Travel information: Bangkok fast facts A-Z

Everything from embassies to emergency services, customs to currency

By Time Out editors

Accident & emergency

Erawan Centre

514 Department of Medical Services, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Thanon Luang (0 2223 9401-3, hotline 1646, 1554). Open 24hrs daily.
Free emergency medical treatment and despatch of ambulances and doctors, plus health advice.

International SOS Services Thailand

11th floor, Diethelm Tower, 93/1 Thanon Witthayu (0 2205 7755, www.internationalsos.com). Open 24hrs daily.
Tackles any emergency, emphasising speedy ambulances and police contact.

Tourist Police

TAT, 4 Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue (24hr hotline 1155, 0 2308 0333). Open 8.30am-4.30pm. Hotline 24hrs daily.
This English-speaking force is best for empathy, efficiency, perseverance and familiarity with non-Thai concerns. Or call Tourist Assistance Centre (0 2281 5051). If necessary, try the 24-hour Police Hotline (191) or police stations, where procedures can be stressful. Road casualties often get sent to the Police Hospital, Thanon Ratchadamri, by Chinese charities like Poh Tek Tung.

Customs

On arrival, fill in Passenger Declaration Form 211 for Customs (hotline 1164, www.customs.go.th). Duty-free import limits include 200 cigarettes; 1 litre of spirits; 1 litre of wine; B10,000 of perfume. Prohibited imports/exports include drugs, pornography, protected wild animals or related products. Items requiring permits include Buddha images and antiques (Fine Arts Department, 0 2221 7811).

Disabled

Contact the Flying Wheel Chairs (www.flyingwheelchairs.org).

Electricity

The standard current is 220V, 50 cycles/sec, but plugs are unearthed two-pins (round or parallel flat), so beware of shocks.

Embassies

American Embassy

120-122 Thanon Witthayu (0 2205 4000, http://bangkok.usembassy.gov/).

Australian Embassy

37 Thanon Sathorn Tai (0 2287 2680, www.austembassy.or.th).

British Embassy

1031 Thanon Witthayu (0 2305 8333, www.britishembassy.gov.uk/thailand). Ploenchit BTS.

Canadian Embassy

15th floor, Abdul Rahim Place, 990 Thanon Rama IV (0 2636 0540, www.cic.gc.ca). Saladaeng BTS/Silom MRT.

New Zealand Embassy

14th floor, M-Thailand Building, 87 Thanon Witthayu (0 2254 2530, www.nzembassy.com/thailand). Ploenchit BTS.

Health

Dentists

Asavanant Dental Clinic

58/5 Sukhumvit Soi 55 (0 2391 1842, www.asavanant.com). Thonglor BTS.

Dental Hospital

88/88 Sukhumvit Soi 49 (0 2260 5000-15, www.dentalhospitalbangkok.com).

Hospitals

State hospitals range from the humble to teaching institutions. The good value private hospitals listed have multilingual clinics and handle medical tourism and medevacuations.

Bangkok Hospital

2 Soi Soonvijai 7 (0 2310 3000, www.bangkokhospital.com).

BNH Hospital

9/1 Thanon Convent (0 2686 2700, www.BNHhospital.com). Saladaeng BTS/Silom MRT.

Bumrungrad Hospital

33 Sukhumvit Soi 3 (0 2667 1000, www.bumrungrad.com). Nana BTS.

Police Hospital (state)

492/1 Thanon Ratchadamri (0 2252 8111-25, www.policehospital.go.th). Chidlom/Ratchadamri BTS.
Sirirat Hospital (state) 2 Thanon Prannok (0 2419 7000, www.si.mahidol.ac.th). Tha Sirirat.

Pharmacies

Plentiful branches of Boots and Watsons have pharmacies open till 9pm. Kai yaa (drug stores) are commonplace, especially near hospitals, and open late night around Patpong and Nana. Many sell medicines without prescriptions, except those with major impact. Hospitals dispense in-house at inflated prices.

STDs & HIV/AIDS
Anonymous Clinic

1871 Thanon Ratchadamri, Pathumwan (0 2256 4107-9, www.redcross.or.th). Ratchadamri BTS.
Thai Red Cross HIV/AIDS testing, counselling and treatment.

Internet

Many shops stock prepaid online packages, including CS Loxinfo (0 2263 8222, www.csloxinfo.com), KSC (0 2979 7000, www.ksc.net), Pacificnet (0 2618 8088/8688, www.pacific.net.th) and Qnet (0 2377 0555, www.qnet.co.th). Terminals are common in business and tourist areas, most cheaply in Banglamphu, while CATNET at selected post offices costs B0.12/min using CATNET cards (B100, B300, B500). All cafés by True (www.truecorp.co.th) and the following centres have net access:

Olavi

53 Thanon Chakrabongse (0 2629 2228-9, www.olavi.com). Open 10am-8pm Mon-Sat. Rate B40/hr.

Time

2nd floor, Times Square, Thanon Sukhumvit (0 2653 3636-9). Asoke BTS/Sukhumvit MRT. Open 9am-midnight Mon-Sat; 10am-midnight Sun. Rate B1/min.

Money

ATMs & currency

ATMs are plentiful at banks, malls, petrol pumps and many shops. They’re open 24 hours, and most accept credit cards.

Thai currency is the baht (B). B1 equals 100 satang. Coins are 25 satang, 50 satang, B1, B2, B5 and B10. Bank notes are B20, B50, B100, B500 and B1,000.

Credit cards

Most air-conditioned hotels, restaurants, shops, bars and malls accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express; Diners Club less often. To report lost or stolen cards, call these 24-hour hotlines:

American Express 0 2273 5500/5522.
Diners Club 0 2238 3660.
MasterCard ASEAN countries 001 800 11 887 0663.
Visa Contact issuing bank.

Post

Letters not over 20g cost B3 within Thailand; postcards and letters abroad B12-B19; aerogrammes B15. Post Offices (hotline 1545) have parcel packaging, express and registered mail, and internet terminals, usually opening 8.30am-4.30pm Mon-Fri, 9am-noon Sat. The CPO holds poste restante mail for up to a month (bring ID, fee payable). Stamps are sold at convenience stores and souvenir shops.

Central Post Office (CPO)

Thanon Charoen Krung, at Sois 32-34 (0 2614 7455, call centre 1545). Open Packing 8am-4.30pm Mon-Fri; 9am-noon Sat. Post 8am-8pm Mon-Fri; 8am-1pm Sat, Sun. Postal orders & money services 8am-5pm Mon-Fri; 8am-noon Sat. Poste restante 8am-8pm Mon-Fri; 8am-1pm Sat, Sun.

Prohibitions

Fines include B2,000 for littering, B200 for jaywalking and the acts itemised below. Alcohol is sold only 11am-2pm and 5pm-midnight. You must be 18 to drive, buy cigarettes and alcohol, or have sex (straight or gay), while under-20s aren’t allowed in bars or clubs, which request picture ID of all customers (sometimes a full passport). Prostitution is technically illegal, but openly tolerated.

Drugs

Those in possession of illicit drugs face one to ten years’ jail and fines of B10,000-B100,000. Punishment for drug dealing or trafficking is severe, with the death penalty enforced. Occasional nightclub raids may enforce urine tests.

Smoking

Draconian new rules prohibit smoking in all air-conditioned buildings and public places (including streets, parks, transport, hotel lobbies and restaurants), except bars, clubs and places with signed smoking rooms or zones (fine B2,000). Cigarettes are legally on sale, but cannot be displayed.

Taboos

Criticism of anyone or anything (including Thailand) causes offence. Show respect for royalty, Buddhism, monks and Buddha images. Stand for the King’s Anthem at the start of performances and the national anthem. Committing lese-majesty may result in prison.

Don’t touch or point at the head, which is sacred. Never use feet, the lowest body part, to move or point at things, nor step on money as it bears royal imagery.

Inside temples, wear polite clothing (cover shoulders and knees). Monks must not touch women.

Remove shoes before entering rooms in temples, palaces, homes and some museums.

Anger loses face, and prevents the resolution of problems. Jollying Thais along is more effective.

Presentable, clean clothing, footwear and hair gain you respect and help, particularly from officials.

Eat and pass things with your right hand as the left is used for cleaning after defecating.

Telephones

Dialling & codes

You must dial the area codes, even within the area. Bangkok landlines start 0 2 plus 7 digits, provincial landlines have 3-digit codes (eg Samet 0 38) before 6-digit numbers. Local calls cost B3 (unlimited). Calling upcountry is cheaper if you dial 1234 before the 0. Mobiles start 7-digit numbers with the prefix 08 1, 08 5, 08 6, 08 7 or 08 9.

To call Thailand, dial the country code 66, omit the 0, then dial the remaining 8 digits (or 9 digits for a mobile phone). To call outside Thailand, dial 007 or 008, or the pricier 001, before the country code and number.

For operator assisted calls, dial 100 and let the operator call (including 3mins surcharge before you speak).

Directory inquiries Hotline 1133 Bangkok; 183 regional. 24hrs; free.
Talking Yellow Pages Hotline 1188. 24hrs; B6/min.

Public phones

Call boxes require B1, B5 or B10 coins and/or a phone card (sold at post offices or convenience stores). Some accept credit cards for international calls. Bangkok 0 2 area calls cost from B1 for 3mins, B5 for 15mins. Dialling a mobile costs B3 for 1min.

Mobile phones

Visitors can use roaming, buy a cheap local phone (meur teur, from B3,500 including some calls) or, if sharing the Thai GSM 900 or 1800 systems, buy a local prepaid SIM card from corner stores or phone shops in most malls. SIMs by AIS One-2-Call, DTAC’s D-Prompt, True Move or Hutch’s Say Prepaid include some free calls. 1900 GSM users should consult service provider.

Time

Thailand is seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, 12 hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time, and three behind Sydney. The Thai calendar is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar; 2010 AD is 2553 BE (Buddhist Era).

Tipping

Tips are small (B20-B50), but some places levy 10 per cent. Tip guides, maids and drivers, but not hairdressers or food vendors. Round up taxi fares. Masseurs get low piece rates so tip B100 or so.

Toilets

Public conveniences (hong nam or suka) are rare, and may charge (B2-B5) in markets, stations and public places. So use the generally cleaner ones in gas stations, department stores, hotels, temples or (asking politely) pubs, restaurants or shops where you’re not a patron.

Squat pans are common, with a plastic dipper and a water trough for cleaning yourself and flushing. Flush toilets usually have a spray hose. Toilet paper is often not provided (carry some) and must go in the basket to not block the pipes.

Tourist information

Bangkok Tourist Bureau

17/1 Thanon Phra Athit (0 2225 7612-5, www.bangkoktourist.com). Open 9am-7pm daily.
BTB offers good advice, maps and brochures on Bangkok attractions, tours and its own trips, including online listings. BTB booths are found at tourist, hotel and shopping areas.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)

TAT Building, 1600 Thanon Petchaburi Tud Mai (0 2250 5500/www.tat.or.th). Open 8.30am-4.30pm Mon-Fri.
TAT covers the whole country. Branches include one at Suvarnabhumi Airport (0 2132 1888).

Travel advice

For up-to-date information on travel to a specific country – including the latest on safety and security, health issues, local laws and customs – contact your home country government's department of foreign affairs. Most have websites with useful advice for would-be travellers.

Australia www.smartraveler.gov.au
Canada www.voyage.gc.ca
Republic of Ireland http://foreignaffairs.gov.ie
UK www.fco.gov.uk/travel
USA www.state.gov/travel

Visas

US, UK, Australasian and most European nationals can get a visa on arrival for 30 days (15 days at land borders), extendable twice to a maximum of 90 days in any six months, enforcing a 90-day gap before returning.

Immigration Department

507 Soi Suan Plu, Thanon Sathorn Tai (0 2287 3101-10). Open 8.30am-4.30pm Mon-Fri.

More travel information

Getting to Bangkok
Getting around Bangkok

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Just be aware of Thai Police defrauding you.
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