36 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING THAILAND

Wat Arun Temple
Wat Arun Temple – Bangkok

Visiting Thailand was one of the best decisions I have made. The country has so much to offer from breath taking beaches to grand temples. In order to get the most out of your trip I have compiled 36 things to know before visiting Thailand.

These travel tips are unique to Thailand and might surprise you to know. We will cover the basics of seasons and visas, along with toilets, ATMS and what to expect when you drink Red Bull.

Here are the 36 Things to know before visiting Thailand:

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1. CURRENCY

For first timers in Thailand, the local currency is Thai Baht (THB). This is broken into 1, 2,5,10 coins and 10, 20,50,100,500,1000 notes. The money is very straight forward and easy to get your head round after the first few goes. I worked on this rough guide line (THB to GBP):

  • 1฿ = 2p
  • 2฿ = 5p
  • 5฿ = 12p
  • 10฿ = 24p
  • 20฿ = 50p
  • 50฿ = £1.20
  • 100฿ = £2.50
  • 500฿ = £12
  • 1000฿ = £24

Obviously the currency exchange rate changes all the time but this shouldn’t fluctuate too much.

Mostly everywhere you go will take cash over card, so make sure you bring over a good chunk of money. Use travel cards that offer free withdrawals or bring enough from home with you.

2. THAI PHRASES

Whenever visiting a new country, it is always good manners to learn a few basic phrases. By trying to speak the language it shows you aren’t an ignorant tourist and can go a long way in the eyes of the locals. In Thailand males and females have a different ending they add onto the end of a saying. If you are a women you add Kah and a man you add Khrap (sounds more like Kap).

  • Hello = Sawasdee Kah/Khrap (sounds like Sah-wah-dee)
  • Thank you = Kop Kun Kah/Khrap
  • Toilet = Hong Nam
  • Bye = La Gorn Kah/Khrap
  • Yes = Chai
  • No = Mai
  • Please = Pord
  • How Much = Tao Rai Kah/Khrap
  • Check Please = Check Bin Kah/Khrap
Chiang Rai street, lanterns hanging across the street taken at dusk,
Chiang Rai

3. SEASONS IN THAILAND

When planning your trip to Thailand, it is important to consider the different seasons. Thailand categorizes its weather into 3; the wet season (May to October), the cool season (November to February) and the hot season (March to May).

Do not let the “rainy season” put you off. The rain will last about an hour and then the sky will clear and you can continue on adventuring. Different parts of Thailand will be effected differently but the rain is not like the UK, it doesn’t continue all day but it does hammer it down. I chose to travel Thailand the month of May and only experienced the rain twice.

The cool season is the most popular to tourists and therefore a little more expensive. Temperatures will fluctuate between 21-31 degrees with less humidity in the air.

If you struggle with heat the hot season is worth avoiding. The humidity at times can be overwhelming, however like the rainy season you are rewarded with less crowds, more interaction with the locals and better prices.

4. THAILAND VISA

One of the most important things to know before visiting Thailand is what visa you need to be on. If you reside in the UK you can enter Thailand for 30 days without a visa (for tourism purposes only). If you wish to stay longer you can extend another 30 days as long as you have applied within your first 30 days. A 60 day tourist visa costs $30 (US), you can either extend online or at a local immigration office.

Here are the links to the Thai Embassy and the UK government website. Be careful not to pay for any “packages” as they are expensive and unnecessary.

If you accidently overstay your 30 days, do not panic! While I do not advice this, you can pay a fine of 500 ฿ (£12) per day until you leave the country.

5. VACCINATIONS

Disclaimer, I am not in the medical field and cannot advice you on what vaccinations to get. I can only share my experience and what precautions I took before travelling to Thailand. In the UK you are entitled to the following travel jabs for free: Polio (given as a combined diphtheria/tetanus/polio jab), typhoid, hepatitis A and Cholera. I got these jabs done a year prior as I was travelling to Kenya. The Tetanus one was the worst, it felt like the nurse had stabbed me in the arm with a blunt pencil!

I decided not to take Malaria tablets as I was going to areas with little to no risk and staying on the backpacker loop. Over the years I have spoken to many people about what precautions they took and the side effects outweighed the probability of being bitten.

Pai Canyon cliff edge overlooking forest and rolling hills
Pai Canyon

6. PLUG SOCKETS/TRAVEL ADAPTERS

The plug sockets in Thailand are the same shape as the USA. Therefore when looking for an adapter you will want one with the two straight prongs. If you are a technical bunny then you can use a type A, B and C plug. But to keep things simple I advise the above.

To avoid blowing up a rural village make sure you check the voltage. Thailand runs on 220V and 50Hz. Therefore if you come from America you will need a voltage converter as your devices run on 120V and 60Hz. If you look on your phone/laptop chargers you will see what power it takes to run those machines.

For example my UK Samsung phone charger has an input of 100-240V 50-60Hz allowing me to use just a travel adapter.

7. BUDGET FOR VISITING THAILAND

Before visiting Thailand it is good to have a rough idea of the budget you want to live off. Whether you are going for 1 week or 6 months having a basic guide will help take the stress of money away. Thailand is a backpacker’s best friend you can quite easily live off £10 per day and feel like royalty.

Let’s break down some of the costs:

  • Hostels – £2 – £10 / 88 – 440 ฿
  • Hotels – £7 – £50 / 308 – 2200 ฿ (5* Hotels, the more boujee the more expensive)
  • Street food – 50p – £3.00 / 20 – 132 ฿
  • Meal Out – £3-£10 / 132 – 440 ฿
  • Beer – 50p -£2.50 / 20 – 100 ฿
  • Cocktails – £2.50 – £5 / 100 – 220 ฿
  • Taxi’s/Tuktuks – 12p – £20 / 5 – 880 ฿ (depending on distance/if you use the meter 1 hour journey around £10)
  • Hiring Motorbikes – £2.50 – £8 / 100 – 352 ฿ (24 hours)
  • Temples – Free – £10 / 0 – 440 ฿ (usually around £2.50)
  • Boat Trips – £12 – £32 / 528 – 1408 ฿
  • National Parks – Free – £10 / 0 – 440 ฿
  • Elephant Sanctuary £35 – £55 / 1540 – 2420 ฿ (Half day and full day)

8. TRANSPORT IN THAILAND

I feel the best way to travel Thailand is by using a mixture of different transport.

Taxi’s and Tuktuks – On every street corner of Thailand there is someone asking if you need transportation. This makes getting around super easy but there are things to consider before saying yes.

For 1. If it is a taxi, always ask to use the meter and keep google maps on so you can see if they are going off track and raking up the bill. As a foreigner you are a price tag and we don’t want to be taken advantage of so keep this insider info in mind. With TukTuks negotiate the price before getting in and repeat the price a few times to make sure you are both on the same page.

Make sure with both vehicles you have the correct money handy, as some drivers will refuse to give you change.

Planes – There are airports dotted all over, with reasonably cheap flights. If you are short on time travelling this way will give you more freedom.

“VIP” Buses and Mini Vans – There are public buses but I never understood the timetable so I always chose to bus VIP. The only real difference between the buses are the comfortable seats and that the driver is only stopping at 1 destination rather than several.

VIP BUS with leg room, comfy chairs and plug sockets

Ferries – The ferries will transport you from each island. Remember that the companies work on Island time so they never leave when they say they will. Therefore do not stress if you are not there half an hour before because it will not make a difference.

Sleeper Train – The sleeper train is an experience! From Bangkok to Chiang Mai the journey is 13 hours. There are 3 different cabin choices: 3rd Class no aircon and only sitting seats (I would not recommend), 2nd Class Sleeper bunk beds with AC, there are around 40 beds in this carriage, but it is surpassingly quiet considering the circumstances. And lastly 1st Class private cabin with AC (2 bunk beds).

Motorbikes and Mopeds – A fun and spontaneous way to get around Thailand is to hire bikes. Once you are out of the cities the roads are less chaotic and easier to navigate. The average pricing is £2.50 (100฿) for 24 hours and you can use for multiple days.

9. GRAB TAXI

Grab taxis are the best way of getting around Thailand, if you aren’t a confident moped driver. The app is similar to Uber and calculates the price of the journey before even disembarking. Paying in advance means you don’t have the awkward conversation of “can I have change please”. What I love about this app is that it tracks your journey, meaning if you go off track/stop for too long it will ping you a notification to check you are safe and what is holding up the journey.

I found the rides to be about 20% more expensive than normal taxis, however as a solo female traveller I felt safer and that was worth the extra. What you need to keep in mind is sometimes you cannot get them and may have to make alternative arrangements.

REMEMBER TO ALWAYS check the registration number matches the one on your booking. We had a driver pull up to us in Bangkok and luckily I said to my friend as she was approaching the car is that the right number and it wasn’t. I am sure it would have been fine, but it is not worth the risk.

10. 12GO.ASIA

A great website to know before visiting Thailand is 12go.asia, this website has all your transport needs. It will show you the best options for the destination you have chosen and underneath other options for more choice of times and transport. This website was such a helpful tool when organizing my trip.

Following the option you click will show you departure and arrival information and the best features of the transport i.e. aircon and the reviews.

11. BACKPACKS CAN GO ON PLANES AS CARRY ON

This travel tip for Thailand will save you a ton of money! Travel Backpacks can go on the plane as carry on. That’s right, your 60L rucksack counts! I had 2 bags; a small day pack and my big bag and went on 3 planes laughing. Be aware some airlines only allow 7kg’s but sometimes if you are willing to risk it they will let you on with heavier items my 9.5kg bag for example.

12. PACKING LIST FOR THAILAND

In brief, pack lightly! The essentials items to have for Thailand are:

  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Rain coat
  • Bug spray
  • Padlock
  • Soft material shorts
  • Sarong (to cover your knees and/or shoulders for the temples)
  • Reusable water bottle, you will be buying water out there but this will keep it cold
  • Flip flops (for hostel showers)
Longtail boat heading to limestone cliffs and bags at the front of the boat

13. TEMPLE ETIQUETTE

If this is your first time visiting a Thailand Temple here are a few basics to help you stay respectful in the houses of worship: 

  • Please cover your shoulders and knees
  • Please be quiet in the inside of the temples as people will be there to worship
  • Please take your shoes off before entering the inside of the temple
  • Please no public displays of affection
Giant pink temple with a dragon swirling up the building
Dragon Temple – Bangkok

14. SCAMS

Unfortunately sometimes being a tourist can make you a target. Here are a couple of common scams to watch out for:

A local asking to swap their change for a note and then using a clever magic trick, to make you think you have the right amount but you are actually short. Make sure you recount the money whilst they are in front of you.

Another scam I encountered but knew to ignore is, a “helpful” local telling you that the temple or attraction is closed and that you should visit somewhere they recommend instead. Always go and check for yourself to avoid disappointment and 98% of the time the place is open.

15. THAI BELLY

Let me first start by saying I did not get a bad belly the whole time I was travelling Asia. To avoid getting poorly always go to food stalls and restaurants that cook your food from fresh. Make sure to go to restaurants with good reviews and eat where the locals eat.

ball of egg fried rice with a little salad and a cocktail
Top Ten BBQ Samui Resturant – Koh Samui

16. STREET FOOD

The best food you will discover in Thailand is amongst the hustle and bustle of the local markets. You will be spoilt for choice with everything from Pad Thai to fried chicken. The market is a place to experiment, with food being as little as 10฿ (23p), you will get a banquet for your buck. If you are feeling adventurous there are scorpions and maggots to feast on (I can assure you maggot tastes as bad as it sounds!).

As previously mentioned above the best way to avoid the “Thai belly” is to eat food that is prepared and cooked in front of you and stand in the line where all the locals are eating.

street vendor making pad thai

17. HAGGLING

Although Thailand is a cheap place to visit, you can be paying up to 3x more than the locals. We call it the foreigner tax. Even though we are happy to pay these amounts, market vendors will rack up their prices if we don’t haggle. This “dance” is all part of the shopping experience and will not offend the owner of the stall. If the items have prices on already then that is not the time to barter. If the price is made up on the spot that is when you have been invited to “dance”.

To be a good negotiator have a price in mind that you think is fair and then offer lower than that price. The trick is to meet roughly in the middle, remember to always be kind and if you aren’t coming to an agreement walk away, usually there are several of the same items around. If you are lucky they will then follow and agree to your price.

The same goes for Tuktuks, never agree to the price they offer because usually it is ridiculous!

Market stall selling clothes

18. TIPPING

Unlike other countries tipping is not expected in Thailand, but it is greatly appreciated. Rounding up your bill from 80 to 100฿ (£1.84 to £2.50) is only an extra 66p! However tipping street vendors is more tricky, due to a language barrier they often won’t accept an extra 10฿ (23p) and will just give you change back.

19. BUDDHA STATUES

Did you know it is illegal to take the image of the Buddha out of Thailand, unless you have written permission? Obviously people do and they get away with it (my friends anklet for example) but as a sign of respect/I wouldn’t want to know what happens if you get caught I wouldn’t risk it. I do not think Thai prison is as fun as Bridget Jones made it look.

White buddha sitting on a hill
White Buddha (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) – Pai

20. WATER IN THAILAND

Before visiting Thailand, if you haven’t invested already, buy a reusable water bottle. Don’t drink the tap water, stick to the bottled stuff for 13฿ (30p 1.5L) and decant it into your water bottle to keep it cold. The two water bottles I recommend are the Bemaxx active flask which keeps your water ice cold all day. And the Crazy Cap that allows you to drink from the tap and filters your water via a chargeable LED light. I also brushed my teeth everyday with the tap water and didn’t have any problems.

21. THAILAND ICE

Due to the Thailand heat, most restaurants will give you ice with your chosen drink. Don’t be alarmed, the ice is not made with tap water but made in a factory with a filtered system. If you are still uncomfortable and want to take no chances then either drink a warm drink or only drink the ice with holes in the middle as that will indicate a factory pattern. 

2 girls smiling with cocktails.

22. TOILET ROLL AND FLUSH

Because of Thailand’s sewage system the pipes can get clogged with toilet paper. Unlike westernised toilets the paper takes longer to dissolve. That is why you will see signs around the bathroom asking for you to use the bins provided. 

Next to the bin you might also see a large barrel of water with a bowl in it. This is for the toilets that do not have a modern day flush mechanism. All you need to do is fill the bowl with water and put that water down the pan. And voila your business is there no more. 

gold building with dragons lining the roof. and prestine gardens in front
White Temple Bathroom block – Chiang Rai

23. BUM GUN 

Before arriving in Thailand, let me introduce you to the bum gun! This is a squirter hose that is next to the toilet. Originally I thought it was a more high tech version of a loo brush but instead it is a cleaning tool for our areas. The Thai’s use it after to wash themselves and then dry the areas with the toilet paper. That is why the bin area is normally a little damp. By using this method the bins stay relatively clean and will not smell in the Thai heat. 

24. SQUAT LOOS

As we are on the subject of bathrooms, you might have the delights of using a squat loo. This “toilet” is literally a hole in the ground that you, you guessed it, squat over! Luckily for us, these old school toilets aren’t that common. They are usually found at small service stations and outdoor public areas. 

The larger services normally have options of normal toilets and squat loo’s, they also had an option on the sleeper train too. 

25. RED BULL 

For first time party goers travelling to Thailand this is an important thing to know. The Red Bull in Thailand is not the same as the rest of the world, it contains amphetamines which are banned in the UK. 

Thailand is where Red Bull originated from. An Austrian man named Dietrich Mateschitz went over and found the drink and wanted to go into business with the maker pharmacist Chaleo Yoovidhya. Dietrich changed the recipe to make it more marketable to westerns and the energy drink was born.

This formula is 3x stronger than the Red Bull we are used to and should be sipped throughout the day rather than being consumed in one sitting. I had one Jager bomb and couldn’t believe how fast my heart was beating, I also suffered from bad heart burn and did not like the effects it gave me.

red bull and fanta on a shelf

26. 7 ELEVENS

Located on every corner of Thailand is a 7 Eleven. These stores will quickly become one of your favourite places. You will hear a lot of backpackers rave about their cheap and tasty cheese and ham toasties. They are perfect for a quick grab and go breakfast. Other than toasties they also supply large waters, snacks, bug sprays, sun cream and chargers! They have everything you need and take card which saves you using your precious cash.

7/11 building

27. BUCKETS

Buckets of cocktail mix might sound like a good idea when they are 150฿ (£3.50) but sometimes they can be a trap. What is normally included in a bucket is a 300ml bottle of alcohol and a mixer. These drinks can be lethal, so drink responsibly and PLEASE keep an eye on your drink. I met 7 people who had their buckets spiked and as a result got their belongings robbed. If you can, try and cover your drink with cling film or a CD or something you can take with you to beat the crooks at their own game. I think this one is the most important thing to know before visiting Thailand.

Picture of man holding a bucket of alcohol

28. MAKING FRIENDS IN THAILAND

Making friends in Thailand was the easiest thing to do. In all my travels I have never enjoyed hostels as much as I did here. Thailand has a backpacker loop that allows you to bump into the same people again and again. If you aren’t friends with them at the start of your trip you will be by the end!

What I loved about this trip was how willing everyone was to amalgamate their plans. You will not be alone for long in Thailand. I ended up travelling with a girl called Eimear who I met in my first hostel in Bangkok and due to our last minuteness we went up north together. We then ended up in a bar and met a guy called Sal who we bumped into again at the markets and invited him on the trip with us, we ended up travelled together for the next 4 weeks and had the best time.

2 girls 1 guy with their arms in the air next to a cliff edge

29. SIM CARDS

Sim cards are available all over Thailand, so you do not need to worry about getting a mobile travel plan before visiting. The easiest place to purchase them are at the airport in the baggage area. Simply present your passport, choose the plan that best suits your needs and purchase. The team will normally put the sim card in for you and set you up to make sure it is working. 7 Elevens also have several options and there is WIFI available in most restaurants.

30. INVEST IN BUG SPRAY

Mosquitos are the bane of my life, no matter what country or how drowned I am in deet the little critters find a way of biting me. Investing in a bug spray is a must. I used the Jungle formula from savers and the Soffell that I brought in Thailand. I also purchased bands for my ankles and wrists, and used Lavender oil to as they are repelled by the smell. While it didn’t stop me from getting bitten these methods did drastically lower the number of bites I would normally get.

31. ELEPHANT SANCTURIES

A bucket list item for Thailand is visiting an Elephant sanctuary. Getting the opportunity to feed, bathe and walk with these magnificent creatures is something that will leave you smiling for months after. However with sanctuaries being a big tourist attraction and therefore “money makers” some sanctuaries are far less ethical than others. Please do your research before choosing Elephants you would like to visit.

32. DONT RIDE THE ELEPHANTS/TAKE SELFIES WITH TIGERS

Before visiting Thailand you might think the tiger temple would be an amazing place to visit and I too would love to cuddle a tiger, but sadly these wild cats are being drugged and taken advantage of. If you do decide to visit somewhere with tigers please do your research before parting with your money.

Similar to what I said above about tigers, elephant riding is a form of animal cruelty. The animals are often beaten into submission and worked to the bone. If it is something you want to do then please educate yourselves on what is goes on behind those fences before you make a decision.

close up of a tiger

33. TAMPONS ARE HARD TO FIND

Before visiting Thailand be sure to pack Tampons. While pads are widely available (7 Eleven has almost everything) you will need to go to a pharmacy to get a box of tampons if you forget to pack them.

34. ONLINE PRICES VS HIGH STREET PRICES

90% of the time high street prices on transport and tours are cheaper than online. It is always a good idea to research the prices online to get a rough guideline what you will be offered. For example I went to a travel shop in Phuket for a ferry to Koh Phi Phi and online I was looking at 750฿ (£17.50) but in store from word and mouth I got it for 500฿ (£12).

lots of islands in the sea at a viewpoint
Ang Thong National Park

35. ATM FEES

When travelling Thailand you will rarely use your bank card, most shops and restaurants only accept cash. Therefore before visiting Thailand make sure you have a substantial amount of money to take with you. There are cash machines all over the country but these come with a high cash out fee. Most ATM machines will charge you 220฿ (£5) each time you withdraw.

To ensure your money is safe, before inserting your card give the plastic casing a wiggle. If the plastic falls off you know that a decoy was put on and to avoid that machine.

36. THE KING OF THAILAND

Do not talk about the King and do not disrespect the royal family as this is a criminal offense! Concise, simple and to the point.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Thailand has been one of my favourite countries to visit, I felt safe 99% of the time (the 1% was in the dark and there were 3 dogs trotting towards me). I made amazing friendships and met so many wonderful people. I lived like a queen for a month and learnt so much more about the Thailand culture.

These 36 tips are everything you need to know before visiting Thailand.

Happy Exploring!

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