Thailand - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, currency, language, health, local time, business hours and holidays, acceptable business etiquette, dress, business cards, gifts, temporary entry of materials and personal belongings,etc.

Last published date: 2019-10-13

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 West.  Many business relationships have their foundations in personal relationships 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 dissatisfaction.  Losing one's composure is losing face and losing 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.

ETIQUETTE
“Khun" is the Thai form of address for Mr., Mrs., and Ms.

The "wai" is a traditional gesture of greeting and respect in Thailand.  Practice by placing your palms together in a prayer-like position. 

Business cards are an indispensable part of making business contacts in Thailand.  Bring lots of your own as a general form of introduction.

Remove shoes before entering a home or temple.

Touching someone on the head or pointing your feet to anything is considered by Thais to be very rude.

Thais hold the Royal Family in high esteem and you are expected to indicate the same in speech and action.

Travel Advisory
American citizens may register on-line 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.


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.

 

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.  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.

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.

In this regard, American 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 letter from your government, agency or organization sending you on your mission or from your counterpart in Thailand), Education (requires letter from 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 confirmed onward ticket to a third country), Sports or Crew (requires letter from organization concerned).  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: Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.  (Walk-in Services: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. only) U.S. Eastern Standard Time.  Closed on Thai and U.S. official holidays.

U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should be advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process.  Visa applicants should go to the following links:

State Department Visa Website
U.S. Embassy Consular Section

 

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.

 

Telecommunications/Electronics>

Thailand’s telecommunication services meet international standards, especially in urban areas like Bangkok.  There is an abundance of fixed lines for offices and residences.  Thailand is rapidly developing an ICT industry which reached more than $20 billion by 2017 and accounts for an estimated 7% of the country’s GDP.

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, currently the country has 98 million mobile subscribers with 30% smart phone penetration rate.  In addition, there are 35 million Internet users in Thailand.  These figures are increasing daily, due to the widespread availability of broadband and wi-fi access in all provinces.

 

Transportation>

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.  For Bangkok, an extensive public bus network with both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned vehicles serve 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, 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 390,026 kilometers, of which 384,176, or 98.5%, is 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 primitive.  The State Railway of Thailand operates 4,429 kilomters 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.

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 is the largest port in Thailand and can handle approximately 1.5 million TEU (equivalent of a 20-foot container) per year.  The depth of the Chao Phraya River basin is 8.5 meters.   Bangkok Port is located on the west side of the Chao Phraya River between km.  +26.5 and km. +28.5 at the entrance to Prakanong Canal, Klongtoey District, Bangkok.

Laem Chabang can handle about 6.9 million TEU per year and the port depth is 12 meters.  Currently, four piers are handled by private companies.  Laem Chabang Port is situated at Tungsukhla Sub-District, Sriracha District and Banglamung Sub-District of Chon Buri Province.  The port covers an area of around 2,536 acres (6,340 rais).  Sriracha Harbour Deep Seaport was the first port in Thailand able to accommodate vessels up to 100,000 (tons deadweight).  The location of Sriracha Harbour ensures that it is accessible and fully usable for 95% of the year. 

Thailand currently has 38 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 passenger capacity of 45 million and a cargo capacity of 3 million metric tons per year.  In 2018, Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang International Airport handled 641,837 flights.  A total number of 104,132,225 passengers passed through the two main airports.

Suvarnabhumi Airport has planned the development of phase 2 to support an expected increase in the number of passengers.  This second phase incorporates a new satellite terminal that can handle 20 million passengers.  Once the expansion is completed in 2020, Suvarnabhumi Airport is expected to lift the airport’s capacity to 80 million passengers.

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 commonly 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% 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 disease 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.

For the latest health-related guidance, please see travel.state.gov and the Country Specific Information page for Thailand.

 

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 2019, the following are the commercial holidays on which most business and government offices in Thailand will be closed:

OFFICIAL HOLIDAYS 2019

MONTH

DATE

DAY

OCCASION

January

1

Monday

New Year’s Day

January

2

Tuesday

New Year’s Holiday

March

1

Thursday

Makha Bucha Day

April

6

Friday

Chakri Day

April

12-16

Friday – Tuesday

Songkran Days
(Thai New Year)

May

1

Tuesday

Labor Day

May

6

Monday

H.M. King’s Coronation Day

May

20

Monday

Visakha Bucha Day

June

3

Monday

Her Majesty the Queen Mother’s Birthday

July

29

Monday

H.M. King’s Birthday (observed)

August

12

Monday

Her Majesty the Queen Mother’s Birthday

October

14

Monday

The passing of King Bhumibol (observed)

October

23

Wednesday

Chulalongkorn Day

December

5

Thursday

Father’s Day

December

10

Tuesday

Constitution Day

December

31

Tuesday

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 below.   Duty exemption is valid for temporary 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 spirituous liquor (one liter), cigarettes (two hundred), cigars or smoking tobacco (250 grams).

For more specific information on type of goods and steps of customs procedure, please visit the section on “Traveler Information” on the web site www.customs.go.th 

 

Travel Related Web Resources>

Royal Thai Embassy in Washington D.C.
State Department Consular Information Sheet on Thailand
State Department Visa Website
State Department Travel Visas
United States Visas
U.S. Embassy Bangkok

U.S. Embassy's Visa website

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