Travel Tips : Traveling to Thailand

Map of Thailand
All the "standard" information about Thailand is easy to find on web-site's like Wiki Thailand and The-world-factbook and Lonely Planet So lets skip that.

Money-wise
The official currency is the Thai baht with notes of 1000, 500, 100, 50 and 20 Thai baht. And coins of 10, 5,2 and 1 baht. Officially there are still coins of 50satang and 25satang but they are almost not used anymore. Almost everywhere in Thailand there are ATM (Automatic teller machines) where you can get money with your bank-card. Be aware of the fact that almost all Thai banks will charge you a 150thb fee for using their ATM. Also some Thai banks offer you to use their "local exchange rate", which is mostly worse as your international exchange rate.  Also in almost all modern shops, hotels and restaurants you can use your credit-card. Some shops will try to charge you a fee of 2% to 3%.

You can take cash money with you in US$ or Euros, it will be easy to change. Everywhere where tourist are there are also exchange boots. Be aware that it might be useful to compare the exchange-rate of different exchange boots. In case you have a lot of cash money with you it might even be useful to find the "Chinese exchange office", they will always give you a better rate.

Language-wise
The official spoken language is Thai and the official written language is written in Thai characters and for me and most other foreigner (and still a some Thai) here that are just little pictures. Although English is mandatory at Thai schools most Thai find it very difficult to speak and have created a new kind of English called Tenglish (Thai English). In the tourist area's you will find people talking English, but forget that upcountry. Same as for Thai being able to read our characters or English at all. Holding a English written letter up-side-down while trying to read it is not so weird in Thailand.

But do not worry most signs along the road, in hotels and restaurants and in musea are both in Thai and English (although sometimes with weird translations). In tourist places like Pattaya and Phuket people might also speak German or Russian.

Travel-wise
Traveling in Thailand as "free and independent traveler" (FIT) is easy because the infrastructure is good. Traveling by public transport is easy and safe (well accidents can always happen). There are all kind of transport from the old local bus and the VIP bus to the mini-vans and taxi's. The roads are reasonable good everywhere and you can travel in reasonable good timing, like 10-hours from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (about 800 km).

Another way of public transport is the train. There is a good rail-road network that is connecting all the big cities in Thailand and all small cities on the way. The trains are a safe and cheap way of traveling and will give you the chance to meet people while traveling. There are many different types of trains, one is the night train with sleeping berth. Like the Bangkok-Chiang Mai leg that leave Bangkok about 6 in the evening and arrived about 12-hours later in Chiang Mai. You can choose between 3rd, 2sd and 1st class. Third class are seating places in a non-airco coach. Second class are berths in a airco coach and First class is a 2-persons "private" cabin with airco. On the long-haul legs is always a coach with restaurant, but if you are not used to Thai food please take your own food with you (for dinner and breakfast).

Then there is the option of flying. Almost all bigger cities have an airport and most of them have a connection to Bangkok (Don Muang or Survarnabhumi). And some main air-hubs are even directly connected like Chiang Mai and Phuket. Flying in Thailand is safe and not expensive, sometimes even cheap if you buy your ticket the right way.

Another way of transport is renting a car. In Thailand people tend to drive on the left side, although not always. There are many international car rental companies (like Budget or Avis) with good and almost new cars for rent (like Toyota Prerunner, Honda CRV or Toyota Vios). And although driving in Thailand (even in Bangkok) is relatively safe be aware of the fact that the rule of the road is not the same like in western Europe or America. But traveling by rental car gives you a great piece of freedom to go where you want, to see what you want and when you want. Of course you could also rent a car with driver (which is actually not so expensive in Thailand). If you do rent a car with driver, check that the driver can speak English and that he will drive like YOU want, not like he wants or is used to drive.

Hotel-wise
In compare with example Europe the hotels in Thailand are cheap and in the higher class will give you much more value for your money. In almost all cities, even in the the smaller ones, are hotels. Although traveling upcountry off the beaten track you might find hotels of a bit less quality (like the old Chinese hotels) or maybe only the so called "love hotels" (which sometimes can be very comfortable).

Hotel rooms are rented by the room per day, in the better hotels the price is incl. breakfast although the breakfast can vary a long way from a simple "toast with jam and a cup of coffee" to a "breakfast buffet with 30 different kind of  dishes".

There are different style of lodging's. First of all the Guesthouses. Primarily gathering to backpackers, although the level of backpacker are upgrading as so are some Guesthouses. And as it tax-wise cheaper to be a guesthouse as a hotel, some better guesthouse are actually hotels. But you can still find Guesthouses in the price-range of 200 Thai baht per night.

Then there are the hotels in many different kind of category. Like said upcountry in the smaller cities you will find the cheap,old (ans sometimes dirty) Chinese hotels with concrete floors and furniture from before the Vietnam War. In the more touristic places like Pattaya, Bangkok and Chiang Mai you might find in the category actually reasonable hotels in a the price-range of 400 to 600 Thai baht.

The category of hotels and resorts ends with the most luxury and pretentious hotels or resorts you can think for prices of 50.000 Thai baht or more but within a price-range of 2000 to 5000 Thai baht you will get here in Thailand a very good (new) hotel or resort providing you with a very good value for money.

As there are so many hotels in Thailand you almost never have to worry about finding a hotel-room for the night. You can just walk-in and as long as you are not there on super-high-season days (like Songkran, Loy Kratong, New Year) you will find a room of your liking. Price-wise it might be good to do a research on Internet or maybe even book the hotel via booking sites like Agoda (a good and trustful hotel bookings site).

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Travel Tips : Travel Advisory Thailand