Are you planning a trip to Thailand? Knowing these 10 keys to a successful visit of Thailand may be the difference between having a smooth experience and a stressful one. Gain an edge by learning what to expect beforehand. I am fortunate to have Thai friends and knew exactly what to expect when traveling to Thailand. However, I noticed other tourists while there that looked completely lost and confused. Thailand can be an excellent country to visit. By doing a little research first you will maximize the fun you have.
Too often tourists make plans to visit Thailand without understanding any of the language. Learning some Thai is perhaps the single most important thing you can do before your trip. Does this mean you need to spend years learning the language? Absolutely not, but knowing some basics will go a long way. I always recommend Lonely Planet’s Thai Phrasebook and Dictionary. Not only is it cheap and pocket size, but it’s a good book for tourists. It will teach you the pronunciations and tones of the Thai language. At least learn a few needed phrases such as ‘Where is the restroom?’, and ‘How much is this?’. Check out my experience with the language Learning Thai, or Muttering Some Words from a Book
Do you know if your debit/credit card is usable in Thailand? Best to ask your carrier beforehand. Prepaid cards, for instance, may not be usable in the country. This was the case for one of my cards I planned on using. If I had not checked first, I could have ended up stuck in Thailand with no funds. Alert your bank/issuer that you will be traveling to the country. Be sure to have the equivalent of 10,000 Thai baht on you when you arrive at a Thai airport. If a Thai official checks and you do not have this much cash on hand, you may be detained. This law is enforced to crackdown on those coming to Thailand to purposefully overstay their visa, and backpackers coming in with the intent to make money entertaining others with street performances.
Speaking of laws, there are a few other important ones to know. Never insult or say anything bad about the King or Queen. This is a serious offence in Thailand that can land you in prison. Know how long your visa is good for and do not overstay your visit. Keep your passport on you at all times. Do not get involved in illegal gambling, drugs, or the sex industry. Read my post 6 of Thailand’s Top Laws.
Obviously, you will want a phone to use in Thailand. If you have a locked phone you may be out of luck about using it. A SIM card needs to be bought so that phones are usable in Thailand. Your carrier may not allow this on a locked phone. With an unlocked phone you will be okay. SIM cards can be bought from 3 of the Thai phone companies; AIS, Truemove, and dtac. These can be bought at the airport but will cost more. I recommend buying one at a 7-11. The other option is to just buy a cheap, basic phone when you arrive.
Thai baht is the currency of Thailand. These come in banknotes and coins. Currently, 20 baht is the lowest banknote. Everything under this amount will be a coin. Check the exchange rate for your country’s currency and remember it by heart. For U.S. citizens, I can tell you the rate will be approximately 30-1. This means $1 USD is equal to 30 Thai baht. Exchange rates change daily though. Never exchange your currency for Thai baht before coming to Thailand. You will pay higher fees. Wait and exchange your money when you arrive. ATM’s in Thailand are numerous and dispense Thai baht. ATM fees are high, but that’s the trade off if you don’t want to carry all your money on you at once.
I highly suggest buying sandals for your visit to Thailand. They will save you time if exploring any of the wonderful Buddhist temples. Be respectful and take off any footwear before entering a temple. You will already see many other sandals at a temple. Leave footwear in this area. People will not steal them so do not worry about that. Clothing should be loose, light colored, and comfortable. Thailand has a tropical climate that you may not be used to. Also, stay covered up. Walking around in bikinis for women or muscle shirts for men is highly inappropriate everywhere except at the beach. Respect cultural norms and dress conservatively, especially at temples. Some places, such as the Grand Palace, even have a dress code that is to be followed or entry may be denied.
Stay well hydrated. I always drink more water than usual in Thailand. If staying in the cities, water will always be close by at either a 7-11 or a street vendor. If your visit includes a more remote location, be sure to stock up before hand. The great news is that water is very cheap. The tropical climate will affect you, thus making it of the utmost importance to keep your body hydrated.
Remember how we talked about phones earlier? One reason you may want to use your own is because of the camera. More and more people are using just their phones for photography. Phones today can capture amazing photos. Phone cameras remain functional even on locked ones. A phone is also easier to travel with than a traditional camera. However, some of us still love using cameras. Either way, you will want to have access to photography. Thailand has so many amazing photo opportunities that it would be a disservice if you could not take photos while here.
I have already mentioned two keys about surviving the climate of Thailand. The next key is knowing how to properly see the sights. Check your itinerary. Is there a day on it where you are only doing outside activities? If so, you may get overheated and exhausted. That’s the last way you would want to feel on your trip. The secret is to mix in outdoor activities with indoor activities. After working up a sweat outside, you’ll want some cool air. Be sure to balance your time with visits to indoor sites such as museums, walk-in restaurants, and shopping malls.
Thailand has plenty of transportation. I use the bus as much as possible because it’s cheaper with no foreigner fee. Sometimes a taxi is better though. Legally, metered taxis are supposed to always turn the meter on. However, the truth is you can forget that if at a highly visited tourist site like the Grand Palace. Away from these places it will be easier to find one that does. This is where knowing some Thai language is helpful…hint hint. Motorcycle taxis can be great for shorter trips. Tuk Tuks can be fun, but cost a premium. Also, beware of scams where tuk tuk drivers work for jewelry stores, or if they tell you a certain temple is closed for ‘Buddha Day’. Aside from these options, Thailand also has railways, river boats, ocean boats, ferries, and the Bangkok Skytrain.
Now you will be better prepared for a successful visit to Thailand. Follow these keys for a smooth experience. The country is such an amazing place for travelers. After marrying my Thai wife, it has become my second home. I love the country and the culture. Hopefully, this post will be helpful and you will leave with this same love. Have fun and enjoy your stay! Sawatdee krup.