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As of writing this I have just finished my 7th trip in Thailand, I love this country! Between 2011-2019 I’ve seen so much of Thailand, witnessed the changes that have happened, met many fellow travellers and holiday makers also enjoying the Country, heard more stories than you can imagine and done a few things once that I would not do there again!
Thailand is such a popular country to visit, it still remains a right of passage for backpackers travelling South East Asia whether that’s backpackers on a budget or flashpackers. It’s also a popular destination for holiday makers wanting to get a piece of paradise on a 2 week holiday.
But Thailand is no Spain or Australia, whether you are backpacking Thailand or going to Thailand on holiday there are certain important and useful things you need to know before you visit Thailand, especially if this is your first time to Thailand and Asia.
Now this isn’t a list full of boring facts about Thailand!
This is a list of handy and useful information about how to save money in Thailand, how to book journeys in Thailand, what to pack for Thailand, how to get on with local Thai people.
But also things you need to know about how to avoid popular scams in Thailand, how to stay out of jail in Thailand.. because it could happen easier than you think, and a few important do’s and don’t for Thailand!
I have split these points into the follow sections so they are easier to read:
At the ATM’s the money comes out first!
The Bank Card comes out second. Do not leave and forget to take your card because you’re so happy you have money, wait a few seconds for your card to come out, if you forget the machine swallows it within about 10 seconds and it’s a nightmare to get out! This happens to so many people!
Break big notes in 7/11.
Smaller restaurants and shops often can’t break big notes, 7/11 supermarkets will accept a 1000baht note for a 8baht bottle of water.
Tourist SIM Cards in Thailand are easy to get.
Tourist SIM Cards are sold in BKK Airport as you leave but they are more expensive. 7/11 sell a range a long with many other shops. You only need your passport & money to get one, no paperwork is needed to get a sim card in Thailand.
High ATM fee’s.
The ATM fees in Thailand are usually 220baht – £5.50 / $7.00 which is high so don’t use them too often. Get what you need in one big transaction. Most ATM’s allow you up to 40,000baht out.
Thailand is no longer super cheap!
Thailand used to be pretty cheap but in recent years it is no longer that cheap. In fact it’s probably one of the most expensive except for Singapore. For Brits the pound has also gone down a lot as of me writing this too which doesn’t help. However the prices are still very reasonable and cheap local food can be found, you can barter on market items and decent hostels are popular now offering cheaper accommodation prices. So Thailand can still be done on a budget, you just need to be careful!
The North is cheaper than the South.
Places in Northern Thailand like Chiang Mai and Pai are much cheaper than the South of Thailand and especially the islands. This comes down to the transportation of food, drinks etc but I think also down to the tourism. If you want to save money in Thailand, to get cheaper clothes, massages and food- head North, or at least buy it all in the North rather than the South!
Related Post: 12 Things to do in Beautiful Chiang Mai!
Transport is so easy to book!
You have 2 options when booking transport around Thailand, 1- is the old school way of waiting until you arrive and booking buses and boats with one of the many travel agents that everywhere, 2 – book in advance online.
If you want to remain flexible and not set to a schedule, wait until you get there to book. If you have limited time in Thailand will all your accommodation booked, or it’s high season in Thailand like around Christmas and New Year, then you should probably book in advance to make sure you can get a ticket and you don’t need to spend tim doing it there.
Buses, Boats & Trains can be booked in advance on BookAway for pretty much the same price as in Thailand so I’d recommend this platform to make those online bookings!
If you are tight on time internal flights are a good idea and can be pretty cheap when purchased in advance, I recommend looking on Skyscanner to find cheap flights around Thailand!
Keep hold of your tickets and stickers when taking transport.
You’ll be given lots of tickets and stickers on journeys so keep hold of them all. Also take a photo of your tickets just in case you give it to someone and someone else later in the journey asks to see it and you no longer have it.
There is a thing called Thai time and you will have to wait around a lot between journeys. Just bring entertainment and be patient! I had my e-reader on my last trip which was really helpful!
Journeys will be longer than you’re told.
Don’t bet on the arrival time being you were told it was when you bought the ticket, just be patient, you’ll get there in the end!
Always be listening for your destination.
When on journeys you’ll be dropped in random places, picked up again and taken on the rest of the journey. Always be aware of your destination being called when you’re waiting, no headphones, because if you miss it, they won’t wait or look for you!
Wear a Seatbelt.
In Asia it’s easy to forget to put your seatbelt on as you’re never told to and sometimes cars and buses don’t even have them but if they do, put it on! I’ve never had a bad experience in a mini bus in South East Asia but on rare occasions there are accidents and this could save you!
Thailand has always been known as the land of smiles as it’s said that when tourists first came and many locals could not speak English they simply smiled and nodded as they couldn’t understand. These days Thai’s speak very good English especially in the tourist areas but the smiles remain and a smile back to them goes a long way!
Learn Hello and Thank you in Thai.
We should learn these greetings in all countries but honestly, knowing and saying hello and thank you in Thai goes a long way in Thailand with the locals. The word endings are different for males and females. Read more about it here or go into a 7/11 and observe how the workers say it as they say it to everyone all of the time.
It’s respectful to take shoes off.
Thai’s will find it very disrespectful if you wear shoes when asked not to so do take them off without any fuss!
Women shouldn’t go too close to monks.
If a male monk touches a female, by tradition they need to go through a huge cleansing ritual so if you are near a monk always keep a little distance between you and them unless he comes close for a photo etc.
Never ever disrespect the King!
The Former King of Thailand died in October 2016 and Thailand went into a year of mourning, really! This was a seriously sad time. There is now a new king in place but the rule remains the same and perhaps even more sensitive than ever – never disrespect the King. This is the fastest way to end up in jail and in a lot of trouble .
Pack light loose clothes!
Thailand is very hot, sweaty and humid so pack light clothes, nothing with layers or a thick material, it’ll be too hot!
Related Post: Female Packing List for Thailand – The Do’s & Don’ts.
Buy clothes in Thailand.
The markets are full of dresses, tops, shorts, trousers, etc for males, females, children & adults which are all made from the material you need to wear in Thailand to be comfortable so don’t bring too many clothes & shop for your trip here instead!
Carry Bug Spray & buy Tiger Balm.
Mosquitos are everywhere in Thailand so bring a strong bug spray from home, or buy some as soon as you land and carry it with you. To help with the bites that do get you, Tiger Balm can be found all over Thailand is great for stopping the itch. I got a Bite Away Pen before I came on this trip which you press onto the bite and it stops it itching instantly.. its magic and I’d really recommend it!
Bring Sun cream from home.
Sun cream is expensive in Thailand! Over 450baht / £10.00 / $14.00 a bottle, bring enough from home or from the Country you’re in before Thailand if it’s cheaper there!
Bring Sea sickness tablets.
If you’re travelling the islands of Thailand you’ll end up on a lot of boats and the sea can be rough. If your tummy is not strong, bring sea sickness tablets!
Bring a Rain Jacket & Dry Bag.
Thailand is a tropical part of the world with a rainy season and even if it’s not rainy season a burst of rain can still appear. Bring a rain jacket just in case and a dry bag like this one to pop your valuables in if you have to walk in the rain! The Dry Bag is also great on boat day trips!
Take Shoes you can take off easily.
Shoes need to be taken off a lot on Thailand for example before going into all temples, hotels, hostels, shops, restaurant and bars, so flip flops or sandals with no straps are most convenient. Fake Haviana flip flops can be found all over Thailand but the real ones are much better quality!
Be respectful in what you wear.
Thailand is a huge holiday destination but remember it’s still a very Buddhist and religious country. It’s pushed its boundaries a lot in terms of what tourists can wear, so always put on clothes when you’re not on the beach. Ladies, don’t walk on the streets or eat in restaurants in a bikini, and guys put your top back on.
Bring a backpack not suitcase to Thailand!
You may be in Thailand on holiday but if you’re moving around from island to island you’ll still be on and off boats and buses, dragging your suitcase through sand and along small paths which is not ideal! If you want really to take a suitcase to Thailand make sure you can actually lift it or just take a small carry on one as you don’t need to pack much on a holiday to Thailand anyway. A backpack is best for Thailand.
Tampons are hard to find!
Ladies like many places in Asia and around the world, tampons are not easy to find in Thailand and will be expensive if you do find them. Sanitary pads are easily purchased but if you don’t like these and will be on your period in Thailand bring Tampons with you or invest in a menstrual cup so you never have to think about pads or tampons again! I have this Lily Cup Compact which is ideal for travelling and it’s brilliant!
Don’t keep any valuables in your big bag!
Whether you have a backpack or suitcase to travel Thailand with, never ever put your valuables in this when when travelling on buses and boats from place to place! One- the bags get thrown around a lot, Two- thefts in Thailand happen on journeys and this is where they’ll look for your valuables as you sit on the bus.
On overnight buses always keep valuables on you in a money belt or keep your day bag on your lap.
Thefts on overnight buses have always been common and still are. The best way to stay safe in Thailand in this situation is to not leave your day pack / handbag on the floor of the bus whilst you sleep or when it’s dark, even if it’s between your feet. It’s known that Thai’s go into the floorboards and take things from your bag without you knowing or seeing them, I know this sounds unrealistic but so many people have things stolen from them on overnight buses and there’s no other way it could have happened! Keep your bag on your lap and / or money and passport in your pockets, bra, or safety money belt!
Say no to drugs.
I know this is boring (if that’s your kind of thing) but there are many drug scams in Thailand and a fast way to end up in prison or paying a 100,00baht / £2500 / $3000 fine is by buying drugs from the wrong person! The act of buying them will not get you in trouble really unless you get caught, but a common scam in Thailand is for one person to sell you them, they then call the police who find you, ask to search you and ooh look- you have drugs on you!
This applies to Weed and stronger drugs like MDMA which is common in Thailand.
With that being said if you see Mushroom Shakes, Weed Shakes or Weed Cookies on offer in bars in Thailand, these are allowed, if they are openly sold, it’s ok.
Say no to being searched or demand just one search.
Police may come up to you and ask to search you if you look drunk. This is mostly going to happen if you are male, on one of the islands and either alone or in a small group. Sometimes they do want to just catch you out and if you have no drugs you’re fine. Other times this is a scam as one police officer will search you and place drugs on you. Another will search again and find said placed drugs! So deny a search but if they push you demand just one search only and show them you are aware of this scam!
Be careful when hiring a moped.
If you trust yourself riding a moped then it opens up a window of opportunity for you to see a lot more of Thailand, especially the islands and places like Pai in Northern Thailand. However do be careful, firstly for your safety, you see so many tourists bandaged up from moped accidents. Secondly because you usually have to hand over your passport to rent a moped and if it comes back damaged or even just a bit scratched, the shop may demand a lot of money from you, and if you don’t pay? They have your passport!
Always take a photo or video of the moped before you rent it and ask your accommodation on where they recommend you hire one from so its not dodgy!
Chang Beer is strong.
I’ve always heard that Chang Beer is unregulated meaning some bottles are stronger than others, just watch how many you drink especially to start with as they hit you quickly!
Buckets are strong.
The buckets go down nicely at first and then they hit you! Don’t go too crazy!
Buckets from street stands are safer.
There are 2 ways to buy buckets in Thailand – from the bars or from the stalls on the beach and street. The latter is the cheapest option and also the safest in my option. Back in the day there were stories of locals putting bad and cheap spirits into the buckets from the street stands however those days are over for the most part.
When you get a bucket from a stand you see the bottle of alcohol in it aka vodka, gin, sangsom along with the mixer and the owner opens both and pours it in freely in front of you. Whereas in a bar you could ask for Absolute Vodka but if you’ve already had a few how do you know they won’t add a cheap spirit that will make your head hurt even more tomorrow?
Don’t drink the tap water.
Stick to bottled water always, ideally even when brushing your teeth. Or get a filtered water bottle before you travel.
The Ice is Fine.
In the vast majority of places and all major tourist places ice will be bought in and will be safe to drink.
The Full moon party is Free!
Other moon parties cost. Koh Phangan is the home of the full moon party and now there are half moon & new moon parties! The full moon party is on Haad Rin beach and is totally free & cheap buckets can be found (it’s also the best party!), whereas the new moon & black moon parties are inland and cost £40 \ $50 just for a ticket and the buckets are 3 times the price with no where else to buy them from! So plan carefully which one to visit!
There’s more to eat than Pad Thai!
Pad Thai is a great first meal in Thailand but don’t eat it all the time, there’s so much more on offer.
Thailand is great for vegetarians!
Initially it seems Thailand offers a lot of meat, and it does. Whilst non-meat street food can be harder to find all restaurants offer vegetarian Thai and Western food and Thailand offers great tofu too! If you see a dish offered with meat but no tofu option, just ask for them to switch it, I’ve never had a problem with this. Many dishes do have fish sauce in them though which is hard to avoid.
Related Post: Why it’s Easy Being a Vegetarian in South East Asia.
7/11 supermarkets can be found all over Thailand. They’re so handy for water and snacks but they also offer a range of weird & wonderful food (their toasted sandwiches are basically part of Thai culture) so be sure to browse and buy some things you don’t see at home!
There’s not a bad time to visit Thailand.
The best time to visit is Thailand is any time, honestly, there’s high season and low season. Rainy Season aka low season is between May and November but I’ve been in Thailand then and it didn’t rain that much. During these months Thailand is popular with uni students so it’s still busy and low season just means accommodation is cheaper and there are less people, bonus!
Free 30 day visa on arrival.
Most nationalities are given a free 30 day visa on arrival, no prior paperwork or online form is needed, just complete the boarding card when you arrive by plane or land. If you overstay 30 days you’ll be charged per day over your visa expiry date so don’t do it!
If you want to stay in Thailand for longer than 30 days you’ll need to do a visa run to a nearby Country and these can be booked via any travel agent too.
Buy things on the mainland as it’s cheaper.
Buying toiletries, clothes, souvenirs etc are always a bit more expensive on the islands because they need to be shipped in. Do your shopping in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Phuket!
Thai massages don’t all offer happy endings!
This is such a huge myth and misconception, if you are a female you do not ever need to worry about getting a ‘happy ending’ at the end of a massage. If you are a male, you do not need to worry either. The majority of parlours are not like this! If you are male and you can called over on the street and offered one in a sultry tone, well you can and may get one.. but that’s up to you! As a standard this doesn’t happen!
Thai Massages are painful.
You need to get a Thai massage done, it’s a right of passage but be mindful they’re not really relaxing and can be quite painful, a Thai women will essentially walk all over you, pull you and prod you!
Unlock your phone.
If you want a local SIM card make sure your phone is unlocked before you get to Thailand.
If you don’t see accommodation online turn up and look for it.
I wouldn’t recommend this in cities but some islands (Phi Phi is a great example of this) are still very old school with not having their accommodation online- mostly the guest houses, bungalows & huts, so if you feel adventurous then just turn up and see what you can find.
I do use Booking.com to search and book the best hostels and hotels in Thailand so I recommend using this too and pre-booking accommodation where possible.
Don’t go to a Ping Pong show!
I know it may seem tempting because it’s so crazy and ‘so Thailand’ but often these girls were used as child sex slaves who are now too old to do this. It’s an incredibly degrading show, they are not happy at all so if you’re a decent person you’ll leave feeling not nice rather than pleased you went (I speak from experience).
Do go to a Lady Boy Cabaret.
On the other hand lady boys are very common in Thailand and it’s part of the societal norms. If you see a lady boy show or cabaret on offer, do go! I went to a great one in Chiang Mai! They are not seedy, they are great fun as they sing and dance to popular songs in cabaret form!
Don’t ride an Elephant!
Elephant rides are still offered in Thailand, just don’t do it!
If you want to see Elephants, research an Elephant sanctuary before going. Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai changed the face of elephant tourism in Thailand by offering a place for abused elephants to be free and not be ridden. Now many elephant sancturies have appeared where you can feed and bathe the elephants. These need to be supported as elephants cost a lot to upkeep so I do recommend going but please do your research first online of the sanctuary you want to go to!
Don’t go to the Tiger Temple.
I didn’t see much promotion for the Tiger Temples in Thailand in 2019 where you visit Tigers and pet them, play with the cubs etc which I’m very pleased about. This needs to stop so never do it! There are so many more places to visit in Thailand!
Be prepared to sweat!
Thailand is hot & humid even in its drier seasons, be prepared to sweat, and ladies- be prepared to sweat that make up off!
There are squat toilets around!
This is Asia and now and again you may be faced with a squat toilet. Just get those legs working and embrace it, it’s actually the best position to go to the toilet in anyway..
Take toilet roll in your bag.
On that note not all toilets will have toilet roll, carry some in your bag with you just in case.
Say no to plastic bags and plastic as much as possible.
Thailand uses soo much plastic! Even when buying a bottle of water it will be put in a bag, remember to ask for ‘no plastic bag’ when you don’t need one. Take a reusable straw and remember to ask for no straw, if you have room in your bag and you really want to reduce your plastic waste, take a small sandwich box for street food to be put in!
Be Careful What Toiletry Products You Buy!
Thai people along with many other Asian Countries want their skin to be white (not all people but a lot) so most of the toiletries in the shops like moisturiser, face wash, sun cream, deodorant and anything else you can think of has whitener in it! There are products without it but you need to look a bit harder!
Watch the Monkeys!
Getting off a boat at an island called ‘Monkey Island’ or seeing lots at a temple may seem fun but the monkey’s in Thailand can be naughty little Monkeys and I’ve heard many stories of what they’ve stolen from people!
Get Travel Insurance.
Travel Insurance is needed on every trip but definitely in Thailand incase anything happens. I’m with World Nomad’s who are great for backpackers on a big trip.
On this note, I have been to 2 hospitals in Thailand and both have been fantastic- really high quality staff, clean, professional so if you do have to go to the hospital in Thailand then don’t worry, they have all the latest technology and more!
Thailand is not a third world Country!
If you are visiting Thailand on holiday, maybe you think that Thailand is a poor Country or even a third world Country because all you know about it, apart from the above, is that it’s Asia and all of Asia is poor right? No and No- Thailand is not a poor Country. I’m sure there are places with poverty but the tourist places I’ve seen and the places when driving through the rest of the Country on journeys show that people have decent lives. It’s not super rich and by no means equal but you will not be entering a Country that’s dirty and shabby and all those kinds of things!
Now you are set to go to Thailand! Have a good time but I know you will!
Accommodation in Thailand:
The earlier you book accommodation in Thailand the more range of accommodation you’ll have, especially in the Cities, I use Booking.com to make all of my bookings because there’s so much choice!
Flights to and around Thailand:
Internal flights in Thailand can be pretty cheap and are a great way of getting around quickly and more comfortably. Again, the earlier you book the better the prices will be so have a look on Kiwi here to see what you can find!
For more of my posts on Thailand see:
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