Trips & Tips
Do and Don’t in Thailand
Thai people have a deep, traditional reverence for the Royal Family, and a visitor should be careful to show respect for the King, the Queen and the Royal Children.
Visitors should dress neatly in all religious shrines. They should never go topless, or in shorts, hot pants or other unsuitable attire is acceptable to wear shoes when walking around the compound of a Buddhist temple, but not inside the chapel where the principal Buddha image is kept. Each Buddha image, large or small, ruined or not, is regarded as a sacred object. Never climb onto one to take a photograph or do anything which might indicate a lack of respect. Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch or be touched by a woman, or to accept anything from the hand of one. If a woman has to give anything to a monk, she first hands it to a man, who then presents it.
Thais don't normally shake hands when they greet one another, but instead press the palms together in a prayer-like gesture called a wai. Generally a younger person to wai an elder, who returns it. Thais regard the head as the highest part of the body, literally and figuratively. Therefore, avoid touching people on the head and try not to point your feet at people or an object. It is considered very rude. Shoes should be removed when entering a private Thai home. Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon.
- Beware of unauthorised people who offer their services as guides. For all tourist information, contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tel : 1672. For information about Bangkok, contact the Bangkok Metropolitan Tourist Bureau, Tel : 0 2225 7612-4.
- Observe all normal precautions as regards to personal safety, as well as the safety for your belongings. Walking alone on quiet streets or deserted areas is not recommended. Be sure that all your valuables-money, jewellery, and airline tickets are properly protected from loss. Visitors needing assistance relating to safety, unethical practices, or other matters, please call the Tourist Police at Tel: 1155.
- Drop your garbage into a waste container. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration id no strictly enforcing the law in an effort to keep the city clean and healthy. The fine will be imposed on a person who spits, discards cigarette stubs, or drops rubbish in public areas.
- Do not get yourself involved with drugs. Penalties for drug offences are very severe in Thailand.
- Do not support any manner of wild animal abuse. Never purchase any products or souvenirs made from wild animals including reptiles like snakes, monitor lizards, and also turtle shell and ivory. Avoid patronizing local restaurants that serve wild animal delicacies. It is against the law to slaughter wildlife for food in Thailand.
Tipping is not a usual practice in Thailand although it is becoming more common. Most hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge to the bill. Taxi drivers do not require a tip, but the gesture is appreciated.
Fixed prices are the norm in department stores, but at most other places bargaining is to be expected. Generally, you can obtain a final figure of between 10-40% lower than the original asking price. Much depends on your skills and the shopkeeper's mood. But remember, Thais appreciate good manners and a sense of humor. With patience and a broad smile, you will not only get a better price, you will also enjoy shopping as an art.
Department stores and a number of shops in Bangkok have fixed prices, but at most of others bargaining is acceptable and expected; some department stores will even offer a discount on expensive items like jewellery and fine furniture. No fixed rules can be given on the process depending as it does on the bargainer’s skill and the shopkeeper’s mood, but the final price may be reduced as much as 30% to that first quoted. An important point to keep in mind is that Thais admire good manners and a sense of humour and tend to be put off by a loss of temper. Providing you have the time, a good general rule is to make a survey of several shops selling the sort of items you want before coming to a final decision.
The Jewel Fest Club
Jewellery and gemstones from Thailand are also a favourite item for many visitors to the kingdom. Their beauty, quality craftmanship and reasonable price have earned Thai precious and semi-precious stones a worldwide reputation. Yet occasionally, there have been visitors who complained about the action of few unethical jewellers who persuaded them to purchase jewellery at an unreasonable price. Through the cooperation of the Thai Gem and Jewellery Traders Association (TGJTA) and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the Jewel Fest Club has been established, bringing about 100 leading jewellery manufacturers and wholesalers. The club’s aim to offer quality products at reasonable prices with a money-back guarantee if buyers are not completely satisfied with their purchases. When you purchase an item of jewellery from a store that is clearly identified as a member of the Jewel Fest Club, your purchase will be duly recorded, and a certificate detailing your purchase will be issued. Not only does this certificate of authenticity clearly state the nature and price of your purchase, it also guarantees your refund should you wish to return the purchase. Contact The Jewel Fest Club at Tel: 0 2630 1390-7, Fax: 0 2630 1398-9, or visit website : www.jewelfest.com.
Packing and Shipping Services
Thanks to the ever-increasing number of tourists coming to Thailand, most shops are experienced at shipping abroad and will attend to all the documents such as insurance, customs and necessary permits. The Central Post Office also offers a parcel-wrapping service for those who want to make small shipments themselves. For larger items or bulk shipments, there are several Bangkok companies who specialise in such matters.
Visitors entering the Kingdom on tourist visas are entitled to refunds of the 7% value-added tax (VAT) paid on goods purchased at shops and department stores displaying “VAT Refund for Tourists” signs. The refund may be claimed if the claimed amounts in all P.P.10’s have been totaled 5,000 baht or over. Tourist is eligible to receive P.P.10 form when the total purchase of 2,000 baht or over is made from the same store on the same date. Before checking in at the international airport (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Phuket, Utapao), tourist must show your purchases, completed P.P.10 form and tax invoices to the Customs Officer for inspection. Certain luxury goods must be shown to an excise official. Refunds may be in bank draft form or credited to a credit card. For more information, please contact the VAT Refund for Tourists Office, Tel: 0 2272 9388, 0 2272 8195-8 or VAT Refund Office at Bangkok International Airport, Tel: 0 2535 6577-8