Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia with coasts on the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. It borders Myanmar to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the west and Malaysia to the south.
With great food, a tropical climate, fascinating culture and, hey, great beaches, Thailand is a magnet for travelers the world over.
Thailand is made up of 76 provinces, but may be conveniently divided into five geographic and cultural regions.
* The Central Plains — Bangkok, highlands and historic Thailand.
* The North — Chiang Mai, hill tribes, and the Golden Triangle.
* Isaan — The great undeveloped Northeast. Get off the beaten track and discover backcountry Thailand and some magnificent Khmer ruins.
* The East — Beaches and islands on the northern Gulf of Thailand coast, within easy reach of Bangkok And, oh yes, Pattaya.
* The South and Islands — Hundreds of kilometers of coastline on both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, with Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Krabi and many more of Thailand’s famous beach spots.
Thailand is the most popular tourist destination in South-East Asia, and for a reason. Exotic yet safe and largely hassle-free, cheap yet equipped with every modern amenity you need, there is something for every interest and every price bracket, from beachfront backpacker bungalows to some of the best luxury hotels in the world. And despite the heavy flow of tourism, Thailand retains its quintessential Thainess, with a culture and history all its own and a carefree people famed for their smiles and their fun-seeking sanuk lifestyle.
This is not to say that Thailand doesn’t have its downsides, including the considerable growing pains of an economy where an agricultural laborer is lucky to earn $1 per day while the nouveau riche cruise past in their BMWs, and a highly visible sex tourism industry. Bangkok, the capital, is notorious for its traffic jams and rampant development has wrecked much of once-beautiful Pattaya and Phuket. In heavily touristed areas, some lowlifes have made scamming tourists into an art form, but in Thailand as anywhere the old adage is true — if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
A) Countries/territories that do not require a visa for stay up to 90 days:- Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and South Korea.
(B) Countries/territories that do not require a visa for stay up to 30 days: (30 days when entering by air; by land border only 14 days)- Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Laos, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Monaco, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.
(C) Countries/territories that do not require a visa for stay up to 14 days or others (if indicated):- Cambodia, Ukraine.
Those with passports from countries not widely known, including European city-states, or have problems with document forgery, should obtain a visa in advance from the nearest Thai embassy. This is true even if visa on arrival is technically permitted. There are reports of tourists being detained using valid passports not commonly presented in Thailand. In addition, ask for a business card from the person or embassy which granted the visa, so they may be contacted on arrival, if necessary. Anyone whose nationality does not have its own embassy in Bangkok, should find out which third country represents your interests there, along with local contact information.
Proof of onward transit:- long happily ignored by Thai immigration, has been known to be strictly applied in some instances (Indian passport holders beware). The requirement is for an international flight itinerary – NOT train, ferry, or other departure type.
Airlines, who have to pay for your return flight if Thai immigration doesn’t let you into the country, also check this and often will not let you board your flight for Thailand without it.) A print-out of an international e-ticket on a budget airline is sufficient to convince the enforcers, but those planning on continuing by land may have to get a little creative. Buying a fully refundable ticket and getting it refunded once in Thailand is also an option. Land crossings, on the other hand, are a very straightforward process and proof of onward journey is generally not required (Indian passport holders beware again… or anyone, if the border officials simply decide to uphold the bureaucracy).
Overstaying:- Overstaying in Thailand is possible with a 500 baht fine per day. Earlier it was fairly simple to avoid overstaying by doing a visa run to a neighbouring country overland or via a cheap flight, but since 12 August 2014 this will not be possible according to latest developments.
Stricter regulations introduced on 22 July 2014 now impose harsher penalties as a means of curbing overstaying. As can be seen from the tables, a distinction is made regarding an overstayer’s circumstances. Overstayers presenting themselves to immigration officials at an airport or other border control are subject to the regulations in the first table.
In all other circumstances, overstayers will incur the much harsher penalties of being banned from re-entering Thailand for at least five years even if they overstay by just one or two days.
For example, an overstayer through no fault of their own is involved in an accident, or becomes involved in an altercation where the police are called. The first thing the police will want to see is your passport. Once it becomes apparent that you’ve overstayed your welcome, you’re likely to be deported and banned from re-entering the kingdom for either five or ten years.
Thailand is largely tropical, so it’s hot and humid all year around with temperatures in the 28-35°C range (82-95°F), a degree of relief provided only in the mountains in the far north of Thailand. The careful observer will, however, note three seasons:
Cool: From November to the end of February, it doesn’t rain much and temperatures are at their lowest, although you will barely notice the difference in the south and will only need to pack a sweater if hiking in the northern mountains, where temperatures can fall as low as 5°C. This is the most popular time to visit and, especially around Christmas and New Year’s or at Chinese New Year a few weeks later, finding flights and accommodation can be expensive and difficult.
Hot: From March to June, Thailand swelters in temperatures as high as 40°C (104°F). Pleasant enough when sitting on the beach with a drink in hand, but not the best time of year to go temple-tramping in Bangkok.
Rainy: From July to October, although it only really gets under way in September, tropical monsoons hit most of the country. This doesn’t mean it rains non-stop, but when it does it pours and flooding is not uncommon.
There are local deviations to these general patterns. In particular, the south-east coast of Thailand (including Ko Samui) has the rains reversed, with the peak season being May-October and the rainy off season in November-February.
How to Go
The main international airports in Thailand are at Bangkok and Phuket, and both are well-served by intercontinental flights. Practically every airline that flies to Asia also flies into Bangkok, this means there are plenty of services and the competition on the routes helps to keep the ticket prices down.
International airports are also located at Hat Yai, Krabi, Ko Samui and Chiang Mai, though these largely restricted to flights from other Southeast Asian countries. Kuala Lumpur and Singapore make excellent places to catch flights into these smaller Thai cities, meaning you can skip the ever-present touts and queues at Bangkok.
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.
Chartered flights from and to Thailand from international destinations are operated by Hi Flying Group. They fly to Bangkok, Phuket, Ko Samui, and Udon Thani.
Many low-cost carriers serve Thailand including [Nok Air], Thai Air Asia and Thai Lion Air. 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. The border crossing at Poipet remains the stuff of nightmares, however. The Cambodian side is merely slow. The Thai side is glacial: travellers queue (outdoors in the heat) to reach a queue (in the Immigration building) – typically two and one hours, respectively. An alternative is to head to Hatlek/ Cham Yeam towards Koh Kong; that crossing is quiet and honest with good communication links.
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 LAK22,000 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 (Padang Besar) and Sadao (Bukit Kayu Hitam) in Songkhla province, Betong (Pengkalan Hulu) in Yala province, and Sungai Kolok (Rantau Panjang) in Narathiwat province. There are regular buses from Singapore to the southern hub of Hat Yai.
If you are driving, then depending on whether your starting point is Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Penang, you can expect to make it to Hat Yai, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Krabi/Phuket/Ko Samui respectively on the same day. The key to this is leaving *EARLY* (7 a.m.) since border crossing formalities can take up to 2.5 hours, particularly on holiday weekends. The following is a guide to border crossing procedures at the Bukit Kayu Hitam/Sadao border crossing point.
What you will need:
1) Passports with at least six months validity
2) Original car registration document – if you are in Malaysia and you have a car on loan, you can go to your financing bank and request the original for the trip. They will ask you to write a letter requesting it and then hand it over to you.
3) Visa for Thailand if your nationality requires it (Malaysians and Singaporeans do not need one). Even if you are not eligible for visa-free entry, if you are crossing at the Bukit Kayu Hitam / Sadao border crossing, you can obtain a visa on arrival at the border if you are from one of the eligible countries.
4) 3rd party liability coverage car insurance for Thailand – Malaysian and Singaporean car insurance does NOT extend to the territory of Thailand. The minumum legal coverage for Thailand is easily purchased in the Malaysian town of Changlun right before the border. Stop at any one of the numerous shops that have signs advertising ‘Insurans’. 3rd party coverage can be bought for a minimum of MYR 17 (~SGD 6.3) which covers you for 9 days. Longer term coverage can be purchased as well if you plan on making multiple trips during a year. However, since this insurance does not cover damages to your own vehicle, you should call your insurance company and ask them for an extension of 1st party coverage to Thailand, although this is not legally required. Most insurance companies will do this on a per-trip basis. Charges may vary according to your insurance company. When you buy car insurance, many will also sell you Thai arrival / departure cards for a nominal fee of MYR 2 (SGD 0.75) for each. While these are freely available at the border, it will save you some time and hassle getting these here. The insurance agent will also fill them in for you!
Procedure for crossing:
1) Follow the North-South highway to its terminus at Bukit Kayu Hitam. Continue straight towards the Thailand border.
2) You will first pass through a Malaysian immigration checkpoint. You do not need to get out of your car here, regardless of nationality. Just drive up to the window and hand over the passports for yourself and all passengers in the car as well the car registration document. Once they are scanned / stamped and handed back to you, continue driving ahead.
3) The next checkpoint is a Malaysian customs checkpoint, but there is a gap of about a kilometer between the Malaysian immigration and Malaysian customs checkpoints. In this gap, on the left, there is a duty-free shopping complex. It might be worth stopping here on the way back since goods here are somewhat cheaper than at Malaysian supermarkets and no GST is charged here. Again, at the Malaysian customs checkpoint, you do not need to get down from the vehicle. Just drive up to the window and hand over your documents. Assuming that you have no contraband and nothing to declare, you will be waved through. Now this part is a bit tricky …
4) Immediately after the Malaysian customs checkpoint, you will pass a border stone indicating that you are now in Thailand. To your left, there will be a large parking lot. Go ahead and park your vehicle there and come outside with your documents (Passports, car registration and car insurance).
5) Stand in the Immigration and Borderpass lines to clear immigration. You can *only* stand in these lines if you are of Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai, or other nationality that does not require a visa for entry to Thailand. If you require a visa on arrival or if you have a stamped visa from the Thai embassy, you must go into the office on the left to get your immigration stamp. However, since the queues at the Immigration and Borderpass lines are longer than the crowd inside the office, you’ll probably finish your immigration formalities faster than if you were of a nationality that does not need a visa for entry to Thailand!
6) Once the immigration stamp has been provided, take your documents to the Customs window (right in front of the Immigration and Borderpass windows). Hand over your passport and car registration (and insurance, if they ask for it) to the Customs agent and they will provide you with a temporary import permit for your vehicle. This import permit is valid for ONE MONTH and you must have this permit in order to take your vehicle out of Thailand, so protect it as carefully as you would your passport. The import permit has some scary looking words in it, such that you will pay a fine of THB 1,000 per day for every day beyond the expiry of this import permit for a maximum of 10 days, and then THB 1,450,000 if you keep your vehicle in Thailand beyond that! Don’t worry about those scary words, as long as you don’t overstay your visa and leave within 30 days with your vehicle, you will face no problems whatsoever. The temporary import permit is provided freely for no charge.
7) Once you have cleared immigration formalities and collected your vehicle import permit, walk back behind these booths you just passed to the parking lot. Collect your car now and then drive past those very same booths. You may or may not get stopped by a Thai officer for documents checking, so it is imperative that you complete the procedures mentioned above. It would be very easy to drive into Thailand without either getting an immigration stamp or a vehicle import permit, which may complicate matters for you upon your exit.
8) Set your clocks back an hour since Thailand time is one hour behind Malaysia / Singapore time. Drive into Sadao and further into Thailand! Enjoy your stay and drive safely!
Mae Sai/Tachileik – foreigners can access this crossing from either side, and enter and/or exit either country here; onward travel restrictions: since Oct 2009, onward travel by land to Kengtung is only possible if accompanied by an official guide (1,000 baht/day + expenses), exiting Myanmar at Tachilek is only possible for those who entered at this border crossing and were issued a 14-day entry permit; to get to Tachileik or Kengtung from the rest of Myanmar, a domestic flight must be taken (eg from Heho).
Mae Sot/Myawaddy – This border crossing was closed in July 2010 and re-opened on 5 December 2011. When open, foreigners can only access this crossing from the Thai side; neither onward travel into Myanmar (ie beyond the Burmese border town of Myawaddy) nor overnight stays are possible. No visa is needed; instead there’s an entry stamp fee: USD10 if paid in dollars, 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 in dollars, more (500 baht) if paid with Thai currency. However, as of November 25, 2008, this crossing is temporarily closed.
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 in dollars, 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, 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 USD1000 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 rail terminals just across the border at Nong Khai (across the river from Vientiane) and Aranyaprathet (for Poipet, on the road to Siem Reap). A link across the Mekong to Laos opened in March 2009, but service to Cambodia remains on the drawing board.
There are no rail services to Myanmar, but the Thai part of the infamous Burma Death Railway is still operating near Kanchanaburi.
It is now possible in high-season (Nov-May) to island-hop using ferries from Phuket all the way to Indonesia. This can now be done without ever touching the mainland, Phuket (Thailand) to Padang (Indonesia).
Ayutthaya Ban Phe Bangkok Buriram Cha-Am Chiang Dao Chiang Khong Chiang Mai Chiang Rai Chumphon Don Sak Hatyai Hua Hin Hua Tan Taew Kanchanaburi Khanom Khao Lak Khao Sok Khon Kaen Koh Chang Koh Kho Khao Koh Lanta Koh Lipe Koh Phangan Koh Phi Phi Koh Samet Koh Samui Koh Tao Koh Yao Krabi Krabi Ao Nang Loei Mukdahan Nakhon Phanom Nakhon Ratchasima Nakhon Sawan Nan Pai Pak Chong Pattaya Phang Nga Phatthalung Phetchaburi Phitsanulok Phuket Phuket Karon Beach Phuket Patong Beach Phuket Rawai Beach Phuket Town Prachuap Khiri Khan Ranong Ratchaburi Rayong Samut Songkhram Samuthprakarn Satun Sukhothai Suratthani Ubon Ratchathani Udon Thani
Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0,