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Things You Need to Know for travel to Thailand


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THAILAND IS A THIRD WORLD COUNTRY. CONDITIONS ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT, TRAINS, AT AIRPORTS, THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRYSIDE AND IN MANY PARTS OF THE CITIES CAN BE EXTREMELY BASIC AND SOMETIMES DIRTY BY WESTERN STANDARDS. THE TRUE TRAVELLER SHOULD ACCEPT THESE CONDITIONS AS A SMALL PRICE TO PAY FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO VISIT A LARGELY UNCOMMERCIALISED COUNTRY, WHERE YOU WILL HAVE THE ALMOST UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY OF MEETING THE PEOPLE AT CLOSE QUARTERS AT ALL LEVELS OF SOCIETY, AND COMING AWAY WITH A REAL UNDERSTANDING OF THEIR WAY OF LIFE.

IMPORTANT Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this booklet. However, things change so fast in Thailand, and in the way that we have to respond to these changing conditions, that inaccuracies in the information in this booklet may occur. For that reason, all statements are intended as a guideline only and no litigation may be based upon inaccuracies contained in this booklet. The contents of this booklet do not constitute part of, or in anyway amend, the booking conditions or publicised tour inclusions of DISCOVER ASIA.

Thank you for using DISCOVER ASIA in the planning of your tour to Thailand. You will find plenty more information to assist in planning your tour on our website www.discoverasia.com.au For information about cities and sights in Thailand see Glossary of Cities For our Booking Conditions see Booking Conditions under Thailand For our Booking Form see Booking Form on our Home Page For assistance in designing an Independent Tour see Independent Tour Request

PRE-TOUR INFORMATION

ALTERATION TO ITINERARY:
Occasionally, tours cannot be operated exactly as per the published itinerary. This can be due to temporary airport closures, flight schedule changes or other operational requirements encountered by our supplier. Such changes may be advised to us at extremely short notice, and often not at all. Whenever possible you will be advised of these changes prior to your departure. Sometimes our supplier advises us of itinerary changes with the qualification that, the itinerary may have further changes at a later date, or, is expected to revert back to the original. Alteration to your itinerary, and to the standard of your accommodation can occur, though less frequently than in years past. Generally, by the end of your tour, you will have seen all that you had hoped to see in Thailand. These potential changes are totally beyond the control of tour operators within Australia. The best we can do is to provide you with the very best possible guides to minimise the inconvenience to you if changes to your itinerary should occur. In such rare circumstances, you may not be advised of these changes prior to your departure and your final itinerary may be advised to you upon arrival in Thailand. It is the policy of our supplier that no refunds will be made for alteration to or omissions in published itineraries. This may occasionally appear harsh or unfair, but, it is a precondition of travel to Thailand and booking with our supplier. Please rest assured that, when itinerary changes are required, the utmost attention is paid by this company to ensure that they incur the least possible inconvenience to our passengers. Please refer to our Booking Conditions enclosed with your invoice for definition of the term 'supplier'.

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CASH/TRAVELLERS CHEQUES/CREDIT CARDS:


Major credit cards are widely accepted in Bangkok and in other major cities in Thailand as well as in all leading hotels, department stores and restaurants. In some cases, some establishments may add a surcharge (approximately 5% to the price of the merchandise you are purchasing. Travellers cheques are also readily accepted, and above all you'll get a rate which is about 0,5 to 0,8% above the cash rate. On the other hand there's a handling fee of 23 Baht per check, but for a 100 US$ cheques you'll end up with a slightly better exchange rate.

CLIMATE:
Thailand has a tropical climate with three distinct seasons: Hot (March to May) - Temperature = 25c to 35c Rainy (June to October) - Temperature = 24C to 33C Cool (November to February) - Temperature = 20C to 30C

CLOTHING:
You will not need formal or "dressy" clothes at any time during your Thailand tour. Light, loose cotton clothing is best. Nylon should be avoided. Sweaters are needed during the cool season evenings or if visiting mountainous areas or national parks. Jackets and ties are required in a few restaurants and nightclubs. Neat clothes are required for entering temples or palaces.

COMMUNICATIONS:
Once you are in Thailand it can sometimes be difficult for anyone to contact you. SEE EMERGENCY.

CURRENCY:
There are 100 satangs in 1 baht. (B=baht) Notes are issued in denominations of B1000 (gray), B500 (purple), B100 (red), B50 (blue), B20 (green), and B10 (brown). There are 10, 5 and 1 baht coin, and 50 and 25 satang. Most foreign currencies and traveller cheques are easily changed at banks, hotels or moneychangers. For the current exchange rate, check our website.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS:
Prohibited items: All kinds of narcotics (hemp, opium, cocaine, morphine, heroin), obscene literature, pictures or articles. Firearms: Importation of fire-arms and ammunition can be done only after a permit has been obtained from the Police Department of the Local Registration Office. Personal effects: A reasonable amount of clothing for personal use, toilet articles, and professional instruments may be brought in free of duty. Cameras: One still-camera or one movie camera can be brought in without duty.

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Tobacco, alcoholic beverages: Cigarettes, cigars, or smoking tobacco each or in total must not exceed 250 grams in weight. Cigarettes not exceeding 200 in quantity. One litre each of wine or spirits may be brought in free of duty. Household effects: A reasonable amount of used household effects, accompanied by the owner on change of domicile are also free of duty. Plants and animals: Certain species of fruits, vegetables and plants are prohibited.

EARLY MORNING CALLS:


Whilst most hotels will arrange early morning calls for you, it is advisable to carry your own personal alarm clock and depend upon it!

ELECTRICITY:
50 cycle AC power 220 Volts in Bangkok and most of Thailand

EMERGENCY:
As the hotel accommodation can change without warning or notice it is sometimes impossible to know exactly where you will be at any given time. In the event of emergency ONLY...should anybody in Australia need to contact you they should contact DISCOVER ASIA direct in Australia. We shall then track you down (this could take one full working day) and inform you to ring the person back. Emergency Phone Number - MON-FRI (9am5.30pm): Sydney (02) 4963 7566. Your tour guide will assist you should you have an emergency whilst on tour.

FESTIVALS and HOLIDAYS:


There are altogether 15 public Holidays in Thailand; In 1940, Thailand moved its New Year's Day from April 13 to January 1 to bring the country in line with most of the world. Until today, the old New Year's Day (Songkran) is a holiday, and festivities are at least as exalted as on December 31 and January 1. While a solar calendar has been used for a long time to count years, a lunar calendar is in use until today to set the dates of religious holidays (as it is the case with Easter in the Christian religion). And while Thailand switches to a new year at the same day as Christian countries, the years are still counted as Buddhist Era (B.E.) and not as Anno Domini (A.D.). 2484 B.E. was set as 1941 A.D. The Buddhist Era started 543 years earlier than the Christian Era. Therefore 1957 A.D. was the year 2500 B.E.; 1993 A.D. is 2536 B.E. and the year 2000 A.D. was 2543 B.E. While postal stamping indicates Buddhist Era, bank matters are usually conducted in accordance to the Christian count. Makka Bucha Day - FEBRUARY - 1 Day Chakri Day APRIL - 1 Day Songkran Festival APRIL - 2 Days Labour Day MAY - 1 Day Coronation Day MAY - 1 Day

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Visakha Bucha Day MAY - 1 Day Asarnha Bucha Day JULY - 1 Day The Queen's Birthday AUGUST - 1 Day Chulalongkorn Day OCTOBER - 1 Day The King's Birthday DECEMBER - 1 Day Constitution Day DECEMBER - 1 Day

HEALTH:
Some border areas of Thailand are malarial, so appropriate precautions should be taken. Please contact your local tropical institute or Doctor for further information. Bangkok, major cities and resorts have excellent medical facilities meeting highest international standards and most of the hotels have doctors on 24-hour call. Vaccination certificates are not required unless arriving from an infected area. Persons suffering from leprosy, AIDS, trachoma, tuberculosis and plague are forbidden entry into Thailand.

LAUNDRY:
Most hotels can arrange laundry, though rarely dry-cleaning. However, other than in Western-run or superior hotels, you can expect boiling, or other "rough" handling to be the order of the day. OK for T-shirts and cottons, but, not for your fine silks!

LUGGAGE:
You can expect your bags to have a rough time in Thailand! Take sturdy bags or the nylon "sausage" type of bag with non-tear material. Do not use bags with wheels, or rucksacks with a frame, unless either can be removed. This is not only because they may be broken off from your bags, but, they can also do great damage to other people's baggage. Getting on and off trains and at airports you may need to carry your own luggage. Your international baggage allowance is 20 kilos (44 lbs) in Economy Class. Although porterage may be included in the tour price, we cannot hope to overcome the natural slackness inherent in some porters! Your bags will get to your room, eventually. If you want your bags in a hurry, you should, perhaps, be prepared to fetch them yourself at times.

MEALS/DRINK:
If you have very special dietary requirements you should discuss these with your guide/tour escort and he can, normally, arrange for suitable substitute food. This may occasionally be at a small extra cost to you. Vegetarian and dairy-free diets fit in very easily with regular Thai dishes served at all sittings. Food in Thailand is a constant delight and very cheap, therefore it makes no sense for us to charge you in advance for this. As in any Asian nation, do not drink unboiled water - and that includes the addition of ice to your drinks. Bottled soft drinks are available, though do check that it is sealed when given to you. Milk and fresh fruit juices should be taken with caution. Common sense really does prevail when eating and drinking in South East Asia, stomach ailments are common, not always because of local hygiene conditions, but simply often due to "alien" enzymes & spices that your body is unaccustomed to.

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PHYSICAL EXERTION/FREE TIME:


Distances in Thailand for sightseeing are not great, so anyone in reasonable health should have no problems in handling a tour of Thailand. Most of our sightseeing is taken at a leisurely pace and on level surfaces. The amount of walking really depends on what tour you have booked on. Do talk to our consultants if you have any concerns about fitness levels.

SAFETY:
As long as you travel where you should be, then you should experience no difficulties with safety. You will discover that on a local level, Thai people are incredibly warm and friendly, they have a genuine interest in travellers to their country and will do all possible to assist you. Nevertheless, as in any other country of the world, you should take care with your belongings. Bag snatching from motorbikes and children pick-pockets are increasing, keep valuables firmly in your grasp.

SHOPPING/PRICES:
Fixed prices are the norm in department stores, but at most other places bargaining is to be expected. 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. Thai Silk is probably the most famous of all the Kingdom's handicrafts. It is available in a range of colours, patterns and plys, and is sold by the yard, or as ready-made clothing and souvenir items. A unique style of Thai silk is Mat Mee, a tie-dye silk traditional to the North-east. The best known outlet for Thai silk is undoubtedly Jim Thompson's shop at the top of Surawong Road in Bangkok. Bangkok is the coloured gemstone capital of the world. Rubies and sapphires are indigenous stones, but virtually all coloured gems, as well as diamonds, are available. Shoppers should exercise caution and buy from reputable dealers only.

SIGHTSEEING:
All of our sightseeing is on an organised basis with air-conditioned vehicles. We are committed to utilising your time in each city as effectively and efficiently as possible so that you get to see all the sights in comfort. Some companies arrange 'walking' tours or 'cyclo' tours, which in our experience can be extremely tiring and exhausting, and most importantly, wasteful of time. What we prefer and what we have arranged, is some time free for you to wander at your own leisure once you are acquainted with the most important sights. It is lovely to go walking, cycling or take a cyclo and discover these places at your own pace, without the pressure of having to 'get somewhere'. Your guide will be able to arrange the hire of cycles or cyclos, which are usually very reasonable and only a few dollars an hour. If you are travelling independently, then there are usually signs around the hotel indicating where these can be hired. Remember to take a slip of paper with your hotel name written in Thai, just in case you get lost! A map is always recommended if you intend to go wandering far.

TAXES:
Airport taxes apply to all international & domestic flights.

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TIME ZONES:
Thailand time is GMT + 7 hours - 12noon in Bangkok is 3pm in Sydney/Melbourne.

TIPPING/GIFTS:
Tipping is widely practiced. Most of the hotels add a 10% service charge on top your bill, otherwise if service charge is not included, give approximately 10%. Bell Boys are tipped with BHT 10,- to 20,- depending on the amount of luggage. Taxi drivers are not to be tipped, however you round up the amount. We do not encourage the indiscriminate handing out of lollies and gifts, it is degrading and unnecessarily patronising. A small gift in exchange for a service provided or in friendship, (kangaroo pin, Australian stamps & postcards), is universally polite and appreciated. Your local guide in each city will certainly appreciate a cash bonus, US$5 would be appropriate, as long as the guide has done his job well and pleasantly. The hilltribes, who are very susceptible to Western influences, (at the time of writing these notes, were uncommercial and very sincere). We would ask that you do not hand out gifts. If you wish to help, you may like to consider purchasing one of the souvenir items that they sell at the hilltribes (these souvenirs are made in town and the hilltribes earn commission from sales, some are made by the hilltribes themselves however). Alternatively, pens and paper are always welcome for the children's schoolwork. What we recommend if you wish to give pens/paper, is make a point of seeking out one of the elders and graciously asking them to distribute this to the children and thank them for their hospitality, use your guide as a translator, (ie, don't just hand them out wildly since one child will always miss out and become terribly upset, and the adults in the village are sensitive to the children being patronised with charity).

TRANSPORT:
Thai operates regular and daily domestic flights to all major cities and towns throughout the country. Bangkok Airways and Angel Air are the other two domestic carriers, who also have a good network of domestic flights. Bangkok Airways operates several daily flights between Bangkok and Ko Samui

CARS AND BUSES:


The vehicles we use are all air-conditioned, in the cities the standard is better than in the provinces. Roads in Thailand are mainly sealed, but can be in quite poor condition in many places, and therefore road travel can often be quite slow and bumpy.

TAXIS/TUK TUKS:
Most hotels operate limousine services, but these are most of the time more expensive than public taxis, which are numerous at all times of day. Please be advised to use only those with a rooftop sign "Taxi Meter". A flagfall applies to all fares, Fees for the Tollway have to be paid by the passenger. You are advised to take a note with your destination written in Thai with you, since the majority of taxi drivers are not well-versed in English communication. An alternative to a taxi and definitively a must to try out at least one time, are the three-wheeled mini taxis called Tuk-Tuks. Fares must be bargained before starting the journey. Tuk-Tuks are not recommended for long distance journeys and they are not allowed to enter the toll-roads or highways.

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TOUR ESCORT:
All of our guides are Thais, who are well trained and enthusiastic. We feel that you will benefit from their intimate knowledge of their country, the past, present and future hopes. They will assist you with any matters pertaining to the wellbeing of your tour and ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible. Local guides will meet you from the train, bus or plane and escort you during your sightseeing. They are also responsible for ensuring you are safely put on the next leg of your journey (ie, they should wait for you to go through to the boarding room for flights and make sure there have been no cancellations), ensure that you are clear about this responsibility and insist on it. You will always have a local guide unless otherwise specified.

VISA:
For up date Visa Information and regulation, please visit the website of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

WHAT TO TAKE:
This is by no means exhaustive or final, since travelling items are personal, but we recommend you consider the following. - Small torch - 'Wet Ones' - Toilet paper - Fan (buy over there) - Sun hat - Sun lotion - If travelling on overnight trains, a light throw over in case you get chilly - Snack food for the train and in your hotel between meals (biscuits, coffee, milk sachets, vegemite, tea bags etc) - A couple of spare passport photos - A small medical kit containing a broadly effective antibiotic, antiseptic, panadol, bandage, Imodium or Lomotil, Gastrolyte, Calamine, insect repellent, plasters. - Umbrella or light rain-jacket during wet season (note you can purchase these in Vietnam). - Money Belt - Padlock for bags - Camera and spare batteries - Toiletry items - Travelling alarm clock - Ear plugs and of course, your documents, air tickets, passport, visa

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