Thailand's history

Although there is evidence that people settled in Thailand well before, the ‘birth’ and history of Thailand is considered to have begun in 1238 when Sukhothai was established as the capital in the central northern region.  

A new capital
In 1350 King Uthorn established another Thai capital at Ayuthaya, just north of present-day Bangkok, which eventually overshadowed Sukhothai and prospered for over two hundred years.  However, neighbouring Burma eventually destroyed Ayuthaya after a prolonged history of warfare in 1767.
The new capital was founded on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River at Thonburi and in 1782 moved to its present site, Bangkok, or Krung Thep as it is known to the Thai’s.

Independent Thailand

During the 19th century, while the rest of South East Asia was being colonized, Siam (as Thailand was formerly known) managed to remain independent. By playing off one European power against another, Thailand’s rulers managed to obtain many of the material benefits of colonisation, including the expansion of the road network, introduction of railways, and other western-based reforms.

Recent History
Recent Thai history has been characterized by an unstable government and a number of military coups, however what has remained stable is the monarchy.  King Bhumibol is the world’s longest reigning monarch having ascended the throne in 1946. 
While gaining Western influence, the lack of colonization meant that the country has retained the rich culture it is so famous for. Thailand boasts the most amazing palaces, temples and sites, which are particular to each of the historical periods, so many of which can still be seen today.  

Culture and society of Thailand

While you’ll find Bangkok to be a crazy mish-mash of traditional temples and modern Western-style buildings, beyond the capital many of the regions still maintain their cultural roots.  The women of the long neck Karen villages in Northern Thailand continue the tradition of wearing rings around their neck and curious tourists to this area provide a main source of income.

The majority of the population is still made up of farmers and the predominant form of agriculture is wet-rice cultivation.  Others cultivate tapioca and jute (in the North East), vegetables (in the North), rubber (in the South) and a large variety of fruit and coconuts.

Thailand religion 
Thailand is predominantly Buddhist and you’ll find shrines and temples dotted around the cities and countryside dedicated to the religion.  A must-visit is the largest Buddha in Thailand, the reclining Buddha, housed at Wat Pho in Bangkok. 

Quick facts

Population
65,000,000

Languages spoken
Thai

Currency
Name: Baht 
Code: THB 
Symbol: ฿

Electricity
The electric current in Thailand is 220V and the cycle is 50Hz.  The sockets in Thailand will take both the flat and round prongs but an adapter may be necessary. 

Time zones
GMT + 7 (Indochina Time)

Country dialling code
+66

Weights & measures
Metric

Thailand Climate

Thailand’s climate is tropical with a mean annual temperature of 82°F and high humidity.  There are three distinct seasons – the hot season from March to May, the cool season from November to February and the rainy season from about June to October.

If you’re not a fan of the heat then holiday in Thailand during the cool season – the Thai climate during this time is hardly ‘cool’ in the traditional sense but you’ll find temperatures a lot easier to handle dropping to about 70°F in the central region and 57°F in the north.
Get up to the minute info on the weather in Thailand from the World Weather website.

When to go ?

The best time to visit is between November and March when the weather in Thailand is optimum and you’ll be able to take full advantage of the Thailand beaches (although Koh Samui is best from June to September). November to March is also Thailand's main period of national and regional festivals.  
The peak tourist season is November to late March, with secondary peak months in July and August. If you’re keen to avoid the crowds and take advantage of discounted rooms and low-season rates, why not travel during the less crowded months (April to June, September and October). On the other hand it's easy to leave the crowds behind – just avoid the most popular destinations (eg Chiang Mai and all islands and beaches). 

Thai Currency

Thai money is called the baht, and the exchange rate is approximately 35 baht = $1. To find the most up to the minute Thai currency exchange rates, go to XE.com Currency Converter.

Sample prices
Although Thailand is super cheap it’s still a good idea to budget for your trip so you don’t run out of money. Here are a few sample prices to help you:

§  Singha beer = 60-100 baht

§  Thai curry = anywhere from 25 baht on the street, to 50 baht and beyond in restaurants

§  Thai massage = 200 baht for an hour

§  Thai cookery course = 800 baht

§  1 litre bottle of water = 20 baht

§  Average room prices = prices vary depending on season but you can generally budget 500 baht for low end, 1,500 baht for moderate, 3,000 baht and upward for high end.

§  Average meal prices = pad thai can cost as little as 10 baht on the street of Khao San, to around 80 baht in average restaurant, and 300 baht and beyond for a high end restaurant.

Tipping
Tipping isn’t necessary but since everything is often such a bargain and the service generally very high, it is the norm to tip around 10 percent in restaurants and hotels.

Thailand Visa Requirements

Get all your Thailand work & tourist visa info right here ! Whether you're wanting to on vacation or you're keen to work. You will find all you need to know before you go about Thailand visa requirements. 

Thailand Tourist visa

Your nationality will determine whether you need to get a visa and how long you can stay. Citizens from a large list of countries including the US can visit Thailand visa-free for up to 30 days – plenty of time for most. For longer stays you should apply for a tourist visa from Thai immigration allowing you remain in the country for up to 60 days.

Working visa

Thailand doesn’t offer a working visa but there are still plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in the local culture – teach English for 6 – 12 months surrounded by miles of beautiful beaches, historic temples, tropical jungle and some of the most motivated and lively students in the world.

Thailand health & safety

Safety and security in Thailand

Below are a few hints and tips to ensure you have a hassle-free trip to Thailand:

§  Beware of unauthorized people who offer their services as guides.  You could end up going somewhere completely different from where you intended or paying through the nose.  For all tourist information, phone the Tourism Authority of Thailand on 1672.

§  Observe the usual precautions with regards to personal safety and the safety of your passport, airline tickets, money, jewellery and other belongings.  Most hotels will have a safety deposit box either in the room or at reception so make use of that, otherwise when walking make sure all zips and bag openings are closed and secured.  Walking alone on quiet streets or deserted areas is not recommended.  Visitors needing assistance relating to safety, unethical practices, or other matters, should phone the Tourist Police on 1155.

§  Do your bit to keep the streets clean – drop your garbage into a waste container. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration strictly enforces the law in an effort to keep the city clean and will fine anyone caught spitting, discarding cigarette stubs, or dropping rubbish in public areas.

§  Do not get yourself involved with drugs. Penalties for drug offences are very severe in Thailand including long jail sentences or even death.

§  Don’t support wild animal trafficking or abuse and never purchase any products or souvenirs made from wild animals including reptiles like snakes, monitor lizards, and also turtle shell and ivory. Avoid local restaurants that serve wild animal delicacies as it is against the law to slaughter wildlife for food in Thailand.

Thailand travel insurance

Don’t leave home without it!  Accidents happen – and they can happen in the strangest places at the strangest times, like on the side of a mountain in Krabi or in an alley in Bangkok at 3 am.  Travel insurance can cover you for all sorts of mishaps during your travel, and even before you leave.  Did you know up to 25% of all insurance claims are due to cancellation of travel?

Check out the STA Travel insurance policies and get the one that is right for you (link to insurance page).

Thailand travel hints & tips

Have a blast on your trip but don’t forget to respect the local culture in Thailand.  Check out the Thailand travel tips and advice:

The monarchy 
Thai people have a deep respect and reverence for the monarchy and it’s important to show respect for the King, the Queen and the Royal Children.

Religion in Thailand
Dressing neatly in religious shrines is a must – otherwise prepare to be refused entry.  Some places, such as the King’s Palace, will allow you to hire appropriate dress but you can expect hot and heavy sarong-type clothing so it’s best to turn up wearing something appropriate and comfortable from the outset.  Shoulders, midriff and knees should be covered and you should wear neat footwear.  Shoes are acceptable when walking around the compound of a Buddhist temple, but you’ll need to remove them before entering the chapel where the main Buddha image is kept.
Each Buddha image, large or small, ruined or not, is sacred to the Thai people. Never climb onto one to take a photograph or do anything that might be deemed as a lack of respect. Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch or be touched by a woman, or to accept anything from the hand of one. Ladies – if you’d like to give anything to a monk, you’ll need to hand it to a man to present instead.

Social norms
Most Thai’s will accept a handshake but their traditional form of greeting is the wai – a prayer-like gesture where the palms are pressed together.  Generally a younger person will wai an elder, who returns it. 
Thai's regard the head as the highest part of the body (literally and figuratively) so avoid touching people on the head and try not to point your feet at people or an object. It is considered very rude. You’ll also need to remove your shoes before entering a private Thai home.
Try to keep public displays of affection with the opposite sex to a minimum as this is frowned upon.

Travel to & around Thailand

Travel to Thailand is easy with flights to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport leaving daily and a wide choice of airlines to get you there.  Chiang Mai, Phuket and Hat Yai airports also have immigration facilities and a small number of scheduled international flight arrivals.  Check out the cheap flights to Thailand or call us about getting a Round the World ticket with a stop in Thailand.

Thailand airports

Suvarnabhumi airport
Bangkok is home to two airports.  The new airport, Suvarnabhumi, opened in 2007 and is located in Racha Thewa around 30 kilometers east of Bangkok.  There are various forms of transport to and from this Bangkok airport including shuttle bus, public bus and car rental.  Usually the higher end hotels will send a representative to meet you at the airport but most visitors take a metered taxi – there is a 50 baht airport surcharge on top of your fare (which should only be a few hundred baht) plus you’ll need to pay express way fees.  The journey is usually 40 minutes to an hour depending on your destination.

Don Muang airport
Some domestic flights still operate out of the old international airport, Don Muang (24 kms north from Bangkok), so check your ticket carefully so you’re definite about which airport you should be at.  The same transport options exist out of Don Muang as they do at Suvarnabhumi and the travel time is slightly less.

Phuket airport

Phuket Airport is one of the busiest outside Bangkok.  You can get a cab, mini-bus or public bus to your destination.  Average taxi fares from the airport are a little more costly than the other airports – around 400 baht to Phuket (30 minute journey), 550 baht to Patong (40 minute journey) and 650 baht to Kata/Karon (around a one hour journey).

Chiang Mai airport
Chiang Mai airport is 10 minutes from the city center and there are taxis, songteaws (an open-back taxi truck) and tuk-tuks ready and waiting.  A taxi trip will cost around 120 baht to most destinations in the city.  Many hotels will arrange free transfer to and from the airport so check with your hotel to see if they provide this service.

How to get around

Travel in Bangkok
There are tons of Thailand transport options to suit all budgets and comfort levels – if you’re traveling through Bangkok the sky train is an excellent way to get around – both cheap and fast (avoid that traffic!).  Otherwise you can jump in a taxi (make sure you ask for the meter to be turned on, otherwise risk paying an inflated price) or there are plenty of tuk-tuks to take you on a fun ride.  Be sure to agree on the price before heading off and ask for a direct route or you may find you make some unscheduled stops where the driver will collect commission – this goes for both tuk-tuks and taxis.  Another novel way to see the city is to jump on an extremely cheap public bus, or head down to the Chao Praya River and get on a tourist boat or river taxi.

Travel outside of Bangkok
Travel outside Bangkok by flying into one of the domestic terminals, or take a train or bus if you’re on a budget.  You can jump on a boat to get across to the islands, and once you are there, hire a motorbike, jeep or pushbike, or catch a songtaew.  If you’re going to hire a motorbike make sure a helmet is included and cover up if you can - motorcycle accidents and injuries are so common that in Koh Phangan for example, the characteristic road burn is known as a 'Koh Phangan tattoo.'

Organized tours

Organized tours are a great way to see the sites and soak up the local culture – especially if you’re traveling alone or are a first-time traveler.  Check out some of the options for Nepal alternative treks ( put link of Nepal alternative treks )in Thailand.  

Attractions in Thailand

Check out our list of places to visit in Thailand, including tourist attractions in Thailand and all the best places to go sightseeing in Thailand.  This is just a taste of what this great country has to offer! 

Bangkok
All too often just a place of transit but it’s well worth taking a few days to explore Bangkok.  There are countless things to do and you’ll find extraordinary people and places to visit around every corner.  Barter for all sorts of goodies at the largest outdoor market in the world, the Chatuchak weekend market, or get along to MBK, an air-conditioned shopping haven.  The King’s Palace is also well worth a visit, along with any number of temples including Wat Pho and the Temple of the Dawn.

Phuket
Dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Andaman’, Phuket remains one of the most popular beaches for tourists – and with good reason.  Beautiful white sand, palm trees, and clear blue water create a great atmosphere for some prime R & R.  Get away from the hoards in Patong and head along to one of the gems of Phuket – the beaches of Kata or Karon.  There is plenty to see in Phuket – jump on one of the day tours to explore the islands and caves, go diving, visit the wildlife sanctuary or simply grab a table at a restaurant to sample the delish seafood.

Chiang Mai
Situated in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is quite a mountainous region and great for those more adventurous travelers keen to trek through forests, visit waterfalls and discover the wildlife. Jump on a tour to visit a hill tribe – including the long neck Karen tribes in a nearby province.  Your visit to Chiang Mai isn’t complete until you’ve paid a visit to Doi Suthep – Chiang Mai’s famous temple situated high in the mountains and giving you a great view of the city in the distance.  If you’re feeling fit there are 290 steps to take you to the temple – or you can take a rail car.

Krabi
A rock climber’s heaven, you’ll find stunning limestone cliffs and rock formations in Krabi.  You should also head along to the National Park located about 40 km outside of town to be at one with nature and soak up the rivers, caves and amazing natural scenery.  Krabi is also home to some great beaches including Ao Nang and Hat Rai Le, which offer numerous diving trips, restaurants and shops.

Koh Samui
Despite the fast pace of development, Koh Samui has been able to maintain its image of a tropical beach resort fringed by coconut trees. Hit the beach or tour the surrounding islands by day and sample the bars and clubs at night.  Koh Phangan, home to the full moon party, is also only an hour away by boat, making Koh Samui a great place to take a break from the craziness.  

Speak like a Thai

If you’re heading to Thailand on vacation and want to learn Thai you’ve come to the right place - have a go at the ten Thai phrases & words below to get you started.  Keep in mind that to make a request or greeting sound more polite, male people should add 'khap' to the end of a sentence and female 'kha'.

1.    Sa-wat dee (hello)
Used for both hello and goodbye.  

2.    Khop koon (thank you) 
How to show your appreciation once you’ve been handed your Singha beer and pad Thai.

3.    Gee baht? (how much) 
Essential for all the shopping you’ll be doing, or when haggling with tuk-tuk drivers.

4.    Yoo tee nai...? (where is...) 
Invaluable when lost!  Just point at a place on your map or in your guidebook and say ‘yoo tee nai’. Also useful when you are trying to find the right bus to go to Phuket or otherwise.

5.    Mai ow (don't want) 
Useful for fending off persistent street vendors.

6.    Khor tort (sorry)
Stood on someone’s foot at the Chatuchak market?  Now you can apologise.

7.    Neung, song, saam, see, haa, hook, jet, baat, gow, sip (one to ten)
Impress the locals by reciting one to ten.

8.    Lot noi dai mai?  (can you make it cheaper?)
If you are doing a lot of shopping then try this handy phrase. By speaking a little Thai you might just get a better discount.

9.    A-roi (delicious) 
Show your appreciation for that delicious Thai meal!  You never know, if you go back to the same place you might get an extra helping.

10. Mai pen lai (never mind)
A common phrase in the Thai language – if someone apologises to you (khor tort) then reply with ‘mai pen lai’.  If someone thanks you (khop koon) say ‘mai pen lai’.  If there’s a mix up (which invariably happens with a language barrier) have a chuckle and say ‘mai pen lai’!

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