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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions

Vietnam Travel - Questions and Answers

Cambodia Travel - Question and Answers

Thailand Travel - Questions and Answers

Myanmar Travel - Questions and Answers

Laos Travel Questions and Answers

Vietnam Travel - Questions and Answers

How do I create a tailor made tour itinerary?

If you have no idea how to plan your Vietnam and Indochina tour, or if you have already had a plan and now you need a tour operator to help, please send us an email at info@holidaytoindochina.com. Your private travel consultant at holidaytoindochina.com will create a tailor made tour itinerary that meet your personal needs and budget.

 

How do I book the trip?

As soon as we receive you requests, we will reply at soonest time (within 0,5 - 23 hours) and send you the itinerary with best quote. You can make many changes as you want until the tour and price suit you. To start the booking, we will need your confirmation with some information such as; your full name(s) for booking the hotels, flights, or applying for Vietnam visa and your arrival/departure flight details for airport transfers. The more information you send us, the better arrangement we can make for your trip!

How do I pay for the trip?

After all arrangement we have made/booked/reserved, we will send you an email to confirm all services, and take notes if any changes, upgrade. We will need a deposit of 30% of the total tour cost. You can choose to pay by wire transfer or credit cards (online, please advise if you would like the other payment methods). The balance or the remaining, you can pay before your arrival (one week), or on arrival in cash, by credit cards.

Are there any hidden costs you do not mention?

You can check at your confirmed tour itinerary, what is included/excluded we mention clearly. For more information, please contact us at info@holidaytoindochina.com or ask your private travel consultant.

What about tipping when traveling in Vietnam and Indochina?

Generally, tipping is not compulsory. If you are satisfied with your guides, drivers, a small gratuity is an appropriate way in which to show appreciation to them. We suggest that you US $10-US $15 per day for guides and US $7-US $10 per day for drivers. Other specific tippings, please ask your tour guides when on tour.

 

When is the best time to travel Vietnam and Indochina?

There is no real best or worst time to travel Vietnam, with travel possible all year, but the seasons vary across the country and you should be prepared to encounter some rain whenever you decide to travel.

 

Hanoi
Summer in Hanoi runs from May to September and brings heat and humidity, with average temperatures reaching 32°C (90°F)  accompanied by refreshingly short bouts of heavy rain. These tropical downpours generally arrive in the afternoons, and despite being wet, summer months have the highest number of hours of sunshine. Winter is cooler and can bring fog and clouds but little rain, and the average temperature is 17°C (62°F). The best time to go is October and November, as days are not too hot with averages around 21°C (70°F) with less rain and plenty of sunshine.

 

Halong Bay
Halong Bay is often covered in mist, which reduces visibility but adds to the atmosphere. From March to May, skies over Halong Bay are usually clear and blue and temperatures are pleasant. During summer, from May to November, you can expect days to be warm and humid with refreshing afternoon showers.  Winter, from December to February, can be quite cold. The best time to travel is spring or autumn for the best chance of warm days and clear skies, perfect for cruising.

 

Beaches
If you plan to visit Vietnam for its beautiful beaches, deciding when to go depends on which beach you want to visit. Reaching all the way from Central to Southern Vietnam down the east coast, there are beaches for every season.

The central coastline around Danang and Hoi An is warm year-round with temperatures peaking at 38°C (100°F) in the height of summer (July and August) and around 24°C (75°F) in winter. The dry season lasts from February until July. Go towards the end of the dry season if you like it hot, or the beginning if you prefer milder temperatures. From August to November rainfall increases and water levels rise. Occasional typhoons hit during this season.

Beaches in the south boast warm temperatures year-round with highs around 30°C (86°F). Nha Trang is affected by monsoon season from September to January, when typhoons do occasionally hit they often cause torrential rain and long drizzly days. Phu Quoc and Mui Ne experience wet season from June to September, and while Mui Ne has a microclimate with less rain, it still experiences some light afternoon showers. Con Dao is hot and humid year-round, with a wet season from May to November. Afternoon showers are generally brief, while July through September can see heavy rain at night.

 

Hue
Near Hoi An in central Vietnam, Hue has a wet season from September to December with brief but very heavy rains in October and November which can cause flooding. January to August is dry season though afternoon showers are still common, with average temperatures rising to the mid-thirties in the middle of summer.

 

Central Highlands (Dalat)
Set in the mountains of central Vietnam, Dalat has pleasant temperature year-round which only vary by a few degrees month to month with minimum temperatures around 16°C (61°F) and maximums around 24°C (75°F). The green season is from May to November when the rainfall is heavier but the surrounding countryside is bursting with colour.

 

Saigon
Much closer to the equator, Saigon experiences consistently warm temperatures year-round, with balmy days averaging around 28°C (82°F). This tropical climate is marked by wet and dry season. From May to November, expect tropical downpours in the afternoon. Travel is rarely affected by the rain and everything is lush and green at this time.

 

Note:

The best time to visit Vietnam if you want to see the whole country is Spring and Autumn. The temperatures are more moderate and rainfall is lighter. In spring, March and April have the lowest rainfall across all destinations and temperatures are pleasant (though still cool in the far north).

Any time between November and April is a popular and busy time to travel to Vietnam, so bookings should be made well in advance.

Tet is the Vietnamese New Year celebration and falls in late January or early February. During this time, most Vietnamese take their holidays, so transport and accommodation options are often full and prices rise.

 

What is the time difference?

Before your Vietnam holiday, please note that Vietnam is twelve hours ahead of New York and seven hours ahead of London, one hour behind Perth and three hours behind Sydney.

What is Vietnam visa procedure?

Most visitors to Vietnam need a visa to enter the country. Visas are exempted for the citizens of the countries, which have signed a bilateral or unilateral visa exemption agreement with Vietnam, tourist visa may be valid for 15 to 30 days.

 

Visa exemption:

Vietnamese people that hold foreign passports and foreigners who are their husbands, wives and children are exempt from visa requirements to enter Vietnam and are allowed to stay for not more than 90 days. In order to be granted visa exemption certificates at Vietnamese representative offices abroad, overseas Vietnamese need conditions:

- Foreign-issued permanent residence certificate (PRC) with the validity of at least six months since the date of entrance. Visa exemption paper (VEP) is granted by Vietnamese appropriate authorities.

- Those who expect to stay more than 90 days must apply for visa according to current stipulations before their entrance.

 

Bilateral visa exemption agreement

Citizens of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Laos holding valid ordinary passports are exempt from visa requirements and are allowed to stay for not more than 30 days; Philippines is allowed to stay for not more than 21 days.
   

By February 2011, citizens of China, Kyrgyzstan, North Korea, and Rumania holding valid ordinary passports for official mission. Citizens of 60 countries holding valid diplomatic or official passports are exempt from visa requirements including:  Argentina, Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Chile, China, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Dominica, Ecuador, France, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela.

 

Unilateral visa exemption

Visa with 30-day validity is exempted for officials from ASEAN secretariat holding different kinds of passports.
Citizens of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Japan, South Korea and Russia holding different kinds of passports are exempt from visa requirements and are allowed to stay for not more than 15 days.

Others who want to enter Vietnam must be provided with a visa.

 

Tourist visa is valid in 30 days.
Visa is issued at the Vietnamese diplomatic offices or consulates in foreign countries. Visa is possibly issued at the border gates to those who have written invitations by a Vietnamese competent agencies or tourists in the tours organized by Vietnamese international travel companies.


Application files for visa: the entrance application (printed form); two 4x6 cm photos; passport and fee for the visa issuance.

Visa extension: Served by all international travel companies.

How I can get Vietnam visa on arrival?

Apply Vietnam Visa - Vietnam Visa upon arrival is legitimated and supported by the Vietnamese Immigration Department. We recommend that you choose visa upon arrival, as picking up visa at the Vietnam int'l airport is quite simple, easy, reliable, cheap, no additional charges and no fail.

 

Steps to apply Vietnam Visa on Arrival

Step 1: Get started by sending us the below information to: info@holidaytoindochina.com

1) Full name on passport (male/female)
2) Passport number
3) Date of birth
4) Nationality
5) Date of arrival
6) Date of issue
7) Date of expire
8) Please make sure that your passport is still valid for 6 months1) Full name on passport

 

Step 2: Upon receipt of your information and payment, we will start processing your visa and send it (Approval Letter)to you by email in within 2 - 3 working days. You then will need to print the file (color preferred, but not required), prepare at least 2 photos of passport regulation size (2in x 2in, or 5.08 cm x 5.08 cm but not too strict), 25 USD for stamp fees per person. (Single 1 month)

Step 3: Upon arrival at Vietnam's airport, expect a simple form to fill in, present the approval letter, passport, photos, and pay for the stamping fee to get your visa done. The actual process takes around 15 minutes without hassle or trouble.


Vietnam Visa Fee

Applicants will have to pay 2 fees. First is the fee to get the Vietnam visa approval/authorization letter, which is US $ 6- US $8/person (pay holidaytoindochina). Second is the visa stamping fee, which is US $45-US $65 per person that you will have to pay at the airport on your arrival (Pay government)

 

How safe is Vietnam?

Vietnam is a relatively safe country to visit but there are increasing instances of theft, especially in HCMC where pickpockets and snatch thieves on motorbikes are the worst menace. The best tip is to be vigilant at all times. Often cute kids or old grannies have deft fingers. Leave all valuables (expensive watches, jewellery, glasses, etc.) at home, and don’t even wear flash costume jewellery. Make sure you have a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags at all times and never leave anything you value lying around unattended. I would also not advise taking cyclos late at night, especially in HCMC. our guides will advise you what are “do's and don’ts” case by case..

What medical precautions I need to take?

At the time of writing, no vaccinations are required for Vietnam Travel (with the exception of yellow fever if you are travelling directly from an area where the disease is endemic). However, typhoid and hepatitis A vaccinations are normally recommended, and it’s worth checking that you are up to date with boosters for tetanus, polio etc. Other injections to consider, depending on the season and risk of exposure, are hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, meningitis and rabies. It is best to discuss these with your doctor. Malaria is present in Vietnam. However, at the time of writing both Hanoi and HCMC have very low incidences, while the northern delta and coastal regions of the south and centre are also considered relatively safe. The main danger areas are the highlands and the rural areas, where Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous strain of malaria, is prevalent. Your doctor will advise on which, if any, anti-malaria tablets you should take. If you do fall ill, pharmacies in Hanoi and HCMC stock a decent range of imported medicines (check they are not past their “use-by” date). Both these cities also now have good, international-class medical facilities. Elsewhere, local hospitals will be able to treat minor ailments, but for anything more serious head back to Hanoi or HCMC.

What about medical insurance?

It is advised that travelers should have some form of medical insurance before arriving in Vietnam. Although there are several international medical clinics in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, generally the country still lacks adequate medical care for serious illnesses and injuries, especially in other areas. Therefore, we advise that travelers have sufficient cover for emergency medical care as a precautionary measure.

Should I take my money in cash or travellers'cheques?

The official currency of Vietnam is the dong, which cannot be purchased outside Vietnam. The main banks in Hanoi and HCMC can handle a fairly broad range of currencies nowadays, but the dollar is still the most widely accepted. I therefore recommend taking a combination of US$ cash and US$ travellers’ cheques, with the bulk in travellers’ cheques for safety. American Express, Visa and Thomas Cook cheques are the most recognized brands.

Where can I change money?

You can change cash and travellers’ cheques at exchange desks in big hotels and at authorized foreign exchange banks in the main cities. Among the banks, Vietcombank usually offers the best exchange rates and charges the lowest commission (around 1-2%). Note that commission rates are slightly lower if changing travellers’ cheques into dong rather than dollars. Vietcombank does not levy commission when changing dollars cash into dong, though some other banks do. It’s worth bearing in mind that you get a slightly better exchange rate for $1 and $5 notes than for smaller denominations. When cashing travellers’ cheques you may be asked for your passport, though this practice seems to be dying out. Outside the main cities and tourist areas, authorised foreign exchange banks are few and far between. So if you’re heading off the beaten path, stock up with enough cash (dollars and dong) to last the trip. Wherever you are, you’ll always find someone willing to change dollars cash into dong, though rates will vary. When receiving dong, you’ll be presented with a huge pile of notes. The largest bill is 1,d (, so bear this in mind when changing $1! Refuse any badly torn notes and ask for a mix of denominations so that you always have a few low-value notes in hand.

Is it better to use dollars or dong for daily expenses?

Despite government attempts to outlaw the practice, the US Dollars still acts as an alternative currency which is almost completely interchangeable with the dong. Many prices, especially for hotels, tours and expensive restaurants, are still quoted in $, though you can pay in dong if you’d rather - just check what exchange rate they’re using.

For everyday expenses, I recommend carrying a mix of US Dollars cash and dong. For larger items or when the exchange rate works in your favour, use dollars. For cyclos, local food stalls and small purchases, it’s best to use dong. In either case, make sure you always have a stock of small notes so that you don’t have to worry about change.

What about eating in Vietnam?

Holidaytoindochina.com strongly recommends you try the small local restaurants, especially the street kitchens which consist of a few tables and a stove in an open-fronted dining area. Most of expensive restaurants usually price their menus in local currency. In the middle of the range it could be in either dollars or dong, but at this level prices are often not indicated at all, which makes for tedious ordering as you go through each dish. When it comes to eating, the most important thing is to choose places that are busy and look well-scrubbed, and to stick to fresh, thoroughly cooked foods. Despite appearances, often the small local restaurants with a high turnover of just one or two dishes are safer than expensive, Western-style places. Restaurants where the food is cooked in front of you - for example, steaming bowls of pho soup at a street stall - are usually a good bet, as well as being lots of fun. However, steer clear of shellfish, peeled fruit, salads and raw vegetables. On the other hand, yoghurt and ice cream from reputable outlets in the main cities shouldn’t cause problems.

Where to Shop and What to Buy in Vietnam?

Many tourists can’t help but throw themselves head-first into shopping while in Vietnam. Why? Probably the variety of quality goods and the tempting prices have a lot to do with it. Many low-budget travelers considered Vietnam a heavenly place because in many shopping situations they can bargain the prices down to as much as a third of the original cost.

The list of Vietnamese bargains is seemingly endless and features bespoke tailoring and the national dress, the 'ao dai' from high-quality silk and many other types of material and textiles while many shoppers cannot get enough of the local handicraft, art and jewelry.

Cambodia Travel - Question and Answers

Do I need a visa to enter Cambodia?

Most travellers shall be issued entry-visa upon their arrival. For further information, please directly contact the Immigration Police Unit at the Phnom Penh Airport International or the Siem Reap Airport. Some countries where the Royal Embassies and Consulates of Cambodia installed, travellers shall then apply for an entry-visa prior to their departure. Multi-entry visa can be extended at the Department of Foreigner of the Ministry of Interior.

Where else can I obtain an entry-visa?

Beside the Phnom Penh Airport International and Siem Reap Airport, there are additionally few of border gateways where travellers can apply for an entry-visa upon their arrival.

Visa can be obtained at the following points of entry:

Airports
  - Phnom Penh International Airport
  - Siem Reap International Airport

Cambodia-Vietnam border
  - Bavet International Check Point
  - Kha Orm Sam Nor International Check Point

Cambodia-Thailand border
  - Cham Yeam International Check Point
  - Poi Pet International Check Point
  - OSmach International Check Point

Application for an entry visa requires:
  - A completed visa application form
  - Passport valid at least further 4 months
  - One recent photograph (4x6)
  - Appropriate visa fee
  - Supporting documents for business and official visas

In particular, the entry-visa is free for Cambodian nationals who live abroad and Malaysians. Also, the entry visa is free of charge for the Service and Diplomatic Passport holders from Myanmar, Brunei, Philippines and Vietnam.

How much shall I pay for my entry-visa?

There are two types of entry-visa shall be paid:

Business visa: US$ 25.00
Tourist visa: US$ 20.00

The costs of airport tax are:
Domestic Airport Tax: US$ 6.00
International Airport Tax from REP:US$ 25.00
International Airport Tax from PNH: US$ 25.00

Do I need any vaccinations?

Travellers have very little to worry about in a country where health standards are ranked amongst the highest in Asia.  Vaccinations are not required to enter the Kingdom of Cambodia; you are unless coming from a "yellow" infected area.

What are temperature and climate in Cambodia?

Cambodia has a tropical climate with three distinct seasons – Hot/Dry from March to May, Rainy/Monsoon from June to October and small Winter/Cool from November through February. The average annual temperature is 280C – 320C, this ranges in the capital city of Phnom Penh.  The temperature during the small winter is 140C - 160C at provinces throughout the country but in Phnom Penh is about 160C – 200C. In the early April, it is found that there are some rain showers through the beginning of May. The end of May and the beginning of June the full monsoon starts till the end of October.

What to wear during the holiday in Cambodia?

As Cambodia's climate is hot and humid almost all year round, it is ideal to have light clothing to be worn throughout the year. But during the small winter from December till March, you are advised to wear thick clothing. It is also advisable for ladies and gentlemen, when entering any Buddhist pagoda, in tradition, ladies are inappropriately found to wear shorts, trousers or any sexy attire. Men and women are cultured for a dignitary image is not to wear shorts and cap when you are in the complex of a Buddhist pagoda.  The flip-flops, boots or shoes must specially be taken off before entering into any Buddhist temple. At ancient temples, you are free to wear any as you wish but not bras and under-pan.

What is the time difference?

Cambodia is 7 (GMT+7) hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and 12 hours ahead of the United States in Boston, Pacific Time Standard.

What is the best way to travel around Cambodia?

It depends upon your need whether you are in a hurry to get to your destination or you wish to take things leisurely, there is a wide range of choice of transportation.

1. By air, you can travel with Cambodian Airlines for domestic flights by Cambodia Angkor Airs (CAA). The flight routes are set for major tourist destinations and economic zones at the provinces of Siem Reap and Sihanoukville (Charter Flight).

2. By rail, the railway network of Cambodia that stretches from East to West, which run from Phnom Penh to the provinces of Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang and Bantey Meanchey and other routes: Phnom Penh-Sihanouk Ville and Phnom Penh-Kampot. Be ensured that the Cambodian railway network is under development and time consuming to catch train.

3. By road, Cambodia now has several bus companies and private taxis are also available throughout Cambodia. But the bus operations are still very limited based on the road condition. Travellers can take coach from Phnom Penh to neighbouring provinces such as Kampong Speu, Takeo, Kampot, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Cham, Neak Leung (in Prey Veng), Ta Mao (in Kandal) and to two other cities of Sihanouk Ville and Keb. In particular, Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City along the National Road 1 is now available. Taxies are available to make a journey throughout the country.

4. By water, several speedboat firms can be seen along Tonle Sap River. These speedboats carry passengers from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap Angkor and further from Siem Reap to Battambang province; also are available for destinations along Mekong River such as from Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham, Kratie and Steung Treng. Above all, travellers can make a voyage from Vietnam to Phnom Penh as well.

 

What is the national language?

Cambodia has a unique official language is Khmer or Cambodian. The French and English are widely utilised as second language. Cambodians tend to be trilingual.

What if I were to travel to Cambodia alone?

Not to worry if you are traveling to Cambodia alone. Cambodians are very friendly and Cambodia is especially called a land of smile. Travelling alone is generally safe and relatively comfortable for both men and women.  Plan your trip around your interests and prepare yourself to be flexible enough to take the inevitable glitches in stride.   Visitors who encounter unforeseen problems and difficulties can seek the Cambodian Tourist Police Unit or any other Police Station for any assistance.

What is the electricity supply of Cambodia?

Cambodia's electrical supply is 220 volts AC at 50 cycles per second.

What are the medical services available in Cambodia?

Medical services are available in all towns at government run hospitals and private clinics. Non-prescription drugs are available at pharmacies as well as supermarkets, hotels, and shopping centres. International class hotels also have their individual in-house medical Doctor to service their guests.

Is it safe to drink tap water?

It is generally safe to drink water directly from the tap. However, mineral water is also readily available in shops and supermarkets everywhere.

How do I rent and drive a car in Cambodia?

You will require an international driving permit or a valid license issued by your government to drive in Cambodia. Car rental can be arranged through hotel or through various car rental companies which can be located through the Yellow Pages Directory.

Will there be any customs charges upon arrival?

Items such as video equipment, cameras, radio cassette players, watches, pens, lighters, perfumes and cosmetics are duty free in Cambodia.   Visitors bringing in dutiable goods may have to pay a deposit for temporary importation, refundable upon departure.

How to avoid cultural offence?

To avoid "cultural offences", here are some tips:
- Remove shoes when entering homes and places of worship.    
- Dress neatly in suitable attire which covers arms and legs when visiting places of worship.

When handling food, do so with the right hand only.
- Tipping is not a custom in Cambodia.  It is unnecessary in hotels and restaurants where a 10% service charge, unless the service rendered is exceptionally good.    
- Refrain from raising your voice or displaying fits of anger as considered ill mannered.

Do I require medical insurance before traveling to Cambodia?

It is a good idea for you to take have medical insurance before you travel to Cambodia as Cambodia does not have reciprocal health service agreements with other nations

Should I bargain for everything I want to buy in Cambodia?

No. If an item has a price tag then you're not expected to bargain. You are not expected to bargain in a restaurant either.

What shouldn't I do when bargaining in Cambodia?

Yell, scream or behave like a rude foreign tourist;
Throw your money at the vendor;
Refuse to buy something after the vendor has accepted your price;
Go red in the face arguing over 100 riel; or
Lose your sense of humour. You are supposed to be having fun.

Thailand Travel - Questions and Answers

When is the best time to visit Thailand?

Thailand’s weather is made up of three major seasons, the hot season, the rainy or green season and the cool season. In general, the best time for holiday throughout Thailand is in the cool season from October to March, when temperatures ease off and skies are clear.

For temperature and rainfall charts, take a look at HolidaytoIndochina's detailed Thailand: When to go guide.

Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai

The north of Thailand is slightly cooler than the south, making it a great travel destination year-round. The hot season lasts from March until May when maximum temperatures average 95°F (35°C). Occasional thunderstorms cool things down nicely. There are fewer crowds at this time of year and prices are lower.

The green season runs from May to October with July and August seeing the heaviest rainfall. It doesn't rain every day and the heavy downpours are generally brief and refreshing. This is the best time to see the countryside while it is lush and green. Temperatures range from a low of 73°F (23°C)  in the evenings to an average maximum of 88°F (31°C). The cool season, from October to February, sees evening temperatures drop to around 55°F (13°C) in January and a jacket or sweater is recommended, however the days reach a pleasant maximum around 86°F  (30°C) and the skies are mostly clear and blue.

Bangkok, Kanchanaburi and Hua Hin

Bangkok is hot year-round with average lows around 70°F (20°C) in December and just a few degrees higher during the hot season, from March to May. Temperatures peak around 88°F (31°C)  in the cool and wet seasons and reach 95°F (35°C) in the hot season, the best time to travel to the cooler beaches down south. The wet season starts in May and reaches its peak in September with nearly 14 inches (36 cm) of rain and an average of 21 days of rain that month. By November the rain has all but stopped and the temperatures are at their coolest.

Nearby Hua Hin has a similar temperature to Bangkok, but rainfall peaks in October and November. Even then rainfall is lighter than Bangkok and other coastal areas in Thailand. There is some rain from May through November.

Kanchanaburi really heats up during the hot season when average maximum temperatures reach their peak at 100°F (38°C) in April. The monsoon season runs from May to October with the most rainfall in May, September and October, but less rain overall than Bangkok.

Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao

In the wet season, days are warm and humid, often accompanied by a refreshing afternoon shower. While some rain can be expected from May to January, showers tend to be gone within an hour, and it is only October to December that experiences heavy rain which may flood roads affecting travel. Temperatures vary little through the year, and the average minimum temperature is around 77°F (25°C)  while the average maximum is 88°F (31°C). If you plan to visit Thailand between May and September and want to go to the beach, you will get better weather around Koh Samui than Phuket to the west.

Phuket, Khao Lak, Koh Lanta, Krabi

The hot year-round temperatures and outstanding beaches make Phuket the destination de choix for travellers. The average temperature year-round is 82°F (28°C), with average lows never dipping below 73°F  (23°C) nor highs above 91°F (33°C). The rainy season in Phuket lasts from May to November, with the heaviest rain in May, September and October. During this season about 2 out of 3 days experience some rain but it is unusual for the rain to last all day. There are fewer tourists and prices drop significantly during this time. Storms can cause rough seas which can affect touring by boat.

 

Do I need a visa to enter Thailand?

Do I need a visa to visit Thailand' is one of the most commonly asked questions. And it's easy to understand why. Thailand’s visa rules can seem a little confusing and are constantly changing, but hopefully this will shed some light on the situation.

There are two fundamental visa options for a visitor to Thailand from most countries -:

1. Arrive by air without a visa and get a free 30 day “Visa Waiver” entry stamp on arrival, which can later be extended by up to 10 days at an immigration post in Thailand. (Arrival by land without a visa only provides 15 days entry.) Visa Waivers are only available to citizens of select nations.)

2. Apply to a Thai consulate or embassy for a visa before you travel. Details on types of visas and how to apply for them are given below. 

Important change: Visa Runs

It used to be that you could arrive in Thailand with no proof of onward travel, be granted a free 30-day entry stamp, and extend your stay indefinitely by popping over the border and back every month to renew your entry stamp. This is no longer the case. Not only are you now limited to three visa waivers per any six month period, you must then obtain a legitimate visa or be physically absent from the country for an additional six months. You are still able to do up to two visa runs, extending your stay up to a maximum of 90 days, but the next time you leave the country you will not be permitted to return for a further 90 days. 

Important warning

Do not overstay your visa in Thailand, even by a few hours. If you want to stay longer, get the visa extended or do a visa run before your visa expires.

Some travelers may tell you that overstaying your visa by a few days isn’t a problem and that you’ll just have to pay a fine of 500 baht a day. While it is true that you will just be fined if you turn up at the airport or border with an expired visa, if you are discovered with an out-of-date visa in any other circumstances you will be arrested and detained at the Immigration Detention Centre - an exceptionally grim place which Amnesty International has been campaigning to have closed for a long time.

Is it safe to eat food from street vendors?

Is it safe to eat from roadside vendors in Thailand? That’s one of the questions I asked when I first came here. Like many things in Thailand, the answer isn’t as straight forward as it might at first appear. I wasn’t very adventurous when I first came to Thailand and was always worried about eating from street vendors. Looking back I was overly cautious, but there’s obviously a balance needed as not everybody will immediately adapt to the food.

The Popularity Rule

If the local noodle vendor has a long line of Thai customers waiting every lunch-time, then it’s a reasonably safe bet that both the food and the hygiene are good. If you are gently weaning your stomach to get used to Thai food and roadside stalls then I think it is good advice to seek out the popular places first.

Freshly Prepared Food

Many Thai dishes are cooked to order while you wait which means it is going to be fresher and can be eaten with reasonable confidence. By the same token, there are also roadside stalls where the food has been lying around in the sun for the past few hours with flies buzzing around it. I know which one I choose.

Up to You

Much will depend on the individual and how well their own system can cope with unfamiliar foods. I still find some foods upset my stomach, although less so than when I first came to Thailand. You will soon know what your system can or can not take so it’s up to you how adventurous you want to be. One of the best things about buying food from vendors is that it’s cheap. If you do try something that you don’t like, you’ve only spent 20 or 30 Baht to find it out.

Beach Vendors

I’ve had some really excellent food from beach vendors (see the lady in the picture from Phra Nang beach, Krabi) and I’ve also had food which has been below average from other vendors. Although it is a lot spicier, freshly prepared som tam may be a safer option than those spring rolls that have been lying around in the sun for 5 hours. I’ve had one experience of not being well after eating from a beach vendor and even then I don’t think it was the food. On that occasion I think it was not drinking enough water that made me unwell.

Enjoy!

Thailand has some excellent street food and I think you do miss out on so much if you don’t try it during your stay here because food and eating are so embedded in Thai culture. Some of the most memorable experiences I have had in Thailand involve the hospitality and characters experienced at little roadside stalls with no other foreigners around.

How should I dress when visiting temples?

Visitors to Thai temples (wats) may find the atmosphere surprisingly relaxed as they often serve as local community centres. Within the temple grounds children can sometimes be seen playing games of football or basketball and monks may engage you in conversation. However, there are some important things to note before visiting any Thai temple.

Always take off your shoes and hat before entering the temple (and indeed any room where there is a Buddha image). Even if there is no sign in English, this should be fairly obvious from other shoes already lined up outside. If you are wearing a hat take it off before going inside, but don’t place it on top of your shoes because of the association between the head (high status) and feet (low status).

It’s bad manners (and bad luck) to place your foot on the raised threshold of the wat. Always take care to step over it. This applies to every building in Thailand that has a raised threshold which is traditionally there to keep out evil spirits and is also the home of the guardian spirit.
Inside the wat, keep your head lower than Buddha images and monks. Don’t point the bottom of your feet at Buddha images or monks; this is why you will see Thai people kneeling down with their feet tucked behind them.

Dress politely which means, at the very least, covering your knees and shoulders. In reality much of it is common sense and to an extent, doing as the Thais do. If you’re not Buddhist you won’t be expected to carry out any of the religious aspects of the visit, but obviously keep in mind that local people aren’t there to provide you with photo opportunities.

If you do take photos, take them discretely and from a kneeling position. Leaving a small donation in the collection boxes will go towards the upkeep of the temple and earns merit for the donor.

All Buddha images are sacred no matter how big or small or what condition they may be in. Treat them respectfully which means no touching or climbing. The Bo tree is also sacred because the Buddha achieved enlightenment whilst sitting under a Bo tree. Within the temple compound the Bo tree is usually easy to recognize by its large size and sprawling branches. Very often the tree trunk is also wrapped in saffron cloth.

 

Do I have to tip in Thailand? How much to tip?

Tipping is not a usual practice in Thailand although it is becoming more common. Most hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge to the bill. Taxi drivers do not require a tip, but the gesture is appreciated and 20-50 baht is acceptable for porters. In restaurants it is common for Thai’s to leave the coins as a tip, though an additional 20-100 baht is not unheard of in nicer establishments, particularly if the service is good.

9 useful Thai phrases to know

Even if you are only in Thailand for a few weeks, if you can learn a few words of the Thai language it can be amazing the difference it can make to your interaction with the locals. Naturally, you have to be realistic; if you haven’t learnt Thai before it’s going to be difficult. At first you will almost certainly mispronounce words, but don’t let that stop you from trying. If nothing else, it will make people laugh and be sanuk. I found my first fumbling attempts at Thai to be a great ice-breaker

The words I’ve chosen are useful in a number of situations and can be picked up quite easily by the casual visitor. They also have the advantage that even if they are mispronounced slightly, the Thai person should be able to understand what you are saying. If you are spending a longer time in Thailand, I recommend investing in a pocket-sized Thai phrasebook. The best way to learn is to listen to a Thai person; don’t be afraid to ask a native speaker how you say something in Thai.

If you’re curious to know why I’ve listed 9 phrases instead of 5 or 10, check out this article on Thai lucky numbers for an explanation>>

1) Sawatdee

You may see this written as sawasdee, sawatdii or a number of different ways. It’s a greeting that can be used to say hello, good day, good morning, good afternoon and goodbye, so it’s a useful word to learn. Always say sawatdee in conjunction with the polite article, khap or ka (see number 2 below). Females say sawatdee ka and males say sawatdee khap.

2) Khap and Ka

This is a polite syllable that has no real direct translation in English. Men say khap (sometimes khrap, but in everyday speech it usually becomes khap) and women say ka. If you listen to Thai people speak you will hear it frequently at the end of sentences. Its use denotes manners and respect, so get in the habit of using it if you are learning any Thai even if it’s just for your 2 week holiday or vacation. There is a Thai word for please, but it isn’t used in the same context as it is in English. For example, if you are at a restaurant and you want to say ‘the bill please’ you would say ‘kep tang khap’ (if you are a man) and ‘kep tang ka’ if you are a woman.

Thank you
How to say ‘thank you’ in Thai »
(Just to confuse matters slightly for women, ka has two different tones. It’s used with a falling tone unless you are using it at the end of a question when it becomes a high tone. The difference can be difficult to pick up, but listen enough to Thai women and you will spot it.)
Being polite in Thailand >>

3) Sabai Dii

Another greeting you will hear a lot is sabai dii. A person may ask you ‘Sabai dii mai?’ (‘How are you/Are you well?’). Khap or ka may be added on to this so you may hear ‘Sabai dii mai khap/ka?’ Respond by saying ‘Sabai dii khap/ka’ (‘I am well thank you/I’m fine thank you’). Of course you can always say ‘mai sabai’ (‘not well’), but then expect the follow up question, ‘thamay mai sabai?’ (‘why aren’t you well?’). If you’re confident that you can convey the fact that you’ve got the hangover from hell or you spent half the night sitting on the toilet after eating that extra spicy green curry, then go ahead. Responding with sabai dii is usually easier.

4) Khun

This is another polite word that precedes a persons name and can also be used when trying to get somebody’s attention. Thai people don’t tend to address people (Thai or foreign) by their surname. Instead they use the first name preceded by the title khun. So if your name is David Smith you will probably be referred to as Khun David or even Mister David. If you return the compliment you will immediately win respect. For instance, the receptionist at your hotel has a name badge which says Noy. If you want to say good morning, use a big smile and say ‘Sawatdee khap/ka khun Noy’.

Some Thai people struggle when it comes to using the correct form of address in English for addressing women. So, if you are called Mary, regardless of your marital status you may hear Khun Mary, Miss Mary, Mrs Mary and quite possibly Mister Mary, so try not to be offended!

If you are at a restaurant and want to get the attention of the waiter or waitresses you can say ‘khun khap’ or ‘khun ka’. This is very polite and will be appreciated. If you listen to Thai people calling to the waiter or waitress you will probably hear them say something entirely different. Phrases like ‘nong’, ‘pii’ or ‘nuu’ may be used depending on the age of the person whose attention they are seeking. These terms are also polite but are very Thai and they can be a minefield of embarrassment if you get them wrong. That’s why I would advise using the all encompassing ‘khun khap/ka’ as a much safer option.

5) Aroy

Thai people love their food. They will also want you to love their food. If you can tell the restaurant owner, the cook or the waitress that the food was delicious – aroy – you are likely to receive a warm welcome the next time you go back. And even if it wasn’t delicious, smile say ‘aroy’ and don’t go back there again! Bending the truth and flattery are common in Thailand so don’t worry too much about the occasional white lie.

Try stopping at a street stall or hawker cart and point at something you like the look of. Hand over your 10 or 20 Baht and take a bite. If it’s good, smile and say ‘aroy’. Congratulations, you’ve just made a new friend in Thailand.

6) Phet

The more words you can learn about food the better. Thailand is a nation obsessed with food and any visitor can’t help but notice it. It’s also impossible to ignore the fact that Thais like their food spicy – phet. In fact they like it really spicy – phet mak. As a foreigner you won’t be expected to eat some of the food that Thai people do. Don’t be afraid to ask for something ‘mai phet’ (‘not spicy’) or ‘phet nit nawy’ (‘a little bit spicy’).

7) Check Bin and Kep Tang

Both may be used when asking to settle your bill at a bar or restaurant. It’s more common to hear check bin in bars and kep tang in restaurants, but both should be understood. Don’t forget your khap or ka at the end of it; ‘check bin khap’ (if you are male) ‘check bin ka’ (if you are female).

8) Sanuk

I’ve written about this word before, and you may yourself being asked ‘sanuk mai?’ (‘having fun?/are you enjoying yourself?’). Respond by saying ‘sanuk’ or ‘sanuk mak’ (‘It’s a lot of fun/I’m really enjoying myself.’)
Understanding sanuk in Thailand >>

9) Narak

Often pronounced as nalak, this basically means cute. It’s not an obvious word for first time visitors to learn and usually pleasantly surprises Thai people when they hear a foreigner use it in the right context. Let me give you a real life example. Last year my sister was visiting and we were in Krabi on Nopparat Thara beach. A woman holding a baby walks past and there are smiles all round and I say ‘narak’ referring to the baby. After plenty of ‘khop khun ka’s’ from the mother and ‘thamay phut thai dai’ (why can you speak Thai?), I’m invited to join the rest of the family eating their picnic. I’m not suggesting that this happens every time, but it does illustrate two things; Thais love flattery (don’t we all) and they love their children.

Narak can also be used when talking about a woman or man (or ladyboy if that’s your bag) you find attractive. There are other words for beautiful or handsome, but telling somebody they are narak is a nice compliment.

Driving/ Hiring a car in Thailand

Hiring a car in Thailand isn’t as difficult as it may seem and even if you don’t speak Thai, it can still be a quite straight-forward process. If you don’t want to self-drive, there is also the option of hiring a car with a driver because regardless of how competent you are on the road, there are some unique challenges for driving in Thailand.

What type of licence do I need?

If you want to hire a car in Thailand that you will be driving yourself, you will need to be in possession of a full license (not probationary) from your home country. In many cases the hire company will also ask to see an international driving permit (obtainable in your home country). If your driving license is not in English you may be asked to provide a translated copy before you can hire a car. Your driving license, permit and passport should always be carried with you when driving in Thailand. Most car hire companies also have a minimum age requirement of 21.

Please note that the advice contained in this article is aimed primarily at tourists or those in Thailand on a short-term stay. If you aren’t a tourist or are going to be in Thailand for the longer-term, you should consider applying for a Thai driving licence.

Hiring a car with driver

At many car rental places and tour offices in Thailand you may be given the option of hiring a car or mini-van together with a driver. This can be a great way to explore the local area and also saves you the potential problems of driving yourself in a foreign country, but not all drivers will speak English. If you are not travelling with somebody who can speak Thai, you may find it helpful to use the services of a dedicated tour guide who can speak your language. Some tour guides will double as drivers, but it is more usual for a tour guide to work separately to the driver although most guides will also know good drivers that they’ve worked with and can recommend.

This can be a cost-effective way of going on day-trips if you are travelling as a family and don’t want to go on a group tour or just want more freedom to explore the town or city you are in. Please note that it is common practice (and courteous) to pay for the lunch of your driver and guide. Some drivers may politely decline your offer at first, but in my experience if you insist that they join you for lunch it is much appreciated. In fact, it is your driver or guide who is most likely to know the best places to eat (where the locals go) so let them choose for you. Tips at the end of your trip are at your discretion, but from a personal view I always like to tip the driver and guide. Although most trips are likely to be for the day or half-day, it’s also possible to hire vehicles and drivers for overnight trips or long-distance touring, but you will need to establish the price beforehand. The price should make allowance for the extra costs the driver and/or guide is going to incur e.g. food and accommodation.

How much does car hire cost?

The cost of car hire may vary slightly depending on where you are in Thailand although the main nationwide rent-a-car companies (Budget, Avis etc.) tend to have standardised prices. VAT at 7% is usually included in the net price and you should also note that you may need to present a credit card or leave a deposit in cash as a guarantee. In many cases, one-way rentals are available.

Tips for driving in Thailand

For the most part, Thai roads are quite well-maintained especially in the main towns and cities and on principle routes. Although the roads themselves are generally good, the standard of driving seen on them is variable. Driving in Thailand you will need to pay special attention to motorbikes that will appear from all directions. Similarly, stray dogs wandering into the road (or just sleeping on the road) can be a hazard no matter whether you are in the city or countryside so keep an eye out for them. I would personally advise against driving at night on the main highways if you can avoid it. Trucks and heavy goods vehicles use the highways at night and often seem to have less regard for other road users. These drivers are also under pressure of time to get goods delivered and a combination of tiredness and speeding means that accidents are more common on Thai highways at night.

On the face of it, Thai drivers seem to be quite calm and you won’t often hear the sound of honking horns. However, like anywhere, Thai drivers will also get annoyed by people making offensive hand gestures or using their horn aggressively. There are also some differences that you will need to get used to. For instance, in some countries when a driver flashes their lights at you it may mean they are letting you go or giving you the right of way. In Thailand, when a driver flashes his lights it means ‘Get out of the way/I’m not stopping/I’m coming through’.

If you run a red light or are found to be speeding you could be stopped by the police. If nobody in the car speaks Thai you may find yourselves being waved on with nothing more than a finger-wagging. Alternatively, the police officer may issue you with an on-the-spot fine. You should really pay this at a police station which means that the officer must write out a ticket. However, in reality it is common practice for locals to take the option of paying a ‘discount’ directly to the officer concerned so that he does not have to go through the process of writing out a ticket.

Road rules

In Thailand, they drive on the left. It is also compulsory for drivers and front-seat passengers to wear a seat-belt. Look out for speed limits which on suburban roads and lanes is usually 50 to 60km/h (30-37 mph) and on express-ways and other roads can vary between 90 and 120 km/h (55-75 mph). All drivers are legally required to have third-party insurance as a minimum, but it is advisable to have comprehensive insurance. Check with your hire company that you have comprehensive insurance included in the hire agreement.

Driving in Bangkok

Bangkok is notorious for its traffic and for good reason. If you are hiring a car from the airport to drive out of Bangkok to another province or destination (e.g. to Pattaya) the highways are good and traffic en route isn’t usually too much of an issue. The main congestion problems take place in the heart of the capital which is best avoided if you don’t know the city because it is all too easy to get caught in a Bangkok traffic jam. Add to this the unfamiliar road signs and drivers doing unexpected U-turns and it can be a better option, and much less stress, to use public transport whilst you are in Bangkok.

Filling up with fuel

Petrol or gasoline stations are easy to find and numerous in Thailand. Most hire cars seem to run on unleaded petrol or Gasohol (gasoline with ethanol mix) whilst mini-vans tend to use diesel. Unleaded fuel and Gasohol is currently around the 35-40 Baht a litre mark with diesel hovering around 30 Baht a litre. Credit or debit cards can be used at the bigger gas stations (Esso, Shell, Caltex etc.) and in most Thai towns, cities and resorts although in some countryside areas it is cash only so it’s always a good idea to have cash with you. When you pull into a filling station in Thailand you won’t usually need to get out of your vehicle once you arrive at the pump. An attendant will fill up your tank for you, take the money and will also clean your windscreen if needed. If you do want to stretch your legs, gas stations are as a good a place as any to do so with parking, toilets and places to eat all close at hand.

 

How to haggle in Thailand?

The most important thing to remember when you are dealing with shopkeepers and stallholders in Thailand is to smile. It might sound trite, but the smile is one of the most important parts of getting a good deal when you are shopping in Thailand. Smiling establishes good intent and even if you don’t end up agreeing a price or buying anything, if it’s all done with a smile nobody loses face. An aggressive, confrontational approach is not the way to bargain in Thailand.

Most stalls and markets are willing to do a deal. If the price isn’t marked up on the item you are interested in, then there will usually be a lot of room for negotiation. To get the best deal, don’t ask for the price straight away. Try and establish a rapport with the person selling; smile, get them to smile or better still, get them to laugh. It doesn’t mean you have to launch into a 20 minute stand-up comedy routine, but if you have a sense of humour in your haggling you will definitely get a better deal. Thais like everything to be sanuk and that includes shopping. Ask them if the item is hand-made and if so, did they make it themselves. Compliment them on how nice their stall is, how nice their smile is or how good their English is. If it’s a DVD you’re buying, ask them if they’ve seen the film, ask if it’s any good, tell them they look like Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie; make them smile.

Don’t worry about trying to speak Thai. If you can, then all well and good, but it isn’t essential. In most tourist areas, many shopkeepers can speak English to some extent. As a tourist you won’t be expected to speak Thai, but if you’re polite and remember your sawatdee kha/khap and your khop khun kha/khap you’ll establish a good rapport immediately. At some stage of your browsing you will probably notice the ubiquitous big calculator. Just about every stall that deals with tourists will have a large calculator on hand to save any misunderstandings when it comes to agreeing a price. If the stallholder doesn’t speak much English, you can still guarantee he’ll understand the words, ‘how much?’ Once you’ve uttered those magic words, then the fun begins and the stallholder will either quote you a price or key it into the calculator and show you. Normally, this will be a price well above that which he is expecting or hoping to achieve. When he gives you a price, smile. You should counter with an offer well below that which you are expecting to pay. However, be sensible. Decide before you start haggling what you think is a fair price and how much you’d be prepared to pay. After a few offers and counter offers you should come to an agreement. When you are haggling over that extra 20 Baht, try and put it into context; think about how much it is in your home currency. Nobody likes to get ripped off, but think about how much this item is costing you compared to buying something similar back home. Stallholders, market traders and small shops all have their overheads to pay so consider who needs those extra few Baht the most. At markets and in tourist areas many shops and stalls sell similar items so you can ask around at a few stores to establish what the average going rate is and decide on how much you want to pay. If you are buying in bulk that’s obviously perfect from the shopkeeper’s point of view and he may offer a discount straight away, but there’s still usually room for extra negotiation.

Department stores and large shops work on a fixed price, so it’s not the place to start haggling. However, if you have bought a really expensive item, there’s no harm in asking for a discount or a free gift. Very often this may be offered automatically, but if it isn’t, just smile and ask politely.

Is travel insurance really necessary?

There is an old adage that says ‘if you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel.’ I’m not sure who said it (probably somebody in the travel insurance industry!) but it is still valid.

Whoever you use for your travel insurance, make sure that you are adequately insured for your own particular circumstances. For instance, the insurance requirements of a retired couple on a two week vacation are likely to be very different to those of a twenty-year-old backpacker. I’ve used World Nomads before for my travel insurance and found the process of buying online easy and convenient. There prices aren’t always the cheapest, but often in life you get what you pay for. They are one of the few companies I’ve found that offers insurance suitable for residents of most countries (more than 150 countries are covered). The World Nomads policy also enables you to claim online, even while away from home and is therefore well-suited to those spending an extended stay in Thailand.

Regardless of your length of visit to Thailand you should have insurance cover, particularly medical insurance and personal liability cover. If something goes wrong during your visit to Thailand you will be left with the bill to pay. Your embassy will not bail you out financially.

Your insurer should provide you with a 24-hour emergency helpline (ideally a toll-free number). For your part, it is advised to be honest about any pre-existing or current medical conditions when applying for any policy as failure to do so may prejudice any subsequent claim.

 

Should I bargain for everything?

Usually, fixed prices are the norm in department stores, while bargaining is expected at most other places. Generally, you can obtain a final figure of between 10-40% lower than the original asking price. Much depends on your skills and the shopkeeper's mood. But remember, Thais appreciate good manners and a sense of humor. With patience and a broad smile, you will not only get a better price, you will also enjoy shopping as an art.

How can I have money sent to me in Thailand?

Western Union is the easiest way to receive money, though the fees are substantial. You can also receive money via wire transfer at the foreign exchange sections of major banks. In most cases all you need is a passport. Western Union is available at Bank of Ayutthaya branches around the country (look for the yellow and black signs).

Should I carry cards or traveler cheques or debit/credit cards?

Thai Baht is accepted everywhere and currency exchange booths are available around Bangkok in banks across Thailand. While major credit and debit cards are also accepted in most establishments and shopping centers, there are occasionally additional fees from both the retailer and your card provider. Travelers cheques can be cashed at most banks throughout Thailand though less so at retail establishments.

Is it safe to drink the water?

Despite the fact that the authorities have made efforts to make tap water meet World Health Organization standards, very few people drink tap water in Thailand, even the local population. Bottled water is widely used instead. 

Some people actually boil tap water before use, but this will not remove chemical toxins or remnants of whatever else was there before boiling. You should also be careful with ice, as freezing does not protect you from bacteria, viruses or chemicals. 

Brushing your teeth with tap water is considered to be safe, although those with very sensitive stomachs may occasionally experience problems. 

In restaurants, you will find the water to be generally safe. You can always buy small bottles if you like but make sure the seal has not been broken.

However, you should be very careful with street vendors and street food stalls. The biggest risk is actually from the cleanliness of the glasses themselves.

You can become very ill indeed if you are not careful.

Drink directly from the bottle if you are in any doubt. 

Don't worry too much about the ice that is served in cafes etc as they usually have the ice delivered to them from government inspected ice factories.

What should I do if I lost my passport while traveling in Thailand?

In case you lost your passport, make file a report at the nearest police station immediately. Take a copy of FIR report to your national embassy in Thailand in order to issue a new travelling document.

What are some cultural Do's and Dont's in Thailand?

Thai people are extremely polite and their behavior is controlled by etiquette and influenced by Buddhism. Thai society is non-confrontational, and as such, you should avoid confrontations at all costs. 

Never loose, your patience or show your anger now matter how frustrating or desperate the situation because this is considered a weakness in Thai society. It is important to cultivate an air of diplomacy when traveling in Asia. Conflicts can be easily resolved with a smile.

Dress code is also important. Thais like to dress smartly and neatly. Do not wear revealing clothing such as shorts, low cut dresses, and bathing suits as they are considered as improper attire in Thailand. Keep in mind that this type of clothing is only acceptable in the beach. It is advisable to wear long skirts or long trousers when entering a temple. 

Women should not touch monks. If a woman wants to hand something to a monk, she must do so indirectly by placing the item within the monk’s reach. 

Remove shoes when entering houses and temples. 

Public display of affection between sexes is frowned upon.

Avoid touching people. The head is the highest part of the body, so avoid touching it. The feet are the least sacred, so avoid pointing it at anyone or kicking them as it is extremely insulting to do so. Thais usually do not shake hands. 

The ‘Wai’ is the usual greeting. The hands are placed together and raised upwards towards the face while the head is lowered with a slight bow. The height to which the hands are held depends on the status of the people involved. The higher, the more polite.

In case of monks, higher dignitaries, and elderly, hands are raised to the bridge of the nose, while with equals only as far from the chest. Young people and inferiors are not Wai’d but a slight nod is acceptable. 

Do not blow your nose or lick your fingers while eating. While Thai people may commonly pick their noses they have high table manners. The right hand must be used when picking up food eaten with fingers. 

When entering a foreign culture for the first time, it is highly likely to make a mistake. If you do so in Thailand, just smile or ‘Wai’ and you will be forgiven.

Is English widely spoken?

In Bangkok, where the major business and commercial transactions are held, English is widely spoken, written and understood. Further, in most hotels, shops and restaurants of major tourist destinations, English and some European Languages are spoken, written, and understood.

Can I buy a SIM card for my cellphone?

SIM cards of local Thai network providers are widely sold and may be used to call/text both local and internationally.

How to apply for visa?

Any foreigner seeking entry into the Kingdom of Thailand should apply for a visa from a Thai Embassy or Consulate-General. To do so, a foreigner must possess a valid passport or travel document that is recognized by the Royal Thai Government and comply with the conditions set forth in the Immigration Act B.E.2522 (1979) and its related provisions. Moreover, foreigners can obtain visa on arrival from the airport of kingdom of Thailand which allows the stay of not exceeding 15 days.

Myanmar Travel - Questions and Answers

How safe is it to book travel on the internet?

Most tour and travel companies in Myanmar are NOT internationally accredited. Therefore you have no security when making reservations with or payments to these companies. The Myanmar Travel Groups’ (MTG) bookings are all conducted through IATA and AFTA accredited Travel Agents. Your bookings and payments are safe and secure with MTG.

Do I need a visa to visit Myanmar?

Yes, any foreigners visiting Myanmar need to have a valid entry visa. Your passport must have at least 6 month’s validity before expiry. You will need to contact the Myanmar Embassy in your country of origin to arrange your visa. We can supply all necessary information and Embassy contact details on application.

What is the best time to travel Myanmar?

October to April is the high season, after the end of the monsoon. Most travellers visit Myanmar at this time of year.

How far in advance should you book your travel in Myanmar?

The sooner the better ~ especially for the high season (from Oct to April). Some tours are booked nearly one year ahead. With advance notice you can be sure of travelling with the best guide and securing the best available hotel rooms. So, please book early!

How do I pay for my tour?

Whilst credit cards are not normally accepted in Myanmar, MTG uses internationally accredited travel agencies (IATA & AFTA), so we will accept all major credit cards. Payment must be made in full no later than 60 days before departure.

Do I have to buy local currency on arrival?

Yes. When you arrive in Yangon you will directed to the exchange counter by your guide so that you can exchange your US Dollars into local currency (Kyatt – pronounced CHUT) for use in purchasing meals, drinks and for your discretionary spending. It should be noted that the only foreign currency that may be exchanged or used in Myanmar is US Dollars and Euros. All currency should be clean, new notes, unfolded and not crinkled up.

Can we use credit cards in Myanmar?

Credit cards are not generally accepted in Myanmar though some major hotels will accept them in return for a hefty surcharge. That is why MTG pre-pay all your major travel costs before you travel. It would still be necessary for you to bring further cash (USD$) to pay for your meals and drinks and in case you require extra spending money.

Is the internet available in Myanmar?

Yes it is, but access may be slow and not all international sites are accessible. Don’t bother bringing in your own laptop as you will not be able to access the internet personally. There are a number of Cyber Cafes in Yangon, however other major tourist destinations have fewer places for you to surf the net. You may also experience difficulty accessing some free-mail servers such as Yahoo or MSN. Some hotels have business centres where you can access the internet but generally speaking most of our guests are on vacation and welcome the opportunity to escape the internet for a brief period.

Is an emergency medical service available in Myanmar?

Yes it is. International SOS has had operations in Myanmar since 1987. They provide full out-patient and emergency services for members and visitors in Myanmar, backed by a professional team of expatriate and national medical specialists.

Tipping or reward policy for personal service?

We leave it to our guest’s to decide what’s fair. We do not demand our client’s give tips, but it is a nice gesture considering our guide and driver will be doing their best, we’d suggest as a guide maybe US$ 3 per day for the driver and US$ 6 per day for the guide but it’s entirely up to you.

What kinds of clothes should I bring to Myanmar?

It depends on the time of year and the location to be visited. Generally casual clothes are fine depending where you go the evenings might be cool. Of course please remember to wear respectful clothes to all religious sites. Slip on sandals are ideal for visiting these places as they can easily be taken off and put back on.

Laos Travel Questions and Answers

What are the Laos visa requirements?

A couple of photos, a valid passport and $30 are the official requirements for a one month single entry tourist visa. This can be extended within the country for about $3 per day, most easily through agents.

Are credit cards accepted in Laos?

Not generally, but most top-range hotels and some large-ticket item shops will accept them. Very few restaurants and bars accept them. Most travel agents prefer cash but can organise credit card payment. Most will take a 3.5% fee on top of the price.

Should I tip in Laos?

In most places in Laos, tipping is not expected though as always it is appreciated. If you want to tip, 10% percent is pretty generous

Is Laos safe country to travel?

Generally speaking, yes. Using common sense means you'll probably get out in one piece. Violent crime against foreigners occasionally takes place, but overall it's safe and women in particular find they feel more secure than in the west. The biggest problems are petty theft, scams and traffic accidents.

Should I learn Lao language before I go to Laos?

English is not widely understood outside the main shopping and tourist area.Lao is not a hard languge to learn and you can easily pick up a few words and phrases in  a short time. If you have a more advanced knowledge of Lao language, you can have real conversations and you will gain a deeper understanding of Lao culture and history with the people you meet in Laos, which can be very interesting and will add a new dimension to your holiday.

What is the time difference?

The time in Laos is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +7).

What is business hour?

Government offices are open from 08:30AM-12:00AM, 01:00PM-04:00PM on Monday through Friday. Banks open 08:30AM-03:30PM on Monday-Friday, Shops around 09:00AM-06:00 (holiday depends on each shop).

Is it safe to travel to Laos with children?

Laos is a safe, quiet country with a lot to explore for both adults and children. Lao people love kids. If you bring children, you will have good opportunities communicating with Lao people.

 

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