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Thailand enjoys a tropical climate with three distinct seasons - hot and dry from February to May (average temperature 34 degrees Celsius and 75% humidity); rainy with plenty of sunshine from June to October (average day temperature 29 degrees Celsius and 87% humidity); and cool from November to January (temperatures range from 32 degrees Celsius to below 20 degrees Celsius with a drop in humidity). Much lower temperatures are experienced in the North and Northeast during nighttime. The South has a tropical rainforest climate with temperatures averaging 28 degrees Celsius almost all year round.
Spoken and written Thai is largely incomprehensible to the casual visitor. However, English is widely understood, particularly in Bangkok where it is almost the major commercial language. English and some European languages are spoken in most hotels, shops and restaurants in major tourist destinations, and Thai-English road and street signs are found nationwide.
The majority of Thais are devout Buddhists. Muslims form the largest of the religious minorities and are located mainly in the four southern provinces. Other minority groups include Hindus, Sikhs and Christians.
The Thai unit of currency is the baht. One baht is divided into 100 satang. Notes are in denominations of 1,000 (brown), 500 (purple), 100 (red), 50 (blue), 20 (green) and 10 (brown) baht. Coins consist of 25 satang, 50 satang, 1 baht, 5 baht and 10 baht.
Major currency bills and travellers cheques are cashed easily at hotels, tourist shops, all provincial banks, shopping centres and money changers. Travellers cheques are best changed in banks (you will need your passport). Rates of exchange at banks or authorised money changers are better than those at hotels and department stores.
Credit cards are widely accepted. For lost cards:
The electric current is 220 volt AC (50 cycles) throughout the country. Many different types of plugs and sockets are in use. Travellers with electric shavers, hair dryers, tape recorders and other appliances should carry a plug adapter kit. The better hotels will make available llO-volt transformers.
Tap water is clean but drinking from it directly should be avoided. Bottled water is recommended.
The metric system is used throughout Thailand. Numerals on vehicle speedometers, highway markers and speed limits all indicate kilometres.
Light, cool clothes are sensible and a jacket is needed for formal meetings and dining in top restaurants. Shorts (except knee length walking shorts), sleeveless shirts, tank tops and other beach-style attire are considered inappropriate dress when not actually at the beach or in a resort area.
The time in Thailand is seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+ 7 hours GMT).
Most commercial concerns in Bangkok operate on a five-day week, usually from 8 am to 5 pm. Many stores open seven days a week from 10 am to 10 pm. Government offices are generally open between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm with a noon to 1 pm lunch break, Monday to Friday except on public holidays. Banks are open Mondays to Fridays from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm except on public holidays.
Tipping is not standard practice in Thailand, although it is becoming increasingly common. Many larger hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge to the bill. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip but the gesture is appreciated and 10-20 baht is acceptable for porters.
Being Buddhists, Thai are tolerant people. Avoiding offensive behaviour can generally be achieved through simple courtesy and common sense. A few taboos do exist, though, mostly in regard to the monarchy and Buddhism. Visitors should not make any disparaging remarks or gestures that denigrate the Royal Family or any religion, and when visiting a temple or royal palace, always dress appropriately.Traditionally, Thais greet each other with a wai (by pressing the palms together at the chest), so if a Thai offers a wai then it is proper to return it. Please avoid touching people on the head as Thais believe the head to be the most sacred part of the body. It is also inappropriate to use the foot for pointing.
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