Visas: Most visitors can stay for 30 days without a visa
Time: PST plus 15 hours
Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz
Weights & Measures: Metric with local variations
Tourism: 20 million visitors in 2013
Money & Costs
Exchange rate: US$1 = 32.5thb (May 2014)
The baht lost 20% of its value overnight in mid-1997 so it's worth keeping an eye on
the exchange rates printed in the Bangkok Post every day. Banks or legal moneychangers
offer the best rates. For buying baht, US dollars are the most readily acceptable
currency, though travelers' checks get a better rate than cash (recently the
fee to cash travelers checks has risen to about $5 per check). Credit cards are becoming
increasingly acceptable in quality shops, hotels and restaurants. Visa is the most useful,
followed by MasterCard. ATMs which accept Visa and other credit cards are easily found in
the larger cities, and many exchange booths will give you a cash advance on your credit
Tipping is not customary in Thailand, although Thais are getting used to the idea in
upmarket hotels. Bargaining is common practice in markets and tourist shops, and when
catching non-metered taxis. Treat it as a form of social discourse rather than a matter of
life and death.
The earliest civilization in Thailand is believed to have been that of the Mons in
central Thailand, who brought a Buddhist culture from the Indian subcontinent. In the 12th
century, this met a Khmer culture moving from the east, the Sumatran-based Srivijaya
culture moving north, and citizens of the Thai state of Nan Chao, in what is now southern
China, migrating south. Thai princes created the first Siamese capital in Sukhothai, and
later centers in Chiang Mai and, notably, Ayutthaya.
The Burmese invaded Siam in both the 16th and 18th centuries, capturing Chiang Mai and
destroying Ayutthaya. The Thais expelled the Burmese and moved their capital to Thonburi.
In 1782, the current Chakri dynasty was founded by King Rama I and the capital was moved
across the river to Bangkok.
In the 19th century, Siam remained independent by deftly playing off one European power
against another. In 1932, a peaceful coup converted the country into a constitutional
monarchy, and in 1939 Siam became Thailand. During WW II, the Thai government allowed
Japanese troops to occupy Thailand. After the war, Thailand was dominated by the military
and experienced more than twenty coups and countercoups interspersed with short-lived
experiments with democracy. Democratic elections in 1979 were followed by a long period of
stability and prosperity as power shifted from the military to the business elite.
In February 1991 a military coup ousted the Chatichai government, but bloody
demonstrations in May 1992 led to the reinstatement of a civilian government with Chuan
Leekpai at the helm. This coalition government collapsed in May 1995 over a land-reform
scandal but replacement Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa was no better. Dubbed a
'walking ATM' by the Thai press, he was forced to relinquish the prime ministership just
over a year later after a spate of corruption scandals. Ex-general and former deputy PM
Chavalit Yongchaiyudh headed a dubious coalition until late 1997 when veteran pragmatist
Chuan Leekpai retook the reins. In 1997 the Thai baht pretty much collapsed,
dragging the economy (and many other South-East Asian economies) down in a screaming heap.
In August the International Monetary Fund stepped in with a bailout package of austerity
measures, which seemed to have turned things around by early 1998.
In 2006 another Military coup toppled the Thaksin government. The
poitical situation has been in flux ever since. There has been very little
effect on Tourist Services.