March 02, 2015

Notes on Thailand (Part 1)

  • Background
  • Getting There
  • Luggage
  • Tourist Visa
  • Arriving
  • Smoking in BKK
  • Next Step


I was in Thailand from 23 Dec 2012 to 5 January 2013. This was for 5 nights in Koh Samui, 6 nights in Patong Beach, Phuket, and 1 night in Bangkok.

These notes are not meant to be exhaustive, and they represent only my limited and subjective experience during that time, along with some things I learned along the way. I've included some recommendations - feel free to ignore them.

These notes are from a South African, and slightly geeky, perspective.

Part 1: Getting There, Luggage, Tourist Visa, Arriving, Smoking in BKK, Next Step.
Part 2: Money, Electricity, Electricity in Hotels, Hotels and Guests.
Part 3: Weather, Air-Conditioning, Clothing, Footwear, Beach/Pool Towels, Hygiene, Water, Food.
Part 4: Internet, GSM/3G, Pharmacies, Superettes.
Part 5: Alcohol, Cigarettes, Drugs in Thailand.
Part 6: Transport, Beaches.
Part 7: The Thai People, Be A Good Tourist, The King, Sunscreen, Mosquitoes, Island hopping around Phi Phi, PhantaSea.
Part 8: Shopping, Massages, International Relations.
Part 9: Christmas in Thailand, New Years in Thailand, Lady Boys, Western Decadence, Bangla, Paradise Complex.
Part 10: Hotel Minibars, Laundry, Health and Safety, Leaving Thailand.

Getting there

Thai Airways flies direct three times a week from OR Tambo, Johannesburg to Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok.

You'll leave JNB 13h40 local SA time (GMT+2) and land at BKK sometime just after 05h00 local Thai time (GMT+7), after a 10 hour and 30 minute flight (which will probably say 11h15m on your ticket).

The decor inside a Thai Airways plane is very colourful. :)


20kg limit for checked luggage. 7kg limit for hand luggage (although my hand luggage included a laptop and was way more than 7kg. Didn't seem to be a problem.)

Pack light. You'll want space to bring back all the things you've bought.

Tourist Visa

South Africans get an automatic tourist visa upon arrival at BKK. No more than 30 days in one stay, and no more than 90 days total stay in a 6-month (180 day) period.


You'll walk from your landing gate, down a long walkway to the part where you go through passport control. There are toilets all the way along this walkway in case you want to freshen up after getting off the plane (see Hygiene).

Suvarnabhumi Airport looks like it has been designed to make it easy for tourists to understand where to go and what to do. All signs are in English and Thai. Read the signs so you know where to go. In some case the signs very conveniently indicate the distance to go, in metres, at regular intervals.

You'll have been given a slip of paper on the plane, or possibly as you go through passport control (I forget where). Fill it in with your details. When you go through passport control they'll take this form, snap your picture (if you're wearing a hat/cap and/or sunglasses, they'll ask you to take them off before they take your picture). They'll also stamp your passport with your tourist visa, and staple your departure form into your passport, which you'll also need to fill in before you leave.

Smoking in BKK

There are a few smoking lounges scattered around the international arrivals side of BKK.

There are no smoking lounges on the domestic departures side of BKK.

If you have a longer stop-over in BKK before your next flight, and you want to smoke, you might want to consider hanging back on the international arrivals side, before going through passport control.

When we arrived, there was a huge throng of people fresh off their flight(s), about to go through passport control. I retired to a smoking lounge, spent some time setting up my local DTAC SIM (See GSM/3G), and when I ventured out again, that entire mass of humanity was gone. I was through passport control in a matter of minutes, no queues, no mess, no fuss.

Next step

Once at Suvarnabhumi, you'll either want to go into Bangkok, or hop off to one of the other islands (Phuket, Samui, etc). If so, that will be another flight of about an hour or so from BKK.

Next up, in part 2: Money, Electricity, Electricity in Hotels, Hotels and Guests.

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