong station.
The cost for 20 days of unlimited 2nd- or
3rd-class train travel is 3000/1500B per adult/
child including all supplementary charges (ie
type of train, air-con, etc). Passes must be
validated at a local station before boarding the
first train. The price of the pass includes seat
reservations that, if required, can be made at
any SRT ticket office.

Meal service is available in rt sbeeang (dining carriages) and at your seat in 2nd- and 1stclass carriages. Menus change as frequently
as the SRT changes catering services. All the
meals seem a bit overpriced (80B to 200B
on average) by Thai standards. Many Thai
passengers bring along their own meals and
snacks to avoid the relatively high cost of
SRT-catered meals.

Advance bookings can be made from one to
60 days before your intended date of departure. It is advisable to make advanced bookings for long-distance sleeper trains between
Bangkok and Chiang Mai or from Bangkok
to Surat Thani during holidays especially
around Songkran in April, Chinese New Year
and during the peak tourist-season months of
December and January.
You can make bookings from any train
station. Throughout Thailand SRT ticket offices are generally open 8.30am to 6pm on
weekdays, and 8.30am to noon on weekends

and public holidays. Train tickets can also be

purchased at travel agencies, which usually
add a service charge to the ticket price.
All advance bookings need to be made in
person. If you are planning long-distance train
travel from outside the country, you should
email the State Railway of Thailand (passenger-ser@ at least two weeks before your journey. You will receive an email confirming
the booking. Pick up and pay for tickets an
hour before leaving at the scheduled departure
train station.
For short-distance trips you should purchase your ticket at least a day in advance for
seats (rather than sleepers).
Partial refunds on tickets are available
depending on the number of days prior to
your departure you arrange for a cancellation.
These arrangements can be handled at the
train station booking office.

Station Services
Youll find that all train stations in Thailand
have baggage-storage services (or cloak
rooms). The rates and hours of operation
vary from station to station rates being anywhere from 20B to 70B. Most stations have a
ticket window that will open between 15 and
30 minutes before train arrivals. There are also
newsagents and small snack vendors, but no
full-service restaurants.
Most train stations have printed timetables
in English; although this isnt always the case
for smaller stations. Bangkoks Hualamphong
station is a good spot to load up on timetables. There are two types of timetable available: four condensed English timetables with
fares, schedules and routes for rapid, express
and special express trains on the four trunk
lines; and four Thai timetables for each trunk
line, and side lines. These latter timetables
give fares and schedules for all trains
ordinary, rapid and express. The English
timetables only display a couple of the ordinary routes; eg they dont show all the ordinary trains that go to Ayuthaya and as far
north as Phitsanulok.



Dr Trish Batchelor


Before You Go
Medical Checklist
Internet Resources
Further Reading
In Transit
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Jet Lag & Motion Sickness
In Thailand
Availability & Cost of Health Care
Infectious Diseases
Travellers Diarrhoea
Environmental Hazards
Travelling with Children
Womens Health



Even if youre fit and healthy, dont travel without health insurance accidents do happen.
Declare any existing medical conditions you
have insurance companies will check if your
problem is pre-existing and wont cover you if
it is undeclared. You may require extra cover
for adventure activities such as rock climbing
or diving, as well as scooter/motorcycle riding. If your health insurance doesnt cover you
for medical expenses abroad, ensure you get
specific travel insurance. If youre uninsured,
emergency evacuation is expensive; bills of over
US$100,000 arent uncommon. Most hospitals
require an upfront guarantee of payment (from
yourself or your insurer) prior to admission.
In many countries doctors expect payment in cash. Keep all documentation
(medical reports, invoices etc) for claim
purposes. Some policies ask you to call back
(reverse charges) to a centre in your home
country where an immediate assessment of
your problem is made. It is always wise to
inform your insurance company if you seek
medical advice whilst abroad.


Specialised travel-medicine clinics are your

best source of information; they stock all
available vaccines and will usually have


Health risks and the quality of medical facilities vary enormously depending on where
and how you travel in Thailand.
The majority of major cities and popular
tourist areas are well developed, however,
travel to more remote rural areas can expose you to health risks and less adequate
medical care.
Travellers tend to worry most about contracting exotic infectious diseases when visiting the tropics, but such infections are a
far less common cause of serious illness or
death in travellers than pre-existing medical
conditions such as heart disease, and accidental injury (especially as a result of traffic
Becoming ill in some way is common,
however. Respiratory infections, diarrhoea
and dengue fever are particular hazards
in Thailand.
Fortunately most common illnesses can
either be prevented with some commonsense
behaviour or are easily treated with a wellstocked travellers medical kit.
The following advice should be read as
a general guide only and does not replace
the advice of a doctor trained in travel

Pack medications in clearly labelled original

containers. A signed and dated letter from
your physician describing your medical conditions and medications, including generic
names, is a good idea. If carrying syringes or
needles be sure to have a physicians letter
documenting their medical necessity. If you
have a heart condition, bring a copy of your
ECG taken just prior to travelling.
If you take any regular medication bring
double your needs in case of loss or theft.
In Thailand you can buy many medications
over the counter without a doctors prescription, but it can be difficult to find the exact
medication you are taking. It is safer to
bring adequate supplies from home.

772 B E F O R E Y O U G O M e d i c a l C h e c k l i s t

medical kits and other products such as

impregnated mosquito nets available. The
doctors will take into account factors such
as your past vaccination history, the length
of your trip, activities you may be undertaking and underlying medical conditions,
such as pregnancy, before making their
individualised recommendations.
Most vaccines dont produce immunity until around two weeks after theyre
given. Ideally you should visit a doctor
six to eight weeks before departure, but
it is never too late. Ask your doctor for
an International Certificate of Vaccination
(otherwise known as the yellow booklet), which will list all the vaccinations
youve received.

Recommended Vaccinations


The following vaccinations are those recommended by the World Health Organization
(WHO) for travellers to Thailand:
Adult Diphtheria, Tetanus & Pertussis Single
booster recommended if none in the previous 10 years.
Side effects include sore arm and fever.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Varicella If you havent had chickenpox, discuss this
vaccination with your doctor.

The following immunisations are recommended for long-term travellers (more than
one month) or those at special risk:

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.
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.
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.
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
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.

Recommended items for a personal medical
kit include:
antifungal cream, eg Clotrimazole
antibacterial cream, eg Muciprocin
antibiotic for skin infections, eg
Amoxicillin/Clavulanate or Cephalexin
antibiotics for diarrhoea include Norfloxacin, Ciprofloxacin or Azithromycin
for bacterial diarrhoea; for giardiasis or
amoebic dysentery Tinidazole
antihistamine there are many options,
eg Cetrizine for daytime and Promethazine for night
antiseptic, eg Betadine
antispasmodic for stomach cramps, eg
DEET-based insect repellent
oral rehydration solution for diarrhoea
(eg Gastrolyte), diarrhoea stopper (eg
Loperamide) and antinausea medication
(eg Prochlorperazine)

first-aid items such as scissors, Elastoplasts, bandages, gauze, thermometer

(but not mercury), sterile needles and
syringes, safety pins and tweezers
hand gel (alcohol based) or alcohol-based
hand wipes
ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory
indigestion medication, eg Quick Eze or
laxative, eg Coloxyl
migraine sufferer take along your personal medicine
Permethrin to impregnate clothing and
mosquito nets if at high risk
steroid cream for allergic/itchy rashes, eg
1% to 2% hydrocortisone
sunscreen, hat and sunglasses
throat lozenges
thrush (vaginal yeast infection) treatment, eg Clotrimazole pessaries or Diflucan tablet
Ural or equivalent if you are prone to
urine infections

There is a wealth of travel-health advice on

the internet. For further information, Lonely
Planet ( is a good place to
start. International Travel & Health is a superb book published by the WHO (www, which is revised annually and
is available online at no cost. The Centers
for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC;
website has good general information and
country-specific advice.
Check your own countrys Department of
Foreign Affairs page for any current travel
warnings, and register your trip if this facility
is available. Registering greatly helps if there
is an event such as a tsunami that requires the
tracing of missing people.

Lonely Planets Healthy Travel Asia &
India is a handy pocket-size book that is
packed with useful information including pretrip planning, emergency first
aid, immunisation and disease information and what to do if you get sick on
the road. Other recommended references include Travellers Health by Dr
Richard Dawood and Travelling Well by
Dr Deborah Mills check out the website

The Thai Red Cross produces an excellent

book Healthy Living in Thailand which is
strongly recommended, particularly for those
staying long term.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when
blood clots form in the legs during long
trips such as flights, chiefly because of prolonged immobility. The longer the journey,
the greater the risk. Though most blood
clots are reabsorbed uneventfully, some
may break off and travel through the blood
vessels to the lungs, where they can cause
life-threatening complications.
The chief symptom of DVT is swelling or
pain of the foot, ankle or calf, usually but
not always on one side. When a blood clot
travels to the lungs, it may cause chest pain
and difficulty in breathing. Travellers with
any of these symptoms should immediately
seek medical attention.
To prevent the development of DVT on
long flights you should walk about the cabin,
perform isometric compressions of the leg
muscles (ie contract the leg muscles while
sitting) and drink plenty of fluids (nonalcoholic). Those at higher risk should speak with
a doctor about extra preventive measures
such as compression socks or medication.


Jet lag is common when crossing more than
five time zones; it results in insomnia, fatigue, malaise or nausea. To avoid jet lag try
drinking plenty of fluids (nonalcoholic) and
eating light meals. Upon arrival, seek exposure to natural sunlight and readjust your
schedule (for meals, sleep etc) as soon as
possible. Some people find melatonin helpful
but it is not available in all countries.
Sedating antihistamines such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), Prochlorperazine
(Phenergan) and others depending on
your country of residence are usually the
first choice for treating motion sickness.
Their main side effect is drowsiness. A
herbal alternative is ginger, which works
like a charm for some people. Scopolamine
patches are considered the most effective
prevention but again are unavailable in
many countries.



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774 I N T HA I L A N D Av a i l a b i l i t y & C o s t o f H e a l t h C a re



Bangkok is considered the nearest centre of

medical excellence for many countries in
Southeast Asia (such as Cambodia, Laos and
Vietnam) and there are a number of excellent hospitals in the city. Some of them have
specific staff available for liaising with foreign patients. They are usually more expensive
than other medical facilities but are worth
using as they will offer a superior standard
of care. They can also liaise with insurance
companies more easily. Such facilities are
listed under Information in the city sections of
this book. The cost of health care is relatively
cheap in Thailand compared to most Western
countries, which makes it even more sensible
to ensure you utilise one of the better hospitals
if you do require medical care.
In rural areas, however, it remains difficult to find reliable medical care. Your
embassy and insurance company can be
good contacts.
Self-treatment may be appropriate if your
problem is minor (eg travellers diarrhoea),
you are carrying the appropriate medication and you cannot attend a recommended
clinic or hospital. If you think you may have
a serious disease, especially malaria, do not
waste time travel to the nearest quality facility to receive attention. It is always better to be assessed by a doctor than to rely
on self-treatment.
Buying medication over the counter is
not recommended, because fake medications and poorly stored or out-of-date drugs
are common.

Avian Influenza

Thailand has recorded a total of 25 cases

of bird flu since 2004 the majority of
which occurred in 2004. At the time of writing there have been no cases reported since
January 2007.
The risk of travellers catching bird flu is
minimal it remains that most of those infected have had close contact with sick or
dead birds.
To avoid bird flu the following recommendations come from the CDC and WHO:
avoid direct contact with poultry and
wild birds

avoid bird markets and poultry farms

only eat thoroughly cooked bird meat or
products (chicken, duck, eggs)
wash hands frequently with alcoholbased hand gel
seek medical care quickly if you have a
fever, sore throat and cough especially
if you may have been exposed

Cutaneous Larva Migrans

This disease, caused by dog or cat hookworm, is particularly common on the
beaches of Thailand. The rash starts as a
small lump, and then slowly spreads like a
winding line. It is intensely itchy, especially
at night. It is easily treated with medications
and should not be cut out or frozen.

Dengue Fever
This mosquito-borne disease is becoming increasingly problematic throughout
Southeast Asia, especially in the cities. As
there is no vaccine available it can only be
prevented by avoiding mosquito bites. The
mosquito that carries dengue is a daytime
biter, so use insect-avoidance measures at all
times. Symptoms include high fever, severe
headache (especially behind the eyes), nausea and body aches (dengue was previously
known as breakbone fever). Some people
develop a rash (which can be very itchy) and
experience diarrhoea. The southern islands
of Thailand are particularly high risk. There
is no specific treatment, just rest and paracetamol do not take aspirin or ibuprofen
as they increase the risk of haemorrhaging.
See a doctor to be diagnosed and monitored.
Dengue can progress to the more severe
and life threatening dengue haemorrhagic
fever, however this is very uncommon in
tourists. The risk of this increases substantially if you have previously been infected
with dengue and are then infected with a
different serotype.

A mosquito-borne disease that is common
in the local population, yet very rare in travellers. Mosquito-avoidance measures are the
best way to prevent this disease.

Hepatitis A
The risk in Bangkok is decreasing but there
is still significant risk in most of the country. This food- and water-borne virus infects

the liver, causing jaundice (yellow skin and

eyes), nausea and lethargy. There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A, you just need
to allow time for the liver to heal. Rarely, it
can be fatal in those over the age of 40. All
travellers to Thailand should be vaccinated
against hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B
The only sexually transmitted disease (STD)
that can be prevented by vaccination, hepatitis B is spread by body fluids, including
sexual contact. In some parts of Thailand
up to 20% of the population are carriers of
hepatitis B, and usually are unaware of this.
The long-term consequences can include
liver cancer, cirrhosis and death.

Hepatitis E

HIV is now one of the most common
causes of death in people under the age of
50 in Thailand. Heterosexual sex is the
main method of transmission. Always practice safe sex, avoid getting tattoos or using
unclean needles.

Present year-round in the tropics, influenza (flu) symptoms include high fever,
muscle aches, runny nose, cough and sore
throat. Flu is the most common vaccinepreventable disease contracted by travellers
and everyone should consider vaccination.
There is no specific treatment, just rest and
paracetamol. Complications such as bronchitis or middle ear infection may require
antibiotic treatment.

Japanese B Encephalitis
While a rare disease in travellers, at least
50,000 locals are infected each year in
Southeast Asia. This viral disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. Most cases occur in
rural areas and vaccination is recommended
for travellers spending more than one

month outside of cities, or long-term expats. There is no treatment, and a third

of people infected will die, while another
third will suffer permanent brain damage.
Thailand is a high-risk area.

Leptospirosis is contracted from exposure to
infected fresh water most commonly after
river rafting or canyoning. Early symptoms
are very similar to the flu and include headache and fever. It can vary from a very mild
ailment to a fatal disease. Diagnosis is made
through blood tests and it is easily treated
with Doxycycline.

For such a serious and potentially deadly
disease, there is an enormous amount of
misinformation concerning malaria. Ensure
you get expert advice as to whether your
trip actually puts you at risk. Most parts of
Thailand visited by tourists, particularly city
and resort areas, have minimal to no risk of
malaria, and the risk of side effects from taking anti-malarial tablets is likely to outweigh
the risk of getting the disease itself. For some
rural areas, however, the risk of contracting
the disease outweighs the risk of any tablet
side effects. Remember that malaria can be
fatal. Before you travel, seek proper medical
advice on the right medication and dosage
for you.
Malaria is caused by a parasite transmitted
by the bite of an infected mosquito. The most
important symptom of malaria is fever, but
general symptoms such as headache, diarrhoea, cough or chills may also occur the
same symptoms as many other infections.
A diagnosis can only be made by taking a
blood sample.
Two strategies should be combined to
prevent malaria mosquito avoidance and
antimalarial medications. Most people who
catch malaria are taking inadequate or no
antimalarial medication.
Travellers are advised to prevent mosquito
bites by taking these steps:
use a DEET-containing insect repellent
on exposed skin (20% to 30% is ideal),
washing it off at night (as long as you are
sleeping under a mosquito net); natural
repellents such as citronella can be effective, but must be applied more frequently
than products containing DEET


Hepatitis E is transmitted through contaminated food and water and has similar symptoms to hepatitis A, but is rare in travellers.
It is a severe problem in pregnant women
and can result in the death of both mother
and baby. There is currently no vaccine, and
prevention is by following safe eating and
drinking guidelines.

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776 I N T HA I L A N D I n fe c t i o u s D i s e a s e s

sleep under a mosquito net, ideally impregnated with Permethrin

choose accommodation with screens and
fans (if not air-conditioned)
impregnate clothing with Permethrin in
high-risk areas
wear long sleeves and trousers in light
use mosquito coils
spray your room with insect repellent
before going out for your evening meal
There are a variety of medications available:
Artesunate Derivatives of Artesunate are not suitable as


a preventive medication. They are useful treatments under

medical supervision.
Chloroquine & Paludrine The effectiveness of
this combination is now limited in Thailand. It is not
Doxycycline This daily tablet is a broad-spectrum
antibiotic that has the added benefit of helping to prevent
a variety of tropical diseases, including leptospirosis, tickborne disease, typhus and meliodosis. The potential side
effects include photosensitivity (a tendency to sunburn),
thrush in women, indigestion, heartburn, nausea and
interference with the contraceptive pill. More serious side
effects include ulceration of the oesophagus you can help
prevent this by taking your tablet with a meal and a large
glass of water, and never lying down within half an hour
of taking it. Must be taken for four weeks after leaving
the risk area.
Lariam (Mefloquine) Lariam has received much bad
press; some of it justified, some not. This weekly tablet
suits many people. Serious side effects are rare but include
depression, anxiety, psychosis and having fits. Anyone
with a history of depression, anxiety, other psychological
disorders or epilepsy should not take Lariam. It is considered safe in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
There is however significant resistance in parts of northern
Thailand. Tablets must be taken for four weeks after leaving the risk area.
Malarone This drug is a combination of Atovaquone and
Proguanil. Side effects are uncommon and mild, most
commonly nausea and headache. It is an excellent tablet,
however it is expensive, which can limit its use long term.
It must be taken for one week after leaving the risk area.

A final option is to take no preventive medication but to have a supply of emergency medication should you develop the symptoms of
malaria. This is less than ideal, and youll need
to get to a good medical facility within 24
hours of developing a fever. If you choose
this option the most effective and safest treatment is Malarone (four tablets once daily for
three days). Riamet is another good option

but is not available in some countries. Other

options such as Mefloquine and Quinine are
less desirable due to side effects. Fansidar is
no longer recommended.

This highly contagious bacterial infection is
spread through coughing and sneezing. Most
people born before 1966 are immune as they
had the disease in childhood. Measles starts
with a high fever and rash and can be complicated by pneumonia and brain disease.
There is no specific treatment. Ensure you
are fully vaccinated.

This infection is contracted by skin contact
with soil. It is rare in travellers, but in some
parts of northeast Thailand up to 30% of the
local population are infected. The symptoms
are very similar to those experienced by tuberculosis (TB) sufferers. There is no vaccine but
it can be treated with medications.

This uniformly fatal disease is spread by the
bite or lick of an infected animal most commonly a dog or monkey. You should seek
medical advice immediately after any animal
bite and commence post-exposure treatment.
Having a pre-travel vaccination means the
post-bite treatment is greatly simplified. If
an animal bites you, gently wash the wound
with soap and water, and apply iodine-based
antiseptic. If you are not pre-vaccinated you
will need to receive rabies immunoglobulin as
soon as possible, followed by five shots of vaccine over 28 days. If pre-vaccinated you need
just two shots of vaccine given three days
apart. Immunoglobulin is in short supply
and you may well have to travel to Bangkok
to get it.

Sexually transmitted diseases most common
in Thailand include herpes, warts, syphilis,
gonorrhoea and chlamydia. People carrying
these diseases often have no signs of infection. Condoms will prevent gonorrhoea and
chlamydia but not warts or herpes. If after
a sexual encounter you develop any rash,
lumps, discharge or pain when passing urine
seek immediate medical attention. If you have
been sexually active during your travels have
an STD check on your return home.

I N T HA I L A N D T r a v e l l e r s D i a r r h o e a 777


caused by a bacteria (there are numerous

potential culprits), and therefore responds
promptly to treatment with antibiotics.
Treatment with antibiotics will depend on
your situation how sick you are, how
quickly you need to get better, where you
are etc.
Travellers diarrhoea is defined as the
passage of more than three watery bowel
movements within 24 hours, plus at least
one other symptom such as vomiting, fever,
cramps, nausea or feeling generally unwell.
Treatment consists of staying well hydrated; rehydration solutions like Gastrolyte
are the best for this. Antibiotics such as
Norfloxacin, Ciprofloxacin or Azithromycin
will kill the bacteria quickly.
Loperamide is just a stopper and doesnt
get to the cause of the problem. It can be helpful, for example if you have to go on a long
bus ride. Dont take Loperamide if you have
a fever, or blood in your stools. Seek medical
attention quickly if you do not respond to an
appropriate antibiotic.

This parasite, also transmitted by skin contact

with soil, is common in Thailand but rarely
affects travellers. It is characterised by an unusual skin rash called larva currens a linear
rash on the trunk which comes and goes. Most
people dont have other symptoms until their
immune system becomes severely suppressed,
when the parasite can cause an overwhelming
infection. It can be treated with medications.


This serious bacterial infection is spread via
food and water. It gives a high and slowly
progressive fever, severe headache, and may
be accompanied by a dry cough and stomach
pain. It is diagnosed by blood tests and treated
with antibiotics. Vaccination is recommended
for all travellers spending more than a week
in Thailand, or travelling outside of the major
cities. Be aware that vaccination is not 100%
effective so you must still be careful with what
you eat and drink.

Murine typhus is spread by the bite of a flea
whereas scrub typhus is spread via a mite.
These diseases are rare in travellers. Symptoms
include fever, muscle pains and a rash. You
can avoid these diseases by following general
insect-avoidance measures. Doxycycline will
also prevent them.

Travellers diarrhoea is by far the most common problem affecting travellers between
30% and 50% of people will suffer from it
within two weeks of starting their trip. In
over 80% of cases, travellers diarrhoea is

Amoebic Dysentery
Amoebic dysentery is very rare in travellers
but may be misdiagnosed by poor-quality
labs. Symptoms are similar to bacterial diarrhoea, ie fever, bloody diarrhoea and generally
feeling unwell. You should always seek reliable medical care if you have blood in your
diarrhoea. Treatment involves two drugs;
Tinidazole or Metronidazole to kill the parasite in your gut and then a second drug to kill
the cysts. If left untreated complications such
as liver abscesses can occur.

Giardia lamblia is a parasite that is relatively
common in travellers. Symptoms include
nausea, bloating, excess gas, fatigue and intermittent diarrhoea. Eggy burps are often
attributed solely to giardiasis, but work in
Nepal has shown that they are not specific to
this infection. The parasite will eventually go
away if left untreated but this can take months.
The treatment of choice is Tinidazole, with
Metronidazole being a second-line option.

Air Pollution

Whilst Bangkok has terrible traffic the good

news is the petrol is generally lead free. Air
pollution can still be a problem however and


While rare in travellers, medical and aid workers and long-term travellers who have significant contact with the local population should
take precautions. Vaccination is usually only
given to children under the age of five, and is
highly recommended for children spending
more than three months in Thailand. Adults
at risk are recommended pre- and post-travel
TB testing either with the Mantoux test or
Quantiferon blood test, depending on your
countrys guidelines. The main symptoms are
fever, cough, weight loss, night sweats and
tiredness. Treatment is available with longterm multi-drug regimens.

778 I N T HA I L A N D E n v i r o n m e n t a l H a z a r d s

if you have severe respiratory problems speak

with your doctor before travelling. This pollution can also cause minor respiratory problems such as sinusitis, dry throat and irritated
eyes. If you are troubled by the pollution leave
the city for a few days and get some fresh air.

Divers and surfers should seek specialised
advice before they travel to ensure their medical kit contains treatment for coral cuts and
tropical ear infections as well as the standard
problems. Divers should ensure their insurance covers them for decompression illness;
get specialised dive insurance through an
organisation such as Divers Alert Network (DAN; Have a dive medical before
you leave your home country there are certain medical conditions that are incompatible
with diving and economic considerations may
override health considerations for some dive
operators in Thailand.


Eating in restaurants is the biggest risk factor
for contracting travellers diarrhoea. Ways to
avoid it include eating only freshly cooked
food, and avoiding shellfish and food that has
been sitting around in buffets. Peel all fruit,
cook vegetables, and soak salads in iodine
water for at least 20 minutes. Eat in busy restaurants with a high turnover of customers.

Many parts of Thailand are hot and humid
throughout the year. For most people it takes
at least two weeks to adapt to the hot climate.
Swelling of the feet and ankles is common, as
are muscle cramps caused by excessive sweating. Prevent these by avoiding dehydration
and excessive activity in the heat. Take it easy
when you first arrive. Dont eat salt tablets
(they aggravate the gut) but drinking rehydration solution or eating salty food helps. These
measures will help prevent heat exhaustion.
Treat cramps by stopping activity, resting,
rehydrating with rehydration solution and
gently stretching.
Heat stroke is a serious medical emergency
and requires immediate medical treatment.
Symptoms come on suddenly and include
weakness, nausea, a hot dry body with a body
temperature of over 41C, dizziness, confusion, loss of coordination, fits and eventually
collapse and loss of consciousness.

Prickly heat is a common skin rash in the

tropics, caused by sweat being trapped under
the skin. The result is an itchy rash of tiny
lumps. Treat by moving out of the heat and
into an air-conditioned area for a few hours
and by having cool showers. Creams and
ointments clog the skin so they should be
avoided. Locally bought prickly-heat powder
can be helpful.
Tropical fatigue is common in long-term
expats based in the tropics. Its rarely due
to disease and is caused by the climate, inadequate mental rest, excessive alcohol
intake and the demands of daily work in a
different culture.

Insect Bites & Stings

Bedbugs dont carry disease but their bites
are very itchy. They live in the cracks of furniture and walls and then migrate to the bed
at night to feed on you. You can treat the itch
with an antihistamine. Lice inhabit various
parts of your body but most commonly your
head and pubic area. Transmission is via close
contact with an infected person. They can be
difficult to treat and you may need numerous
applications of an anti-lice shampoo such as
Permethrin. Pubic lice are usually contracted
from sexual contact.
Ticks are contracted when walking in rural
areas. Ticks are commonly found behind the
ears, on the belly and in armpits. If you have
had a tick bite and experience symptoms such
as a rash at the site of the bite or elsewhere,
fever or muscle aches you should see a doctor.
Doxycycline prevents tick-borne diseases.
Leeches are found in humid rainforest
areas. They do not transmit any disease but
their bites are often intensely itchy for weeks
afterwards and can easily become infected.
Apply an iodine-based antiseptic to any leech
bite to help prevent infection.
Bee and wasp stings mainly cause problems
for people who are allergic to them. Anyone
with a serious bee or wasp allergy should carry
an injection of adrenaline (eg an Epipen) for
emergency treatment. For others, pain is the
main problem apply ice to the sting and
take painkillers.

Numerous parasites are common in local
populations in Thailand; but most of these
are rare in travellers. The two rules to follow
if you wish to avoid parasitic infections are

I N T HA I L A N D E n v i r o n m e n t a l H a z a r d s 779


First Aid for Severe Stings

For severe life-threatening envenomations the first priority is keeping the person alive. Stay with
the person, send someone to call for medical help, and start immediate CPR if they are unconscious.
If the victim is conscious douse the stung area liberally with vinegar simple household vinegar
is fine for 30 seconds. Keep a close eye on their conscious state and get them immediately
to medical care. For single-tentacled jellyfish stings pour vinegar onto the stung area as above;
early application can make a huge difference. It is best to seek medical care quickly in case any
other symptoms develop over the next 40 minutes.
Australia and Thailand are now working in close collaboration to identify the species of jellyfish
in Thai waters, as well as their ecology hopefully enabling better prediction and detection of
the jellyfish.
Thanks to Dr Peter Fenner for the information in this boxed text.

to wear shoes and to avoid eating raw food,

especially fish, pork and vegetables. A number
of parasites are transmitted via the skin by
walking barefoot, including strongyloides,
hookworm and cutaneous larva migrans.

Skin Problems
Fungal rashes are common in humid climates. Two fungal rashes commonly affect
travellers. The first occurs in moist areas
that get less air such as the groin, armpits
and between the toes. It starts as a red
patch that slowly spreads and is usually
itchy. Treatment involves keeping the skin
dry, avoiding chafing and using an antifun-

gal cream such as Clotrimazole or Lamisil.

Tinea versicolor is also common this fungus causes small and light-coloured patches,
most commonly on the back, chest and
shoulders. Consult a doctor.
Cuts and scratches become easily infected
in humid climates. Take meticulous care
of any cuts and scratches to prevent complications such as abscesses. Immediately
wash all wounds in clean water and apply
antiseptic. If you develop signs of infection
(increasing pain and redness) see a doctor.
Divers and surfers should be particularly
careful with coral cuts as they can easily
become infected.


It is difficult to get accurate statistics on the incidence of serious or fatal jellyfish stings in
Thailand, however there have been at least 10 tourist deaths in the past 20 years. Of note, between December 2007 and May 2008 there were nine serious envenomations in four separate
incidents reported from popular tourist beaches (on Ko Tao, Ko Samet, Ko Lanta and Pattaya).
One of these victims died.
Not all box jellyfish are dangerous, and stings range from minor to deadly. A good rule of
thumb, however, is to presume a box jelly is dangerous until proven otherwise. There are two
main types of box jellyfish multi-tentacled and single-tentacled.
Multi-tentacled box jellyfish are present in Thai waters these are potentially the most dangerous of jellyfish and a severe envenomation can kill an adult within two minutes. They are
generally found on sandy beaches near river mouths and mangroves during the warmer months
but can be found at any time of the year.
There are many types of single-tentacled box jellyfish, some of which can cause severe symptoms
known as the Irukandji syndrome. The initial sting can seem minor; however severe symptoms such
as back pain, nausea, vomiting, sweating, difficulty breathing and a feeling of impending doom
can develop between five and 40 minutes later. There has been the occasional death reported
from this syndrome as a result of high blood pressure causing strokes or heart attacks.
There are many other jellyfish in Thailand that cause irritating stings but no serious effects.
The only effective way to prevent these stings is to provide a barrier between human skin and
the jellyfish. This can be achieved most effectively with protective clothing. For example in the
tropical waters of Australia it is recommended to wear a stinger suit a full length lycra suit.
Multi tentacled jellyfish stinger nets at beaches are also effective, however, these are not yet
found on Thai beaches.

780 I N T HA I L A N D T r a v e l l i n g w i t h C h i l d re n


Over 175 species of snake have been identified
in Thailand, of which 85 are at least mildly venomous. Various snakes in the viper, krait and
cobra families are responsible for the majority
of serious envenomations. It is best to assume
any snake is poisonous and never try to catch
one. Always wear boots and long pants if walking in an area that may have snakes. First aid
in the event of a snake bite involves pressure
immobilisation using an elastic bandage firmly
wrapped around the affected limb, starting at
the hand or foot (depending on the limb bitten)
and working up towards the chest. The bandage
should not be so tight that the circulation is cut
off, and the fingers or toes should be kept free
so the circulation can be checked. Immobilise
the limb with a splint and carry the victim to
medical attention. It is very important that the
victim stays immobile. Do not use tourniquets
or try to suck the venom out. Leave the bandage
in place and go to the nearest hospital for evaluation. The Thai Red Cross produces antivenom
for many of the poisonous snakes in Thailand.
Antivenom is not given automatically and the
hospital will assess the severity of the envenomation. Snake bites are rare in travellers.

Even on a cloudy day sunburn can occur
rapidly. Use a strong sunscreen (at least factor 30), making sure to reapply after a swim,
and always wear a wide-brimmed hat and
sunglasses outdoors. Avoid lying in the sun
during the hottest part of the day (10am to
2pm). If you become sunburnt stay out of
the sun until you have recovered, apply cool
compresses and take painkillers for the discomfort. One per cent hydrocortisone cream
applied twice daily is also helpful.


Thailand is a great place to travel with children;
it is relatively safe from a health point of view if
you dont venture too far off the beaten track.
It is wise to consult a doctor who specialises in
travel medicine prior to travel to ensure your
child is appropriately prepared. Children are
not mini adults and it is important that you
carry a medical kit designed specifically for
them. In particular have adequate paracetamol
or Tylenol syrup for fevers, an antihistamine,
itch cream, first-aid supplies, nappy-rash treatment and plenty of age-appropriate sunscreen
and insect repellent. It is a good idea to carry

a general antibiotic (best used under medical supervision) Azithromycin is ideal as

it comes in a paediatric formula and can be
used to treat bacterial diarrhoea, ear, chest
and throat infections. Some medications that
are avoided in countries such as Australia and
the US are used frequently in Asia (for example
anti-nausea medications). By carrying your
own medical kit you can avoid using useless or
even potentially dangerous medication. Good
resources are the Lonely Planet publication
Travel with Children, and for those spending longer away Jane Wilson-Howarths book
Your Childs Health Abroad is excellent.

Pregnant women should receive specialised advice before travelling. The ideal time to travel
is in the second trimester (16 and 28 weeks),
when the risk of pregnancy-related problems
are at their lowest and pregnant women generally feel at their best. During the first trimester
there is a risk of miscarriage and in the third
trimester complications such as premature
labour and high blood pressure are possible.
Its wise to travel with a companion. Always
carry a list of quality medical facilities available
at your destination and ensure you continue
your standard antenatal care at these facilities.
Avoid rural travel in areas with poor transportation and medical facilities. Most of all, ensure
travel insurance covers all pregnancy-related
possibilities, including premature labour.
Malaria is a high-risk disease in pregnancy.
Advice from the WHO recommends that
pregnant women do not travel to those areas
with Chloroquine-resistant malaria. None of
the more effective antimalarial drugs is completely safe in pregnancy.
Travellers diarrhoea can quickly lead to dehydration and result in inadequate blood flow
to the placenta. Many of the drugs used to treat
various diarrhoea bugs are not recommended in
pregnancy. Azithromycin is considered safe.
In Thailands urban areas, supplies of sanitary products are readily available. Your personal birth-control option may not be available
so bring adequate supplies of your own. Heat,
humidity and antibiotics can all contribute to
thrush. Treatment of thrush is with antifungal
creams and pessaries such as Clotrimazole. A
practical alternative is one tablet of fluconazole
(Diflucan). Urinary-tract infections can be precipitated by dehydration or long bus journeys
without toilet stops; bring suitable antibiotics.


Vocabulary Differences
Conversation & Essentials
Language Difficulties
Shopping & Services
Time & Dates
Travel with Children


Thailands official language is effectively
the dialect spoken and written in central
Thailand, which has successfully become
the lingua franca of all Thai and non-Thai
ethnic groups in the kingdom.

Like most languages, Thai distinguishes between polite and informal vocabulary, so
that tahn, for example, is a more polite
everyday word for eat than gin, and se-s
for head is more polite than hoa. When
given a choice, its better to use the polite
terms, since these are less likely to lead to
unintentional offence.

The Thai script, a fairly recent development
in comparison with the spoken language,
consists of 44 consonants (but only 21 separate sounds) and 48 vowel and diphthong
possibilities (32 separate signs). Though
learning the alphabet is not difficult, the
writing system itself is fairly complex, so
unless youre planning a lengthy stay in
Thailand it should perhaps be foregone in
favour of actually learning to speak the language. The names of major places and food
items included in this book are given in
both Thai and roman script, so that you can
at least read the names of destinations or
dishes, or point to them if necessary.


Learning some Thai is indispensable for

travel in the kingdom; naturally, the more
you pick up, the closer you get to Thailands culture and people. Your first attempts to speak Thai will probably meet
with mixed success, but keep trying. Listen closely to the way the Thais themselves use the various tones youll catch
on quickly. Dont let laughter at your linguistic forays discourage you; this apparent amusement is really an expression of
appreciation. Travellers are particularly
urged to make the effort to meet Thai college and university students. Thai students are, by and large, eager to meet
visitors from other countries. They will
often know some English, so communication isnt as difficult as it may be with
shop owners, civil servants etc, and theyre
generally willing to teach you useful Thai
words and phrases.

All Thai dialects are members of the Thai

half of the Thai-Kadai family of languages.
As such, theyre closely related to languages
spoken in Laos (Lao, Northern Thai, Thai
L), northern Myanmar (Shan, Northern
Thai), northwestern Vietnam (Nung, Tho),
Assam (Ahom) and pockets of south China
(Zhuang, Thai L).
Modern Thai linguists recognise four
basic dialects within Thailand: Central Thai
(spoken as a first dialect through central
Thailand and throughout the country as a
second dialect); Northern Thai (spoken
from Tak Province north to the Myanmar
border); Northeastern Thai (northeastern
provinces towards the Lao and Cambodian
borders); and Southern Thai (from Chumphon Province south to the Malaysian border). There are also a number of Thai
minority dialects such as those spoken by
the Phu Thai, Thai Dam, Thai Daeng, Phu
Noi, Phuan and other tribal Thai groups,
most of whom reside in the north and

782 L A N G UA G E T o n e s


rising tone starting low and gradually rising, sounds

In Thai the meaning of a single syllable may

be altered by means of different tones in
standard Central Thai there are five: low
tone, mid tone, falling tone, high tone and
rising tone. For example, depending on the
tone, the syllable mai can mean new,
burn, wood, not? or not; ponder the
phrase mi mi mi mi mi (New wood
doesnt burn, does it?) and you begin to
appreciate the importance of tones in spoken Thai. This makes it a rather tricky language to learn at first, especially for those
of us unaccustomed to the concept of
Even when we know what the correct
tone in Thai should be, our tendency to
denote emotion, verbal stress, the interrogative etc through tone modulation often
interferes with producing the correct tone.
Therefore the first rule in learning to speak
Thai is to divorce emotions from your
speech, at least until youve learned the
Thai way to express them without changing
essential tone value.
The following is visual representation in
chart form to show relative tone values:




like the inflection used by English speakers to imply a

question Yes?, eg shm (three).


The following is a guide to the phonetic

system thats been used for the words and
phrases in this chapter (and throughout the
rest of the book when transcribing directly
from Thai). The dots indicate syllable
breaks within words, including compound

The majority of consonants correspond
closely to their English counterparts. Here
are a few exceptions:




The list below is a brief attempt to explain

the tones. The only way to really understand the differences is by listening to a
native or fluent non-native speaker. The
range of all five tones is relative to each
speakers vocal range so there is no fixed
pitch intrinsic to the language.
low tone Flat like the mid tone, but pronounced at
the relative bottom of ones vocal range. It is low, level and
has no inflection, eg bht (baht the Thai currency).
mid tone Pronounced flat, at the relative middle of
the speakers vocal range, eg dee (good); no tone mark
is used.
falling tone Starting high and falling sharply, this tone
is similar to the change in pitch in English when you are
emphasising a word, or calling someones name from afar,
eg mi (no/not).
high tone Usually the most difficult for Westerners.
It's pronounced near the relative top of the vocal range, as
level as possible, eg mh (horse).

similar to the g in good

a hard p sound, almost like a b;
sounds something like the sound
made when you say hip-bag
a hard t sound, like a sharp d;
sounds something like the sound
made when you say mid-tone
as the k in kite
as the p in pie
as the t in tip
as the nging in singing; can occur
as an initial consonant (practise by
saying singing without the si)
similar to the r in run but flapped
(ie the tongue touches palate); in
everyday speech its often pronounced
like l


as in bit
as the ee in feet
as in aisle
as the a in father
as in about; half as long as ah
as the a in bat or tab
as in hen
as in English but with no final r
sound (for American speakers)
as the er in fern (without the r
as the u in put
as the oo in food
as the ow in now
as the or in torn (without the r
as the o in hot
as the o in toe
a combination of eu and a

L A N G UA G E T r a n s l i t e r a t i o n 783


as ee-ya
as the our in tour
sounds like oo-way
as the ew in new
as the io in Rio
like the a in cat followed by a short
u as in put
ehou like the e in bed, followed by a short
u as in put
as the oi in coin
Writing Thai in roman script is a perennial
problem no wholly satisfactory system
has yet been devised to assure both consistency and readability. The Thai government
uses the Royal Thai General System of transcription for official government documents in English and for most highway
signs. However, local variations crop up on
hotel signs, city street signs, menus and so
on in such a way that visitors often become
confused. Added to this is the fact that even
the government system has its flaws.
Generally, names in this book follow the
most common practice or simply copy their
roman script name, no matter what devious
process was used in its transliteration!
When this transliteration is markedly different from actual pronunciation, the
pronunciation is included (according to the
system outlined in this chapter) in parentheses after the transliteration. Where no
roman model was available, names have
been transliterated phonetically, directly
from Thai.

Where is a cheap hotel?

What is the address?

te yo keu rai

Do you have any rooms available?

mee hrng whng mi

Id like (a) ...

yhk di ...

eeang norn
single room
hrng deo
double room
hrng ko
room with two beds
shv'm}ug^up' hrng te mee eeang
srng ooa
room with a bathroom
shv'm}ushv'ok hrng te mee hrng nm
ordinary room (with fan)
shv'Tii}fk hrng tamm
dah (mee pt lom)
to share a dorm
rydBosvryd pk nai hr pk
How much is it ...? ...gmjkwi` ... tw rai
per night
%no]t keun l
per person
%o]t kon l
May I see the room?

doo hrng di mi

gamlang hh ...

rohng raam te rahkah tok yo te ni

kean te yo hi di mi



youth hostel [hko




Im looking
for a ...

Could you write the address, please?

Where is the bathroom?


bhn pk/

hrng nm yo te ni

gt hw


rohng raam

Im/Were leaving today.

chn/poak row j rk wan ne




hrng soam/
hrng nm
hp nm
ph cht ooa

784 L A N G UA G E C o n v e r s a t i o n & E s s e n t i a l s


When being polite, the speaker ends his or
her sentence with krp (for men) or k (for
women). It is the gender of the speaker that
is being expressed here; it is also the common way to answer yes to a question or
show agreement.

Z%iy[!%jtX (krp/k)
]kdjvo lah grn
mi chi
Thank you.
*v[%=I krp kun
Thats fine.
w}jgxHowi! mi en rai/
(Youre welcome) pbofu
Excuse me.
*vv#yp kr pai
Sorry. (Forgive me) *vFmK
kr tht
Im from ...
}k&kd... mah jhk ...
I like ...
(v[... chrp ...
I dont like ... w}j(v[... mi chrp ...
Just a minute. ivgfp;
ror deo
I/me (for men)
I/me (for women) fbCyo
I/me (informal, Cyo

men and women)


You (for peers)




(I) would like ... (+ verb)


yhk j ...


yhk di ...

(I) would like ... (+ noun)


Where is (the) ...?


... yo te ni


rong ai


leo si


leo kwh


rong mum


rong fai daang

(Go) Straight ahead.

Turn left.

Turn right.

at the corner
at the traffic lights

How are you?


sbai dee ru

Im fine, thanks.


sbai dee

Whats your name?


kun chu rai


pm chu ... (men)

dchn chu ... (women)


mah jhk te ni


deo jeu gan n


mee ... mi/... mee mi

My name is ...

Where are you from?

See you soon.

Do you have ...?

Police Station

in front of
not far




khng lng
rong nh
mi glai
rong khm
chai hht

paddy (field)

L A N G UA G E H e a l t h 785


tleh shp
poo kw
(tng) nah

nm k

chn oay

It hurts here.
Im pregnant.

I feel nauseous.


rosuk klun si

I have a fever.


en ki

I have diarrhoea.


trng sea

Im ...


pm/dchn ...



en rhk hut


gxHoFi%g[ks;ko en rhk bow whn



en rhk lom bh mo

chn lng tahng

choay doay


ai s


reak ...

Im allergic to ...

mosquito coil
mosquito repellent

pm/dchn pa ...
yah cheewn
yah atspairin
ooa pung
toa lsng
yah pairnsinlin

yah kh chua
yah atspairin
tng yahng anahmai
gahn kum gamnut
yah gan yung bap jt
yah gan yung
yah ga oat



a doctor
the police


rhn ki yah

Im ill.


Call ...!

ng kan laou

rohng pyahbahn


Cyoxj ;p

Go away!

jp rong ne

mr fan





rng gahn (mr)

mee btht

Im lost.

(mo) bhn





I need a (doctor).


Theres been an accident.

ma nm




786 L A N G UA G E L a n g u a g e D i f f i c u l t i e s

sunblock cream


kreem gan dat




Do you speak English?

kun pot pahsh anggrt di mi

Does anyone here speak English?

te ne mee krai pot pahsh anggrt di mi

How do you say ... in Thai?

... wh yhng rai pahsh tai

What do you call this in Thai?

ne pahsh tai reak wh rai

What does ... mean?];jkvtwi
... plaa wh rai

Do you understand?

kw jai mi

A little.

nt ny

I understand.

kw jai

I dont understand.

mi kw jai

Please write it down.

kr kean hi ny

Can you show me (on the map)?

hi doo (nai pan te) di mi



one million
one billion


date of birth
place of birth
sex (gender)




nung ry
srng ry
shm ry
nung pan
srng pan
nung mun
nung san
nung lhn
pan lhn

lyP(k^b snchht
gdbf;yom gut wan te
gut te
soy'lnvgfbo nngsu deun

L A N G UA G E S h o p p i n g & S e r v i c e s 787


Id like to buy ...

How much?
How much is this?
I dont like it.
May I look at it?
Im just looking.
Its cheap.
Its too expensive.
Ill take it.

yhk j su ...

too expensive

tw ra
ne tw rai/ge bht


mi chrp


Im looking for ...


pm/dchn gamlang hh ...


the city centre

doo di mi


doo chri chri

jai glahng meuang

the ... embassy


sthn tot ...

the market

rahkah tok


paang geun ai

the museum



the post office



a public toilet



lt rahkah ny di mi

Can you come down just a little more?


hrng nm shtahrn

a restaurant


rhn ahhhn

a temple

lt rahkah ek ntnung di mi

Do you have something cheaper?


mee tok gwh ne mi




the telephone centre

Can you lower it more?

son tohrsp

the tourist office



lt ek di mi


smnk ngahn trng


I want to change ...


... bht di mi

I wont give more than ... baht.

rng gahn lak ...




j hi mi geun ... bht


travellers cheques


Do you accept ...?

rp ... mi

Can I/we change money here?

credit cards


bt krairdt


chk deun tahng

travellers cheques

lak ngeun te ne di mi

What time does it open?


chk deun tahng



ut ge mohng

What time does it close?

ny long


lk gwh

t ge mohng


How about ... baht?


paang ai

a bank

Can you reduce the price a little?


yi gwh

788 L A N G UA G E Ti m e & D a t e s



Telling the time in Thai can be very challenging for an outsider to master. While the
Western 12-hour clock divides the day between two time periods, am and pm, the
Thai system has four periods. The 24-hour
clock is also commonly used by government and media. The list below shows
hours of the 12-hour clock translated into
the Thai system.



12 noon

bi se mohng sphh nahtee (lit: four afternoon hours 15)

To give times before the hour, add the

number of minutes beforehand.


ge mohng laou


hk tm/
teang keun
ee nung
ee srng
ee shm
ee se
ee hh
hk mohng chw
nung mohng chw
hh mohng chw
bi mohng
bi srng mohng
bi shm mohng
bi se mohng
(lit: afternoon four hours)
se mohng yen
(lit: four hours evening)
hh mohng yen
hk mohng yen
nung tm
srng tm
shm tm
se tm
hh tm



ek sphh nahtee bi se mohng (lit: another 15 minutes

four afternoon hours)

What time is it?

12 midnight


For times after the hour, just add the

number of minutes following the hour.








Public Transport

What time does the ... leave?

bi se mohng krung (lit: four afternoon hours half)

... j rk ge mohng



wan ne
prng ne
mua wahn
wan jan
wan angkahn
wan pt
wan pruht
wan sk
wan sw
wan ahtt

L A N G UA G E T r a n s p o r t 789

What time does the ... arrive?

ticket office


... j tung ge mohng

bus (city)
bus (intercity)


rt mair/
rt bt

the first
the last

kruang bin

Private Transport

rt fai

te rak
st ti


Id like to hire a/an ...

pm/dchn yhk chw ...



pm/dchn yhk di ...


a one-way ticket


oa teo deeo


oa ai glp


oa srng bai


chn nung

a return ticket
two tickets
1st class

2nd class


rt yon
rt foh ween
rt moreusai
rt jkgyahn

Is this the road to ...?

mk'} tahng ne ai ... mi

x}xNok }yovp)mj w so m nm man yo te ni

Wheres a service station?

chn srng

Please fill it up.

Id like a ticket.


yhk di oa


yhk j ai ...

I want to go to ...


rt fai tk yk luk laou

The train has been delayed.

rt fai chh wairlah


kr eum hi em

Id like (30) litres.


ow (shm sp) lt



nm man sohlh

unleaded petrol


nm man ri san goa

Can I park here?



sanhm bin



sathnee kn sng

&vfmow fhokogmjkwi jrt te ne di nahn twrai


i rt mair



te jrt rt takse



sathnee rt fai



chahnchahlah te ...

bus station
bus stop

taxi stand

train station

jrt te ne di mi

How long can I park here?

Where do I pay?

ji ngeun te ni

I need a mechanic.
rng gahn chhng

I have a flat tyre.

yahng baan

Ive run out of petrol.

platform number ...


mt nm man


The train has been cancelled.


ahrahng wairlah

rt tooa

Id like ...


o ki oa

790 L A N G UA G E T r a v e l w i t h C h i l d re n

Ive had an accident.



mee tht

The car/motorbike has broken down (at ...)

rt/moreusai sea te ...

The car/motorbike wont start.

rt/moreusai saht mi t


Is there (a/an) ...

mee ... mi

baby change room

hrng lean ph dk


Give Way
No Entry
No Overtaking
No Parking
Keep Clear
Slow Down
One Way

(English-speaking) babysitter

car baby seat

b nng nai rt smrp dk

pe leang dk (te pot pahsh anggrt di)


child-minding service


borrgahn leang dk



gwe song

childrens menu


rai gahn ahhhn smrp dk


(disposable) nappies/diapers

ph rm (bap chi laou tng)


rt kn dk

formula (milk)

Are children allowed?

nom png smrp dk

dk nyht hi kw mi


Also available from Lonely Planet:

Thai phrasebook



This glossary includes Thai, Pali (P) and
Sanskrit (S) words and terms frequently
used in this guidebook. For definitions of
food and drink terms, see p92.
ahhhn food
ahhhn h jungle food, usually referring to dishes
made with wild game
ajahn (aajaan) respectful title for teacher; from the
Sanskrit term acarya
amphoe (amphur) district, the next subdivision down
from province
amphoe meuang provincial capital
AUA American University Alumni

chow nah farmer

CPT Communist Party of Thailand
doy mountain in the Northern Thai dialect; spelt Doi in
proper names
lht market
lht nm water market
ambon (tambol) precinct, next governmental
subdivision under amphoe
rrk (trok) alley, smaller than a soi
farng a Westerner (person of European origin); also

gteui (kthoey) Thailands third gender, usubhn (ban) house or village

baht (bat) the Thai unit of currency
bht a unit of weight equal to 15g; rounded bowl used

CAT CAT Telecom Public Company Limited (formerly

Communications Authority of Thailand)
chedi see stupa
chow folk; people
chow lair (chow nm) sea gypsies

hht beach; spelt Hat in proper names

hn stone
hr rai a Tripitaka (Buddhist scripture) hall
hr glorng drum tower
hr rkang bell tower
hrng (hong) room; in southern Thailand this refers to
semi-submerged island caves
hrng taou rowhouse or shophouses

Isan (eeshn) general term used for northeastern

jataka (P) (chahdk) stories of the Buddhas previous

jeen Chinese
jeen hor literally galloping Chinese, referring to horseriding Yunnanese traders
jw meuang principality chief; jw means lord, prince
or holy being

kaan reed instrument common in northeastern Thailand

kthoey see gteui
klorng canal; spelt Khlong in proper nouns
khn masked dance-drama based on stories from the


by monks for receiving alms food

bai se sacred thread used by monks or shamans in
certain religious ceremonies
benjrong traditional five-coloured Thai ceramics
BKS Baw Khaw Saw (Thai acronym for the Transport
BMA Bangkok Metropolitan Authority; Bangkoks
municipal government
bodhisattva (S) in Theravada Buddhism, the term
used to refer to the previous lives of the Buddha prior to his
bht central sanctuary in a Thai temple used for
the monastic orders official business, such as ordinations; from the Pali term uposatha (ubohst); see also
br nm rrn hot springs
Brahman pertaining to Brahmanism, an ancient
religious tradition in India and the predecessor of Hinduism; not to be confused with Brahmin, the priestly class in
Indias caste system
BTS Bangkok Transit System (Skytrain); Thai: rt fai fh
ah batik
k i southern Thailand
epht classical Thai orchestra
ohnglahng northeastern Thai marimba (percussion
instrument) made of short logs

ally cross-dressing or transsexual males; also called

gopura (S) entrance pavilion in traditional Hindu
temple architecture, often seen in Angkor-period temple
goay hang Chinese-style work shirt
grbe grborng a traditional Thai martial art
employing short swords and staves
g monks dwelling



kon eeshn the people of northeastern Thailand; kon

means person
kw hill or mountain; spelt Khao in proper names
kw rice
KMT Kuomintang
KNU Karen National Union
krbi-krbawng see grbe grborng
ku small chedi that is partially hollow and open
kay heng see goay hang
kt see g

lam cape; spelt Laem in proper names

lk meuang city pillar
lkon classical Thai dance-drama
lk little, small (in size); see also noi
lgair Thai folk dance-drama
longyi Burmese sarong
lok tng Thai country music
lw kw white whisky, often homemade rice brew
lw tuan illegal (homemade) whisky
ma chee Thai Buddhist nun
ma nm river
Mahanikai the larger of the two sects of Theravada
Buddhism in Thailand

mahathat (mhh tht) common name for temples


containing Buddha relics; from the Sanskrit-Pali term

mnohrah Southern Thailands most popular
traditional dance-drama
masjid (mtsyt) mosque
mtme technique of tie-dyeing silk or cotton threads
and then weaving them into complex patterns, similar
to Indonesian ikat; the term also refers to the patterns
metta (P) (mt-ah) Buddhist practice of loving-kindness
meuang city or principality
mondp small square, spired building in a wt; from
Sanskrit mandapa
mooay tai (muay thai) Thai boxing
mr lam an Isan musical tradition akin to lok tng
mrn kwhn wedge-shaped pillow popular in northern and northeastern Thailand
MRTA Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority, Bangkoks
subway system; Thai: rt fai fh i din

naga (P/S) (nhk) a mythical serpent-like being with

magical powers
nkon city; from the Sanskrit-Pali nagara; spelt
Nakhon in proper nouns
nm water
nm k waterfall; spelt Nam Tok in proper nouns
nng lung Thai shadow play
neun hill; spelt Noen in proper names
ngahn ttsgahn festival

nibbana (P/S) nirvana; in Buddhist teachings, the state

of enlightenment; escape from the realm of rebirth; Thai:
noi (ny) little, small (amount); see also lk
nrk outside, outer; spelt Nok in proper names
ow bay or gulf; spelt Ao in proper nouns
ph kamh cotton sarong worn by men
ph mtme mtme fabric
ph sn cotton sarong worn by women
phk glahng central Thailand
phk nua northern Thailand
phk ti see k i
pe ghost, spirit
pin small, three-stringed lute played with a large

pi-phat see epht

pks a Buddhist monk; from the Sanskrit bhikshu,
Pali bhikkhu
PLAT Peoples Liberation Army of Thailand
pleng kohrht Khorat folk song
pleng pua cheewt songs for life, Thai folk-rock
ponglang see ohnglahng
poo kw mountain
po yi bhn village chief
pr an honorific term used for monks, nobility and Buddha images; spelt Phra in proper names
pr kruang amulets of monks, Buddhas or deities
worn around the neck for spiritual protection; also called
pr pim
pr poom earth spirits or guardians
prang (rahng) Khmer-style tower on temples
prasada blessed food offered to Hindu or Sikh temple
prasat (rahsht) small ornate building, used for
religious purposes, with a cruciform ground plan and needlelike spire, located on temple grounds; any of a number of
different kinds of halls or residences with religious or royal
PULO Pattani United Liberation Organization

ri an area of land measurement equal to 1600 sq


reua hhng yow long-tail boat

reuan taou longhouse
reuse an ascetic, hermit or sage (Hindi: rishi)
rt aa blue-and-white air-con bus
rt rp ahght air-con bus
rt fai fh Bangkoks Skytrain system
rt fai ti din Bangkoks subway system
rt norn sleeper bus
rt tammdah ordinary (non air-con) bus or train
rt tooa tour or air-con bus

Lonely Planet Publications

G L O S S A R Y 793

shlah open-sided, covered meeting hall or resting

place; from Portuguese term sala, literally room
shmlr three-wheeled pedicab
shn pr poom spirit shrine
smnk sng monastic centre
smnk wtsnah meditation centre
samsara (P) in Buddhist teachings, the realm of rebirth
and delusion
sangha (P) the Buddhist community
satang (sahng) a Thai unit of currency; 100 satang
equals 1 baht
se yak intersection, often used to give driving directions
smaa boundary stones used to consecrate ground used
for monastic ordinations
serow Asian mountain goat
sua mr hrm blue cotton farmers shirt
soi lane or small street
Songkran Thai New Year, held in mid-April
soan ahhhn outdoor restaurant with any bit of
foliage nearby; literally food garden
srngtaou (literally two rows) common name for
small pick-up trucks with two benches in the back, used as
buses/taxis; also spelt swngthew
SRT State Railway of Thailand
stupa conical-shaped Buddhist monument used to inter
sacred Buddhist objects
sshn cemetery
th pier, boat landing; spelt Tha in proper nouns
tht four-sided, curvilinear Buddha reliquary, common
in Northeastern Thailand; spelt That in proper nouns
tht grdok bone reliquary, a small stupa containing
remains of a Buddhist devotee
tlat nam see lht nm
tm cave; spelt Tham in proper nouns
tam bun to make merit
tambon see ambon
TAT Tourism Authority of Thailand
ttsbahn a governmental division in towns or cities
much like municipality
THAI Thai Airways International; Thailands national
air carrier

thammjk Buddhist wheel of law; from the Pali


Thammayut one of the two sects of Theravada Buddhism in Thailand; founded by King Rama IV while he was
still a monk
thann (tnn) street; spelt Thanon in proper noun
and shortened to Th
T-pop popular teen-music
trwk see rrk
trimurti (S) collocation of the three principal Hindu
deities, Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu
Tripitaka (S) Theravada Buddhist scriptures; (Pali:
tdong a series of 13 ascetic practices (for example
eating one meal a day, living at the foot of a tree) undertaken by Buddhist monks; a monk who undertakes such
practices; a period of wandering on foot from place to place
undertaken by monks
tk-tk (k-k) motorised shmlr
tsnt flame-shaped head ornament on a Buddha
vipassana (P) (wtsnah) Buddhist insight meditation
wi palms-together Thai greeting
wan pr Buddhist holy days, falling on the days of the
main phases of the moon (full, new and half ) each month
wang palace
wt temple-monastery; from the Pali term avasa meaning monks dwelling; spelt Wat in proper nouns
wtntam culture
wt h forest monastery
whhn (wihan, viharn) any large hall in a Thai temple,
usually open to laity; from Sanskrit term vihara, meaning

Yawi traditional language of Malay parts of Java,

Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula, widely spoken in the
most southern provinces of Thailand; the written form uses
the classic Arabic script plus five additional letters
yi big
yhm shoulder bag


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