Thailand travel guide: what you need to do


Power adapters, phone, internet, currency exchange, travel insurance, handy apps, VAT refunds and more.


Australian passport holders can holiday in Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa.

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.

Do you want to stay longer than 30 days?

You'll need 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 60 days and are valid for six months from the date that they are issued. Apply via the Thai Embassy: canberra.thaiembassy.org/Home/visa

Don't overstay your visa

You'll be fined, and if you can't pay your fine you won't be allowed to leave the country. You could be blacklisted from returning to Thailand, and you could even be jailed.

Visa rules may change. For up-to-date information check with the Thai Embassy.

  • See a GP or travel doctor before travelling to Thailand. Some vaccinations need to be given eight weeks before departure, so get in early.
  • You may need vaccinations depending on which part of the country you're travelling to, the time of year and what you'll be doing.
  • Your doctor might recommend shots for hepatitis A, typhoid, rabies or other diseases, as well as malaria prevention tablets.

Tip: Check The Travel Doctor's Thailand page for recommendations and the latest health warnings.

More health and safety advice: Why you need to avoid mosquitos and tap water in Thailand.

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

Global roaming

Can I use my Australian phone in Thailand?

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 global roaming prices.

Avoid big bills

  • Switch off data roaming before you leave Australia (just use Wi-Fi when it's available to access the internet).
  • 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 Thai SIM

You can save money by using a Thai SIM card rather than your Australian account. The three main Thai telcos are:

  • AIS
  • dtac
  • Truemove

SIMs and phone credit can be bought at Thai airports, convenience stores and phone shops.

The major airports have booths selling SIMs aimed at tourists – preloaded with phone and data credit for set periods of a few days or weeks. You'll need to show your passport as ID and the assistant will likely set your phone up for you.

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

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 with a local SIM.

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

Internet access

  • Wi-Fi is available in most hotels and some cafes and bars, particularly in tourist areas. Speeds may be slow and you may have to pay. 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.
  • Mobile data is cheap in Thailand. To stay online (almost) all the time, just grab a pre-paid SIM card for your phone or tablet (see above). 

What type of adapter do I need for Thailand?

Thailand uses type A and type C power plugs. These are different to Australia's type I, so you'll need an adapter. Since you'll find both types of power outlet throughout the country, a universal adapter is best. But if you're only staying in one hotel, you could ask them ahead of time which type of adapter you'll need.

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).

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

What's the best way to take money to Thailand?

You'll get more for your money if you take Australian dollars in cash then exchange them for Thai Baht once you're in the country.

Avoid the money changers at the airport though, as they'll have worse exchange rates.

Important: Tell your bank about your travel plans at least 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 Thai cities and tourist areas, but remember you'll be charged a transaction fee and a conversion fee for using your Australian card. And the Thai bank will usually tack on an extra charge too. 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

Only American Express travellers' cheques are accepted in Thailand, and even then you'll have trouble finding many places that can cash them. Foreign exchange booths and banks are your best bet.

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. If you're planning on doing a lot of shopping, they can work out cheaper than using your credit card.

Check our travel money card reviews to be sure you're getting the right one (for example, the Australia Post card doesn't accept Thai Baht).

Looking for a travel money card?

See our travel money comparison.

Travel Money reviews
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

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 (see below) when you leave the country.

For more advice, check the CHOICE travel money guide.

Refunds for the 7% VAT on eligible goods (but not services) can be claimed at international Thai airports upon departure.

The rules

  • Goods must be purchased from stores displaying a 'VAT refund for tourists' sign.
  • Goods must have been bought within the last 60 days.
  • Goods must have a value of at least 5000 Baht (including VAT).
  • Single purchases must have a value of at least 2000 Baht per day, per store.

At the store

When you make a purchase, show your passport and ask the sales assistant to complete the PP10 VAT Refund Application for Tourists form and attach the original tax invoice.

At the airport

  • Carry your goods in your hand luggage.
  • Before you check in, present your goods and VAT refund form to customs officers.
  • Luxury goods, such as jewellery, watches or pens must be inspected by the Revenue officers at the VAT Refund Office in the departure lounge.
  • You can either present your claim to the Revenue officers, mail it back to the Revenue Department of Thailand, or drop it into the box in front of the VAT Refund Office.

Refunds

  • For goods under 30,000 Baht, you can receive a refund on the spot in cash, or by bank draft or credit card refund.
  • For goods over 30,000 Baht, refunds must be made by bank draft or credit card refund.

Fees

  • You'll pay a 100 Baht fee for a cash refund on the spot.
  • If you're receiving your refund by bank draft or credit card refund, you'll pay slightly higher fees as well as postage/money transfer fees.

Tip: Allow extra time at the airport for VAT refunds, as queues may be long.

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 travel insurance buying guide and to choose the best cover, see CHOICE's travel insurance reviews and comparisons.

  • Check for 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.
  • 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.

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.

  • Travel guides such as Triposo, Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet include maps and info about popular destinations. The apps work offline, so they won't chew up your mobile data.
  • Currency conversion xe.com or the XE Currency app give you the latest exchange rates and live currency conversions.
  • Language translation Google Translate (also available as an app) can translate more than 100 languages through text and spoken word. Some languages (including Thai) can be downloaded for offline translation.
  • Messaging and VoIP Apps such as Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype and Viber allow you to keep in touch with friends and family minus the expensive phone bills.
  • Maps To save a map onto your mobile device for offline use, go to 'Offline maps' in the Google Maps app and download the area you need.
  • Public transport Moovit can help you get around most cities. Google Maps can also give you transport advice.
  • Rideshare Uber no longer operates in Thailand, but the similar service Grab is widespread.
  • smartraveller.gov.au for the Australian government's latest advice on the safety of the region you're travelling in.

Looking for the best travel insurance?

See our travel insurance comparison.

Travel Insurance reviews

Got a travel tip about Thailand? Or spotted any advice that needs updating? Add a comment below.

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