Below are 42 tips that were compiled during a 1-month exploration of the beautiful country of Thailand! All were experienced and learned first-hand and documented in order to help ease the travels of others.
1. Translate all travel plans into Thai.
2. If you don’t have a SIM card, download maps.me offline maps.
3. Google maps still shows your location when you’re offline as well as which direction you’re heading.
4. All taxis start at 35 baht. If you aren’t going far, this might not be worth it. Make sure distance on meter always starts at 0. Do not ride with a taxi who doesn’t want to use the meter.
5. Pay attention to inbound and outbound busses and what side of the road you need to be on. If you need to go the opposite direction, you’ll have to cross the road (sometimes a highway).
6. Use transitbangkok.com to plan your in-city travels. Option to translate into Thai to show bus drivers (some charge by distance) and taxi drivers.
7. Drop a pin at your hotel / hostel / room.
8. MRT is not always quicker than a bus.
9. When it comes to transportation, there are three options: Cheap, Fast, Good - but you can usually pick only two of them!
a. Cheap & Fast won’t be Good. (e.g. buses from/to Khao San Road, local buses or 3rd class trains).
b. Cheap & Good won’t be Fast. (e.g. VIP trains in Thailand).
c. Fast & Good won’t be Cheap. (e.g. private limousine services, or VIP24 buses vs Express buses).
10. At the airport, taxis charge $50 + $35 intro fee on top of all mileage. If you can, take the MRT or hire a taxi off grab to avoid the $50 fee. Another option: walk away from airport exits to hail taxi.
11. Translate a few phrases and keep in phone notes (ex: “i am a vegetarian”, “i am allergic to...”, “please cook without..”, “thank you”, “excuse me”).
12. Do eat where the locals eat.
13. Need a snack for an upcoming day trip? If you have a rice cooker, make some the night before and put in ziplock bag. Snack on it with chopsticks. (Local tip).
14. 3rd class train tickets are totally worth the ~ 15/20 baht. If you need added luxury, go for it. 3rd class doesn’t have AC, but the open windows allow for great pics.
15. Lots of smiles to everyone you see. This is the land of smiles, afterall.
16. ‘Ka’ ends sentences spoken by women, ‘Krap’ ends sentences spoken by men.
17. Thai people consider ‘Vegetarian’ to mean ‘no noticeable pieces of meat’. If you’re a strict vegetarian and would prefer your meals prepared without oyster sauce, fish sauce, etc., refer to yourself as Vegan. Easy - when ordering, mention “Jey”.
18. Wear your backpack on the front of your body. No questions asked.
19. Carry a small lock to put on your backpack carrying around.
20. Ensure you have small bills for transportation.
21. Heed the ‘No Smoking’ signs. They’re everywhere.
22. Prices seem high, but don’t forget, the exchange rate is approximately 32:1. A 1000 baht taxi ride costs just over $31 USD.
23. Free Wifi is not as widely accessible as it is in some comparably develop Asian countries (I.e., Hong Kong). Purchase a SIM card and take advantage of the first week of free data. When it expires, purchase a top up that allows connection to multiple WiFi networks around time.
24. Most popular SIM cards: Dtac, True.
25. To add funds to your SIM card or purchase a WiFi connection plan, visit one of the orange kiosks located outside multiple 7 Elevens and also distributed throughout town.
26. The touch screen kiosks have an English option. The older kiosks do not, and you will need to ask for translation.
27. Do try new foods. As many as you can.
28. Do check out 7 Eleven’s snack section. You will find some of the most interesting eats you’ve ever seen and I’m sure pick up some new favorites along the way.
29. Do visit Bangkok before Chiang Mai / Chiang Rai / Pai if possible. Will make you appreciate the small town charm of these Northern cities more.
30. Don’t skip Bangkok. Even though it has earned a bad rap throughout the past few years (dirty, crowded, hard to navigate), there are plenty of things that make the city one of the greatest in the country.
31. Do visit a floating market. Modern floating markets may consist of mainly food stalls but these food stalls prepare dishes directly on the water, served to you at 12” tables on attached docks.
32. Do eat as much seafood as possible. The canals running throughout the country provide many opportunities for fresh eats.
33. Do try durian. It may be so pungent that it’s banned on public transportation, but it’s one of the most beloved fruits of SE Asia. Many ways to eat: ice cream, taffy, chips, and raw are a couple suggestions.
34. Do avoid westernized restaurants. They are typically 2-3x higher in price for smaller portions.
35. Don’t pet the animals on the street (especially monkeys).
36. Do rent a motorbike in every city but Bangkok (renting a bike in Bangkok is a terrible idea unless 1) you are a very experienced motorbike rider and 2) you have a navigator / map reader on the bike with you).
37. It is illegal to operate a bike or car without an international drivers license. Most rental agencies will not care, you just have to know that insurance might not apply to you if you are in an accident and you will incur a fine (was told it was 500-1000 baht) if you are pulled over.
38. Do get an international drivers license.
39. Do make the journey to Aythuattya from Bangkok. Stay at least one night.
40. If the ticket office at train station say the train is fully booked to your destination of choice, pick an alternate stop along the same route and then stop along the way at another train stop for a ticket to your chosen destination. (Work around the system - it worked for us).
41. Bring a water pack (you will use EVERY DAY!).
42. Fill up water bottles and water sacs at water refill stations found everywhere across Thailand (1L of filtered water usually cost 1 baht).