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20 things to think about when visiting Thailand

Travel Forums Asia 20 things to think about when visiting Thailand

1. Posted by wildfk (Respected Member 459 posts) 9y

Here are 20 things to think about when visiting Thailand…

1. Bring a cell phone “unblocked” and buy a Thai SIM card for it on arrival, they’re cheap (apprx. 250 baht) and include some credit already on them - e.g. - International calls to UK are about 5 - 8baht per min…

2. Money - Bring ATM and/or credit cards. - check fees and tell your bank your are going abroad. - Take Travellers cheques only as back-up. Bring very little cash (Baht) – you tend to get a better rate of exchange here than any home country. Just enough to get you out of the airport.

3. Bring very few clothes – they are so cheap here and you’ll only bring stuff that is too warm.

4. Very little luggage – this makes you more mobile if you need to be and less vulnerable to taxi touts and undesirable men….Before you go home you can buy any extra luggage (cheap) to take souvenirs etc.

5. Internet access is everywhere – even on the beach… you can get all your photos copied to CD - If you have a lap-top you can connect it (broadband) at most cafes.

6. Food - Thai food is very unlikely to give you food poisoning but can contain more chillies than you ever thought possible….Street food is usually safe (and delicious!), check for numbers of customers and general looks of the stall. Western (“farang”) food is much more likely to give you food poisoning – fridges are not part of Thai cooking lore yet…beware of Western Fast Food outlets and hotel buffets - food that has been out for over an hour or so. Thailand is not used to fridges/chill-serve etc.

7. Always carry a pack of tissues - they don’t supply free tissues in most loos!

8. Drink bottled water - not tap water. Even consider not brushing your teeth with tap water. Ice is usually safe in drinks and for anything else.

9. Use common safety sense – it is easy to relax too much here…when it comes to petty crime the rate is certainly lower than in places like the UK Spain etc…but every country has its share of con-men and psychopaths…..

10. Don’t be afraid to go to Pattaya – it is the sex capital of Thailand but they don’t jump out at single women and has good, cheap hotels, shopping and food. Not a bad place to start off for Koh Chang, Koh Samet or Cambodia.

11. Bring an international driving licence – although most national ones are accepted by motorbike and car hire companies and anyone else who wants to hire you something….you may not be insured without an IDL! In Thailand they drive on the left - cars are Right-hand-drive. However driving is really only for the experienced. Be especially careful on a motorbike - Samui has the highest accident rate in Thailand.

12. Public transport is cheap. Planes, Trains, Buses, Minibuses, Taxis, from town to town. If you’re in a minibus or taxi, tell the driver you’ll tip him if he keeps the speed below 90/100 kmph! National speed limit is 90kph (120 on motorways)

13. Around Bkk try to use meter taxis with the meter’ll be cheaper than the tuk-tuks. Take a tuk-tuk once for the experience then use meter taxis. Don’t let the drivers take you out of your way...they’ll try to take you to some store where they get commission.

14. Medical - Check out a few “jabs” – don’t bother with the malaria ones – too heavy! You can get tetanus or rabies here if you’re bitten by a dog - it’s cheap. Most medicines (including antibiotics) can be bought over the counter without prescription and are cheap. A pharmacist will give you what he considers right for your symptoms but you get just as easily see a doctor at a local clinic for a couple of hundred baht. They usually speak a little English.

15. Check up on Thai manners and customs – this will earn you more respect from the locals. - Keep up some dress sense – how you dress in Thailand is quite important. Don’t go topless without checking out if it’s acceptable where you are – usually it’s frowned upon. You’ll notice that Thai women (even sex workers) are very modest in public –they usually swim fully clothed.

16. Check out table manners – Thais tend to eat from communal dishes in the centre of the table – don’t pour everything onto your own plate!

17. Don’t knock the royal family – even in jest.

18. Don’t point your feet at people – the body is seen as hierarchical and the feet are the lowest part and should not be waved about (this is like a “fingers up” sign. Never take a shoe off and wave it at someone – this could lead to violence.

19. It’s not necessary to “Wai” people - the Thai greeting - as you’ll probably get it wrong. If they Wai you, you might wai back.

20. Remember, this is the Land of Smiles and you will find everything goes much better when you have a smile on your face - whatever the situation

2. Posted by Buffalo (Full Member 120 posts) 9y

Excellent advice wildfk...much appreciated!!

3. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3562 posts) 9y

Good advice and should help all going to Thailand. I have only a little to add.

12. Tip driver to slow down:
Good luck with that one. A minivan holds 10-14 passengers. I doubt one passenger asking the driver to not speed is not going to sway a van driver who practices kamikaze style of driving on a daily basis. My best advice is to get as much metal around you as possible. Take a bus over a minivan when you have a choice.

17. Do not insult the royal family:
Very true. I saw a drunken lad in Pattaya tear a 500 baht note in half in a dispute over a bar bill. This earned him a quick beating from the boys in brown (police) and a trip to the Pattaya jail. Since the king's portrait is on all currency, he had iinsulted the king. The Thais are serious when it comes to insults to the royal family.

4. Posted by wildfk (Respected Member 459 posts) 9y

About tipping the taxi or minibus.
Whereas I agree that in a bus full of strangers this might pose a problem especially if you are a little shy. However many people will find themselves in a taxi or with a group of friends making a trip out of Bkk airport.
However there is a point to be made here about tipping and common sense; if you want the guy to pay attention to speed make sure he knows you will tip him AT THE END of the him the money (100 or 200 baht) and put it in your pocket.
Remember that the minimum wage in most regions is about 160 baht per day so 200 baht is more than a days wage for many people. You can hire a whole minibus for 2000 baht a day plus expenses...the taxi drivers are on roughly 400 to 600 per day so a tip of 200 baht is significant; a self employed driver can earn up to 2000 a day so 200 still represents a 10% tip, and practical experience has shown it works. It also helps to sit where you can see the speedo. If you smile and point out that he's getting close to loosing his money a couple of times he'll realise you are serious and will comply.

PS - National speed limit is 90, and 120 on motorways

5. Posted by wildfk (Respected Member 459 posts) 9y

A cursory examination of the coach building process in Thailand would disuade even the most foolhardy from travelling in a bus!

6. Posted by mac1234 (Full Member 110 posts) 9y

thanks for the advice, just a quick question regarding the sim card. will a thai sim work in cambodia/vietnam/laos??

7. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3562 posts) 9y

Quoting wildfk

A cursory examination of the coach building process in Thailand would disuade even the most foolhardy from travelling in a bus!

Having watched Thais build houses & condos, I would agree with you on the quality of workmanship. But, I have seen very nice Mercedes Benz coaches on the roads and hope they are imported or built to Mercedes standards. When you have to get from A to B, a train may not be feasible or convenient and taking a minivan or a taxi is certainly not a better choice.

I stand by my advice. Get as much metal around you as possible.

8. Posted by wildfk (Respected Member 459 posts) 9y

Firstly SIM - you can get "roaming" on your SIM so in theory it should work but at a'll need to top it up before you leave Thailand. However I do seem to remember that when in Siem Reap about 2 years ago I was pleasantly surprised to fine that my Thai mobile still worked as if in Thailand - at the normal rate....this may have been a spot of piracy going on or something like that.

2nd - the buses - unfortunately there is NO guarantee that they are to Merc standards - the chassis and engine may be Merc but the superstructure is up to the locals.
the huge 6 wheelers you see have no substance at all being built using the flimsiest of materials - e.g. plywood.
Often even the Merc badge is an add-on.
I have been watching one being built near where I live and although very beautiful to look at with armchairs curtains and all it is built like a caravan(trailer) with no reinforcement at all - if it was in a crash it would simply disintegrate.
there appears to be little or no regulation controlling the construction of these vehicles nad the only citeria is that they should look good.

BTW - Merc have a reputation for high class quality vehicles in the US but in Europe they also build taxis, minibuses and very mundane vehicles which earn them good money in poorer countries.

9. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3562 posts) 9y

I don't doubt at all the Thais are cutting corners to save money on coach construction. But what is a visitor to do when travelling around Thailand? The train option from BKK to Pattaya is just not practical, esp if arriving at Suvarnabhumi. It is either a taxi, minivan or bus. Are you suggesting that a taxi or minivan is a safer option than a full sized bus? I once took a minivan between BKK and Pattaya, never again. We spent 1 hour driving around BKK picking up additional passengers. When finally full, we did the kamikaze trip to Pattaya. This was in 1990, way before the nice new tollways were built. I was very happy to get out of that cramped van, driven by an idiot Thai. I will take a scheduled, full sized bus everytime over vans or taxis.

Some routes just do not lend themselves to the train or airplane. You make the best choice out of poor options.

10. Posted by wildfk (Respected Member 459 posts) 9y

You're deviating slightly from what I was suggesting......but.....

I am indeed! And bear in mind that your bad experience is 17 years out of date! Minibuses have changed a lot since then….but not alas the drivers.

I don’t want to get into a long discourse about vehicle safety but given that drivers of all 3 modes belong to the same “pok pong” school of road safety, it is the vehicles themselves that offer a difference.
All have air con,
Buses in the event of an accident are the least safe – size isn’t everything it’s what happens to the passengers that counts.
Minibuses now have leg room and seat belts as do taxis and are built to absorb impact by the manufacturer buses are not.

In a bus if you need to pee there is one room for all. In a minibus or taxi you can ask the driver to stop whenever you like (easier in a taxi).

I have taken many minibuses back to the airport and they will come and pick you up from your door which is a help. They do pick up other people but I’ve never found this to be a problem. If you are coming from the airport to Bkk or Pattaya they drop you off at your hotel which saves the hassle of a connecting trip in taxi or tuk-tuk. Coming from the airport you obviously don’t go round picking people up.

You can rent a minibus and driver for yourself for 2000 baht a day plus fuel – this is a convenient way for a group, or even a couple, to travel around, and you are able to communicate with the driver as to how and where he should drive.
The roads to Pattaya (and everywhere in Thailand!) are always under construction but large tracts are now smooth and fast and of course the new airport is about 30 minutes nearer. I think a lot of people get freaked by Thai driving because it is so different from their home country, whereas I agree it is pretty poor, I don’t find it as bad as most people make out. I drive about 50,000 km a year here. If you can, take route 34 from the airport and pay the tolls, that way you get a very uncrowded stretch of road for at least half the way

The trains in Thailand are a good option if you find one going where you want – the one to Pattaya only once a day is not really an option but a great one off experience. However the one to Suratthani is a great way of going south.
I’m not of course suggesting that people should never use a coach – sometimes there is simply no alternative, but it helps to be aware of possible alternatives when they arise.