Thailand is a gorgeous country with a diverse natural and archaeological legacy. A tropical climate, white sandy beaches and a vibrant nightlife are all on offer; try diving amid coral reefs and whale sharks at Ko Tao, go jungle trekking in Mae Hong Son or simply party the night away in the bright lights of Bangkok.
Ancient cultural monuments at the meditative Sukhothai, the sacred ruins of Ayuthaya are just two of the highlights of an abundant historical trail that includes relics of several dynasties and empires such as the Khmer and Malay. There remains much to discover in the modern Thai countryside, too, including many unique tribes with their own ancient customs and timeless landscapes that seem to be directly carved from a mystic oriental tapestry. The country’s real value, though, lies in the strange sense of peace that seems to infuse the atmosphere in abundance.
Buddhism has had a strong influence on Thai values and the people are pragmatic and non-confrontational as a result. After a coup d’etat in 2006 the capital in particular received a great deal of international press due to the widespread street protests; yet for much of the country it is simply business as usual. Once one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Thailand remains a land rich with opportunity, regardless of political setbacks.
Most international flights go to Bangkok. A train connects Thailand to Malaysia, while there are bus routes from both Malaysia and Laos. There are limited border crossings to Myanmar but restrictions apply.
Internal air travel is affordable and practical; trains offer a slower, more romantic alternative. Bangkok has a good bus system but elsewhere local transport can be lacking. Hiring a car can be an affordable way of getting around.
Climate: Tropical monsoon. Hot all year round, heavy rains May-October. Temperature: Max 35°C (April), Min 20°C (January). Rainfall: Max 310mm (September), Min 5mm (December-January).
Currency: Baht (THB)
Business etiquette: The standard form of greeting is the wai; raise both hands with palms joined, lightly touch the body between the chest and forehead. Make appointments one month in advance and expect several meetings to build mutual respect. Dress conservatively; suits are standard.
Tipping: Tipping is not mandatory.
Duty free: 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco or equal weight of cigars; 1l alcoholic liquor.
Safety: Check governmental travel bulletins before travelling.
Laws: Carry identification at all times. Drug penalties are severe and include the death penalty, which is also applied for crimes against the state or monarchy. Gambling is illegal except at designated race tracks.
Healthcare: Vaccinations required for diphtheria, hepatitis A, tetanus and typhoid. Medical facilities are good in urban areas and hotels usually have on call doctors. Health insurance is recommended.
Socket type: Type A, Type C