Accessible Travel

Thailand has better facilities for travellers with access needs than any Southeast Asian country, other than Singapore. However, high kerbs, uneven and crowded footpaths and nonstop traffic make Thai cities difficult to navigate for those with a vision or mobility impairment. In Bangkok, many streets must be crossed via pedestrian bridges accessed by steep stairways. In any town or city, wheelchair users who are willing to take the risk and have nerves of steel will find it easier to take to the road. Ramps and other access points for wheelchairs to buildings, pavements and tourist sites are patchy. However, a lack of infrastructure is often made up for by the helpfulness of Thai people.

At Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok facilities for disabled travellers are good. Wheelchairs and electric carts are available, lifts service all levels and accessible toilet facilities are clean and well maintained. The rail link from the airport to the city is well adapted for travellers with access needs, including elevators with Braille buttons and voice announcements, and wheelchair-accessible ticket machines and gates. Most international flights use air-bridges, which isn’t always the case for domestic flights at Bangkok's Don Muang Airport or other regional airports around Thailand. It’s therefore important to advise your airline at the time of booking if you use a wheelchair or need assistance.

Buses and boats stop barely long enough even for the fully mobile, and long-distance trains and provincial stations are a bit of a lottery for access. In the capital, BTS Skytrain is accessible for wheelchair users, with elevators at all stations except Saphan Taksin. Every MRT metro station has lifts and wheelchair access. Both BTS and MRT staff are extremely helpful.

Note that many taxis in Thailand run on natural gas, with the gas tank located in the boot (trunk), which limits the space available for a wheelchair or mobility aid. Fully wheelchair-accessible taxis are only available in Bangkok and Hua Hin and have to be booked in advance. There are none in Chang Mai. The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority has a handful of vehicles, mainly for locals; call 1555 during office hours for availability, or contact Wheelchair Taxi Thailand (www.transport-disabled-bangkok.weebly.com).

Most mid-range and top-end hotels have accessible rooms, but standards vary widely, so make sure your needs are met by requesting information and/or photos. Most budget hotels and guesthouses, as well as many boutique hotels, lack accessible facilities, but most will be happy to meet your needs if you are able to be adaptable or have low access needs.

Many Thai towns and cities have at least one modern shopping mall, and this is where to head for hassle-free shopping and eating, as well as an accessible toilet.

Resources

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel. Long-time Chang Mai resident and wheelchair user Dominique maintains a useful website: www.thailandehandicap.com.

The following tour operators specialise in accessible tours to and accommodation in Thailand, and have their own adapted vehicle(s):

Gehandicapten (+31 36 537 6677; http://gehandicapten.com)

Wheelchair Holidays Thailand (+66 8 1375-0792; www.wheelchairtours.com)

Wheelchair Thailand Tours (http://wheelchair-thailand-tours.weebly.com)

Bargaining

Thais respect a good haggler. Always let the vendor make the first offer, then ask ‘Can you lower the price?’. This usually results in a discount. Now it’s your turn to make a counter-offer. Always start low, but don’t bargain unless you’re serious about buying. If you’re buying several of an item, you have much more leverage to request and receive a lower price. It helps immeasurably to keep the negotiations relaxed and friendly.

Dangers & Annoyances

Thailand is generally a safe country to visit, but it's smart to exercise caution, especially when it comes to dealing with strangers (both Thais and foreigners) and travelling alone.

  • Assault of travellers is relatively rare in Thailand, but it does happen.
  • Possession of drugs can result in a year or more of prison time. Drug smuggling carries considerably higher penalties, including execution.
  • Disregard all offers of free shopping or sightseeing help from strangers. These are scams that invariably take a commission from your purchases.

Assault

Assault of travellers is relatively rare in Thailand, but it can happen. Causing a Thai to ‘lose face’ (feel public embarrassment or humiliation) can sometimes elicit an unexpectedly strong and violent reaction. Often alcohol can be a contributing factor in bad choices and worse outcomes.

Border Issues & Hot Spots

Thailand enjoys friendly relations with its neighbours, and most land borders are fully functional passages for goods and people. However, the ongoing violence in the Deep South has made the crossing at Sungai Kolok into Malaysia potentially dangerous, and most Muslim-majority provinces (Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and parts of Songkhla) should be avoided by casual visitors.

Check with your government’s foreign ministry for current travel warnings.

Drug Possession

Belying Thailand's anything-goes atmosphere are strict punishments for possession and trafficking of drugs, which are not relaxed for foreigners. It is illegal to buy, sell or possess opium, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamine, ecstasy, hallucinogenic mushrooms or marijuana. Possession of drugs can result in one or more years of prison time. Drug smuggling – defined as attempting to cross a border with drugs in your possession – carries considerably higher sanctions, including the death penalty.

Prescription Drugs

Travellers are allowed to bring most prescription drugs into Thailand, with the exception of those considered to contain narcotics and psychotropics. You should carry no more than 30-days worth of medication, in its original container, and you need to have a note or prescription from your doctor. Check Thailand's Food and Drug Administration website for details: http://permitfortraveler.fda.moph.go.th.

The websites of Thai embassies around the world also have information on which medications are allowed into the kingdom.

Scams

Thais can be so friendly and laid-back that some visitors are lulled into a false sense of security, making them vulnerable to scams of all kinds. Bangkok is a hotspot for long, involved frauds that dupe travellers into thinking they’ve made a friend and are getting a bargain, when in fact they are getting ripped off.

All offers of free shopping or sightseeing help from strangers should be ignored. They will invariably take a commission from your purchases.

Theft & Fraud

Exercise diligence when it comes to your personal belongings. Ensure your room is securely locked and carry your most important effects (passport, money, credit cards) on your person. Take care when leaving valuables in hotel safes.

Follow the same practice when you’re travelling. A locked bag will not prevent theft on a long-haul bus.

When using a credit card, don't let vendors take your credit card out of your sight and ensure the transaction has been processed only once. If possible, check your transaction immediately through a smartphone app or similar.

Touts & Commissions

Touting is a long tradition in Asia, and while Thailand doesn’t have as many touts as, say, India, it has its share. In Bangkok, túk-túk drivers and other new 'friends' often take new arrivals on city tours. These almost always end up in high-pressure sales situations at silk, jewellery or handicraft shops.

Touts also steer customers to certain guesthouses that pay a commission. Travel agencies are notorious for talking newly arrived tourists into staying at inconveniently located, overpriced hotels thanks to commissions.

Some travel agencies masquerade as TAT, the government-funded tourist information office. Be aware that official TAT offices do not make hotel or transport bookings. If such a place offers to do this for you, then it is a travel agency, not a tourist information office.

Government Travel Advice

The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots.

  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
  • British Foreign Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
  • Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca)
  • New Zealand Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
  • US State Department (www.travel.state.gov/traveladvisories)

Electricity

Thailand uses 220V AC electricity. Power outlets most commonly feature two-prong round or flat sockets.

Embassies & Consulates

Foreign embassies are located in Bangkok; some nations also have consulates in Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket and Songkhla.

Australian Embassy Consulates in Chiang Mai, Ko Samui and Phuket.

Cambodian Embassy Consulate in Sa Kaew.

Canadian Embassy Consulate in Chiang Mai.

French Embassy Consulates in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pattaya.

German Embassy

Irish Embassy

Laotian Embassy

Malaysian Embassy Consulate in Songkhla.

Myanmar Embassy

Netherlands Embassy

New Zealand Embassy

UK Embassy

US Embassy Consulate in Chiang Mai.

Emergency & Important Numbers

Thailand's country code66
Emergency191
International access codes001, 007, 008, 009 (& other promotional codes)
Operator-assisted international calls100
Tourist police1155

Entry & Exit Formalities

Entry procedures for Thailand, by air or land, are straightforward: you’ll have to show your passport and boarding pass as well as completed arrival and departure cards. You can be denied entry without proof of an onward ticket and sufficient funds for your projected stay, but in practice this is a formality that is rarely checked.

Customs Regulations

You do not have to fill in a customs form on arrival unless you have imported goods to declare. In that case you can get the proper form from Thai customs officials at your point of entry. The Customs Department maintains a helpful website with specific information about regulations for travellers. Thailand allows the following items to enter duty-free:

  • reasonable amount of personal effects (clothing and toiletries)
  • professional instruments
  • 200 cigarettes
  • 1L of wine or spirits

Thailand prohibits the import of the following items:

  • firearms and ammunition (unless registered in advance with the police department)
  • illegal drugs
  • pornographic media

When leaving Thailand, you must obtain an export licence for any antique reproductions or newly cast Buddha images. Submit two front-view photos of the object(s), a photocopy of your passport, the purchase receipt and the object(s) in question to the Office of the National Museum. Allow four days for the application and inspection process to be completed.

Visas

For visitors from 64 countries, visas are not required for stays of up to 30 days.

More Information

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs oversees immigration and visa issues. There are frequent modifications of visa regulations so check the website or the nearest Thai embassy or consulate for application procedures and costs. The best online monitor is Thaivisa (www.thaivisa.com).

Visa Exemptions & Visa On Arrival

Thailand has visa-exemption agreements with 64 countries (including European countries, Australia, New Zealand and the USA). Nationals from these countries can enter Thailand at no charge without pre-arranged documentation. Depending on nationality, these citizens are issued a 14- to 90-day visa exemption. Note that for some nationalities, less time (15 days rather than 30 days) is given if arriving by land rather than air. Check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for more details. Citizens of an additional 19 countries are eligible for visa-on-arrival, which allows for stays of up to 15 days.

Non-Immigrant Visas

Non-immigrant visas are valid for between 90 days and a year and are intended for foreigners entering the country for business, study, retirement and extended family visits. There are multiple-entry visas available in this visa class. If you plan to apply for a Thai work permit, you’ll need to possess a non-immigrant visa first.

Tourist Visas

If you plan to stay in Thailand longer than 30 days, you should apply for the 60-day tourist visa from a Thai consulate or embassy before your trip. You can also apply for a six-month multiple entry tourist visa, which allows stays of up to 60 days for each entry. Contact the nearest Thai embassy or consulate to obtain application procedures and determine fees for tourist visas.

Visa Extensions & Renewals

If you decide you want to stay longer than the allotted time, you can extend your visa by applying at any immigration office in Thailand. The usual fee for a visa extension is 1900B. Those issued with a standard stay of 15 or 30 days can extend their stay for 30 days if the extension is handled before the visa expires. The 60-day tourist visa can be extended by up to 30 days at the discretion of Thai immigration authorities.

Another visa-renewal option is to cross a land border. A new 30- or 15-day visa exemption, depending on your nationality, will be issued upon your return. Be aware that the authorities frown upon repeated entries to extend your stay and discretion is up to the visa agent.

If you overstay your visa, the usual penalty is a fine of 500B per day, with a 20,000B limit. Fines can be paid at the airport, or in advance at an immigration office. If you’ve overstayed only one day, you don’t have to pay. Children under 15 travelling with a parent do not have to pay the penalty.

Foreign residents in Thailand should arrange visa extensions at the immigration office closest to their in-country address.

Thailand’s Immigration Offices

Visa extensions and other formalities can be addressed at the immigration offices in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

Remember to dress in your Sunday best when doing official business in Thailand and do all visa business yourself (avoid hiring a third party). For all types of visa extensions, take two passport-sized photos and one copy each of the photo and visa pages of your passport.

Etiquette

Thais are generally very understanding and hospitable, but there are some important taboos and social conventions.

  • Monarchy It is a criminal offence to disrespect the royal family; treat objects depicting the king (like money) with respect.
  • Temples Wear clothing that covers to your knees and elbows. Remove all footwear before entering. Sit with your feet tucked behind you, so they are not facing the Buddha image. Women should never touch a monk or a monk's belongings; step out of the way on footpaths and don't sit next to them on public transport.
  • Modesty At the beach, avoid public nudity or topless sunbathing. Cover-up going to and from the beach.
  • Body language Avoid touching anyone on the head and be careful where you point your feet; they're the lowest part of the body literally and metaphorically.
  • Saving face The best way to win over Thais is to smile – visible anger or arguing is seen as embarrassing.

Insurance

A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is an excellent idea. Be sure that your policy covers ambulances or an emergency flight home. Some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’, which can include scuba diving, motorcycling and even trekking. A locally acquired motorcycle licence is not valid under some policies. You may prefer a policy that pays doctors or hospitals directly rather than you having to pay on the spot and claim later. If you have to claim later, make sure you keep all documentation.

Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online any time – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

Wi-fi is almost standard in hotels, guesthouses and cafes. Signal strength deteriorates in the upper floors of a multistorey building; request a room near a router if wi-fi is essential. Cellular data networks continue to expand and increase in capability.

LGBT Travellers

Thai culture is relatively tolerant of both male and female homosexuality. There is a fairly prominent LGBT+ scene in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket, all three of which hold annual gay pride events. With regard to dress and mannerisms, the LGBT+ community are generally accepted without comment. However, public displays of affection – whether heterosexual or homosexual – are frowned upon.

It’s worth noting that, perhaps because Thailand is still a relatively conservative place, lesbians generally adhere to rather strict gender roles. Overtly ‘butch’ lesbians, called tom (from ‘tomboy’), typically have short hair, and wear men’s clothing. Femme lesbians refer to themselves as dêe (from ‘lady’). Visiting lesbians who don’t fit into one of these categories may find themselves met with confusion.

Thailand passed the Gender Equality Act in 2015, the country's first law to provide protection from unfair gender discrimination. But while transgender and third gender people are quite visible in Thailand, they continue to face discrimination in the workplace and when dealing with branches of the government. Many transgender people find their employment options limited to the entertainment or sex industries.

Utopia (www.utopia-asia.com) posts lots of Thailand information for LGBT+ travellers.

Media

  • Newspapers English-language newspapers include the Bangkok Post (www.bangkokpost.com), the business-heavy Nation (www.nationmultimedia.com) and KhaoSod English (www.khaosodenglish.com), the English-language service of a mainstream Thai newspaper. Weeklies such as the Economist and Time are sold at news stands.
  • Radio There are more than 400 AM and FM radio stations. Many smaller radio stations and international services are available to stream over the internet.
  • TV Six VHF TV networks carry Thai programming, plus TrueVision cable with international programming. Digital programming has increased programming.

Money

Most places in Thailand only accept cash. Foreign credit cards are accepted by some travel agents, and in some upmarket hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and stores.

ATMs

Debit and ATM cards issued by a bank in your home country can be used at ATMs around Thailand to withdraw cash (in Thai baht only) directly from your account back home. ATMs are extremely ubiquitous throughout the country and can be relied on for the bulk of your spending cash. Most ATMs allow a maximum of 20,000B in withdrawals per day.

The downside is that Thai ATMs charge a 220B foreign-transaction fee on top of whatever currency conversion and out-of-network fees your home bank charges. Before leaving home, shop around for a bank account that has free international ATM usage and reimburses fees incurred at other institutions' ATMs.

Changing Money

Banks or private money changers offer the best foreign-exchange rates. When buying baht, US dollars is the most accepted currency, followed by British pounds, euros and Chinese yuan. Most banks charge a commission and duty for each travellers cheque cashed. Current exchange rates are posted at exchange counters.

Credit & Debit Cards

Credit and debit cards can be used for purchases at some shops, hotels and restaurants. The most commonly accepted cards are Visa and MasterCard. American Express is typically only accepted at high-end hotels and restaurants.

Contact your bank and your credit-card provider before you leave home and notify them of your upcoming trip so that your accounts aren't suspended due to suspicious overseas activity.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$120B
CanadaC$123B
ChinaY1042B
Euro€133B
Japan¥10027B
New ZealandNZ$119B
South Korea1000W25B
UK£138B
USUS$130B

For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.

Tipping

Tipping is not generally expected in Thailand, though it is appreciated. The exception is loose change from a large restaurant bill – if a meal costs 488B and you pay with a 500B note, some Thais will leave the change. It’s a way of saying ‘I’m not so money grubbing as to grab every last baht’. At many hotel restaurants and more upmarket eateries, a 10% service charge will be added to your bill.

Opening Hours

Banks and government offices close for national holidays. Some bars and clubs close during elections and certain religious holidays when alcohol sales are banned. Shopping centres have banks that open late.

Banks 8.30am–4.30pm Monday to Friday; ATMs 24hr

Bars 6pm–midnight or 1am

Clubs 8pm–2am

Government offices 8.30am–4.30pm Monday to Friday; some close for lunch

Restaurants 8am–10pm

Shops 10am–7pm

Photography

Be considerate when taking photographs of locals. Learn how to ask politely in Thai and wait for an embarrassed nod. In some of the regularly visited minority areas, be prepared for the photographed subject to ask for money in exchange for a picture. Some hill peoples will not allow you to point a camera at them.

Post

Thailand has a very efficient postal service (www.thailandpost.co.th) and local postage is inexpensive. Typical provincial post offices open from 8.30am to 4.30pm weekdays and 9am to noon on Saturdays. Larger main post offices in provincial capitals may also be open for a half-day on Sunday. You will need to show your passport to send anything.

Most provincial post offices will sell DIY packing boxes. Don’t send cash or other valuables through the mail.

Thailand’s poste restante service is generally very reliable, though these days few tourists use it. When you receive mail, you must show your passport and fill out some paperwork.

Public Holidays

Government offices and banks close their doors on the following public holidays:

1 January New Year’s Day

February (date varies) Makha Bucha; Buddhist holy day

6 April Chakri Day; commemorating the founder of the Chakri dynasty, Rama I

13–15 April Songkran Festival

1 May Labour Day

4 May Coronation Day

May (date varies) Royal Ploughing Ceremony

May/June (date varies) Visakha Bucha; Buddhist holy day

3 June Her Majesty the Queen's Birthday

28 July King Maha Vajiralongkorn's Birthday

July/August (date varies) Asanha Bucha; Buddhist holy day

12 August Queen Sirikit’s Birthday/Mother's Day

13 October Late King Bhumiphol's Memorial Day

23 October Chulalongkorn Day

5 December Late King Bhumiphol's Birthday/Father's Day

10 December Constitution Day

31 December New Year’s Eve

Smoking

  • Smoking Banned in restaurants and bars since 2008, although it still takes place in some bars.

Taxes & Refunds

Thailand has a 7% value-added tax (VAT) on many goods and services. Midrange and top-end hotels and restaurants might also add a 10% service tax. The two combined are known as ‘plus plus’, or ‘++’.

You can get a refund on VAT paid on shopping, though not on food or hotels, as you leave the country. For how-to info, visit http://vrtweb.rd.go.th.

Telephone

The telephone country code for Thailand is 66 and is used when calling the country from abroad. All Thai telephone numbers are preceded by a ‘0’ if you’re dialling domestically (the ‘0’ is omitted when calling from overseas). After the initial ‘0’, the next three numbers represent the provincial area code, which is now integral to the telephone number. If the initial ‘0’ is followed by a '6', an ‘8’ or a '9' then you’re dialling a mobile phone.

International Calls

If you want to call an international number from a telephone in Thailand, you must first dial an international access code plus the country code followed by the subscriber number.

In Thailand there are various international access codes charging different rates per minute. The standard direct-dial prefix is 001; it is operated by CAT and is considered to have the best sound quality. It connects to the largest number of countries, but it is also the most expensive. The next best is 007, a prefix operated by TOT with reliable quality and slightly cheaper rates. Economy rates are available through different carriers – do an internet search to determine promotional codes.

Domestic Calls

Inside Thailand all telephone numbers include an initial '0' plus the area code and the subscriber number. The only time you drop the initial '0' is when you’re calling from outside Thailand.

Mobile Phones

The easiest option for making calls in Thailand is to buy a local SIM card. Make sure that your mobile phone is unlocked before travelling.

More Information

Local SIM cards can be bought at any 7-Eleven or any of the mobile-phone providers' stores. Tourist SIM cards cost as little as 49B. Various talk-and-data packages are available and SIM cards can be topped up with additional funds. Bring your passport when you buy a SIM card, so the card can be registered to your name.

Thailand is on the GSM network. The main mobile phone providers include AIS (www.ais.co.th), DTAC (www.dtac.co.th) and True Move (http://truemoveh.truecorp.co.th), all of which operate on a 4G network. Coverage and quality of the different carriers varies from year to year based on network upgrades and capacity. Carriers usually sell talk-data packages based on usage amounts.

Time

Thailand is seven hours ahead of GMT/UTC. Times are often expressed according to the 24-hour clock.

Toilets

The Asian-style squat toilet is becoming less common in Thailand. There are still specimens in rural places, provincial bus stations, older homes and modest restaurants, but sit-down toilets are becoming more prevalent and appear wherever foreign tourists can be found.

If you encounter a squat, here’s what you should know. You should straddle the two foot pads and face the door. To flush, use the plastic bowl to scoop water out of the adjacent basin and pour it into the toilet bowl. Some places supply a small pack of toilet paper at the entrance (5B), otherwise bring your own stash or wipe the old-fashioned way with water.

Even in places where sit-down toilets are installed, the septic system may not be designed to take toilet paper. In such cases there will be a waste basket where you’re supposed to place used toilet paper and feminine hygiene products. Many toilets also come with a small spray hose – Thailand’s version of the bidet.

Tourist Information

The government-operated tourist information and promotion service, Tourism Authority of Thailand, was founded in 1960 and produces excellent pamphlets on sightseeing. The TAT head office is in Bangkok and there are regional offices throughout the country; check the website for contact information.

Travel with Children

Looking for an exotic destination that the kids can handle? Thailand has it all: beaches, mountains, wildlife, sparkling temples and bustling markets; there's something for each age range here.

Best Regions for Kids

  • Ko Chang & Eastern Seaboard

Shallow seas are great for young swimmers and low evening tides make for good beach-combing. Older children will like the interior jungle, elephant interactions and mangrove kayaking.

  • Hua Hin & the Upper Gulf

Hua Hin has a long sandy coastline, and hillside temples for monkey-spotting. Phetchaburi's cave temples are home to bats.

  • Ko Samui & the Lower Gulf

Ko Samui, especially its northern beaches, is a hit with pram-pushers and toddlers, while Hat Chaweng is social, commercial and ideal for teens. Older children can snorkel at Ko Tao.

  • Phuket & the Andaman Coast

Phuket has amusements galore (including child-friendly surf schools), but steer clear of the Patong party scene. There are at least a dozen Andaman Coast islands where families can frolic in the sea.

  • Chiang Mai

Families come in droves to expose their kids to culture, zipline among the gibbons and cycle about town.

Thailand for Kids

Attention Seekers

Small foreign children are instant celebrities in Thailand and attract paparazzi-like attention. Babies do surprisingly well with their new-found stardom, soaking up adoration from gruff taxi drivers who transform into loving uncles wanting to play a game of peekaboo (called 'já ăir'). If you've got a babe in arms, food vendors will often hold the child while you eat, or take the child for a brief stroll to visit the neighbours.

If your children are shy, stick to tourist centres instead of heading to far-flung places where foreigners, especially children, will attract attention. A polite way to deflect spectators is to say the child is 'shy' ('kîi ai'). Older children don't usually attract attention.

City Hassles

Some kids might get nervous about the natural chaos of Thai cities and the confusion that arises from being in a new place and having to negotiate transport. Consider giving your children a role: reading the map, setting up an itinerary or carrying the water bottles.

Thai cities can also be claustrophobic and the heat can make it hard to wear out energetic children. Staying at a hotel or resort with a pool will give kids a chance to exercise. Shopping malls offer air-conditioning, entertainment options (cinemas) and the chance to stretch your legs.

Eating with Kids

In Thailand, the vagaries of children's food preferences are further complicated by a cuisine known for its spiciness. Luckily, even Thai children are shielded from chillies and there are a handful of child-friendly dishes that every server can recommend. Because of the heat, remember to keep your little ones well hydrated, either with water or a variety of fruit juices, including fresh young coconuts or lime juice (a surprising hit with some kids).

  • kài jee·o (omelette) More oily than the French style but a safe, non-spicy restaurant or street-stall option.
  • gài yâhng/tôrt (grilled/fried chicken) Common market and street-stall meal.
  • kôw nĕe·o (sticky rice) Straight-up carbs but picky eaters won't resist; sold in markets alongside grilled or fried chicken.
  • gài pàt mét má·môo·ang (chicken stir-fried with cashew nuts) Mild stir-fry, popular at restaurants.
  • kôw man gài (Hainanese chicken rice) A popular morning and afternoon meal sold at speciality shops.

Health & Safety

For the most part, parents needn't worry too much about health concerns.

  • Regular hand-washing should be enforced.
  • Thai children are bathed at least twice a day and powdered afterwards to reduce skin irritation from the humid climate; foreigners should aim for at least daily showers.
  • Children should be warned not to play with animals, as rabies is relatively common, and some pets (not to mention wild monkeys) may be aggressive.
  • Dengue is an increasing concern in Thailand and has reached record highs in recent years. Parents should take care to prevent mosquito bites (a difficult task) in children. Repellent creams containing 12% DEET are widely available from 7-Elevens and other convenience stores, but pack some from home before you travel. If your child is bitten, there are a variety of locally produced balms that can reduce swelling and itching. All the usual health precautions apply.
  • Thai cities are very loud and can be a sensory overload for young children. Be sure that your child understands street safety guidelines, as it will be difficult to focus on your instructions amid all the street noise outside.

Children's Highlights

Beaches

  • Hua Hin Arguably the country's most family-friendly beach.
  • Pattaya Despite the bad rap, this seaside town has lots of activities to appeal to families.
  • Hat Chaweng Ko Samui's most popular beach has something for kids of every age.
  • Ko Chang An easy ocean entry point.

Animal Amusements

Outdoor Activities

  • Ancient City, Bangkok Region Open-air museum outside Bangkok that brings together scale models of the country's most famous monuments.
  • River Kwai Canoe Travel Services, Kanchanaburi Entry-level kayaking experiences in central Thailand.
  • Lumphini Park, Bangkok Central Bangkok's largest park has paddle boats, play areas and giant monitor lizards.
  • Chiang Mai This province is home to a variety of trekking options, some of which are appropriate for families.

Indoor Activities

Bangkok's malls are a magnet for teens, both domestic and foreign, but there are plenty of other indoor distractions besides.

  • Art in Paradise, Chiang Mai Kids enjoy posing for photos against the wacky backdrops here.
  • Children's Discovery Museum, Bangkok Learning is disguised as fun at this recently renovated museum.
  • KidZania, Bangkok Hyper-sophisticated play park in the city's centre.
  • Museum of Siam, Bangkok An introduction to Thai culture with a kid-forward feel.

Transport

  • BTS Bangkok's above-ground train system is a hit with young kids.
  • Chao Phraya Express Boat, Bangkok River taxis are the most fun way to get around the city.
  • Cycling There are many bicycle-tour outfits with suitable bikes and helmets for children.
  • State Railways of Thailand Lots of kids like overnight train journeys, where they can be assigned lower sleeping berths with views of the stations and scenery.

Planning

  • Child-safety seats for cars, high chairs in restaurants and nappy-changing facilities in public restrooms can be hard to find in Thailand. Parents will need to be resourceful in seeking out substitutes or just do without.
  • Baby formula and nappies (diapers) are available at mini-markets and 7-Elevens in larger towns and cities, but sizes are usually small, smaller and smallish. For larger sizes, head to Tesco Lotus, Big C or Tops Market stores. Nappy-rash cream is sold at pharmacies.
  • Thailand's footpaths are often too crowded to push a pram, especially larger versions. Instead, opt for a compact umbrella stroller that can squeeze past the fire hydrants and mango carts and then be folded up and thrown in a túk-túk. A baby carrier (sling) is also useful, but make sure the child's head doesn't sit higher than yours: there are lots of hanging obstacles poised at forehead level.
  • If you can, avoid arriving in the rainy season (June to October). You may want to avoid the hottest months of the year, April and May, too.

For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.

Feature: Beaches

Thailand's beaches are a giant playground where kids will find plenty of peers to muck around with and any number of activities, including some adventurous options – such as snorkelling and surfing – for the older ones. Most beaches are surrounded by shallow waters that are suitable for beginner swimmers, but bear in mind that most also don't have lifeguards.Treat all sea-related warnings with the utmost seriousness: be aware of rips and watch for flags indicating no-swim zones.

Feature: Temple Treats

Thailand's temples are often underrated as attractions for children. Some are tucked away in forests alongside cave shrines, or are on hilltops, where they share the space with curious monkeys. Many feature cartoon-like murals depicting the life of the Buddha, which kids will find easy to understand. Most monks are usually pleased to see children, and novice monks may be the same age as your older kids.

Merit-making at Buddhist temples is also surprisingly kid-friendly. There is the burning of the joss sticks, the bowing in front of the Buddha and the rubbing of gold leaf on the central image. Many temples also have a fortune-telling area, which non-Buddhists are also welcome to use, where you shake a bamboo container until a numbered stick falls out, with the number corresponding to a printed fortune.

Volunteering

There are many volunteering organisations in Thailand that provide work and cultural engagement. Volunteer Work Thailand (www.volunteerworkthailand.org) maintains a database of opportunities.

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures The metric system is used. Gold and silver are weighed in bàat (15g).

Women Travellers

Women travellers face relatively few problems in Thailand. It is respectful to cover up if you're going deep into rural communities, entering temples or going to and from the beach. But on the whole, local women dress in a variety of different styles (particularly in cities), so you can usually wear spaghetti-strap tops and short skirts without feeling out of place.

Keep Thai etiquette in mind during social interactions. Women who aren’t interested in romantic encounters should not presume that the Thai men they encounter always have platonic motives. A Thai man could feel a loss of face if conversation, flirting or other attention is directed towards him and then diverted to another person. In extreme cases (or where alcohol is involved), this could result in an unpleasant situation or even lead to violence.

As in most countries, attacks and rapes do sometimes occur, and women are at greater risk when they are alone at night or in isolated locations. Stay alert if returning home alone from a bar, and avoid accepting rides from strangers late at night. Consider travelling around isolated areas as part of a group.

Work

Thailand is a huge destination for temporary work stints, especially those involving English teaching. To work legally in the country, you need a non-immigrant visa and a work permit – which legitimate institutions should be able to provide. Ajarn.com (www.ajarn.com) is an excellent resource for background on teaching in Thailand, as well as a resource for jobs.