Vital Information for the First-Time Visitor to Thailand

Visas, Currency, Holidays, Weather, What to Wear

Tourist sitting on a longtail boat in Phi Phi Island, Thailand
Tourist sitting on a longtail boat in Phi Phi Island, Thailand. Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images

If you're planning a trip to Thailand, you're probably more excited about beaches, temples, and street food than you are about visas and vaccinations.

However, there are a few things that you need to take care of before you can kick back and enjoy your Thai vacation.

Visas for Thailand Travelers

As far as access goes, Thailand is one of the easiest countries to enter using almost any passport. American, Canadian, and UK citizens do not need to acquire a visa for stays not longer than 30 days. For more details, you can visit the Kingdom of Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs page on entry requirements; or read our page on getting a visa to Thailand.

You’ll only be allowed into Thailand if your passport is valid for at least six months after arrival, with enough pages for embarkation stamp upon arrival, and must show proof of sufficient funds and onward or return passage.

To get an extension on your visa, you need to apply at one of the Thai Immigration Offices. In Bangkok, you can go to the Bangkok Immigration Office (120 หมู่ 3 Thanon Chaeng Watthana, Khwaeng Thung Song Hong, Khet Lak Si, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, Bangkok; Google Maps) to extend your visa. Read our page on getting a visa extension in Thailand.

You’ll be allowed to bring in a reasonable amount of alcohol and tobacco (specific amounts are listed in the Thai Customs page), but do not ever bring in illegal drugs. Drug trafficking in Thailand carries the death penalty – under no circumstances should you ever get caught carrying any on your way in! For more information, read about the Drug Laws and Penalties in Southeast Asia - by Country.

Health & Safety in Thailand

You’ll only be asked to show health certificates of vaccination against smallpox, cholera, and yellow fever if you’re coming from known infected areas. More information on Thailand-specific health issues are discussed at the CDC page on Thailand.

Thailand is largely safe for foreign visitors, although the country is located in a region with an elevated risk of terrorism. The Thai police have been largely effective in safeguarding their tourists.

Because of the ongoing crisis in Thailand’s southern provinces (Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla), travelers are advised not to visit these areas, or travel overland through the Malaysian border with Thailand. Read about dangerous places in Southeast Asia for more details.

Violence against tourists is thankfully rare, but visitors may be vulnerable to pickpocketing, fraud, and confidence tricks. One common ruse involves fooling tourists into buying fake “smuggled Burmese jewels” at extremely low prices. Once the tourist discovers they’re fake, the vendors have usually vanished without a trace. Read about popular scams in Southeast Asia for more details.

Sexual assaults on women have been known to occur, so female travelers should remain vigilant. Be careful about accepting drinks from strangers, keep an eye on your passports and credit cards, and don’t carry too much cash or jewelry.

Read our page on safety in Southeast Asia to stay ahead of any threats.

Money Matters in Thailand

The Thai unit of currency is called the Baht (THB), and it is divided into 100 satang. Notes come in 20-baht, 50-baht, 100-baht and 1,000-baht denominations. Check the Baht’s exchange rate against the US dollar before you go. Currency can be exchanged at the airport, banks, hotels and accredited moneychangers.

American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa credit cards are generally accepted, but not universally. Cheaper guesthouses and restaurants do not accept plastic.

ATMs are in most (if not all) cities and tourist areas, including Phuket, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Samui, Ko Tao, Ko Chang, and Ko Phi Phi. Depending on the bank, the withdrawal limit may range from 20,000B to 100,000B.

To get more bang out of your buck, read our article on getting the most out of $100 in Southeast Asia.

Tipping isn’t standard practice in Thailand, so you’re not required to tip unless asked. All major hotels and restaurants expect a service charge of 10%. Taxi drivers don’t expect to be tipped, but won’t complain if you round the meter fare out to the next five or 10 baht.

Climate in Thailand

Thailand is a tropical country with a warm and humid climate throughout the year. The country is at its warmest between March and May, with an average temperature of around 93°F (34°C). From November to February, the northeast monsoon quickly lowers temperatures down to 65°F-90°F (18°C-32°C) in Bangkok, and even lower in the northern areas of the country.

The weather in Thailand is at its best from February to March; the weather is at its mildest and the beaches are at their best.

When/Where to Go: Thailand is best experienced between November and February, owing to the northeast monsoon’s cool, dry winds. Chilly nights – and sub-zero temperatures at high altitudes – are not unheard of.

From March to June, Thailand undergoes its hot, dry summers, with temperatures topping out at 104ºF (40º C). Avoid Thailand during the summer – even the locals complain about the heat!

Find out more about weather and climate in Thailand.

What to Wear: light, cool, and casual clothing on most occasions. On formal occasions, jackets and ties for men are recommended, while women should wear dresses.

Don’t wear shorts and beachwear outside the beach, especially if you’re planning to visit a temple or other place of worship. Women visiting temples should dress respectfully, keeping shoulders and legs covered.

Getting into Thailand

By Air. Most travelers enter Thailand through Suvarnabhumi Airport; the rest arrive through Chiang Mai, Phuket and Hat Yai. Most countries with connections in Asia also fly into Bangkok; budget airlines generally go through the older Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok.

Overland. Tourists may enter Thailand from Malaysia through three road crossings: Songkhla, Yala, and Narathiwat. Due to the unrest in Thailand’s southern provinces, travel to these parts of the country may be unwise.

The only legal border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia is located at Aranyaprathet, near the Cambodian town of Poipet. The crossing opens from 8am to 6pm daily.

The Mekong River demarcates the border between Thailand and Laos, and is crossed by the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge near Nong Khai.

By train. Thailand and Malaysia are linked by a rail connection, although only the Eastern & Orient Express goes non-stop from Singapore to Bangkok on a 41-hour trip from end to end. It’s a leisurely but luxurious trip that includes a two-hour stopover in Butterworth, a tour of Penang, a trip to the River Kwai, and a boat excursion along the storied river. Fares start at US$4,000.

By sea. Thailand serves as a major port of call for several regional cruise lines, including:

Cruises from Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and Europe regularly stop at Laem Chabang and Phuket. Shore excursions are easily arranged for cruise passengers upon arrival at Thailand.

Getting Around Thailand

By Air. Tourists can fly from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport and the old Don Muang International Airport to major tourist destinations through regular domestic flights operated by Thai Airways, PB Air, Nok Air, and Bangkok Airways. Book early when traveling during tourist peak seasons and official holidays.

By Rail. The State Railway of Thailand runs four train lines reaching every Thai province except Phuket. Accommodations run the gamut of comfort, from cushy, air-conditioned first-class carriages to crowded third-class carriages. Fares will depend on the length of your trip and selected carriage class.

Within Bangkok, a modern rapid transit system serves key metropolitan areas. Fares range from 10-45 baht, depending on the length of your trip.

By Bus. Buses run from Bangkok to almost all points in Thailand. Comfort options range from ordinary air-conditioned buses to luxury coaches with refreshments. Most major hotels or travel agents will gladly book a trip for you.

For more detailed information on transportation in the country (including tuk-tuks and on river boats), read our article on getting around Thailand.