"Whatever you're looking for in a destination Thailand has it all…"
"Majestic palaces, ancient culture, breathtaking jungles, exotic wildlife, mouthwatering cuisine and some of the world's most perfect beaches all presented to you with the smiles and boundless enthusiasm of the Thai people. Picture yourself in blissful isolation on a floating raft house watching the sunset and listening to howler monkeys in the surrounding jungle. Imagine palaces and temples that take your breath away or visualise a spectacular underwater kingdom whilst snorkeling in crystal clear waters because it's all waiting for you here… But above all Thailand offers you the opportunity of adventure and the chance to discover something new – even if you've been before!"
Peter Jenkins, Traveller
Official Language: Thai
Religions: Predominantly Buddhist (95%) also Muslim (4%) and Hindu/Christian (1%).
Voltage: 220 volts, sockets are usually two pronged flat pin (i.e. America style but without the earth wire) or two pronged round pin used in Europe.
Most nationalities can obtain a free Thai visa valid for 30 days on arrival by air, however we recommend that you check the rules for your nationality with your local Thai Embassy or Consulate.
PLEASE NOTE: From December 2008 if you are arriving overland and staying in Thailand for more than 15 days you will need to get your visa in advance as you will be unable to obtain the 30 day visa at the land border.
As this is effective immediately we recognise that not all travellers will have had time to obtain a visa before their departure for Thailand. If you are arriving into Thailand overland, are staying for more than 15 days, and have not been able to get a visa before arrival, please let your tour leader know as soon as possible in order that they may assist you in extending your visa.
If the visa application form requires a contact address in the destination, please give either your meeting point hotel or the address of our local contact (which you will find in the Thailand Country Dossier).
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of the correct visas for your holiday and onward travel. The Imaginative Traveller cannot accept responsibility for anyone who is refused entry to a country because they lack the correct documentation.
The monetary unit in Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB or Bt). Approximate exchange rates (as at March 2009) are as follows:
1 Pound Sterling: 50.00 THB
1 US Dollar: 36 THB
1 Euro: 46 THB
At present there is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency that a visitor may bring into Thailand.
XE.com is a useful site for currency conversion.
Bank and exchange counters are everywhere in Thai cities and towns. Larger hotels will also exchange cash and travellers cheques. We recommend that you take either US$ or GB£ currency and travellers cheques, however it is possible to exchange other major currencies (please note Scottish Pounds are not recognised outside of the UK). Credit Card advances are possible at banks and there are lots of ATM’s. Credit Cards can be used in larger restaurants (in cities) and for purchases in stores. In all cases you should never let your credit card out of your sight.
The Pre-Departure Information contains general information about the things you will need to consider when budgeting for your holiday. Below are some specific notes relevant to our tours in Thailand.
Although our Traveller trips include entrance fees for all sites specified in your itinerary there are some additional sites that you may like to visit. Adventurer trips do not include any entrance fees. On average entrance fees in Thailand vary between US$0.40 and US$4.50. Details of some popular entrance fees are as follows:
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: Remember to bring your student card if you have one or are entitled to one as you may be able to get discounts on certain entrance fees, though the actual policy on this varies from site to site.
All of our itineraries include some free time, the amount of which usually depends on the style of tour you are travelling on (Adventurer trips generally have more than Traveller). If you wish to take optional excursions your Tour Leader will be able to advise you of the possibilities in each area.
Approximate costs (per person unless otherwise stated) for popular excursions and activities are shown below:
You will find the meal plan for your tour clearly indicated in the brochure and on your Trip Dossier. Breakfast is provided each day on most tours, and many tours also include a number of dinners. Lunches are rarely included to give you more freedom. Approximate costs for meals and snacks not included are shown below:
For a guide to the type of food you will find in Thailand see the Local Food & Drink section of this dossier.
Approximate costs for drinks bought in a shop in the street are shown below. Note: Prices in restaurants, hotels, and cruise boats can be as much as double those specified.
It is not recommended that you drink the local tap water in Thailand. However bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and fruit juices are widely available throughout the region.
In Thailand and particularly Bangkok taxis are the most effective way of getting around town. Taxis are metered and you should always insist on the driver using the meter. They are also air-conditioned and very comfortable.
Tuk-tuks or Samlors are three-wheeled motorcycle taxis used in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. They are a great experience but travellers should be wary of tuk-tuk drivers offering free tours or extremely cheap rides, they will generally end up taking you to a gem shop or tailors! The fare should be worked out before you jump on board however as little as US$0.70 will get you an average local journey.
Express boats, river taxis and canal taxis are a very effective and cheap way (they often only cost a few cents per journey) of covering a longer distance in Bangkok either by going along or across the Chao Praya River. Most express boats will run you between city jetties which link up with the Skytrain to take you into the heart of the city. Small ferries will take you across the river and low fast Klong Boats will whisk you up the canals of Bangkok deep into the heart of the city.
The BTM or Skytrain is an elevated light rail system that traverses Bangkok’s most notorious traffic-jam black spots. The fare depends on how many sections you wish to ride - however this is usually less than US$1.
Outside of the cities public buses or the more popular songthaews (pick-up trucks) are the best way to get around. Usually songthaews have a roof and bench seats along each side. These are very effective for getting to out of the way places with some independence. Prices vary as to your destination, period of time and number of passengers and you should generally negotiate a price before boarding.
The Pre-Departure Information that you will receive once you have booked your tour contains a comprehensive list of items that you should consider bringing with you. There are certain items of equipment (e.g. sleeping bags, towels) that you will need on some tours and not on others. Please note that you do not need to bring a mosquito net on any of our tours in Thailand although you should protect yourself with a good mosquito repellent spray. Nets may be required for trips which include trekking in northern Thailand however these can be hired locally. Check your Trip Dossier for any special requirements.
As a general guideline clothing should be lightweight, loose fitting, hard wearing and easily washed. Thailand has a tropical climate and therefore the weather is generally warm to hot all year round. However the weather in the north and particularly in the hilltribe areas can become quite cool at night especially between December and February. You will generally find it is better to have several thin layers rather than one thick layer as it gives you more flexibility and warmth. A fleece can be invaluable and double as a pillow.
You should bear in mind that Thailand has conservative attitudes towards dress, particularly in remote areas. Most Thais always look neat and clean, and scruffiness not only looks out of place but is also considered an insult. Women, and also to a certain extent men, will find that the way they dress will often determine the degree of respect they receive from both men and women. The issue is not nearly of such importance in ‘touristy’ areas, such as the coastal areas and beaches, where you can be just about as casual as you like.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: Make sure you bring lots of clothing that covers shoulders and knees (for time away from the beach) and also at least one outfit which covers your legs to ankles and your arms past the elbows. A sarong is an invaluable item to carry as it can be used to instantly cover any exposed areas (i.e. head, legs) and doubles as a great sleepsheet. It also doesn’t go amiss to bring along a set of smart/casual clothes for the occasional night out.
In certain areas and religious sites, such as temples or wats, your Tour Leader may ask you to dress conservatively. Out of respect for local values, we ask that you follow your Tour Leader’s advice at all times.
Whilst few of our tours can be described as physically demanding you will find all activities more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit and active.
Wherever you use a western or squat style toilet remember to place your toilet paper in the rubbish bin provided – DO NOT flush it down the toilet as this may block the sewerage system. You may also want to carry your own toilet paper as not all toilets will supply it.
We encourage travellers to experience religious festivals and visit temples and shrines but ask that you follow religious rules such as removing your shoes, showing reverence and respect to monks and refraining from taking photographs at certain sites. Your Tour Leader will be on hand to advise you of local sensitivities.
In most cases your Tour Leader will brief you on etiquette accordingly; however there are a couple of good points which are worth noting;
Patting someone (even a child) on the head is considered to be rude and insulting and open displays of affection (such as kissing and holding hands) are generally not acceptable even though you will see many men holding hands (this is a sign of friendship rather than sexuality). Anger, such as losing your temper and yelling will lead to a loss of respect and is highly unlikely to get you what you want!
It is very important that you remove your shoes if you are visiting someone's house and you should avoid pointing the soles of your feet at anyone at all times. This may seem unlikely to happen but you could inadvertently do this while laying down or sitting with your feet up.
The monarchy is held in very high esteem and you should remember to show absolute respect to the King of Thailand and never laugh or joke about him in any company.
Bargaining is a way of life in much of South East Asia. In Thailand shops don't have fixed prices so the shop keeper will start with a high price which you are then expected to bargain down until you reach a fair price (which can be anything from 25-75% less than the shopkeepers original price). Bargaining should always be relaxed and can be a lot of fun but you should remember that it is considered disrespectful to agree a price but then walk away.
Gemstone sellers (particularly those on the street or beach or in shops that you have been taken to) are generally part of a very large scam! You should not believe what anybody tells you on the street about Government Auctions, major discounts and promises of great returns on your investment no matter how convincing. These are all scams! Sometimes taxi drivers or, more often, Tuk Tuk drivers offer travellers free rides to major sites as part of a 'government scheme', however if you accept the ride you will almost certainly end up in a gem shop and not at the Grand Palace as you wanted!
Upon arrival at Suvarnabhumi Airport, please look for our representative who will be holding an Imaginative Traveller sign or a sign with your name on it. He should be waiting for you in the area around Exit Gate C.
The Meeting Point for your tour should be clearly marked on your travel vouchers. A complete list of all meeting point hotels can also be found at www.imaginative-traveller.com/ downloads.
From Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) It is a relatively simple matter to make your own way to the meeting point if you are not being transferred. Once you have cleared Customs & Immigration walk to the lower level to the public taxi stand. You will need to pay the driver approx. US$1.20 at the hotel on your arrival after telling the staff where you want to go (Banglampoo for Adventurer tours and Pinklao for Traveller tours) plus US$8 for the taxi. There are two tollways en route and they are approx US$ 0.70 and US$1.10.
On entering Thailand all visitors must complete an entry/exit card. The exit section will be returned to you and this should be kept safe for presentation to Customs and Immigration upon departure.
Most people find that Thailand is a very friendly and hospitable country and feel quite comfortable wandering around alone during the day. However, as with any country you are not familiar with (and in particular in large cities such as Bangkok), it is recommended that you exercise more caution at night and generally take taxis rather than walk especially if you are a lone female. You should also be aware of strangers standing near you or behind you at ATMs.
Your Tour Leader's role is to ensure all aspects of the trip run smoothly. He/she will share their local knowledge, advise on how to fill your free time and co-ordinate the day to day running of the tour – although occasionally he/she may need your understanding if things do not go according to plan. If you have any problems on the tour, please let your Tour Leader know so that steps can be taken to put it right. Tour Leaders are supported by our regionally based office staff and, in most cases, a locally based manager.
In Thailand we also use the services of licensed guides at sights of particular historical interest such as the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Keow in Bangkok.
Please note that some styles of trip, such as Imaginative Escapes or Imaginative Honeymoons, do not have a Tour Leader. However, there will be representatives on hand who will be able to assist you in arranging any excursions that you wish you take.
Our main criterion for choosing hotels is cleanliness. On Adventurer tours hotels are simple, but comfortable. Bathroom facilities may sometimes be shared and rooms may sometimes be multi share rather than twin. Hotels on Traveller tours almost always have private bathrooms, air conditioning and bar / restaurant facilities. Occasionally in Thailand it may be necessary to share a double-bed with another group member, for this reason we recommend that you bring a lightweight sleepsheet. Please also bear in mind that hotels can sometimes suffer from minor problems and technical difficulties.
At each hotel your Tour Leader will try to organise the rooming arrangements to suit everyone's requirements. If you are travelling alone you will be allocated a room with another group member of the same sex (unless you have paid a single supplement*). If you are travelling as a couple please note that we cannot guarantee the availability of double beds.
There are never any shortages of laundries in South East Asia, the side streets of most towns and cities are teeming with them, generally offering their services for a very cheap price! A laundry service is available in most of the hotels and guesthouses we use.
Thai cuisine has established itself as one of the worlds finest and has therefore become somewhat of an international favourite. It has a very distinctive style, combining individual characteristics with influences from Chinese, Lao, Malay, and even Indian cuisine but contrary to popular belief, it is not always hot and spicy. Freshness is of paramount importance in Thai cooking, so ingredients are bought fresh from the local market on a daily basis.
Meals usually include rice or noodles as staples along with a vast array of vegetables, seafood, or meats like chicken, duck, beef, and pork. You’ll also find that fish sauce, chopped red chillies and sweet chilli sauce condiments accompany almost every meal. Those who like a bit of a 'kick' to their food will love dishes like tom yum (prawn) soup, green and red curries with coconut milk and spicy green papaya salad (a speciality of the north) or Pak Bung a vegetable dish that explodes in a ball of flame when thrown into a hot wok.
There are also plenty of mild but flavoursome dishes such as yellow curry, meat and seafood dishes flavoured with ginger and garlic or pad thai, a popular fried noodle dish with vegetables, meat or seafood, and crushed peanuts. The Thais also like to snack a lot, so food stalls can be found everywhere selling delicacies like satay, barbecued meats and seafood, deep fried spring rolls, steamed dumplings and noodle soup.
Tea, similar to Chinese green tea, is one of the most common drinks in Thailand. Instant coffee is also easy to find. If you order coffee with milk you will invariably be given powdered coffee creamer. At some stalls and restaurants coffee is served with a small glass of green tea.
Well known brands of spirits are imported and are available in many hotel bars (although they are quite expensive). The most common locally produced spirit is Mekhong - cane whiskey - which many foreigners find too sweet. Light lager style beer is widely available Singha being the most well known local brand.
Vegetarians should not have any difficulty in finding a great selection of food in Thailand as there is a strong Buddhist influence and Chinese, Malay and Indian vegetarian dishes abound.
If you have food allergies or preferences, please make them known to your Tour Leader who will do their best to ensure that your requirements are met.
Please note: Unfortunately we can give no guarantee that special requirements can always be met.
Internet cafes can now be found everywhere in Thailand. The cost for an hour is approx US$0.70
A 3 minute call (to the UK) will cost approx. US$12 from a hotel. A US$5 international phone card can be used to make a 10 minute phone call to the UK and overseas from phone booths which are usually located outside convenience stores or near Post Offices.
The postal service is good and stamps are available everywhere. An overseas stamp will cost approx US$0.50 for most destinations.
Photo shops are in abundance and film widely available. You can buy memory cards easily in Bangkok or Chiang Mai and there are photo shops who will burn your card onto a CD.
Thailand is situated between the tropics, and therefore experiences warm/hot weather all year round. The northern half of the country has a tropical monsoon climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. The dry season lasts from November until April and the wet season stretches from May to October.
Additionally it’s important to note that in the mountainous areas of the far north, temperatures can drop as low as 7 degrees Celsius at night between December and February, so warm clothing is required if you are travelling to hilltribe areas at this time. Conversely, the southern part of Thailand has an equatorial climate, is never cool and experiences rainfall (usually in short, heavy showers) throughout the year. The heaviest rainfall occurs on the eastern side from November until April and on the western side from May to October.
The following shows average daytime temperatures (in Degrees Celsius):
|City / Temp||Jan||Feb||Mar||Apr||May||Jun||July||Aug||Sep||Oct||Nov||Dec|
Festivals & Events
As Thai is a tonal language (with five different tones – mid, high, low, rising & falling), the particular tone used determines the meaning of a word. As the same word can mean many different things depending on the tone it is a difficult language to grasp but the locals will certainly appreciate your efforts!
The following words and phrases are spelled phonetically to help you with pronunciation.
Note: Thais often use the “polite particles” krup (when said by a male) and ka (when spoken by a female) at the end of their sentences.