Know before you go
You can’t expect to know everything about a country before you visit, but we’ve put together some of the most important things you should consider before taking a trip to Thailand. Follow this guide and you’ll be able to plan your activities and be well prepared for experiences that the country has to offer.
In-country flights are affordable
You can’t visit Thailand without visiting multiple areas of the country, as each part offers different adventures, food, customs, and attractions. Thankfully, one-way flights between Thai cities are quite affordable, costing as low as $45 on airlines like Thai Smile, Thai AirAsia, and Bangkok Airways. While you could rent a car or take a bus, flying may be the quickest and cost-efficient form for exploring Thailand.
The Royal Family
Thailand’s royal family is led by Rama X (or Rama the 10th) and he and his family are greatly respected by the country. So much so, that he and his wife’s birthdays are celebrated in grand fashion with fireworks shows, public events, and ceremonies. Though you might have questions about Rama X and his family, you’ll find that Thai people may not be as forthcoming to speak about their king and his family as they don’t want to seem disrespectful.
While Buddhist temples in Thailand are open to tourists, one must always remember that these are places of worship and that comes with rules of etiquette that all travelers should follow. For instance, all who enter temples should wear conservative clothing, and for women, this means clothes that cover their shoulders, cleavage, and legs (at least to the knees). Never wear shoes in a temple or point your feet to the front altar, and don’t stand in front of people praying. The best thing you can do is to hire a local tour guide who can provide more temple etiquette insight.
Thai people love spicy food, and while some dishes don’t involve chilis, many do. Even their salads are spicy! Be sure to ask for less spicy meals if you are unable to stand the heat, and if you are brave enough to try “Thai spicy,” wash it down with bottled water as its safer to drink than water out of the faucet.
One U.S. dollar equals a little over 30 Thai bahts, which means that your money will go a lot farther in Thailand than it would in the U.S., making it an ideal country for everyone from backpackers to luxury travelers. Eat and shop locally to find the lowest prices, and don’t be surprised by how affordable products and services are in smaller cities beyond Bangkok and Phuket.
Just because Thailand is notorious for being hot and humid, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t travel there. Wear light, breathable clothing that hides sweat stains, and if you’re hiking, bring proper hiking boots and athletic-type clothing that will keep the bugs away. Be sure to pack shoes that you can remove easily as many city attractions, such as temples, require you to take them off before entering. Women may also benefit from having a shawl to cover their shoulders when visiting temples. While the country is a bit conservative in dress, swimsuits, shorts, and tank tops are completely acceptable, especially when visiting beach areas.
Greeting in Thai
Thailand is known as the land of smiles, and the best way to make a Thai local smile is by learning a few simple greetings in their language. If you’re a woman, you’ll say “sah wah dee kha” to express “hello,” and if you’re a man, you’ll say”sah wah dee khrap.” If you want to say “thank you,” you’ll say “khap khun khrap” if you’re a man, and “khap khun kha” as a woman. Bowing while holding your hand in prayer form is also a symbol of respect and typically done when saying “hello” and “thank you.”
Buddhist monks are important figures in Thailand, so you should always show them respect. Bow to them if you meet them in a temple and don’t be shy to give a Thai greeting. In some areas of the country, like at Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep temple, you can give the monks alms, or food offerings, in the morning. Ask your hotel or travel agent to set this up as it is a memorable experience to have.
Pack bug spray
Thailand is a country full of lush jungles, so it’s not surprising that they have a lot of mosquitos. Be sure to pack mosquito spray and use it, especially if you’ll be taking hikes or kayaking along rivers. Malaria could be contracted from mosquitos in Thailand, so mosquito spray and possibly medication from your doctor can help prevent this.
Don’t ride elephants
There is a large effort in Thailand to educate tourists on the harmful effects of riding elephants. The top animal-friendly elephant sanctuaries like Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp do not allow tourists to ride elephants, but instead, offer other activities like washing elephants or feeding them. Be sure that you put your money toward a company that cares about the welfare of elephants.
Support eco-friendly hotels
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is promoting eco-friendly initiatives so that the beautiful country can sustain tourism for years to come. To support this effort, stay in a Green Leaf Hotel, an initiative that rates top eco-friendly hotels like Banyan Tree Bangkok with a “green leaf” to indicate that they’ve taken significant measures toward sustainability.
Adventure is endless
Adventure travelers will find plenty of outdoor activities all over the country. Depending on where you go in Thailand, you can kayak on the Sok River, hike Doi Inthanon, dive the reefs around the coast, white water raft, rock climb, and so much more. Just be sure you have travel insurance so that you’re covered in case anything happens during your adventure.
It’s a great gateway to Southeast Asia
If you’re looking to explore Southeast Asia, Thailand is a good place to start. The country is surrounded by Burma, Cambodia, and Laos, and is a short distance from China and Malaysia. Travelers will find that it’s fairly easy to cross Thailand’s land borders for day visits to the bordering countries. Similarly, flights to surrounding countries are affordable, such as a $75 one-way flight from Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Vientiane, Laos.
Get tons of massages
Massage is an ancient tradition in Thailand and it has its own unique style which sometimes includes stretches and massaging without oil. Since massage is such an integral part of the history and culture of Thailand, you’ll find spas and massage parlors on every corner of every city. Massages in Thailand can be as cheap at $10 for an hour or more, so you should definitely put aside some of your spending money toward this relaxing experience.
Hire a tour guide, it’s worth it
The culture, customs, and history of Thailand are so fascinating and the best way to learn about them is with the help of a local tour guide. Travel agents can help you find a tour guide through the Professional English Guide Club (PEG). These guides are able to inform you on the etiquette in temples, take you to the most noteworthy attractions, and even help you pick out the perfect dish at a local restaurant. Just to make it easier, we suggest Bangkok-based tour guide, Nemo, for her professionalism and vast knowledge of different parts of the country.