8 Things To Know Before Going To Thailand

Going to Southeast Asia is something everyone should do at least once. Not only is the one of the most inexpensive trips you’ll take but you’ll be surrounded by stunning tropical beaches, ancient ruins, temples, jungle treks, and delicious food. It’s a country with a population of 69,103,290 (2017) and while it continues to increase, Thailand is overall very safe. If you’re going with your best friends or alone, we have put together 8 things you should know before you head out to adventure in Thailand.

1. Practice Your Bargaining Skills

In Thailand, there are open open-air markets in every city and town. Large and small, morning and night, whenever and where ever you want to shop, you’ll be able to put your Thailand bargaining skills to good use. Thai people are excellent at bargaining, so be ready to haggle, except where prices are clearly marked (such as in malls and name brand department stores). The largest weekend market in Thailand, Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, is one of the largest in the world, containing around 8,000 stalls of everything imaginable. Point to an item you’re interested in and ask the vendor, “How much?” In tourist areas, vendors will be ready with a calculator to type in the amount they’re asking. In outlying areas or smaller markets, simply use paper and pen or your fingers for bargaining the terms. You may want to start a counter offer around half of what they originally asked, but be willing to go back and forth several times before you settle on a price. Keep your exchange rate baseline in mind so you know how much you’re really spending in your home currency (for example, B300 is around $10 USD, and B1,000 is around $30). Be polite and smile, and you’ll be likely to walk away with a sweet deal on that special souvenir to remember your trip.

2. Avoid Animal Tours

Thailand is a bit funny when it comes to animals. On one hand, you’ll see stray dogs everywhere you go. As Buddhists, Thais don’t believe in neutering them, because it’s considered interfering with an animal’s life. However, when there is profit to be made, these principles often fall by the wayside. Elephant tours and trekking are popular for tourists, but a nightmare for the elephants doing the work. They are tamed and kept under submission using brutal tactics, and their spines are not made to withstand the load of heavy seats and passengers every day without rest. The same goes for animal tours such as tiger zoos, where you can take your photo with an adorable baby tiger. The tigers are continually bred so there’s a constant supply of cute babies, but when they are older, they’re often sold off for their parts to neighboring countries. If you are an animal lover, avoid the elephant tours and animal tours. Look instead for reputable rescues, such as the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. Here, elephants are rescued from tourist traps, then treated with love and dignity, and are never required to perform tricks or give rides.

3. Stay for a Minimum of Two Weeks

Getting to Thailand is the worst part – it’s expensive and it takes almost an entire day to get there. Once you arrive, you’re going to be in the exact opposite time zone, and your body is going to be all out of whack. You will lose a day in transit, and then it will take your body time to acclimate to the new time zone, so the recommended Thailand minimum stay is two weeks. After investing all that time and money to get there, you’ll want to see as much as possible! Beautiful beaches, picturesque mountains, tiny villages and bustling cities are all waiting for you.

4. Stay Away from the Monkeys

Taking photos with adorable little monkeys and huge orangutans is something you’ll likely never get a chance to do at home, but if you see them on the streets or in zoos in Thailand, they are likely being abused and exploited. Some monkey tours include monkey shows where several types of monkeys dress up and perform tricks. They may look cute and happy during the show, but behind the scenes, they are most likely being housed in tiny concrete cages, basically in solitary confinement. This is no way to treat such intelligent, social creatures. Guides may also offer monkey tours to areas where wild monkeys congregate to offer them food for good luck. These animals can become aggressive and even bite, so it’s best to stay away from the monkeys in Thailand!

5. Food is Extremely Inexpensive

The average daily wage for most Thais is B300-500 (US $10-15), so their food budget is very low. As a result, cheap food is plentiful in Thailand. To make the most of your food budget during your Thailand minimum stay, avoid the hotel restaurants and instead eat at the markets and small restaurants. Your food expense will be very low, and you’ll be greeted with a dazzling array of sights and smells. You might not want to try the fried grasshoppers, but you’ll surely find a variety of more appetizing cheap food options at prices you won’t believe. Most meals with rice will be around B30-60 (US $1-2). You’ll find carts selling meat and seafood skewers, some with fruit and veg, and each stick costs only B10-20. Likewise, carts filled with sliced, ready-to-eat fruits are everywhere. Challenge yourself to see if you can keep your food expenses under B500 and live like a Thai. You won’t go hungry in Thailand!

6. Don’t Drink the Tap Water

It’s very hot in Thailand, so you’ll need to stay hydrated. However, it’s best to avoid drinking tap water. Although there are Thailand water treatment facilities in larger metropolitan areas, the pipes that distribute it are not what they should be. Lucky for you, Thailand water bottles are very cheap and available everywhere. Your hotel will likely provide you with a couple of bottles to start the day, but when you’re out, you can buy more at any nearby 7-Eleven or Family Mart. Small bottles go for B5 and large liter bottles will cost around B15-20.

7. Taxis are Overpriced

Taxi operators have a reputation for being akin to the mafia in Thailand. Many may refuse to use the meter and will instead offer you an overinflated price for your Thailand transport. Don’t fall for it. Either put your Thailand bargaining skills to use – most taxi drivers are open to negotiation on the price – or insist on using the meter. At the airport, use the main Thailand transport metered taxi queue, or use an alternate transportation option. Thailand has a great public transportation system with many alternatives to taxis. In Bangkok, take the BTS, which is well-signed and easy to use. There are frequent buses and shuttles running throughout Bangkok, and to other major cities such as Chiang Mai and Pattaya. If you’re not travelling with luggage and need to get somewhere fast and cheap, more alternatives to taxis would be the motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks. You’ll find drivers waiting on nearly every street corner wearing vests with their IDs.

8. Don’t Order Cocktail Drinks or Wine

Most wine and alcohol is imported into Thailand, so it’s very expensive. To keep your food expenses low, consider the many local alternatives to wine and spirits. Thailand is well-known for its beer, including the name brands Singha, Leo and Chang beer. You’ll find Chang beer in all the stores and restaurants that sell alcohol, and it’s very popular with locals and tourists alike. Be aware that you won’t be able to buy alcohol from stores between 2 PM and 5 PM, or between midnight and 11 AM daily. Alcohol sales are also prohibited nationwide on all Buddhist holidays, so plan ahead! Some non-alcoholic alternatives to wine and spirits include soft drinks and the wide variety of fruit shakes available. You might also want to try one of the popular Thai “power drinks,” such as M-150 and Lipo.