| Daily Life
RELIGION IN DAILY LIFE
Buddhism should be treated with respect at all times. When visiting Buddhist monuments be sure to dress modestly, meaning covered knees and arms. Buddha images are sacred, no matter the size or monetary value, and should never be used as a backdrop for a photo or treated in a disrespectful fashion. Monks are held in very high esteem in Thai society, and should be addressed and discussed in a special way. Female visitors should not go near to Monks, as they are forbidden contact with women.
Most shops in malls and department store complexes are open from 10AM to 10PM seven days a week. Some shops close on Sundays, but in Bangkok and other tourist areas they stay open. Night markets typically begin at dusk and close around midnight.
During your first few weeks in Thailand you may experience diarrhea and/or nausea. This is natural, due to the different climate, foods and water. When in Thailand, it is best to only drink bottled water to avoid from getting sick. This includes ice cubes and food that has been sitting on ice cubes, such as fresh fruit. Be cautious when consuming shellfish in Thailand. When skeptical about whether or not something is safe to consume it is best to pass on eating it.
Thai pharmacies are typically open from 8:30AM to 8PM and are well-stocked with international medications at a much lower price than in other countries. Pharmacists are usually English-speaking and highly trained. Hospitals are generally clean and have good healthcare standards. Bangkok has many hospitals and all provincial capitals have at least one hospital.
TRANSPORTATION AND TRAVEL
The main point of entry to Thailand is Suvarnabhumi International Airport (18 miles outside of Bangkok). Bangkok is a large international airport and is serviced by many international carriers. The primary local carriers, Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways, fly to most provincial destinations across the country including Chiang Mai and Phuket.
Bangkok has an extensive bus system that provides a cheap and efficient way to get around the city. Regular buses have a flat fee, and air-conditioned buses charge by the distance traveled. Minibuses are air-conditioned and have flat fees, but you can avoid crowding since they will not pick up additional passengers when all seats have been filled.
The "Skytrain" is a comfortable and convenient way to get around Bangkok. The elevated railways lift commuters above the congestion, noise and pollution of the streets below. While coverage is limited, the trains provide good access to Bangkok's central areas.
The State Railway of Thailand links Bangkok to the rest of the country at reasonable prices. Service is provided on express, fast, or ordinary trains. Train service is also regularly provided from Bangkok to Singapore via Malaysia.
Note about travel by Boat
Boat safety has become an increasing concern in Thailand. Ferries and speedboats used to transport tourists and local nationals to and from the many islands off the Thai mainland are often overcrowded and carry insufficient safety equipment. Students should avoid travel on overcrowded boats and ensure that proper safety equipment (including life preservers) is available before boarding.
Internet access is widespread and cheap in Thailand. Internet cafes can be found in every tourist destination and resort. In more rural areas, you can use online game centers that offer internet access. Prices range from as little as B20 per hour up to B1 per minute. More and more, guesthouses and hotels offer WiFi to guests. Additionally, plenty of cafes, restaurants, and bars offer WiFi as well.
Using Skype is an excellent and affordable way to stay in touch with friends and family back in your home county. This service acts as an instant messenger service, as well as a telephone service that utilizes your computer's microphone. The service is free when calling from computer to computer and very reasonable when calling from computer to telephone.
Purchasing a cell phone is recommended, since it is a good way to keep in touch with friends, family, and your host university’s International Office. New and second-hand cell phones can be purchased cheaply. A Thai pre-paid SIM card can be purchased to use with your personal cell phone. SIM cards are rather cheap. The international dialing code for calls to Thailand is +66.
The average time to receive an airmail letter from the United States is about 10 days. A letter sent from Thailand can take up to two weeks. Aerogrammes are usually the fastest and surest way to send letters. To send and receive packages you will have to go to the main post office in town; avoid sending packages if possible, as it usually takes a long time and they are often lost. Post offices are generally open Monday through Friday from 8:30AM to 4:30PM, and Saturday from 9AM to noon. Post offices are the best place to buy stamps.
Thailand Standard Time is GMT+7, 11 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Thailand does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
Electrical outlets in Thailand are charged to 220V at 50 cycles per second. This is compatible with appliances from the U.K. but not many other countries. Outlets generally have flat, two-pronged plugs. Few outlets have three holes, so it is necessary to bring an adapter.
Thailand has an extremely strict anti-narcotics law that provides for severe sentences, including the death penalty, for narcotics importers and users. At present, several hundred foreigners are imprisoned in Thailand on narcotics charges, among them a number who have received life sentences. If you have a prescription medication that contains narcotics, bring a doctor's note authorizing use. Be sure to keep the medication in its original container. Additionally, smoking in public is widely prohibited. It is banned in all air-conditioned public building, and air-conditioned trains, buses, and planes.
It is against the law, and socially unacceptable, to insult the King or Royal family. Due to recent political tension, prosecutions of “Lèse majesté” crimes have increased among foreigners and Thais alike. Therefore, be careful when commenting on the royal family.
SAFETY & TRAVEL ADVISORY
Although Thailand is a relatively safe destination, there are areas that require caution. For example, the far south and the border with Myanmar occasionally has violence, smuggling and low-level military clashes. Thailand’s border with Cambodia, due to recent tension over an ancient temple located between the two countries, can also be dangerous at times.
Pickpocketing and bag-snatching are the two main problems to be dealt with on a daily basis. To avoid becoming a victim, carry valuables with you and close to your body at all times. When traveling on a bus, always keep your belongings close by. When leaving luggage in a guesthouse or hotel, use a padlock to keep it safe.