Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thailand: how to stay connected back home

Traveling outside the country could be challenging sometimes, especially whenever you want to stay connected with family and friends that are not traveling with you. International call is one of many ways to be able to communicate with them. All you need to do is dial 001 followed by the relevant country code then the number you wish to call.

Here’s how it works: 001 - Country codes - area code – phone number.
To call the US phone number (612) 882 5439
US Country codes: 1; Area code: 612; Phone number: 882 5493
To make a call, dial: 001 1 612 882 5493

If calling from a cell phone/ mobile phone, you may need to arrange a roaming agreement with your service provider before you go. Check the rates you will be charged for outgoing and incoming calls as these can be very high compared to your home country. A cheaper alternative is often to buy a Thai SIM card to make calls during your stay in Thailand. These are cheap and easy to get at any shopping mall in Thailand which will have an assortment of telephone shops.

Being connected using an internet service is also another possible way while you are in Thailand, since Internet shops and cafes are plentiful in all cities and tourist areas. Rates vary and can range from 20 Baht – 60 Baht per hour (US$0.70 – US$2). Wi-Fi is available in many hotels, guest houses and bars.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thailand: Extending your stay

Normally, if you want to continue touring the country, an extension may be granted for not more than 30 days unless there are explanatory circumstances that would entitle you to a one year extension. There will be fee of 1,900 baht (approx. US$58) to extend your stay in Thailand.

The Immigration can extend your Tourist visa once again if you still need another extension. It will be extended for 7 days following the initial 30 days with another fee 1,900 baht.

If you are planning to stay longer in Thailand for study abroad or exchange student program, the country will require you to be enrolled as a full time student in one of Thailand's schools. The visa you are going to use to enter the country will not be a tourist visa. Once you are accepted by the school, it will arrange your visa with Thailand immigration office and issue a student visa for you.

Here is a bit more info for you.

Do you think this guy made it across? Or did he take a swim? Personally I think he "missed the boat."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thailand: What to Pack

For international travel, most bags should be durable, lockable and in many cases have wheels. Light travel is really recommended as if you forget something; you can probably buy it in Bangkok. Take enough padlocks for every double zipper to stop wandering hands and lock up your sacred belongings, even in your hotel room. For your super valuable belongings, keep them locked in the hotel safe, or better yet, LEAVE THEM HOME!

Essentials are a bathing suit, a day pack, a raincoat/umbrella in rainy season and some warm clothes if traveling in October to December, as some areas get cool. You will only need a couple of changes of clothes as you can get washing done anywhere cheaply. Sandals for when your hiking shoes are too hot can be bought cheaply in Thailand as well.

Take snorkeling gear or buy/rent it on arrival if you plan to spend a lot of your time in the water. A good map of Thailand is also handy. Take a mirror for shaving, as often budget places won’t have any. String is very handy for hanging up washing. Climbing shoes for rock climbing are useful as Thailand has some of the best cliffs in Southeast Asia.

A spare pair of prescription glasses or contact lenses plus a copy of your prescription is a good idea. A personal music player is great as a huge range of cheap music is available everywhere.

Into the toiletries bag throw sun screen and insect repellent. Mosquito nets are also a good idea. If you plan to travel long distances by motorbike, purchase a good quality helmet, which you can do in Thailand. Last but not least, pack your stuff in plastic bags to stop them from getting wet, especially when traveling in the rainy season or on boats.

Aside from the above, the following are essential:
• Passport with minimum 6 month validity left
• Travel insurance
• Blood donor/type card
• Details of your next of kin, and emergency contact
• Prescriptions for any medication you require.
• A second photo ID other than your passport

Have a great time in Thailand!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Thailand: Top Adventures to Enjoy

As Thailand provides many exciting and unique activities, make sure you try these adventurous experiences while you are in the country.

From snorkeling among the bright coral of Thailand beaches to canoeing your way through secluded caves and archipelagos, and to boat riding on the country’s expanses waterways that locales use as a primary means of Thailand transportation. Many vacation packages can include river adventures as part of your plans. The region’s scenic mountain ranges are another exciting adventure for biking enthusiast.

All of these excitements couldn’t be complete without a trip deep into the heart of the jungle. Sitting high atop an elephant or walking through the verdant foliage are experiences that will stay with you long after you've returned home.

Don’t forget to prepare yourself with travel vaccines to have a perfectly memorable experience in Thailand.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thailand: Stay healthy on your trip

Getting ready for any trip takes months and weeks of research, planning and packing. While preparing all the activities, transportation, documentation and securing loose ends while you are away, don’t forget to prepare your health for the visit too! It is important to make the most of your trip by participating in all pre-planned activities rather than experiencing Thailand from the hotel bathroom or a local medical center; so be safe, vaccinate!

Planning to stay healthy while you travel is the MOST important part of planning for your trip.

The best ways to ensure a safe and healthy trip are to be educated about the health risks in Thailand and get vaccinated.

For travel to Thailand, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends the following vaccinations:

Hepatitis A and B
Varicella (Chicken Pox)
Japanese Encephalitis
• PPD (Tuberculosis) Test

Please make sure you get properly vaccinated as there are many diseases throughout Thailand that can seriously affect your health.

Also, take precautions against drinking the water and make sure your food is thoroughly cooked. Being properly vaccinated before you go can only protect you to an extent, knowing the diseases and how to prevent them when you are there is another way to stay safe.

Most of these vaccinations are routine for citizens of the USA and you have more than likely been adequately vaccinated for some, but it is important to see a travel medicine specialist to be sure you are prepared with the proper vaccinations and information to stay healthy in Thailand.

Now that you know about all the diseases and viruses that have preventive vaccines, you are free to take other preventive measures for the rest of the "icky" things that can affect your trip.
  • Travelers' Diarrhea: use antibiotics and re hydration powders (diarrhea kit available at Passport Health)
  • Intestinal Infections: Swim only in properly chlorinated or salt water, wear shoes at all times (even on the beach), follow food and water precautions given by an expert.
  • Jet-Lag, Motion sickness, Altitude sickness: several different medications available
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis: Remain properly hydrated during flight, get up frequently to stretch your legs to maintain circulation, consider wearing pressure gradient Travel Socks
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation: Obtain appropriate Travel and Evacuation Insurance

Don't let the possibility of getting sick in Thailand deter you from going. The best way to ensure safety and good health is to know the risks and take the right precautions against them.

Thank you to the CDC and our Travel Medicine Specialists for their contribution to this post.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thailand: Language Barriers

So you want to visit Thailand but don’t know one thing about the language!? First, understand that a huge language barrier with Thai is the tones and the cultural nuances. Thais are uncomfortable when using English and will usually avoid talking to a foreigner in case they make a mistake.

If you are visiting Bangkok or Chiang Mai you can certainly get by just fine. It isn’t a serious problem to ask basic tourist questions. But if you can learn some basic Thai, it's best to get on and do just that. Remember; don't try learning Thai from someone who isn't capable of teaching it to you!

Basic phrases you will NEED to know:

1. Sa-wat dee (hello)
Used for both hello and goodbye.

2. Khop koon (thank you)
How to show your appreciation once you’ve been handed your Singha beer and pad Thai.

3. Gee baht? (how much)
Essential for all the shopping you’ll be doing, or when haggling with tuk-tuk drivers.

4. Yoo tee nai...? (where is...)
Priceless when lost! Just point at a place on your map or in your guidebook and say ‘yoo tee nai’
Helpful Hint: Phrase books are a good place to start, but you should start checking your pronunciation with English speaking Thais or foreigners. (Get a book that has Thai script beside each translation so you can at least point to the phrase in your book if all else fails.)

So, whether you just want to pick up a few phrases for your upcoming vacation or you're planning in-depth study, here is a great site that will help you to discover the joy of learning Thai!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thailand: History

Thailand (previously known as Siam) means "land of the free", and throughout its 800-year history, Thailand boasts the distinction of being the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized!

Throughout the long history, Thailand has gently absorbed immigrants. Many were skilled as writers, painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians and architects, and helped enrich the native culture. People inhabiting Thailand today share ethnic diversity - mainly Thai, Mon, Khmer, Laotian, Chinese, Malay, Persian and Indian stock.

Thailand has risen above the economic collapse of 1997, SARS and avian influenza as well as the devastating tsunami in December 2004, to become a hugely popular destination on the long-haul tourist trail.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Thailand: Etiquette

Thailand is a country with various customs and traditions. Many are related to religion, which is why it is so important to be respectful and learn about their etiquette. Below are some etiquette tips to take with you on your trip to Thailand:

• Not an expert with chopsticks? No worries, if you are traveling to Thailand! Although the Chinese brought chopsticks to Thailand a long time ago, chopsticks are no longer widely used there. Instead, use a fork and spoon and you will fit right in.

• Thais consider the head and the feet the most sacred parts of the body, so never touch another person's head, display the soles of your feet, or use your foot to point at something.

• Shoes are often removed when entering a private home or even a few stores. Finding shoes outside doors is a great cue to begin un-tying!

• Although traveling in Thailand is very cheap, taxis at bus stations, airports etc. can charge tourists a lot more. Call and have a coffee at a local café- ask how much for taxi to where you want to go and they will give you the Thai rate.

• On many Thai beaches, you will come across solicitors selling everything from sunglasses to cheap jewelry. Refuse politely, but firmly. If you do buy anything, don't expect it to be of high quality. In any case you should ALWAYS keep an eye on your valuables.

• Last but certainly not least- Be Observant! There are so many new sites, sounds and smells in Thailand. When arriving, you will probably be on sensory overload. Observe what people are doing and how they are acting. Observe your body language, your voice volume levels, your group size, your presence. Don’t think of it as constricting – think of it as a gentle learning with Thailand as your teacher!

It is easy, when entering a foreign country, to use mistaken etiquette. Just remember Thais are friendly and hospitable people, so an apology plus a smile will grant you forgiveness!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thailand: MORE Food!

As promised- ANOTHER post about food!

Part of the charm of a visit to Thailand is trying the local food. A survey back in 2000 revealed the following dishes to be the most popular with foreign visitors to Thailand: Tom Yam Kung (spicy shrimp soup), Kaeng Khiao Wan Gai (green curry with chicken), Phat Thai (Thai style fried noodles), Phat Kaphrao (meat fried with sweet basils), Kaeng Phet Pet Yang (roast duck curry), Tom Kha Gai (chicken in coconut soup), Yam Nua (spicy beef salad), Mu/Gai Sa-Te (pork/chicken covered with tumeric), Gai Phat Met Mamuang Himmaphan (chicken fried with cashew nuts)

Toom Yam Kung (spicy shrimp soup)

Kaeng Khiao Wan Gai (green curry with chicken)

It’s difficult to put across on a web page how to pronounce each dish and you may see a whole host of different spellings on a menu, but at least the above list gives you some reference point
As most of Thai food is spicy, it doesn’t mean you have to go hungry if you can’t cope with spicy foods. Don’t’ be ashamed to ask for your food to be prepared less spicy than normal. Thai people are well aware that not all tourists like their food as spicy as the locals do.

Most Thai food is eaten with a spoon and a fork (spoon in the right hand if you are right-handed). Some Chinese dishes and noodles may be eaten with chopsticks.

Why types of dishes are you looking forward to the most? Do you have a favorite Thai dish? How spicy do you like it?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thailand: Documents needed for entry

Like all the other countries, Thailand also has a specific set of requirements when it comes to Visa and Travel Documents that you should take care of before traveling to Thailand. However, the requirements can confuse many travelers as the visa and documents needed depends on what passport you are using to enter Thailand.

If you are an American traveler who meets all of the following criteria, then you do not need to apply in advance for a visa.

  • The purpose of your visit is strictly tourism.

  • You are in possession of a confirmed flight ticket (an e-ticket is acceptable) to show that you will be exiting Thailand within 30 days of entry.

    Please note- Open tickets do not qualify. - Traveling over land out of Thailand to check-in for a flight from a neighboring country (Malaysia, Singapore etc.) does not qualify.(In these instances you will need to apply for a visa from a Thai Embassy/Consulate in your home country prior to departure.)
  • You should have access to living expenses of 20,000 Baht (approx US$600) per person or 40,000 Baht (US$1200) per family. It may be necessary to prove this on entry to Thailand.

If you meet all the criteria above, you will be granted a visa exemption (sometimes known as permission to stay). This is very often (wrongly) referred to by travelers as a visa on arrival.

There is no charge for this and on arrival in Thailand you will be granted a 30-day stamp. You want to make sure that your Passport is valid for at least six months past the day you enter Thailand. If you don’t meet all of the criteria above, you are advised to contact your nearest Thai embassy or consulate and apply for the appropriate visa before you travel.

Please note that this information applies only to those entering Thailand by air. For questions about entering Thailand by land or sea, contact your nearest Thai Embassy.

Passport Health has a continued partnership with Travisa and they can help expedite the process of receiving your passport and/or visa.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thailand: How to get around within Country

There are several different types of transportation in Thailand that you might want to know to make your visit hassle free in the country.

Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand has been choked with traffic congestion for years. However, the addition of the futuristic Sky Train in the city made tourists and locals alike get to where they need in a fraction of time as to what was previously possible. With train depots near the most popular Thailand hotels in Bangkok, the Sky Train is definitely a transportation choice worth making.

Limousines are available in Thailand to get you where you want to go in style. Some Limo services offer bonus cards, where once you collect enough stamps, you can get a free one-way trip to your next destination.

One of the most easily accessible forms of transportation in Thailand, taxi, is popular among tourists and is usually one of the more cost efficient means of travel. It's important to beware of people who come up to you asking if you want a taxi or taxis sitting idle. These people should be avoided as they are usually scam artists. Simply hail a taxi driving down the road; it won't be hard to find one.

Motorcycle/motorbike taxi- These can be a fun, inexpensive alternative to hailing a taxi. They can efficiently get you through traffic and to your destination in no time, just watch your knees and be sure to wear a helmet!

Tuk Tuks - Also known as motorized rickshaws or cabin cycles, Tuk Tuks can be a fun way to get around the city on your Thailand vacation. During rush hour, they should be avoided because of their open door cabins that allow exhaust fumes from other cars into the passenger area.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thailand: Two Guys Around the World share their experiences

A big thanks to Sam and William of for their awesome and very informative videos.

William learns how to make REAL Pad Thai and we learn how to NOT get "taken for a ride" in a taxi. Good to know!

*Also note that eating food from the street (and even some restaurants) can sometimes be a gamble that your tummy may pay for! The health and sanitation requirements are not the same in Thailand as they are in the US and UK so be sure to get your Hepatitis A and Typhoid shots and talk to a Travel Medicine Specialist about the best ways to treat travelers' diarrhea.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thailand: FOOD!

One of the most exciting things about visiting Thailand is the food. Rest assured that there will be more posts about food, but I couldn't resist including a few videos about the food in Thailand. Is it time for lunch yet?

A few of the dishes represented here are Thai chicken and rice soup, dim sum, which has a Chinese influence and in Cantonese, dim sum means "swallowing clouds," and glass noodles most likely Yum Wun Sen (glass noodle salad).

Who else is really hungry now?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thailand: Know when to go!

So you have decided WHERE to go now you must decide WHEN! Wherever you travel in the world, it is important to get the timing right. Not knowing about a country’s seasons and possible weather conditions can turn your holiday into a nightmare.

As far as Thailand goes the rainy season is from July to October. It only rains in short bursts each day and the rain always cools it down, so dont let the rainy season deter you from visiting Thailand during that time. It gets pretty hot during the summer in Thailand and November through February are the coolest times of year.

If you make it to the North and Northeast part of Thailand in April you can catch the
Songkran Festival. Be sure to bring a bathing suit, but a towel will be pointless until this festival of water has ended!

AND don't forget about National Influenza Week!! Take a minute to tell your loved ones how important it is to protect yourself from the Flu. One of the easiest ways to help prevent the flu is by washing your hands properly.

Friday, December 4, 2009

National Influenza Week!

Next week is National Influenza week!

With Thanksgiving over, the holiday shopping season is in full swing and stress levels become higher as the hectic schedules of the holiday season become more and more challenging. During these times it is of the utmost importance to be vigilant about your health and the health of your family.

Who wants to be sick over the holidays anyway?

The best way to ensure protection from the flu is for you and your family to be vaccinated and whats a better way to kick off National Influenza Week than your whole family taking part in fighting the flu?

The flu can (and probably is) lurking around every corner...on the overbooked flight your college student is taking home, the crowded and pushy lines at the big sales your brother or sister are waiting in to get the perfect gift and especially at the many holiday parties of your friends and colleagues.

Don't take the chance. Get your flu shot!

And stay tuned for our new featured country of the month as well!! Thailand!