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Old 06-14-2009, 12:35 AM   #1
Roger Mainfield
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Join Date: May 2006
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Thailand Travel Guide

Thailand Guide

There are 2 Thailand threads. Ask us about Thailand! and The Thailand Chatter thread. All questions about Thailand should be put into the first thread, it will make looking for things easier and the people who post there are the ones who are happy to answer. Questions in the chatter thread will be moved over into the main thread.

I am going to put some prices in Baht, the Baht currently hovers around 35baht-1$USD.

Warning: Unfortunately there have been a couple cases of people PM'ing new arrivals in Thailand, and then drugging and robbing them. It is recommend you exercise caution in who you meet, and if someone has a low post count and doesn't post in the Thailand thread it might be a better idea not to meet them, more detail here and here.

Visas

Visa exemption: When you arrive in Thailand from a western country without getting a visa in advance they issue you a visa exemption, this allows you to stay in the country for 30 days if you flew in, or 15 days if you came in over land. At the moment there are no limits how many times you can enter the country without a visa but you are most likely going to be asked questions after around 4 times if they are in a row. Some people call the visa exemption a "30-day visa" or "visa on arrival". There is no such thing as 30-day visa.

Tourist Visa: A tourist visa is a 60 day visa, with the option of a 30 day extension, and you can get multiple entries (meaning you can leave and come back into the country multiple times). You get a tourist visa by sending your passport into an Embassy/Consulate near you, it usually costs 35$ per entry and you can get up to 3 per visa. If you want to extend your visa you go to a local immigration office, fill out a form and pay 1900baht. Once the 90 days are up you have to leave and re-enter the country.

Note: Keep an eye on the "enter before" date that shows on the visa sticker. For example if it says enter before: 5 april 2010 you have to enter thailand on 4th of april. On and after the 5th of april your visa has expired and even if you had unused entries they have now expired.

Non-Immigrant O Visa: The Non-Immigrant O visa is a 1 year visa, however you have to leave and re-enter the country every 90 days. You get a Non-Immigrant O visa from your local Embassy/Consulate and it costs around 175$. This visa seems to be harder to get then the tourist visa, and it seems completely random as to which Embassies/Consulates hand them out easily.

Most of the current 2p2'ers in Thailand have either the Tourist Visa or the Non-Immigrant O, there are bus rides that cross the border you can take to renew them, or you can fly to Macau (preferred option)/Hong Kong/Singapore etc etc every 90 days. If you didn't bother getting any sort of visa before you left home, you can still stay out of trouble by leaving the country via plane every 30 days.

Education Visa: These are proving more and more popular. If you enroll in a long term Thai course at some schools they get you a 6 month or 1 year visa. One of the benefits of this visa is though you have to bring the forms to an Embassy/consulate to get it, you do not need to leave the country every 3 months, like most other visa's. There are a number of school, and a wide range of attendance requirements, these start at around 18K.

Q: I have a tourist visa with unused entries but my permission of stay is expiring. I have already done the extension. I am in Phuket, what are my options?

Answer: Busses to Burma leave daily for total cost of 1500 baht. The trip takes about 12 hours.

Alternatively you can fly to Kuala Lumpur with airasia every morning at around 8am directly from phuket and take the next flight back which lands back at phuket airport at 1pm. If you book only few days in advance you are going to pay 5000baht+. Booking one month or more in advance and you will pay about 2500-4000 baht

If you overstay your visa there is a 500baht/day fine. This adds up to a maximum of 20K baht, which they will want before you leave the country. You can pay this fine at the airport as you are leaving and I found it wasn't a big deal, however I have heard there is a rare chance it can impact your ability to get a visa. Getting caught while overstaying before arriving at the airport is a very big deal though. If a policemen finds you are overstaying you will be brought to jail until you can secure transport out of the country. Overstaying is not recommended.

Cost

Thailand costs as much or as little as you would like. The average Thai makes about 450$ a month, it is more than possible to live on that wage. I knew a couple 2p2'ers who spend about that much a month and they live very Thai and comfortable lives. However what has happened with most of the 2p2'ers is that we spend approximately the same as we do at home, however we live a much better lifestyle. If you were to come to Bangkok for a week I would say about 50$ a night for a hotel room, 50$ a day on food, 500-600$ for nightlife and 200$ for daytrips/shopping. This would be eating out every night, going to decent clubs and having a very comfortable week.

Night out: 20-200$
Western dinner: 10-25$
Thai dinner: 2$-8$
Thai dinner from a food cart: 1-5$
Metro ride: 65cents
Western brands (real): More then at home
Female company for the night: 30-60$
Electronics: 150% the cost of at home on average

Tourism & Misc

Sightseeing: Thailand is good for scenery. The Royal palace in Bangkok if beautiful. A handful of the other temples are worth seeing as well. Most tourists eventually get tired of Buddhist temples, as they aren't very varied. Thailand does however have fantastically beautiful Islands, beaches ,cliffs and jungles. Tourism in Thailand should be based around nightlife and the outdoors. There is great rock climbing in Krabi, stunning beaches on Phi Phi and seasonal surfing in Phuket. I have also heard that mountain trekking in the north is a great experience as well.

Girls: Whether you are here for a week or a year, you are gonna fall in love or have someone fall in love with you. Thai girls are fantastic and come equipped with varying degrees of insanity. They can be charming, smothering, sensual, clingy, stunning, curvy, loud, maniacal, gentle, manipulative, dramatic, supportive, stubborn, easy and proficient with knives both in and out of the kitchen. In short, they are definitely female (except when they’re not—see below). Most girls can speak English decently well and if you’re in one of the bigger cities you might meet a girl who’s damn near fluent.

Prostitution is very real and not as black-and-white as it is in the west. The same girl can be someone’s hairdresser on Monday, someone’s girlfriend on Wednesday and someone’s hooker on Friday. Sure, if you go to a massage parlor or a gogo club you’re bound to come across almost exclusively working girls. However, there are also girls who lurk in the popular nightclubs looking for foreign prey. These girls are loosely known (no pun intended) as “freelancers” and can be difficult to spot because they mix in seamlessly with the normal girls who are having fun on a night out. If you’re really worried about whether you’re going to be asked for money in the morning the best policy is to just ask straight out as soon as you meet her: “are you working the bar?” They’ll know what you mean.

Ladyboys: Called Katoeys in Thai, ladyboys are a big hassle. You learn to recognize them very quickly (tall and slim with large shoulders and hands). They can be extremely aggressive and if you get groped in Thailand it's nearly always one of them. I tend to stay out of their way, if you catch their eye they can get very pushy. There are also quite a few "accidental" deaths that happen every year when a man discovers the stunner he just brought home is a man and tries to kick him out of his apartment, at which point the ladyboy gets incredibly offended.

Police: Recently labeled by the United Nations as a criminal organisation, Thai police are incredibly corrupt. The best thing to do is to stay away from them, however if you do cross them and have done something wrong, they will usually ask for a bribe to clear it up at some point. On the other hand if you have done nothing wrong, if you act confident then they will usualy try and go for someone easier.

Poker + Thailand: Gambling is Illegal in Thailand, If you do choose to play online poker there the best Idea is not to tell any locals about it, most of them won't understand it even if they see it anyway. Most sites work in Thailand, at the moment you need a VPN to access Betfair, withdrawing can be a hassle no matter what site you are on (Neteller and Moneybookers have issues).

Bangkok

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, a massive city of 15 million people. I have heard it described as a city you either love or hate, it's huge, polluted and congested. However the people are incredibly friendly, the food is great, nightlife is good and there is always something happening.

Areas to stay: Lower Sukhumvit, Silom and Siam. All of these places are very central and close to the BTS (Skytrain). There are a lot of good restaurants and good nightlife nearby. The backpacker area, Khao San road, is a lot of fun and I would probably recommend going there if you were by yourself. However it is very out of the way and far from the BTS, so you have to deal with Bangkok's terrible traffic.

Short Term: Not much to say about this. BKK has hundreds of hotels so just take a look through www.tripadvisor.com and you should find something in no time. Saying that, there are 2 hotels that seem to be the 2p2ers stays of choice. Dream hotel on Sukhumvit soi 15 and Grand President on soi 11. I certainly recommend staying in this area (lower Sukhumvit)
if this is your first time in Bangkok.

Long Term: If you want to rent in Bangkok you are going to stuggle to find too many apartments that don't require at least 6 months rent (12 months in most cases). It's because of this that alot of us live in serviced apartments as you can rent on a flexible basis such as month to month though you do of course pay a premium for this. There apartments for everybodies budget from 6k a month for a nice studio to 300k THB a month for 3 bedroom penthouses.

There is a plethora of websites to search for apartments so just check out google. I have however found www.letapartment.com to be particularily good.

Things to see: The national palace is cool, there are a few temples in that area. There are also several street markets that are worth going too. Lumpini stadium has Muay Thai fights a few times a week, these are the best fights in Thailand and are definitely worth the 2400baht. Near Lumpini Park is a snake farm, they have daily shows that are worth seeing. Bangkok's main shopping area is in Siam, you can find some very good Malls there, with real Western brands and knockoffs. MBK is one of my favourite malls, it's the most western Thai style mall. For computer/electronics I would go to Panthip Plaza.

Nightlife: The most western nightlife area would be RCA (Royal city Area), it is a street with quite a few really nice looking clubs and they get big name Thai DJs. There are also several red light areas: Patpong, Nana and Soi Cowboy being the most central ones. Here you can see gogo shows and all sorts of other weird stuff. The afterhours scene in Bangkok is always changing, currently you have a choice of Tunnel, Spice, Scratch Dog, Bossy, Spicy and Karafun. A different style of nightlife in Bangkok are G-clubs, in these clubs you walk in and select a girl from the "stable". She will hang out with you the rest of the evening. These girls are generally not prostitutes, we have had some success with them, however don't expect anything. Caribbean, The Bank, Soprano house, St Moritz and Pegasus are all good G-clubs.

Misc: ChefsXP is a restaurant delivery service, it's awesome. Don't get suits from the Indian guys trying to sell them, they aren't very good quality. The old school Tuk Tuks aren't practical, they look sorta cool but they are uncomfortable. When they offer a 20baht ride they are gonna drive you to their friend’s shop. When Taxi Drivers tell you that something is closed, it is likely they are lying to you. Always take the meter in Taxis, they will try and say a set price but refuse and get out if they won't relent.

Getting from the airport:
- taxi
- cheap, you can go ten miles for a few dollars
- make sure they put the meter on (same word in thai). orange numbers starting from 35, beeps when turned on. have to pay 50 baht extra for airport surcharge, and any tolls you pay as you go through or at the end, if driver doesn't ask. use taxi rank queues, tell ladies your destination and get a receipt
- authorised by the airport
- anywhere other than the airport, flag taxis down yourself from the road, stationary ones are more likely to rip you off (esp. in tourist areas)
- taxis are available if they have the bright red light, thai word thing in bottom corner of windscreen
- if you ever get asked 'highway?' just say ok, they're not trying to rip you off it's just quicker, ends up cheaper anyway despite small toll charge
- don't get tuk tuks

Phuket

Phuket is an island in the south of Thailand, a lot of the island is very touristy. Phuket is really beautiful with lots of jungles and a mountain range running down the middle, there are also some great beaches.

Areas to stay: The cheapest way is to contact the owner yourself (which means finding a "for rent" sign in front of the house with a phone number on it), but since it is currently high season you wont find a ton of these signs and/or prices will be high.
Another advantage to this is that as you're driving around you get to know Phuket better and maybe you will find an area that you really like and can search more intensively there.
Plan B is going through an agency like http://www.siamrealestate.com/ or walking into a real estate agency here. This will be more expensive but might be neccesary during high season, unless you're really patient and/or not picky about location and quality of house.

Basically all 2p2ers live on the south of the island with most in Kata/Rawai and a few people in Chalong/Phukettown

Where the "best" area is really depends. A rough description of some of the areas:

Patong:
Main tourist city with a ton of bars, clubs, girls, restaurants and people trying to hustle tourists. there is a big mall with a ton of shops, cinema etc. but except for a few massive degens basically no 2p2er have wanted to live in Patong for longer periods of time.

Kamala:
Small quiet place north of Patong with a decent beach and easy access to ever nicer beaches in Surin etc. Not many restaurants, bars or nightlife in general but easy access to Patong if you wanna degen it up. there's a big group of Danish grinders living there.

Karon:
Quite a few bars and restaurants but way way less than Patong. In high season there are a lot of tourists and therefore also quite a few annoying touts etc. The beach is decent and easy access to Kata/Rawai and not too far from Patong.

Kata:
This is where most 2p2ers live. It has a nice beach (well 2 actually) but it gets very crowded in high season. There is a decent selection of restaurants (it has the best Pad Thai restaurant in Phuket ). The nightlife consists of only bars but there are a decent selection of those.

Rawai/Nai Harn:
A more spread out and laidback kind of place. Really nice beach in Nai Harn (probably the nicest of all the bigger beaches down south). It also gets fairly crowded in high season but not nearly as bad as any of the above mentioned areas.
besides bars here and tehre there are a few decent clubs located in Rawai/Nai Harn + it has a Tesco Lotus/Mall kinda thing so shopping is easier than in Karon/Kata
Btw if you value a nice view from your house you will more than likely NOT be able to find it here (in Patong/Karon/Kata this is possible)

Chalong:
Cheaper area with almost no tourists even in high season and in close proximity to Central Festival mall which has a really nice Cinema, restaurants etc. and also close to a massive park (where weekly 2p2 sport games are being played)
Downside is no beach, no views and very limited nightlife but its not too far from Rawai/Nai Harn if you wanna go to the beach.

Phuket town:
Also cheaper area with basically not tourists. It's a relatively big city and there is lot of nightlife with a bunch of really nice clubs and bars. You will also find a ton of cheap restaurants and generally a nice athmosphere (ie you wont constantly have to say no to people trying to sell you crap). Downside is no beach and a bit of a drive to get to one.

Short Term: I just recommend checking out tripadvisor.com, staying in Patong is fun for a week or 2, if you are with your girlfriend then don't stay there

Long Term: The long term situation is far more difficult here than in Bangkok. You are going to struggle to find anything too great by yourself so just ask for help in the "Ask us about Thailand!" thread and somebody should be able to point you in the right direction. As a general rule it seems as though if you rent something farang owned it is going to be vastly overpriced but you are going to have everything taken care of more than you will with something Thai owned. You are also far less likely to get messed about. This is just a generalisation however, my last landlord in Phuket was Thai and he couldn't have been nicer or more helpful.

I havent actually used this site but it seems as though it's a pretty good indicator of what you can expect to get for your money url]http://www.houseinphuket.com/houses/LTR/[/url] (though still overpriced)

Things to see: Beaches! Phuket has 4-5 really nice beaches spread around the island. Phi Phi island an hour east of Phuket, it is where they filmed the movie "the Beach" and is stunning. It is also a big backpacker central and you can have some good nights there. Jungceylon is a brand new mall in central Patong, it can be good for shopping. Central Festival and Big C near Phuket town are nice malls as well.

Nightlife: Patong has some good bars and clubs, walking down Bangla, if you can mind the stench, is a lot of fun. There are only a couple afterhours places on Phuket, Safari on the hill above Patong, and Laguna in Rawai. For something different and much more Thai there is Phuket Town. There are a handful of clubs there, Blue Marina, T2, Kor Tor Mor and Timber Hut are the more memorable ones. A night out in Phuket Town is essential, especially if you are mainly visiting Phuket on your Thailand trip.

Misc: Get a motorbike, you can rent a motorbike for 3$ a day, no license required. Motorbikes are a lot of fun! Phuket is really bad for Taxis, a mafia group controls all the Tuk Tuks there and you aren't gonna get a good price. The price is usually similar to what you pay at home and there is no way around it. Go for drives on your motorbike, there are lots of really nice spots in the south of the island.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a city in the north of Thailand approximately 700km north of Bangkok. It is the second largest province in Thailand and because of this it's quite frequently called the Capital of the North. If you are looking for somewhere to live/visit that is nicely balanced somewhere in between the craziness and fast paced life of Bangkok and the laid back atmosphere of Phuket then this is definitely the place to go.

It's very easy to get there with flights, trains or buses all being an option from Bangkok. If you want to travel there over land then the night train is advisable as you can get a bed to sleep in during the journey, however the total journey will take around 12-14 hours from Bangkok. Flying is the fastest option taking just over an hour. Travelling there from Phuket is a bit more difficult though as they do not run any direct flights or a train service. Instead you will have to fly to Bangkok and get a connecting flight from there.

Areas to Stay: Once you've made it here their will be a large choice of hotels/ gueshouses to choose from. The main hotel area is east of the city's moat located close to the Famous Night Bazaar, if you decide to stay around this area then you will be situated within walking distance of plenty of restaurants, bars and markets, which makes it really convenient. Getting around the city is extremely easy and you can get to almost anywhere within 10-15 minutes by taxi, so as long as you stay somewhere central you will have no trouble travelling around.

Things to see/do: Chiang Mai is noticebly cheaper than most tourist areas in Thailand and because of this there are a huge number of markets. The most famous is the Night Bazaar which runs every night and is situated over a large area to the east of the city. There is lots to do around this area every night, with restaurants and bars surrounding the market. Equally as famous is the Sunday walking market, which runs through the center of the city inside the moat.
If you like history then you can go see one of the city's hundreds of temples or if you want a break from the city then head to one of many waterfalls around the region. Mae Sa Waterfall is really nice, located not too far away and definitely worth a visit.

Nightlife: If you're looking for something similar to Bangkok as far as nightlife goes then you're going to struggle to find it here, however there are enough bars and nightclubs around to have a good night out. Bars are found all over the city but it seems most are found are around the east side of the moat, again, close to the Night Bazaar. You can also head towards the Ping river where they have some really cool bars and restaurants, one being the Riverside, which is really popular and plays some good live music.
If you want something less touristy though then head to Nimmanhaemin road towards the west of the city where all the locals hang out. Probably the best two nightclubs are in this area called Warm Up and Monkey Club. A more toursity nightclub is found under the Porn Ping hotel called Bubbles, back towards the Night Bazaar. Officially the night clubs close at 2am but if you want to stay out later then head to Spicy nightclub along the east of the Moat. It's not great, but like most Spicys in Thailand definitely worth a visit.
If you're looking for the trade mark Thai-style go-go bars then head to Loi Kroh street and Tapae Road. Here you will find the usual strip of bars with pool tables, neon lights, dancing girls and drunk tourists. There is also also a walk-in arcade close to here, next to the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel where you can easily find an overly friendly girl and a game of connect 4. If it's a show you are looking for then Club Foxy Lady or Spotlight Bar are pretty good choices. Again, like most things these are located close to the night Bazaar and just a short walk from the main go-go bars area.

Misc: If you are going to be using taxis a lot to get around the city then stay away from the standard tourist tuk tuks and use the red Songthaews instead. You will see these all over the city and are generally half the price or more of tuk tuks
Renting a motorbike is really cheap in Chiang Mai, shop around and you can easily find a bike for 2,000 baht a month.
Use the square moat that is around the old part of the city to navigate around. Once you know on which side of the moat you are on it will be easy to find what you are looking for.

Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan is the site of the Full moon party, a massive party that happens once a month. Located near Koh Samui you can get there either by flying into Koh Samui and taking a short ferry, or you can take a ferry from Surat Thani to the south.

Areas to stay: I'm a bit torn on what to recomment here, the full moon party happens at Haad Rin beach, and it's the most developed part of the island. However while it's fun there Koh Phangan is a big island, and there are some really nice beaches and bungalows you could stay at.

Things to see: Once you have left Haad Rin Koh Phangan is the classic tropical island, there are a lot of beaches and jungle to explore.

Nightlife: Full Moon Party!! Happening every night on the full moon, Haad Rin beach is flooded with 25,000 people dancing and drinking on the sand. The nights leading up to the Full Moon Party are also a lot of fun, it's not as busy but there are still a lot of backpackers around. Haad Rin is a nice town, with lots of backpacker "resorts" and bars, there is something to do all the time, though the closer to a Full Moon Party the better.

Misc: Don't buy drugs, there are lots of undercover cops walking around. Watch out for your wallet, there are quite a few pickpockets around. Be safe on motorbikes, the roads here are bad and there are always a lot of accidents.

Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta is an island on the southwest province of Krabi. The local Thai population is mainly muslim. The area is quite a bit less developed than Phuket or Samui, and as a result, the dining and nightlife is quite lacking.

The beaches aren't nearly as nice as Phuket or nearby Koh Phi Phi - Phi Phi coincidentally lies directly between Phuket and Koh Lanta - as they're made up of coarse brown sand. The ocean too, is not visually pleasing, and is more of a murky green than the crystal clear emerald waters of Phi Phi to the north-west.

Koh Lanta's redeeming qualities are that it's more unspoiled and a little bit cheaper than the more popular islands in the area. If that interests you, check out Koh Lanta. But if you just want to play on the beach, I'd suggest checking out Railay beach a short bus trip north or Koh Phi Phi.

This is a decent guide for Thailand: http://www.boomboomme.com/thailand/newbie/index.htm

Last edited by Roger Mainfield; 07-28-2012 at 09:55 AM.
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