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  THAILAND GUIDE    
 

Thailand Transport

Transportation in Thailand is tremendously well-organized and makes the entire stay in Thailand comfortable and relaxed. The air, rail, bus, road and water transport is very competent. The different islands and cities are connected to each other and the visitors can easily move about the country. Bookings and reservations should be completed preferably in advance to duck the rush at the last minute. The transport in Thailand is broadly separated into five categories. They are,

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Travelling to Thailand

By plane
Bangkok is one of Asia's largest hubs as well as the busiest airport in Southeast Asia; almost every airline that flies to Asia also flies to Bangkok, meaning competition is stiff and prices are low. There are also international flights directly to/from Chiang Mai, Ko Samui, Phuket, Krabi and Udon Thani and many other regional provincial towns serviced form the main airports.

By roads
Many international border cossings from Camdodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar.Travelling by road is an experience but frankly once you have done it, you've done it!!

By train
Thailand's sole international train service links to Butterworth (near Penang) and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, continuing all the way to Singapore. Tickets are inexpensive even in first class sleepers, but it can be a time-consuming ride; the 2-hour flight to Singapore will take you close to 48 hours by rail, as you have to change trains twice.

By ferry
It is viable now to travel by ferries in hi season(Nov-May) from Phuket and island hop your way down the coast all the way to Indonesia.

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  Get Around

By plane
Thailand is a big country, and if sitting in a motor vehicle for 11 hours is not your idea of a fun time, you may well want to consider domestic flights. In no way terribly expensive to start with (at least by Western standards), the deregulation of the industry has brought in a crop of new operators: With a little research, it's possible to fly pretty much anywhere in the country for less than 2000 baht. Note that various taxes and (often hefty) surcharges are always added to "advertised" prices.

By train
State Railway of Thailand (SRT) has a 4000-km network covering most of the country, from Chiang Mai in the north all the way to (and beyond) the Malaysian border in the south. Compared to buses, most trains are relatively slow and prone to delays, but safer. You can pick up fruits, drinks and cooked food from hawkers at most stations.

The BTS Skytrain
he BTS Skytrain is the safest, most comfortable and handy way to get around Bangkok. In service since December 5, 1999, it has transformed the face of municipal transportation in the Thai capital, for the first time offering both residents and tourists a comfortable ride through central Bangkok - lifting commuters on top of the chronic congestion, noise and pollution of the streets beneath.

By road
Thailand's roads are head and shoulders above its neighbors Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, but driving habits are still quite treacherous. Drunk driving, speeding and reckless passing are depressingly normal, and bus and taxi drivers work inhuman shifts and often take drugs to keep themselves alert, with predictable and tragic results. It's normal for motorbikes - even police! - to drive close to the curb on the wrong side of the road. Death tolls sky-rocket around main holidays, especially Songkhran, when bystanders often throw water on passing cars and bikes. Many drivers don't use headlights at night, multiplying risks, and it is wise to avoid or reduce overnight travel by road.

By Bus
Buses travel all over the country and the government's motor vehicle company BKS (Baw Kaw Saw), well-known in English simply as the Transport Company, has a terminal in each province of any size.

By Songthaew
A songthaew is a truck-based vehicle with a pair of bench seats in the back, one on either side - hence the name, which means "two rows" in Thai.

By Tuk-tuk
The name tuk-tuk is used to describe a wide variety of small/lightweight vehicles. The vast majority have three wheels; some are entirely purpose-built (others are partially based on motorcycle components (primarily engines, steering, front suspension, fuel tank, drivers seat). A relatively new development is the four wheeled tuk-tuk (basically a microvan-songthaew) as found in Phuket, but take attention for price fixing and rip offs.

By Taxi
Metered taxis are ubiquitous in Bangkok and starting to become more popular in Chiang Mai, but rare elsewhere in the country. When available, they are an excellent means of transport - insist on the meter. Beware of taxis which idle around touristy areas and wait for people. They are looking for a tourist who will take their taxi without using a meter.

By Motorbike
These are very widely used as taxis, with fares starting from as low as 10 baht. Negotiate the fare to the driver before using his service or he will charge you too much. Motorcycles can be rented without problems in many locations. Rates start at around 150 baht/day for recent 100-125cc semi-automatic (foot operated gearchange, automatic clutch) step-through models, 200 baht/day for fully automatic scooters

Rental car
Driving your own car in Thailand is not for the faint-hearted, and many rental companies can supply drivers at a very reasonable price. Prices without insurance for a self-driven car start from around 800 baht/day for small cars, and from as little as 600 baht/day for open-top jeeps; cars with insurance start at barely under 1000 baht/day, and come down to around 5600 baht/week or 18000 baht/month.

By boat
One of the Thais' many names for themselves is jao naam, the Water Lords, and from the river expresses of Bangkok to the fishing trawlers of Phuket, boats remain an indispensable way of getting around many parts of the country.
Perhaps the most identifiably Thai boat is the long-tail boat (reua hang yao), a lengthy, thin wooden boat with the propeller at the end of a long 'tail' stretching from the boat. This makes them supremely manouverable even in shallow waters, but they're a little underpowered for longer trips and you'll get wet if it's even a little choppy. Long-tails usually act as taxis that can be chartered, although prices vary widely - figure on 300-400 baht for a few hours' rental, or up to 1500 for a full day. In a few locations like Krabi, long-tails run along set routes and charge fixed prices per passenger.

Modern, air-conditioned speedboat services, sometimes ferries (departure every 30 mins) also run from the Surat Thani to popular islands like Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan. Really long-distance services (eg. Bangkok to any other major city) have, however, effectively ceased to exist as buses, planes and even trains are quicker. Safety measures are simple and ferries and speedboats do sink occasionally, so steer clear of overloaded ships in poor weather, and scope out the nearest life jackets when on board.

 

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Activities

Thailand's a important enough country that you can locate a place to practice almost any outdoor sport.

Some selections:

Golf - see the separate Golf in Thailand article

Rock climbing - the cliffs of Rai Leh in Krabi are arguably amongst the best in the world.

Scuba diving - easily accessible Ko Tao and Ang Thong National Marine Park (near Ko Samui) draws the crowds, but also possible in Phuket, Pattaya and Krabi, and the Similan Islands are worth the journey. One of the newest hot spots for diving is Ko Lipe - little island in the middle of Tarutao National Park amazingly unspoilt, splendid reefs and beaches unquestionably stunning, a must see. See also Diving in Thailand.

Trekking - very common in the north around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai

Surfing - possible in Khao Lak, Phuket and Koh Samui.

Liveaboard Diving - see the separate Diving in Thailand article.

Spas - Although spas weren't introduced here until the early 1990s, Thailand has quickly turn into the second-highest ranking spa destination in the world. There are a unparalleled variety of spa types, and spas can be found at almost every destination in the country. The most popular spas can be found at major tourism destinations such as Phuket, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Bangkok, Ko Samui and Chiang Mai.

Medical tourism - Many travellers go to Thailand to undergo medical treatments at a fraction of the cost charged in their home countries. The renowned Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok attracts on average 400,000 foreign patients per year or an average of 1,000+ a day. Other hospitals, such as Phuket International Hospital also focus in serving foreigners. Private hospitals in Thailand are accredited by the government according to standards that meet or exceed those in North America, and many of the doctors in Thailand hold international accreditation and relevant licenses. Popular treatments, ranging from cosmetic, organ transplants and orthopedic treatments to dental and cardiac surgeries, are accessible at a price much lower than the US or Europe. Treatments moreover include physical and mental therapies.


 

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Money

The currency of Thailand is the baht (THB, ฿), written in Thai as บาท or บ. There are six coins and six notes.The most useful bills tend to be 20s and 100s, as many minor shops and stalls don't carry much cash. Taxi drivers in addition like to pull the "no change" trick, if caught, hop into the nearest convenience store and get a small purchase.

ATMs can be found in all cities and large towns, and international withdrawals are not a problem.

Credit cards are widely acknowledged in the holidaymaker industry, restaurant and shopping mall or widely used in Bangkok and chief cities.

Costs
Thailand is economical, and tremendous value to boot, low labour costs and sufficient of tourists means that everything a visitor could possibly want is both obtainable and affordable. 1200 baht will get a backpacker a dorm bed or cheap room, three square meals a day and leave sufficient for transport and sightseeing. Doubling that budget will let you stay in decent 3-star hotels, and if you're willing to fork out 6000 baht per day or more you can live like a king. Bangkok requires a more generous budget than upcountry destinations, but also offers by far the most competitive prices for shoppers who shop around. The most well-liked tourism islands such as Phuket and Ko Samui tend to have higher prices in general.

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Shopping

Thailand is a shopper's paradise and many tourists to Bangkok in specific end up spending much of their time in the countless markets and malls. Particularly accomplished buys are clothing, both discounted locally produced streetwear and elegant Thai silk, and all sorts of handicrafts. Electronics and computer gear are also widely obtainable, but prices are slightly higher than in Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur.

A Thai speciality are the night markets found in almost every town, the biggest and best-known of which are in Bangkok and the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai. Here a variety of vendors from designers to handiwork sellers have stalls selling goods which cannot normally be found in malls and day markets. The majority night markets also have significant open air food courts attached.

You can also find marvelously tacky up-to-the-minute clothing accessories. Witness pink sandals with clear plastic platform heels filled with fake flowers. Night markets along the main roads and Bangkok's Mahboonkrong (MBK) Mall, near the Siam skytrain stop, are particularly useful sources. Not to be absent out is what is often touted as the world's biggest weekend bazaar - The Chatuchak Weekend Market or knowned to locals simply as "JJ" Market. Chatuchak sells a myriad of products ranging from clothes to antiques, covers over 35 acres (1.1 km square) and is growing by the day!

 

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Sleep

Thailand has a plethora of accommodation in all price bracket. Each time take a look at the room (or better still several rooms) before agreeing a price. In less significant establishments also do ask for the agreed price in writing to avoid problems during check out.

The best prices (30%-50% off rack rates) for accommodation can be found during Thailand's low season, which is during May - August, which not surprisingly also coincides with the region's monsoon season. The peak season is during December - February.

Guesthouses are usually the cheapest option, costing under 200 baht per night (or less for a dorm bed). This gets you a room with a fan, a squat toilet (often shared) and not much else.

Thai hotels start around 200 baht and go up to around 800 baht. The upper end of this range will be air-conditioned, the lower end will not. The primary difference is that with a hotel room, your bathroom should be private, bed linen and towels should be provided, and there may be a hot shower.

Holidaymaker hotels are generally around 1000 baht and offer the basics for a beach holiday: Swimming pool, room service and colour TV.

Thai Boutique hotels, 2000 baht and up have mushroomed in the course of the past few years, they customarily provide less number of rooms (usually 10 or less) and a more personalized service. The more recognized of this genre include The Old Bangkok Inn , Chakrabongse Villa both of which have royal connections, and The Aleenta group of hotels which is based in Thailand's Southern beaches.

Business and luxury hotels , 4000 baht and up, offer every modern amenity you can think of and are largely indistinguishable from hotels anywhere else in the world. Some, notably Bangkok's The Oriental, The Sukhothai and The Peninsula are among the world's best hotels. The most luxurious resorts also fall in this price category, with some of the very best and most private adding a zero to the price.

       
 

Food and Eating out

The food alone is really adequate reason for a trip to Thailand. Curries, fruit shakes, stir fries, fresh fish made a hundred different ways - and that's just the introduction. Food in Thailand can be as inexpensive and easy as 20 baht phat thai (Thai fried noodles) cooked at a street stall or as expensive and complicated as a $100 ten-course meal by a royal chef served in one of Bangkok's 5 star hotels.

Since a large amount backpackers will be sticking closer to the first than the second, one of the significant things about Thailand is that food from stalls and tiny sidewalk restaurants is generally quite safe. Unlike some Asian countries, travellers should worry more about overeating or too much curry spice than about polluted kitchens and bad food. In fact, street restaurants, everywhere you can see what you'll get and everything is cooked on the spot (usually in a pool of germ- and diet-killing vegetable oil) can be a safe option.

Rice
The Thai staple food is rice (khao), so much so that in Thai eating a meal, kin khao, literally means "eat rice".

Noodles
Thais are great noodle eaters. The largely common kind is rice noodles, served angel-hair (sen mii), small (sen lek), large (sen yai) and giant (kuay tio), but egg noodles (ba mii), Chinese-style stuffed wonton ravioli (kio) and glass noodles made from mung beans (wun sen) are also popular.

Soups and curries
The line concerning soups (tom, literally just "boiled") and curries (kaeng) is a little fuzzy, and many dishes the Thais call curries would be soups to an Indian. A plate of rice with a ladleful of a curry or two on top, known as khao kaeng is a very popular quick meal if eating alone.

Mains
Thais like their mains fried (thot or phat) or grilled (yaang). Fish, in particular, is often deep-fried until the meat turns brown and crispy.

Salads
About the only thing Thai salads (yam) have in common with the Western variety is that they are both based on raw vegetables. A uniquely Thai flavor is achieved by drowning the ingredients in fish sauce, lime juice and chillies - the ending result can be very hot indeed!

Dessert

Thais don't usually eat "dessert" in the Western after-meal sense, although you may get a few slices of fresh fruit (ponlamai) for free at fancier places, but they certainly have a discriminatingly honed sweet tooth.

 

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Drinks

Tap water
Is generally not drinkable in Thailand. Bottled water (naam plao) is inexpensive and ubiquitous at 5-10 baht a bottle, and drinking water served in restaurants is always at least boiled (naam tom). Ice (naam khaeng) in Thailand regularly comes packaged straight from the factory and is safe; there is only reason to worry if you are served hand-cut ice.

Iced drinks
Coconut water (naam ma-phrao), iced and drunk directly from a fresh coconut is a inexpensive and healthy way to cool the body - obtainable at restaurants and also from vendors that specialize in fruit juice. Fruit juices, freezes and milkshakes of all kinds are very common with Thais and tourists alike. Most cafés and restaurants charge 20-40 baht, but a bottle of freshly squeezed

Tea and coffee
One of Thailand's most characteristic drinks is Thai iced tea (chaa yen, lit. "cold tea"). Instantly identifiable thanks to its lurid orange color, this is the side effect of adding ground tamarind seed (or, these days, artificial color) during the curing process. The iced tea is always very strong and very sweet, and usually served with a dash of condensed milk; ask for chaa dam yen to skip the milk.

Energy drinks
Thailand is the initial home of the Red Bull brand energy drink - a licensed and re-branded version of Thailand's original Krathing Daeng ("Red Bull"), complete with the familiar logo of two bulls charging at each other. The Thai version, however, is syrupy sweet, uncarbonated and comes packaged in medicinal-looking brown glass bottles, as the target customers are not trendy clubbers, but Thailand's working class of construction workers and car drivers in need of a pick-me-up.

Alcohol
Drinking alcohol in Thailand, especially if you like Western tipples, is really comparatively expensive - but still very affordable by Western standards.

Note that retail sales of alcohol in supermarkets, convenience stores etc are banned between midnight and 11 AM and, more bizarrely, 2-5 PM. Restaurants and bars are not affected, and smaller, non-chain stores are often willing to ignore the rules.

Whisky
The misnamed Thai whisky (lao) refers to a number of distilled rice liquors, the best known being the infamous Mae Khong ("Mekong") brand and its competitor, the sweeter, loosely rum-like Saeng Som ("Sangsom"). The only resemblances to whisky are the brown color and high alcohol content, and indeed many people relate the smell to nail polish remover, but the taste is not quite as bad, especially when diluted with cola or tonic water. This is additionally by far the cheapest way to get blotto, as a pocket flask of the stuff (available in any convenience store or supermarket) costs only around 50 baht.

Beer
Beer (bia) is a bit of an upmarket drink in Thailand, with the price of a small bottle hovering between 50 and 100 baht in most pubs, bars and restaurants. Thais like their lagers with relatively high alcohol content (around 6%), as it is designed to be drunk with ice, so the beer in Thailand may pack more of a punch than you are used to.
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Nightlife

Although in nearly everyone people's minds Thailand's nightlife is probably more synonymous with the Bangkok capital than the rest of the country, nightlife in almost all part of Thailand is abundant and very enjoyable.

Thailand is rightly famous for its nightlife. The kingdom has some of the greatest clubs playing the latest music, and not all of them in the capital - Thailand's islands host world-class music venues and events (like “Full Moon Parties”) as do some of the regional capitals such as Chiang Mai. The kingdom also represents outstanding value for film goers - ticket prices are much cheaper than in many other parts of the world and most of the country's cinemas are top of the range. Aside from that, the nation also has world-class shows (cabaret, etc.) and the world's top performing artists grace Thailand's shores on a regular basis. Of course, discussion on Thailand's nightlife wouldn't be complete with a mention of its' world famous Go-Go scene. Again, this is not only confined to Bangkok - Pattaya is a recognised Go-Go centre, but the quality and the real Tourism centre has to be Phuket where entertainment can be found in a number of parts of the province. Wherever you are in Thailand, a great time can be had by all - whatever your taste in nightlife!

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