Thailand is a hot tourist destination for people of all ages for a reason – the country is absolutely beautiful, affordable, and has incredible food. From island hopping in Phuket to temple hunting in Chiang Mai, to food tours and animal sanctuaries all over the country, there sure are a lot of adventures for all sorts of travel styles.
As with travelling to any country, it is important to research customs and traditions to ensure you respect the country and the locals. And so, I’ve put together my list of things you should know before your first trip to the beautiful country of Thailand!
Research the Weather Before Booking Your Trip
Depending on whether you want to spend your time at the beach, snorkelling, hiking, or exploring cities, you will need to decide if you want to visit Thailand during the dry season or monsoon season. The dry season from November to April will be better for beach days and island hopping, but will be more expensive as it’s high tourist season. As for monsoon season from May to October, it is still a good time to head to Thailand. Don’t be afraid of the name! During this season, it tends to rain a few hours a day, leaving plenty of time to explore. As it’s low season, you may be able to find great flight and hotels deals!
Dress Appropriately When Visiting Temples
This here would be the most important thing to know before visiting Thailand. As Buddhism is practiced by over 95% of the country, the customs and traditions of the religion are incredibly important to the locals. If you are planning on visiting temples, the basic rule of thumb is to ensure your shoulders and knees are covered, but covering your ankles is more ideal. Don’t wear party shirts or other inappropriate themed clothing. Ensure to take off your hat before entering the temple as well!
Try to Withdraw All Of Your Thai Baht at Once
This one I learned the hard way. The ATM fees for foreign cards is around 200 baht – almost $7 USD! This is on top of any charge that your bank has as well. I’m one who doesn’t like to waste money on fees, no matter how small. Try to take out all the money you will need in one transaction to avoid piling up the ATM fees. Assuming your hotels and major tours are pre-booked, you can probably get away with less than 1000 baht (~$35 USD) a day.
Don’t Drink the Tap Water
This is something I avoid doing when travelling anywhere, despite whether the water is labelled safe to drink or not. In Thailand, the tap water isn’t safe. Bring a reusable water bottle and fill up at your hotel, or purchase water bottles for 5-10 baht each when you arrive. It’s best to be safe and avoid dangerous illnesses from drinking the tap water!
Bring Sunscreen and Insect Repellent
Since Thailand is so beautiful, you’re bound to spend most of your time outdoors. The sun is scorching hot and you’ll definitely regret not applying sunscreen! As for insects, there are a lot of mosquitos around and nobody likes mosquito bites. Applying insect repellent will hopefully keep the insects away.
Haggle at the Markets, but Don’t Overdo It
The markets around Thailand are quite interesting, with unique handmade goods, interesting local food, paintings, and so much more. As with most markets around the world, the locals will try to make as much money as possible from tourists. They will initially tell you a very high price, in which you should say it is too much. Usually, they will then ask you how much you want to pay. Reply with a price about 50% lower than what they asked for. You may go back and forth a couple times and finally get to a price you both agree on.
Something you may get caught up in is trying to get the lowest possible price, which I am guilty of doing occasionally as well. This can leave a bitter taste in the shop owner’s mouth and can come off as insulting occasionally. When you are looking at purchasing items, think about the price that you would be okay with spending on an item back home. The item in Thailand will already be a great deal in comparison!
Download the Grab App for Transportation Around Cities
Grab is the equivalent of Uber in Southeast Asia, and makes transportation between sites really convenient. It is quite cheap in most parts of Thailand, except for Phuket which I found was almost 5 times the price of Grab in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The best part about Grab is that you can pay with credit card! All taxis around Thailand are cash only, and with the high ATM fees, you definitely want to use credit card as much as possible.
Be Careful of Food If You’re a Vegetarian
Being a vegetarian in Asia can be challenging if you don’t know what to look for. The majority of dishes in Thailand are cooked with some part of fish, chicken, or beef, even if there’s no meat mentioned in the description! I avoided all prepared food items unless they were clearly labelled vegetarian and I spoke to someone about the ingredients beforehand. I’ll be creating some posts on my top vegetarian eats around Thai cities shortly!
Tipping is Not Mandatory, but Very Much Appreciated
While tipping is not mandatory throughout Thailand, the locals love tips and do their faces ever light up when you do tip them! About 10% of the bill is good, which usually equates to very little to us, but it sure means a lot to them. Tipping at restaurants, hotels, and massage places is common, while it is not at street food stalls.
Don’t Ride the Elephants!
I cannot stress this enough! The animals are tortured while being trained to carry passengers and are often living in very poor conditions throughout their lives. They work their entire lives and get chained when they are not carrying passengers. If you want to play with elephants, head to a sanctuary. Be sure to research the place ahead of time to ensure they are treating the animals well!
Have you visited Thailand before? What are your top tips for visiting the country? Let me know in the comments!