Thailand destination guide

Best time to visit Thailand

Thailand's climate is controlled by tropical monsoons and the weather in Thailand is generally hot and humid across most of the country throughout most of the year with seasons generally divided into the hot season, cool season, and rainy season.

Cool Season (November - February)

The weather in Thailand around the central, northern, and north- eastern regions is mostly cool and dry between November and February and are the most popular months to visit Thailand. The southern region of Thailand really has only two seasons – “rainy” and dry, not technically experiencing “cool” weather but featuring glorious sunshine without unbearable heat, beginning in late November and continuing onto April or May.

Hot Season (March - June)

The hot season lasts from March to June when higher relative temperatures and occasional rain is the norm. Around the inland areas, including Bangkok and Ayutthaya, this often means heat and high humidity. The temperatures in the hot season begin climbing in February with rain sporadically falling around mid-April. This is traditionally the least popular season although the weather in Thailand is still quite nice along Thailand’s coasts.

Rainy Season (July - October)

The rainy season lasts from July to October and is dominated by the southwest monsoon, during which time rainfall in most of Thailand is at its heaviest. While it certainly does rain during this season it’s more likely to consist of flash-flood afternoon downpours than a continual drizzle for days. For beach lovers, Thailand’s two coasts have slightly different rainy seasons.

On the Andaman or west coast, where Phuket, Krabi, and the Phi Phi Islands lie, the southwest monsoon brings heavy storms from April to October, while on the Gulf of Thailand or east coast, where Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao lie, the most rain falls between September and December.

While the monsoon on the west coast brings a fairly steady season of continual rain, the east coast storms are more similar to the north’s, generally sunny days with occasionally heavy downpours.

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Best time to go

Bangkok and Central

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
20℃ 22℃ 24℃ 25℃ 25℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 22℃ 20℃
 Average maximum temperature
32℃ 33℃ 34℃ 35℃ 34℃ 33℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃
 Average hours of sunshine
9 8 9 8 8 6 5 5 5 6 8 9
 Average rainfall in mm
8 20 36 58 198 160 160 175 305 206 66 5

Chiang Mai and the North

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
13℃ 14℃ 17℃ 22℃ 23℃ 23℃ 23℃ 23℃ 23℃ 21℃ 19℃ 15℃
 Average maximum temperature
29℃ 32℃ 34℃ 36℃ 34℃ 32℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 30℃ 28℃
 Average hours of sunshine
9 9 9 9 8 6 5 4 6 7 8 9
 Average rainfall in mm
0 10 8 36 122 112 213 193 249 94 31 13

Gulf of Thailand ( Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Phanghan, Hua Hin, Cha Am

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
24℃ 25℃ 25℃ 26℃ 26℃ 25℃ 25℃ 25℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃
 Average maximum temperature
29℃ 30℃ 31℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 30℃ 30℃ 29℃
 Average hours of sunshine
7 8 8 8 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 7
 Average rainfall in mm
137 57 77 76 146 112 122 118 116 290 489 209

Andaman Sea ( Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Krabi, Koh Lanta, Koh Chang)

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
24℃ 24℃ 25℃ 25℃ 25℃ 25℃ 24℃ 25℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃
 Average maximum temperature
32℃ 33℃ 34℃ 34℃ 33℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃
 Average hours of sunshine
8 9 8 9 8 7 8 8 7 7 7 8
 Average rainfall in mm
23 26 59 137 269 236 284 282 386 295 174 61

General travel tips

AIRPORT TAX
Airport taxes are included in all international and domestic flight tickets. Any additional airport fees are also included so there is no additional payment needed at the airport.

ARRIVAL IN THAILAND
BY AIR

Bangkok is one of Asia’s largest air hubs, so it is very well-connected to the rest of the world. Besides Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, the airports in Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Koh Samui, Phuket, and Krabi are served by international flights directly.

BY LAND
Thailand shares borders with Myanmar to the north-west, Laos in the north-east, Cambodia to the east and Malaysia to the south.

From Laos: The Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River between Vientiane and Nong Khai is the busiest crossing. The Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge now links Savannakhet with Mukdahan. It is also possible to cross the borders at Houey Xai / Chiang Khong, Nakaxeng / Kaenthao, Pakxan / Bungkan, Thakhaek / Nakorn Phanom.

From Myanmar: Visitors can cross into Thailand from Tachileik to Mae Sai (Chiang Rai) and from Kawthoung into Ranong. For the border checkpoints at Mae Sot / Myawaddy and Three Pagoda Pass at Sangkhlaburi / Payathonzu, foreigners can only access them from the Thai side, so it will be impossible to cross into Thailand from Myanmar at these points.

From Cambodia: There are six border crossings linking Thailand and Cambodia. The highway linking Siem Reap and the Angkor temples leads to Aranyaprathet via Poipet and it is a popular crossing.

From Malaysia: There are four crossings linking Thailand with Malaysia, namely Padang Besar and Sadao in Songkhla province, Betong in Yala province and SungaiKolok in Narathiwat province. (Note: These border crossings are closed from time to time due to the political situation)

ARRIVAL FORMALITIES

Upon arrival in Thailand, all visitors must complete an entry/exit form including a customs declaration. It is important that your copy of this form is kept safe with your passport while in Thailand and is presented to the customs and immigration officials on departure.

Also, Thai immigration has enforced that travellers entering the country have to carry at least 20,000 THB (450 pounds) per person or 40,000 THB (900 pounds) per family in cash. Spot checks will be made of travellers, in case you face any issue, please do not hesitate to contact the EXO customer care directly.

In addition, the Airports of Thailand has announced the closure of all smoking rooms inside the terminals of six major airports, effective from 03 February 2019. This is in line with the 2017 Tobacco Act and the 2018 Announcement from the Ministry of Public Health declaring no-smoking areas. The six airports include Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai and Mae Fah Luang Chiang Rai. Those who violate this new law could be fined up to 5,000 THB (150 USD). However, the AOT has designated smoking areas outside the terminals. (NOTE: It is against the law to smoke within five meters of an entrance or exit of any public building in Thailand)

ATMs
ATMs for withdrawing Thai Baht are widely available in major airports, shopping malls, hotels and almost all provincial banks in Thailand. For most banks there is a maximum withdrawal of 20,000 THB per transaction; however, several withdrawals may be made in a single day. There is also a fee of 150 THB locally for every withdrawal. Ask your tour guide for help when you need to locate an ATM.

BUSINESS HOURS

Most businesses are open from Monday to Friday. Government offices are open from 08:30 to 16:30 with some closing for lunch from noon to 13:00. Many retailers and travel agencies are also open on Saturday and most shops are open on Sundays.

CLOTHING

Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for travelling in Thailand. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics, but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat is a good idea in the rainy season. During the winter months from November to February, warm clothing is needed for visiting northern Thailand. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious buildings and shoes should be removed before entering a private home.

CREDIT CARDS

VISA and MASTERCARD are the most widely accepted, but most other major credit cards are also accepted in Thailand. Not all shops and restaurants will accept credit cards, so do check with the cashier before making any purchases. Bear in mind that some places may pass onto you the fee imposed on them by the credit card company (approximately 2.25% to 3.5%, depending on card type), so you may want to pay by cash instead of credit card in some instances.

CUSTOM REGULATIONS

Free import by each passenger holding a passport of his own, irrespective of age:
200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco or equal weight of cigars;
1 litre of alcoholic liquor;
A camera with 5 rolls of film or one movie camera with 3 rolls of 8- or 16-mm. film;
Foreign currency not over 20,000 USD

E-cigarettes are also banned in Thailand. You are not allowed to bring vaporisers (like e-cigarettes and e- buraku) or refills into Thailand. These items are likely to be confiscated and you could be fined or sent to prison for up to 10 years if convicted. The sale or supply of e-cigarettes and similar devices is also banned, and you could face a heavy fine or up to 5 years imprisonment if found guilty.

In addition, the smoking ban has been enforced on 20 beaches across Thailand. You could be imprisoned up to 1 year or fined up to 100,000 THB (3,000 USD) or both if getting caught. The 20 beaches are in Pattaya, Bangsaen, Cha-am, Hua Hin, Phuket, Samui, Phang Nga, and Songkhla.

Also, with regards to camera regulation, all drone users who bring the unmanned aerial vehicles over 250 grams in Thailand must register their devices to obtain an official license from the Civil Aviation Authority in Thailand. If you fail to do so, you are at risk of paying a 100,000 THB (3,100 USD) fine or being imprisoned up to 5 years. This regulation could have an impact on any tourists and media (photographers and social media bloggers) alike, who are using drones for both commercial and recreational purposes.

ELECTRICITY

Thailand uses 220V (50 cycles per second) but the plugs are not standardized. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor.

ENTERTAINMENT

There are plenty of entertainment options in Thailand and restaurants/bars and night-clubs open until late at night / early in the morning. A wide variety of restaurants are on offer with everything from Thai, Chinese, Italian, French cuisine, etc. to fast food.

Note that officially you can buy alcohol between 11.00 and 14.00 hrs, and again between 17.00 and midnight on any day, weekends included. At any other times, it is not allowed.

Other restrictions include all Buddhist holidays and any election days when the sale of alcohol is banned for all 24 hours. These holidays include Makhabucha (falls in February), Wan Wisakhabucha (sometime in May), Wan Asanhabucha (July) and Wan Khao Phansa (also in July). All bars are usually closed then as well.

Also, note that, according to the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act of 2008, alcohol consumption is banned in vehicles, even for passengers. Whoever violates the laws could be imprisoned up to 1 year or fined up to 10,000 THB (320 USD) or both.

FOOD

The basis of a Thai meal is rice, usually steamed although it can be made into noodles, while glutinous or sticky rice is preferred with some specialities. Accompanying the rice are main dishes featuring vegetables, meat, seafood, egg, fish and soup. Although Thais generally prefer hot, spicy food, not all dishes are so intense and there are grades of hotness as Thai food can be modulated to suit most tastes. Thailand is also the perfect place for a large choice of tropical fruits such as mangoes, pineapple, bananas, longan, mangosteen, jackfruit, as well as the famous durian, dubbed ‘the fruit of the gods’ fruits very special smell and taste.

HEALTH

No vaccinations are required except for yellow fever if you are coming from a country or travelling through a country where the disease is present (http://www.mfa.go.th/main/en/services/4908/15384-List-of- countries-which-require-International-Heal.html). However, visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio. Dengue and Malaria are present in most of the region and it is advisable to take precautions especially if travelling off the beaten track. The standard of medical facilities is generally good, and Thailand has a growing medical tourism industry. It is advisable to take out a good medical insurance policy before travelling in case evacuation is needed.

INTERNET

Internet cafes are widely available everywhere and are easily found in major towns and cities. Prices are reasonable but may vary from 10 – 60 baht an hour. In many Internet cafés, you can buy pre-paid international phone cards to dial from a computer to a land-line or mobile phone worldwide. Most Internet cafés are equipped with webcams, head-sets and microphones. Wi-Fi hotspots are becoming increasingly available, mostly free of charge, in hotels, and public spaces in Bangkok. Many hotels also have Business Centers with PCs connected to the Internet or in-room broadband access- please note that this service is not always free, and the rates are usually cheaper at internet cafes.

LANGUAGE

The most widely spoken language in Thailand is Thai, a complicated language with a unique alphabet. Besides the numerous hill tribe dialects, other languages spoken include Lao, Khmer and Chinese. Most Thai people, especially in the major cities, speak English and tourists should have no troubles with communication in these areas.

MONEY

The currency in Thailand is the Baht. Banks, which are open Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 15:30, give the best exchange rates. (Some banks in the central business areas or in department store extend business hours until 18:00 or 19:00) You will receive a better exchange rate in the country than overseas, so it is advisable to wait until reaching Thailand to exchange your money. At the Bangkok airport arrival area, there are banks offering the same rate as you will find in the city centre.

In tourist areas, there are also currency exchange outlets that stay open later, usually until around 20:00. ATM machines are found throughout the country and most will accept foreign ATM cards. Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Photo developing labs are common in Bangkok and the rest of Thailand, providing nor-mal print films as well as professional quality films (like slide films). Digital photos can easily be downloaded and loaded onto a CD-ROM in case you run out of memory. Besides, it is easy to purchase SD memory cards in all major cities.

POSTAL MAIL

Postcards are sold at all main tourist sites and stamps are available from post offices and some hotel reception desks. A postcard to Europe costs 15 THB to send and can take up to two weeks to reach the country of destination.

RELIGION
Theravada Buddhism is practised by about 95% of Thais. Every Thai male is expected to become a monk for a short period in his life. There is also a large Muslim minority in Thailand’s four southernmost provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani and Satun.

SAFETY

Thailand is a safe country to visit. As a global rule, never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. Do beware of scams and touts that remain fairly common in popular tourist destinations. As in any country, demonstrations do occasionally take place; however, they are usually in isolated areas away from the major tourist sites and has little, if any effect on travellers.

SHOPPING

Textiles are possibly the best buy in Thailand and Thai silk, considered the best in the world, is very inexpensive. The Thai shoulder bags known as yâam are generally well made and come in many varieties, some woven by hill tribes. Other items to look out for include gems and jewellery, silverware, bronze ware, woodcarvings, lacquerware, celadon pottery, leather goods and tailoring.

TELEPHONE

Most hotels have offer international dialling and fax facilities although be warned that these services are expensive in Thailand. The best way to stay in touch is to buy a local SIM Card for your mobile phone at a convenience store. They cost approximately 150 THB and offer international dialling rates as low as 5 THB per minute and free incoming international calls. Internet cafes usually offer cheap web-phone call systems as well, however, the quality is often poor.

TIME

Thailand is GMT +7 and does not operate on a daylight-savings system.

TIPPING

Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in Thailand. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped a small amount for their troubles.

TRANSPORTATION

Those possessing a valid International Driving License will be able to rent and drive a car. Road signs and maps are commonly displayed in the English language and international car hire companies such as Avis and Hertz also operate in major tourist destinations such as Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket and Samui Island. It is also easy to rent a car with a driver. Getting around town there are several options. The ubiquitous three-wheeled Tuk Tuks are fun for short transfers while metered taxis offer a nice (and cheap) air-conditioned ride.

In Bangkok, the public transportation includes River Boat, a Skytrain and Underground Metro which are easy to use, reasonably priced and link most major tourist areas! A great way to avoid the city’s infamous traffic jams.

The standard vehicle used for transfers in Thailand will be the Toyota Commuter Van. It has three rows of seats with a total capacity of nine passengers. As a standard, we maxi-mum load six passengers per van and keep one row free for luggage. It should be a limit for one big luggage and one hand-carry per passenger. All transfers with Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Koh Samui as a starting point will use the Toyota Commuter type (VAN) while all transfers with Phuket or Krabi as starting points will use the Toyota Commuter type (VAN) or Toyota Camry type (Sedan).

Furthermore, according to the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act of 2008, alcohol consumption is banned in vehicles, even for passengers. Whoever violates the laws could be imprisoned up to 1 year or fined up to 10,000 THB (320 USD) or both. For more details, visit http://www.thaiantialcohol.com/en/uploads/files/alcohol_control_act.pdf

VISAS

Citizens of 49 different countries can enter Thailand without a visa and be granted a free visa at the airport for a 30-day stay. (NOTE: Most overland arrivals only receive a 15-day visa) Next in length of validity is the tourist visa which is good for 60 days and costs approximately 25 USD, depending on the country of application. Three passport photos must accompany all applications. Please check the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for the latest information and full details of your country’s visa agreement: http://www.mfa.go.th/main/en/services/4908

WATER

It is not advisable to drink tap water in Thailand but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. Ice in drinks is generally OK in good standard hotels and restaurants, but it is best to avoid it on street stalls or in country areas.