Got Questions about a trip to Thailand? I will do my best to give you honest straight answers. Send your questions in the comments form below.
I want to spend a holiday in Thailand. What documents, visas, etc. do I need to have to visit Thailand?
If you have an American passport, that is all you need for up to 30 days. Just take it with you and you get a stamp at the Bangkok Intl. Airport. There is no cost. Longer than that, then you need to connect with the closest Thai consulate in the US. Book an air ticket and go.
What do I need to pack in terms of luggage for a holiday in Thailand?
Clothing brought to Thailand can be minimal. Travel light. You won’t need a jacket or sweater for sure, and most entertainment places are informal, so leave home any ties or dress shirts unless you are also doing some serious business. Most people visiting Thailand don’t need the standard leather shoes that are worn in the US. A really good quality pair of sandals would be good to buy back in America as the highest quality sandals sold in Thailand (with molded foot support, etc.) are quite pricey. Most hotels have a laundromat available, and there are plenty of small laundry shops in the cities to have clothes washed & ironed.
What kind of money should I bring to Thailand?
American dollars are accepted in Thai banks and exchange houses for Baht, but they have one rate for hundred dollar bills and a worse rate for bills of lower denominations, so it may be advisable to bring only the bigger bills. Also, the bills should be issued in 2004 or later and without markings (pen, stamp marks, severe folds or corners missing) because they probably won’t take them. Travelers checks are exchangeable in most hotels and banks, unless if it is an unknown issuer they may refuse to do so.
All major credit cards are accepted but expect a ridiculous 3% “conversion fee” on everything you charge.
What is the best time of year to visit Thailand?
Thailand is above the equator, so summer months are June-July-August, and it can get quite hot and humid, especially in Bangkok and further south. Fortunately, the breezes on the coasts help a bit. When it gets too hot in the afternoons, it is a good time to take a shower and try to have a nap. Summer nights are very tolerable. This is when airfares and hotel rates are considered low season and are cheaper.
The best months to visit Thailand are November thru March. Especially in the tropical forested mountains of the north, it gets quite cool at night. This is high season with airfare and hotel rates the highest, and sometimes difficult to find a hotel in the most popular areas.
In April is the Thai New Year, Songkran. Lots of parties in the streets (spraying water of everybody), especially in Chiang Mai, and hotel space is difficult to find.
I just have a short stay in Bangkok. Are there certain places I should be sure to visit on a 2 or 3 day trip?
Absolutely. I wrote an article about the ten top places to visit in Bangkok, and you should try to get as many of these in as you can without getting totally exhausted. Here is the link to that article HERE.
What areas of Thailand should I go to for a two week holiday?
In super general terms, there are 4 areas of Thailand that make good vacation destinations. For a two week holiday, I would recommend going to only 1 or 2 of them.
1. Bangkok area – the BIG city has the best shopping, restaurants, nightlife and grand visitor sites. It also has big city chaos.
2. The North – the center being Chiang Mai, with many cultural places to visit just outside of that city as well. Temples and elephants, mountainous areas and Thai villages. Great shopping, good restaurants, no wild nightlife however.
Top 5 things to do Chiang Mai - InterGlobal – 22 Apr ’13
3. The Beach Cities south of Bangkok – Phuket, Koh Samui and Pattaya (which has the most notorious nightlife). Lots of swimming, snorkeling, island hopping in the deep tropics.
4. Central Thailand – smaller cities, most notably Ayuttaya, the ancient capital city. Rice fields and farms rural areas.
There are a lot more places worthy of a visit, but these are the main areas in a very general sense to begin to investigate online.
Can I drink tap water in Thailand?
Some people have had stomach problems doing this, so I would not recommend it. Bottled water is sold everywhere and it is cheap. In restaurants, they usually serve you a glass of water or beer or soft drinks with ice, and it would be good to tell them no ice. If the ice has a hole in the middle of it, it came from an ice machine which is not any worse than the tap water. If no hole (shavings, etc.), it was probably delivered in the back of a pickup truck and handled a lot by delivery guys. Definitely avoid.
What is the electrical power voltage in Thailand and is it reliable?
Voltage is 220 volts, and power is pretty reliable, especially in the larger cities. That it is reliable is a bit amazing when you look at the power poles out on the street with very shoddy wiring. Avoid touching or playing with electrical wiring dangling down from the top of the poles. Most American plugs will plug into the electrical socket, and if there is an adapter on the line converting it to DC (as with most laptops and cell phone charging cables), you won’t have a problem. If there is no conversion on the cable, you are likely to burn up the appliance (like a simple American toaster, etc.). Some plug receptacles are grounded, some are not. Beware, 220 volts can do twice the damage to you when you touch it as with US current.
Will my ATM card work in Thailand, is it easy to find an ATM and what kind of money comes out of the machine?
ATMs are everywhere in Thailand. Every 7-11 shop (and there are 7-11′s in every town and on most commercial blocks of the cities) there is an ATM. Every shopping mall has several of them. You will see free standing ATMs on major streets of cities. And almost any ATM card from the US will be able to be used (most having the Interlink symbol or Star Plus symbol). Money given out is in Thai Baht, usually in increments of 1000Baht (1000, 3000, 5000, 10,000).
Unless you have a very special US bank, however, there are going to be at least a couple of extra charges: (1) for use of an ATM not from your bank, there is a charge, usually around 150Baht ($5 USD), plus (2) a conversion fee, charged by your bank for converting your withdraw to another currency (usually 3%). That makes it a good idea to not keep drawing out a lot of money in Thailand from your US bank (there are some exceptions, like from Bank of Charles Schwab and a few others that has no charges for foreign ATM use).
Will I have decent internet access in Thailand?
Internet is available all over Thailand — 3G Service for now is the best you will get, so it may be slightly slower than back in the USA, but Thailand is a place where you need to relax a little bit anyway.
Almost every hotel, condo and coffee shop has free internet access throughout the country.
Do I need vaccinations before visiting Thailand?
If you are going to the larger cities and tourist destinations, no. No matter what your US doctor says, cases of malaria are so rare, it might be considered non-existent in almost all of Thailand. If you are traveling to extremely remote parts of Thailand in the tropical forests or mountains, there is a small number of dengue fever cases, and you may want to consider protection for that. Always good to avoid mosquito blood sucking, for comfort as well as for good health, and I recommend use of the safe patches (no Deet) that you can buy on Amazon or in pharmacies.
Do I tip in Thailand?
The tourist-oriented hotels and restaurants in Bangkok and popular destinations often add a service charge to the bill (similar to Europe), in which case a tip is not needed, except for the coins in your change (which you won’t want to carry in any case). Where service charges are not added (like in taxis, with hotel bellmen, small street cafes, etc.) a tip of 20Baht (about $0.67 USD) is usually the accepted amount. If the service person does an extraordinary amount of extra work, you might increase that.
Will I need to bargain for everything I want to buy?
Do you bargaining mainly just in the street markets or open markets where you have many vendors (the big JJ weekend market in Bangkok is the biggest). In these places it is very acceptable to start bargaining at about a third to one-half of the asking price, and settlement is usually somewhere in-between. Keep it always lighthearted, avoid getting to the point where the seller is made to feel insulted. If you have a Thai friend with you, let them do the bargaining, and they will get a better price than a foreigner.
Fixed shopping malls, restaurants and well established shops will have a fixed price.
How difficult is it to get from the international airport in Bangkok into town?
It is easy. Avoid the touts that wait for people emerging from the baggage claim and immigration promoting their “taxi”, which is really private cars. These are usually well dressed guys or attractive young girls and for sure they will approach you. Find the real taxi line outside of the terminal (taxi drivers line up, not customers) with metered cabs. You may have to ask around at one of the various official Thai tourist desks (there are plenty of private tour desks, but they will just push their services), The metered taxis are clean and cheap with drivers that are usually very courteous and helpful. Always use metered taxis.
Also, on the bottom level of the international terminal (just keep taking the escalators down) you will find the entrance to the Skytrain, a very modern, clean and easy-to-use public transportation system that can take you right into the center of Bangkok for a very low cost. Once stepping out of the Skytrain station anywhere close to central Bangkok, you will see hundreds of metered taxis within eye-sight.
Some hotels offer free pickup upon arrival at the airport, so it is also wise to check with them when making reservations. If they do, the driver will be waiting for you right outside of the baggage claim/immigration doors with a sign with your name on it.
Is it Safe in Thailand?
In general terms, it is safe. There has been on occasion a violent crime against a foreign tourist, but considering the number of tourists each year is now over 22 million people, the chances of a problem are remote if you take obvious precautions. It is likely safer in Thailand than in the US. In some of the major tourist venues, there are “Tourist Police” that speak English and are there specifically to watch out for the safety of tourists. There is a greater chance that a merchant can scam you with too high of a price on something or by selling you something that has less value than they tell you (i.e., gems). Also, you need to take the normal precautions against pickpockets, but even with this it is not nearly as bad as other major Asian cities. For sure, you can walk around most areas of Bangkok and other cities with no fear of violence.
Beware of fellow travelers, especially if you hang out with the “low brow” crowd.
Is it OK to get a ride in a tuk-tuk in Bangkok?
Tuk-Tuks can be fun and you should take at least a couple of rides in them, but you have to be aware that they often try to scam you. They badger you when you come out of the hotel to give you a ride, and it can become irritating, but keep your cool. They have no meters, so they charge based on what they think the customer will pay, and it is best to settle on the price before hopping on board. They have been known to take passengers to a Gem Shop where they are having a special sale (and they get a commission). Don’t go for it, and if it gets to you too much, just get off on any main road and flag down a metered taxi. Also, avoid tuk-tuks in rainy weather.
How much does it cost to rent a motorbike? And what kind of license do I need? And is it safe?
To rent a motorbike, you need a license from the US, a passport (good to make a copy of the first page to leave with them), a hotel name and a credit card. The cost is usually between 250 and 300Baht per day (USD $8.33-$10). Driving a motorbike in Thailand cannot be considered safe as traffic rules in Thailand are ignored. Renting to drive out of the city into the countryside is a bit safer (because of less traffic). There are about 20,000 road deaths per year in Thailand, 50% involving a motorbike. Compare that to the UK with a similar size population and had road deaths of 20 on motorbikes.
Top ’10′ Scams in Thailand
1. The Grand Palace is Closed Scam – This scam can happen near any tourist attraction but still happens a lot outside the Grand Palace. As you approach, someone will tell you that the palace is closed for various reasons. Ignore them as you will end up in either a gem store or a tailor shop.2. Thai Gem Scam – If you are not an expert on gems then I strongly urge you not to take the word of other people on how much money you can make if you sell these gems on return to your home country. People are losing a lot of money every day. Don’t make the mistake that you are different.3. Wrong Change Scam – A common scam at places like 7-Eleven and Family Mart in tourist areas is to give you change as if you gave them a 500 baht note instead of a 1,000 baht note. Many tourists are not familiar with Thai money and often give the wrong money or don’t notice that their change is incorrect. Most shops will say out loud the denomination of any paper money you give them. Check your change!
4. Jet Ski Scam – Many people in Pattaya and Phuket are being scammed after renting jet skis. When you come back after your fun, they will point out scratches and dents in the jet ski and they will demand large sums of money. What they fail to mention is that a dozen other customers have already paid for those scratches. If you rent anything, be it motorcycle, car or jet ski, make sure all scratches and dents are documented.
5. Hualamphong Scam – Outside the train station you will meet official looking people who will say they will help you book the seats. They take you to their nearby travel agent and pretend to ring the train booking office. They then say the train is full and your only way to travel is on one of their buses.
6. Long Distance Bus Scam – Many people have had things stolen from their bags on overnight bus trips. Some have even reported they were drugged and found their money missing when they woke up.
7. Airport Taxi Scam – Official looking touts will pretend that they are meter taxis and tell you that it is 500-1000 baht to go into town. The meter taxi outside is less than half this. The police have tried to crack down on them but they are back. Ignore anyone who asks if you want a taxi. The real taxi drivers are waiting outside by their cars.
8. Blackjack Scam – This usually starts when someone asks you where you are from. If you say, New York, then he will say he has a sister who will be going to study there. He then asks if you can go and meet her as she has some questions. At their house, you somehow end up playing blackjack with them. They then ask you to help cheat someone out of their money. Don’t get tempted as it is you who is being scammed.
9. Foreigner in Distress Scam – Common scam in Thailand is for an American or Brit (especially a Brit) to approach an American tourist with a tale of woe – that he was robbed of everything and could only help him out, he will guarantee repayment by post in a matter of days. Amazing how many fools try this, but apparently it works or else they would go away.
10. Timeshare Scam - scratch cards — Oh, you won! and their prizes you will never get, but you will be roped into a really stupid presentation. And for sure, don’t buy a Timeshare or “Prepaid Vacation”.
What are the best CHEAP fun things to do in Bangkok on a vacation?
- A longtail boat ride through the klongs on the Thonburi side of the river
- The Grand Palace & Temple of the Emerald Buddha
- A walk through the back alleys of Chinatown
- A walk through the Silom/Patpong area night market
- Chatuchak weekend market
- A traditional Thai massage
- A Thai meal at a riverside restaurant
- An evening walk/pub crawl along the Khaosarn road
- An hour or so at either Lumpinee or Rajdamnoen stadiums for Thai kickboxing (MuayThai)
- A visit to the Pakklong Talad wholesale flower market/night market
- Spend an afternoon at the gigantic MBK Shopping Mall — an amazing place
- A visit to Jim Thompson’s House (he was the Silk King that disappeared) that is now a museum of Siam artwork
- A visit to the Erawan Shrine (four faced Buddha – 3 headed elephant).
- Visit Lumpini park in the center of BKK — best around 6am or after 6pm
- Visit the enclosed butterfly garden inside Rot Fai Park to see hundreds of butterflies and plenty of other insects, too. Next to the Chatuchak Market.
- Take a short Tuk-tuk ride.
- Dare to take a motorcycle taxi ride (most live through this believe it or not)
Got Questions about a trip to Thailand? I will do my best to give you honest straight answers. Send your questions in the comments form below.