Thailand gets a whopping 32 million tourists each year who come for the beaches, sunshine and a cheap holiday. Whether you’re renting a house in Thailand or staying in hostels, you’re almost guaranteed to fall in love with the country. History, natural beauty and a welcoming culture combine to create the perfect travel destination. If this is your first-time, check out the following tips to enhance your experience and avoid the scams.
Eat Street Food
Some travellers are wary when it comes to eating street food and worry about falling sick or worse: having stomach problems. However, this is usually a misconception. Vendors sell food from homemade Tom Yam to kebabs on sticks and noodles on most street corners. Locals always line up to get their food. And the price is usually much less than eating in a restaurant. Be brave and sample some. It’s both delicious and inexpensive.
Don’t Travel Through Thailand at Breakneck Speed
A favourite way of travelling for some is to try to cram as much fun and activities into the shortest amount of time possible. One night here and one night there with overnight buses, trains and ferries thrown in too. Not a good idea in Thailand. You’ll find the country to be full of wonders and attractions that you won’t want to miss. Consider spending at least three nights in Bangkok before heading to the islands of Chiang Mai. And if you don’t have a lot of time, stick to one place.
Protect Against the Mosquitoes
Mozzies are everywhere in Thailand, and you’re going to get bitten whether you like it or not. The only way to stop the biting is to take measures to protect yourself. Covering your arms and legs after dark when the little vampires come out is one way. And make sure you bring repellent or an anti-mosquito spray. If you’re staying on the beach, buy a few coils to burn on the balcony to keep them away too.
Don’t Book Tours in Advance
It’s sometimes a good idea to pre-book tours and activities before arriving. Taking advantage of promotions and discounts can often save you quite a lot. But, this isn’t the case in Thailand. Prices online tend to be fixed and rarely change. When you arrive in Thailand, you’ll notice hundreds of tour companies along the streets and representatives outside trying to entice you inside. If you have excellent negotiating skills, you may find a bargain and get up to a 50% discount.
Don’t Believe Everyone
First timers comment on how friendly the locals are and how people randomly approach you offering their time and help. Some are nice enough to take you on a tour or are selling local handicraft. And how nice of the Tuk Tuk driver to tell us that the Royal Palace isn’t open today because of renovation and instead offers to take us somewhere else. All of this is rubbish.
Scammers are everywhere, and naïve tourists are the targets. Anyone who approaches you in the street with an offer too good to be true, remember it’s only good for them. If a Tuk Tuk driver wants to take you somewhere other than the place you want to go, you’ll pay an inflated price, and they’ll get a commission.
One of the highlights for tourists in Thailand is the availability and cost of alcohol, especially beer. But alcohol laws in Thailand may seem confusing to outsiders and catch unwary tourists off guard. Shops can’t sell alcohol between certain hours in the day. Oddly enough, you can buy beer early in the morning from the 7-11, but not during the afternoon.
Shops and bars can’t sell alcohol on certain days of the year for religious purposes. If there’s a significant day approaching on the Buddhist calendar, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find alcoholic drinks. Inevitably, this catches a lot of tourists unaware. Just do a quick Google search for upcoming religious holidays and non-alcohol days to prepare yourself. And if one is coming up, buy enough the day before and put them in your fridge.
Some of Thailand’s best attractions are the many temples, pagodas and religious shrines found all around the country. But, there’s a strict dress code if you want to go inside. You need to dress modestly, which means no shorts, singlets or skirts above the knees. It’s possible to rent a sarong in some of the temples, but not all. And seeing unwitting tourists turned away because they’re not wearing the right clothes is quite common. Make sure you pack trousers and wear a t-shirt when you plan to visit religious buildings. It’s also worth pointing out that you need to take off your shoes before you go inside. Shoes are kept outside on racks.
Respect is a critical cultural characteristic in Thailand. You should never touch the head of a Thai or raise your voice to them. It’s also insulting and offensive to expose the sole of your feet as they’re considered the lowest part of the body. People aren’t going to get upset if you forget, but as a visitor to their country, you do have a responsibility to be culturally sensitive and follow their customs.
Time to Don the Backpack
The vast majority tourists love their adventure. And those who don’t probably fell for a scam or didn’t get what they expected. But, if you follow these tips and prepare yourself, you’re sure to have the trip of a lifetime.