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Thai Tourist Information

Things to do on your Thailand Diving Holiday

Looking for some information to make your dive trip to Thailand run smoothly?

This section contains tourist information for your visit to the following locations:

• Khao Lak
The latest natural retreat springboard for the Similan Islands ...

• Krabi
Stunning scenery, Railay and Ao Nang Beaches and more ...

• Koh Phi Phi Islands
Famed for The Beach ...

• Phuket Island
The 'Pearl of the South' ...

• Koh Samui
The Gulf of Thailand's most popular island ...

• Similan Islands
Thailand's No. 1 tropical dive paradise awaits you ...

Wat Phra Kaew, Krungthep - The Emerald Temple, Bangkok - photo courtesy of TAT


Thailand is the most popular tourist destination in South East Asia. It is perhaps most famous for its fabulous beaches and seas but has many other natural attractions such as national parks, mountains, jungle and waterfalls. The kingdom also has a rich cultural heritage with fascinating temples, palaces, ancient ruins, festivals and traditions. Thailand will also delight you with its wonderful cuisine and its renowned lively nightlife.

The northern area of Thailand is mountainous and includes the infamous Golden Triangle where the borders of Burma (Myanmar), Laos and Thailand intersect at the Mekong River. The eastern and central areas of Thailand are mostly rural plains with Bangkok located at the northern edge of the Gulf of Thailand.

The south of Thailand is a strip of land running down the Malaysian Peninsula. This is where you will find Thailand's spectacular diving opportunities. The Andaman Sea to the west and the Gulf of Thailand to the east are both sprinkled with islands and national marine parks that have wonderful diving. If it is liveaboard diving that you want then the Andaman Sea, and in particular the Similan Islands, are the jewel in the crown.

The rest of this page contains information about Thailand:

Tourist Security and Safety

Thailand welcomes millions of visitors every year and most have a fantastic and safe visit. That is not to say that bad things never happen but Thailand has established itself a reputation as a safe tourist destination. Tourism is a major contributor to the Thai economy and the authorities are keen to maintain that reputation.

Thailand has an established tourist industry infrastructure and a reputation for safe travel, even for single females. It is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in the world. There is a national network of tourist police whose job it is to protect tourists from crime. They speak English and are trained to assist foreigners who run into problems during their stay.

The Thai government is seen as one of the most pro-active in the prevention of terrorism and most visitors encounter no problems whatsoever. Furthermore, their intelligence network has ensnared operatives from illegal organisations who had wrongly considered the country to be a safe place from which to conduct their affairs.

There is a national network of tourist police whose job it is to prevent any potential problems by ridding areas of known troublemakers as well as being your first port of call should anything go wrong. This and the heightened level of security in recent times means that it has never been safer to travel here.

Crimes of violence against tourists are rare but Thailand certainly does have a reputation for scams. Thais are more likely to try to part you from your money with a smile than a threat. There may be times when you need to be a little smart. Do not trust strangers who approach you with fantastic sounding deals. Do not believe that you can buy jewellery for bargain prices or whatever other great deal they may have conjured up.

The Thai government has been pro-active in the prevention of terrorism. There is an independence movement in the 3 southern provinces of the country and there have been many bombs and shootings in recent years in that area. However, the troubles have never spread to the rest of country and the rest of Thailand has remained free from terrorist activities.

Dive the World has extensively travelled all the tourist areas described in this section and has never experienced any threats or security concerns. The usual travel advice should be heeded however, but as long as you avoid entering into any bogus jewellery deals, purchasing time shares or falling in love with a seemingly lovely local that you barely know, you should be fine. The general sense that tourists get from visiting the country is one of warmth and hospitality.

We would advise you to stay away from the 3 troubled southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat. There have not as yet been any cases of tourists being directly targeted but bombs are indiscriminate weapons.

We must also strongly advise you to avoid any dealings with drugs. The penalties in Thailand for selling drugs are very harsh and even getting arrested for possession of drugs is not going to be a pleasant experience. Involve yourself in drugs at your peril!

As with all vacations, it is highly advisable that you take out insurance to cover diving and travel activities, including trip cancellation. See our insurance programme for a competitive quote.

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How to Get There

Thailand, and Bangkok in particular, is one of the major hubs for travel in South East Asia. There are flights from most countries in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, as well as Australia. There are also a few airlines that fly into the smaller provincial international airports of Thailand, such as Phuket, Koh Samui and Krabi.

Other convenient flight options to consider include the frequent and reliable connections into Thailand from Malaysia, Singapore and Bali.

If you require resort accommodation in Thailand you can get the best value rooms with Agoda, our affiliated resort reservation specialists:

Visit Agoda.com and review details, prices and make a reservation for Thailand and worldwide hotels (opens in a new window)

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General Information

This section contains information about:

Climate

Thailand has a tropical climate. It is hot throughout the year and the rains are dictated by the monsoon winds. The exact dates the winds change vary from year to year but usually the dry season runs from November to April. The period from March to April can be very hot. The wet season runs from May to October and the wettest month is usually October.

Thailand is an all year round diving destination, but the best diving is from mid November to early May. Some dive sites in the Andaman Sea are closed during the rainy season due to rough seas. At that time there are only a limited number of diving cruise charters in Thailand. Check our dive site descriptions for detailed diving seasons.

History

Rice farming in Thailand - photo courtesy of TAT

Prior to the 10th century, a patchwork of kingdoms dominated the region including Hmong, Malay and Khmer. Southern Chinese people subsequently migrated down to Thailand and created states such as Sukothai and Ayutthaya. During this time the country was often at war with its neighbours, Burma and Cambodia. Threats continued from neighbouring Asians as well as European powers but Thailand remained the only South East Asian state to avoid colonial rule. After the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, military rule held sway until democracy was established.

In 1941 Thailand invaded French Indochina resulting in a peace treaty mediated by the Japanese in which the French relinquished its hold. The nation was officially declared Thailand in 1949 (previously known as Siam).

After another military intervention, democracy in Thailand was restored in 1992 and recent politics have centred around the Thai Rak Thai party and Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown in a coup in 2006. Thailand's power continues to see-saw between military rule and control by a party who claims to be democratically elected, as do the opposition. Thailand perhaps leads the world in frequency of coups.

The Local Thai People

62 million people live here, with approximately a quarter of those living in the greater Bangkok area. There are several small minority ethnic groups such as Mon, Karen and Khmer, mainly in the north but 75% of the population are Thai descent, with the rest made up of predominantly Chinese then Malay.

96% of the people are Buddhist with the remaining 4% being mainly southern Muslims. The national language and script is Thai, but there are several regional dialects.

Health

Many remoter areas of Thailand are malarial but most urban and tourist areas are malaria-free. If you are planning to travel to more remote areas or hike into the jungle you should consult with your doctor as to whether it is worth taking malaria precautions before you go.

Dengue Fever is more prevalent. It is also a mosquito borne disease. Dengue Fever will give you a stunning headache and fever that will have you in bed for a week. Dengue is not that common but unfortunately there are currently no inoculations. The best defence is a good mosquito repellent.

Rabies is also not common but it is present in Thailand. You just cannot take a risk with any animal bite. If you are bitten you need to get rabies jabs. Rabies can be treated if you get the jabs soon after you are bitten. If you wait until the symptoms show, it is too late and at that stage rabies is always fatal.

More common health concerns are contaminated food, water and ice that can lead to diarrhoea, dehydration and hepatitis A or E. Make sure you drink only bottled drinking water. Fungal infections are also very common. Wear loose clothes, wash frequently, and dry yourself carefully.

Self-diagnosis and treatment of any medical problem can be risky, so you should always seek medical help.

Tourist Visas

Visitors from most Asian and western countries including Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are granted a visa waiver on arrival. This is a 30-day permit to stay when arriving by air, or a 15 day permit-to-stay when arriving by land or sea. It can be extended by another 7-days at an immigration office for a fee. Some other nationals are required to obtain a tourist visa before arrival and you should contact a local Thai embassy or consulate for details.

Time Zones

There is only 1 time zone in Thailand: +7 hrs GMT, or +12 hrs EST.

Business Hours

Banking hours are 08:30 hrs until 15:30 hrs, Monday to Friday. Many shop stores are open 12 hours a day, every day.

Electricity

The mains electricity in Thailand is 220 volts AC at 50 cycles. The standard plugs and sockets are 2-pin flat or round. Most international plug adaptors should work or adaptors can be bought locally. There are occasional blackouts and power variations, especially during rainy season.

Photographic Facilities

Camera and film processing shops are easily found in tourist areas. Most popular brands and types of film are widely available in Thailand. It is advisable to bring any special photographic equipment or film from home as supplies may be limited here.

Communications

Post offices are open from 09:00 until 15:30 hrs. Thai postal services are unreliable and any valuable or important item should be sent by registered mail. Private air couriers like UPS and DHL are also available in Thailand.

The international direct dialling code from Thailand is 001 + country code + area code + phone number. The country code for Thailand is +66. Mobile roaming services are available and it is also easy and inexpensive to buy a prepaid sim card in Thailand.

There are many internet cafes in the tourist locations of Thailand.

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Codes of Behaviour

Ayuthaya River cruise scene - photo courtesy of TAT

Thais are a generally tolerant bunch and they know that many foreigners do not know their code of behaviour. Mostly they are too polite to complain about transgressions. You can still make a good impression by understanding and respecting some of the values of their culture. It is very important to show respect for the monarchy. Thai people love and are very loyal to their king and queen and the whole royal family.

Most Thais are Buddhist and their religion should be respected as well. You should act with respect at temples and Buddha statues. Monks are figures of respect and it is not allowed for a woman to touch a monk. Buddhist and Chinese shrines are open to foreigners but you should dress appropriately when visiting. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are discouraged. A non-Muslim should not enter a mosque during prayer time.

Thais regard the feet to be the lowest part of the body, literally and spiritually. It is rude to point your feet at people or objects of respect. You should not step over people or point the soles of your feet towards people. You should sit cross-legged or with the soles of your feet down. Remove your shoes before entering a Thai temple or house. Similarly, the head is the highest spiritual part of the body and you should not touch people on the head.

Tipping and bargaining

Tipping is not a normal Thai tradition but it has become more prevalent in recent years. It is a nice gesture to leave a small amount if you receive good service, particularly as salaries are low.

You cannot haggle prices at the main supermarkets, department stores, restaurants, bars, large hotels, pharmacies, public transport, etc. On the other hand, nearly any independent small business is willing, and indeed many expect to bargain for prices.

You should always bargain in a light-hearted non-confrontational manner, preferably with a smile. Bargaining is part of the shopping experience in Thailand and Thais will normally drop their original asking price to a lower price very quickly but will not drop below their minimum price. If you feel that you are not getting a good deal, walk away and they may call you back with a better offer.

As in other countries, knowing the rudiments of negotiation ("How much?", "Too expensive", "Can you come down?" and numbers) in the Thai language will certainly afford you a better price.

Clothing

Thailand is a hot country so light, loose cotton clothing is recommended. You can wear tight dresses, short shorts or miniskirts when you go out. If you are not at the beach or a pool you should always wear a shirt. Naked sunbathing in public is illegal.

Criminality

Thailand is one of the friendliest and safest travel destinations in the world. Your personal safety is well taken care of in the main tourist destinations and the tourist police demonstrate a polite and competent attitude all round.

However, like anywhere, there is crime. If you are aware and show the proper caution, you should enjoy a safe stay. Crimes of violence against tourists are rare but there are occasional bag snatchings, so try to carry your bag securely and keep your valuables in a safe place. Pickpockets may operate in crowded areas such as markets and public transport.

If you do experience any crime it is more likely to be petty pilfering. Keep your valuables in a safe place, hotel staff have been known to steal from guests rooms, though it is fairly unusual and staff are likely to be unexpectedly honest.

Officials

You should always be calm and polite when dealing with Thai officials. They will not respond well to insults, loud or aggressive speech. If you are involved in an incident then respect for the police is a must. They will usually try to be fair but any expression of anger and you will very quickly lose their cooperation.

Thai police officers have much greater powers of action than their European counterparts and will not accept disrespectful behaviour. Traffic offences such as not having a driving license or not wearing a helmet will get you a small on the spot fine. Parking on the wrong side of the road will get your bike or car chained up and another fine. The trick is to know which side of the road to park on. Just look to see where everyone else has parked and park on that side of the road.

The Thai Police are not well paid and corruption is widespread. Many consider receiving bribes to be a perk of the job and buying off offences is common. You may find this convenient if you find yourself in trouble but if you are in a dispute remember that the other party may be willing to pay more. Don't expect justice to take place naturally. If you feel that you're being treated unfairly then stand your ground, remain cool at all times, make a show of recording the officer's registration number, and insist on seeing a superior officer.

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Interested?

If you're keen to discover the tourist-easy haven of Thailand, then click below to check your options for:

Be sure to book up in plenty of time to avoid limited choice! The best Thailand scuba diving holidays are booked by repeat customers who book well in advance to ensure their reservation!


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