6 things to know when planning a trip to Thailand
Ah! Thailand! After so many travels, I can say that this is our favorite place in the world. With the experience of having stepped 4 times on this blessed soil (and also because I missed it so much after writing the post about Thai’s hidden gem) I decided to list these essential things to consider when planning a trip to Thailand, so you can best enjoy this lovely country.
1 – Eat street food
Little one already training his nose for the good thing.
This tip is almost an order. Don’t be afraid to try the flavors Thai cuisine has to offer. I understand the concern many people may have about eating anywhere other than a restaurant, especially when traveling. But a trip to Thailand is never complete without sharing a counter next to the locals while enjoying a great Pad Thai. Make sure this is on your list.
Thai people love to eat and are always crowding street stalls at any time of the day. Even in the night markets at 2:00 AM. In addition to the fabulous taste, the low prices makes street food a really attractive option. A well-served dish averages around ฿150 or $5.
Not sure or don’t know how to start? Take it easy with a street barbecue, then go for a Pad Thai and soon you will order a curry with rice. For drinks, I recommend the flower ice teas. My favorite is the chrysanthemum. Jasmine is great too.
Now if you are hoping to find cockroaches, cricket and other insects. Sorry to tell you, this is bullshit. You might find 1 stall selling these things to the “adventurous” tourist. I wouldn’t waste my time.
2 – Haggle (a lot)
You can ask for a discount, especially when many people offer the same service.
Everything that does not have a price tag is open for negotiation. Tuk-tuk rides, souvenirs, tattoos (if you are one of those) and massages (when hiring more than one service). You can get 30% off the starting price and up to 50% if you have patience. This also goes for tours.
If negotiating is complicated, walk away and try somewhere else. It is not uncommon for sellers to lower the price when they are about to lose the customer.
3 – Consider the traffic
This tip is more relevant if you are going to Bangkok. Calling the traffic horrible is an understatement. And this is the opinion of a guy from a very big city lived with dreadful traffic for many years.
The problem in Bangkok is not just the number of vehicles, but the roads and intersections are very poorly organized. Traffic lights seem to have several stages, multiple intersections blocking the flow of cars. It is chaos!
Prefer to use the subway whenever possible. Google Maps helps a lot to outline the route and the staff at the station is usually very helpful.
What about Tuk-Tuks?
In the city? Once in a lifetime for the experience. Negotiate a reasonable price and make sure the driver won’t take you to a clothing store or any other place before your final destination. They earn commission on that and love to play ignorant.
Take the opportunity to pose as a tuk-tuk muse.
Tuk-Tuks are good in small villages, particularly for longer tours. In Bangkok, they get stuck in traffic as much as cars, with the addition that they are still noisy.
Don’t want to compromise on comfort? Get a Grab (Thai Uber) the prices are low, often the same as a tuk-tuk, the cars are good and with AC.
4 – Respect
Far from me writing etiquette and behavioral guidebook in Thailand, The Incidental Tourist did good post about it. Check it out.
The tips here are a bit more specific. Things I’ve learned from locals that they find disrespectful, not cool. Consider these points when planning a trip to Thailand. Sometimes common sense is not enough.
– The Buddha
Decoration items, T-shirts and anything that has any reference to the father of Buddhism is considered extremely disrespectful. Take photos, enjoy the temples, but think twice before buying a new souvenir for your home. In recent years organizations are trying to raise awareness for this cause. Drawing a parallel, has anyone ever thought of buying a Jesus head to put on the shelf?
– The King
When planning a trip to Thailand, you probably read that the Thai people are proud of their monarchy and love their king. This was true for the former Rama IX , who died in 2016. His son, current monarch, does not appear to be very popular.
To stay on the safe side, avoid talking politics. Several people are charged every year for crimes against the majesty. Even if you are in another country, things like badmouthing the princess’s dress on the internet can cancel all your Thai dreams.
– Thai People
In general, they are very kind and are always smiling. With a little more experience you will understand that they tend to avoid conflicts. The reasons are rooted in Thai culture, which greatly values the reputation a person holds among his colleagues and community. This concept is named Face , and a Thai people are always saving and avoiding losing Face.
Many tourists take advantage of this “weakness”. Do your part, never raise your voice and be reasonable in disagreements. Even if you are on the right side of a conflict, a small compromised can help resolve the situation.
This concept is very broad but if you are interested in learning more, check this excellent article about Saving and Losing Face
– The Elephants
We’ve learned this lesson when we saw the mistreated animals at Zoo Lujan . Whenever an animal is used in a commercial activity, it will be exploited. With the elephants in Thailand is no different. Especially those who carry passengers on their back that suffer from various spinal complications due to years of service. Do not contribute to this cruel practice. If you are planning to interact with these giants, search for a sanctuary that look after rescued ones.
5 – Try the Thai Massage
What you are looking at? Massage is a family thing, pervert!
Everyday. twice a day. With oil. With exfoliation. With nothing. 4 hands massage. Try it all!
Put this gift from the gods on your travel plans. Massage places are around every corner. Usually with the price list and the masseurs at the door.
If you are asking yourself: But what about THAT? Rest assured, you can tell by just looking at the places. When in doubt, if it’s full of young masseurs whose appear to have little experience. Chances are good you will get a happy ending offer.
6 – Don’t spend a lot on hotels
The low cost floating huts we stayed at Khao Sok
If you value your hard-earned money, you will do well in Thailand. When researching where to stay, don’t fall for the travel agency’s package, spending more than you should.
Rule of the thumb when planning a trip to Thailand on a budget: $10 per person (I’m not kidding) is usually enough for a good room with a private bathroom and air conditioning. In Bangkok, we didn’t care much about location as long as there’s a subway station nearby. Staying out of downtown also allow us to experience the regular city life and the local area markets.
Here are the hotels we stayed and are our first choice on the next trip to Thailand.
Hotels in Bangkok
– Double DD House, sometimes it shows as a hostel, but it’s nothing like that. They have very clean private rooms with AC. During the day, at the end of the street is a market with several food stalls. It is also next to a 24/7 convenience store and the Suthi San subway station.
– Miggy Guest House: located at the end of a very quiet residential street, this guest house is run by a very kind family. Several good (and cheap) restaurants close by and a lot of massage salons.
–Khaosan Green House Hotel: Well located, next to the little hell called Khaosan Road. Very clean and comfortable place. Ideal for those who like to be near the buzz.
Hotel in Ko Lanta
– Lanta for Rest Boutique: Very good finding on this wonderful island. Great breakfast, 2 pools, next to the beach and several good restaurants. Ideal to relax and do nothing.