You’ll need money in Thailand. In Thailand, the currency is the baht, and 30 baht is roughly equivalent to US $1. If you want to check the current exchange rates, a good site is xe.com. Dollars are not very widely accepted here in Thailand, so you will have to get some baht when you’re here.
So what’s the best way to get it? Forget traveller’s checks; they are a total waste of time and money. You actually get WORSE exchange rates for traveller’s checks, and they aren’t honored everywhere. And don’t bring a lot of US dollars to Thailand, either. The best way to access your money is through the thousands of ATMs all over Thailand. This gives you several advantages:
- The best exchange rates – since the banks are negotiating the rates, you get much better exchange rates than if you go to a bank with US dollars and definitely better rates than the tourist exchange booths.
- Convenience – ATMs are literally everywhere in Thailand. Just make sure you know your pin number!
- Reasonable fees – the transaction fees are reasonable. It’s about $1.00 for the Thai bank and $1.50 by your US bank. To minimize fees, you’ll want to minimize the number of withdrawals. I usually withdrew about $150 at a time, and I never had to go to the ATM more than once a week.
- Security – Now you can withdrawl funds as you need them, and not have to carry large amounts of currency or traveller’s checks.
Continue reading Money, Money, Money
There are some critical pieces of paperwork that you need to bring to Thailand:
- Extra passport photos
- Driver’s license or other official ID
- Westminster College Student/Employee ID
- Health insurance card (we provide this)
- Credit card (preferably not American Express)
- Bank/ATM card
- Travel itinerary/airline ticket
- Written prescriptions for ALL prescriptions you are on
- Eye prescription if you wear corrective lenses
- Next-of-kin information
Keep these with you in transit, so make sure they are in your carry-on luggage. Also, please make a copy of all of these, and have them in another part of your luggage. Westminster College will also have a copy of the paperwork that you submitted, and I will have .pdf copies of your paperwork that I will place on a secure server, so that we can have access to it. However, it is a good idea to have a copy of this paperwork with someone at home, just in case.
By the way, you don’t have to bring every piece of ID or card from your wallet/purse. Your Smith’s Fresh Values Card and Salt Lake City Public Library Cards are not going to be used in Thailand. Leave those at home.
We take global communications for granted. We can call, email, text, message, and video chat. We can do it the old-fashioned way, on landlines, or on cell phones, satellite phones, smart phones, tablets, or computers. We can use Facebook, Twitter, Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, iMessage, and many more applications to communicate. While it may be a bit more challenging to communicate when traveling abroad, especially outside of North America, East Asia, and Western Europe, it has become much easier to take advantage of this brave new world of global communications, even in the most remote locations in the world.
So, how will be be communicating while in Thailand? How will you be able to call home to friends and family? Will there be Wi-fi access? Are there data plans available? I hope this post will answer some of these questions. Continue reading Communicating while in Thailand
We live in a world surrounded by high tech electronics. Rarely do we leave home without a smart phone. We also have digital cameras, video players, laptops, tablets, smart watches, Bluetooth speakers, fitness trackers, heart rate monitors, etc. But when you’re traveling like we will be, electronics are both good and bad: they can either enhance your experience, or cause more trouble than they’re worth. Think about these pros and cons:
Pros: they can record your experience in audio, photos, or video, allow you to communicate with the world, entertain you on a flight or a van ride, or allow you to access information that you may need.
Cons: they are expensive, heavy, delicate, require power, and are a target for theft. They can also isolate you from the travel experience; I’ve seen too many people so obsessed with electronically recording everything around them, or so busy on their texting/email/Facebook/Instagram applications that they miss the true experience.
So before bringing every electronic toy you own, think about if the pros outweigh the cons. Also, try to bring devices that will do multiple things (such as a smartphone). Here are my suggestions for electronics: Continue reading What to Bring – Electronics
Count on packing pretty light. Bring one medium bag to check in, and a carry-on that can double as an everyday bag to carry with you for the trip A backpack or courier-type bag is appropriate for the carry-on.
Per Hong Kong Airlines, you are allowed to check two bags. However, for this trip, you are allowed ONLY ONE. It must fit this criteria:
- 3 dimensions of each bag may not exceed 62 in. (158 cm)
- Weight of each bag may not exceed 50 lb (23 Kg)
DO NOT OVERPACK. One medium bag should be sufficient, along with a carry-on large enough to carry at least a days worth of clothing and gear. If you need something, you can always get it cheap in Bangkok. We will be traveling by van from Bangkok to Kalasin to Chiang Mai and back to Bangkok, and there isn’t a lot of cargo room. If you have two large suitcases, your van mates will not be happy. Continue reading What to Bring – Baggage
We will be experiencing just about every mode of transportation during this trip. We will be flying, driving in minivans (a lot, through city traffic as well as curvy, mountainous roads), riding in speedboats, riding in the backs of pickups over rough mountain roads, riding in tuk-tuks, riding bikes, riding tractors, and even riding on elephants.
Unfortunately, traveling causes misery for many people in the form of motion sickness. Motion sickness results from when the motion that your inner ear senses differs from the motion that you visualize. Many people experience motion sickness to one degree or another, some more severe than others. Some only get sick on ships during the roughest seas, while others can experience it during short drivers or even while skiing on an overcast day. Motion sickness progresses from a feeling of uneasiness to sweating and dizziness, and progresses to nausea and vomiting. Symptoms are exacerbated by lack of ventilation, inability to see outside the vehicle (and visualize the movement), being inside an enclosed space, or having anxiety or fear of traveling.
Estimates of the prevalence of motion sickness varies, from 3% to 60%, depending on the study. Many researchers believe almost everyone suffers from motion sickness, given strong enough motion stimuli. Women and children are generally more at risk for motion sickness. Continue reading Treatments for Motion Sickness
For students who are planning on staying afterwards and traveling on your own, here is some advice on where to go, getting around, visas and passports, and other sundry comments.
Where to go and for how long?
Bangkok is a great base for travel to a number of places. Within a one hour flight, you can reach Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Chiang Mai, Southern Thailand, and Northern Malaysia. Within a two hour flight, you can reach Singapore and the rest of Malaysia, as well as parts of China. Within a four hour flight, you can reach a number of places, including Bali, the Philippines, Indonesia, more of China….. Continue reading For Those Staying Afterwards….
Staying healthy while on the trip is a very high priority for students, faculty, family, friends …… really everyone. Being ill on a trip like this really is not very fun. So far, we have had few illnesses on this trip. And there are several things we can do to stay as healthy as we can, although sometimes, stuff happens.
Before you leave…..
There are a few things you can do before even getting on the plane to help keep you healthy. The most important thing you can do is make sure you have all your vaccinations. This was covered in another post in detail. Make sure you have the standard vaccinations (DTP, MMR, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, etc.), as well as typhoid. As recent measles outbreaks have shown, even standard vaccinations like MMR are important when traveling abroad. Continue reading Staying Healthy in Thailand – MORE Things to Think About
One of the nice things about travelling to Thailand is that you don’t need too many special vaccinations other than the ones that you SHOULD have already (MMR, Td, Hep A, Hep B, Varicella if you haven’t had chicken pox, and possibly meningococcus, especially if you live in dorms). Pay particular attention to make sure your tetanus-diptheria is up to date, as well as the Hep A and B series. If you need the Hep A and Hep B, get started NOW as Hep B is a 4-6 month regimen. Here is the CDC’s recommendations:
Continue reading Staying Healthy in Thailand – Vaccinations
Here are some miscellaneous important things to remember before departure:
- We will meet at Salt Lake City International Airport Terminal 1 (Alaska Airlines) at 4:45 AM on Monday, May 14. Make sure you are there AT 4:45! We will meet on the first floor, by the check-in counter. We will check in and go through security as a group.
- Pack one back to check (less than 50 lbs., less than 62 inches combined height, length and width). You can also have one bag (and a personal item) to carry on. Make sure this is small (less than 15 lbs, and no bigger than 22″x14″x9″).
- I’ve created a checklist of things to bring. USE IT!!! You can also modify mine, but I highly recommend you literally check things off as you pack.
- When we go up to the second village, we won’t be able to bring our main bag with us, because we have to ride in the back of pickups, and we don’t have room. You’ll have to pack light using your carry on. Or you can share bags with someone else.
- Make sure you have identification on the bag. A sticker or some other mark can differentiate your bag from others for easy retrieval.
- Make sure you don’t forget your passport!
- I have some suggestions on making the long flight a bit more comfortable here.
- Make sure you have your assignment completed before the deadline! Failure to complete it will result in a 0. Also make sure you’ve started the pre-trip portion of your journal before Sunday!
- Please go over the recent blog post for orientation details. In particular, read over the posts on baggage, personal items to bring, clothing, clothing for women, money, electronic items, additional items, paperwork, and a first aid kit. Again, I have a checklist to help you stay organized. Here are the highlights for each post:
- Bring about 7-9 days worth of clothes. Focus on versatile pieces. Make sure you have at least one outfit that you can “dress up” for more formal occasions.
- Call your credit/debit card companies, so that they know there will be legitimate charges/withdrawals in Thailand. Otherwise, they will mark it stolen, and you won’t be able to use it.
- The critical personal items to bring are sunscreen (high SPF), insect repellant, any prescription medications/eyeglass prescriptions, and anything else that you are particular about. Otherwise, you can get anything in Bangkok.
- Don’t bring cash. Bring an ATM card with a memorized PIN (and enough money in the account!) You should also bring a credit card for emergencies (preferably NOT an American Express), a driver’s license and your Westminster ID. Leave everything else at home.
- Make two copies of everything you bring (passport, IDs, etc.) Leave one copy with someone at home, and bring the other copy with you. Make sure you make copies of the back as well. It’s also a good idea to upload copies on a password-protected Cloud drive (like Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud Drive, etc.) Most are free, and it’s a good way to backup important documents.
- Make sure your family and friends have your Thai phone number, as well as the faculty’s. Also, make sure they have instructions on how to call you.
- Put your US phone on Airplane mode as soon as we take off from SF, and LEAVE IT ON AIRPLANE MODE FOR THE REST OF THE TRIP!
- Please bring a small first aid kit. I have a post about this here.
- Safety issues are covered here. Health issues are covered here. Notes on motion sickness are covered here.
- I will download photos onto my laptop and external drive, so don’t worry about not having enough memory cards for your camera.
- Make sure your assignments are completed before we leave.
I think that’s it for now. If you have any questions or comments, please call me, email me, or stop by my office. See you on Monday!