Travel Tips for Thailand
I thought I’d collate and collect my top travel tips based on my visit to Thailand and share them for anyone considering a visit!
Travel Tips for Thailand
- Maintain an attitude of friendly suspicion, always. Most times the locals are looking to make a buck, so question everything but be polite unless circumstances dictate otherwise.
- For example:
- Insist on using the meter in the taxi wherever possible. If you are in a heavily tourist area of Bangkok (i.e. Khao San Road when the bars close down) you may have to walk several blocks to find a taxi that will do this. If you prefer not to bother, know that you can negotiate, but will still have to pay more than a metered fare. Know how much the fare is normally and don’t pay more than 2x.
- Near the temples in Bangkok you will be accosted by men who will tell you that they are closed for the day, closed to tourists, etc. They will mention that they know of some other great thing to see instead. This is never true, it’s a scam that is used to get you into a custom suit shop or something similar because the drivers have a deal with the business owners to get paid for every person they bring into the store. Unless you are at an official ticket window for the attraction and it has a sign that says “closed,” assume the attraction is open.
- Most domestic flights Bangkok (i.e. Bangkok to Phuket, Bangkok to Chiang Mai) are from Don Mueang Airport. Your international flight will almost always arrive in Suvarnabhumi, so you will need to ensure you have time to transfer between the two airports to catch your flight. I recommend at least 2 hours to be safe.
- There is a free bus transfer between the two Bangkok Airports (Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang). It departs hourly and sometimes half-hourly. It takes about an hour and is usually marked with signs and a desk in the arrivals hall – worth saving the money a taxi would charge you if you are transferring directly to a flight from Bangkok elsewhere in Thailand.
- When you arrive at any airport, proceed to the counter marked “Metered Taxis.” These taxis will be required to use their meters (ask them multiple times anyway to be sure), and they will provide you with a special slip of paper that is written nearly entirely in Thai. Keep this slip of paper in your possession at all times, even if the cab driver asks for it. This paper has all of the taxi driver’s information and can be used to mail a complaint in to the department of transportation (i.e. didn’t use the meter, overcharged, etc.). As long as you have this paper, you have the power to not get scammed. Keep it! They will and do frequently ask, so just say no.
- In the more tourist-heavy coastal and island areas, there will be fixed transport pricing that you will not be able to negotiate. For example, the taxi boats from the pier in Ko Phi Phi have fixed pricing, and nothing you do will get a boat captain to lower his fare. You can definitely try, but we had zero success.
- In Bangkok, I recommend traveling by boat. There is a ferry bus on the main river through the city that will take you everywhere. Find your way to a pier, buy a ticket, and jump on! It’s a fun experience.
- I recommend that you do not pre-book your hotels if possible. There is plenty of accommodation in every area, and you will have the flexibility to negotiate on-site that you won’t have online.
- There are travel agents in every port area of every town. I recommend consulting with a travel agent when you arrive somewhere you didn’t pre-book. They usually can get you placed in a great spot for pretty inexpensive, if you tell them how much you’re willing to spend per night. They will have maps, photos, etc. and don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you want. Do your research and know what a normal price is for the area you’re staying in – Koh Lanta cost us 1/3 what Ko Phi Phi did, but we paid about market rate in both locations.
- If you don’t want to go the travel agent route, many business owners and homeowners will directly lease a private room in the back of their business/house. These are usually even less expensive than typical hotel/hostel accommodation and are posted with signs on the streets outside of the business or home, so keep your eyes open when you’re walking around. And always see the room before allowing money to change hands.
- There are two key types of rooms in Thailand: Fan and Air Con. Pretty straightforward, one has air conditioning and one does not. It’s up to you which you prefer, but you will pay a premium (about 30 – 50% more) for air conditioning. We had air con everywhere except in Koh Lanta, where the ocean breeze and fan was plenty for me. I recommend trying fan first unless you are on a very high floor or the temps are 90+, which can be dangerous.
- The temples and places of worship in Thailand require that your legs and shoulders are covered. This means no tank tops, shorts, short skirts, transparent clothing, etc. Some temples will provide free robes to cover yourself up, some places (like the Grand Palace) require a refundable cash deposit to use their wraps/shirts before you can enter. If you know you’re going to temples, I recommend a maxi skirt or linen pants and carrying a sweater or wrap of some sort so you don’t have to hassle with the lines to get robes.
- Revelry is expected in most tourist-heavy spots like Khao San Rd., Koh Phi Phi main beach, etc. Don’t be an overly offensive nit wit and you’ll be fine. Even if you are one, the Thai people will be gracious, but you’ll be an asshole.
- Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate! Thailand, and Bangkok in particular, is a fabulous place to work on your negotiation skills and assertiveness. Be polite, but be aggressive. I like to counter less than half the original asking price and not move to more than about 60%. The best tactic when they won’t budge is to start walking away, saying no. They will usually backpedal – and you’ll get your deal. Even if you don’t have exact change, the Thais recognize that a deal is a deal and will provide you with the appropriate change based on the agreed price – just make sure you double-check it.
- On that note, always double-check your change. Honest and dishonest mistakes can happen quite often. I had a waitress forget to put 500 baht into my change for a meal, which would have cost me $15 if I hadn’t noticed.
- Also be careful with your bills. The 100 Baht and 500 Baht notes look very similar. Always read the number on the bill before you hand it over and you won’t end up overpaying on accident.
So that’s most of it. Anything you think I missed? Comment below!