7 things to know before traveling to Thailand
I got lots of advice from people who had been to Thailand but there are a few things that I didn’t find out until I was there. So you don’t get caught out the same way, I thought I would share them with you here. So here is 7 things you should know before traveling to Thailand.
You don’t need to book expensive transfers up front
Many of the countries I have gone to, if you don’t book your transfers before you go then you run the risk of paying through the nose for it. In Thailand though, every airport we went to (4 in total), there were LOADS of taxis there and taxis are very cheap. There are loads of other ways that are cheaper too, the Sky Train in Bangkok, buses and even mini buses and van trips available if you are on a budget.
The worst transfer we had was through an agent to transfer from Phuket to Krabi. 6 hours, with stops, in a very old minibus. The driver was around 60 years old and I think he got the bus when he passed his test and suspension was an optional extra that he declined. (The driver himself was lovely so I’m not being ageist)
We could have booked in Phuket for less than half the price on our own and arrived much faster and more comfortably.
Thailand is a primarily Buddhist country and there are lots of temples to go and see. When I say lots, I mean it. Thailand has over 30,000 active temples (see a full list on wikipedia). Bangkok alone has well over 400 and all come with their own Buddha. We went to visit a lot of them and they are all very spectacular.
If you are a traveling woman then you need to cover your knees and shoulders before you enter. A top tip (thanks to Alexis for this one) is to carry a sarong in your bag. It doesn’t take up much space but allows you to walk around in your shorts the rest of the day.
You don’t want to disrespect Buddha in Thailand or you could find yourself in hot water. Things like standing on a Buddha statue for a selfie or photo is a big no-no. In Thailand, Buddha is of the highest order, your feet are the lowest so this is a huge insult. Even pointing your feet at Buddha is a big disrespect – by that I mean sitting on the ground with your feet stretched out in the Buddha’s direction, that’s why everyone kneels instead.
To answer a question that many people ask… It is illegal to take Buddha images or statues out of Thailand without an export licence. This does include the ones sold in gift shops. Most businesses will tell you it is not as they want your business, and largely even customs will see it as OK if it is small and not an antique. It is actually against the law though.
Taking coral and various hard to find shells are illegal too so be careful what you pick up on the beach and put in your suitcase.
The Royal Family and the law
Thailand is very easy going in many ways but there are certain laws that you just don’t break. For example, it is illegal to do anything that “defames, insults or threatens” the royal family and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. People have been sent to prison for minor acts of vandalism while drunk as they contained images of the king. This is definitely not one to break.
Thailand’s police are also not paid very well so they rely on “tips” and “shows of appreciation” from local businesses. If there is a dispute between you and a Thai business where the police are involved, don’t expect to come out on top.
This doesn’t mean that Thailand is in any way unsafe. We were given the usual pickpocket warnings in various places but never felt unsafe at any time while we were there.
Thailand has a mix of power sockets. Some are 2 pin, some are 3, some are round and others are float. We were even in one room that had 2 pin sockets at one end and 3 pin sockets at the other.
If you can get a universal adapter then that will do you best. If not then you can buy an adapter in most 7-Elevens pretty cheaply. Thailand electricity is 220v, if you need lower then you will have to buy a converter too.
Uber and Grab Taxi
Both Uber and Grab were available in Bangkok and Chiang Mai but have yet to make there way into the south (Neither were available in Phuket and Krabi). Make sure you download these before you go. They aren’t going to be any cheaper than a taxi with the meter on but can be super convenient if you are out of the tourist areas.
I wrote more about getting around Bangkok in this post
Currency and Cost
The currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB) and everything is super cheap. I knew it was cheap before I went but I really didn’t know how cheap. We waaaay over budgeted. It did leave us more money for buying things though. Woohoo!
Food is super cheap especially street food and it is very, very, very tasty.
For markets, you do need to learn how to haggle. An easy way is to at least half the price that you are first offered and then go up from there, you can save a fortune.
If you are not good at haggling then I also had a lot of success with saying “What the best price you can do?”. If a price seems a little higher than you want to pay, just say thank you and walk away. If the seller is willing to go down further, they will shout you back.
One thing that we found was that the exchange rate is normally better in Thailand than at home. There are commision free money exchange services on every corner so taking your own currency is fine.
We also found that the difference between the Thai exchange rate and the rate we were offered at home more than covered the fees we paid for using an ATM. This meant that we didn’t have to carry lots of cash with us and could just draw it out while we were there. This felt much safer as I never like to carry a lot of cash.
Anyway, that’s my quick run down of things to know before traveling to Thailand. Hopefully you found something useful in there. Of course, if you have been to Thailand and can think of more, please add them to the comments below.