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10 essential pieces of advice for travelers to Thailand

Updated on May 14, 2011
Railay Beach, Krabi - it really is this gorgeous.
Railay Beach, Krabi - it really is this gorgeous. | Source
Wat Pho in Bangkok (get off at water taxi stop 8, cross river with shuttle boat)
Wat Pho in Bangkok (get off at water taxi stop 8, cross river with shuttle boat) | Source
Just Khao Soy in Chiang Mai - a unique culinary experience!
Just Khao Soy in Chiang Mai - a unique culinary experience! | Source
Suan Lum Night Bazaar in Bangkok
Suan Lum Night Bazaar in Bangkok | Source
Street food - as long as it's well-cooked and clean-looking, it's good
Street food - as long as it's well-cooked and clean-looking, it's good | Source
Real Thai massage
Real Thai massage | Source
Tuk-tuks - admire them from afar, don't bother riding them
Tuk-tuks - admire them from afar, don't bother riding them | Source

Having recently spent a couple of great weeks in Thailand, here are my 10 pieces of advice, in no particular order (this is practical advice, not destination suggestions):

1. Don't bring a lot of clothes. You can get a simple wash, dry and fold for about $1 per kg (20-50 baht is what I saw; the more touristy the area, the higher the price). You drop off one day, pick it up the next day. 4-5 days' worth of clothing is plenty. I literally had a messenger bag (for my computer) and a medium-sized duffel bag. That was it, and with about $3 spent on laundry 3 times, I was good.

2. Don't bother with tuk-tuks. Tuk-tuks stink, are slow, and the drivers will drive you to where they want to take you (shops that sell junk, so they get a kick-back). Most importantly, air-conditioned taxi cabs cost the same amount of money! Avoid the tuk-tuks and take a cab. AND...before you step into the cab, ask the driver if he has a meter and if it works. If they pretend it doesn't, get out of the cab. It's not too hard to find a fair cab driver. (And, cab rides are remarkably inexpensive there) When in Bangkok, take the SkyTrain and boat taxis - both are a real treat.

3. Don't be afraid of street food. Use good judgment, but if something is cooked in a wok in front of you, and the ingredients look reasonably fresh, then you're fine. I know of 2 people who've gotten sick there, and they ate dairy products, so avoid those.The street food is fantastic in Thailand (even for vegetarians like me) and dirt-cheap.

4. Thais are remarkably prompt. Even though it's a developing country and tropical, Thais are pretty industrious and they mind the time well. If a tour operator, like for a snorkeling/scuba trip, says they'll be at your hotel at 7:35am, that means anywhere between 7:33 and 7:37. Buses leave on time, as do planes, tours, etc. This is very, very different from my experience in the Middle East and Latin America.

5. Don't dare insult the royal family or Buddha. The Thais are renowned for their peacefulness, but insulting the Thai royal family or the Buddha can literally get you the death penalty. I'm not joking. Don't point at either with your foot (considered unclean) and never raise yourself to be higher than them (statue, poster, etc). A couple of years ago, a mentally-ill person started attacked a Buddha statue. Passerbys beat him to death.

6. Massage. Do you want clean or sleazy? Both are readily available, and both types will call out to you as you walk down the street. Clean massage women are older, heavier, and wear polo shirts. Sleazy ("sexy massage", "special massage") massage women are younger, sexier, and have low-cut tank tops and short-shorts. Price range is about 120 baht per hour ($4!) that we paid in a Chiang Mai temple, to 400 baht per hour ($12) in the ritzy Silom district of Bangkok. They pretty much all do the standard "Thai massage" routine, which is pretty rigorous and involves a lot of stretching and contortion but feels good (but is not like the Swedish style most Westerners are used to). Scented oils are optional.

7.Haggling at markets. Expected, and you should know what you're doing. They will often ask 10 times as much as it's worth. Shake your head in disbelief, and they'll often hand you a calculator. Enter in 1/10 what they asked. They'll shake their head in disbelief, tell you it's a really good price, the product is of excellent, authentic quality, etc. and then drop 10% of the price. If you're lucky, you'll get it for 30-50% of their original asking price. You should be able to get it for lower, but you generally won't (they are too good at bargaining, and there are a dozen tourists ready to buy right behind you). And once they agree to a price you proposed, you're obligated to buy it. Don't just haggle to practice. Be sure to try the night markets in Bangkok - they are amazing.

8. Avoid the scams. If someone approaches you and tells you that whatever tourist place you're visiting is closed today, or opening much later, ignore them. Especially if they tell you they can get you a really great discount on a hand-made suit. Most of the scammers are pretty transparent, but for an ominous (and, frankly, a bit funny) record of tourists' accounts, take a look at Bangkok Scams.

9. Be prepared for the heat and mosquitoes. Thailand is hot and tropical almost all year round, it is very warm and humid. Mosquitoes are everywhere (although, in most areas, thankfully malaria-free). You can get sunscreen fairly readily almost everywhere, but mosquito repellent, not as easily. I suggest getting a long-lasting kind that microencapsulates the DEET (or other repellent) to limit absorption and disperse the repellent over 12 hours. Get a small bottle of Ultrathon or Cutter. A small bottle will last you longer than you think. For the heat, remember to drink cold bottled water often and stay out of the sun (unless you're used to it) during the peak hours of the day.

10.Don't only enjoy the antiquity of Thailand. There are countless temples (wat), palaces, museums and the like in Thailand. But I really believe it's somewhat patronizing to act as if the country's best is behind it, and there's nothing worth seeing or experiencing what regular Thais do today. How Thais adapt to, assimiliate, or ignore, global trends in music, fashion, shopping, food, cinema, etc is fascinating.Two treats in Bangkok that you shouldn't miss: Siam Paragon, and Bed Supperclub. Siam Paragon is an enormous, luxury mall (it even has a Lamborghini dealership inside!) but has remarkably good and cheap food in its impressive food court. Bed Supperclub is just really cool. The drinks and food are great, and lounging around on beds (yes, beds) to ambient beats and drag performances in a soft pinkish glow puts you in a uniquely mellow mood.


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very true about not bringing too many clothes. Packing light has always made the vacation much better in my experiences.

    • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Menayan 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Excellent advice, Photo Puzzle Guy!

    • Photo Puzzle Guy profile image

      Photo Puzzle Guy 

      8 years ago

      When eating on the street, it is aa good idea to choose a vendor where you can watch the food being cooked. Many times, the oil used to fry food is very old and you can tell this if it is deep brown in color. This is not good and I would recommend moving on to another food stand. Be careful also of the cut fresh fruit stored in ice. It's much better to choose a fruit cart that will cut the fruit in front of you rather than having it pre-cut.

      Personally I prefer to eat at small Thai restaurants that are in a permanent location rather than a movable street side food stall. As the writer of this hub says, keep your eyes open and make sure you choose somewhere that looks fresh and clean.

    • mauihawaii profile image


      9 years ago from Maui, Hawaii

      Thanks. Excellent hub!

    • MosLadder profile image

      Chris Montgomery 

      9 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Fun read! Great shots to go with the story-did you take them?

    • axel4w2b profile image


      9 years ago

      I have lived in Thailand during more than 1 year and i agree all the points.

    • E Jay profile image

      E Jay 

      9 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Your 10 suggestions are very good...I find them to be accurate. I take a taxi quite often, but I always open front door and say where I want to they repeat the name of the area and nod, I get in the back seat. If they aren't taking you where you want to go...get get another taxi. Yes, taxis are very affordable...a little over a dollar to get in the cab and my longest ride from Huay Kwang District near Thailand Cultural Center to further out in Thana City may take about an hour and has never been over 300 baht (about 9 US dollars). Sometimes if they take the tollway or expressway it is another 50 or so baht for that (less than 2 US dollars). I definitely agree with the tuk tuk situation and I could tell you of one pretty good learning experience that I had. The Thai people do like to negotiate price in many areas...they will let you know if they do not bargain...their philosophy is rather "good for me good for you". I remember to be respectful and courteous and first think about how much I am willing to pay before I begin. Also, Suan Lum night market is not there as it once was...I think there is a new one coming along somewhere but don't know details confidently enough to report at this time...Some of Suan Lum may still be there but since the change our family misses the tradition of going there for our "last supper" before leaving Thailand. Again, a great hub, for a great country.

    • jorjaclare profile image


      10 years ago from Wherever there is a beach

      I loved this hub. Having lived here for almost a year now I agree with it all.

      It is a totally different way of life and having these pointers will definitely help you to fit in better.

      One thing I would add is to dress modestly. I live on Phuket with many beaches and tourists and see some dreadful sights! Many visitors don't realize how offensive it is to Thai people for you to be walking around in next to nothing, or wearing just your bikini anywhere other than the beach.

    • simon64 profile image


      10 years ago from UK

      Good advice for anyone travelling to Thailand for the first time. I have been to Thailand many times and agree with everything.

    • TravelinAsia profile image


      10 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia

      I rated this hub as useful, but really I would like to rate it as very very useful. I have been in Thailand for 10 years and I can say that this hub has some solid advice!

    • cupid51 profile image


      10 years ago from INDIA

      These are really very useful tips! Thanks for sharing it!

    • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Menayan 

      10 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks drbj. Golden Triangle? I don't think I even know what that is.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      10 years ago from south Florida

      Excellent tips, livelonger, I really enjoyed this hub.

      Thailand is one of my favorite places to visit - been there 4 times - and hope to go again.

      Did you get to the Golden Triangle? Interesting to observe the questionable activity there.

    • MrSpock profile image


      10 years ago

      Very useful tips. I've heard it is cheap to travel over there so these will come in handy.

    • maritimer profile image


      11 years ago from canada

      Fabulous article. I would love to visit Thailand and hope to make the trip within the next few years.

    • Suki C profile image

      Barbara C 

      11 years ago from Andalucia, Spain

      Great Hub - I spent a month travelling around Thailand back in the 80s and you've re-kindled some good memories for me. It doesn't sound as though much has changed in the last 20 odd years :)

    • travelespresso profile image


      11 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Hello Livelonger

      Loved your 10 essential pieces of advice for travelers to Thailand. I've just written an article about Thailand and your advice is spot on. I have linked your article to mine. Hope you are OK with that.

    • Paul Marshall profile image

      Paul Marshall 

      11 years ago from Australia

      Hey, this is good stuff that you share & I agree with almost all of it. It does sound as if you had a bit of a bad deal with a feww tuk tuk rides. I never had any problem. However, I had Thai friends with me, that may help.

    • yomjools profile image


      11 years ago from Jacksonville, FL

      Good advice, I agree! :)

    • GeneralHowitzer profile image

      Gener Geminiano 

      11 years ago from Land of Salt, Philippines

      Wow, nice hub here...

    • Mountain Blossoms profile image

      Marianne Kellow 

      11 years ago from SE Thailand

      Excellent hub and all true. Love the people, country and especially the food of Thailand. AND it's really cheap to live. We've lived here for 3 years and have loved every minute of it.

    • prettysmartjean08 profile image


      11 years ago

      Informative hub - thanks for giving me an idea for I intend to visit this country soon ;-) Though its worth a trip apart from its nearer from my own home country, but I think Thailand is also one of the nice country to be explored. Cheers!!!

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 

      11 years ago from Cape Town

      Fantastic advice! Having lived in Thailand for 4 months, I agree with everything you mentioned - especially the Tuk-tuks!

    • Pearldiver profile image

      Rob Welsh 

      11 years ago from Tomorrow - In Words & NZ Time.

      Good hub and info. Thailand and I have a date which I have put off twice. The place fascinates me and I don't think I would want to come home again, but as the Thai would say: I am a bah farang.

    • Sabai profile image


      11 years ago from Asia

      I like this Hub. nicely put together, well done.

    • Will Apse profile image

      Will Apse 

      11 years ago

      Great Hub!

      The only things I would disagree with after several years in Thailand- I wouldn't haggle in the markets except maybe in the real rip off tourist places. Stall holders make little enough money as it is.

      Tuks Tuks are fine outside of Bangkok or fine in Bangkok if you are with a Thai. Otherwise you're right, they will rip you off (in local terms).

    • footynut profile image


      11 years ago

      nice hub, having visited Thailand myself the information contained is both accurate and useful!

    • jGaunt profile image


      11 years ago from London

      I travel quite a bit, but I have never been to Thailand. Sound like I should make some time, I am sure it will be worth it.

    • Clara Ghomes profile image

      Clara Ghomes 

      12 years ago

      Helpful hub! Thanks for sharing:)

    • KrisC profile image


      12 years ago

      i'm planning a trip to thailand. your hub was excellent. to be honest, this hub is the reason I joined

    • begae profile image


      12 years ago

      I planned to visit Thailand this coming September 2009 and thanks I got this beautiful tips and idea.

    • VioletSun profile image


      12 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      One day I should be visiting Thailand as my nephew is moving back with his beautiful Thai wife in January; don't think he will come back to the USA as he is a teacher. Thanks for these tips, especially the one about respecting the Buddha.

    • evemurphy profile image


      12 years ago from Ottawa

      So exotic it seems like anopther planet. Asia is a lovely msytery to me. Wonderful hub.

    • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Menayan 

      12 years ago from San Francisco

      betherickson: Hope you get to someday - it's a real treat!

    • betherickson profile image


      12 years ago from Minnesota

      Nice Hub! Very helpful tips for travellers touring to Thailand. However, I've not yet visited that exotic country but I'd love to. Someday!

    • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Menayan 

      12 years ago from San Francisco

      nachiketshukla: Thanks!

      Lissie: We went to Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi/Railay, and Koh Samui, in addition to Bangkok. Yes, the food really is spectacular.

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      12 years ago from New Zealand

      Yeah I enjoy Thailand did you get up to the north or out the islands: the place has a huge amount to offer and as you say the best part is the people, and food - love the food

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Nice article. Liked the last point very much.

    • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Menayan 

      12 years ago from San Francisco

      jimmy: Ah, yes, well that's nice too ;-) (but not nearly as warm and balmy!)

      Guru-C: Thank you!

    • Guru-C profile image

      Cory Zacharia 

      12 years ago from Miami Beach, Florida

      Welcome back Livelonger. So glad you had a wonderful holiday!! Very enjoyable hub, as always!!!

    • jimmythejock profile image

      Jimmy the jock 

      12 years ago from Scotland

      Thinking San Francisco next time lol.....jimmy

    • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Menayan 

      12 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks Jimmy! We did have a great time. Add it to your list; definitely worth visiting. :-)

    • jimmythejock profile image

      Jimmy the jock 

      12 years ago from Scotland

      Sounds like you had a great time Livelonger, I wish that I coud have been there.....jimmy


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