Thailand - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel.

Last published date: 2021-08-16

Business Customs

Business relationships in Thailand are not as formal as those found in Japan, China, Korea, or the Middle East, but neither are they as relaxed and impersonal as is common in the United States. Many business relationships have their foundations in personal contacts developed within the social circles of family, friends, classmates, and office colleagues. Although Thailand is a relatively open and friendly society, it is advisable to approach potential business contacts with a prior introduction or personal reference. Thais will be more receptive if you arrive with an introduction or letter from a known government official or business contact. The Commercial Section at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok offers business matchmaking (Gold Key) services to help U.S. companies gain access to qualified potential partners in the Thai business community.

The Thai cultural values of patience, respect for status (such as age and authority) and not losing face are significant factors in business relationships as well. Thais feel great pride in their country and have deep respect for tradition. However, observance of traditional formalities may seem inconsistent with the tolerant, relaxed nature of living in Thailand. This can be confusing or frustrating to Westerners who are more informal and more time conscious.

Respect for and consideration of one’s elders, superiors, and patrons are deeply rooted in the Thai cultural and social environments. Thais are very reluctant to hurt the feelings of others or to openly cause them discomfort. Losing one’s composure is losing face and losing others’ respect in Thailand. It can be difficult for Westerners to be sure they have received accurate and complete answers to questions, or that they have received frank and open opinions because of the Thai desire to not give a negative answer or reaction.

Etiquette

“Khun” is the Thai form of address for Mr., Mrs., and Ms. and is followed by a first name or nickname. However, government officials and doctors should be addressed by their title, such as Secretary, Minister, or Doctor, followed by the individual’s first name.

The “wai” is a traditional gesture of greeting and respect in Thailand made by placing your palms together in a prayer-like position at chest level and giving a slight bow. The wai is used at both an introduction as well as leave-taking. Thais may also be familiar with a more ‘western-style’ handshake.

Business cards are an indispensable part of networking with contacts in Thailand and are exchanged at every meeting. Bring plenty of your own as a general form of introduction. It is considered impolite to write on someone’s business card in their presence, so avoid writing notes on cards handed to you during a meeting or event.

The head is considered to be sacred and the cleanest part of the body, so Thais consider it rude to touch someone on the head. Likewise, feet are considered to be the dirtiest part of the body, and it is considered rude to point to anything with your feet. Consistent with this, shoes should always be removed before entering a home or temple.

Thais hold the Royal Family in high esteem, and disparaging or critical comments may lead to serious repercussions, including jail time, under Thailand’s lèse-majestè law. Visitors to Thailand are expected to act consistently with the lèse-majestè law and not criticize the Royal Family.

Travel Advisory

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register online with the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok to obtain updated information on travel and security within Thailand by visiting the U.S. Embassy Thailand website https://th.usembassy.gov/.

Useful information for travelers can also be found on the website of the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington D.C. at: www.thaiembdc.org. Travelers visiting Thailand may also wish to review the State Department Consular Information Sheet on Thailand.

Because of the pandemic, travel restrictions and flight information can change frequently and without notice. Travelers should research the latest information prior to making any travel plans and throughout the period of travel.

Visa Requirements

U.S. citizen tourists staying for fewer than 30 days do not require a visa but must possess a passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry to Thailand. Thai Immigration officials may ask for an onward/return ticket, and airlines may ask for this information when booking or at check-in. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate are not able to intervene with Thai Immigration or the airlines regarding their regulations and policies. Persons entering Thailand by air without a visa will be allowed to stay in Thailand for 30 days per visit. Persons entering Thailand by land without a visa will be allowed to stay in Thailand for 15 days per visit. (Note: As of this writing, Thai land borders are currently closed due to the pandemic.) Travelers must pay a Passenger Service Charge in Thai baht when departing from any of Thailand’s international airports; this charge is included in the ticket price for flights from Bangkok’s main airport, Suvarnabhumi International.

Note that during the pandemic, Thailand has imposed restrictions on entry, such as requiring a Certificate of Entry, recent COVID rests, and mandatory quarantine upon arrival. There may be additional restrictions. Travelers should contact the Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C. or one of the Thai Consulates throughout the United States for up-to-date travel requirements.

When a traveler enters the country, Thai Immigration stamps his or her passport with the date on which the traveler’s authorized stay in Thailand will expire. Any traveler remaining in Thailand beyond this date without having received an official extension will be assessed an immediate cash fine when departing Thailand. Any foreigner found by police to be out of legal status prior to departure (during a Thai Immigration “sweep” through a guesthouse, for example) will be jailed, fined, and then deported at his or her own expense and may be barred from re-entering Thailand.

U.S. citizens should be aware that private “visa extension services,” even those advertising in major periodicals or located close to Immigration offices or police stations, are illegal. Unofficial or illegal visas obtained through illegal service providers can lead to an arrest at the border.

Thailand’s Entry/Exit information is subject to change without notice. For further information on Thailand’s entry/exit requirements, contact the Royal Thai Embassy, 1024 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20007, telephone (202) 944-3600, or contact the Thai consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York City. Visit the Embassy of Thailand website for the most current visa information.

Suvarnabhumi International Airport is located 18 miles (30 kilometers) east of downtown Bangkok and is a thirty-minute drive to/from downtown Bangkok in light traffic. Traffic conditions may result in longer drive times. Information on the Suvarnabhumi Airport can be found at http://www.bangkokairportonline.com.

See Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements at State Department on Travelling to Thailand for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction. Please refer to our Customs Information page to learn more about customs regulations. The following are visa categories:

NON IMMIGRANT VISA: Purpose of visit: Business, Conference, Research, Teaching, Mass Media or Missionary work (requires a letter from your government, agency or organization sending you on your mission or from your counterpart in Thailand), Education (requires a letter from an educational institution in Thailand), Family Reunion (requires marriage or birth certificates), Settlement after retirement (requires proof of retirement and financial support), Maximum stay is 90 days.

TOURIST VISA: Purpose of visit: Tourism, Medical treatment at hospitals/medical facilities in Thailand. The maximum stay is 60 days.

TRANSIT VISA: Purpose of visit: Transit (requires proof of a confirmed onward ticket to a third country), Sports or Crew (requires a letter from an organization concerned). The maximum stay is 30 days.

For more information travelers may contact:

Royal Thai Embassy, Consular Office

2300 Kalorama Road, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20008

Tel. (202) 684-8493

Fax. (202) 459-9536

e-mail: consular@thaiembdc.org

Office Hours: Walk-in services: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EST and Inquiries by phone: 1:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. EST. Closed on Thai and U.S. official holidays.

U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States and U.S. visa applicants should visit the State Department travel website pages for additional information.

Currency

The Thai baht to the U.S. dollar exchange rate is approximately 30–31 baht per 1 U.S. dollar. Upon arrival in Thailand, money exchange centers are available after clearing the customs checkpoint. The money exchanges are generally located immediately outside of baggage claim/customs at the international airports. There are ATM machines for direct withdrawals or for cash advances. Credit cards are widely used in major tourist locations, but small bills should be carried for incidentals and taxis.

Telecommunications/Electronics

Thailand’s telecommunication services meet international standards, especially in urban areas like Bangkok. Thailand is the first country in ASEAN to launch 5G services. The Bangkok metro area is served by two fixed-line operators: Telephone Organization of Thailand (TOT) which is a state enterprise, and True Corporation PLC (TRUE), which is a private company. Local calls are not timed and carry a fixed charge of 3 baht per call (from fixed line number to fixed-line number).

Areas outside Bangkok are served by the TOT and a private company, TT&T Public Co., Ltd. The fixed-line network has a total capacity of over 8 million lines.

In terms of Thailand’s communications network, the country had 90.7 million mobile subscribers (130% penetration rate). Moreover, there are 49 million internet users (70% penetration rate) in Thailand.

Transportation

Thailand aims to be a transportation hub in ASEAN. Thailand’s transport network is expected to improve rapidly according to the infrastructure development plan for 2015-2022 initiated by the Thai government. Public-Private Partnership (PPP) investment in infrastructure has become a national policy priority with $75 billion infrastructure projects across the country.

The business traveler has access to a range of ground transportation in Bangkok and major cities. Metered taxis are common, and most hotels offer limousine services. Chauffeured cars can be rented for extended stays. In Bangkok, an extensive public bus network with both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned vehicles serves all areas of the city.

In addition, Bangkok has two mass rail transit systems: the BTS and the MRT. The BTS, known locally as Sky Train, is an elevated train network that opened in Bangkok’s most congested business districts, including Silom and Sukhumvit. The MRT is a subway system that includes a Blue Line that runs between Hua Lamphong (Central Train Station) and Bang Sue, Hua Lamphong (Central Train Station) and Lak Song, Bang Sue and Tha Pra, and a Purple Line that runs between Khlong Bang Phai and Tao Poon.

For inter-city travel, public regular and air-conditioned buses are available. These buses run on a regular basis between Bangkok and provincial cities in Thailand. Three regional bus depots serve eastern region destinations (Ekamai), northern and northeastern region destinations (Mor Chit), and the southern region (Sai Tai Mai).

Thailand has a road infrastructure of more than 390,000 kilometers, of which 384,176, or 98.5 percent, are concrete or asphalt paved, and with 66,266 km forming a national highway network connecting each region of the country. The four major national highways connecting Bangkok and the rest of the country are Highway No 1(North), Highway No 2 (North East), Highway No 3 (central), and Highway No 4 (South).

Inter-city rail services range from comfortable and efficient to very basic. The State Railway of Thailand operates 4,429 kilometers of rail networks with four main routes: Bangkok-north to Chiang Mai; northeast to Nongkhai and Ubon Rajathani; east to Prachinburi; and south to the Thai-Malaysian border.

Ride-hailing services like Lineman, Estonia’s Bolt, and Grab, have received approval under a regulation that allows the use of personal cars for ride-hailing taxi services. With the use of smartphone apps to connect commuters with drivers, this service, said to be a disruptive innovation to the existing point-to-point transport industry, has enjoyed consumer support due to its convenience and other benefits.

Thailand has a coastline of 3,219 km with over 4,000 km of waterways, with eight international deep-sea ports in operation, and with four private ports permitted to handle container cargo. The country’s main commercial ports are Bangkok Port, Laem Chabang Port, and Sriracha Harbor Deep Seaport.

Bangkok port, located in the capital city of Thailand, remains an important and dominant port with an approximately 60:40 percentage ratio between inbound and outbound. The port handles 1.5 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) per year, above its annual capacity of 1 million TEUs. The depth of the Chao Phraya River basin is 8.5 meters.

Laem Chabang port is situated in Chon Buri province (east of Bangkok). The port covers an area of around 2,536 acres and can handle around 11.1 million TEU/year. Currently, four piers are managed by private companies. Laem Chabang has undergone two phases of development and is now in the third phase of construction. The third phase is expected to lift the capacity of the port to a maximum of 18 million TEUs. The expansion is aimed at transforming Laem Chabang into the main gateway port of the Greater Mekong Sub Region trade. At present, the port handles 54 percent of Thailand’s overall exports and imports. The expansion project includes a new wharf of two kilometers in length, 900m wide and 15m deep to serve large vessels directly. There are also plans to construct twin railway tracks that will connect the northeast to the port and the expansion of roads and gates leading to the port to ease traffic. The twin-track railway from the northeast will stretch from the Kaeng Khoi district in the Saraburi province through Chachoengsao province to Laem Chabang, while four roads to the port will be expanded.

Sriracha Harbor Deep Seaport was the first port in Thailand able to accommodate vessels up to 100,000 deadweight tons (dwt). The location of Sriracha Harbor ensures that it is accessible and fully usable for 95 percent of the year.

Thailand currently has 39 commercial airports, including eight international airports. The international airports are in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket, Hat Yai, Krabi, Samui, and U-Tapao. Two main airports are Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, both located in Bangkok. Suvarnabhumi was opened in September 2006 and is the country’s primary international airport with an initial capacity of 45 million and a cargo capacity of 3 million metric tons per year. In 2020, Thailand airports handled 515,185 flights, both domestic and international, and more than 1billion tons of freight and mail.

Thailand Ministry of Transport has approved a major development project valued at $1.9 billion for the construction of new terminals at the Suvarnabhumi international airport in anticipation of COVID-19 recovery of international travels. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2024 and will include the East, West, and North Wing expansions which are expected to increase the airport’s annual passenger handling capacity by another 60 million.

Thai Airways International is Thailand’s national airline serving both domestic and inter-continental routes.

Language

Thai is the national language. English is the next most spoken language and is especially prevalent among the business community in Bangkok. There are four distinct Thai language dialects in Thailand, with the Central Thai dialect being the first language of 75 percent of the population. Many Sino-Thai also speak Chinese dialects.

Health

Medical treatment is generally adequate in Thailand’s urban areas. In Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Pattaya, good facilities exist for routine, long-term, and emergency health care. Basic medical care is available in rural areas, but English-speaking providers are rare.

Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for services, and U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Many hospitals in Bangkok and other major cities will accept standard credit cards. For additional useful health information, contact the International Travelers’ Hotline at the Center of Disease Control at 800-232-4636 or 888-232-6348.

If traveling with prescription medication, check with Thailand Customs and the Thailand Food and Drug Administration to ensure the medication is legal in Thailand.

The following diseases are present in Thailand:

  • Dengue
  • Chikungunya
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Zika
  • Tuberculosis:
  • Influenza
  • Malaria
  • Rabies
  • Cholera
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Typhoid
  • Melioidosis

The air quality in Thailand varies considerably and fluctuates with the seasons, but seasonal smog is a problem. In recent years, the air quality in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Lampang, Nan, and Samut Sakhon have exceeded Thai and U.S. government daily standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) for a portion of the year. In Chiang Mai and other northern provinces, annual agricultural burning, approximately February through late April, and forest fires cause days with unhealthy to hazardous air quality based on the U.S. index. In Bangkok environs, airborne dust and auto pollutants are prevalent in the cooler, dry period (December-February). Anyone who travels where pollution levels are high is at risk. People at the greatest risk from air pollution exposure include:

  • Infants, children, and teens
  • People over 65 years of age
  • People with lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema
  • People with heart disease
  • People who work or are active outdoors

For Bangkok and Chiang Mai, U.S. Mission Thailand is reporting the U.S. EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI) each hour calculated from PM2.5 data captured by monitors owned and maintained by the Royal Thai government. The link above provides information and advice on health protection measures. Various mobile applications are available for tracking the air quality index in nearly all areas around Thailand.

For the latest health-related guidance, please see Thailand country-specific information on travel.state.gov.

Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays

The common professional workweek in Thailand is 40 hours per week, consisting of five 8-hour days, Monday through Friday. Office hours in Bangkok vary to accommodate flextime travel through the city’s notoriously heavy traffic. Common office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Most business offices are closed on Saturdays and Sundays, although most commercial establishments remain open. The Commercial Section at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok is open 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The office is closed during lunch from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m.

During the calendar year 2021, the following are the commercial holidays on which most business and government offices in Thailand will be closed:

OFFICIAL HOLIDAYS 2021

MONTH

DATE

DAY

OCCASION

January

1

Friday

New Year’s Day

February

12

Friday

Chinese New Year

February

26

Friday

Makha Bucha Day

April

6

Tuesday

Chakri Memorial Day

April

12-16

Monday-Thursday

Songkran Days

(Thai New Year)

May

3

Monday

Substitution for National Labour Day (Saturday, May 1, 2021)

May

4

Tuesday

His Majesty the King’s Coronation Day

May

26

Wednesday

Visakha Bucha Day

June

3

Thursday

Her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday

July

26

Monday

Asahna Bucha Day

July

28

Wednesday

His Majesty the King’s Birthday

August

12

Thursday

Her Majesty the Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother’s Birthday / Mother’s Day

September

24

Friday

Prince Mahidol Day

October

13

Wednesday

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great Memorial Day

October

22

Friday

Substitution for Chulalongkorn Day (Saturday, October 23, 2021)

December

6

Monday

Substitution for His Majestry King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great’s Birthday/ National Day / Father’s Day (Sunday, December 5, 2021)

December

10

Friday

Constitution Day

December

31

Friday

New Year’s Eve

Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings

Thai Customs Department policy and procedures on temporary entry of goods for business practices and exhibitions are described separately. Duty exemption is valid for temporarily imported goods that will be re-exported within three or six months of the importation date, depending on the entry purpose. Travelers entering or departing from Thailand are exempt from duty for personal belongings in a reasonable quantity, which is worth no more than 20,000 baht, one liter of spirituous liquor, 200 cigarettes, or 250 grams for cigars or smoking tobacco.

For more specific information on the type of goods and steps of customs procedure, please visit the section on “Passengers/Individuals” on Thailand’s Customs website.