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The Northern region, dominated by Chiang Mai (Thailand's second largest city), is an area of mountains and fertile valleys. In contrast to the Central and the Northern regions, the Northeast has harsh climatic conditions and is the least fertile region of Thailand. The South is famous for its fine beaches and idyllic limestone islands.

Thailand proudly proclaims that it has never been colonised. One positive aspect of this fact is that the country has retained its unique culture, traditions and language. With a long, rich heritage and abundant natural resources, Thailand is without doubt one of the most exotic countries in Asia.

CLIMATE

Thailand enjoys a tropical climate with three distinct seasons:

Hot Season: March - May

Rainy Season: June - October

Cool Season: November - February

The average annual temperature is about 28° C. The northern region can be a bit cold during the cool season. Be sure to bring along a sweater or a light jacket if you intend to visit this region around that time of the year. During the rainy season, downpours hardly last more than a couple of hours.

PASSPORTS & VISAS

Many nationalities, including the citizens of Australia, Canada, South Africa, the USA and most European countries, do not need a visa for stays of up to 30 days. A passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of entry, return ticket or onward travel arrangement needs to be presented upon request at your arrival in Thailand. These requirements are subject to change. Please check with the embassy or consulate in your home country before departure.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS

Importation of all kinds of narcotics (opium, heroin, cocaine, etc.) and pornographic media are strictly prohibited. Firearms and ammunition can be imported only after a permit has been obtained from the local police department. A reasonable amount of clothing for personal use, toiletries and professional instruments can be brought in free of duty. In addition, 200 cigarettes or smoking materials in total of 250 grams, one litre of wine or spirits, one video camera, five rolls of still film, three rolls of video film, and one item of electrical goods per person are allowed in duty free. Buddha images, antiques or fragments thereof are not allowed to be taken out of Thailand without authorization from the Fine Arts Department.

HEALTH REQUIREMENTS

No vaccinations are presently required unless you are traveling from or through contaminated areas. It is recommended that you be immunized against polio, typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis A and B.

CURRENCY:

The Thai monetary unit is the Baht. There are 100 Satang to one Baht. Coins are used in denominations of 25 Satang, 50 Satang, 1 Baht, 2 Baht, 5 Baht and 10 Baht. Bank note denominations comprise 20 Baht (green), 50 Baht (blue), 100 Baht (red), 500 Baht (purple) and 1000 Baht (gray). Notes are also scaled in size; the larger the denomination, the larger the note.

Money and travelers cheques of all major currencies can be exchanged at hotels, banks, exchange booths and mobile exchange kiosks in tourist areas. Banks usually offer the best rates.

Credit cards are widely accepted in department stores, major hotels, up-market shops and restaurants. They can also be used for cash advances at banks and exchange counters. The most commonly accepted cards are VISA and Mastercard, followed by American Express, JCB and Diners Club.

ELECTRICITY

The electric current for the whole of Thailand is 220 volts AC, 50 cycles. Dual-prong rounded plugs as well as flat-pin plugs can be used in sockets. Adaptors are provided by most of the hotels.

SAFETY & SECURITY

Thailand is a safe country, but like anywhere in the world, it is wise to be a little cautious. Simple safety precautions such as ignoring touts, keeping away from trouble areas, not wearing excessive jewelry, being careful when crossing roads (remember: left-hand traffic!) and taking care of valuables will keep you out of trouble. Valuables such as money, travelers cheques, passports and flight tickets are best kept in the safety box of your hotel.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

1 January New Year's Day

3 Febuary Chinese New Year

18 Febuary Makabucha Day

6 April Chakri Memorial Day

13 April Songkran Festival Day

1 May National Labour Day

5 May Coronation Day

17 May Visakabucha Day

12 August H.M. The Queen 's Birthday

23 October Chulalongkorn Day

5 December H.M. The King's Birthday

10 December Constitution Day

31 December New Year's Eve

TIME ZONE

Thailand time is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), 6 hours ahead of Rome, Paris, Frankfurt and Vienna, 5 hours ahead of Pretoria, 13 hours ahead of New York and 3 hours behind Sydney. All these time differences are based upon Winter Time. Thailand lies in the same time zone as its neighbors Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.