The Thai Economy and Currency: Baht
Before travelling to another country, it is important to learn about its development as a growing and evolving country. Before you go, take a look at the recent news. Thailand has hundreds of English newspapers, many are available online. Civilian protests and political upheavals are common with 19 official coup attempts in the last 80 years alone. There are two parties: The Red (Rural People) and The Yellow Shirts (Upper Class). In October 2016, King Bhumibol, a great man, died at the age of 88. His son, the crown price, has had his coronation postponed for a year. Political turmoil can breakout very suddenly, however this shouldn’t be a problem for the wary tourist.
The economy is large enough that the Thai Baht is a free floating currency not pegged against the US Dollar. The USD GDP per Capita is a little over $5,800 per year, but feels closer to $15,000 as the cost of living is very cheap. Most Thais cannot afford to travel outside of South Asia due to the higher costs.
The primary enrollment rate is over 92% as of 2014 which is excellent and the average life expectancy is slowing creeping up towards developed country levels. With almost 68 million people, twice that of Canada, progress has been slow despite the increase of tourism. Thailand’s progress in health services has been especially impressive! Now almost all children are born with the help of a skilled health worker, a 40% increase since 1985. I found the service to be excellent at my stay in Thung Chang’s small hospital, however I did see the same doctor 6 out of 7 days in the week. Very busy indeed!
Thailand attracts visitors from all over the world! You need to know what kind of Visa is available to you (your Nationality) and plan around how long you can visit. This page is linked directly from the Thai Embassy website in Canada. It outlines the required documentation for entry into Thailand depending on the Nationality of the applicant. Note that Canadians, Americans and most Europeans qualify for the 30 day Visa Exemption, on occasion proof of departure in the form of an airline ticket may be requested.
I entered Thailand from Siam Reap, Cambodia with no issues whatsoever. Many tourist will travel back across a neighboring border and re-enter after a few days for another 30 days. However many tourism can have their stay extended at the border or local embassy in Bangkok for a fee. I saw many tourists go for “Visa Runs” to Loas, Cambodia and Malaysia, and return to Thailand. However, since 2015 the Thai government has been cracking down on tourist Visa Runs. I’ve heard one is okay, but perhaps a 1 year multiple entry visa would be more convenient for stay over 2 months. 30 days is quite short, so I understand the need for more time in this wonderful country.
I hope you have a blast in Thailand and remember to stay safe, use common sense and bring a tube or two of sunscreen for the beach! A big thank you to Lewis Kilgour and Emilie Perot for contributing some amazing photos!