March 07, 2015

Notes on Thailand (Part 4)

  • Internet
  • GSM/3G
  • Pharmacies
  • Superettes

Internet

Most bars/pubs/restaurants offer free wifi, and you just have to ask for the wifi password when you're there.

Internet cafes are everywhere. I never had to use one. Laptop/tablet had wifi in the hotel, and my phone had local 3G data.

Your hotel may offer free or (more likely) paid-for wifi Internet.

I paid ฿900 (~R250) for 7 days unlimited wifi access at the Patong Beach Hotel. 1Mbps down/768kbps up. I was able to Facebook, Gmail, do Internet banking, stream audio, and do everything I wanted to do. YouTube was a bit choppy though. Grabbed a 100MB DJ set MP3 - no problem to download.

GSM/3G

MTN allows you to do SMS-only international roaming. Dial *111*14# before you get on the plane. All SMSes charged at R2.00 (or thereabouts). No voice-call roaming, no data roaming, no horrible surprise charges on your bill. Turned out to be very useful when I had to add a banking beneficiary and popped my SA MTN SIM back in to my phone to authenticate/approve.

Get a local Thai SIM (I used DTAC, it worked, other providers include AIS and True). You can pick up a SIM for free in some of the airports. Otherwise it's cheap at any 7-11/superette. ฿3/minute to some international numbers, if you dial a specific prefix first. I filled up with ฿500, did loads of data on it, and barely seemed to make a dent in that balance. My phone showed speeds ranging from EDGE, all the way up to H+. Usually it flopped between 3G and HSDPA speeds.

I was able to use Google Translate, Google Maps and Facebook on my Android phone, with decent speeds.

Although I could have punched in the wifi credentials each time we went to a new bar/restaurant/club, I just didn't bother. Turns out ฿500 lasts a long time if you're mainly using it for data. Also, I had Account Sync turned off on my Android handset.

A travelling partner was roaming on his SA MTN number, with data turned off (it would get charged at R4.00/25KB, I believe), and consequently he turned to me several times asking to use my phone for a Google query. Eventually he just got a DTAC SIM.

In the third hotel I was in, the wifi did not reach to my floor. So I tethered my phone. Even heavy social media usage that day/night didn't make much of a dent in the airtime balance.

You can also sign up for 3G wifi, where the mobile provider takes some Baht off your airtime balance, gives you a wifi username/password, and then you get unlimited access to that mobile provider's wifi hotspots (which are pretty much everywhere) for a specific period of time. I meant to do this, but since the 3G data was working so well, I just didn't bother.

Overall I used about ฿1000 (~R290) for 12 days of local GSM/3G access, with about ฿300 still left on my airtime balance when I returned to South Africa. That included a call to a South African fixed line, a call to a New Zealand mobile, calls to local numbers, texts to various numbers (local and international), and as much Internet as I wanted.

Pharmacies

Everywhere. No prescription needed. ฿200 for an asthma inhaler. ฿15 for a 1mg Xanax tablet. ฿30 for 10x500mg aspirin tablets. ฿70 for a box of Gaviscon tablets. ฿200 for a 70ml bottle of 95% DEET insect repellent spray (lasted the whole holiday).

Superettes

Everywhere. 7-11, The Big 1, and The Big C. Not sure which ones I used. They carry all the conveniences you'd expect.

Their selection of soft-drinks was wide, varied, cheap and utterly foreign to me, so I often bought several different kinds of soft-drinks just to try them all out.

They sell cigarettes and alcohol too (alcopops and beers in the fridges at the back, hard tack and cigarettes up front behind the register. See: Alcohol.)

In Bangkok, the superettes carry the small Red Bull in bottles that you don't get in South Africa. Price: ฿10.

You can use your credit card, but only for purchases totalling over ฿300.

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