The kingdom is a predominantly Buddhist country, with Muslim and Christian minorities. 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 by their first name preceded by the title “Khun”.
Thai is the official language and has five different tones, which can be difficult to distinguish for non-native speakers. English is widely understood in most business and tourist centres, particularly Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Koh Samui and Phuket. Road signs are often both in Thai and English.
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. During the one-year mourning period following the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, many Thais continue to wear black clothing and sensitivity is advised, especially when visiting government offices.
Private offices in Bangkok generally follow 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. Operating hours for banks are usually between 9.30am and 3.30pm, Monday through Friday, except on public holidays.
It is normal to tip hotel personnel who provide good service, as well as porters. Tips of 10-15% are common in most high-end restaurants and hotels when service charges are not included. Tips are not expected by taxi drivers and at low-end restaurants.
Thailand is recognised globally as having some of the best medical services in South-east Asia. Private and state hospitals provide comprehensive care for foreign patients. Doctors tend to be very well-trained, as are the nurses who staff hospitals and clinics. Pharmacies are widespread and well stocked.
Electrical current is on a 220-V system. Adaptors are required for using 110-V equipment.
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 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website: www.mfa.go.th.
Metered taxis are easily found and inexpensive, with a set starting fare of BT35 ($0.99) in Bangkok. When using highways, clients are expected to pay a toll and a BT70 ($1.97) surcharge when driving from the airport. It is important to ensure the meter is reset upon entering a taxi. Three-wheeled tuk-tuks are also readily available, but fares have to be negotiated and can be more expensive than a taxi for the same route. For the more adventurous, motorbike taxies are a commonly used means of weaving through heavy traffic, and licensed drivers can be identified by their orange vests. The Bangkok Mass Transit System runs daily from 6.00am to 12.00am, with frequent service throughout the day. The metro rapid transit subway system comprises 18 stations and operates from 6.00am to 12.00am, connecting many of the top tourist destinations with the residential and business districts. Air travel is easy and inexpensive due to the emergence of a number of low-cost domestic airlines. Private bus firms provide frequent transportation between cities, while the national state railway is dependable.
The Thai unit of currency is the baht. It is not pegged to any other currency. One baht divides into 100 satang. Banknotes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 baht. ATMs can be easily located throughout larger cities and accept international cards.
Thailand’s international calling code is +66. Access to the internet is available in hotels and cybercafes across the country. The three largest mobile phone operators, AIS, TrueMove and DTAC, offer relatively affordable pre-paid data packages.