Facts for visitors: Useful tips for new arrivals

ETIQUETTE: The Kingdom of Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country with Muslim and Christian minority groups. Since the 1960s the country has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and as a result caters to visitors from different cultures. In business settings, it is common to refer to individuals not by their last name, but by their first preceded by the term of respect “Khun”.

LANGUAGE: Thai is the official language. There are five different tones, which are difficult to distinguish for the non-native speaker. English is widely understood in most business and tourist centres, particularly in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Samui and Phuket. Road signs are often in both Thai and English.

DRESS: There is no strict mandatory dress code for visitors, although when visiting Buddhist temples shorts and sleeveless shirts are generally prohibited. Always remember to remove shoes before entering a temple. It is advisable to wear light and loose cotton clothing given the year-long tropical climate. The northern region can be colder – bringing a sweater or jacket is advised.

BUSINESS HOURS: Private offices in Bangkok generally work on a five-day workweek, with normal business hours from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Government offices are generally open between 9:30am and 4:30pm, Monday through Friday. Shopping centres typically open at 10:00am and shut at 10:00pm. Operating hours for banks are generally between 9:30am and 3:30pm, Monday through Friday, except on public holidays. .

TIPPING: It is normal to tip both hotel personnel who provide good service and porters. Tips of 10-15% are common in most high-end restaurants and hotels when service charges are not included. Tips are not expected for taxi drivers and low-end restaurants.

HEALTH: Thailand is recognised globally as having some of the best medical services of any country in Southeast Asia. Private and state hospitals provide comprehensive care to foreign patients. Doctors tend to be very well-trained, as are nurses who staff the hospitals and clinics. Pharmacies are widespread and well stocked.

TRANSPORT: Metered taxis are easily found and inexpensive, with a set BT35 ($1.10) starting fare. When using the highways, clients are expected to pay the tollway charges and a BT50 ($1.58) surcharge from the airport.

It is also possible to order metered taxis with a BT20 ($0.63) surcharge. It is important to ensure the driver resets the meter when entering the vehicle. Three wheel tuk-tuks are also readily available, but fares have to be negotiated and often end up being more expensive than a metered taxi for the same route.

The BTS skytrain runs daily from 6:00am to 12:00am, with frequent service throughout the day ( particularly during the rush hour commute). The MRT subway system comprises 18 stations and also operates from 6:00am to 12:00am, conveniently connecting many of the top tourist destinations with the residential and business districts. Modern highways proliferate throughout the country. Air travel is easy and inexpensive due to the emergence of a number of low-cost domestic airlines. Private bus companies also provide frequent and reliable transportation between cities, while the national state railway is dependable.

ELECTRICITY: Electrical current is on a 220-V system. Adaptors are required for using 110-V equipment.

VISAS: Visitors from many countries can obtain a visa on arrival if their stay does not exceed 30 days. Business visas and work permits are also granted through Thai embassies located abroad. More detailed visa information can be found at www.mfa.go.th CURRENCY: The Thai unit of currency is the baht. It is not pegged to any other currency and fluctuates with global market rates. One baht divides into 100 satang. Banknotes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 baht. ATMs are easily located throughout the larger cities and accept international cards.

COMMUNICATIONS: +66 is the international calling code for Thailand. Access to internet is available in hotels and cyber cafes throughout the country. Several mobile phone operators exist – the three largest are Advanced Information Service, True Move and Dtact.

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