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Thailand Guide & Travel Advice

Getting there

Direct flights from London Heathrow to Bangkok are available from British Airways, Thai Airways International and Eva Airways. Plenty of airlines offer indirect flights to Bangkok from London and regional airports including Manchester and Glasgow.

Flying times from UK

Direct flights take from around 11 hours. Flights with stops en-route take around 15 hours.

Time zone

Thailand is +7 hours ahead of GMT.

Visa requirements

British citizens can visit Thailand for 30 days without a visa and will receive a ‘Visa Exempt’ stamp on arrival.

Do's and don'ts

Smoking is prohibited in many places – from air-conditioned buildings and public transport to the parks of Bangkok and beaches in the provinces of Phuket, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chon Buri and Songkhla as well as Koh Samui. If caught smoking it may result in a possible fine of up to 100,000 baht.

Do use metered taxis if you need to get around and, if you must use a tuk-tuk, be aware that many tuk-tuk drivers make commission by encouraging tourists to visit shops. Hail a taxi with your hand horizontal, fingers facing down – facing up is rude.

Smoking is prohibited in many places – from air-conditioned buildings and public transport to all of the parks in Bangkok. Look out for no-smoking signs because lighting up will result in a fine.

Do carry your passport, or a photocopy of it, with you – it's a legal requirement for visitors.

In temples, dress conservatively, remove shoes, and don't sit with your feet pointing towards Buddha as this is disrespectful.

Do not try to export an antique Buddha statue as this is not allowed. If you want to take a new Buddha statue home you will need to obtain a licence from the Fine Arts Department. This can take three days but, often, the shop where you bought the statue will arrange the licence for you.

Money

Thailand's currency is the Baht and exchanging it is easy and usually offers much better value than exchanging it at home.  ATMs are plentiful and credit cards are widely accepted. Do not step on notes or coins, even to stop them rolling away, and do not deface them either – all Thai currency carries a portrait of royalty, and Thai laws expressly forbid acts that could be considered disrespectful.

Tipping

Tipping is not a big issue in Thailand and large tips will not be expected. For service workers, 20-50 Baht will go a long way to supplementing their wages and will be genuinely appreciated. Taxis will generally round up fares to the nearest 10 Baht whilst restaurants commonly include a 10% service charge in their bills. Leave loose change on the table at a restaurant. If you have a massage, be aware that the person doing all the work will be getting very little so a 100 Baht tip is acceptable. A guideline for tipping drivers and guides will be advised prior to travel.

Food and drink

Thai food is complex, aromatic and draws its influences from many sources. Rice is the staple base and, indeed, the word for rice is also the word for food – khao, pronounced 'cow'. Many varieties of rice are used, and many types of noodle too. Expect to come across fish sauces and chilli pastes in the cooking with copious use of fresh herbs and spices. Thai food, as a rule, is also light and often deliciously spicy. Favourites include khao phat, fried rice with various meat or vegetables, phat Thai, noodles with fish sauce, lime juice, peanuts, eggs and chicken, prawns or tofu, and tom yum – a hot, sour soup with meat of some sort. There are four regional cuisine styles and, within these, dozens of cultural variations. Thai food is an adventure in itself and visitors should indulge whenever they can.

Holidays, festivals and celebrations

Festivals, both national and local, are plentiful in Thailand. If you do not mind getting wet, Songkran marks the Thai New Year for a few days from April 13th. Water is a symbol of cleansing, and good-natured water-fights are commonplace on the streets. Less exuberant but far prettier, Loy Krathong takes place under a full moon in the 12th lunar month. Thousands of people float candles on banana leaves and make a wish as they are set free on rivers. Lantern festivals are common and, at the same time as Loy Krathong, the people of Chiang Mai release thousands of lanterns as they make a wish. This lantern festival, Yi Peng, has become extremely popular and forms part of wider traditional and religious ceremonies. There are many public holidays but the impact on visitors is, in general, minimal.

Shopping

Bangkok, Chiang Mai, with its local crafts, and Phuket, with its raucous night markets and street stalls are great places to shop. Markets can be found throughout the country and here haggling is expected so wear a smile and be prepared to pay what you bid.

Suggested reading

Good sources of information include Rough Guides, Bradt and Footprint. If cookery is your interest, Michelin starred chef David Thompson's ‘Thai Food’ is a fantastic book packed with recipes and cultural insights to inspire a foodie trip. For an in-depth look at the country's roots, turn to ‘A History of Thailand’ by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit or ‘Thailand: A Short History’ by David K Wyatt. If it's an epic novel that you are after, look no further than Kukrit Pramoj's ‘Four Reigns’ which takes in the country's development from the late 1800s to World War II through the eyes of a girl who lives a somewhat eventful life both inside and outside of the royal palace in Bangkok.

Health

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on www.masta.org. The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website (www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk) is also a useful resource.

Travel advice

For current information on Thailand the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We would also recommend visiting the Safer Tourism Foundation website (https://safertourism.org.uk/) before you travel and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Thailand Holiday Ideas

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