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 General Information

Thailand, formerly called "Siam", is a country rich in culture and natural beauty. It has been blessed with expansive natural parks, fertile plains, remote jungles, beaches washed by turquoise waters, and tropical islands bathed in endless sunshine. The country has more visible historical evidence of its past cultures than any other country in Southeast Asia. Its history is very complex, involving the invasion of many different peoples, the rule of different kings, the establishment of various kingdoms and the interaction of diverse cultures. The period of time from the mid 1800's until now is probably the most important in terms of the formation of modern day Thailand. King Mongkut, who ruled the country from 1851 to 1868, was a well educated, ex-monk who kept Thailand safe from European expansion. His son, Chulalongkorn, took over in 1868 and continued the enlightenment and modernization of Thailand. King Chulalongkorn made great strides in improving the country, however he refused to allow his people democratic rights. This finally led to a takeover by Thai intellectuals, along with military help, in 1932. The name of the country was changed from Siam to Thailand in 1939 by Prime Minister Phibun Songkhram, mainly because he wanted to disassociate his country from its erratic past. Translated literally, Thailand means "Free Land".

The Thai race was previously believed to have originated somewhere near Mongolia, later moving southward. However, new theories based on historical discoveries regard the northeastern part of Thailand as the birthplace of the Thai race. Over the years, the country has become home to many immigrants. The Thai people have managed to preserve the traditions of their unique culture, at the same time absorbing the practices of modern living. Nevertheless, the combination of cultures and backgrounds of these immigrants make Thailand an interesting and memorable country to visit.

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Thailand has a humid, tropical climate, and is hot all year round. Summer is from March to May with average temperatures around 93ºF (34ºC), but the temperature can reach over 105ºF (40ºC) for extended periods. Summer monsoons begin as the warm humid air masses flow towards the north from the Indian Ocean. The monsoons end in the fall when the wind reverses direction with the dry southwesterlies. The rainy season, with periods of sunshine, lasts from June to September, with temperatures ranging from 80ºF to 89ºF (27ºC to 32ºC). The amount of rainfall varies with topography. The northeast receives the least rain, while the south is flooded during the summer months. The best time to visit Thailand is during the cool season, from October though February, when it is not as humid as during the summer and rainy seasons. The average temperature is around 65ºF to 89ºF (18ºC to 32ºC). During this season, it can be very chilly in the north, with temperatures dropping to 44ºF (7ºC) at night.

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Over the years, Thailand has attracted many immigrants. The people of Thailand share a rich ethnic diversity consisting of Thai, Mon, Khmer, Laotian, Chinese, Malay, Persian and Indian descendants. As a result, it is not possible to speak of a typical Thai physique.

The Thais are, on the whole, a group of people who believe that life should be enjoyed, but no one should infringe on others' rights. The Thais are tolerant and hospitable, and it is easy to get along with them. Good manners, common sense and a smile are necessities in Thailand.

Women have considerable influence in Thai society. Although the men's role is usually accentuated in public, in private, all affairs such as finances and other transactions are generally managed by women.

Monarchy and religion are sacred in Thailand, and it is against the law to criticize them, especially in public. Mocking the monarchy, or joking about it, is a serious offense and is punishable by imprisonment.

Ethnic Groups: 75% Thai, 14% Chinese and 11% other.

The national language is Thai. English is widely understood in Bangkok, where it is almost the major commercial language. English is spoken in most hotels and restaurants and at major tourist destinations. However, taxis, small food stands and remote areas outside Bangkok lack English education. It is advisable to bring a Thai/English dictionary or buy one in Bangkok if you intend on travelling outside the major cities.

95% of the population practice Buddhism, 4% are Muslim and the remainder are Christians, Hindus or Sikhs.

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 Local Customs

The Thais are extremely tolerant and forgiving people with an easygoing approach to life. Nevertheless, there are certain moral, social and religious customs visitors should know and observe to avoid embarrassment and misunderstanding.

Never lose your temper or raise your voice, no matter how frustrating the situation is. Only patience, humor and "jai yen" (cool heart) yield results in Thailand.

Thais believe that the head is the most sacred part of the body, so never touch or pat anyone in Thailand on the head, even in the friendliest of circumstances.

Standing over someone, especially someone older or wiser, is considered rude behavior since it implies social superiority. As a sign of courtesy, lower your head as you pass a group of people. When in doubt, watch the Thais.

The feet are considered the lowest part of the body, so don't point at things with your feet. When sitting down, make sure the soles of your feet are not facing anyone.

Wearing shorts is considered improper and low-class attire, but acceptable for children. No matter how hot it is, long pants should be worn in urban areas. If you are planning to visit a Buddhist temple, dress conservatively and remember to take your shoes off when you enter the temple.

Public display of affection and nudity at beaches are offensive.

Never have your picture taken with any Buddhist images. They are considered extremely sacred, no matter what their age or condition.

Buddhist monks must be treated with respect at all times. Women are not allowed to touch the monks nor can the monks accept anything from a woman's hand.

Rear seats on buses are reserved for the monks, and other passengers have to vacate these seats when necessary. Never stand over a seated monk, since a monk should always remain at the highest elevation.

The Thais are not fanatical about productivity or deadlines. Foreign visitors are often frustrated with their resistance to the Westerners' fast-paced life.

The Thais detest any form of conflict and will go to great pains to avoid confrontation and preserve harmony.

Traditionally, Thais greet each other not with a handshake but with the "wai" (a prayer-like posture with the palms of the hands pressed together).

Meetings are usually held in offices, hotel lobbies and restaurants.

The Thais are sociable and often mix business with pleasure. The person who has extended the invitation pays for the meals or drinks. If it isn't clear who extended the invitation, the seniormost person at the table has the honor of paying. If you are the only foreigner present, it is polite to offer to pay.

Avoid scheduling a meeting after 3:30pm, as the Thais like to get an early start on the evening rush-hour trip home.

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 Thing to Know

Population: 56,000,000
Capital: Bangkok

Flag: The flag of Thailand has five horizontal bands, red (top), white, #000000 (double width), white and red (bottom).

Shop Hours:
Stores are generally open Monday-Friday 8am to 5pm. Larger shops are open from 10am to 7pm. Outdoor markets are open early and close quite late, usually 7 days a week.

Bank Hours:
Bank hours are open Monday-Friday 8:30am to 3:30pm. They are generally closed Saturday and Sunday. Many banks close for lunch.


  • January 1 - New Year's Day
  • February 14 - Makha Bucha (Full Moon Day)
  • April 6 - Chakri Memorial Day
  • April 12-14 - Sonkran Festival (Thai New Year)
    This is the biggest water fight you will ever see! The hole country is under "water attack", so wear a T-shirt and shorts, as you will surely be drenched!
  • May 1 - National Labor Day
  • May 5 - Coronation Day
  • May 13 - Wisakha Bucha (Full Moon Day)
  • July 11 - Asanaha Bucha (Full Moon Day)
  • July 12 - Buddhist Lent Day August 12 - HAM. The Queen's Birthday October 23 - Chulalongkorn Day
  • December 5 - H.M. The King's Birthday
  • December 10 - Constitution Day
  • December 31 - New Year's Eve
Thailand has one time zone. It is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. It is 14 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and 11 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time.

Tipping is not customary, yet is very much appreciated. If a service charge has been added to the bill, tipping isn't necessary.

If a restaurant service charge is included, a tip is not necessary.

Most taxis in Bangkok use their meters. If a taxi doesn't have a meter, fares must be agreed upon from the start. Fares range from a minimum of 30 Baht to a maximum of 300 Baht. "Tuk-Tuks" or three-wheel taxis are quite popular among tourists for short journeys inside Bangkok. Fares range from 30 Baht to 150 Baht for this means of transportation.

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 Travel to Thailand

Don Muang International Airport
Located 14 miles (22km) north of Bangkok
Vibhavadi Rangsit Hwy.
Tel (02) 535-1301 or (02) 535-1254

Air Canada: (02) 233-5900
Air France: (02) 233-9477
American Airlines: (02) 252-3520
Bangkok Airways: (02) 535-2498
British Airways: (02) 236-8655
Canadian Airlines: (02) 251-4521
Cathay Pacific: (02) 233-6105
China Airlines: (02) 253-4438
Continental Airlines: (02) 231-0113
Delta Airlines: (02) 237-6837
Japan Airlines: (02) 233-2440
Korean Airlines: (02) 234-9283
Philippine Airlines: (02) 233-2350
Qantas: (02) 235-9193
Singapore Airlines: (02) 236-0440
Swissair: (02) 233-2930
Thai: (02) 233-3810
TWA: (02) 233-7290
United Airlines: (02) 251-6006

The International Express will take you from Butterworth (Penang, Malaysia) to Hat Yai, Thailand and Bangkok without a change of trains. There are also connecting services to or from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The train, which offers only first and second-class tickets, now operates every day. Border delays, which used to be a problem on the trains, are less frequent.

The International Express that departs from Singapore every morning arrives in Kuala Lumpur by nightfall. Visitors may stay overnight in the Malaysian capital or continue north by night train to Butterworth (Penang). This train, which links Singapore to Bangkok, has a romantic appeal and is probably the most luxurious train in Southeast Asia, yet quite expensive. The journey can be long and exhausting and may be best experienced in shorter segments.

The only road access into Thailand is from Malaysia. There are occasional buses that run back and forth between countries. The main overland border crossings into Malaysia are near Betong in Yala Province and at Sungei Golok in Narathiwat Province.

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 Travel within Thailand

Thailand is an outstanding country to tour with rented transport. Traffic is moderate and manageable, except in Bangkok. Highways are in good condition, and directional signs are often in English. Less expensive rentals are available from local agencies, but make sure to check the condition of the car thoroughly before handing over your money. An international driver's license is required, and insurance is mandatory to be able to drive in Thailand.

An efficient rail system links major northern and northeastern towns with the Bangkok. A southern route permits the visitor to travel by train into Malaysia and Singapore. Domestic express trains include first, second, and third- class cars. Slower trains may have only third-class seats.

For more information regarding railway schedules, contact:
Bangkok Railway Station
Tel: (02) 223-7010 or (02) 223-7020

Bus transport in Thailand is fast, clean and reasonably comfortable for shorter journeys. Most buses provide reclining airline-style seats and video movies. Both air-conditoned and non-air-conditioned buses are available on major routes. The cheapest are the ordinary coaches operated by the government bus company called Bor Kor Sor. Air-conditioned buses operated by independent companies are usually 30 to 70% more expensive, but complimentary meals and transportation from your hotel to the bus terminals are often included.

Bangkok's Northern/Northeastern Bus Terminal
Phahonyothin Road
Air-conditioned: Tel (02) 279-4484 or (02) 279-4487
Regular: Tel (02) 271-0101 or (02) 271-0105

Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal Pinklao-Nahkon Chaisri Road
Air-conditioned: Tel (02) 435-1190 or (02) 435-1200
Regular: Tel (02) 434-5558

Bangkok's Eastern Bus Terminal
Sukhumwit Road
Air-conditioned: (02) 392-9227 or (02)391-9829
Regular: Tel (02) 391-2504 or (02) 392-2521

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 Emergency numbers

Police: 191
Tourist Police: 195

Fire: 199
Ambulance: (02) 252-2171

International Access Code: Call directory assistance:13 (Bangkok), and 183 (other) to speak with an English-speaking operator.

Country Code: 66

City Codes:
Bangkok: 02
Chiang Mai: 053
Pattaya: 038
Phuket: 076
Koh Samui: 077
Hat Yai: 074

When calling from within the same city, delete the city code from the number. When calling to another city within Thailand, use the entire city code. When calling from outside Thailand, delete the first digit (0) from the city code.

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 Visitors Information

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)
Tourist Assistance Center
Le Concorde Building
202 Ratchadapisek Road,
Huay Kwang, Bangkok 10310,
Tel: (662) 6941222
Fax: (662) 6941220-1

TAT Airport Office
Arrival Lounge
Bangkok International Airport
Vibhavadi Ragsit Road
Bangkok 10210
Tel (02) 523-8972 or Tel (02) 523-8973

Other TAT offices:
Cha-am: Tel (032) 471502 Chiang Mai: Tel (053) 248604 or (053) 248607
Chiang Rai: Tel (053) 717433
Hat Yai: Tel (074) 243747
Kanchanaburi: Tel (034) 511200
Khon Kaen: Tel (043) 244498 or (043) 244499 Nakhon Ratchasima: Tel (044) 243751
Nakhon Si Thammarat: Tel (075) 356356
Pattay�: Tel (038) 428750
Phitsanulok: Tel (055) 252742 or (055) 252743
Phuket: Tel (076) 211036 or (076) 212213 Surat Thani: Tel (077) 281828
Ubon Ratchathani: Tel (045) 243770 or (045) 243771

Tourism Authority of Thailand
12th Floor, Royal Exchange Bldg.
56 Pitt Street
Sydney, 2000
Tel (02) 247-7549

Office National du Tourisme de Thailand
90, av des Champs Elys�es
75008 Paris
Tel (01) 4562-8656

Thailandisches Fremdenverkehrsburo
Bethmannstrasse 58
D-6000 Frankfurt
Tel (069) 295704

Ente Nazionale per il Turismo Thailandese
Via Barberini, 50
00187 Roma
Tel (06) 487-3479

Tourism Authority of Thailand
Hibiya Mitsui Bldg.
1-2 Yuracucho 1-chome
Chyada-ku, Tokyo
Tel (03) 3580-6776

Tourism Authority of Thailand
Rm. #2003 20th Flr.
Coryo Daeyungak Center Bldg.
25-5 , 1-Ka, Chungmu-Ro
Chung-ku, Seoul
South Korea
Tel (02) 779-5418

Tourism Authority of Thailand
2B Central Commercial Bldg.
16-18 Nanking Wast Road
Section 4, Taipei
Tel (02) 778-2735

Tourism Authority of Thailand
49 Albermarle Street
London WIX3FE
United Kingdom
Tel (071) 499-7679

Tourism Authority of Thailand 5 World Trade Center, Suite 3443
New York, NY
Tel 212-432-0433

Tourism Authority of Thailand
3440 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1100
Los Angeles, CA
Tel 213-382-2353

Tourism Authority of Thailand
303 East Wacker Drive, Suite 400
Chicago, IL
Tel 312-819-3990

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 Useful Phrases

Yes - Chai
No - Mai Cai
Thank you - Khawp khun
No, thank you - Mai ao khawp khun
Hello - Sa-wat dee
How are you? - Sabaay dee mai?
I'm fine - Sabaay dee
Excuse me - Khaw Tor
Please - Garuna
When? - Meua-rai?
Today - Wan nee
Tomorrow - Phoong nee
How much? - Thao rai?
I do not understand - Mai khao jai

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Bangkok City Hotel

Bangkok Vacation

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