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Thailand: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Thailand

Most people in senior management speak English apart from in very small companies, or those situated outside the industrial belt of Bangkok, where English is not widely spoken. Most businesses of substantial size prefer visitors to make appointments. Punctuality is advisable (although the visitor is quite often likely to be kept waiting after arrival). In Bangkok, traffic must be taken into consideration when going to appointments.

Deference is always shown to the most senior person in any business situation. The normal business greeting is the wai (a slight bow with hands together in a prayer-like position) or a handshake, but it is conventional to greet those of the opposite sex with a smile or nod. Business cards should be exchanged with the right hand at the end of any meeting. Be sure to pass objects with your right hand and never over a person’s head as the head is considered sacred.

Thai hosts are quite likely to give small gifts to visitors, so it is a good idea to reciprocate with a typical national gift of one's own. Visitors should never get angry or raise their voice if things are not going according to plan, as this will mean a loss of face on both sides. Much more progress will be made by remaining calm.

Meetings often take place over lunch and these are generally held in a Thai restaurant. Thai businesspeople are quite formal in their dress but, because of the extreme heat, it is quite acceptable and practical to dispense with the wearing of a suit jacket.

Office Hours

Office hours are usually Monday to Friday 0830-1630.


The Thai economy expanded very rapidly during the 1980s and early 1990s, with the average annual GDP growth between 1990 and 1996 being 8.5%. However, things slowed dramatically in the summer of 1997 when the Asian currency crisis struck, causing the economy to drop by 11%. After a strong initial recovery, the Thai economy suffered again in 2001/2 following 9/11, and in 2003 suffered because of the reaction to SARS, the war in Iraq and fears of terrorism.

Things took an upward turn in 2004 due to domestic demand and strong exports, giving the economy resilience to the outbreak of avian influenza and soaring oil prices. However, following the tsunami in December 2004, sharp rises in world oil prices and domestic political turmoil following the military coup in September 2006, growth was affected. In 2007 the inflation rate was 2.2% with unemployment down to 1.4%. Inflation rates had a sharp rise in 2008 before falling even more dramatically in 2009. Rates then stabilised between 2.8% and 4.2% with the actual figure of 4.08% in July 2011. In 2012, the economy grew by 6.5% and inflation was 3%. After the military coup in 2014, the economy flagged, but an ambitious plan of economic initiatives launched in 2016 aims to make the country a high-income nation in five years. The inflation rate has steadily risen since 2016. Unemployment rates have remained consistent since 2001 at around 1%.


US$455.2 billion (2017)

Main exports

Automobiles and parts, computer and parts, precious stones and jewellery, refined fuels, rubber, electronic integrated circuits, polymers of ethylene and propylene, rice, fishery products, rubber products, chemical products.

Main imports

Crude oil, machinery and parts, electrical machinery and parts, chemicals, iron and steel and their products, electrical circuits panels, computers and parts, other metal ores and metal waste scrap, ships and boats and floating structure, jewellery including silver and gold.

Main trading partners

USA, Japan, China (PR), Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Keeping in Touch in Thailand


Travellers can call overseas is through a service called Home Country Direct, which is available at various post offices and CAT centres in towns and cities. It offers an easy connection to international operators in many different countries. Some accommodation places will have a mobile or landline that customers can use for a per-minute fee for overseas calls.

Mobile Phone

Roaming agreements exist with many international mobile phone companies. There is good coverage, especially around main towns.


There are plenty of hotels, restaurants and cafés that provide free Wi-Fi for customers. However, be cautious when accessing delicate files or applications such as Internet banking.


The government and military control nearly all the national terrestrial TV networks and operate many of Thailand's radio networks. Print media is largely privately run and subject to less governmental supervision.


The primary postal service in Thailand is the Thailand Post Company Limited and it is owned by the state. The Thai postal system is said to be reliable and fairly priced, although service in rural areas in limited. Arrive before 1530 for parcels or letters that need to be sent on the same day.

Post Office hours

Mon-Fri 0800-2000, Sat-Sun and public holidays 0800-1300. Post offices up-country are open Mon-Fri 0800-1630, Sat 0900-1200.

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