Best Thailand Travel Tips in 2019
If you are planning a trip to Thailand or just a relaxed holiday in Thailand and you ask yourself: what are the best travel tips to Thailand or what is the best way to stay safe while traveling in Thailand, here are the top travel tips that will help you get through your Thai experience smoothly and safely.
Thailand is an amazing country, beautiful, welcoming to tourists, neat, and relatively cheap. People come to the paradise of Thailand and sometimes forget their common sense at home. Thailand does not look like a place where something bad can occur. As far as the visitors are concerned, everything looks great.
Most visits to Thailand end safely without any special events, and everything goes well. But not all visits. I visited Thailand dozens of times, traveled in Thailand, established a business in Thailand, and employed local workers. You can assume that I have some experience in Thailand.
Disclaimer: In this type of writing, there are inclusions that can’t be true and accurate for everyone. Every inclusion has many exceptions. The following sections are designed to mark things that you should be aware of and give them the right attention.
1. TIT – This Is Thailand
When I started a business in Thailand, one of the first travel tips I got was the term TIT e.g. This Is Thailand. The guy who gave me the advice told me: Remember the initials TIT, which is This Is Thailand. In other words, Thailand is not a Western country. It can be very surprising and unpredictable and not always in a positive way.
In a Western country if you have broken any law you pretty much know what awaits you. The legal process is transparent and known in advance; the penalties are fixed by law, there is an order. Things are not like that in Thailand.
In Thailand, if you break the law or get into trouble with a Thai business or a car accident, you can’t know how things will end. They can be easily solved or they can get very complicated. You may be required to pay a very high fine or you may not. And it could be worse than just a fine payment. You need to understand this lack of clarity and to be careful.
2. King Of Thailand
This is another essential travel tip you should remember. Do not mess with the king! Be careful about this. Thai people admire their king. According to Thai law, it is forbidden to insult the king.
An insult to the king of Thailand could be to destroy a picture of the king, to curse the king, or to degrade the king in any form. In the cinema, the anthem is played, pictures of the king are shown before the film begins, and everyone in the cinema stands. You have to stand up too. You are their guest so respect them. Respect their king.
Read here more about the monarchy of Thailand.
Because of the cheap prices, the atmosphere of freedom, and the feeling that everything is possible and available, people who do not know how to ride motorcycles rent them anyway (about 300 Baht per day) and start to ride. Most of them without a permit and without helmets.
I saw the case of a young woman who got on a motorcycle, slipped immediately, got on the motorcycle again and rode it into a shop. I had my own bad experience with a motorcycle; I slipped on the main road in Phuket. Only by a miracle, I didn’t get hurt.
It is important to understand, people are killed in motorcycle accidents in Thailand. Another important thing to understand, insurance does not cover dismal results of riding without a motorcycle license.
Vehicles are safer than motorcycles, but accidents happen with cars as well. If you don’t have a license, do not drive a car in Thailand.
In Thailand, they drive on the left side of the road so if you can’t get used to it, you should not drive. If you are in Bangkok, it’s better anyway to avoid driving unless you live there. Alternative transportation, like taxi, boats, sky train and buses, are good enough and relatively cheap. They will get you anywhere you want. If you are in the islands, you still have taxis and buses (Phuket). May may seem less convenient, but getting involved in an accident will be worse.
Traffic in Bangkok is terrible. You can spend hours in taxis trying to get around in Bangkok. It is best to use the sky train or boats in the canals to move around. It is also possible to enjoy the trip in Bangkok at the most convenient time in terms of traffic congestion although there is not really a time like this.
It is definitely not recommended to use a Taxi motorcycle to travel around the city. If the trip is successful, you might save time but because traffic is very dangerous and the driving laws seem like a non-binding recommendation, you can also end your life on such a trip. Read here more about traffic jams in Bangkok.
6. Police & Bribery
If arrested for any reason, it is not worth bribing. It might complicate matters significantly. Just pay whatever you are required to pay.
7. Jet Ski
Water sports are very common on the beaches and islands of Thailand. One of the most popular activities in Thailand is riding a Jet Ski. Jet skis are operated by strong families in the islands. Usually, the operators ask for a passport as a guarantee for renting the Jet Ski.
One of the unpleasant practices for Jet Ski operators is to claim that you damaged the Jet Ski and then ask for an astronomical compensation that can reach tens of thousands of Thai Baht (1000 Baht = $30 USD).
This kind of situation will help you understand the meaning of This Is Thailand. You will have no one to talk to. Cops will not help you.
You will not be able to get your passport back without paying. The recommendation is to forgo riding Jet Ski or to take photos of the Jet Ski and make sure you have a proof of the Jet Ski’s status before you ride it. It won’t necessarily help you, but it’s better than nothing…
Read here more about Jet Ski scams in Thailand.
8. Thai’s pride
Thai people are very nice people, very friendly, smiling and kind, but this can be misleading.
Thai people are proud people and their self-honor is very important to them. Usually, they won’t remain indifferent to personal insults and you might ask yourself, who would? But it’s different in Thailand. The response can be unpredictable. It is undesirable to get into confrontations with them.
Even if you feel that someone delivered bad service or disappointed you with a trip that was not exactly as promised, just give up and continue with your life. Do not get into a confrontation.
You will not be able to win so just keep things in the right perspective and move on.
Bargaining in the markets is common, acceptable, and it’s part of the business. The Thais expect it. But do not be ridiculous. I’ve seen people who haggle for 20 minutes at 20 Baht, 40 Baht, forgetting it’s less than a dollar.
Isn’t it a waste of your precious time in Thailand? There are places where they do not bargain.
Bargaining is done mainly in the markets and in very cheap stores but not in all of them. Sometimes you can bargain with taxis or Tuk Tuk drivers who try to charge you 2-3 times the original price.
There is no point to bargain in normal stores (not to mention fancy or brand stores). Save your time in Thailand.
Thais are Buddhists and therefore conservatives. Surprised? There are nearly 70 million people in Thailand. Tourists are exposed to a very small fraction of this huge population, mainly to those who are engaged with tourism or commerce.
Tourists are exposed to the huge sex industry and mistakenly think that this is Thailand and all the women in Thailand are available in this way. This is a big mistake.
At the very least you have to treat them as the women in your country (assuming you come from a well-developed and progressive country). Do not assume that what you experience on the Islands is valid for all of Thailand.
11. Snakes, mosquitoes & rats
Thailand has a lot of nature, lots of jungles, rain, rivers, and mountains. It is a tropical country with monsoons and tropical climate. There are many mosquitoes in Thailand, including the dangerous Zika mosquitoes. It is recommended to apply mosquito repellent regularly.
Rats – Bangkok is full of rats. If you cross an open area between buildings in the bustling areas of Bangkok, you may see dozens of rats in one place. There is nothing for you to do about it but just be aware of where you eat and sleep.
In the north, there are Cobra snakes in the jungles. As a Thai tour guide once told me, the only thing to do when you see Cobra is simply to run away. It’s not something you want to deal with.
12. Elephants in Thailand
Please ask yourself the following questions:
- Can elephants write?
- Can elephants sit or stand on two legs?
- Can elephants dance?
- Does it make sense to you? Does it seem natural?
The answer to these questions is probably big NO.
This is not the natural action for a huge animal that weighs a few tons. Elephants in Thailand undergo brutal training to get them into a submissive, disciplined state and do strange things in order to entertain tourists.
Before you ride an elephant or pay money to see an elephant writing with a marker on a large paper block, think for a second if you want to be part of this. Watch the following video about elephants in Thailand.
13. Street food in Thailand
One of the great pleasures of the East is street food and Thailand is one of the best places for excellent street food.
How can you eat street food and survive it? I used to have strict rules in my travels in East Asia, which have been tried in the hardcore places in India, Nepal, Taiwan, and Thailand, and these rules proved to be successful, at least for me.
- Animal products – Do not eat animal products on the street. No eggs, no meat, and no milk. Eggs and meat can be extremely dangerous.
- Water – Drink water only from bottles.
- Personal hygiene – Disinfect your hands with alcohol before and after eating.
- Common sense – This can be useful in many cases 🙂 Use your common sense and judge the place. If you think it’s too dirty or you notice any suspicious issues, just give up. You don’t want to spend the next 1-3 weeks in a local hospital, recovering from indigestion. It’s not a 100% guarantee but it improves your chances significantly.
14. Drugs in Thailand
Stay away! I can write thousands of words just about this. Cannabis is available in Thailand. People can find it relatively easily. There are locals and tourists who use it.
It can be extremely dangerous. A wrong decision can cost your life literally, It isn’t worth it. You can go to the Thai jail, which is the last experience you want to add to your Thailand experiences. Things can be very unpredictable. Do not mess with it at all. Read here to learn more about drug laws in Thailand.
In entertainment areas in the islands and in big cities like Bangkok or Pattaya, there are endless bars, pubs, and clubs. In many places, women are not women but Ladyboys. Ladyboys are men who are at some stage of transition from male to female.
They can definitely be more violent, and naturally, they are stronger than women. You can see them in cabaret shows but it is recommended to avoid the interaction.
16. Internal politics
Thailand experienced ups and downs in terms of political stability. In recent years there have been severe demonstrations by supporters of the regime and opponents of the regime.
Some of the demonstrations turned violent.
Once I had the opportunity to arrive in Thailand on the day of a military coup. At the airport, there were military vehicles and soldiers everywhere and there was still no sense of instability for outsiders.
For the tourists, everything was going well. You must refrain from interfering in any way with Thai domestic politics. The Thais manage the internal struggles among themselves and do not involve tourists.
I hope I managed to cover the major things. Would love to hear from you and to get your comments 🙂
Enjoy Thailand because it is probably the most amazing country in the world.