Swadee ... here, according to a Khun Wilko, are some things to be aware of when visiting Thailand: · Bring a mobile (cell) phone. It should be “unlocked” - this can be done either at home or in Thailand - then buy a Thai SIM card for it on arrival, they’re cheap (approx. 50 baht) or even free and depending on cost include some credit already on them. International calls to US/UK/OZ are about THB 5-8/min. Phones are cheap to buy too – and unblocked. Use the cheap rate international dialing numbers – 004, 5, 6, 7 8 9 etc. · Money: Bring ATM cards, debit credit, etc. Check fees and tell your bank your are going abroad. Take Travelers Cheques best for back-up. Bring very little local currency (Baht) from your home country. You almost always get a better rate of exchange here than your country. You can change small amount of currency on arriving at the airport. Do most of your currency exchange in town to get better rate. Be aware that now there is a THB 150 ($5) surcharge at most ATMs for every withdrawal transactions! Keep some cash in reserve in case of flight delays/diversions etc. · Bring very few clothes – they are cheap here and you’ll only bring stuff that is too warm anyway. Also, bring very little luggage – this makes you more mobile if you need to be and less vulnerable to taxi touts and undesirable con people. Before you go home you can buy any extra luggage (cheap) to take souvenirs, etc. · Internet access is everywhere – even on the beach ... you can get all your photos copied to CD - If you have a lap-top you can connect it as there is wi-fi in many public places cafes malls etc. Almost all hotels have wifi broadband - fees very immensely. · Food - Thai food is very unlikely to give you food poisoning but it can contain more chilies than you ever thought possible. Street food is usually safe and most often delicious! Check for numbers of customers and general looks of the stall. Western (farang) food is much more likely to give you food poisoning. Beware of Western food that has been left out for over an hour or so. Thailand is not used to fridges/chill-serve etc. - fridges are not part of Thai cooking lore yet! Always carry a pack of tissues. · Drink bottled water - not tap water. Even consider not brushing your teeth with tap water. Ice is usually safe in drinks and other uses. · Crime - Use common safety sense as it is easy to get too relaxed here. When it comes to petty crime, the rate is certainly lower than many other countries. But as you very well know, every country has its share of cons and psychopaths. Also, beware of other travelers! · Don’t be afraid to go to Pattaya (or to Patong Beach, if you are in Phuket) it is the tourist-sex capital of Thailand but they don’t jump out at single women and couples and it has good, cheap hotels, shopping and food. Not a bad place to start off for “All points East” - Koh Chang, Koh Samet, Khao Yai or Cambodia. · Bring an international driving license: Although most national ones are accepted by motorbike and car hire companies and anyone else who wants to hire you something….you may not be insured without an IDP! In Thailand they drive on the left - cars are Right-hand-drive. However driving is really only for the experienced. Be especially careful on a motorbike - Samui has the highest accident rate in Thailand. · Public transportation is cheap: Planes, trains, buses, minibuses, and taxis from town to town are cheap. If you’re in a minibus or taxi, tell the driver you’ll tip him if he keeps the speed below 90/100 kph! National speed limit is 90kph (120 on motorways) · Around Bangkok, try to use meter taxis with the meter on...it’ll be cheaper than the tuk-tuks. Take a tuk-tuk once for the experience then use meter taxis. Don’t let the drivers take you out of your way...they’ll try to take you to some (relative’s) store where they get a commission. · Medical - Consult with a doctor before leaving your home country who specializes in tropical medicine. - Check out a few “jabs & medications” - Hep “A” & “B” require a long course before leaving and are a pretty good idea –unless going to remote areas, most travelers don’t bother with the malarial medication – too heavy! You can get tetanus or rabies here if you’re bitten by a dog - it’s cheap. Many medicines (including antibiotics) can be bought over the counter without prescription and are cheap. A pharmacist will give you what he considers right for your symptoms but you can just as easily see a doctor at a local clinic for a couple of hundred baht. They usually speak a good English. · Check up on Thai manners and customs – this will earn you more respect from the locals. - Keep up some dress sense – how you dress in Thailand is quite important. Don’t go topless without checking out if it’s acceptable where you are – usually it’s frowned upon. You’ll notice that Thai women (even sex workers) are very modest in public –they usually swim fully clothed. You may at times be expected to take off your shoes – in certain parts of Temples, entering someone's home and even the occasional shop – just keep an eye out on what others are doing – there may even be a shoe rack. Table manners – Thais tend to eat from communal dishes in the centre of the table – don’t pour everything onto your own plate! · Don’t knock the royal family – even in jest. · Body language - Don’t point your feet at people – the body is seen as hierarchical and the feet are the “lowest” part and should not be waved about (this is like a “fingers up” sign). Before entering someone’s home you must take off your shoes; this also applies to some shops and businesses. - Never take a shoe off and wave it at someone – this could lead to violence. It is also impolite to touch people on the head. Extended arm with waving hand palm down means “come here” - palm up is considered impolite. · The “Wai” - It’s not really necessary to “Wai” people - the Thai greeting - as you’ll probably get it wrong. If they Wai you, you might try a wai back. · Remember, this is the Land of Smiles and you will find everything goes much better when you have a smile on your face - whatever the situation…. Any additional items, corrections, or comments are welcomed!