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Telephone Tips

Major hotels in Thailand feature convenient but pricey International Direct Dial (IDD), long-distance service, and fax services. They add a hefty surcharge to local and long-distance calls, which can add up to 50% in some cases. Note that 800 numbers, credit card numbers, or collect calls may not be readily available from your hotel phone; or if they are, a big fat service fee may be added to your bill. Check first.

Most post offices have special offices or booths for overseas calls, as well as fax and telex service; they're usually open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm, though those in big cities may stay open later. There are also overseas telegraph and telephone offices (also called OCO, or overseas call office) open daily 24 hours throughout the country for long-distance international calls and telex and fax service. In addition, many Internet cafes, guesthouses, and travel agents offer long-distance calls using very affordable net-to-phone connections of varying quality.

Local calls can be made from any red or blue public pay telephone. Local calls cost 1B for 3 minutes; add more coins when the beeps sound. Blue public phones are for local and long-distance calls within Thailand.

Yellow TOT cards are sold in denominations of 100B, 300B, and 500B and are specific for domestic or international phones, which are clearly marked as such. Hatari PhoneNet offers a variety of phone cards that are a great value and are available at convenience stores everywhere. All cards can also be purchased at Telephone Organization of Thailand (TOT) offices.

To call Thailand: If you're calling Thailand from the United States:

1. Dial the international access code: 011.

2. Dial the country code: 66.

3. Dial the number. So the whole number you'd dial for Bangkok would be 011-66-2-000-0000.

Important Note: When making calls to Thailand, be sure to omit the "0" that appears before all phone numbers in this guide (thus you will dial only eight digits after the "66" country code). When calling within Thailand, you will need to add the two- or three-digit area code for the place you are calling, unless the number is a special four-digit hot line for an airline or tourist organization.

To make international calls: There are two ways to make international calls from Thailand -- first, by IDD, for which the access number is 001; second, by Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), for which access numbers are 007, 008, and 009. The latter are much cheaper. After dialing the international access number, dial the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Ireland 353, Australia 61, New Zealand 64). Next, you dial the area code and number. For example, if you wanted to call the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., you would dial 001-1-202-588-7800.

For directory assistance: Dial tel. 1133, or dial any hotel concierge or operator (even if you are not a guest, they can help).

Note: In smaller towns throughout this guide, I've left out phone numbers for bars/clubs that don't have permanent phone lines.

Cellphones

Note that cellphones are referred to as "mobiles" or "handsets" in Thailand, which operates on the GSM system. If you have an unlocked phone, you can install a local, prepaid SIM card (sold at 7-Elevens and cellphone stores in Thailand). Show your phone to the salesperson; not all phones work on all networks. You'll get a local phone number -- and much, much lower calling rates than using international roaming. Unlocking an already locked phone can be complicated, but it can be done; just call your cellular operator and say you'll be going abroad for several months and want to use the phone with a local provider. In Thailand, head to Mah Boon Krong (MBK), near the National Stadium BTS in central Bangkok, for assistance with unlocking cellphones at any cellphone vendor.

For trips of more than a few weeks spent in one country, buying a local SIM card becomes economically attractive, as Thailand has a number of cheap prepaid phone systems operated by One-2-Call, True Move, and DTAC. For around 800B, you will be given a starter pack, which includes a SIM card, an instant Thai mobile phone number, plus some free calls. Call costs depend on the package you choose; some systems offer free off-peak messaging (SMS). With most plans, though, incoming calls are free.

Internet & Email

Travelers have any number of ways to check their e-mail and access the Internet on the road in Thailand. These days, smart phones, Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, PDAs (personal digital assistants), or electronic organizers allow travelers to stay in touch almost anywhere. But bear in mind there's a very real risk while traveling in poor countries that any luxury electronic items, including the trendier mobile phone models (unaffordable to poorer Thais) may get stolen. If staying wired isn't a major part of your holiday, it's better to leave the hardware at home and check e-mail at cybercafes, which are easy to find.

Without Your Own Computer -- Thailand's Internet cafes stay open late, they're affordable, and you'll pretty much find them everywhere. Bangkok's Sukhumvit, Surawong, or Khao San roads and the country's main beach destinations are all chockablock with Internet cafes. Many hotels have business centers that also offer Internet access, but they are much pricier.

Cybercafes charge around 30B to 80B per hour and most city connections now use high-speed lines (ADSL) and offer cheap overseas Internet calls on systems such as www.skype.com. Outside of the cities, look out for local cybercafes (usually full of school kids playing online shoot-'em-up games); most offer acceptable service.

With Your Own Computer -- More and more hotels, cafes, and retailers in Thailand offer free high-speed Wi-Fi access (or charge a small fee for usage). You'll find wireless services at Starbucks branches -- or look out for signs marked with the Thai brand TRUE, in malls such as Siam Paragon and CentralWorld. Most luxury hotels here do not offer Wi-Fi service free of charge; even if you are a guest, you will have to buy a prepaid access card from around 400B per hour. Some hotel executive lounges may include this service in the room rate. Contact your hotel in advance to see what your options are.

Major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have local access numbers around the world, allowing you to go online by placing a local call. Check your ISP's website, or call its toll-free number to find out more. Thailand has its own popular ISPs, the biggest of which is CS Loxinfo, which offers dial-up and ADSL. You can buy handy prepaid cards at 7-Elevens.

Online Traveler's Toolbox

Following is a selection of handy online tools to bookmark and use for your trip to Thailand.

  • The official Thai government website (www.thaigov.go.th/eng) has info in English on current happenings in the kingdom.
  • For transportation information, try the following sites: Thai Airways International (www.thaiair.com), Bangkok Airways (www.bangkokair.com), Nok Air (www.nokair.com), SGA (www.sga.co.th), One-Two-GO (www.fly12go.com), and Phuket's amphibious plane service, Destination Air (www.destinationair.com). Out of the Southeast Asian hubs, there's the extensive Air Asia (www.airasia.com) and the smaller Tiger Airways (www.tigerairways.com), with newcomer Jetstar (www.jetstar.com) linking Asian cities with Australia. For train info, contact the Thai State Railway at www.railway.co.th/english/index.asp. Note: The official Suvarnabhumi or Don Muang Airport websites are not updated regularly and could be misleading to travelers. Cross-check these sites with more reliable international travel sites or blogs.
  • Thai publications in English are numerous. Bangkok Post (www.bangkokpost.com) and The Nation (www.nationmultimedia.com) are the only English-language dailies. The free Where Magazine lists lots of events and happenings, as does BK Magazine, which has a younger target audience.
  • There are a few blogs and info sites on Thailand with (not always updated) info about upcoming events in the Bangkok area and tips on life in Thailand. Check the likes of www.bangkokrecorder.com and www.angloinfo.com. New Zealand writer Stickman (www.stickmanbangkok.com) posts a useful but cautionary "warts and all" guide to Thailand, though some info is way out of date.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.