Thailand is colourful, exciting and full of life. A country of many contrasts, this Asian kingdom has a rich culture, wonderful temples, areas of forest, glorious sandy beaches, superb food and lovely, welcoming people in every part of the land.

Geography

There are six regions in Thailand, these being the East, North, North-east, South, Central and Bangkok

Interesting countryside and forests attract those looking for adventure in the North, beaches abound in the East and South, and the North-east and Central areas offer lots of historic sites.

Bangkok has 9 million inhabitants and is the capital of Thailand. With a population approaching 59 million the country occupies an area of over 500 kilometres.

If you want to travel at the coolest time of year, choose October to February or, if you prefer lots of heat, choose March to May. June-September is the wet, rainy season. Being a tropical country, the weather is often hot and humid, and temperatures around 30 degrees Centigrade may be regarded as average.

What's open and when?

With public holidays in most months, there are a few interruptions to 'normal' service. Chinese New Year (around the end of February) sees most businesses closed, and some close at Christmas.

Office hours:

Monday to Friday 8.30-12.00 and 1.00-4.30.

Banks

Monday to Friday 9.00-3.30

Shops

Every day 10.00-7.00 with some shops up to 12 hours daily.

Money

The Baht has 100 satang. Conversion rate at February 2002 is (loosely) around 60 Baht to the £, or 40 Baht to the Euro.

You can use credit cards in most hotels, restaurants, and department stores.

Travel documents

You require a current passport and proof (such as a return ticket) that you will leave the country. EU citizens do not need a visa for stays up to 30 days.

Shopping

Bargains abound in Thailand, with low prices compared to Europe. Consumer electronics jewellery and clothing is a particularly good buy, although you should consider import duties, VAT and guarantees applicable on your return, before buying expensive technical equipment. Other than in the multiple stores and food shops, you are expected to haggle, but only if you intend to buy.

Food

The country is well known for its food, which draws on Chinese and Indian influences, usually accompanied with rice. If you like curries and contrasting flavours, like Chinese sweet and sour, you'll love Thai cuisine. Many dishes include garlic, ginger, coriander, lemon grass, basil, cloves, mint and cardamom and sauces will include fish, peanuts, tamarind or shrimp. Some of the curries can be very hot - don't say we did not warn you!

Thai people drink little alcohol with meals, although you will find wine and beer in better restaurants.

Don't expect to find a knife at the table, as a fork and spoon are generally used.

Health Matters

You can expect hospitals and other medical services to compare with European standards in major cities and you must have medical insurance. Some hospitals will require a deposit before treatment - usually around 20,000 bhat.

You may need vaccinations or anti-malaria tablets - check with our chemist or doctor well in advance.