21 Things I Wished I Knew Before Traveling to Thailand
Traveling throughout Asia is a whirlwind of emotions, a travel rollercoaster unlike any. For me, Thailand ignited my wanderlust and made me realize just how big the world is and how much of it needs to be explored. Thailand was also my first real international trip & prior to going, I didn’t do much research on the country itself but rather what to pack for a year in a foreign country. So naturally, a few/lot of things went a little skew. Learning from my mistakes of the past, I’ve created a list of all the things I wished I had known before traveling to Thailand, rather than just how many skirts I should pack.
Some of these I knew from word of mouth, some of these I learned from late night browsing sessions, and some of these I learned through my own personal experience.
- First and foremost, Thai people hold the utmost respect for their royal monarch. The king himself (may he Rest In Peace) was (and still is) adored & beloved by the people of Thailand. Don’t disrespect their government or royalty.
- Show respect when visiting the temples; meaning dress appropriately & put your camera and selfie sticks aware when photos are not permitted. Temples and palaces require that your shoulders and knees are covered, and you removed your shoes prior to entering a temple. I’d recommend bringing a light scarf or sarong with you on the day you are planning to explore the temples & palaces.
- Don’t be afraid to negate or bargain for the price. At markets, in tuk-tuks. You will most likely be overcharged at first, simply negotiate on a price that you feel is right. But with that in mind, bargain responsibly.
- If you chose to ride in a taxi, ALWAYS have the meter on. ALWAYS. It is their law. If they tell you that you don’t need to put the meter on, get a new taxi.
- If a tour guide or a taxi driver tells you that a temple or palace is closed and the suggest a different itinerary for you, don’t believe them (they get a commission when they bring foreigners to certain locations). And don’t let them take your money to offer you a special tour.
- Bangkok has a lot of smells. a lot. good. bad. ugly. pungent. mesmerizing. just a lot.
- Beer is served with ice. It is weirdly delicious. At times you will need to clarify if you want Chang beer or Chang water because a majority of the brands are the same.
- don’t drink the water. buy bottled water.
- 7/11 are life. literally. AND they have air conditioning, so 7/11 brings you to life, too.
- Alcohol can only be purchased during certain times and on certain days.
- Don’t expect the Pad Thai to taste like the Pad Thai at home, because it doesn’t, it’s very different, and a million times better.
- Eat as many mangos & try as many foods as you possibly can. Especially the street food (emphasis on especially) buuuuuuut if you have a sensitive stomach remember to bring the ‘goods’ = Imodium, charcoal, toilet paper, booty wipes. ya know.
- Toilets may not be what you are used to either. Don’t wear tight pants, you’ll be working those quads. Also, embrace the bum gum. It’s pretty refreshing.
- Speaking of toilets, the sanitation probably isn’t what you expect if you are from a western civilization nation. With that said, bring hand sanitizer & toilet paper EVERYWHERE you go. Trust me on this, you’ll thank me.
- Learn some basic Thai words & phrases (see below). Show respect by greeting others with the Wai: placing your palms together and bowing your head and chest.
- Get massages. Like as many as you can. And then more. Avoid massage parlors that show signs that mention ‘girls’ because it is most likely a brothel.
- Bangkok has a LOT of stray dogs. You don’t need to be-friend them all or take them all home, in fact, if you didn’t get your rabies vaccination prior to visiting Thailand I would avoid petting them, no matter how sweet they look.
- DO NOT RIDE ELEPHANTS. DO NOT GO TO TIGER TEMPLES. DO NOT GO TO THE ZOO. If it exploits beautiful animals that are meant to be wild, DON’T DO IT.
- I REPEAT…DON’T RIDE ELEPHANTS. The words animal & entertainment should never be two words used together. The best way to spread the knowledge of the terrible & inhuman conditions that these animals live in is through education. If you have witnessed these conditions, do something about it. Tell your friends that are traveling to Thailand to avoid such places. Try volunteering or helping recused animals.
- Don’t touch anyone on the head or point with your feet. don’t are considered extremely disrespectful. The head is considered the most sacred part of the body whereas your feet are the least.
- Use bug spray.