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. Read on to find out the top universities in India, the best student cities and practical information about study in India.
Chulalongkorn University is the highest-ranked of all universities in Thailand, placed joint 252nd in the QS World University Rankings® 2016/17 and 45th in the QS University Rankings: Asia 2016. Founded by King Vajiravudh in 1917, the school is located in downtown Bangkok and promotes a number of events throughout the year, including Loy Krathong (a celebration of Full Moon Day in November) and the Chulalongkorn Academic Exhibition, which is considered to be one of the nation’s most important academic fairs. The school has given honorary degrees to Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela. Of its 38,000 students, nearly 25,000 are undergraduates.
Chulalongkorn University is ranked among the world’s best for 18 of the subjects covered by the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2016, including several engineering disciplines, modern languages, chemistry, biological sciences, pharmacy and medicine.
Located in Bangkok, Mahidol University is placed 61st in the Asian rankings and joint 283rd in the world university rankings. Established in 1888 as Thailand’s first medical school, Mahidol University is now a public research university with a particular emphasis on health sciences. The school receives the biggest research budget in the country, at around US$147 million annually.
Mahidol University’s current student population is almost 30,000, including 20,100 undergraduates. Aside from the main campus in Bangkok, it has remote campuses in the provinces of Nakhon Sawan, Kanchanaburi and Amnat Charoen. In the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2016, Mahidol University ranks among the world's top 150 universities for medicine, the subject for which it is best known. It also ranks among the world's top universities for six other subjects.
The highest-ranked university in Thailand outside of the capital, Chiang Mai University is ranked 104th in Asia and among the world’s top 600 universities. Founded in 1965 as a public research university, the school was the first higher education institution in Northern Thailand and now hosts a student population of over 36,300.
With its main campus situated between downtown Chiang Mai and Doi Suthep Mountain, Chiang Mai University benefits from 725 acres of semi-forested land, all within walking distance of the main shopping streets and Chiang Mai Zoo. Chiang Mai University ranks within the world’s top 150 schools for agriculture and forestry, and is also ranked in the top 300 internationally for medicine and modern languages.
Other universities in Thailand featured in the latest QS University Rankings: Asia include:
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 and Chulalongkorn University, both among the top 65 universities in Asia according to the QS University Rankings: Asia 2016.
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.
Bangkok’s full Thai name is a bit of a mouthful; in fact, it’s the longest city name on earth. For this reason, Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit is usually just shortened to Krung Thep.
Although Bangkok is a frenetic and packed city which can feel overwhelming and chaotic to newcomers, there is much more to the so-called City of Angels than traffic and overpriced tuk tuks. The sà·nùk- (fun-) loving locals are known for their playfulness and welcoming nature, meaning that the language barrier is often surmounted with just a smile. Bangkok’s streets and markets are the prime places to experiment with local cuisine, but be prepared for full-on flavors – especially the chilies!
If the noise of a city which buzzes with 11 million people gets too much to handle, foreigners in Bangkok have the option to take a break from the heat and the chaos, either among the peace and solitude of the various Buddhist temples or with some retail therapy within Bangkok’s modern, air-conditioned megamalls. China Town, Khao San Road and Banglamphu are all popular destinations within the city, but Ratanakosin is the main cultural hub, featuring the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaeo, Wat Pho and of course the National Museum.
Thailand’s second city, Chiang Mai may not be as crazy as Bangkok but it is a prime student city which boasts great history and traditions. With a population of 400,000 (60,000 of which are students), Chiang Mai is still at heart a relaxed and friendly ancient village, only recently seeing a rise in travelers and tourists to the area.
For cultural exploration, Chiang Mai has a selection of temples, including Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang, which act more as living communities than as museums. In the surrounding area of Chiang Mai’s old quarter, the city sticks to a traditional mode of living, with wooden houses, a quiet atmosphere and restrictions on building anything more than four stories high. Just outside of the city center, Chiang Mai becomes a Mecca for trekkers, and hill-tribe hiking is extremely popular.
Although the whole of Thailand is famed for its festivals, Chiang Mai is perhaps the most popular place to celebrate Songkhran – the Thai New Year in April – and Loy Krathong – the full moon in November. At these events, come dusk, thousands of candles can be seen floating along the Ping River on lotus leaves.
Other places to explore while you study in Thailand include Phuket (Thailand’s largest island), Nonthaburi, Pak Kret and Hat Yai.
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.
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).
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. For current information on travel advice for Thailand check government advice such as that offered by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.