Below are some basic tips and information that are particularly helpful if you are planning your first trip to Thailand. From information you might need when packing to information we have gathered over our many years in Thailand, hopefully everyone will find something useful here on their first trip.
What is the Thai currency? The currency of Thailand is the Thai baht. Roughly speaking, US$100 equals 3,000 baht. The baht comes in the following denominations: Bank notes: 1,000, 500, 100, 50 and 20 Coins: 10, 5, 2, 1.
What type of plugs are used in Thailand? Thailand uses a two pin plug socket. The standard voltage is 220V.
What vaccinations are needed for Thailand? No vaccine is required but if you are concerned then it is best to contact your consulate directly. If you are travelling into very rural areas, you might consider antimalarial medication.
Where can I pick up a SIM Card? Look out for mobile phone service providers in the airport (there are many) who will often provide the SIM card for free and you just buy the credit package which will include a months free internet. You will need your passport to purchase a SIM card now.
Can I bring my E-Cigarette? No E-Cigarettes are banned in Thailand. If caught with a device you will face a hefty fine or up to 10 years in Jail.
Can I bring my prescription medicine? Yes, as long as you have a letter from your doctor stating the medicine you are prescribed and it is dated or a physical prescription note signed by the doctor.
Should I book my hotel before I travel or book once I arrive in Thailand? You should book your accommodation before you travel. Not only is it much cheaper than booking at arrival at the Hotel but Thai Immigration now require you to have an address in Thailand filled in on the immigration form. Not having a Hotel, they could prevent you from entering the country without a known address. For deals on Bangkok Hotels and Thailand Hotels visit: www.thailandbookings.co.uk
Can I drive in Thailand? By law, you should have a Thai or international drivers licence to drive a motor vehicle in Thailand, but many car rental shops will allow you to rent a car with your driving license from your home country.
Can I drink the water and ice? Yes, consuming the ice here is not dangerous at all. The tap water is not advisable to drink and we strongly advise you to buy bottled water for drinking. Bottled water is very cheap from any 7-11.
How Much Money Should I bring? Changing money in Bangkok is a fairly easy process, but choosing where to change your money can have a noticeable impact on how much baht you will be stuffing in your wallet. Those on a budget should try to avoid big banks in shopping malls and popular tourist spots as the higher rents are passed onto the customer in the form of worse commission rates. Bear in mind the amount of time it takes to go out of your way to find the best exchange rates too. If you add up your lost time and taxi fares, many people might just choose to take the convenience of a large bank despite the worse exchange rate. Some big department stores even accept major foreign currencies such as US dollar and Japanese yen, but the exchange rate they give is very poor so we don’t recommend it.
One of the best exchange rates can be found at the “Super Rich” money exchanges, they have several branches spread out across the city, ranging from kiosks in some of the larger BTS Skytrain stations, to small shops and their headquarters located between Pratunam and Chitlom, on Ratchadmri Soi 2, a small soi opposite Central World Shopping Mall.
The other big name when changing money in Bangkok is Vasu Exchange, located in the Nana area of Sukhumvit, Soi 7/1. The conversions here are also very competitive and are virtually guaranteed to be better than Thai or international banks. Opening Hours: Mon to Fri 09:00 – 18:00 (closed on Sundays). Location: 133-133/1 Sukhumvit Road Soi 7/1 BTS: Nana.
You must have your passport with you to exchange currency in Bangkok.
The best way to get money is to bring your ATM card which can be used at any cash machine with a Visa sign on it. You will get a good exchange rate but your bank will charge you a small conversion fee.
Paying by credit card is more and more popular, especially in a shopping mall or top-end restaurant. Credit card fraud is not a big problem in Bangkok. However, you will always need some cash for things like small purchases, taxi fares and market visits.
Scams? Bangkok is a great city to visit, blessed with a very high level of safety compared to any other country in the world. However, just like anywhere, some unscrupulous individuals specialise in the art of taking advantage of new visitors. Despite their tricks being rather obvious, people a bit lost, a bit jet lagged and maybe also a bit naive still fall into the bad guys’ net every single day. When it happens, people realize they actually had all the warning signal flashing bright red but for some reason they didn’t pay attention. In all the following scams the patterns are similar and a simple “No, thank you” is all you need to say and use your common sense!
This is one of the best known scams and yet, everyday dozens of tourists fall for it. You are walking around one of the Bangkok landmarks, let’s say the Grand Palace (Wat Phra Kaew), Wat Pho or even Khaosan Road. A smiling Thai stranger approaches with an inviting smile and casual manners, asking “Where you come from?” and other small talk to make you feel at ease, often in very good English . The guy will ask where are you going and by doing so will quickly analyze who you are and if this is your first time in Thailand. If it is, the story starts. “Oh you want to see the Grand Palace today? Such bad luck it is closed for the whole day for a special royal event!” Of course this kind of scam occurs far from the gate, making sure you can’t see the actual crowd walking in. Instead, he will offer you to see other great temples around Bangkok on his tuk tuk for only 20 to 40 baht, and he can even be your guide to a wonderful day you will never forget. (In a way, he is right about that).
As you are very disappointed to have travelled all the way to find the Grand Palace closed, you will feel relieved that this gentle man happens to be on your path. He will take you on a fun tuk tuk ride to another temple which will probably be very nice, increasing your level of trust. In this temple you will ‘accidentally’ meet another ‘honorable’ man who will welcome you and ask if you heard about this great government promotion (called Thai Gem Expo or similar names), which allows tourists to buy duty free gems and stones at very low cost. Now here is how the trick works for him.
1) He will stop at an ‘Authorized’ TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) agency just in case you would like to take advantage for those amazing travel deals that are just ending today. What a chance! Of course, the agency is in no way connected to the TAT, and the deal doesn’t end today… it’s not even a deal since you probably will pay more than in any other agency.
2) He will stop at the above mentioned jewel shop where someone will show you some beautiful stones, maybe even real ones. But because the offer is duty free, the gems you are buying will have to be shipped directly to your home address. The stones will really arrive, but the market value of what you will get will be ridiculously low. From this moment onward, the friendly smiling guy will become increasling pushy, trying by any means to make you buy tickets or packages until you do, then suddenly will vanish while you are visiting the next temple. How to recognize it: While it is very normal for people to help you when you do need help, it is very suspicious when someone offers you help when you don’t need it. A friendly unknown Thai guy speaking English a little too well, especially near a tourist area is usually a pro. He often carries a map and an umbrella because it’s hot for him to be out there all day long
Similar to the Grand Palace scam, but in a more straight forward manner: Tuk Tuks parked in front of landmarks, hotels, shopping malls and other tourist places ask for a ludicrous fare for a short distance and/or serve you the usual, “Can you please help me get free gasoline by just stopping few minutes at the gem shop? You don’t even have to buy something, you can just look around and leave.” Because you are a very nice person, you won’t mind, just to do your random act of kindness for the day. Most people end up buying something and in the best case the driver will get his kick back, in the worst case you will buy a superb piece of colored glass. How to recognize it: Avoid Tuk Tuks parked near malls and hotels or decline any stop on the way to your destination.
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