Postal Mail, International Couriers, and Thailand Addresses
Note: Whenever you send a letter or ship a package, you should put the phone numbers of both sender and receiver on the package.
Thai Post Offices
The Thai postal system is very reliable, efficient and economical. I have never had a lost mailing to the best of my knowledge since I arrived in 1994, and I have received a lot of mail from the USA and domestically. However, I have known other people who have not received mail or packages, apparently lost in the mail. (I've also heard stories of dumped mail, but that has also happened in the US and elsewhere, and is not common, but the stories sure get around.) I have seen some poorly written and incomplete addresses, so please do read the last section on this page, about Thailand address formats.
A common service used is EMS or Express Mail Service, which requires a signature by the recipient (though if they routinely deliver to your home and know you, they might just leave it). You can track EMS domestically online. The EMS service is offered both domestically and internationally. EMS typically takes one to a few days to anywhere in Thailand.
If you don't use EMS, and instead send things by normal mail, then letters can take much longer. This has been my experience.
For sending packages overseas, you can do the packing at the post office, as they have a packing counter where you can buy packing materials at a very economical rate, and sometimes get assistance. If you are shipping anything in a box, then the standard procedure is to tie a string around the box so that it can be opened and peeked into by customs to verify that what's on the customs slip is what's in the box. If you seal it, then you may pay a much higher rate.
There are post offices conveniently located all over the city. It is a polite and usually efficient service.
If you don't yet have an address at which you wish to receive packages, then you can receive packages on hold at most branches of the post office. This is called the "poste restante" service. You should ask the sender to PRINT your name clearly, and underline it, too. It will probably be filed under your surname, but sometimes will be under the first name.
(The old central post office is located near the river on Charoen Krung Road (about halfway between its intersections with Surawong and Si Phraya roads), and is an interesting place to go, especially if you are a stamp collector.)
Alternatives to the Post Office
For something very urgent and local, you can just fetch a Grab motorcycle taxi, or maybe one of the motorcycle taxis near you.
There are alternative shipping companies who compete with the post office, including:
They may offer to pick up your package at your location, or else you can drop it off at one of their many branches.
Courier Services - International
There are several established international couriers. The best known are FedEx and DHL. Others can be found. The major courier services will also pick up packages from you if you call them. There are official outlets where you can bring packages, and there are also private post office like services who will also forward your package to your courier of choice, both international and domestic.
If you have no fixed address in Bangkok, you can have packages shipped to the main office and held for pickup.
Addresses in Thailand
Finding an address is usually difficult in Thailand. You normally need directions from someone, and most businesses provide a map. Why?
Unlike in most western countries, street addresses in Thailand are not sequential order as you go down the road. They are usually in the order in which the structure was built, so that house number 12 can be next to house number 53, and house number 11 can be a kilometer away!
The street name is usually NOT on the address on Thailand, except in central Bangkok and a few other places, especially for homes. However, even in Bangkok, while you have the street name, the address numbers are still not in order so you still have somewhat of the same problem as in the provinces, though at least you know you're close, maybe within a kilometer or two ... but that's still a lot of area to hunt around for.
Before I present city addresses, let's first look at the standard for nationwide addresses.
Thai addresses are usually in the form:
XXX/YYY Moo ZZ
765/345 Moo 12
In the latter example, the 765 (XXX) is the house group or building time phase, and the 345 (YYY) is the house number within the group. You will find house groups mixed up with each other, so that going down a soi you may find 56/234 beside 56/789 beside 56/987 beside 41/2 beside 41/3 beside 56/876 beside 98/321, and you may find 56/232 a kilometer away from 56/233. The groups tend to designate the age of the house, i.e., a building phase.
Then there is the Moo, also spelled Mu or abbreviated M., which is the village number, so the example designates village number 12 within Tambon Ban Mai. A village can be either a neighborhood or a small area -- smaller than a subdistrict.
Each province is split into about 5 to 25 districts called Amphur, and each Amphur is split into many Tambon, and then each Tambon is split into many Moo groups. In the address above, T. is Tambon and A. is Amphur. People often put in M. for Moo.
In the cities, you can have addresses like this:
321/456 Sukhumvit soi 39
The difference is that it has a street name instead of a Moo number (instead a soi number, see next paragraph). Also, Bangkok is different from other provinces in that instead of "Tambon" and "Amphur", there is "Khwaeng" and "Khet", and they may exclude those words, though that's what Klongton-Nua and Wattana are, in this example, a khwaeng and a khet.
Most city addresses will have a "soi" number. The main roads have perpendicular streets going off both sides, which are called "sois" and are even numbered 2, 4, 6, etc., on one side and odd numbered 1, 3, 5, etc., on the other side. As you go down the road, they tend to get out of sync so that soi 71 can be across the street from soi 48, but they are always in order on the same side of the street, i.e., before soi 48 is always soi 46.
Many sois usually have a name, too, for example, Sukhumvit soi 4 is called soi Nana (well known), but the name of the soi is usually not specified, only the number, and if you said a typical soi name, most people wouldn't know where it is, but if you say Sukhumvit soi 39, they know generally where that is!
However, once you find the soi number, the office and house addresses are normally not in order, so you have the same problem as in the provinces and suburbs, such as "I'm now on Sukhumvit soi 39, but where is house 321/456?" In the city, people usually don't know each other, unlike in the countryside, so you better have clear directions. If it's a business, then ask the motorcycle taxis because they normally know.
Of course, the best things to get is somebody's GPS location.
Typically, you might get directions like this: "From Sukhumvit Road, go to Sukhumvit soi 39, turn left, go 1.2 kilometers to L'Opera Restaurant, turn left again, go 50 meters to turn right at the next sub-soi, then go down another 80 meters and our house is on the right, with a blue gate and maybe a Ford Everest parked inside, house number 321/456" or something like that.
In the countryside, once you get close enough you can often just ask for a person's family name and someone will know. The problem is getting close enough, because there are no signs saying "Mu 5 this way, Mu 6 that way". You can see addresses with Mu numbers on them and ask someone where is Mu 12, and keep getting closer and closer ...
The Thailand postal service creates many beautiful stamps, and philatelists like myself and my wife collect the most beautiful ones, but we are careful to not send valuable things in the mail with beautiful stamps on them, only letters which can be reprinted later if they disappear somewhere in the foreign postal services. Sending things domestically, inside Thailand, is not a problem.
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