The Land of Smiles attracts more than 30 million tourists every year; putting it up there at the top of the most visited destinations on the planet list. You may not be aware that Thailand, formerly Siam, is the only Southeast Asian nation to escape colonisation; thanks largely to the diplomacy of King Rama V, who gave some of his land in the north to the French and the British to the south. You might be wondering what this has to do with taking a holiday, Thai culture is undiluted by colonial influence, making a unique traditional way of life that follows Buddhist principles.
Here are a few things you should know before arriving in Thailand.
- Visas – Some nationalities receive a 30-day visa on arrival, which is free and can be extended for a further 15 days, giving 45 days in total. You can apply online at the nearest Thai Embassy in your country for a tourist visa, which gives you 60 days, and this can be extended for another 30 days. Never overstay your visa, as this can result in jail and deportation; the fine for overstaying is 500bt per day, which can be paid at the airport.
- Thai Royal Family – The King and his family are highly revered and there are strict Les Majeste laws that can result in long prison sentences. Never say anything derogatory and do not put your foot on Thai money, as this is regarded as an insult to the monarchy.
- Booking online – If you are planning a visit to the best theme park in Phuket, search for their website to find out whether the booking is necessary; you get the best deals at hotels and resorts when you book online.
- Right-hand drive – Thailand follows the UK with a right-hand drive system, the opposite for European and US citizens. Crossing the street requires the understanding that you must look right before moving, as this is the direction the traffic is coming from.
- Changing money – You can change $50 at the airport, which is more than enough to get you into Bangkok, where you will find ‘Super rich’ exchange booths that offer the best rates. They do not accept marked or damaged bills.
- Hospital treatment is expensive – You are strongly advised to take out comprehensive health insurance that covers emergency treatment; search the web for cheap travel insurance, which can be activated online.
Thailand is a very safe place; the Thais are friendly and helpful, making for the perfect place to relax in the sun.