Thailand Tips and Advice
- Though taxis are plentiful and plenty cheap — you might have to remind drivers to turn on their meters — public transport is the best way to avoid traffic. To beat the gridlock, take advantage of the BTS Skytrain, MRT (subway), river ferry and canal boats.
- The Skytrain connects major areas of Bangkok, with the Sukhumvit line starting from Jatujak Market in the north and cruising down to the far reaches of Sukhumvit Road. The Silom line heads from National Stadium across Rajdamri Road and down Silom before crossing the Chao Phraya River. From this line, the Chao Phraya Express Ferry can be caught from Saphan Taksin station.
- The MRT starts from Hualamphong train station and cuts through the center of the city before ending in Bang Sue in Nonthaburi. Stations can be found in busy areas like Silom, Sukhumvit, Ratchada, Lad Prao and Jatujak. From the MRT you can connect to BTS Skytrain’s Sala Daeng and Mochit stations.
- For short distances, hop on the back of a motorcycle taxi (look for drivers’ colorful, numbered vests) or a tuk-tuk (motorized tricycles or auto rickshaws) for fast, thrill-packed rides that leave passengers more or less exposed to the elements of the road.
- Beware of the tuk-tuk or taxi driver offering you a tour of the city at an extremely low price. They will take you to all the places which provide them a kick-back in the form of money or free gasoline; which are not very interesting places to see.
- Plenty of low-cost airlines and a glut of hotels make it easy to book inexpensive flights and decent rooms for domestic trips. The exceptions are periods around major national holidays, when high demand can make booking travel a nightmare.
Thailand tips that are Good to know
- Songkran, or Thai New Year, is celebrated April 13-15, but often stretches into a full week of festivities and time off from work. During this time many businesses are closed and hundreds of thousands of people are travelling. Christmas and New Year’s holidays attract the largest number of foreign visitors. Expect inflated prices and limited hotel availability around the country during all of these major holiday periods.
- Thailand instituted a no-smoking policy in 2007. Lighting up in restricted public areas will get you hostile glares and potentially a 2,000-baht fine.
- Taxi drivers, small shopkeepers and food vendors can’t — or won’t — break large bills, so it’s a good idea to keep plenty of twenty- and hundred-baht bills on hand. To break large bills, hit up one of the hundreds of 7-Elevens across the city.
- Many high-end restaurants and hotels add an automatic 10-percent service charge (i.e., compulsory tip) to bills. In smaller restaurants and when paying taxi fares, rounding up the bill or fare is more than sufficient as a tip.
- Electricity in Thailand is 220 volts and 50 hz. Outlets are irregular and accept either plugs with two flat blades as in the United States or Japan, or with two round pins as in much of Europe. Many hotels have just two-prong outlets, you should bring a converter for any three-prong plugs.
- Thailand’s country code is 66. The city code for Bangkok is 02. All mobile phones begin with 08. In both cases, drop the 0 if you’re dialing from abroad.
- Thailand is seven hours ahead of GMT.
- Thais are generally very polite. Mishaps or misunderstandings are best resolved with smiles rather than shouts or angry words.
- Many restaurants have picture menus to accommodate the various languages used by tourists. Some menus will have descriptions in English, Russian, and German.
- The server at restaurants will not automatically bring you the bill, you must ask for it. It is considered rude for a server to bring you the bill before you are ready for it. They believe that by doing so, they are, in effect, asking you to leave.
- Tipping is not expected, but greatly appreciated. Many restaurants tack on an automatic 10-percent tip, referred to as a service charge. In establishments that don’t include the service charge, rounding up the bill is considered polite or show your appreciation for good service by adding a 10-percent tip. If the restaurant is a place that you will frequent, I advise being generous with a 10-percent tip with each visit and you will be rewarded with great service and some small extras.
Thailand Tips for doing Business
- Face: The concept of ‘face’ is very much a part of local business, so make sure no one loses any during meetings. Never disagree directly, and avoid being confrontational in discussions. It’s best to approach all matters with a smile.
- Introductions: The wai, with hands in prayer position and head bowed, is an essential greeting. Though foreign visitors aren’t expected to wai, doing so to superiors, elders and others in positions of authority or respect will be appreciated. The position of the hands indicate the level of respect you are giving. Holding the hands high, near your eyes, is a level of respect for only Buddha; the hands near your mouth is for elders, leaders, etc.; the hands near your throat is for people equal to your same status. Never initiate a wai towards someone in a lower status as yourself. For instance, do not wai the maid, server, or worker at a store. They should initiate the wai towards you first, then you respond with a wai.
- Names: As a show of respect, Thais use the prefix ‘Khun’ when addressing others — always by their first names. This applies to both males and females. Most Thais have a short nickname, as their birth names are usually several syllables long.
- Business attire: Due to Thailand’s tropical humidity and heat, men’s suits and jackets are worn only at the most important business events or meetings — a shirt and tie is considered acceptable business attire for most occasions.
- Internet access: Many hotel, cafes, fast food outlets and malls provide wireless service. Bangkok’s free city-wide free WiFi service is called Green Bangkok. It’s run by True Move (register online), but it’s painfully slow. Many shops and Internet cafes have PC terminals that can be used for a fee. Most hotels offer internet access through wired or wireless, some charge extra, while many offer it for free.
Thailand tips about Money
- ATMs at most major banks are on the Cirrus, Maestro and VISA networks, so for most it’s simple to make cash withdrawals in local currency. (Thai Money Photo)
- Currency Exchange centers are commonly located and can be easily found. (Photo) Exchange rates do not vary much from bank to bank. The private exchange companies usually use a less desirable rate.
- Large bills will get a better exchange rate than smaller denominations. For instance, a $100 bill will exchange at a better rate than a $20 bill. Be sure paper money is in excellent condition. Not torn, written on, very old or crumbled, etc.
- You will get the best exchange rate from travelers checks. Be sure to only use travelers checks from a major finance company such as American Express, VISA, or MasterCard.
- Credit cards (VISA and MasterCard) are widely accepted; American Express and Diners Club are not accepted in most places. However, most places will deal only in cash. Credit cards are usually only accepted at hotels, shopping mall stores, high-end restaurants. You should plan to carry cash everywhere you go in Thailand.
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