A Few Tips For Visiting Thailand
Thailand for two weeks gave us just a brief taste test of this beautiful country. We generally had great experiences while we were visiting. It is a land of beautiful landscapes, great artistic temples and wonderful smiling people. But there are a few tips for visiting Thailand that we wanted to share …
1) Highway Robbery
The top of our tips for visiting Thailand relates to transportation costs.
In all of our travels in Thailand for 2 weeks, we found most of the transportation rates were highway robbery. This was particularly true if you were a captive audience e.g. leaving the airport, leaving a tourist spot or escaping after you were guided to some point with the sole purpose of selling you something.
While you could try to get taxis on the meter, most of them would just pass you by if you did not accept a negotiated rate they were happy with. Once you agree on a price, don’t let them try to have you pay tolls or other fees. They should have already factored that into the fixed price.
And as is good practice everywhere, make sure you take your belongings out of the vehicle before you pay. You don’t want to be buying your stuff back.
2) Take You Life In Your Hands
Many who got fed up with paying exorbitant transportation rates resorted to renting scooters. Our son Nick who was in Thailand at the same time, got everywhere by scooter! The scooter drivers in most of SE Asia were a wild bunch but it was a major mode of transportation used by everyone.
When traffic backed up, the scooters often made much better time. But I was not brave or silly enough to take my life in my hands and try a scooter at any time when in Thailand for 2 weeks!
Both Nick and his travelling buddy Matt earned “Thailand Tattoos” when they went for a spill on their scooters and were left with scrapes up the length of their legs.
On the list of tips for visiting Thailand for more cautious travellers … think twice about scooters for transportation.
3) Be Careful With the Food
The food in Thailand can be great. Thai food when cooked fresh will provide you with a great source of protein and veggies, all in a great flavour. You can eat well when in Thailand for 2 weeks! But food cooking practices and the water may not always be your friend.
We should have paid more attention to this one of the tips for visiting Thailand. Both David and I got travellers belly. He recovered faster than I did. I ultimately had to take the antibiotics that my doctor had prescribed for me to travel with. If you are not so proactive, you can try to fight it with over the counter meds or visit one of the many clinics.
Traveller belly is a very, very common occurrence in Thailand and pharmacies and clinics can easily help you out. Even if you are careful in what and where you eat, you may have a problem if you are travelling for any length of time in Thailand and choosing to eat local. I was not going to search out western restaurants (e.g. McDonalds) just to try to be safe!
4) Learn To Say No in Thai
As with all tourist spots, you will find people trying to sell you everything. The first rule is to know what a reasonable price is. Then be prepared to haggle to get the price you think is fair or walk away.
Understand that much of what you could buy may not the authentic, even if it has a tag on it. Take that into consideration when you set your fair price. You will be less disappointed and less hassled if you pay attention to this one of the tips for visiting Thailand.
Don’t be pulled into any discussions about time shares or any shady looking adventures. Do not take the tuk tuk or taxi rides that include “one stop”. You will be pulled into a high pressure sales pitch.
Learn to say no in Thai and stick to it as you walk away firmly. Just smile and say “mai kha” (for female speakers) or “mai krap” (for male speakers).
5) You Are Not in Kansas Anymore
We tend to think of Canada as a very multicultural country. It is nothing compared to the broad range of travellers we found as we moved about Thailand.
We were told that in high season (up to April), Thailand was a favourite destination for travellers escaping from real winter. Thailand is an easy hop for Australians at any time of year. This also applies to Asian travellers. We found many Indian tourists in Thailand. Understand that cultural norms vary and not everyone will act as you do!
In most of the tourist areas we found that the Thai people speak passable English and we had no trouble trying to get simple messages across. David sometimes got a patient smile as he tried to engage in longer more complicated discussions. Learn some simple Thai phrases to be polite and speak slowly and patiently.
Enjoy being part of this great cultural scene. This one of the tips for visiting Thailand will prepare you to being in the minority in many places you visit.
6) Living In A Wet Sauna
We knew we were travelling by the equator and it would be hot. We did not expect the near 100% humidity we found travelling in Thailand for 2 weeks. It was like living in a wet sauna!
To survive in the heat and humidity, plan for this one of the tips for visiting Thailand. Be prepared. Take it slowly. Plan to cool down regularly. You won’t get as much done in a day as you think!
But apparently the northern part of Thailand around Chaing Mai is still very hot but doesn’t have the humidity. When our son Nick was travelling in that area, he found the weather much more bearable. But then, he took every opportunity to find a way to cool down.
7) Be Nimble
We often fail this one of the tips for visiting Thailand.
We tend to be planners. We don’t schedule every day but we generally have the layout of the major stops we will be making. This trip to SE Asia, we first booked our flight to and from Canada. This would have us fly into Sydney and leave from Bangkok.
With entry and exit points booked, we figured out the big stops we wanted to do. Then we considered how long we wanted to stay – Sydney, Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef, Bali, Singapore and then Thailand. We did not book all of our hotels and flights in advance but generally 2 weeks before we were looking to lock down hotels and flights for the duration of the stay. This left us flexibility for day trips from our base but didn’t let us move around once we had landed.
On the other extreme, our son Nick was travelling in SE Asia at the same time we were. He had a general idea of where he was going and when. He booked some of his travel in advance but generally did not commit to a place to stay until the day before or when he arrived. He would generally book one or two nights at a time. This gave him the flexibility to move around when something caught his interest. But then he is travelling with a backpack and can move with much more freedom.
We generally locked down flights and hotels to either save money by booking in advance or for a longer stay. But sometimes I wish we had been a bit more nimble and left some ability to move around with more flexibility. I will never be as carefree as Nick in travel planning. But sometimes the benefits of locking down your plans are outweighed by missed opportunities.
We learned a lot on our first trip to Thailand. We did well on some of the tips for visiting Thailand. Others lessons take a little longer to learn. Some of our lessons apply more broadly to SE Asia and are covered in another blog. You have to know that somewhere in all of our lessons learned we have to talk about packing!
Do you agree with our tips for visiting Thailand? What is your biggest tip to add to this list?