Thailand has witnessed a steady increase in popularity over the past few years. The country’s diversity makes it an attractive prospect for tourists across the world.
The nation has 1430 islands with over 1500 miles of pristine, sandy beaches amongst them. It boasts of rich culture and history, joyful festivals, delectable cuisine, excellent weather, friendly people and a wild nightlife.
With so many places to visit in very little time, you might have a hard time choosing what to go for. Here’s the perfect Thailand itinerary to make it easier for you to organize your holiday.
A vacation comes along with its own set of unwritten rules. Read ahead for eleven tips that you must keep in mind in Thailand, especially if you are a first-timer.
- Be friendly with the locals
Thailand is known as the ‘Land of Smiles’ for good reason: the people here are very affable. The local people hold empathy and kindness in high regard, and are unfailingly polite to tourists. Despite language barriers, they get along very well with foreigners.
It costs nothing to be kind, but it helps you in many ways. Wear a warm smile and strike up a conversation with the locals, you won’t regret it. The knowledge they have about their land is second to none and with their help, you might end up having a much better experience than expected.
- Be careful of scammers
Along with its friendly population, Thailand comes with its fair share of bad apples. I have listed three easily identifiable scams that you may experience during your vacation in the country.
- If you are approached by an overly friendly stranger giving you unsolicited advice about discounts on tour packages or hotel stays, ignore them. It’s a scheme to swindle foreigners and make them purchase overpriced services.
- Snorkeling is a popular activity in the coastal country, which makes it a breeding ground for fraud. In this scam, the boat crew lends out snorkels to its passengers, hides away one or two snorkels, and then demands replacement charges from its customers.
- If you’re on your way to a temple riding a tuk-tuk, the driver would inform you that the temple is closed for ‘special prayers’. Then they offer to take you to a different temple, conveniently passing by ‘very good’ jewelry shops or diners offering discounts… you know what happens next. Don’t let them change your plans, stick with the places you intend to visit.
The overall point is that while a majority of people are friendly, accept help only when you need it or ask for it.
- Try out floating markets
Shops on slender canals snaking through cities, vendors on boats selling a wide range of goods, and tourists putting their bargaining skills to use – shopping at a floating market is an experience you would not want to miss.
Today, the busiest of these markets can be found an hour outside Bangkok – the sprawling Damnoen Sadauk Floating Market. Usually taking about a day to explore fully, it promises lots of fun. Remember to start off early for your tour, before the place gets swarmed by tourists.
- Don’t worry about travel
If you have any apprehensions about getting around in a foreign nation, fear no more. Blessed with good infrastructure and well-laid roads, there are a variety of travel options available for you in Thailand. These include buses, taxis, tuk-tuks, trains and boats.
There are three main ways in which tourists decide to travel in this country.
- The first is to depend on the local traveling options: tuk-tuks, taxis, metro rides, and covering the rest on foot. Riding a rickety tuk-tuk through avenues with the locals all around gives a feel of the authentic Thai lifestyle. While this may involve the least planning, be wary of overpriced rides and scams that are common in Thailand.
- The second way of traveling is via cabs or trains. Thailand has its version of Uber, called GrabTaxi, which offers cars and vans for hire at fixed, reasonable prices. These also get you directly to your destinations. Thailand also has an official website that allows you to book plane, train and bus tickets online.
- The third would be to rent a bike or car and drive it yourself. While this is not recommended on your first visit, driving around in a foreign nation but if you’re feeling adventurous, go for it!
- Learn basic Thai etiquette
As noted previously, Thai people are very polite in general. Tourists experience smiling faces and kind actions everywhere. So to avoid being offensive and reciprocate their kindness, learn basic Thai etiquette.
There are a few points to keep in mind, such as:
- While many tourists walk around barefoot to ‘connect with nature’, keeping your shoes on is considered polite. Of course, taking your shoes off at beaches is natural, but many tourist spots require you to wear one. However, if you’re entering a house, temple or shop, taking your shoes off is the safer option.
- Thais greet each other with a Wai: a greeting similar to the Indian namaste. Instead of waving or shaking hands, greeting your Thai counterparts with a wai goes a long way in gaining you their respect. If you feel awkward, acknowledge their wai with a smile or a thank you.
- Maintain good hygiene. You don’t want to be around being stinky, it’s considered impolite. A quick shower (or two) every day and a spray of deodorant should be enough to battle the heat and the night-long parties.
- Clothing advice
Thailand is a warm, tropical, coastal country with an average temperature of 30°C. While many prefer to wear fewer clothes and expose a lot of skin to stay cool, others choose to cover themselves fully to avoid the sun’s powerful rays.
Clothing protocol becomes important around temples and religious places. For men, casual button-downs, collared shirts, or simple tees with Bermuda shorts or cargo pants are all you need on this holiday.
For women, flowy tops and a skirt, or just shirts with pants are agreeable: as long as they aren’t too revealing. It is inappropriate to sightsee in skimpy tops or unbuttoned shirts.
Avoid torn or stained clothes, wear at least knee-length pants, and don’t go for tops with offensive language or images. While close-toed shoes are more practical, sandals are accepted too.
Take along a cardigan or a shawl on your journey. They’re very handy in various situations: they protect you from the sun and keep you warm after sunset, when it gets surprisingly cool.
- Pick sanctuaries over unethical animal tourism
Famous for elephants, Thailand has multiple national parks and sanctuaries where you can see a lot of other animals too. Unfortunately, animal abuse is a common issue in most elephant rides, snake farms and tiger kingdoms.
While these may be popular amongst tourists, most animals are drugged, underfed, chained and beaten – in a nutshell, they face horrible abuse.
Instead of taking pictures with tigers and going on elephant rides, search up a few sanctuaries or rescue centers to visit. Here, you can see wild animals in their habitat, experiencing normal life.
You’re also allowed to interact with friendly elephants, feeding them bananas and accompanying them on walks. This way, your money goes towards the well-being of these animals instead of contributing to their misery.
- Make your vacation colorful
Thailand has many temples and museums and beaches to choose from. So move around, don’t spend too much time in one place. Choose smaller towns or islands over modern cities.
A maximum of three days is enough to cover any big city or its main spots, so plan your vacation accordingly. Go for tours, take long walks along the exquisite beaches, watch cultural performances like the fire dance.
A tip on how to be a good tourist – go for mediocre hotel rooms instead of costly ones. It’s easier to leave your room this way, and you also save money.
- Gorge on Thai food (with a pinch of salt)
Thai cuisine is famous across the world for its strong flavors and tasty dishes. While restaurants usually serve less spicy food to suit everyone’s taste buds, I recommend trying out street food for its authenticity and powerful taste.
Vegetarians, there are plenty of dishes available just for you but vegans might find it a bit more difficult to find restaurants.
You might have heard of pad Thai, but there are many other savory dishes that you must not miss out on. A few of these dishes are
- Massaman curry, full of potatoes and peanuts.
- Tom yum goong, a hot and sour soup flavored with lime and lemongrass.
- Gaeng keeow wan, a mild curry dish with slices of eggplant served with steamed rice.
While most outlets serve hygienic food, our bodies are not immune to the local germs in foreign countries. Most diseases are passed on through water, so steer clear of unsealed water bottles, ice cubes, or uncooked food. As the tap water in Thailand is not drinkable, go for packaged drinking water bottles or take along a water bottle to make your life easier.
Thailand is a safe country for vacations. Although you might encounter the occasional pickpocket or purse-snatcher, theft is very rare. Women traveling alone are welcome in Thailand, where it is much safer for them to move about freely than in most other countries.
Talking about safety, stay safe from mosquitoes. Unless contracting dengue on a holiday is your plan, steer clear of these itchy insects. Go for local repellents, keep your room closed during morning and twilight hours and wear light-colored clothing.
- Keep in mind
Here are a few additional tips that would make your Thai vacation better.
Get a local SIM card, it’s much easier to roam around with data instead of having to depend on public WiFi. It’s also easier to make local calls and costs less than using your international SIM card.
Keep a generous amount of cash on you at all times. Thailand uses only baht, and credit cards are rarely used. There’s a 200-300 baht charge on cash withdrawals from ATMs, so withdraw large amounts of cash at a time.
While visiting as many places as possible is advised, don’t rush your Thai experience. Research and plan your itinerary well and allot enough time for delays or emergencies. Include places you feel you would enjoy instead of just going with the crowd. After all, what matters is how much fun you have and not how many places you visit.