Travel news: Latest Thailand warnings

Click to follow
The Independent Travel

The coup this week in Bangkok highlighted a sharp difference of opinion between the British and Australian governments over travel advice to Thailand. The Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra urged Australians to "reconsider their need to travel to Thailand", representing a threat level only one step short of telling citizens not to go there. Staff at Australia's embassy in the Thai capital Bangkok were instructed not to take their children to school.

In contrast, the Foreign Office stopped well short of suggesting that UK tourists should stay away. It advised British travellers to "monitor all available information on the local situation and keep in contact with your tour operator", though the latter was irrelevant to the thousands of backpackers who travel independently.

Both governments express concern about the upsurge of terrorism in the far south of the country. Following last weekend's bomb attack in the southern town of Hat Yai, in which four people died, the Foreign Office advises against "all but essential travel to, or through, the far southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla, where there is continuing violence due to insurgency". Two British nationals were injured in the most recent attack.

The Foreign Office says terrorism is a threat throughout Thailand: "Attacks could be indiscriminate and against places frequented by foreigners".

The new airport in the Thai capital has experienced a number of teething problems, but Suvarnabhumi (pronounced soo-van-a-poom) is finally due to open at 3am next Thursday, 28 September - three months behind schedule. The new facility cost £2.2bnt.

It is located 30km east of Bangkok at Nong Ngu Hao, which translates as "cobra swamp". The official name was chosen by the King and means "The Golden Land", referring to continental Indo-China.

The most striking feature of the new airport is the air traffic control tower: at 132.2m high, it is the tallest in the world. But some pilots have privately expressed concerns about obstructions on the approaches to the airport.

The airport will also boast the largest passenger terminal on the planet, measuring 444m long. There is also a 300-room hotel a few minutes' walk from the check-in area.

Two years from now a rail connection should be completed, with a journey time of 15 minutes, but until then access will be by bus or car only. The trio from the airport to the city centre is estimated at an hour or less, though given the scale of some of Bangkok's legendary traffic jams, travellers should allow considerably more time.

The new airport is more convenient for the popular resort of Pattaya, about 90 minutes away by road.

Bangkok's existing airport, Don Muang, is likely to remain open, but only for domestic flights. Connections to other Thai destinations for inbound visitors could become more difficult, since flights to Chiang Mai and Phuket will be split between the two airports.

Don Muang will adopt the three-letter code DMK, with BKK being used for the new airport.