Thailand is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Meantime (GMT) and does not observe daylight saving.
Standard voltage is 220 volts. Primary sockets generally require the 2 flat prong plugs (type A) and the 2 round pin plugs (type C). We recommend that you pack a universal travel adaptor. You will need a voltage converter and a plug adaptor in order to use U.S. appliances.
The official currency in Thailand is the Baht.
Euro, British Pounds, US Dollars and other major currencies can be exchanged at banks or or at any one on of the numerous exchange booths that line the streets of the big cities. You may also choose to purchase currency in advance, though its possibly not necessary as ATMs can be found everywhere with the exception of the hill tribe areas of Chiang Rai and if enroute between Chiang Rai and Chiang Khong border if crossing to Laos. It is not common to pay with a credit card at restaurants, cafes or shops for small purchases and if you do often there will be a surcharge applied or minimum charge required. It's advisable to request bank notes in smaller denominations, as it can sometimes be hard to get change from large notes and smaller notes are handy for smaller purchases and gratuities.
Traveller's Cheques are not recommended as they're often difficult to exchange and incur high fees.
You should seek medical advice before travelling to Thailand from your local health practitioner and ensure that you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations. As a guide Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Tetanus are strongly recommended. If travelling to remote areas, further vaccinations including TB, Hepatitis B, Rabies, Diphtheria and Japanese encephalitis may also be necessary.
Areas with Malaria: Rural only. Including forested areas that border Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia and Laos, and rural, forested areas in the districts of Phang Nga and Phuket. Malaria is not found in the cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Phang Nga and Phuket. The risk of contracting Malaria in Thailand is low.
May be present in some rivers and lakes and we recommend it best to avoid swimming in untested waterways.
The tap water in Thailand is not safe to drink, only drink bottled mineral water, which is readily available from shops, hotels and restaurants.
Thai food is world renowned and the country itself a food lovers’ paradise. Phat Thai, Green Curry, Som Dtam, Tom Yum Gai… almost certainly everyone has a favourite. Rice and noodles are used as a staple and underlying base for most dishes with various accompaniments, whether it be a broth containing vegetables and, or meat, stir-fry, curry or salad, providing flavour. Thai accompaniments strive to strike a balance between the ‘four flavours‘- sweet, sour, salt & hot. The balance of the four flavours varies from dish to dish to create a varied cuisine full of distinctive flavours – from their celebrated hot & sour soup – Tom Yum Goong, to the milder chicken, peanut & potato Massamum Curry originating in the Muslim South. Omnivores enjoy a plethora of choice and possibilities, though vegetarians need to take heed as often base flavourings often include fish sauce, shrimp paste or dried shrimps.
Thailand brews several beers; the best known is Singha, with Leo and Chang being less expensive and more popular with the locals . Imported beers, such as Heineken, are also widely available. Mekong and Sang Som are two of the more popular local ‘whiskeys’, even though the latter is more like rum (fermented from sugarcane). Fruit juices, freezes, milkshakes of all kinds and coconut water, iced and drunk directly from a fresh coconut are very popular with Thais and visitors alike. Freshly squeezed Thai sweet orange juice and chrysanthemum juice are other favourites. Thais often add salt to their fruit juices or have basil seeds added to in their iced fruit juice - an acquired taste that you might just learn to like.
One of Thailand's most characteristic drinks is Thai iced tea. Instantly identifiable thanks to its lurid orange colour, this is the side effect of adding ground tamarind seed (or, these days, artificial colour) during the curing process. The iced tea is always very strong and very sweet, and usually served with a dash of condensed milk. Coffee is also widely available, and like most of Southeast Asia is served with condensed milk and lots of sugar. The Starbucks phenomenon has also arrived in Thailand, though the local companies Black Canyon Coffee and S&P also offer good blends and a strong brew.
Offering a mix of contemporary and traditional, Thailand has a reputation for providing top quality items at low prices as well as having a notorious trade in ‘copies’ or fake goods. Prices in chain and department stores are fixed, however, in markets bargaining is expected. If bargaining, try first to become aware of what the going rate is so that your starting offer is not embarrassingly low. Once bargaining has started, there is an expectation that you intend to purchase the goods and are not just bargaining for ‘fun’.
Items for which Thailand is famous include Thai silk, tailored clothing, colourful hill-tribe artefacts and finely crafted silver jewellery. Even the smallest Thai town has a market offering fresh produce with larger ones selling everything from household items to crafts and artefacts. Bangkok itself has several famous markets, including the vast Chatuchak market held each weekend with more than 6000 stalls selling everything from seafood to second-hand jeans to antiques, textiles and food. Take the opportunity to visit the wonderfully aromatic stalls of the Pakklong Talad (Flower) market and visit any one of the many night markets including Khao San, Patpong and Sukhumvit.
Thailand’s visually stunning Loi Krathong festival is as fascinating as it is beautiful. Celebrated in all areas of Thailand on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, (normally in November), the festival is named after the floating lanterns, boats and ornaments that are set adrift onto rivers during the celebrations. Loi literally means ‘float’ in Thai. Krathongs are lotus-shaped vessels made of elaborated folded banana leaves or bread decorated with flowers, incense sticks, a coin for good luck and tea light candles.
For some, floating a Krathong, especially when lit, are meant to honour Buddha. For most Thais, it’s a way to thank the Hindu Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha, for her help in providing the most basic of all human necessities. The practise is also associated with creating good luck and ridding oneself of anger and negative thoughts. Some will cut their fingernails and hair and add them to the Krathong, to symbolise the letting go of the bad elements of one's self.
In Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of the former Lanna Kingdom, Loi Krathong coincides with the Lanna (northern Thai) festival known as ‘Yi Peng’ where a multitude of Lanna-style sky lanterns known in Thai as khom loi (literally 'floating lanterns') adorned with good luck wishes and prayer are released into the air where they resemble a colossal flocks of colourful jellyfish gracefully floating across the night sky. In Chiang Mai, Loi Krathong and Yi Peng are celebrated at the same time resulting in lights floating on the waters, lights hanging from houses, trees and temples and thousands of beautiful lanterns floating by in the sky.
You can join us in celebrating the Loi Krathong and Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai on our Yi Peng Lantern Festival tour - departing 20 November 2015 and 09 November 2016.