The Kingdom of Thailand draws more visitors than any other country in southeast Asia with its irresistible combination of breathtaking natural beauty, inspiring temples, renowned hospitality, robust cuisine and ruins of fabulous ancient kingdoms. Few countries are so well endowed. Read more...
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Cities and Destinations in Thailand
The Kingdom of Thailand draws more visitors than any other country in southeast Asia with its irresistible combination of breathtaking natural beauty, inspiring temples, renowned hospitality, robust cuisine and ruins of fabulous ancient kingdoms. Few countries are so well endowed.
Thailand's 76 provinces can be conveniently divided into five geographic and cultural regions.
North_(Thailand) North-Chiang Mai, hill tribes, and the Golden Triangle
Isaan-the great undeveloped north-east-get off the beaten track and discover backcountry Thailand and some magnificent Khmer ruins
CentralPlains(Thailand) Central-Bangkok, lowlands and historic Thailand
East_(Thailand) East-beaches and islands within easy reach of Bangkok, and Pattaya
South_(Thailand) South-hundreds of kilometers of coastline and countless islands on both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, plus Phuket, Krabi (province) Krabi, Ko Samui, Ko Tao and many more of Thailand's famous beach spots
Bangkok is one of Asia's largest hubs; practically every airline that flies to Asia also flies to Bangkok, meaning competition is stiff and prices are low.
There are also international flights directly to/from Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Ko Samui, Phuket, and Pattaya.
The national carrier is the well-regarded THAI Airways, with Bangkok Airways filling in some gaps in the nearby region. Bangkok Airways offers free internet access while you wait for boarding to start at your gate.
Many low-cost carriers serve Thailand-see Discount airlines in Asia for an up to date list.
For a full at-a-glance list of all Thai-based carriers, see the Thai airlines section (below).
Cambodia-six international border crossings. The highway from Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor via Poipet to Aranyaprathet, once the stuff of nightmares, is now merely bad and can usually be covered in less than 3 hours.
Laos-the busiest border crossing is at the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong between Nong Khai and the Lao capital Vientiane. It's also possible to cross the Mekong at Chiang Khong / Huay Xai, Nakhon Phanom / Tha Khaek, Mukdahan / Savannakhet, and elsewhere.
Vientiane / Udon Thani-A bus service runs from the Morning Market bus station in Vientiane to the bus station in Udon Thani. The cost is 80 Baht or 22, 000 Kip and the journey takes two hours. The Udon Thani airport is 30 minutes by Tuk Tuk from the bus station and is served by Thai Airways, Nok Air and Air Asia.
Malaysia and Singapore-driving up is entirely possible, although not with a rented vehicle. Main crossings (with name of town on Malaysian side in brackets) between Thailand and Malaysia are Padang Besar (Songkhla) Padang Besar ( Padang Besar ) and Sadao ( Bukit Kayu Hitam ) in Songkhla (province) Songkhla province, Betong (Pengkalan Hulu) in Yala (province) Yala province, and Sungai Kolok (Rantau Panjang) in Narathiwat (province) Narathiwat province. There are regular buses across the border, mostly to the southern hub of Hat Yai.
Myanmar:Mae Sai / Tachileik-foreigners can access this crossing from either side, and enter and/or exit either country here; no onward travel restrictions; to get to Tachileik or Kengtung from the rest of Myanmar, a domestic flight must be taken (eg from Heho ).
Mae Sot / Myawaddy-foreigners can only access this crossing from the Thai side; neither onward travel into Myanmar (ie beyond the border town) nor overnight stays are possible. No visa needed; instead there's an entry stamp fee-USD10 if paid with USD notes, more (500 baht) if paid with Thai currency.
Three Pagodas Pass ( Sangkhlaburi / Payathonzu )-foreigners can only access this crossing from the Thai side; onward travel into Myanmar (ie beyond the border town) is not possible; entry/exit stamps are NOT issued here, and foreigners passports are held at the Myanmar checkpoint, where a fee is levied-USD10 if paid with USD notes, more (500 baht) if paid with Thai currency.
Ranong / Kawthoung-foreigners can access this crossing from either side, and enter and/or exit either country here; no onward travel restrictions (other than those that apply to everyone, no matter how they enter); access to/from Kawthoung is by sea ( Mergui / Dawei & Yangon ) and air (Mergui & Yangon). If entering without a visa, maximum stay is 3 days / 2 nights, travel beyond Kawthoung is not permitted, and there's an entry stamp fee-USD10 if paid with USD notes, more (500 baht) if paid with Thai currency.
Thailand's sole international train service links to Butterworth (near Penang ) and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, continuing all the way to Singapore. Tickets are cheap even in first class sleepers, but it can be a slow ride; the 2-hour flight to Singapore will take you close to 48 hours by rail, as you have to change trains twice. The luxury option is to take the Eastern & Oriental Express http://www.orient-express.com/web/eoe/eoec1ahome.jsp, a refurbished super-luxury train that runs along the same route once per week, with gourmet dining, personal butler service and every other colonial perk you can think of. However, at around US$1000 one-way just from Bangkok to Butterworth, this is approximately 30 times more expensive than an ordinary first-class sleeper!
While you can't get to Laos or Cambodia by train, you can get very close, with railheads just across the border at Nong Khai (across the river from Vientiane ) and Aranyaprathet (for Poipet, on the road to Siem Reap ). There are plans to connect to both countries someday, but this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
There are no rail services to Myanmar, but the Thai part of the infamous Burma Death Railway is still operating near Kanchanaburi.
Ferries cross from Satun in southern Thailand to the Malaysian island of Langkawi, while over in Narathiwat (province) Narathiwat province, a vehicular ferry shuttles between Tak Bai and Pengkalan Kubur, near Kota Bharu in Malaysia's Kelantan state.
There are also occasional cruises from Malaysia and Singapore to Phuket and Bangkok, the main operator being Star Cruises http://www.starcruises.com, but no scheduled services.
Thailand is a large country, and if sitting in a bus for 11 hours is not your idea of a fun time, you may well want to consider domestic flights. Never terribly expensive to begin with (at least by Western standards), the deregulation of the industry has brought in a crop of new operators: with a little research, it's possible to fly pretty much anywhere in the country for less than 2000 baht. Note that various taxes and (often hefty) surcharges are invariably added to advertised prices.
Bangkok Airways promotes itself as Asia's Boutique Airline, and has a monopoly on flights to its own airports at Ko Samui, Sukhothai and Trat. Their Discovery Airpass with fixed per segment rates can be good value, especially if used to fly to Siem Reap ( Cambodia ) or Luang Prabang ( Laos ). Note that the Discovery Airpass can now only be purchased from abroad.
SGA Airline Now joint with Nok Air, is currently the only passenger carrier offering daily flights to/from Hua Hin Airport. New routes also between Chiang Mai-Pai, Chiang Mai-Mae Hong Sorn.
Nok Air took to the skies in 2004 sporting a lurid purple paint scheme with a bird's beak painted on the nose. Owned mostly by Thai Airways, they compete with Air Asia on price and, with a fairly comprehensive domestic network, are a pretty good choice overall.
One-Two-Go (part of Orient Thai Airlines) is a low-cost brand with 1-3 flights daily to a handful of domestic destinations. Their punctuality record is notoriously bad; the 747-100s they use are flying museum pieces (but mean there's usually room to spare); and their ticketing counters can be chronically congested (one-hour queues are not unusual, but if you just want to hop on the next flight, you can head to the express ticketing counter at check-in not less than 40 minutes before departure). One of their planes crashed in 2007, killing over 60 people.
PB Air flies domestically to Lampang, Nan, Mae Hong Son, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Buriram, Nakhon Si Thammarat, and also to Danang ( Vietnam ).
Thai AirAsia is a budget airline offering discounted tickets if booked well in advance, but prices rise steadily as planes fill up. They fly from Bangkok to a number of places domestically, as well as Cambodia, China and Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Vietnam. Keep in mind the price displayed in your search results is only the base fare, additional taxes and fees mean the true price will be appreciably higher. On-line booking is straightforward but must be done at least twenty-four hours in advance; ticket sales at the check-in desk close one hour before the departure time.
Thai Airways is the most reliable and frequent Thai airline, but also the most expensive. Unusually, little to no discount is given for flying return. Travel agents can usually sell only THAI Airways tickets; you can also book on-line.
n border in the south. Compared to buses, most trains are relatively slow, but safer. Point-to-point fares depend on the type (speed) of the train and the class of the carriage. There are three main classes:
First class (chan neung) 2-berth sleeping compartments with individually regulated air conditioning are available on some trains, but prices are sometimes matched by budget airfares.
Second class (chan song) is a good compromise, costing about the same as 1st class buses and with a comparable level of comfort. Some 2nd class trains are air-con, others aren't; air-con costs a little more. Second class sleeper berths are comfortable and good value, with the narrower upper bunks costing a little less than the wider lower bunks. Food and WCs are basic. 2nd class Express Railcar trains have reclining seats and refreshments are included in the fare; unlike all other Thai passenger trains, they can match buses for speed, but cannot carry bicycles.
Third class (chan saam) is the cheapest way to travel in Thailand, with virtually nominal fares, and can be great fun. Sometimes packed with tuk-tuk drivers heading home with a sack of rice and a bottle of cheap whisky for company, as a farang (foreigner of European ancestry) you're guaranteed to be the center of attention-quite enjoyable in small doses, but 10 hours of this might be a bit much. Some 3rd class trains have wooden seats, others are upholstered; some services can be pre-booked, others cannot; refreshments are available from hawkers who roam the aisles.
Pre-booking is recommended, especially for sleeper berths. Many travel agencies will spare you the trouble of travelling to the station to buy tickets for a service fee (often 100 baht/ticket), or you can reserve with SRT directly by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for a 200 baht/booking surcharge.
Thailand's roads are head and shoulders above its neighbors Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, but driving habits are still quite dangerous. Drunk driving, speeding and reckless passing are depressingly common, and bus and taxi drivers (especially for private companies) work inhuman shifts and often take drugs to keep themselves awake, with predictable and tragic results. It's common for motorbikes — even police! — to drive close to the curb on the wrong side of the road. Death tolls sky-rocket around major holidays, especially Songkhran, when bystanders often throw water on passing cars and bikes. Many drivers don't use headlights at night, multiplying risks, and it is wise to avoid or minimize overnight travel by road.
Note that unlike in its neighbours (except Malaysia), traffic moves on the left side of the road in Thailand and Thai cars are generally right-hand drive. All official road directional signs are written in both Thai and English.
VIP? Very Inferior Product Travel agencies, particularly those on Bangkok's Bangkok/Khao San Road Khao San Road, are keen to sell you VIP bus tickets. These are more often than not cramped minibuses that will do their best to arrive late, often by breaking down right next to a conveniently located restaurant, and sell you to the guesthouse that gives them the highest commissions. Theft, particularly on routes to the south, is also a major problem. Thais never use them, opting for public BKS buses instead-and you should too.
Buses travel throughout the country and the government's bus company BKS (บขส Baw Kaw Saw), known in English simply as the Transport Company, has a terminal in every town of any size.
Generally speaking, BKS buses are the best option for both price and comfort. There are also many private bus companies, who mainly compete on price and are less reliable in terms of amenities, schedules and safety. In particular, beware of non-government VIP buses, which may be nothing of the sort. A special subclass are the cheap Bangkok/Khao San Road Khao San Road buses, targeted at backpackers. These are the slimiest of the lot and you may find that your supposed VIP bus is in fact a cramped minivan-after paying in advance, that is.
The basic bus types are:Local-relatively slow, can be cramped when full (nevertheless there's always room for one more), and stop at every village and cowshed along the way. Many are of larger songthaew flavour. Not suitable for long-distance travel, but may be the only cheap way to get around locally.
Express (rot duan)-skip some stops, but no other frills. Identifiable by their orange colour. Size varies, with the largest having around 65 seats (five seats per row) as well as an open space across the width of the bus by the back door for you to sling your rice / chickens / bicycle / backpack.
Second class (chan song)-skip more stops, but often take a less direct route than 1st class / VIP / S-VIP. Blue and white with an orange stripe, usually 45-48 seats per bus, air conditioned (some provide blankets, some do not), and most have no on-board toilet (however the frequent stops mean this isn't a problem).
First class (chan neung)-generally take the most direct routes and make very few stops. Blue and white in colour, air conditioned, blanket usually provided, fewer (larger, longer pitch) seats (typically 40, but some double-decker types seat 60+), snack and drinking water included. Most have a toilet on board (only very short haul services sometimes do not).
VIP-as per 1st class, but with only 32-34 seats, which have more leg room and recline further. Basic meal included and freshly laundered shrink-wrapped blanket provided. Also blue and white (or sometimes blue and silver) but usually signed VIP.
S-VIP-Super-VIP is very similar to VIP, except there are only 24 seats, which are wider-the aisle is offset, each row having a pair of seats on the right and only a single seat on the left. Primarily used on overnight services.
Some buses may have TVs and sound systems blaring, so earplugs are well worth having, just in case.
On long-haul buses, if your ticket allocates you a front seat, you may have to switch seats if a monk boards.
A songthaew is a truck-based vehicle with a pair of bench seats in the back, one on either side. By far the most common type is based on a pick-up truck and has a roof and open sides. Larger types start life as small lorries, and may have windows, and an additional central bench; smaller types are converted micro-vans, with a front bench facing backwards and a rear bench facing forwards.
Songthaews are operated extensively as local buses (generally the most economical way to travel shorter distances) and also as taxis; sometimes the same vehicle will be used for both. Be careful if asking a songthaew to take you to someplace if there is nobody in the back, the driver might charge you the taxi price. In this case, check the price of the ride before embarking.
The name tuk-tuk is used to describe a wide variety of small/lightweight vehicles. The vast majority have three wheels; some are entirely purpose-built (eg the ubiquitous Bangkok tuk-tuk), others are partially based on motorcycle components (primarily engines, steering, front suspension, fuel tank, drivers seat). A relatively recent development is the four wheeled tuk-tuk (basically a microvan-songthaew) as found in Phuket.
Metered taxis are ubiquitous in Bangkok, but rare elsewhere in the country (although somewhat common in Chiang Mai). When available, they are an excellent means of transport-insist on the meter. Beware of taxis which idle around touristy areas and wait for people. They are looking for a tourist who will take their taxi without using a meter. Always use the meter!
As is the case throughout virtually all of Asia, motorcycles (motosai) are the most common form of transport overall; the most popular type are the 100cc-125cc step-through models. These are very widely used as taxis, with fares starting from as low as 5 baht.
Motorcycles can be rented without difficulty in many locations. Rates start at around 150 baht/day for recent 100-125cc semi-automatic (foot operated gearchange, automatic clutch) step-through models, 200 baht/day for fully automatic scooters; larger capacity models can also easily be found, although the rates reflect the risks-up to around 2500 baht/day for the very latest model high capacity sport bikes, such as the Honda CBR1000RR. In all cases, lower prices will apply if paying upfront for more than a week or so; in some cases, long-distance travel may be prohibited. Motorcycle rentals do not include insurance, and both motorcycling accidents and motorbike thefts are common.
Many places will rent to you without requiring a license, but legally speaking you must have a valid Thai license or International Driver's Permit. Often a deposit will be required; sometimes a passport photocopy, or even the passport itself (don't do this-bargain to leave some baht instead), will be requested. Helmets are normally included, but are usually ultra-basic models with very flimsy chin-strap fasteners-if you're intending to travel by motorcycle and have a good quality helmet at home, then bring it with you. If supplied a helmet with a chin-cup (many cheap rental helmets are), slide the cup up the strap out of the way and securely fasten the bare strap directly under the jaw, as this is much safer.
Insurance is usually not included (or even available), so try to ensure in advance that the insurance you leave home with is going to cover you; alternatively, arrange cover with an insurance broker locally in Thailand. If you rent a vehicle without insurance and it's damaged or stolen, the bottom line is that you will be required to pay in full the cost of repairing or replacing it. Furthermore, some travel insurance policies will only provide medical cover in the event of an accident if you hold a motorcycle license in your home country.
Motorcyclists (including passengers) are required to wear crash helmets and to keep their headlights switched on at all times. Enforcement varies widely, but in tourist areas spot checks for helmets and/or licences are commonplace. While the fines are light (typically 200 baht) the inconvenience can be considerable as offender's vehicle is impounded until the fine is paid, and the queue at the police station can be lengthy.
Some (but not all) border crossings allow motorcycles through. At those which do, documentation including proof of ownership must be produced (with the possible exception of day visits to Payathonzu, Myanmar via Three Pagodas Pass ).
Driving your own car in Thailand is not for the faint-hearted, and many rental companies can supply drivers at a very reasonable price. Prices without insurance for a self-driven car start from around 800 baht/day for small cars, and from as little as 600 baht/day for open-top jeeps; cars with insurance start at just under 1000 baht/day, and come down to around 5600 baht/week or 18000 baht/month.
Driving is (usually, but not always!) on the left hand side of the road. As of September 2007, fuel at large petrol stations is 27-30 baht/litre. Small kerbside vendors who pump by hand from drums and/or pour from bottles charge a few baht more.
Cars can be rented without difficulty in many locations. It's worth paying a little more than the absolute minimum in order to use one of the international franchises (eg Avis, Budget, Hertz) to minimize the risk of hassles, and to ensure that any included insurance is actually worth something.
More reputable agencies require that valid licences be produced: foreigners who do not have a Thai driving licence must carry a valid International Driving Permit. Even if you manage to rent a car without an IDP, not having one will invalidate the insurance and count against you in the event of an accident.
A common rental scam involves the owner taking a deposit, and then later refusing to refund it in full on the basis that the customer is responsible for previous damage; the Tourist Police (dial 1155) may be able to help. Another common scam involves the owner having someone follow the rented vehicle and later steal it, using a set of spare keys. Always report thefts: a stolen vehicle may mysteriously turn up as soon as the police become involved.
Islands. Truly long-distance services (eg. Bangkok to any other major city) have, however, effectively ceased to exist as buses, planes and even trains are faster. Safety measures are rudimentary and ferries and speedboats do sink occasionally, so avoid overloaded ships in poor weather, and scope out the nearest life jackets when on board.
When to go
In Bangkok, unlicensed taxis, recognisable by their black and white licence plates, should be avoided. This is most relevant for solo women travelling at night. Look for licensed taxis that have yellow and black licence plates. Be aware that the number of drink spiking incidents in Bangkok is on the rise.
Thailand has more than its fair share of scams, but most are easily avoided with a modicum of common sense.
More a nuisance than a danger, a common scam by touts, taxi drivers and tuk-tuk drivers in Thailand is to wait by important monuments and temples and waylay Western travellers, telling them that the site is closed for a Buddhist holiday, repairs or a similar reason. The 'helpful' driver will then offer to take the traveller to another site, such as a market or store. Travellers who accept these offers will often end up at out-of-the-way markets with outrageous prices-and no way to get back to the center of town where they came from. Always check at the front gate of the site you're visiting to make sure it's really closed.
Avoid any tuk-tuks in Bangkok. Tuk-tuk drivers might demand much higher price than agreed, or they might take you to a sex show, pretending they didn't understand the address (they get commissions from sex shows). For the same reason, avoid drivers who propose their services without being asked, especially near major tourist attractions.
Don't buy any sightseeing tours at the airport. If you do, they will phone several times to your hotel in order to remind you about the tour. During the tour, you will be shortly taken to a small temple, without a guide, and then one shop after another (they get commissions). They might refuse to take you back home until you see all the shops. On your way back, they pressure you to buy more tours.
Easily identified with practice, it is not uncommon in tourist areas to be approached by a clean cut, well dressed man who often will be toting a cellphone. These scammers will start up polite conversation, showing interest in the unsuspecting tourist's background, family, or itinerary. Inevitably, the conversation will drift to the meat of the scam. This may be something as innocuous as over-priced tickets to a kantok meal and show, or as serious as a gambling scam or (particularly in Bangkok ) the infamous gem scam. Once identified, the wary traveller should have no trouble picking out these scammers from a crowd. The tell-tale well pressed slacks and button down shirt, freshly cut hair of a conservative style, and late-model cellphone comprise their uniform. Milling around tourist areas without any clear purpose for doing so, the careful traveller should have no difficulty detecting and avoiding these scammers.
Many visitors will encounter young Thai ladies armed with a clipboard and a smile enquiring as to their nationality, often with an aside along the lines of please help me to earn 30 baht. The suggestion is that the visitor completes a tourism questionnaire (which includes supplying their hotel name and room number) with the incentive that they just might win a prize-the reality is that everyone gets a call to say that they are a winner, however the prize can only be collected by attending an arduous time-share presentation. Note that the lady with the clipboard doesn't get her 30 baht if you don't attend the presentation; also that only English-speaking nationalities are targeted.
Another recurrent scam involves foreigners-sometimes accompanied by small children-who claim to be on the last day of their vacation in Thailand, and having just packed all their belongings into one bag in preparation for their flight home, lost everything when that bag was stolen. Now cash is urgently needed in order to get to the airport in a hurry and arrange a replacement ticket for his/her return flight in a few hours time.
Robbery on overnight buses
Thailand is quite safe for tourists. However, there have been some reports about people getting drugged and robbed while traveling on overnight buses. This happens as gas or another sleeping substance is put in the air-conditioning system of the bus so that all passengers fall asleep during the night while the crew of the bus stay in the lower deck, unaffected.Next passengers' bags and belongings are gone through by some crew members, and cash is taken. while still dizzy, the passengers are rushed out of the bus upon arrival before they can find out they'd been robbed.To avoid this, steer away from cheapish and non-government buses, make sure you have all your money stored safely in a money belt or another hard-to-reach place and always check your money balance before getting off.Warning your travel companions about this danger is also advised. In case this happens, firmly refuse to get off the bus, tell the rest of the people about the situation and immediately call the police.
Thailand's age of consent is 15 but a higher minimum age of 18 applies in the case of prostitutes. Thai penalties for sex with minors are harsh, and even if your partner is over the age of consent in Thailand, tourists who have sex with minors may be prosecuted by their home country. As far as ascertaining the age of your partner goes, all adult Thais must carry an identity card, which will state that they were born in 2533 or earlier if they were over the age of 18 on January 1st 2008 (in the Thai calendar, AD 2008 is the year 2552).
Some prostitutes are freelancers, but most are employed by bars or similar businesses and if hiring a prostitute from a bar or similar business, you will have to pay a fee for the establishment called a bar fine. This entitles you to take them out of their place of employment; it does not pay for any bedroom gymnastics.
Remember that bar girls, gogo girls and freelancers are all professionals, who are far more likely to be interested in money you can give them than in any continuing relationship for its own sake. Cases of visitors falling desperately in love and then being milked out of all they are worth abound. Thailand has a high rate of STD infection, including HIV/AIDS, both among the general population and among prostitutes. Condoms can be bought easily in Thailand in all convenience shops and pharmacies but may not be as safe as Western ones.
Technically, some aspects of prostitution in Thailand are illegal (e.g. soliciting, pimping), however enforcement is liberal and brothels are commonplace. It's not illegal to pay for sex or to pay a bar fine.
Thailand has extremely strict drug laws and your foreign passport is not enough to get you out of legal hot water. Possession and trafficking offenses that would merit traffic-ticket misdemeanors in other countries can result in life imprisonment or even death in Thailand. Police frequently raid nightclubs, particularly in Bangkok, with urine tests and full body searches on all patrons. Ko Pha Ngan 's notoriously drug-fueled Full Moon Parties also often draw police attention.
Possession of cannabis (กัญชา ganchaa), while illegal, is treated less harshly and, if busted, you may be able to pay an on the spot fine to get out, although even this can set you back tens of thousands of baht. It's highly unwise to rely on this.
In 2004, long-simmering resentment in the southern-most Muslim-majority provinces burst into violence in Narathiwat (province) Narathiwat, Pattani (province) Pattani and Yala (province) Yala provinces. All are off the beaten tourist trail, although the eastern rail line from Hat Yai to Sungai Kolok (gateway to Malaysia 's east coast) passes through the area and has been disrupted several times by attacks.
Hat Yai (Thailand's largest city after Bangkok and its Nonthaburi suburbs) in Songkhla (province) Songkhla has also been hit by a series of related bombings, however the main cross-border rail line connecting Hat Yai and Butterworth (on the west coast) has not been affected, and none of the islands or the west coast beaches have been targeted.
In September 2006, three foreigners were killed in bombings in Hat Yai. Some rebel groups have threatened foreigners, but while targets have included hotels, karaoke lounges and shopping malls, westerners have not been singled out for attacks.
Make a photocopy of your passport and the page with your visa stamp. Always keep your passport or the photocopy with you (the law requires that you carry your actual passport at all times, however in practice a photocopy will usually suffice). Many night clubs insist on a passport (and ONLY a passport) as proof of age. It is not required that you leave your passport with a hotel when you check in.
Carrying your own padlock is a good idea, as budget rooms sometimes use them instead of (or as well as) normal door locks; carry a spare key someplace safe, like your money belt, otherwise considerable expense as well as inconvenience may result should you lose the original. Also consider some type of cable to lock your bag to something too big to fit through the door or window.
Watch out for stray dogs as some can be vicious.
Being a tropical country, Thailand has its fair share of exotic tropical diseases. Malaria is generally not a problem in any of the major tourist destinations, but is endemic in rural areas along the borders with Cambodia (including Ko Chang in Trat(province) Trat Province ), Laos and Myanmar. As is the case throughout SoutheastAsia South-East Asia, dengue fever can be encountered just about anywhere, including the most modern cities.
HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are common. Condoms are sold in all convenience stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, etc.
A unified Thai kingdom was established in the mid-14th century. Known as Siam until 1939, Thailand is the only South-East Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power, and fiercely proud of the fact. A bloodless revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy. In alliance with Japan during World War II, Thailand became a US ally following the conflict. After a string of military dictatorships and quickly toppled civilian Prime Minister, Thailand finally stabilized into a fair approximation of a democracy and the economy, hobbled by the 1997 Asian economic crisis, is booming once again. Above it all presides the King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), the world's longest-reigning monarch and a deeply loved and respected figure of near-mythic proportions.
In September 2006, a swift and bloodless military coup overthrew the previous democratically elected but widely criticized government, promising elections in late 2007. Although martial law still applies and political gatherings are restricted, there has been no violence, no curfews are in effect, there is no longer any significant military presence in public places, and all services are functioning normally.
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Quick Facts about Thailand
63,038,247 (December 2007 est.)
Thai (official), ethnic and regional dialects
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