Thailand is one of those countries that however much you return back, you will never get bored and you will always experience new things. For first time travellers heading out to the land of smiles can be quite daunting, especially due to the culture shock. We have visited Thailand three times, and seven months in total. I guess you could say we have a fair bit of knowledge and background to help you gain valuable information before visiting. As a result we have produced 10 useful tips to know before travelling to Thailand.
1. Do not disrespect the Royal Family
The Royal Family, especially the King are adored by the Thai population. You will soon notice this, even when arriving at the airport there are photos of the Royal Family everywhere. Be vigilant and DO NOT say anything negative about the Royal Family, as it will offend Thais and put them in an uncomfortable position. To be safe, it is best not to talk about them, as mocking or making fun of the Royal Family is illegal and can get you in big trouble, in some cases you can be sent to jail.
2. Cover your shoulders and knees when in temples
Temples, monasteries and other religious sites are very important and highly regarded in Thai society. Therefore you do not want to be disrespecting and ignoring Thai culture. Do not wear short skirts or shorts, revealing clothes or strappy tops unless you have a kaftan or coverup to wear, guards around the temples can be quite strict, so it’s best to be as conservative as you can.
3. Carry tissues or toilet roll with you
This point is mainly for the girls. Even though toilets in hostels, hotels and most restaurants have western style toilets. You will encounter your fair share of Asian ‘squatting toilets’ without toilet roll. If you’ve never used one before, it will seem strange. But you get used to it after a while it’s not big deal (It’s like camping!). If you’re feeling adventurous you can use what the Thais opt for, a bidet shower (sometimes called a bum gun. We will let you figure out what that is!). Another note that is important, when flushing you will mostly likely have to use a bucket of water and a pale next to the toilet.
4. Taxis are much cheaper than Tuk Tuks
This is a common mistake that most travellers make. They think Tuk Tuks are much cheaper than taxis. Whereas unless you bargain a great deal, this is rarely the case, especially when you use a meter in a taxi. We do suggest taking one trip in a Tuk Tuk for the experience, and getting those good old selfies. But you shouldn’t use them on a regular basis for getting around. The only advantage of using a Tuk Tuk is they might be slightly quicker during rush hour traffic, as they can squeeze through small alleyways and gaps in the traffic.
5. Make the taxi driver put the meter on
Whenever approaching a taxi, the first thing to ask for is the meter. A few may just drive off, but don’t worry that’s normal. Another note: don’t let the drivers take you out of your way…they’ll try to take you to some (relative’s) store where they get commission.
6. Don’t be afraid of eating street food
You find the yummiest more authentic Thai food at street stalls, so don’t be afraid of eating there. Obviously you should use common sense. If you see cats or rats around the stalls it’s probably best not to eat there. Another great tip, if you see lots of locals and tourists around certain stalls, most likely they are decent places to eat. We both have never received food poisoning from Thai street food, and we have eaten it a lot. To put it in perspective, Yannick did get food poisoning once from an up-class restaurant in a hotel.
7. Don’t ride elephants/have photos with tigers
We are strong believers in animals rights, and we highly discourage the participation in elephant riding or visiting ‘Tiger Kingdom’ like places. Many of you I’m sure are long awaiting that notorious selfie, but is it really worth it? Brutal elephant training has been a traditional practice in Southeast Asia for hundreds of years. The problem these days is that most captive elephants in Thailand are used to entertain tourists rather than roaming freely in the wild. You should think logically before visiting these places, do you really think a tiger chained to a tree with people sitting next to it is humane? And how do you think they get them so docile? The choice is up to you ultimately, and we are aware most tourists have no idea what goes on behind closed doors, but we highly discourage these types of activities.
8. Be aware of common scams
As a tourist, you will most likely be targeted for common scams, and don’t be afraid to stand your ground. A few popular scams you will most likely encounter are:
> The Grand Palace is closed – This doesn’t just happen to the Grand Palace, many knowledgeable looking Thais may come up to you telling you that the temple is closed, kindly decline them and head directly to the temple to see for yourself, or you may end up in a gem or tailor shop.
> The wrong change scam – This usually catches first time travellers who are not familiar with the currency yet. Resulting in you receiving the wrong amount of change. A common scam at provision shops or minimarts in tourist areas is to give your change as if you have given them a 500 baht note instead of a 1000 baht note. Make sure you check your change before walking out the shop, as many shop owners will just give you a blank stare like it never happened if you come back after walking out the shop.
> The jet ski scam – Most notorious in the Thai islands many tourists find themselves being forced to pay an excessive amount of money for dents in the jet ski after they return their rented jet ski. Unknown that many before them have paid for the scratches and dents too. Make sure that you document all dents or scratches before use.
9. Best time to go
The climate in most of Thailand is governed by three seasons: rainy season (roughly May–Oct), dry season (Nov–Feb); and hot/humid season (March–May). The rainy season can be very unpredictable. You may travel during these months and not encounter any rain. Or you may be super unlucky and have rain for your entire trip (although this is highly unlikely). Rainy and humid season are the cheapest months to visit, and you can find great deals on hotels and flights throughout Thailand. Bear that in mind if you are on a tight budget. Dry season you’re almost guaranteed to have no rain and great weather. However, for this reason, prices especially on the Thai islands increase dramatically. As a result, it is not uncommon to pay twice as much during this time.
We would’t say there is a ‘best’ time to visit Thailand, as it really depends on you. However we would of course favour the months between November and February, purely due to the weather and lively atmosphere on the party islands.
10. Don’t bring to much luggage
Girls we are looking at you! Emma is guilty of this, as we just have a tendency to pack more than we need, it’s a girls thing. But for Thailand especially you should leave at least 1/4 of your backpack/suitcase empty, as souvenirs, clothes and other little items are great to take home for presents etc. In addition, you most likely will be moving around a lot from place to place, so lugging around a massive backpack will not do your back much good.
However, if you are visiting multiple countries for an extended period of time, you will need more luggage than someone who is only visiting Thailand. Click here for Emma’s personal packing list for girls, and Click here for Yannick’s personal packing list for guys.
Do you have any further questions, additional tips to add to our list, or you just enjoyed and found this useful? If so, do not hesitate to comment below on your thoughts! We love hearing from you guys! 🙂 Happy Travels!
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