THAILAND ADVENTURE TOUR
Tour at a Glance
|BANGKOK||1 - 2|
|KANCHANABURI||2 - 3|
|BANGKOK||3 - 8|
|Transfer||Suvarnabhumi Airport [BKK]||Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok|
|Transfer||Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok||The FloatHouse River Kwai|
|Transfer||The FloatHouse River Kwai||Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok|
|Transfer||Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok||Suvarnabhumi Airport [BKK]|
Fondly known as ‘the land of smiles’, Thailand is commonly associated with gorgeous golden sand, palm-lined beaches, warm aquamarine waters, glorious temples and verdant jungle-clad mountains. With sixteen million foreigners flying into the country each year, Thailand is the primary travel hub of Southeast Asia, offering a diverse range attractions and activities to suit all tastes and budgets. Whether exploring the teeming metropolis of Bangkok, relaxing on the tropical beaches of the southern islands, scuba diving in the underwater wonderland off the coast of Koh Tao, jungle trekking in the North, or discovering the ancient cities of Chiang Mai, Thailand is filled with attractions to satisfy any interest.
BANKING AND CURRENCY
Baht (THB; symbol ฿) = 100 satang. Notes are in denominations of ฿1,000, 500, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of ฿10, 5, 2 and 1, and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 satang.
The import and export of local currency is limited to ฿50,000. The import and export of foreign currency is unlimited, but amounts over US$20,000 must be declared.
Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks (which have the best rates), hotels (which charge high commissions) and bureaux de changes can be found in larger towns (generally open 0800-2000). Outside large towns and tourist areas, high value notes may be difficult to exchange, so visitors are advised to carry small change.
Banking hours: Mon-Fri 0830-1530.
American Express, MasterCard and Visa credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are found in all major cities and almost all provincial banks.
Travellers cheques are accepted by almost all banks and large hotels and shops. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller’s cheques in US Dollars, Euros or Pounds Sterling.
TRAVEL, TRANSPORT AND GETTING AROUND
Thai Airways International (TG) (www.thaiairways.com) runs services to all major towns, a total of 12 domestic destinations including Phuket and Chiang Mai. Bangkok Airways (PG) (www.bangkokair.com) flies several additional routes including Ko Samui. Discounts are available during off-peak seasons and during special promotional periods. Orient Thai Airlines, formerly known as One-Two-Go Airlines (www.flyorientthai.com) and Nok Air (www.nokair.co.th) also offer domestic flights.
Roads in Thailand range from multi-lane freeways around Bangkok to tiny lanes known as sois. Popular routes in the provinces are often four lanes.There is a reasonable road network comprising many highways, which are designated by numbers, and 52,000km (32,300 miles) of national and provincial roads. All major roads are paved.
Car hire services are available in all main towns and cities from both international and local companies. The minimum age for driving in Thailand is 18 years and the wearing of seat belts is compulsory. The speed limit is 50kph (31mph) to 60kph (35mph) in towns and cities and 90 to 120kph (52 to 74mph) on expressways and country roads. A national licence and International Driving Permit (IDP) are required. IDPs are valid for three months, after which a Thai driving licence is required. Cars are driven on the left side of the road in Thailand.
Taxis are easy to find and cheap to use in Bangkok. In other cities, such as Chiang Mai, local transport such as tuk tuks are much cheaper and more common.
Bike hire is available at most tourist locations throughout the country but, due to the erratic nature of driving standards and the heavy traffic, caution must be observed. It is however an excellent form of transport for those wishing to travel the quieter areas of the country.
There are many intercity bus services, which range from uncomfortable and crowded buses to luxury, air conditioned coaches. Prices are quite cheap but the appalling traffic in some areas of Thailand makes travelling by bus quite slow.
Conventional bus services in Bangkok are operated by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority, but there are also extensive private minibus operations. Premium fares are charged for air-conditioned (cream and blue buses) and express buses. The ordinary buses are cream and red or white and blue and charge a flat rate regardless of distance travelled. Fares are generally low and are collected by conductors.
In Bangkok, taxis displaying the TAXI-METER sign are metered. Samlors or tuk-tuks are three-wheeled taxis without a meter; the fare must be negotiated before the journey commences. These are cheaper than taxis but are only suitable for short distances.
There are express, rapid and ordinary motorboat services operated by the Chao Phraya Express Boat on the Chao Phraya River between Nonthaburi pier to the north of Bangkok to Rajburana pier in southern Bangkok. The express boats, marked with yellow, blue or green and yellow flags, are more expensive than the rapid orange-flag-flying boats. The ordinary flagless boats are the cheapest.
The Skytrain (BTS), an elevated mass transit system in Bangkok, runs from 0600-2400. The Metro runs from Hualamphong to Bang Sue. Trains leave every five to nine minutes between 0600 and 2400.
Chiang Mai public transport is limited to red songtaew (minibuses), tuk-tuks, rickshaws and distinctive yellow metered taxis mainly operating from the airport. There is now a limited bus service in operation.
The excellent railway network extends over 4,600km (2,860 miles), linking all major towns with the exception of Phuket. It is run by State Railways of Thailand (tel: 1690; www.railway.co.th; online booking: www.thairailticket.com). There are four main routes to the northern, eastern, southern and northeastern regions, and also a western line serving Thon Buri, River Kwai Bridge and Nam Tok.
There are several daily services on each route, with air-conditioned sleeping and restaurant cars on the principal trains. The journeys are leisurely and comfortable, and travelling by train is certainly one of the best ways to get around the country. The Southern Line Express stops at Surat Thani for those who wish to continue by bus and ferry to the islands off the east coast. Most railway timetables are published in English.
Ferry services operate between the mainland and several islands including Surat Thani to Ko Samui, Phuket to Phi Phi, Pattaya to Ko Samet and Trat to Ko Chang, and can be booked in person at the dock. Strong competition on all of the major routes ensures that fares are kept low. Reduced services operate during the monsoon season from May through to October along the east coast and Andaman coast, and from November until January on the Gulf coast. The more remote spots become inaccessible during these periods.
FOOD, DRINK AND CUISINE ADVICE
Use only bottled or boiled water for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice. Unpasteurised milk should also be boiled, although pasteurised or homogenised milk is available. Tinned or powdered milk is safe as long as it is reconstituted with sterile water. Beware of dairy products that may have been made with unboiled milk. Stick to meat and fish that have been well cooked, preferably served hot, but not reheated. Avoid raw vegetables and unpeeled fruit.
Thai food is traditionally fairly hot and spicy, but most tourist restaurants tend to tone down the heat for the more fragile Western palate. Most Thai food is prepared with fresh ingredients such as lemon grass and coriander and rice is commonly eaten with most meals. Popular fruits are papaya, jackfruit, mangosteens, rambutans, pomelos (similar to grapefruits) and, above all, durians, which farangs (foreigners) either love or hate. The thorny fruits have a rather malodorous scent which has even resulted in many hotels banning them from their premises.
Excellent food can be found at the stalls of the many street vendors around the country as well as top-notch eateries. There are also many Asian and European restaurants throughout the major cities and smaller towns.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
The weather in Thailand is generally very hot and humid, particularly between March and May. The monsoon season runs from June to October, when the climate is still hot and humid with torrential rains. The best time for travelling is November to February (cool season), although the southern islands are best from June to September.
CLOTHING AND DRESS RECOMMENDATIONS
Lightweight cotton or linen clothing and lightweight rainwear are advised year round. A bathing suit, sunscreen, sunhat and beach wear are essential. A good pair of walking shoes is recommended.
ELECTRICITY AND PLUG STANDARDS
Electricity in Thailand is 220 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. If you travel to Thailand with a device that does not accept 220 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. Outlets in Thailand generally accept 2 types of plug: type A and Type C. Plug adapters are available in Thailand but it is advisable to buy one before you leave home to avoid the hassle of trying to find one when you arrive.