Planning your first trip to Thailand can be overwhelming. From deciding when to visit and where to go to what to pack and watch out for – there’s a lot to consider. The good news is that Thailand is one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia. And as a result, it’s incredibly geared toward tourists. However, there are a few things you need to know before going to Thailand. So here’s my list of 20 Thailand travel tips to help you plan the perfect trip and avoid unnecessary headaches on your visit to the “Land of Smiles”!
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Thailand Travel Tips & Advice: 20 Things to Know Before Traveling to Thailand
Although Thailand is a fairly safe country, mishaps can happen. Whether that be pickpocketing, losing your gear, delayed flights, food poisoning, or getting injured while trying out all the awesome adventure activities. So when traveling to Thailand, a good travel tip is to always be over-prepared.
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Know When to Visit Thailand
Thailand has a tropical climate, and even though the country is huge, it mainly has two seasons; a dry and a wet season.
The dry season runs from November to April, while the wet season runs from May to October. With that said, it’s important to know that Thailand is hot and humid most of the year, with March and April being the hottest months. Frequent short downpours aren’t uncommon, and typhoons also pop up from time to time.
Therefore the best time to visit Thailand is from November to February. During these months, the weather is pleasant, with minimal rain. However, you should know that it’s also the peak season, so expect higher hotel prices and more tourists. If you prefer fewer crowds or traveling on a tighter budget, visiting Thailand during the wet season is still an option. Just be flexible and know that you could get rained out. July or August is generally okay to visit but avoid October as this month sees a lot of rain.
Check if You Need a Visa
Most nationalities can visit Thailand without a visa. However, since there are different rules for different countries and various limitations on how long you can stay, it’s always best to check the visa requirements for your country beforehand so that you know if and for how long you can enter Thailand.
If you’re American, British, Australian, or South African like me, you can enter Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa. If you need a visa for Thailand, it’s best to apply at your local Thai embassy in person or use an online platform like iVisa to streamline things.
Know How to Get Around Thailand
Thailand is a huge country full of beautiful places to visit and stunning landmarks to explore. But even with 14 days in Thailand, you would still need more time to see everything.
Since most of us don’t have the luxury of spending long periods in one destination, another important travel tip for Thailand is to know how to get around in a limited time. The most convenient way to travel between places like Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai, etc., is by air.
While getting to some of these spots by sleeper buses or overnight trains is possible, you’ll be wasting a lot of time on transport. Luckily domestic flights in Thailand are extremely affordable, reliable, and frequent. Search and compare the best flights here on Skyscanner.
If you’re visiting some of Thailand’s stunning smaller islands like Koh Phi Phi (which you definitely should), know that you can only get there by boat. 12Go Asia is a great resource for booking transfers and cheap ferry tickets.
Use Grab Taxi in Cities
While Thailand’s main hubs usually have excellent transport systems connecting you to all corners, using Grab Taxi (Asia’s version of Uber) is a great alternative if you don’t feel like wasting time with public transport.
Not only will it save a lot of time getting from A to B, but the rides are generally much cheaper than normal taxis or tuk-tuks. It’s easy to book rides on the app, and the best part is you’ll get a fair estimation before booking the ride, meaning you never have to worry about ripoffs. Another perk is tracking your ride in the app and sharing it with a friend.
If you’re in a rush and must take a normal taxi or a tuk-tuk, it’s wise to get an estimated price on the Grab app first. Doing so will give you a better idea of what it should cost to get to your destination. It’s always best to agree on a fixed price with a driver beforehand. If that’s not an option, insist they use the meter.
Get a Local SIM Card
While most hotels, public transport, and even eateries have wifi in Thailand, getting a local SIM card or eSIM is a great way to ensure you always have data. That way, you can access your favorite travel apps like Google Maps, Grab Taxi, Google Translate, and more on the spot.
Data packages in Thailand are super affordable, and the connection is stable no matter where you go. Grab a 4G SIM card here online if you prefer to arrange everything before your trip and collect it upon arrival.
Another option is simply getting a SIM card at the airport when you arrive. Look out for the AIS, Dtac, or Truemove booths near the baggage claim area in the arrivals hall. They are among the most reputable prepaid SIM providers in the country.
Know About all the Scams
Thailand is one of my favorite destinations in Asia, and I visit it often. But I’m not going to lie – scams are plentiful in Thailand, especially in places like Bangkok, the floating markets, and even on the more touristy islands.
Some of the most common scams include the fake Baht scam, the closed tourist attraction scam, the tuk-tuk scam, and the jet ski scam. Sadly there are many more, so another Thailand travel tip I can give you is to educate yourself on the most common scams in Thailand. That way, you’ll know what to look out for and how to avoid them.
While no one wants to be ripped off while traveling, don’t let a few bad apples ruin your trip. Thailand is an amazing country that definitely deserves a spot on your Asia bucket list. You’ll be fine if you use common sense, book tours through reputable operators like Klook, Viator, or GetYourGuide, and know what to look out for.
Haggle, Haggle, Haggle
Thailand is truly a shopper’s paradise. Whether you’re into souvenirs, cheap clothes, luxury bags, jewelry, or art – Thailand has it all! So my next travel tip for Thailand is to bargain. Haggling is common practice in Thailand’s markets and most souvenir stalls, making it the perfect place to practice your bargaining skills.
A good rule of thumb is to shop around first, compare prices from various vendors and then go back to the store where you got the best offer. Also, when haggling, a good tip is to drop the asking price by 40% and then try to find common ground. If the vendor doesn’t budge, walk away. If there is room for negotiation, they’ll often call you back. Otherwise, cut your losses and move on – many stalls sell the same goods.
Cash is King
While debit and credit cards are accepted in some places, you should know that Thailand is very cash-oriented. So unless you’re splurging at a lavish hotel, fancy restaurant, or high-end goods store, you want to ensure that you always carry enough cash. Besides buying goods at the grocer or grabbing street food, you’ll also need money for shopping, public transport, and taking a tuk-tuk.
Luckily, ATMs are plentiful in Thailand. You’ll find them everywhere – at airports, on the streets, in malls, and even in some 7-11s or Family Marts. It’s always best to withdraw larger amounts at the ATMs in Thailand to avoid heft banking fees. Ideally, your hotel room should also have a safe where you can keep your money locked up, as you shouldn’t walk around with large sums of cash in Thailand.
Don’t Drink the Tap Water
Another big mistake to avoid in Thailand is drinking tap water. The tap water in Thailand is unsafe to drink, and since you probably don’t want to get sick while on a trip, it’s best to avoid doing so.
Bottled water is cheap and widely available at convenience stores and supermarkets throughout Thailand. If you don’t want to contribute to the ever-growing plastic waste problem, a better option is to travel with a water filter or a reusable water bottle which you can fill up at your hotel’s water dispenser.
Renting a Scooter in Thailand
While renting a scooter in Thailand is a fun way to explore all its nooks and crannies at your own pace, know that it is not very safe.
Thailand’s roads are always busy, and most people drive like absolute madmen. Moreover, roadblocks are very common, and the last thing you want is to get pulled over without the necessary paperwork. If you really want to rent a scooter in Thailand, ensure that you have an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to legally rent and ride a scooter. You’ll need to apply for the permit in your home county before your trip, and it has to be specifically for riding a motorcycle/scooter, not just a car.
Since road accidents are quite common in Thailand, only rent a scooter if you are used to riding one and driving in Asia. It’s also best to avoid scooters altogether in Bangkok. A better and much safer way to get around is to use public transport or hire a private driver. With a private driver, you’ll still get to plan all your stops without worrying about all the logistics.
Don’t Disrespect the Royal Family
One of the most crucial travel tips for Thailand you must know is never to disrespect the Thai King or royal family. Not only is it frowned upon (Thai people love their King), but it’s also actually against the law. You could get in serious trouble for doing so – think possible jail time!
When visiting Thailand, the best thing to do is to avoid speaking ill of the royal family altogether.
Avoid Animal Tourism
I avoid animal tourism altogether, but unfortunately, one of Thailand’s biggest draws is its animal tourism. Animal tourism is huge in Thailand, and there are countless places where you can get up close to elephants and even tigers.
If you really want to visit an elephant sanctuary, one of the most important Thailand travel tips is to do proper research first. Only visit reputable, ethical sanctuaries where the animals roam freely, and riding or touching them is not permitted. Many of the animal sanctuaries in Thailand are sadly not ethical. The animals live in horrible conditions and are usually not treated very well.
Pack Light, Breathable Clothing
As already mentioned, Thailand is hot and humid most of the year. When packing for Thailand, it’s important to pack light, breathable clothing that won’t leave you feeling sweaty and uncomfortable.
Go for lightweight fabrics like linen, cotton, or rayon, and steer clear from heavier materials like wool, denim, and polyester. If you’re visiting higher altitude regions, know that the temperature usually drops slightly. But you can easily get away with a lightweight jacket, sweater, long-sleeve shirt, and pants.
Respect Buddha & the Local Culture
Another important Thailand travel tip to know is that most temples have strict dress codes. Although some temples might have sarongs available to rent or buy, it’s always best to dress appropriately and respect the local culture. Remember to cover your knees and shoulders when visiting any sacred sites in Asia, and always carry a sarong in your bag – just in case.
You might also need to take off your shoes before entering some temples. There are usually signs plastered on walls at the entrance, but if you missed it, a good rule is if you see loads of sandals strewn at the door, you should take off your shoes too.
Also, never point your feet at a Buddha statue. Thai people consider the feet the dirtiest part of the body. Instead, tuck your feet behind your body when sitting down.
Learn a Few Thai Phrases
English is widely spoken in Thailand, especially in more touristy areas. If you’re sticking to bigger cities and popular tourist destinations, it’s unlikely that you’ll run into language barriers. However, knowing a few key Thai phrases can go a long way to showing respect for the country and its people.
Here are a few basic phrases everyone should know before going to Thailand:
- Hello – sa·wa·dee [krap / ka]
- Thank you – khop·kun [krap / ka]
- Yes – chai
- No – mai
- How much is it? – tao·rai
- Help! – chuay·duay
- Sorry/ Excuse me – kor·toht
You Don’t Need to Tip
Like elsewhere in Southeast Asia, you don’t need to tip at most eateries in Thailand. If you’re splurging at a swanky rooftop bar or posh eatery, expect a 10% service fee to get worked into your bill.
While not always the case, most hotel porters at high-end hotels and even some tour guides expect a tip. Remember to carry some extra small change with you. It’s also common for taxi drivers to round off the amount payable if you run the meter.
Pack Sunscreen & Bug Spray
Another item you definitely should have when visiting Thailand is sunscreen. While you can buy sunscreen almost anywhere in Thailand – Watsons, pharmacies, grocers, and most 7-11s – you should know that most sunscreen brands in Asia contain whitening agents. It is also a lot more expensive. The best way to avoid buying an overpriced product you hate is to bring your fave brand along.
Packing a proper mosquito repellant for your trip is also a good idea. Mosquitoes can be a real pain in Thailand and dengue fever outbreaks occur occasionally.
Check if You Need a Travel Adapter
The standard voltage in Thailand is 220V with a frequency of 50Hz, and the most common plug types are A, B, C, F, and O.
If your devices run on a different voltage, it’s best to invest in a good travel adapter. This travel plug works in 150 countries and allows you to charge up to 5 devices simultaneously.
Always Have Tissues & Hand Sanitizer Handy
Most posts on Thailand travel tips don’t usually mention this, but it’s always a good idea to carry some tissues and hand sanitizer with you when traveling in Thailand. Public bathrooms don’t always have toilet paper and hand soap, so it’s better to be over-prepared.
Travel Tips for Thailand in Conclusion
Whether you’re visiting for the food, ancient temples, dreamy beaches, lush jungles, or bustling cities, Thailand is one of the most captivating destinations in the world! Now that you know what to do (and not to do) in Thailand, all you have to do is focus on having a good time!
Well, thanks for making it to the end of my Thailand travel tips guide! I hope these travel tips for Thailand ensure you have an amazing trip! If you have any other tips or advice for visiting Thailand, let me know in the comments below!
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