VACCINES AND SAFETY
As non-medical professionals, Justifi does not give specific medical advice and recommends that you follow the advice of a health care professional with regard to vaccinations. Therefore we suggest you go to your health care provider or local travel clinic to let them know you are going to Thailad and find out what vaccines they recommend for you, then make your own informed decision about what precautions you wish to take.
For general guidelines, we recommend you follow the CDC.gov advisories, which can be found here: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/thailand
entry and visa requirements
For most countries, including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and Israel, visitors are granted a 30-day visa upon arrival free of charge. This does not require advanced preparations, you are given a stamp in your passport and a departure card when you enter. Your stamp IS your 'visa' and DO NOT LOSE YOUR DEPARTURE CARD. You departure card is usually stapled into your passport, but losing it results in a hassle when it's time to depart.
It is worth nothing that should you decide to cross into Burma for our optional day trip there, when you return you will be granted another visa, this one only valid for 15-days since you have come into the country by land instead of air. If you are planning to extend your trip for over two weeks, it is worth it to skip the Burma trip and participate in the other excursions we have planned for you that day.
What time do I need to arrive?
The trip officially starts at 10 am on the first day of the program. We will be meeting the group in the lobby of the hotel we stay at for some ice breakers and then head off to brunch together.
We suggest that you fly in to Bangkok the night before the trip starts. You will see that most international flights come into Thailand at night anyways. Before each trip we book a few extra rooms at the hotel we stay at on Khao San Road - if you would like one of these rooms reserved for you just email us before you leave. Once you arrive you will either have to put your passport or 1000 baht (around $33) at the lobby for a deposit, we recommend the latter. You will get the deposit back the next day, after which Justifi will be covering the rest of your hotel expenses.
Local Currency and Money
On arrival, please change money in the airport. We would suggest changing $50 - $100 into baht, as a minimum. Conversion rates vary, check them here: Value of Thai Baht. We will also be stopping at places to exchange money along the way from time to time with better rates than the airport - it's just a good idea to have money for the taxi and snacks and water for the first day or two.
There are ATMs easily accessible throughout the country that work with foreign banks. You can witdraw up to 10,000 baht (about $300) at a time from most. There is usually a 150 baht ($5) surcharge for each withdrawal, plus any charges from your bank back home.
Check with your bank before you go about conversion rates, fees, etc. that they might charge.
Cell Phone and Technology
On the first day of the program, we'll go together to a large shopping center (called MBK) where they will set you up with what you need to make your cell phone work in Thailand. We recommend bringing an older phone (if you have one) or a phone that you wouldn't mind "unlocking" so it can accept a SIM card from a foreign country. They have experts there that can unlock most phones, or you could buy a simple phone for ~$30.
Thailand works on the "Top Up" system. This means you buy a SIM card and add credit for calls. $10 of credit should EASILY cover you. It's possible to get SIM cards with data plans, too, so you can check email, but this is generally unnecessary, as most places we stay will have WiFi and there are cafes with internet everywhere.
You will be able to lock your room and there will almost always be a secure place to put your valuables, including electronics. There will also be WiFi internet at most locations on the trip and some students will find it useful to have a computer with them to upload pictures, check email, etc. However, there are also internet cafes located near many of our destinations for a reasonable price and you should be able to access them occasionally during the trip. We do suggest packing light, so a laptop might add a lot of weight - if you have something smaller, like an iPad, that would probably be a better option. Ultimately, it's up to you.
What do i do once I arrive at the airport?
Once you get in to the BKK airport, we recommend you exchange 50 - 100 USD there first, the rates at all of the exchange centers in the airport are all the same. Then follow the signs at the exit to the very last level of the airport where you will find the public taxi stand. At the stand say your destination, "Khao San road" (pronounced "Cow - SAHN") and you will be assigned to a taxi driver. Please make sure your driver puts on his meter. The fare should cost you between 400 - 500 baht ($13-$17) and take about an hour, depending on traffic. Once you are let off at Khao San, half way down the road there will be a purple sign for the "Khao San Holiday". Turn into this alley and you will see an open lobby on your left, that is the "Khao San Holiday". Check in with the lady at the front desk, let her know you're here from Justifi and write a note with your room number on the front so that when the staff members arrive they can meet you!
In general thailand is relatively safe country, with over 22 million tourists visiting in 2012 alone. According to the State Department, "the crime threat in Bangkok and other Thai cities remains lower than that in many US cities" and "violent crimes are relatively rare".
However it is important to beware of petty crimes like pickpocketing and purse snatching. We advise our participants to put their valuables in the safes (there will be safes at every hotel and guest house we stay at). We also suggest that our participants watch their purses and wallets when we go into crowded marketplaces or tourist destinations.
In terms of sanitation, running water in Thailand is not suitable for drinking, however we will have access to clean, bottled water at all times.
Mosquito borne illnesses like dengue fever and malaria are a concern. We recommend that participants bring DEET sprays and use them twice a day, in addition to bring a long-sleved cover up for night or when we go hiking in forest areas.
As for vaccines and medications, since we are not medical experts, we can not explicitly recommend any. However we do urge our participants to read the CDC's recommendations and book an appointment with their primary care physician or local travel clinic before they go. If you are planning to extend to another country in Southeast Asia, be sure to know this and tell your health care providers.
For more information, see the State Department's notes on Thailand and the CDC's recommendations here:
U.S. Embassy, Bangkok
95 Wireless Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Telephone: 66-2-205-4049, 02-205-4049 (within Thailand)
Emergency after-hours telephone: 66-2-205-4000, 02-205-4000 (within Thailand)
U.S. Consulate General, Chiang Mai
387 Wichayanond Road, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand
Telephone: 66-53-107-700, 053-107-700 (within Thailand)
Emergency after-hours telephone: 66-81-881-1878, 081-881-1878 (within Thailand)