Wherever you travel in the world, it is important to get the timing right. Not knowing about a country’s seasons and possible weather conditions can turn your holiday into a nightmare. Likewise, gathering some basic details about what to expect will help you make the right decisions about where and when to go.
As far as Thailand is concerned, the best time of year for a visit is between November and February. Generally, the weather is cooler during this period and there is certainly less rain than at other times in the year. However, Thailand is a big country with a diverse landscape. There is somewhere to visit whatever time of the year you visit the kingdom.
Thailand’s seasons are reasonably uniform through the country, but there are some regional differences. What follows is a summary of the seasons as they impact the kingdom’s various regions:
Central Thailand and the East
In central Thailand and the eastern provinces, the really hot summer weather starts around March and goes on to around November. During this time extreme temperatures can go up to the 45 degrees centigrade mark. The winter months are November to February. There may really be only a few days of genuinely cold weather during these months, but the period leading up to the New Year are a welcome respite from the heat throughout the rest of the year. Aside from these days, visitors from Europe still may feel the temperatures as being a bit warm during Thailand’s winter, although not uncomfortably so. The rainy season kicks in around the end of May and goes on until October. The rain is frequent and sometimes fierce. Usually though rainstorms go on for around 30 minutes or so, and after a storm the weather is significantly cooler.
Northern Thailand and the Northeast
Northern Thailand and the Northeast have the same basic seasons as those in the central and eastern regions. The winters are though significantly cooler. Mountainous regions can get particularly cold, on some occasions down to 0 degrees centigrade. In these parts of Thailand’s winter starts in November and goes on to January. Without doubt these are the best months for a visit to the North and Northeast – flowers are in bloom, it is dry and cool, and in the mountains mists and fogs often form making what is already wonderful scenery exquisite.
Southern Thailand’s seasons are less distinct and really there are only two proper seasons – summer and the rainy season. The Gulf of Thailand lies to the east of the Thai peninsula while the Andaman Sea lies to the west. Visiting areas west of the peninsula (Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi) is best done between November and April to avoid the monsoons that occur during other months – monsoons obviously make visiting islands by boat difficult and sometimes dangerous. Clearly they are best to be avoided. Areas east of the peninsula (Koh Samui, Hat Yai) are best visited between May and October. If you are planning to visit both sides of the coast during your stay in Thailand, March to April would be the best months.
Thai Government’s Meteorological Department
The Thai government’s Meteorological Department provides an English language website (http://www.tmd.go.th) with key information about Thailand’s weather, including forecasts and summaries. Of particular interest is information on climate and surface temperature – very much worth knowing.
Thailand has world-class hospitals and clinics. State-of-the-art technology and high caliber (often western-trained) doctors mean that if you need any form of treatment while you are in the kingdom, you are in safe hands.
As a tourist, you are not required to pay Value Added Tax (VAT) on items more than 5,000 Baht that you intend to take out of Thailand. For most people the amount returned is very welcome and a pleasant surprise, so it is well worth making the effort to collect the paperwork you need for a refund. It is not that difficult to do either.
Stores participating in the refund scheme display a sign stating: “VAT Refund for Tourists”. If you make a purchase from these stores, ask for a VAT Refund Form (P.P 10) and keep the original tax invoice(s) a store gives you.
That is really all you need to do. If you take that paperwork to the ‘Customs Inspection for VAT Refund’ desk at Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hay Yai, Phuket or U-Tapao International Airports, you will be granted a tax refund. Bear in mind that the tax refund process is the final stage of your journey in Thailand – you will have gone through passport control on your return leg before you arrive at the appropriate counter. You can only make claims on the day you leave the country.
If your claim is for less than 30,000 Baht, you can receive a payment as a cheque or Bank Draft, or the amount can be paid into a credit card account. If your claim is for over 30,000 Baht, you can only receive payment by Bank Draft or payment into a credit card account.
For more information on VAT refund, visit the Revenue Department of Thailand’s website: http://www.rd.go.th/vrt/howwill.html
Visas to Thailand:
Regulations covering the issuance of Thai visas are found in Immigration Act B.E. 2522 (1979) section 5, 12 (1), 34 (15). Essentially, although every visitor to Thailand requires a valid passport, whether you need a visa to enter Thailand is dependent on the period of time you are expecting to stay in the kingdom and your nationality.
Visitors from a number of countries must obtain their visas before entering Thailand. Other visitors will be issued with a visa on arrival at an international airport, a border crossing, or an immigration checkpoint. A limited number of countries have agreements with Thailand that enable their citizens to enter Thailand without a visa. Visas are issued either by consulates and embassies outside Thailand, or the Immigration Bureau of the Royal Thai Police within Thailand.
Most visitors are able to stay in Thailand for up to 30 days without the need of a visa. This includes the citizens of the following countries:
- Australia : Commonwealth of Australia
- Austria : Republic of Austria
- Belgium : Kingdom of Belgium
- Brazil : Federative Republic of Brazil (visit of not exceeding 90 days permitted)
- Bahrain : State of Bahrain
- Brunei Darussalam : Negara Brunei Darussalam
- Denmark : Kingdom of Denmark
- Finland : Republic of Finland
- France : French Republic
- Germany : Federal Republic of Germany
- Greece : Hellenic Republic
- Hong Kong : Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
- Iceland : Republic of Iceland
- Indonesia : Republic of Indonesia
- Ireland : Republic of Ireland
- Israel : State of Israel
- Italy : Republic of Italy
- Korea : Republic of Korea (visit of not exceeding 90 days permitted)
- Kuwait : State of Kuwait
- Luxembourg : Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
- Monaco : Principality of Monaco
- Netherlands : Kingdom of the Netherlands
- New Zealand
- Norway : Kingdom of Norway
- Oman : Sultanate of Oman
- Peru : Republic of Peru (visit of not exceeding 90 days permitted)
- Philippines : Republic of the Philippines
- Portugal : Republic of Portugal
- Qatar : State of Qatar
- Singapore : Republic of Singapore
- Spain : Kingdom of Spain
- South Africa : Republic of South Africa
- Sweden : Kingdom of Sweden
- Switzerland : Swiss Confederation
- Turkey : Republic of Turkey
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom : United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
- United States of America
- Vietnam : Socialist Republic of Vietnam
If you want to stay longer for a longer period you can obtain a two-month tourist visa from the Thai consulate or embassy in your country. However, if you are in Thailand and wish to extend your stay this can be done by obtaining a one-month extension from an immigration office (cost: 1,900 Baht).
Visits longer than 60 days:
People wishing to stay in Thailand longer than two months require a ‘Non-Immigrant Visa’ – this is not a tourist visa and a person must meet certain requirements before being granted one (e.g. having family members in Thailand, etc.). A ‘Non-Immigrant Visa’ is issued for three months and can be extended to one year under certain circumstances.
For full details contact your country’s Thai Embassy. A detailed description of visa requirements is provided by Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. More concise details are provided by the Thai Embassy in Washington DC.