Diving in Thailand
Thailand has 1,700 miles of coastline that wrap around the Gulf of Thailand, and another 300 miles of shore on the Andaman Sea. A full list of the country's dive sites and dive-centric businesses is almost overwhelming, as most every seaside village and resort area along both coasts will likely have several boats offering dive charters, hotels or hostels catering to divers, and scuba schools that put tens of thousands of first-time divers in the water each year. The choices become easier for travelers who are visiting Thailand specifically for its underwater attractions. If choosing the Gulf, they favor offshore island such as Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Ko Samui, which include shallow reefs covered in riotous pallets of whip corals, sponges and soft corals; slopes riddled with dramatic swim-throughs and caverns; and pinnacles blanketed in huge schools of barracuda. Whale sharks are occasionally seen in these waters, and black tip reef sharks are common. Favorite sites include Sail Rock and the Angthong Marine Park. 3 In all there are 27 marine parks in Thailand—10 in the Gulf, the other 17 in the Andaman Sea. The epicenter of diving activity is the west-central coast of the Malay Peninsula, on Phuket Island and north at the town of Khao Lak, some 50 miles to the north. Phuket offers reefs, slopes, walls, pinnacles, wrecks and an underwater sculpture park. Two signature sites are Shark Point and Anemone Reef, which offer rare corals and an abundance of sharks. Boats depart for islands such as Racha Yai, which offers year-round water clarity and postcard-perfect shallow reefs. One of the area's premier destinations are the Phi Phi Islands, which have often been called are one of the most dramatically beautiful locations in the world. Above the surface, rock cliffs rise from emerald waters to heights of more than 1,000 feet. Underwater, these limestone cliff faces become vertical walls eroded with caves, overhangs, and swim-throughs, all covered in a profusion of soft corals, black corals and undulating sea whips. Water clarity around these islands is often less than in other areas near Phuket, but the dramatic topographies and colors more than compensate. To the north Khao Lak is the starting point for day trips to the Similan Islands, and liveaboard excursions more remote sites such as to Richelieu Rock, Koh Tachai and Koh Bon. The Similan archipelago is one of the most sought after dive destinations in Asia. This cluster of nine granite islands lie within a National Park located 50 miles off the coast and some 60 miles north of Phuket. The area is famous for the diversity of marine life, colorful shallow reefs and dramatic deep sites. The eastern sides of these islands feature hard coral gardens on slopes to depths of 100 feet. Here, divers will find everything from ghost pipefish to giant bumphead parrotfish, and white tip and leopard sharks are common. Western sides of the islands and points such as Elephant Head Rock offer more exciting diving, with currents that swirl around large sunken granite boulders, and arches, tunnels and swim-throughs clogged with enormous sea fans. March and April are prime months for the Similans, as this marks the arrival of whale sharks and large manta rays.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
All U.S. citizens are required to present a valid passport that must be valid for 6 months beyond your date of entry into the country. Proof of onward or return ticket and at least 1 blank page is required in your passport for entry stamp. There is no visa required for stays less than 30 days.
Although no vaccines are required for entry into Thailand, you should check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at
Culture and Customs
In a region heavily influenced by Colonial powers from both East and West, the Kingdom of Thailand, long known as Siam, remained true to it’s cultural roots. In a country that is more than 90 percent Theraveda Buddhist, the belief system and values of that religion play a huge role in day-to-day life. Most important to the Thai people are the virtues of respect, self-control, and non-confrontation. Equally important is the concept of sanuk, which is a positive and life-affirming belief that life should be fun. This playful attitude is manifest in all aspects of day-to-day life. Another distinctive cultural trait is the wai, which is a prayer-like gesture with the hands that may be accompanied by a slight bow and a smile, indicating a person's welcoming and pleasant attitude. Also common is the word “wawatdee,” which is a universal greeting that can mean hello, good day, good morning, good afternoon or goodbye. Such cultural traditions may seem at odds with the high-energy bustle of cities such as Bangkok, but they become more apparent as one escapes the major commercial centers and enters the countryside. Visitors who display a reasonable degree of cultural sensitivity will discover the Thai people to be extremely warm and accommodating. Even warmer are the soups, curries and noodle dishes that are icons of Thai cuisine. From internationally-known favorites such as Pad Thai to regional favorites such as Tom Yam, Khanom Maw Kaeng and Khao Soi. When ordering, it may be prudent to start with dishes that are mai phet—not spicy—or phet nit—a bit spicy. Only the brave, or foolish, will order their food phet man, aka “Thai hot.”
Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access
Electricity in Thailand is 220 volts, 50 Hz. Sockets feature a 2 prong round or flat plug so an adapter will be needed for U.S. electronics. Any device that does not accept 220V input may also need a step down transformer. The
country code for Thailand is 66. Check with your cell phone provider for International plans for text, voice and data. WiFi is availablel at many resorts and restaurants.
In general, people in Thailand do not drink the tap water. Bottled water is recommended and readily available for purchase.
Language & Currency
Thai the official language for Thailand. English is the unofficial second language. The local currency is the Thai Bhat (THB) pronounced baaht. Check the current exchange rate
here. Coins come in denominations of 1, 2 ,5 & 10 baht and 25 and 50 satang, while bank notes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 baht. ATMs are plentiful in Thailand using major network cards and Credit cards are accepted at most hotels.
Thailand utilizes Indochina Time or ICT which is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.(+7 GMT) Thailand does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
Location, Size and Population
Thailand is located in Southeast Asia, bordered by the Andaman Sea, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Thailand. It borders the countries of Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Cambodia & Malaysia. The capital city is Bangkok and the size is approximately 200,000 square miles - a little larger than California.
The population of Thailand is over 68 Million (2016).