Thailand has been a hot spot for backpackers and travelers alike. Whether you’re visiting Thailand to immerse yourself in its rich cultural heritage, chow down tasty street food, or soak in the sun on the Thai islands, traveling to a new country can be scary an intimidating, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Here’s a list of 15 travel tips for Thailand that will make your experience in this beautiful country a little more pleasant:
1. Don’t insult the Royal Family. Thai people idolize their king, and Thailand has some of the strictest laws in the world when it comes to defaming or insulting The King. This is actually considered a criminal offense and you can risk imprisonment under the law. Bee tee dubs, Thai jail is not the most humane.
2. Choose your street vendors wisely. Be weary of food that has been sitting out for awhile or ones that contain fresh vegetables. Thailand does not have the best sanitary regulations and the veggies are washed with tap water. Tap water is not the cleanest in Thailand…which leads me to tip #3.
3. Drink bottled water. See reason above.
4. Insect repellent is a MUST! Mosquitoes are everywhere in Thailand, especially Chiang Mai, and they are vicious little creatures! Don’t be a food source for them. Buy a can of bug spray with DEET (this is an important ingredient!) and use them day and night, especially at night.
5. Cover up in temples. This means your shoulders, knees, elbows, and – yes, ladies your cleavage – when entering temples. Thailand is a conservative country, so please respect the culture and cover yourself before stepping foot in a temple.
6. Master your negotiation skills. Always negotiate when you can. This applies to taxis, tuk-tuks, and tour agencies. They usually agree to your price! We booked most of our tours online with Viator and all of the guides have been great! However, you also have the option of booking tours in Thailand. There’s an abundant amount of tourist agency stands selling tours so you can easily negotiate with them. For our Phi Phi Island tour, we paid 1200 baht a person instead of 2000 baht. There’s so much competition so they’re willing to accommodate some bargaining.
7. Wear comfortable, non-slip, slip-on shoes. My go-to travel shoes are my classic blank canvas TOMS. They’re comfortable to walk all day in and easy to slip on and off when entering temples. They’re also great to avoid the wet floors in most public restrooms.
8. Traffic is terrible – and dangerous. The rules of the road are ignored in Thailand. Vehicles are weaving in and out of lands without warning. Due to high congestion, please allow 20-30 minutes to travel ~1 mile.
9. Carry cash and withdraw USD in larger bills. Most places only accept cash so having them on hand is existential to survival in the country. As for withdrawing USD prior to arriving in Thailand, make sure to withdraw larger bills ($50, $100). The exchange rate is worse for smaller bills ($1, $2, $5, $10, and $20).
10. Bring earplugs. Most of Thailand can be noisy, especially in Bangkok and Koh Samui. If you’re a light sleeper and/or can only sleep in silence, it might be good to bring ear plugs.
11. Never touch anyone’s head. A person’s head is considered to be scared in Thailand, so touching someone’s head could be frowned upon.
12. Bring toilet paper with you everywhere you go! Many public bathrooms in Thailand do NOT have toilet paper, so if you need to go #2, well, you’re stuck with washing your tush with a hose. I don’t know about you but I’d rather wipe my tush with toilet paper!
13. Bring Immodium for traveler’s diarrhea. You just never know if you’ll catch it. Simon did and so did almost every friend I know. Prior to overseas travel to a developing country, you can prep your stomach by taking probiotics every day for a week leading up to the trip. This should help coat your stomach from bad bacteria.
14. Purchase a dry sak for water excursions. They are particularly useful if you booked water activities or even hanging out on the beach! It keeps your belongings nice and dry, including your electronic devices. We purchased the 20L one from Amazon and it can hold a lot: 2 beach towels, sunblock, bug spray, 2 phones, 2 pair of sunglasses, beach covers, and then some.
15. Book tours early in your trip in each city. This is to account for any cancellations due to bad weather. We made the mistake of booking our Angthong Marine Park tour in Koh Samui on our last day there and when it was canceled we didn’t have the option of booking it for the next day :