Thailand - Accommodation

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Accommodation

Places to stay are abundant, varied and reasonably priced in Thailand.

However, a word of warning about touts: Don't believe them if they say a place is closed, full, dirty or crooked. Sometimes they're right but most times it's just a ruse to get you to a place that pays them more commission.

Fire

If you're concerned about hotel fire safety, always check the fire exits at Thai hotels to make sure they are open and functioning. In 1997 the 17-storey Royal Jomtien Resort in Pattaya burned down, taking with it the lives of 80 people. The hotel had no sprinkler system and the fire exits were chained shut. In the wake of the fire, regulations were supposedly tightened up around the country, but hotels in various locations still chain or otherwise block off fire exits - to keep guests from skipping the room bill and to block potential thieves.

National Park Camping & Accommodation Facilities

Thailand has 80 national parks and nine historical parks. All but 10 of the national parks have bungalows for rent that sleep as many 10 people for rates of Baht 500 to Baht 1,500, depending on the park and the size of the bungalow. During the low season you can often get a room in one of these park bungalows for as little as Baht 100 per person. A few of the historical parks have bungalows with rates comparable to those in the national parks, mostly for use by visiting archaeologists.

Camping is allowed in all but four of the national parks (Doi Suthep/Doi pui in Chiang Mai Province, Hat Jao Mai in Trang Province, Nam Tok Phliu in Chanthaburi Province and Thap Lan in Prachinburi Province) for only Baht 5 to baht 20 per person per night. Some parks have tents for rent at Baht 50 to Baht 100 a night, but always check the condition of the tents before agreeing to rent one. It's a good idea to take your own sleeping bag or mat, and other basic camping gear. You should also take a torch (flashlight), rain gear, insect repellent, a water container and a small medical kit. A few parks also have reuan thaew (longhouses) where rooms are around Baht 150 to Baht 200 for two people.

Advance bookings for accommodation are advisable at the more popular parks, especially on holidays and weekends. Most parks charge an entry fee to visit (Baht 20 for Thais, Baht 200 for foreigners, [10x skin-tax], half that for children 14 and under). Be sure to save your receipt for the duration of your stay. You may be asked by a ranger to show proof of having paid.

Go to our National Parks section for more information.

Temple Lodgings

If you are a Buddhist or can make a good show of it, you may be able to stay overnight in some temples for a small donation. Facilities are very basic though and early rising is expected. Temple lodgings are usually for men only, unless the wat has a place for laywomen to stay. Neat clean dress and a basic knowledge of Thai etiquette are mandatory. See Meditation Study In Thailandfor information on wat in Thailand that will accommodate long-term lay students.

Hostels

There is a Thai branch of Hostelling International (tel: +66[0]2282-0950, fax: +66[0]2628-7416), formerly International Youth Hostel Federation, at 25/2 Thanon Phitsanulok, Sisao Thewet, Dusit, Bangkok, 10300, with member hostels in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lopburi, and Phitsanulok. There have been others in Kanchanaburi, Koh Phi Phi and Nan but these seem to be closed. Thai youth hostels range in price from Baht 70 for a dorm bed to Baht 280/350 per air conditioned single/double room. Since 1992, only Hostelling International card holders have been accepted in Thai Hostels; membership costs Baht 300 per year or Baht 50 for a one-night membership.

University & School Accommodation

College and university campuses may be able to provide inexpensive accommodation during the summer vacation (March to June). There are universities in Chiang Mai, Phitsanulok, Nakhon Pathom, Khon Kaen, Maha Sarakham and Songkhla. There are also teacher colleges (withayaalai khruu) in every province capital that may offer summer vacation accommodation. The typical teachers' college dorm room lets for Baht 50 to Baht 60 per night.

Guesthouses

Guesthouses are generally the cheapest accommodation in Thailand and are found in most areas where travellers go in central, northern and southern Thailand; they are spreading slowly to the east and northeast as well. Guesthouses vary quite a bit in in terms of facilities on offer and are particularly popular in Bangkok and Chiang Mai where stiff competition keeps rates low. Some are especially good value, while others are mere flophouses. Many serve food, although there tends to be a bland sameness to meals in guesthouses wherever you are in Thailand.

YMCAs & YWCAs

YMCA or YWCA cost a bit more than a guesthouse or hostel and sometimes more than a local hotel, but they are generally good value. There are Y's in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

Resorts

In most countries 'resort' refers to hotels that offer substantial recreational facilities (e.g., tennis, golf, swimming, sailing etc.) in addition to accommodation and dining. In Thai hotel lingo, however, the term simply refers to any hotel that isn't located in an urban area. Hence a few thatched beach huts or a cluster of bungalows in a forest may be called a 'resort'. Several places in Thailand fully deserve the 'resort' title under any definition - but it will pay for you to look into the facilities before making a reservation.

Chinese-Thai Hotels

The standard Thai hotels, often run by Chinese-Thai families, are the easiest accommodation to come by and generally have very reasonable rates (average 150 Baht for rooms without bath or air conditioning, 180 to 250 Baht with fan and bath, 250 to 500 Baht with air conditioning). These may be located on the main street of the town or near bus and railway stations.

The most economical hotels to stay in are those without air conditioning; typical rooms are clean and include a double bed and a ceiling fan. Some have attached Thai-style bathrooms (this will cost a little more). Rates may or may not be posted; if not, they may be increased for farang, so it is worthwhile bargaining.

It is best to have a look around before agreeing to check in, to make sure the room is clean, that the fan and lights work, etc. If there is any problem request another room or a good discount. If possible, always choose a room off the street and away from the front lounge to cut down on ambient noise.

For a room without air conditioning, ask for a hawng thammadaa (ordinary room) or hawng phat lom (room with fan). A room with air conditioning is hawng ae. Sometimes farang asking for air conditioning are automatically offered a 'VIP' room, which usually comes with air conditioning, hot water, fridge and TV and is about twice the price of a regular air conditioned room.

Some Thai-Chinese hotels may double as brothels; the perpetual traffic in and out can be a bit noisy but is generally bearable. Unaccompanied males are often asked if they want female companionship when checking into inexpensive hotels. Even certain middle-class (by Thai standards) hotels are reserved for the 'salesman' crowd, meaning travelling Thai businessmen, who frequently expect extra night-time services. Foreign women are usually left alone.

The cheapest hotels may have names posted in Thai and Chinese only, but with experience you will be able to identify them. Many of these hotels have restaurants downstairs; if they don't, there are usually restaurants and noodle shops nearby.

Tourist Class, Business & Luxury Hotels

These are found only in the main tourist destinations: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Hat Yai, Kanchanaburi, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Phuket, Songkhla and a sprinkling of large provincial capitals such as Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat), Phitsanulok, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani and Yala. Prices start at around 600 Baht outside Bangkok and Chiang Mai and proceed to 2,000 Baht or more - genuine-tourist class hotels in Bangkok start at 1,00 Baht or so and go to 2,500 Baht for standard rooms, and up to 5,000 or 10,000 Baht for a suite. The Oriental in Bangkok, rated as the number one hotel in the world by several executive travel publications, starts at US$292 for a standard double or US$444 and up for a suite (tax and service included). These will all have air conditioning, TV, western-style showers and baths, toilets, IDD phones and restaurants. Added to room charges will be an 7% government tax (VAT), and most of these hotels will include an additional service charge of 8% to 10%.

In addition to the international hotel chains of Accor, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Hyatt, Sheraton and Westin, Thailand has several respectable home-grown chains, including Amari, Dusit and Royal Garden.

Discounts

Discounts of 30% to 50% for hotels costing Baht 1,000 or more per night can easily be obtained through many Thai travel agencies. Several top-end hotels offer discounts of up to 60% for reservations made via the internet. In the arrivals hall of both the international and domestic terminals at bangkok Airport, the Thai Hotels Association (THA) desk can also arrange discounts. If you are holding Thai International Airways (THAI) tickets, or flew in with THAI, the airlines can arrange substantial discounts.

Bathing in Thailand

Upcountry the typical Thai bathroom consists of a tall earthen water jar fed by a spigot and a plastic or metal bowl. You bathe by scooping water out of the water jar and sluicing it over the body. It's very refreshing during the hot and rainy seasons, but takes a little stamina during the cool season if you're not used to it. If the 'bathroom' has no walls, or if you are bathing at a public well or spring in an area where there are no bathrooms, you should bathe while wearing the phaakhamaa or phaasin; bathing nude would offend the Thais.


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