Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thailand (2011): Intro


These holidays were a combination of common sense and a desire to visit places where I’ve never been before. Southeast Asia is a popular destination for the Poles, many of my friends went there and they told me how much Thailand or Malaysia had amazed them. In addition, some of my vaccinations have been valid for four years. So I try to choose places where they might be needed. The truth is, none of them is mandatory in for Thailand, but better safe than sorry.

I bought the tickets (my friends too) several months ago in Austrian Airlines. Then we came up with the idea to use this opportunity to explore also Malaysia and Cambodia. We managed to buy tickets at reasonable prices in Malaysian low cost airlines Air Asia.
Then a few months of waiting, checking what’s worth to see, creating our own mini-guide and… suddenly the news that there’s a flood in Thailand. We couldn’t return our tickets, so we had to go. We were afraid a little of this journey, at the last moment we changed the route slightly – we postponed a visit to Bangkok from the first days to last ones and decided to go to the notorious city of Pattaya.

Good to know: miscellaneous

*Thailand is much bigger than Poland, with an area of 514.000 square kilometers, it's inhabited by 64 million people.
*Polishcitizens don’t need a visa to enter the country for a period of up to 30 days.
*The currency is a baht (THB)
Rates by the Polish National Bank as of November 4, 2011: 1 THB = 0.1024 PLN. In places visited by tourists there are no problems with exchanging money. The exchange counters are open until 22.00 and sometimes even longer. Attention: the situation is different on the islands, there might not be an exchange point there. If you withdraw the money from an ATM you have to add a commission of 150 THB. In some places you can pay with a credit card, but you need to spend at least 300 THB; in many places 3% commission is added.
*Time:add 6 hours to the time in Poland, i.e. 12.00 at noon becomes 18.00 pm.
*Electricity:220 V, outlets are the same as in Poland.
*Health: there are no free public ambulances in Thailand. In case of an accident which requires rapid transport to the hospital it’s best to take a taxi. Pharmacies are well stocked and pharmacists are well-trained. Recommended vaccinations (not mandatory): polio, typhoid, tetanus. In some areas, particularly on the islands, there’s a risk of malaria.
*TouristPolice: hotline +66 1155.

Good to know: transportation

-State Railway of Thailand, SRT;
-three classes: 1, 2, 3; three types of trains: ordinary, rapid, express
1class – double cabins with air-con, tap, bench which changes into a place to sleep; available in rapid and express trains
2 class – compartments similar to those in buses; in sleeper – on opposite sides, folded, places on lower levels are more spacious and therefore more expensive; linen and curtains for privacy; available in rapid and express trains
3 class – the least comfortable, ordinary benches for 2-3 passengers

Long-distance transport
-buses: regular – short routes, lots of passengers, delays; air-conditioned – more or less one and a half times more expensive than regular ones; touristic – private, air-con, the most expensive option
-songthaews – open trucks or vans, taking usually several people
-shared taxis

Local transport
-songthaews (as above)
-taxis – as a rule of thumb don’t haggle; if driver doesn’t want to turn on a taximeter, get off; sometimes you can try to haggle anyway
-tuk-tuks – or motor rickshaws, the price should be set before starting off; if a driver offers a very low price (e.g. 10 or 20 THB) he will probably take you to the expensive shop; the prices should be similar to those offered by taxis for the same route


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