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 vacation.
Visas and Customs
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.
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.
For the extension of visa need to apply to one of the Thai Immigration Offices. For details, contact the Immigration Bureau Head Office: Soi Suan-Plu, South Sathorn Rd, Bangkok, Thailand Phone: 66(0)2 287 3101 until 287 3110; Fax: 66(0)2 287 1310, 66(0)2 287 1516
Customs.You may bring these items into Thailand without paying customs duty:
- 200 cigarettes, or no more than 500 grams of smoking tobacco
- One liter of spirits / wine / malt liquor.
- Up to 10,000 Baht worth of cosmetics, perfume, soaps, toothpaste, and other personal effects – assuming these are for personal use only
- Film: a reasonable amount for personal use
The official Thai Customs Department page can fill you in on what you can and can’t bring in.
Drug trafficking in Thailand carries the death penalty – under no circumstances should you ever get caught carrying any on your way in!
Airport Tax.You will be charged an airport tax of 500 Baht upon departure on any international flight. Passengers of domestic flights will be charged 40 Baht.
Health & Immunizations
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 and at the MDTravelHealth webpage.
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 the safety of 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.
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.
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.
Thai law shares the draconian attitude to drugs common in Southeast Asia. For more information, read about the Drug Laws and Penalties in Southeast Asia - by Country.
The Thai unit of currency is called the Baht (THB), and it is divided into 100 satang. Notes come in 10-baht, 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.
Tipping: Tipping isn’t standard practice in Thailand, so you’re not required to tip unless asked.
All major hotels and restaurants exact 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.
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)centigrade 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!
What to Wear: 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
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 Poi Pet. 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.
Thailand and Malaysia are linked by a rail connection, although only the Eastern & Oriental 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$1,200.
Thailand serves as a major port of call for several regional cruise lines, including:
- Holland America Lines
- P&O Princess Cruises
- Radissson Seven Seas Cruises
- Royal Caribbean
- Seabourn Cruises
- Silversea Cruises
- Star Cruises
- Star Clippers
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
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, One-Two-GO Airlines, and Bangkok Airways. Book early when traveling during tourist peak seasons and official holidays.
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 Monorail and subway system serves key metropolitan areas. Fares range from 10-45 baht, depending on the length of your trip.
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.
By Rented Car
Tourists wishing to rent their own vehicle may approach any of the car rental companies operating within Thailand’s major tourist destinations. Hertz, Avis, and other reputable car rental companies have branch offices in Thailand.
By Taxi or Tuk-Tuk
Taxis and the ubiquitous three-wheeled mini-taxis called “tuk-tuks” can be found anywhere in Bangkok. Tuk-tuks are cheaper and more effective for shorter trips – every journey on a tuk-tuk will cost you a minimum of 35 baht, with the fare going up the further you go. The law obliges drivers to provide crash helmets to passengers – it’s illegal to ride a tuk-tuk without one!
Bangkok is bisected by the Chao Phraya river and riddled through with waterways called “klongs” – it should come as no surprise that river ferries and water taxis are one of the most popular ways to get around town. (See our "Bangkok at Klong Level" gallery to see why.)
The Chao Phraya river ferry running between Krung Thep Bridge and Nonthaburi charges between 6 to 10 baht. Some riverside hotels may provide their own waterway transport.
The old district of Thonburi can be seen from its many klongs. Tha Chang landing, near the Grand Palace, serves as a major departure point for the long-tailed taxis servicing Thonburi.