Destination Information

Flying time 9 hours 45 min.
Time CET +4 hours (+3 hours during European Summer Time)
Capital city Malé
Population 328'536
Language Dhivehi
Currency Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR). 100 MVR = approx. EUR 4.97
Entry requirements A valid passport (with a validity of at least 6 months). A 30 days Tourist Visa is issued on arrival in the Maldives. Visa extension for up to 90 days is possible for a fee.
Health There are no special vaccinations required. The Maldives are malaria-free. Please discuss your planned trip with your family physician or visit www.safetravel.ch.
Safety

The Maldives are in a political transition phase. After the political crisis in February 2012 there are repeated demonstrations with violent conflicts in the capital Malé. The airport island is usually not affected by unrest.

Inform yourself on the development of the situation in the media before and during your journey. Avoid demonstrations and large crowds. For current travel references visit www.eda.admin.ch/reisehinweise.

Climate

The Maldives are tropical, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 30°C throughout the year. However, rainfall increases considerably during the April-October southwest monsoon, particularly from June to August.

Malé, Maldives Monthly Weather Chart

Culture

Maldivians are almost entirely Sunni Muslim, and the local culture is a mixture of South Indian, Sinhalese and Arab influences. While alcohol, pork, dogs and public observance of non-Muslim religions are banned on the inhabited islands, the resort islands are allowed to exist in a bubble where anything goes.

Note that the weekend in the Maldives runs from Friday to Saturday, during which banks, government offices and many shops are closed. You won't notice this at the resorts though, except that lunch hours may be shifted for Friday prayers.

Highlights

There’s a lot of atmosphere, a lot of activity and a lot of colour in Malé, the mini-capital of about 87,000 people, but other sightseeing is strictly limited.

Along the waterfront administrative buildings. Pursue this road far enough and you arrive at a fascinating dhoni harbour. Here, on the primitive, beautifully-shaped boats, it’s all go, with bunches of bananas being carried aboard, thatched roofs under repair and all the Maldivian necessities of life coming and going. Nearby is an open space where the inhabitants of outlying atolls come to sell firewood or other goods.

One of the city’s most fascinating sights is the fish market, along the waterfront. The atmosphere is as rich as the aroma, and the product for sale on its slithery tiles is a central feature of Maldivian life. It’s best to arrive after 3 p.m., when the fishing dhonis fill the harbour and the day’s catch of tuna, bonito and swordfish are rushed into market to be expertly gutted and cleaned. Prices are vigorously haggled over, and buyers can be seen heading off on mopeds or pushbikes clutching handfuls of fat fish by the tail.

The Islamic Centre, incorporating the Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu Mosque, is Malé’s most outstanding architectural flourish. The mosque’s beautifully proportioned golden dome, made from treated aluminium, gives the city skyline a certain distinction; it can be seen from as far as Bandos Island, 10 km (6 miles) away. The slim, three-tiered minaret sports grey and white chevrons and is topped with a gold dome.

A short distance from the Islamic Centre is Sultan Park, created from the palace grounds after the palace was destroyed in 1968 following the establishment of the Second Republic. It is a lovingly tended oasis of calm in the bustle of the modern capital, with lily ponds, exotic plants, and palm and banyan trees giving plenty of shade.

To brush up on Maldivian history, visit the 3-storey National Museum within the park. The collection focuses on the lives of the sultans over the last few centuries, from threadbare thrones, luxurious palanquins and sedan chairs to embroidered coats, sultanate umbrellas and other minutiae of royal life. Alongside these is a jumble of items including four pieces of moonrock and a small Maldivian flag taken on the first manned flight to the moon in 1969. But the most important displays are the architectural finds from temples uncovered on the outer islands, such as a pre-Islamic Buddha’s head carved in coral and sandstone.

The Friday Mosque has an unusual frontage with an older structure behind it. The two nearby cemeteries are impressive for the severity of the headstones and the grace of the exquisitely carved inscriptions.Visitors usually end up shopping at the Singapore Bazaar, where Chaandhanee Magu meets Orchid Magu. You’ll be enticed into boutiques where polite locals offer island handicrafts. Learn how to dodge the bicycles—the only real hazard in downtown Malé.

Try to pay a visit to the ?shing villages, still authentic in spite of increasing tourism. Photographers can hardly tear themselves away, even to those glorious unpolluted beaches.

The resort islands do not differ greatly, except in shape: whichever one you choose will have superb, palm-fringed, ?ne sand beaches. Accommodation is usually in thatched-roof bungalows, sometimes built over the water, with facilities varying from simple to luxurious. Each resort is a self-contained community with sport and leisure facilities, restaurants, shops, sometimes entertainment such as a disco, and generally its own private reef. Scores of uninhabited isles have been developed as resorts. Most of these can be found in Malé (Kaafu) Atoll, also in Vaavu, Baa, Lhaviyani and Alifu (Ari) Atoll.

Under the sea are wonders which more than make up for the lack of land monuments. Bandos is the most reputed for submarine life, among the finest in the Indian Ocean (some say the world). It also has the best diving equipment including decompression chambers.

However, there are dozens of other places where you can watch tropical fish pursue their own mesmeric existence. You can take your ease in an underwater grotto and observe this other world going about its mysterious business, weaving skeins of colour through a translucent sea. To protect it, spear-?shing is strictly prohibited. Shark accidents are unknown but—sharks there are. It’s common sense not to go down alone. In any case, a diver’s certificate is recommended, as well as a medical certificate, if you want to join one of the diving centres.

Shopping

In Malé you’ll see plenty of street merchants selling beautiful Maldivian postage stamps. Those ragged dentures suspended outside gift shops are sharks’ jaws. Attractive T-shirts are stencilled before your eyes, generally with brilliantly coloured tropical fish.

The islanders are expert in carving coconut wood and use it to decorate their houses. Mat-weaving, basket-making and coir rope-making are other long-standing crafts. Mats are woven from haa grass. There is some highly developed lacquerwork and you may see examples of handloom weaving or jewellery handcrafted in gold and mother of pearl.

Eating
  • Fish is abundant, as are coconuts — used as a cooking ingredient, in mixed drinks or a refresher straight from the nut.
  • Maldivians eat ?sh for every meal — even breakfast. The local catch is mostly tuna, bonito and skipjack.
  • Some sweet potatoes, yams and manioc are grown, but the only cereal crops are maize, millet and sorghum. Onions and chillis spice things up.
  • There's little in the way of fruit, but you’ll see breadfruit and three kinds of banana.
  • This limited range of produce puts a strain on Maldivians catering for European tastes. If you ?nd yourself noticing the absence of things you are used to, comfort yourself with the thought that everything grown on the islands is free of fertiliser.
  • Imported foodstuffs swell the hotel larders, the cooking is basically international and the standard is going up all the time, even if on some islands it's still rather modest.
Electricity 220V/50Hz (European or British plugs)
Further information www.wikipedia/maldives
www.wikitravel/maldives
Flying time 14 hours
Time CET +7 hours (+6 hours during European Summer Time)
Population 3'891'428
Language Indonesian, plus a range of regional languages.
Currency Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). 10'000 IDR = approx. EUR 0.81
Entry requirements A valid passport (with a validity of at least 6 months). A 30 days Tourist Visa is issued on arrival in Bali for a fee of USD 25.- payable in cash.
Embassy

Indonesian Embassy
Elfenauweg 51
CH-3006 Bern
Phone: +41-31-352 0983/84
Fax: +41-31-351 6765
Email: info@indonesia-bern.org
Web: www.indonesia-bern.org/indonesia-bern/index.php

Health There are no special vaccinations required for Bali. The tourist areas are malaria-free. Please discuss your planned trip with your family physician or visit www.safetravel.ch.
Safety Bali is considered to be a safe travel destination. For current travel references visit www.eda.admin.ch/reisehinweise.
Climate Bali enjoys high temperatures all year round.
  • Rainy seasons are from January to March and November to December, when it's often cloudy and temperatures stay at around 30°C. There's lush vegetation and less tourist traffic, making these ideal times for touring.
  • April to December is dry and warm, with temperatures of 30°C.

Djimbaran, Bali Monthly Weather Chart

Good to know

Bali is one of more than 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and is located just over 2 kilometres from the eastern tip of the island of Java and west of the island of Lombok. The island, home to about 4 million people, is approximately 144 kilometres from east to west and 80 kilometres north to south.

The word "paradise" is used a lot in Bali and not without reason. The combination of friendly, hospitable people, a magnificently visual culture infused with spirituality and (not least) spectacular beaches with great surfing and diving have made Bali Indonesia's unrivaled number one tourist attraction. Eighty percent of international visitors to Indonesia visit Bali and Bali alone.

The popularity is not without its flip sides—once paradisiacal Kuta has degenerated into a congested warren of concrete, touts and scammers extracting a living by overcharging tourists. The island's visibility has also drawn the unwanted attention of terrorists in 2002 and 2005; however Bali has managed to retain its magic. Bali is a wonderful destination with something for everyone, and though heavily travelled, it is still easy to find some peace and quiet, if you like.

A consideration is the tourist season and Bali can get very crowded in July and August and again at Christmas and New Year. Australians also visit during school holidays in early April, late June and late September, while domestic tourists from elsewhere in Indonesia visit during national holidays. Outside these peak seasons, Bali can be surprisingly quiet and good discounts on accommodation are often available.

Culture

Unlike any other island in largely Muslim Indonesia, Bali is a pocket of Hindu religion and culture. Every aspect of Balinese life is suffused with religion, but the most visible signs are the tiny offerings (canang sari, or sesajen) found in every Balinese house, work place, restaurant, souvenir stall and airport check-in desk. These leaf trays are made daily and can contain an enormous range of offering items: flowers, glutinous rice, cookies, salt, and even cigarettes and coffee! They are set out with burning incense sticks and sprinkled with holy water no less than three times a day, before every meal. Don't worry if you step on one, as they are placed on the ground for this very purpose and will be swept away anyway (But you better not stepping one on purpose, because - as Balinese belive - it'll give you bad luck!).

Balinese Hinduism diverged from the mainstream well over 500 years ago and is quite radically different from what you would see in India. The primary deity is Sanghyang Widi Wasa (Acintya), the "all-in-one god" for which other gods like Vishnu (Wisnu) and Shiva (Civa) are merely manifestations, and instead of being shown directly, he is depicted by an empty throne wrapped in the distinctive poleng black-and-white chessboard pattern and protected by a ceremonial tedung umbrella.

The Balinese are master sculptors, and temples and courtyards are replete with statues of gods and goddesses like Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice and fertility, as well as guardians and protecting demons like toothy Rakasa, armed with a club. These days, though, entire villages like Batubulan have twigged onto the tourist potential and churn out everything imaginable from Buddhas to couples entwined in acrobatic poses for the export market.

Balinese dance and music are also justly famous and a major attraction for visitors to the island. As on neighbouring Java, the gamelan orchestra and wayang kulit shadow puppet theatre predominate. Dances are extremely visual and dramatic, and the most famous include:

  • Barong or "lion dance" — a ritual dance depicting the fight between good and evil, with performers wearing fearsome lion-like masks. This dance is often staged specifically for tourists as it is one of the most visually spectacular and the storyline is relatively easy to follow. Barong dance performances are not hard to find.
  • Calonarang — a spectacular dance which is a tale of combating dark magic and exorcising the evil spirits aligned with the witch-queen Rangda. The story has many variations and rarely are two calonarang plays the same. If you can find an authentic Calonarang performance, then you are in for a truly magical experience.
  • Kecak or "monkey dance" — actually invented in the 1930s by resident German artist Walter Spies for a movie but a spectacle nonetheless, with up to 250 dancers in concentric circles chanting "kecak kecak", while a performer in the centre acts out a spiritual dance. An especially popular Kecak dance performance is staged daily at Uluwatu Temple.
  • Legong Keraton — perhaps the most famous and feted of all Balinese dances. Performed by young girls, this is a dance of divine nymphs hailing from 12th century Java. Try to find an authentic Legong Keraton with a full-length performance. The short dance performances often found in tourist restaurants and hotels are usually extracts from the Legong Keraton.
Highlights

Denpasar
This is Bali’s capital city. Head to Jalan Gajah Mada for shops, banks and restaurants and make a morning trip to the central market, Pasar Badung, to experience the bustle, the colour, and the smells.

Puputan Square
This square in Denpasar is named after the 1906 'night to the death' of the rajas against the Dutch militia. It features a large statue of a four-faced Hindu god that blesses each direction.

Kuta
This beach resort was embraced by surfers in the 1960s, and boasts a noisy nightlife scene centred around bars and discos. If swimming here, beware of the undertow.

Jimbaran
This once sleepy village has become one of the island’s best resorts, and is famous for its spectacular sunsets.

Nusa Dua
Located on the east coast of the Bukit peninsula, this resort's white-sand beaches and clear waters are perfect for watersports.

Sanur
Just south-east of Denpasar, this is a popular tourist spot where the first modern hotel, the 10-storey Bali Beach, was built in the 1960s. The beach is pleasant, but the sea inside the reef is only deep enough for swimming at high tide.

Besakih
This is Bali's holiest temple, on the slopes of Gunung Agung.

Tanah Lot
This temple sits on a rock in the sea off Bali's west coast.

Jatiluwih
A charming village with a fantastic view of rice terraces.

Kintamani
This is the starting point for ascents to the volcano Gunung Batur.

Festivals

There are an estimated 20,000 temples (pura) on the island, each of which holds festivals (odalan) at least twice yearly. With many other auspicious days throughout the year there are always festivities going on.

The large island-wide festivals are determined by two local calendars. The 210 day wuku or Pawukon calendar is completely out of sync with the western calendar, meaning that it rotates wildly throughout the year. The lunar saka (caka) calendar roughly follows the western year.

  • Funerals (pitra yadnya) are another occasion of pomp and ceremony, when the deceased (often several at a time) are ritually cremated in extravagantly colorful rituals (ngaben).
  • Galungan is a 10 day festival which comes around every 210 days and celebrates the death of the tyrant Mayadenawa. Gods and ancestors visit earth and are greeted with gift-laden bamboo poles called penjor lining the streets. The last day of the festival is known as Kuningan.
  • Nyepi, or the Hindu New Year, also known as the day of absolute silence, is usually in March or April. If you are in Bali in the days preceding Nyepi, you will see amazing colorful giants (ogoh ogoh) being created by every banjar. On the eve of Nyepi, the ogoh ogoh are paraded through the streets, an amazing sight which is not to be missed. There are good reasons to avoid Nyepi as well, but for many visitors these will be outweighed by the privilege of experiencing such a unique festival. On Nyepi absolutely everything on the island is shut down between 6am on the day of the new year and 6am the following morning. Tourists are confined to their hotels and asked to be as quiet as possible for the day. After dark, light must be kept to a bare minimum. No one is allowed onto the beaches or streets. The only exceptions granted are for real emergency cases. The airport remains closed for the entire day, which means no flights into or out of Bali for 24 hr. Ferry harbours are closed as well. As the precise date of Nyepi changes every year, and isn’t finally set until later in the year before, flights will be booked by airlines for this day in case you book early. When the date is set, and as it gets closer, the airlines will alter their bookings accordingly. This may mean that you have to alter your accommodation bookings if your flight has been bought forward or back to cater for Nyepi day.

All national public holidays in Indonesia apply in Bali, although Ramadan is naturally a much smaller event here than in the country's Muslim regions.

Eating
  • 'Warungs' are small food stalls, visited mainly by locals. They tend to serve a small selection of fresh, cheap and authentic cuisine.
  • 'Rumah Makan' are small restaurants that serve traditional Balinese cuisine.
  • Tourist areas feature both local specialties and a big selection of Western dishes.
  • In Jimbaran, feast on freshly caught fish grilled over coconut in the beachfront restaurants.
  • Kuta, Legian and Sanur are home to a range of eateries, from street food to upscale restaurants.
Museums

Bali Museum
Located in Denpasar's Puputan Square, this museum displays the island’s heritage from prehistoric times to the early 20th century. Look out for the jewelled 15th-century examples of the kris, and the model of a Balinese cremation ceremony.

Le Mayeur Museum
This museum was the home of a Belgian artist who came to Bali in 1932 and stayed. His paintings cover the walls, many of them celebrating the beauty of Balinese women, including the legong dancer Ni Pollok who became his wife.

Electricity

Electricity is supplied at 220V 50Hz. Outlets are the European standard CEE-7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko" or the compatible, but non-grounded, CEE-7/16 "Europlug" types.

Further information www.wikipedia/bali
www.wikitravel/bali
Flying time 11 hours 45 min.
Time CET +7 hours (+6 hours during European Summer Time)
Population 7'061'200
Language English and Chinese are the official languages, but Cantonese is the more widely-spoken dialect. Not all people speak English, so ask a member of staff to write down the name of your hotel in Chinese in case of any difficulties.
Currency Hong Kong Dollar (HKD). 1 HKD = approx. EUR 0.10
Entry requirements A valid passport (with a validity of at least 6 months). No Tourist Visa is required for stays up to 90 days.
Consulate Consulate-General of the P. R. China
Bellariastrasse 20
CH-8002 Zurich
Phone: +41-44-2011005
Fax: +41-44-2017712
Email: chinaconsul_zu_ch@mfa.gov.cn
Web: http://zurich.chineseconsulate.org
Health There are no special vaccinations required for Hong Kong. One common cause of sickness is the extreme temperature change between 35°C humid summer weather outdoors and 18°C air-conditioned buildings and shopping malls. You are recommended to carry a sweater even in the summer-time. Please discuss your planned trip with your family physician or visit www.safetravel.ch.
Safety Hong Kong is considered to be a safe travel destination. For current travel references visit www.eda.admin.ch/reisehinweise.
Climate

The time between October to December has the least rainfall, less chance of a typhoon (almost non-existence after October), less humid and more sunshine.

Hong Kong Monthly Weather Chart

Good to know

While legally part of China, Hong Kong is secluded from mainland China as a dependency with a high degree of autonomy. Within the PRC, the former colony has its own constitution which lays out its own laws, separate immigration controls, financial system and is officially bi-lingual (Cantonese and English). It also enjoys western-style freedoms unheard of on the Chinese mainland. The ideals of a free and open society are firmly rooted here.

Culture

The majority of Hong Kong's population are Han Chinese (95%), mostly of Cantonese ancestry, though there are also sizeable numbers of other Chinese groups such as Chiuchao (Teochews), Shanghainese and Hakkas. A significant number of Indian, Pakistani and Nepalese live here too, and many have families that have lived in Hong Kong for several generations.

The largest groups of recent, non-Chinese immigrants are Filipinos, Indonesians and Thais, of which most are employed as domestic helpers. On Sundays, being the free day of these domestic workers, they congregate in their thousands - mostly Filipinas - in Central and Admiralty and spend the day there together, sitting talking, eating and drinking wherever there is free room. Lately whole streets have been blocked off for them.

The territory is also home to a significant number of people hailing from Australia, Europe, Japan and North America, making it a truly international metropolis.

Events

During Chinese New Year, there are some extra celebratory events such as lion dances, fireworks, and parades, and many shops and restaurants are still open. The official public holiday lasts three days.

Culture lovers will be able to feast on a multitude of cultural activities from February to April. The Hong Kong Arts Festival, a month-long festival of international performances, is held in February and March. The Man Literary Festival, a two-week English language festival with international writers as guests, is held in March. The Hong Kong International Film Festival, a three-week event, is held in late March to early April.

Rugby fans, and those wishing to party, should come during the weekend of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens. This annual event brings many visitors in from around the world to celebrate the most entertaining installment in the IRB Sevens Series. It is a giant three day sellout event that takes place between the last days of March and beginning of April.

There is a second round of cultural activities in the autumn lasting till the end of the year.

Christmas is also a nice time to visit as many stores and shopping centres are nicely decorated, and the festive mood is apparent across downtown areas of the city. Major buildings facing the harbour are decorated in christmas lights to add to the festive spirit.

As Hong Kong is a very crowded place, this is especially so during holiday seasons. Visitors should note that it could be very difficult to find a table in a restaurant during public holidays.

Shopping The best buy is clothing - tailors can make something in 24 hours but the longer you give them, the better quality the work. Browse bargain clothes in factory outlets, Chinese stores and markets, and designer labels in high fashion stores. For added protection, stick to shops displaying the HKTA’s red-and-white logo.
Eating Hong Kong is the 'World’s Great Dining Capital', where you'll find an incredible range of Asian and western cuisines from Cantonese and Szechuan to French, Italian and even McDonalds. Apparently if you were to eat out three times a day, seven days a week, it would take about five years to try each restaurant.
Tipping A 10% service charge is usually added to the bill. If the service has been good, add a little extra. Tip hotel porters 10 HKD for 2 bags. Taxi drivers expect at least 10%.
Electricity For its electrical sockets, Hong Kong uses the British three-pin rectangular blade plug. Additionally, some hotels will have a bathroom with a parallel three-pin outlet which is designed for use with electric shavers, but might be used to re-charge a phone or rechargeable batteries. Electricity is 220 Volts at 50 Hertz. Most electronic stores will have cheap adapters that will allow foreign plugs to fit into British sockets, but be aware that these will not convert voltage or frequency.
Further information www.wikipedia/hong kong
www.wikitravel/hong kong
Flying time 12 hours 30 min.
Time CET +7 hours (+6 hours during European Summer Time)
Capital city Kuala Lumpur
Population 28,000,000
Language Bahasa Malaysia and English
Currency Malaysian Ringgit (MYR). 1 MYR = approx. EUR 0.25
Entry requirements A valid passport (with a validity of at least 6 months). No Tourist Visa required for stays up to 3 months. The Federal State of Sarawak (Borneo) issues separate Tourist Visa on entering the state expiring after 30 days.
Embassy Malaysian Embassy
Jungfraustrasse 1
CH-3005 Berne
Phone: +41.31.350.4700
Fax: +41.31.350.4702
Email: malberne@kln.gov.my
Web: www.kln.gov.my/perwakilan/berne
Health There are no special vaccinations required for Malaysia. Peninsular Malaysia is largely malaria-free, but there is a significant risk in Borneo especially in inland and rural areas. Dengue fever occurs throughout Malaysia in both urban and rural areas, and can be avoided only by preventing mosquito bites. Haze from burning vegetation in neighbouring Indonesia may come and go without warning from the months of May to August so travellers with respiratory ailments should come prepared. Please discuss your planned trip with your family physician or visit www.safetravel.ch.
Safety Malaysia is considered to be a safe travel destination. For current travel references visit www.eda.admin.ch/reisehinweise. Malaysia treats drug offenses extremely severely.
Climate

Malaysia experiences a tropical climate year round, but weather conditions can be very different between East and West.

The capital Kuala Lumpur has warm temperatures year round, and is driest June-August.The West coast beach resorts of Penang and Langkawi are best experienced from December-April.

Borneo will be hot and sunny year round and tends to have higher rainfall between November and January.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Monthly Weather Chart

Batu Ferringhi Beach, Penang, Malaysia Monthly Weather Chart

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Monthly Weather Chart

Good to know Malaysia is a mix of the modern world and a developing nation. With its investment in the high technology industries and moderate oil wealth, it has become a rich nation in Southeast Asia. Malaysia, for most visitors, presents a happy mix: there is high-tech infrastructure and things generally work well and more or less on schedule.
Culture Malaysia is a multicultural society. While Malays make up a 52% majority, there are also 27% Chinese (especially visible in the cities), 9% Indian and a miscellaneous grouping of 13.5% "others", such as the Portuguese clan in Melaka and 12% of indigenous peoples (Orang Asli). There is hence also a profusion of faiths and religions, with Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sikhism and even shamanism on the map.
Events
  • KL Festival 01-31 Jul: Enjoy traditional performances, visual arts and literature events entertain locals and tourists for a month.
  • Independence Day 31 Aug: A celebration with fireworks throughout the country to commemorate the granting of Malaysian independence.
  • Deepavali 26 Oct: Also known as the Festival of Lights, when the country’s Hindu population lights earthern diyas to symbolise the victory of good over evil.
Electricity 230V/50Hz
Further information www.wikipedia/malaysia
www.wikitravel/malaysia
Flying time 12 hours 45 min.
Time CET +7 hours (+6 hours during European Summer Time)
Population 5'183'700
Language English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil.
Currency Singapore-Dollar (SGD). 1 SGD = approx. EUR 0.63
Entry requirements A valid passport (with a validity of at least 6 months). No Tourist Visa is required for stays up to 4 weeks.
Consulate Singaporean Consulate
Avenue du Pailly 10
CH-1219 Chatelaine
Phone: +41-(0)22-795.01.01
Fax: +41-(0)22-796.83.81
Email: singpm_gva@sgmfa.gov.sg
Web: http://www.mfa.gov.sg/geneva
Health There are no special vaccinations required. Singapore is malaria-free. Dengue fever occurs and can be avoided only by preventing mosquito bites. Please discuss your planned trip with your family physician or visit www.safetravel.ch.
Safety Singapore is considered to be a safe travel destination. For current travel references visit www.eda.admin.ch/reisehinweise. Singapore treats drug offenses extremely severely.
Climate

As Singapore is located a mere 1.5 degrees north of the Equator, its weather is usually sunny with no distinct seasons. Rain falls almost daily throughout the year, usually in sudden, heavy showers that rarely last longer than an hour. However, most rainfall occurs during the northeast monsoon (November to January), occasionally featuring lengthy spells of continuous rain. Spectacular thunderstorms can occur throughout the year, any time during the day, so it's wise to carry an umbrella at all times, both as a shade from the sun or cover from the rain.

Singapore Monthly Weather Chart

Good to know

Singapore is a microcosm of Asia, populated by Chinese, Malays, Indians, and a large group of workers and expatriates from all across the globe. Singapore has a partly deserved reputation for sterile predictability but if you scratch below the squeaky clean surface and get away from the tourist trail you'll soon find more than meets the eye.

Singaporean food is legendary, with bustling hawker centres and 24-hour coffee shops offering cheap food from all parts of Asia, and shoppers can bust their baggage allowances in shopping meccas like Orchard Road and Suntec City. In recent years some societal restrictions have also loosened up, and now you can bungee jump and dance on bartops all night long, although alcohol is still very pricey and chewing gum can only be bought from a pharmacy. Two casino complexes — or "Integrated Resorts", to use the Singaporean euphemism — opened in 2010 in Sentosa and Marina Bay as part of Singapore's new Fun and Entertainment drive, the aim being to double the number of tourists visiting and increasing the length of time they stay within the country. Watch out for more loosening up in the future.

Culture

Singapore prides itself on being a multi-racial country, and has a diverse culture despite its small size. The largest group are the Chinese, who form about 75% of the population. Amongst the Chinese, Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese speakers are the largest subgroups, with Mandarin acting as the lingua franca of the community. Other notable "dialect" groups among the Chinese include the Hakkas, Hainanese and Foochows. The Malays, who are comprised of descendants of Singapore's original inhabitants as well as migrants from present day Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, form about 14% of the population, while Indians form about 9% of the population. Among the Indians, Tamils form the largest group by far, though there are also a significant numbers of speakers of other Indian languages such as Hindi, Malayalam and Punjabi. The remainder are a mix of many other cultures, most notably the Eurasians who are of mixed European and Asian descent, and also a handful of Filipinos, Burmese, Japanese, Thais and many others. Slightly over one-third of Singapore's residents are not citizens.

Singapore is also religiously diverse, with no religious group forming a majority. Religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution of Singapore. Buddhism is the largest religion with about 33% of the population declaring themselves Buddhist. Other religions which exist in significant numbers include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Taoism. In addition to the "big five", there are also much smaller numbers of Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Jews, Baha'is and Jains. Some 17% of Singaporeans profess to have no religious affiliation.

Electricity

Singapore uses the British BS1363 three-pin rectangular socket (230V/50Hz). Plug adaptors are available at any hardware store.

Further information www.wikipedia/singapore
www.wikitravel/singapore
Flying time 11 hours 30 min.
Time CET +6 hours (+5 hours during European Summer Time)
Capital city Bangkok
Population 66'720'153
Language Thai. English is widely spoken at beach resorts.
Currency Thai-Baht (THB). 100 THB = approx. EUR 2.49
Entry requirements A valid passport (with a validity of at least 6 months). No Tourist Visa is required for stays up to 30 days.
Consulate Thailand Consulate
Löwenstrasse 42
CH-8001 Zürich
Phone: +41 (0) 43 344 7000
Fax: +41 (0) 43 344 7001
Email: info@thai-consulate.ch
Web: http://www.thai-consulate.ch/
Health There are no special vaccinations required for Thailand. The tourist areas are malaria-free. Dengue fever occurs throughout Thailand in both urban and rural areas, and can be avoided only by preventing mosquito bites. Please discuss your planned trip with your family physician or visit www.safetravel.ch.
Safety

The political situation in Thailand is not stable. Strikes, demonstrations, violent conflicts, attacks and acts of sabotage are possible.

Inform yourself on the development of the situation in the media before and during your journey. Avoid demonstrations and large crowds. For current travel references visit www.eda.admin.ch/reisehinweise.

Climate

 

Chiang Mai, Thailand Monthly Weather Chart

Hua Hin, Thailand Monthly Weather Chart

Phuket, Thailand Monthly Weather Chart

 

Good to know

Thailand is the country in Southeast Asia with the most tourists, and for a reason. You can find almost anything here: thick jungle as green as can be, crystal blue waters that feel more like a warm bath than a swim in the ocean and food that can curl your nose hairs while tap dancing across your taste buds. Exotic, yet safe; cheap, yet equipped with every modern amenity you need, there is something for every interest and every price bracket, from beach front backpacker bungalows to some of the best luxury hotels in the world. And despite the heavy flow of tourism, Thailand retains its quintessential Thai-ness, with a culture and history all its own and a carefree people famed for their smiles and their fun-seeking sanuk lifestyle. Many travelers come to Thailand and extend their stay well beyond their original plans and others never find a reason to leave. Whatever your cup of tea is, they know how to make it in Thailand.

Culture

Mainland Thai culture is heavily influenced by Buddhism. However, unlike the Buddhist countries of East Asia, Thailand's Buddhists follow the Therevada school, which is arguably closer to its Indian roots and places a heavier emphasis on monasticism. Thai temples known as wats, resplendent with gold and easily identifiable with their ornate, multicolored, pointy roofs are ubiquitous and becoming an orange-robed monk for a short period, typically the three-month rainy season, is a common rite of passage for young Thai boys and men.

One pre-Buddhist tradition that still survives is the spirit house (saan phraphuum), usually found at the corner of any house or business, which houses spirits so they don't enter the house and cause trouble. The grander the building, the larger the spirit house, and buildings placed in particularly unlucky spots may have very large ones. Perhaps the most famous spirit house in Thailand is the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, which protects the Erawan Hotel (now the Grand Hyatt Erawan) - built in 1956 on a former execution ground - and is now one of the busiest and most popular shrines in the city.

Some traditional arts popular in Thailand include traditional Thai dancing and music, based on religious rituals and court entertainment. Famously brutal Thai boxing (muay Thai), derived from the military training of Thai warriors, is undoubtedly the country's best known indigenous sport.

In addition to the mainland Thai culture, there are many other cultures in Thailand including those of the "hill tribes" in the northern mountainous regions of Thailand (e.g., Hmong, Karen, Lisu, Lahu, Akha), the southern Muslims, and indigenous island peoples of the Andaman Sea.

Events
  • April: Songkran traditional New Year celebrations, countrywide.
  • June, September to October: International Festival of Dance & Music, Bangkok.
  • December: Celebration of the King.
Shopping

From amethysts to zircons, antiques to toy zebras, you can shop for anything in Thailand. Stick to local products, and ignore touts as they get commission from shop owners.

Haggling

  • Almost everything is haggled for in Thailand, except in big department stores where prices are fixed.
  • Be relaxed and cheerful, never seeming anxious to close a deal. If the price is too high, don't scowl - just smile or laugh at the ridiculous suggestion.

Silk

  • Thailand's famous silk is long-lasting and well worth buying, from delicate blouses to heavy bedspreads.
  • For a solid bargain you can have silk and other fabrics custom tailored within 24 hours, but it's better to allow several days.

Gems

  • Bangkok claims to be the world’s top gem-cutting centre. Rubies and sapphires are indigenous to Thailand, while jade is imported from Burma.
  • Find a shop displaying the TAT (Tourist Authority of Thailand) emblem.

Antiques

  • Collectors can find pieces from Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, China and Laos at Thieves Market or in smart shops, but you’ll need an official export permit to take them home.
  • Whatever you're told, remember it's forbidden to take any Buddha image out of Thailand - not just an antique one.
  • Beware of Thailand’s dubious reputation as Asia's counterfeit capital. A safer alternative is Thai artwork.

Bronze

  • Bronze-work is a Thai tradition, now used for rust-free tableware as well as lamps, bells, candelabra and statues.
  • Haggle for animal-shaped gold and black lacquerware boxes, or multi-coloured bowls and plates.

Other products

  • Bargain for teak carved salad bowls and picture frames.
  • Pottery products include cooking pots and elegant figurines. For centuries, northern artisans have used special wood to fire the kilns for celadon - porcelain baked to a grey-green glaze.
  • Children will love dolls of Thai dancers, animal figures and kites.

North Thailand is a great place to buy handicrafts, from tribal relics to the latest fashions, thanks to the distinctive fabrics and jewellery of the hill tribes.  

  • Head to Chiang Mai, or get closer to the artisans in smaller towns.
  • The 'umbrella' village of Bo Sang is a wonder of rainbow-coloured, hand-made parasols.
  • San Kamphaeng produces lovely silk.
  • All along the 13km 'Artisans’ Road' from Chiang Mai to San Kamphaeng, you'll find shops selling silverware, lacquerware, wood carvings and silk.
Eating

Food

  • The Thai philosophy is 'eat when you’re hungry', and street stalls offer spicy, healthy food. Some restaurants cater to tourists, but street food is the real thing.
  • Rice and noodle dishes include kao pad (fried rice with meat chunks) and mee grob (sweet-and-sour crisp-fried rice noodles with shrimp, pork, beansprouts and egg).
  • Thai food can be very spicy, but instead of gulping down water, eat a few mouthfuls of plain boiled rice to ease the heat.
  • Apart from chilli, typical Thai ingredients include lemongrass, coconut milk, garlic, ginger and mint. Instead of salt, a caramel-coloured fish sauce called nam pla is used.
  • Chiang Mai's cuisine is less spicy than central Thailand's, and features sticky rice.
  • Curries are common in the south.
  • In Bangkok, food is more varied and better quality, and some restaurants specialise in foreign cuisines.
  • In the north and northeast the staple is khao niaow, a sticky rice imported from Laos. Pick up a clump with your fingers and dip it into dishes.
  • Sign up for a kantok dinner, based on traditional Lan Na banquets, where you'll try authentic dishes accompanied by classical dance and hill tribe performances.
  • Seafood is popular in the south. Try pla preow wan (fried fish in thick sweet-and-sour sauce). Meat dishes include gaeng mud-sa-man (a milder, peanutty beef curry), kao na ga (sliced chicken with spring onion and bamboo shoots) and sa lud neua san (roast beef salad mixed with vegetables, chillies, garlic and sometimes mint).
  • Fruits include longan, lychee, mango, pineapple, rambutan and watermelon. The Thais’ favourite fruit is the smelly durian, which they eat with sticky rice. Apples, pears, melons and strawberries are grown in the cooler north.

Drink

  • Iced water is often served with a meal. It will probably be decent drinking water, but if in doubt ask for bottled water and skip the ice.
  • Thai men sometimes drink whisky with dinner.
  • Wine is extortionate in Thailand, but the local beer is good - and a lot stronger than you might expect.
Clothing
  • Dress neatly in all religious shrines - never go shirtless or in shorts, hot pants or other scanty attire.
  • Take off your shoes when entering private Thai homes, chapels that house Buddhist images, and mosques.
Tipping Tip porters and hotel staff if you’re happy with their service. If a service charge isn’t added to your restaurant bill, tip 10-15%.
Electricity 220V/50Hz (European and/or American plug)
Further information www.wikipedia/thailand
www.wikitravel/thailand