Thailand travel guide: what you need to do


Visas, vaccinations, phone, internet, power adapters, money, travel insurance, handy apps and more.

floating markets in thailand

Thailand planning and preparation


Get the best cash rate, phone rates, phone apps for maps and currency conversions, and which vaccinations and power plugs you need - download the Thailand travel guide.

Visas and passports

Australia is one of a number of countries granted a tourist visa exemption by the Thai government. Australian passport holders can enter Thailand without a visa and stay for up to 30 days, provided they:

  • are visiting for the purpose of tourism
  • arrive by plane (visitors who arrive by land can only stay 15 days without a visa)
  • have a passport valid for at least six months.

If you want to stay in Thailand for longer than 30 days, you'll need to apply for a visa in advance. You can't apply to extend your stay if you entered the country without a visa. Tourist visas are available for 30 or 60 days and are valid for three months from the date that they are issued.

Visa rules may change. For up-to-date information check with the Thai embassy: canberra.thaiembassy.org/visa

Vaccinations

You may need vaccinations before you travel to Thailand. Your doctor might recommend shots for hepatitis A, typhoid, rabies or other diseases, as well as malaria prevention tablets. Check The Travel Doctor's Thailand fact sheet and ask a doctor for advice based on your own health and travel plans.

Tip: Some vaccinations need to be given four to six weeks before departure, so get in early.

More advice on health and safety in Thailand.

Phone and internet

Global roaming and coverage

Thailand has excellent mobile phone coverage and there are very few parts of the country where you won't get a signal.

Australian mobile phones will work by connecting with local GSM networks, but if you use your phone more than occasionally, you're likely to see some big bills.

Check with your telco for roaming prices:

Tip: Switch off data roaming on your phone before you leave Australia. Likewise, switch off your voicemail and ask friends and family to text you rather than calling (you'll be charged if you answer incoming calls).

Local SIM

You can save money by using a Thai SIM card rather than your Australian account. Most Australian handsets only work on a GSM network - SIMS from Thai telcos AIS, dtac and Truemove TrueMove should all be compatible. (Check this guide for more information on phone/network compatibility.) SIMs and credit can be bought at Thai airports, convenience stores and phone shops.

Travel SIM

Pre-paid travel SIMs are another option, particularly if you're travelling to a number of countries or you like to be organised before you go. They can be found at some Australian travel stores, phone stores and post offices, or ordered online before you leave. Rates are unlikely to be as cheap as on a local SIM.

Remember: Your phone will need to be unlocked to accept a SIM from another network.

Beat global roaming bill shock - our guide to unlocking your phone and changing your global roaming settings.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is available in most hotels and some cafes and bars, but speeds may be slow and you may have to pay. To search for free hotspots try wificafespots.com or download an app such as WeFi (Android or PC) or Wi-Fi Finder (Apple or Android). Popular tourist islands like Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui have plentiful Wi-Fi, but if you're going off the beaten path to somewhere more remote, you may have trouble getting online.

Power plugs

Standard voltage: 220V

Frequency: 50Hz

Thailand uses a slightly lower voltage than Australia's 230V, and the same 50Hz frequency. The 10V difference between countries is only small, so it's unlikely to cause a problem with any appliances. Most laptops, phones and chargers are designed to work on multiple voltages and frequencies, so they should be compatible (check how they are labelled if you're concerned).

Power sockets:

Thailand's power sockets and plugs are different to Australia's, so you will need an adapter. Since the country uses two different types of socket, a universal adapter is best.

Money

Currency: Baht (THB / ฿) (1 Baht is made up of 100 Satang)

Check xe.com for the latest exchange rates.

Important: Tell your bank about your travel plans two weeks before you leave. Card activity in a foreign country could be mistaken for fraud and you could find your account frozen.

ATMs

Cash machines are easy to find in cities and tourist areas, but remember you'll be charged a transaction fee and a conversion fee for using your Australian card. Some ATMs may not recognise foreign cards. If you're going off the beaten track, ATMs may be hard to come by so take some extra cash.

Credit cards

Credit cards are accepted in most hotels, high-end restaurants and tourist shops (again, you'll be charged a conversion fee) but cash is still king on the street.

Money changers

Money changers charge no fees or commissions in Thailand, so you'll almost always get a better rate if you change your Australian dollars once you're in the country (although you may want to take a few Baht just to cover your first few hours in the country). Exchange rates will likely be higher at the airport than in banks or booths in towns.

Travellers' cheques

Travellers' cheques aren't so common these days, and you'll have trouble finding many places that can cash them - foreign exchange booths and banks are your best bet. According to Tripadvisor, only American Express travellers' cheques are accepted in Thailand.

Travel money cards

Travel money cards work in a similar way to travellers' cheques, only they're more versatile and are used just like debit cards. They can be pre-loaded with foreign currency and cancelled if lost. finder.com.au reports that OzForex, American Express, Travelex and Suncorp cards don't accept Thai Baht.

Tip: Carry at least two credit/debit cards and more than one cash currency (Australian and Thai). Split your money and cards between separate bags. That way if you lose one, you have a back-up.

Taxes may come as a surprise on some bills. A 7% VAT is applied to all goods and services, and will sometimes not be included in the advertised price. Many hotels and restaurants will also add a 'service charge' or 'hotel tax'. You may be able to reclaim VAT when you leave the country.

For more advice, check the CHOICE travel money guide.

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Buy insurance at the same time as you book your trip, that way you'll be covered if you have to cancel for some reason before you go.

For more information read our buying guide and to choose the best cover, see CHOICE's travel insurance reviews and comparisons.

Ask your insurer about exclusions that may affect you, including scuba diving, jet-skiing, motorcycle or scooter accidents, as well as pre-existing medical conditions.

Be aware that anything that happens to you while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is unlikely to be covered by insurance.

Tips:

  • Keep a print-out of your travel insurance details with you at all times while on your trip.
  • Share your insurance details with family or friends before you leave.

Handy links and apps

Consider adding these links and apps to your phone, tablet or laptop before you go.

Tip: If possible, choose apps that work offline so they won't chew up your mobile data or stop working when you're in remote places.

Tip: To save a map onto your mobile device for offline use, select the area on Google Maps then select 'Save offline map' from the menu and follow the directions on the screen. Your GPS positioning will still work on the saved map, even when you don't have access to the internet. Alternatively, download the Google Maps app, go to 'Offline maps' in the menu and select a city.

Got a travel tip about Thailand? Or spotted something in our guide that needs updating? Add a comment below.


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