About Thailand


The Kingdom of Thailand, to use its official name, sees an influx of 16 million visitors annually. Many of these visitors are tourists and backpackers hoping to explore a culture and natural surroundings very different to their own. Thailand offers up a whopping 3,219 kilometers of idyllic coastline, which gives the mainland, and the many surrounding smaller islands, the gift of pristine sands and endless blue shores. Inland, hundreds of temples and historic buildings steal the skyline.

Despite its major tourism industry, Thailand, a country which deftly avoided colonialism, holds much cultural integrity. While the major towns and cities bear inevitable signs of Western influence, beyond these urban centers, farming remains the typical lifestyle, with 40% of Thai people earning a living from their land, particularly from the exportation of rice (a market Thailand dominates).

Buddhism is also a huge influence on the culture of Thailand, with practicing Theravada Buddhists accounting for 85% of the population. This influence reveals itself in the ornate temple rooftops, the full calendar of annual Buddhist festivals and the beautifully robed monks that can be seen all over the country.

For a feel of urban Thai life, head to the capital city of Bangkok for many wild and exciting experiences. The street food here is as good as it gets, and culture can be found in the form of galleries, museums and temples around every vendor-laden corner. Choose to study in Thailand, and when exam time comes around, you’ll also thank Bangkok for its world-class Thai massage and relaxing meditation classes. Bangkok is also where the two highest ranked universities in Thailand are located: Mahidol University andChulalongkorn University, both among the top 50 universities in Asia according to the 2014 QS University Rankings: Asia.

If the hectic pace of life in the capital begins to take its toll, there are plenty of opportunities to take time out, perhaps by exploring the many islands off the coast, known for their stunning, beautiful beaches and jungles, with opportunities to dive, kayak, swim and snorkel. Of these islands, Phuket and Ko Chang are among the most developed, Ko Pah Ngan has the best reputation for partying, and Ko Si Chang, Ko Kood and Ko Mak all remain relatively peaceful.

Facts about Thailand

  • The population of Thailand is currently around 67 million, making it the 20th most populated country in the world.
  • The nation covers 513,115 square miles.
  • Thailand shares borders with Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia.
  • It has 1,430 islands, one of which, Koh Phi Phi, served as the backdrop to the movie The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
  • According to the Global Destinations Cities Index, Bangkok is the most visited city in the world.
  • Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia to never be colonized by a European nation.
  • Thailand boasts the world’s largest crocodile farm, the longest single-span suspension bridge, the tallest hotel and the biggest solid-gold Buddha statue.
  • 10% of the world’s animal species live in Thailand.
  • Thailand is the world’s number one exporter of rice, orchids and tin.
  • Just 100 years ago Thailand’s elephant population stood at 100,000; today there are about 5,000, less than half of which are found in the wild.
  • In Thailand you can be arrested for both criticizing the monarchy and leaving your house without underwear on.
  • Movies featuring Thailand include The Deer Hunter (1978), Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason(2004) and The Hangover Part II (2011).

Application process and visa information

To study in Thailand as an international student, you must get a student visa. Although many nationalities are able to enter the country without prearrangement on a 30-day tourist visa, if you are planning to study in Thailand for a semester or longer, you will need to apply for a 90-day non-immigrant education visa from your home country, which can be renewed and extended for up to a year at official immigration offices in Thailand.

To apply for the visa before leaving, you need to have gained acceptance onto a chosen program at an accredited Thai university. You will need to show your acceptance letter, along with the application form, a valid passport, passport photos, and evidence of sufficient finances (20,000 baht – US$360 – per person) to the Thai consulate or embassy in your home country on appointment. For further information on fees and how to apply, contact your local Thai embassy or consulate.

Tuition fees and living costs

Living in Thailand is remarkably cheap due to foreign currency exchanges and a modest standard of living. Those on a tight student budget will be able to live on 650 baht (US$20) a day, covering food, transport and accommodation. For those looking to do some travelling and exploring while undertaking study in Thailand, you will likely need to budget around 1500 baht (US$46) per day.

Bear in mind, however, that living costs vary wildly depending on whether you live close to a city center. One month’s rent in the city of Bangkok can cost as much as 14,000 baht (US$430), whereas living outside of the city will cost roughly half this amount, approximately 7,400 baht (US$230). If you choose to live with other students or in a shared apartment your expenditure will again be cut.

Food in Thailand is another inexpensive pleasure. A meal at a low-cost restaurant will come to approximately 60 baht (less than US$2) while a full-blown three course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will cost around 600 baht (US$18).

Travel and safety advice

Visitors to Thailand are advised to be level-headed when using the local transport, particularly when confronted with taxis and tuk tuks. Whether registered or not, many taxi drivers will attempt to get as much money from you as possible, so it’s imperative you arrive in the country with at least some knowledge of the average prices. Taxi fares normally begin at 35 baht (US$1) with an extra 6 baht per kilometer (18 US cents). If the meter is broken, as is often the case, make sure you negotiate a price before getting into the car. The journey from Bangkok Airport to the city center should cost just 350 baht (US$11) including tolls. You should never get into an unmarked taxi, regardless of the good deal the driver is offering!

Thailand’s red light districts are hotspots for crime, with a high risk of being robbed, scammed and even drugged. It is advised you avoid these areas completely if travelling alone, and, if you do visit, make sure not to carry anything of worth.

It’s also important to be aware of the large illegal drugs trade in Thailand. If caught in possession of any drug, including marijuana, you face being arrested and may have to pay a large bribe in order to avoid being jailed. If you are offered drugs, just say no.

If travelling further afield you should be aware that some parts of Thailand are off limits to foreigners due to terrorism and a troop presence in certain areas. However, as long as you do your research before embarking on a trip, this will not affect you.