Israelis do not need a visa to enter Thailand. But in the Covid era we are required to issue at the Thai Embassy in Tel Aviv an entry permit called CoE which is an initial for Certificate of Entry. The form is only available to vaccinated travelers. The embassy also requires a passport photo, to check with the Ministry of Health that we are indeed vaccinated. Another condition is to purchase PCR tests in advance, to be performed immediately after landing in Thailand and also 5 days late

The tourism season in Thailand is from October to April, during Israel's winter season. Our summer season in Israel is the monsoon season in Thailand. Hot, rainy, and humid. The monsoon rains aren't falling continuously, and are not so disturbing. But we will sweat a lot

The time difference between Thailand and Israel is 4 hours. They are ahead of us. Our 8AM in the morning, is already 12 noon in Thailand, and so on

Shabbat candle lighting times in Thailand are about an hour before candle lighting time in Jerusalem, but at local time in Bangkok

The local currency is Baht, called "Thai Baht" or "THB". Nowadays the exchange rate is about 10 Israeli Agorot, and one Israeli Shekel is 10 THB. Therefore, each price tag should be divided by 10, and then we get the value in NIS. One dollar is about 32.5 THB. 100 THB is about $3.       I

It is better to come to Thailand with dollars or euros, because the banks in Israel have just a few THB bills, and the exchange rate is high. The best exchange rates will be obtained at banks in Thailand, followed by licensed currency changer shops. The worst conversion rates we will get at the reception counters at hotels and in the airport

The main payment in Thailand is made by cash. Not every shop or market stand are willing to accept credit cards or modern digital means of payment

Withdrawing money from ATMs involves a fee of about 150 THB, no matter the amount. It is, therefore, better to convert a large amount at once, rather than to convert the same amount few times at an ATM

Shopping with the use of international credit cards also involves relatively high fees for each transaction. Therefore, it is better to pay cash

The shops in Thailand open at 10AM. It is advisable to arrive early because in Thai culture there is an almost sacred value to the first sale of the day. The sellers will be more flexible while bargaining with us and will lower prices as not to lose the good fortune that the first sale brings

Bargaining is part of the trading world in Thailand. Usually, every price we see and hear in small markets and shops is two or three times higher than the real price the seller is expecting. But in food, there is no bargaining at stands and restaurants

Our cash money should be scattered in several places and pockets, rather than kept in a single place

At the check-in counters for domestic flights, they may ask us for the credit card with which we paid for the flight ticket. This special procedure happens because the credit card company's approval of the transaction takes a long time, or because they suspect the credit card is stolen or counterfeit

Accommodation

If we are independent travelers (F.I.T), it is better to book hotel accommodation only for our first night in Thailand. The next day we will be able to find good deals through Chabad houses in Thailand and Israeli restaurants. Almost every Israeli restaurant is also a kind of travel agency that represents apartment renters, cars, motorcycles, and tour guides. This is an efficient and inexpensive way to travel within Thailand when we are already there

The rating of hotels in Thailand is different from what we are familiar with. Some hotels are ranked on the Internet as 4 or 5 stars, but we might find them a relatively shabby place, unworthy of even 3 stars. On the other hand, there are hotels with a 4-stars rating, but when we get there we see a luxury hotel that would get a 5-plus rating in Israel and Europe

When we find online a hotel at a bargain price, it should turn on a red light. The price may be low because the hotel is located in the middle of nowhere, far from tourist attractions

The electricity system in Thailand runs on 220v as in Israel, but their sockets are different from ours. An Israeli plug with two pins can fit into their sockets. But a 3-pin plug requires an adapter

Leave your passport in a hotel safe, and take with you just a photo of it

There is free WiFi in every respected hotel, and in some hotels WiFi comes with a fee. Every Chabad house also have free WiFi, which is another reason to come in

Phone calls to Israel with our regular SIM are outrageously expensive. Many people buy at the airport a local SIM of 20 MB, but in my personal experience it is not enough. It is better to buy a local SIM with a surfing volume of 500 MB for 349 THB only

Gastronomy

There are kosher restaurants in each of the Chabad houses in Thailand. There is also a synagogue with prayers in the Minyan, and it is especially worthwhile to attend the Shabbat Eve prayers that are followed by a Kiddush and Shabbat meal. Currently, the restaurants are closed due to the pandemic, but the kitchens are operating for Take-Away. They will soon reopen with the plague subsiding. Here is a list of Chabad houses in Thailand:

Bangkok – Rabbi Nehemiah Wilhelm. +66 81-869-5164 96 Ram Buttri Rd. Banglamphuu, Bangkok

Phuket – Rabbi Mandy Segal. + 6689-892-2353 or Yossi Goldberg + 66-81-753-5071 Address: 52/30 Ratchauthit Song Roy Pee Rd. Patong A. Kratu,

Chiang Mai – Rabbi Yosef Pickel. 66-81-9894438 + a189 / 15 Chang-klan Rd

Ko Samui – Rabbi Mandy Goldschmid. 66-81-8240588 + Chaweng Beach Moo 3 T. Bophut 39/8

We should drink water only from sealed bottles. The water in Thailand is not suitable for drinking. Do not drink from taps, nor from bottled mineral water whose cork was once open. The sellers may have filled the used bottles with tap water

For the same reason, it is highly advisable to give up ice cubes in our cold drinks. The ice may be frozen tap water

At parties at bars and on the beach do not drink a bottled liquor without a cork, or it seems that its cork has been opened in the past. Who knows what they put in this bottle

In Thai restaurants we need a lot of patience. Eating there is not like fast food, but every meal consumes time like a social ceremony. Serving dishes takes longer than we are used to

The local cutleries are spoons and forks only. Knives are used only in the kitchen but not on the dining table. They use a fork just to push the food into the spoon. Only in tourist restaurants will we see the table set with a knife and fork

We'd taste the Pai Thai well-known local food, consisting of rice noodles, stir-fried vegetables, and a special spicy-sweet-sour sauce. There is also a non-kosher Pai Thai that contains meat or shrimp, so we have to make sure we get only a vegetarian Pai Thai or with tofu. When ordering a Pie-Thai dish, ask the seller not to make it too spicy. Tell him in Thai "Nid Noi"        i

The most common dessert in Thailand is Cao Nai Muang, sticky and sweetened rice with mango. It served wrapped in banana leaves or other leaves

One of the tourist attractions in Thailand is cooking classes. Almost every restaurant offers a course that begins with a shopping trip in the market with the chef and preparing delicacies in a kitchen class. A must for cooking enthusiasts. These courses last 3 hours or half a day or a full day. A special family experience

 

transportation

In Thailand, people drive on the left side of roads as in England. Before when we want to cross a street, we must first look to the right to see if a vehicle is approaching. Do not look firstly to the left as we do in Israel

The most effective way to get around within the cities of Thailand is by motorcycle. We can rent them anywhere at prices of 100-150 THB per day. A Motorcycle driver's license isn't required

Be very careful when driving on the left side of the road. This is especially important when turning into another street, or when entering a square

The price of the trip by taxi or Tuk Tuk should be agreed upon before we start the trip and not at the end. For this purpose, it is worth asking the locals how much this trip should cost, and according to their answer to bargain with the driver

Attention! If a Tuk Tuk driver offers a ride for too low a price, it is probably a sign that someone else is paying him for our trip, so that he will bring tourist customers to their business

When we get on a Tuk Tuk or taxi, we should show the driver on the map where we want to go, and not just tell him. Also during the trip, it is worth impressing the driver as if we are following the route on the map. This reduces the risk that the driver will take us for a long unnecessary ride in the city

On cross-country trips by bus or train, we should keep our money in a pouch or purse under our clothes. In Thailand there are skinny kids who sneak into the trunk under the passenger compartment, and they cut the backpacks and bags to steal money and small expensive items

Behavior codes

It is forbidden to speak of the king and the Royal Family. Under Thai law, showing disrespect to the king or making jokes about him is a serious criminal offense

When meeting a local Thai, we should not touch his head. The head and face are considered sacred in their culture

Smoking is not allowed anywhere in Thailand, even in the open air and outside office buildings. In main streets there are "smoking areas", the size of a regular room without walls

Thais treat business cards seriously. When a local hand us his business card, he holds the card with both hands, bows, and submits to us in humility. We must show that we too treat his card with respect. We will stand in front of him to receive it with both hands. Receiving the card with one hand or while sitting, it is considered abusive contempt. We'd never throw the card in the trash in front of the eyes of the giver, or use it as a tooth separator

An authentic floating market operates on weekends only. If we see floating markets in the middle of the week, these are fake markets for tourists show-up only

It is advisable to also pack flip-flops or sandals because in many places in Thailand we will be required to take off shoes at the entrance, which is uncomfortable with high shoes with complicated laces or zippers

When we are invited to a local private home we're expected to take off our shoes at the entrance, as an expression of respect for the hosts

Also at the entrance to a Buddhist temple, we must take off our shoes and walk barefoot inside

In Thai temples, we must act respectfully. Do not eat or drink inside, and do not speak loudly

Women should dress modestly inside temples. Do not enter a temple in shorts or a belly shirt or bare shoulders. Therefore, before going to the temple it is advisable to buy a wide scarf, wrap in it and cover these organs

Each temple has gilded statues of the Buddha. We are allowed to take pictures, but must not touch them. To the locals it is a very serious desecration act

It is also forbidden to touch the monks in the temples or shake their hands unless the monk reaches out first

Do not look for monuments and memorials to the great tsunami that struck Phuket in 2004. Surprisingly there is no memory of this traumatic historical event. The Thais repress the event and prefer not to talk about it or remember it. So don't force them

Thai massage has a reputation. On many streets we see massage shops and also on the beaches there are massage stands. The prices are very cheap, 200-300 THB. Our great fun will be getting a foot massage after hours of walking around the city. Recommended!      I

When looking for massage shops, we'd stay away from places that have the word "GIRLS" on their sign, because their massage also includes a sexual aspect. In Thailand there are a lot of transgender, called "Lady Boy" or "LB" for short. The most beautiful and well-groomed girls we see in bars are probably Lady Boy. The way to recognize them is a prominent larynx bone, and clumsy broad-sized palm hands and feet. Although there are also a Lady Boy with a delicate and feminine physique

Avoiding tourist scams

The world of tourism is full of tourist traps in many countries, and Thailand is not free of them either. Thailand is not more dangerous, but no less too. Thailand is a fairly safe country for tourists, but we should be careful and pay attention to such incidents

Many tourist traps start seemingly innocently when a smiling and nice local young woman approach us on her own initiative and offers some bargain like a cheap entrance ticket to a show, or cheap gems, a trip to a tourist attraction, and the like. Sometimes such innocent offers end up in extortion and even violence. Therefore, we shouldn't join any local who approaches us on his own initiative

At street stands and in night markets we should pay the exact amount, as much as possible. There are times when the seller will get money bills from us, and will say "I have no change!". This is a well-known practice there. So try to pay exactly in cash

Among the Tuk Tuk drivers there are also some cheaters. When we ask to take us to a certain destination, they might say: "I know this place. Today is closed there. But I can take you to a similar place and even better." Then they will take us to their cousin's souvenir shop, or any attraction that paying them a commission for hunting tourists customers. Thus, any time we hear "Today is closed there", we'd run away from this driver

There is a tourist trap in renting a motorcycle or car or jet ski. When we return the vehicle they may demand a lot of money for "damages" we allegedly caused. So while renting the car we'd take pictures of it from every direction so that we can later prove that the scratch was before we got the vehicle

We'd never leave our passport as a guarantee with the rental company, because they may extort us when we want to get it back after the rental

One of the tourist traps is when we are offered a free test ride in a jet ski. This is a scam designed to demand later a high payment for "damages" we caused to the jet ski. The nice people who offer us a jet ski for free, turn out to be very violent when we return it to them

Sometimes during a tourist trap, a fake "policemen" suddenly appear, who seem to want to help us. Caution! He might be part of the scam. These policemen want to help the scammers who sting us. If we suspect it's a policeman in disguise, we'd ask him to take us to the police station right now. He will disappear quickly

Know the "fake money" sting. When we pay in shops, some store owners will swiftly exchange a bill that we gave them with a fake bill, then accuse us and threaten to call the police. They are willing to compromise if we'll give them another bill instead of the "counterfeit", but will not return the fake bill to us. So we have to keep an eye on their fingers when they count our payments

Do not touch drugs in Thailand, even at "full moon" parties where drugs are widely distributed for free. Undercover and uniformed policemen walk around these parties and arrest drug users and dealers. Sometimes cops come into nightclubs and do a urine test for everyone. The penalties for drug use in Thailand are one year in prison, or a fine of 100,000 THB and deportation. Not worth getting involved with

In Thailand we'd beware of cops, not just thieves. According to the rumor, in Thailand there are corrupted police officers. There are known cases in which innocent Israeli tourists complained to a police officer about a crime committed against them, and the police officer arrested and opened a file against him. Probably hoping the tourist will offer him bribe money to let us go free

If God forbid we get involved with the law, do not try to solve the problem ourselves. We must contact the Israeli embassy immediately, and the police must allow us to meet with a lawyer. You should also contact your local Chabad House. The Shaliach have helpful contacts with the local police and medical authorities, they speak the Thai language, and have experience in problem solving. A list and phones are listed above in this article

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