10 Useful Travel Tips When Traveling to Thailand
Thailand is one of my absolute favorite countries. I was fortunate enough to spend 2 months in this wonderful place and had an awesome time learning the Thai language, local customs and the tricks of the tourist trail.
This country is vibrant, tropical and infused with culture. It is filled with luscious landscapes, exotic flavors and smiling faces. There is something for every traveller; from exploring the markets and temples in Bangkok, to zip lining in Chiang Mai or enjoying the breathtaking beach sunsets on one of their amazing islands.
To help you have a great first-hand experience in Thailand, I have listed the top 10 travel tips for your journey.
1. Always make sure you negotiate the price with a tuk tuk driver
Tuk tuks are a popular form of transportation all throughout Thailand. These metal carts are attached to motorbikes and provide an exhilarating tourist experience. Accommodating 2-3 people at any one time, they are fast, flexible and not for the faint of heart.
Weaving through traffic and speeding down narrow side streets is the general experience in a tuk tuk. While the drivers are most often friendly, charming and convincing, it is important to remember that tuk tuks are negotiable and rates will increase if you are in a heavily touristed area. Some learnt advice is to walk a few blocks away from a large gathering of tuk tuks to hail one for a cheaper price. As an added bonus, if you are able to learn how to say just a few numbers in Thai, the price will drop even more. Always make sure you negotiate your price with a tuk tuk driver before beginning your trip to avoid scams.
2. Songthaews are cheaper and just as convenient as a tuk tuk
Songthaews are another popular form of transportation, although many first time visitors are unsure of how they work. The word “songthaew” translates to “two rows” and this is exactly what the vehicle encompasses. Songthaew’s resemble a pick up truck with an elevated covering over the back where two rows of seats are available for travellers.
A songthaew is a much cheaper option than a tuk tuk ride and functions much like a bus as people get on and off frequently. To hail a songthaew, you simply hold out your arm at which point they will always stop for you.
From there, they will roll down the window, ask you where you want to go and negotiate a price with you. Once agreed, you jump into the back of the truck and enjoy mingling with some locals and tourists until you arrive at your destination. Should you need to get off earlier, you can press the buzzer in the back to alert the driver.
Songthaews are an often overlooked alternative to the tuk tuk, but are actually much cheaper and a lot more convenient than most tourists realize.
3. Enjoy a Thai Massage, but choose the provider carefully
Thailand is home to some of the most relaxing and professional massage parlors in the world. The traditional Thai massage is an ancient practice and considered an art. Thai massages are also incredibly affordable and a great way to end a long day of exploration.
Unfortunately, not every massage parlor offers the same experience and some options may be unhygienic or uncomfortable. The general rule for finding a good massage parlor is to ensure that the staff are wearing professional attire and they offer you a pricing menu. In which case you can feel confident that the masseuse is well trained and capable of providing high-quality services.
4. Always ensure you dress appropriately when visiting temples
The alluring ornate Buddhist temples that cover Thailand are truly a high point for tourism. While almost all temples open their doors to foreigners and tourists, it is important to remember that they are a place of worship and should therefore be respected. Showing your shoulders or legs when visiting a temple is considered disrespectful and monks may even offer you a wrap to cover your body.
For this reason, it is recommended that you plan your clothing appropriately or bring a change of clothes when visiting a temple. While the monks will always endeavor to make you feel welcome, avoid the uncomfortable feeling that comes with unintended ignorance and ensure you are dressed appropriately.
5. Stay aware of local traditions and remember to remove your shoes
It can be easy to forget that what happens in one area of the world is sometimes considered rude elsewhere. In this sense, please remember it is customary to remove your shoes before entering a person’s home in Thailand and often even a place of business.
If you see your host remove their shoes before entering a room, follow their lead and leave your shoes at the door. Also, if you see shoes at the door, it is a sure sign that you should leave yours outside too. Thai culture is one that sees shoes as unclean so they are usually left outside. As an added tip, it is also inappropriate to put your shoes or feet on any piece of furniture.
6. Seek refuge in a rooftop bar and unwind
Rooftop bars are abundant in a number of cities in Thailand. These are great places to get food and drink but also a fantastic place to enjoy a free photo opportunity.
Overlooking the mountains in Chiang Mai, many rooftop café’s and bars are a nice place to enjoy a meal while Bangkok in particular is littered with amazing terraces with unrivalled views of the city skyline. While they may not always be cheap, they certainly offer a quiet refuge in the more chaotic parts of the cities and make an ideal place to unwind after a day of exploring the sights.
7. Have a meaningful exchange with a monk
Many temples throughout Thailand will offer an event called “Monk Chat” where tourists are encouraged to come to the temple and allow the local monks to practice their English with foreigners.
Doesn’t this sound like a unique experience? There is nothing cliche, touristy or unethical about this experience in which the visitor gains a very interesting insight into the life of a monk, while the opportunity to learn some English is given in return. In terms of learning more about Thai culture and Buddhism, you would be hard-pressed to find a similar experience anywhere else in the world.
8. Ensure you have the right bank card and avoid costly fees
ATM’s will take the majority of foreign debit cards but there is typically a bank fee and sometimes a foreign transaction fee involved. One way to know which ATM will accept your card is to check the back of the debit card for the transaction service that matches the list of accepted companies on the front of the ATM.
However, if you are looking to save money and avoid such costly fees altogether, it is wise to research a bank that will not charge foreign transaction fees and/or reimburse any ATM fees. For example, select bankcards will not charge foreign transaction fees for purchases made in other countries and a subsidiary of that bank will agree to reimburse you all ATM fees.
9. Know your tourist visa requirements prior to departure
Depending on your nationality, there are different regulations regarding a tourist visa and passport requirements. It is important to check your country’s requirements prior to arriving so you can accurately plan your travels.
The majority of tourists will need a Tourist Visa which allows 30 days in the country. However, if you decide that you would like to stay longer, Thailand now offers extensions of Tourist Visas for up to 90 days and these can easily be applied through the many passport service locations throughout Thailand.
10. Learn even just a few words of the local language.
There are several key phrases that will greatly improve your overall experience while visiting Thailand and even just learning how to say “hello” and “thank you” will generate a tremendous amount of respect among locals. There is also the phrase that will help you truly enjoy your dining experiences at local restaurants. While you may think that you enjoy spicy food, this phrase should come in handy as it is important to note that Thai spice is on an entirely new level.
The key phrase to note is “mai pet” (pronounce as “my pet”) which translates to “not spicy.” After you’ve dared to try a few new dishes and discovered that perhaps their fresh chili peppers are not meant for your taste buds, this phrase will be a lifesaver. Often times after asking for your meal to be “not spicy” you will find that you still get a spicy dish but it is milder than what the locals eat.
If you are travelling to Thailand I hope these tips are helpful to you. If you or someone you know is excited about Thailand, but planning this type of trip can be daunting. Fear not! I offer a hassle-free service where I plan, organize and manage all the little details to ensure you have the best experience. While you’re enjoying your trip you can rest assure that I am just a phone call away if any travel challenges arise. You dream it, I create it! Lets book your adventure of a lifetime. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org