Thai is the official language and it comprises 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 written in both Thai and English.
Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country, with Muslim and Christian minorities. Since the 1960s it has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and, as a result, caters to visitors from a wide range of cultures.
There is no strict mandatory dress code for visitors, although shorts and sleeveless shirts are generally prohibited when visiting Buddhist temples. Before entering a temple, always remove your shoes.
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. In business settings it is common to refer to individuals by their first name, preceded by the title “Khun”.
Thailand is internationally recognised as having some of the best medical services in Southeast Asia. Both private and government 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.
It is normal to tip hotel personnel who provide good service, including 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 or at low-end restaurants.
Electricity in the country is distributed at 220-V. Adaptors are required for 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 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 abundant and inexpensive, with a starting fare of BT35 ($0.99) in Bangkok. On highways, passengers are expected to pay tolls and a BT70 ($1.97) surcharge when driving from the airport. 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 taxis are often used means of weaving through heavy traffic, and licensed drivers can be identified by their orange vests. The Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS) runs daily from 6.00am to 12.00am, while the metro rapid transit (MRT) subway system 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, and the national state railway is dependable. Grab and several other ride-hailing apps are available in Bangkok and most other major urban centres
The Thai unit of currency is the baht, and one baht is equal to 100 satang. The baht is not pegged to any other currency. Banknotes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 baht. ATMs can be easily found 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 that travellers can purchase in minutes.