Every year, millions of people travel to Thailand to enjoy all that this land has to offer. This is simply because it has something for everyone; from enough activities to keep you entertained on a Thailand family tour, to sun-kissed islands and cozy beaches for those on a honeymoon in Thailand.
Here at Vivutravel we’ve compiled a list of essential things to know before travelling to Thailand, so that you make the most of your visit to this wonderful country and to ensure you feel perfectly relaxed and comfortable on your Thailand tour.
Language tips to impress the locals
If you are travelling from a Western country, there’s a good chance that you will notice things are done a little differently here, and there is a chance that you will have never heard the Thai language before.. Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles”, and nothing makes a Thai person smile more than a tourist who has learned some of their language. Here are some useful phrases for you to learn and practice before heading out on your Thailand tour package:
- Sawadeekap (men)/ ka (women) = Hello. This is usually accompanied by a “wai” gesture, which is done by placing your hands together as if praying and bowing the head
- Kop kun kap (men) / ka (women) = Thank you
- Aroy = Delicious
- Hong nam = Toilet
- Nam = Water
What to wear
Now that you have some of the local language mastered, it’s important to know how one should dress in Thailand. If you’re on a beach, it’s perfectly acceptable to go shirtless, to wear bikinis and to wear singlets as you’re relaxing and enjoying the world-class beaches of Thailand. However, if you dress like this in a place like Chiang Mai, many miles away from the nearest beach, you are bound to raise a few eyebrows! The Thais are too reserved to say anything, but it’s worth remembering this is a Buddhist country, and modesty should be observed when appropriate.
On a similar vein, if you are visiting a temple, you are required to cover your elbows, knees and shoulders. At many temples, it is possible to rent a garment to cover you, but it is easier just to dress accordingly in the first place.
Watch your feet
As mentioned before, Thailand is a very Buddhist country, and this has a profound effect on everyday life. For example, in Buddhism the feet are considered the lowest point of the body, and so care must be taken not to show the palms of your feet towards the direction of anyone, as this is considered disrespectful, nor should you point at anyone or anything with your feet. Of course, if you are relaxing in a hammock on your honeymoon in Thailand, you will be forgiven for doing this, but extra care must be taken when visiting a temple or holy place. In a similar vein, the head is considered the highest point of the body, and so whilst a pat on the head of a child may be considered friendly behavior back home, it not the same here in Thailand!
There’s a time and a place for that
In keeping with the theme of modesty and respect, it is important to note that in Thailand, public displays of affection (PDA) is frowned upon. Holding hands in fine, but engaging in acts like hugging and kissing on the beach is considered disrespectful. For your honeymoon in Thailand, we recommend saving these acts for your hotel room.
Respect the beloved King…
When travelling throughout all parts of the country on your Thailand tour, you will notice that there are pictures of the former king, Rama IX, everywhere, and now they have started erecting portraits of the new king, Rama X. Perhaps unlike many other countries, the king is loved beyond measure by all Thai people. The former king’s agricultural reforms improved the lives of millions of ordinary Thai citizens, and he was seen as a unifying figure during times of turbulence. The Thai people also love the new king, who looks to carry on the work of his father. With this in mind, under no circumstance should you talk about the monarchy of Thailand.Lese majeste laws are very much enforced in Thailand, and in order to avoid any doubt we recommend simply not engaging in any conversations about the royal family, and to respect traditions such as standing still for the anthem and handling money carefully as it carries the portrait of the king. As long as you abide these rules, they are unlikely to have much of an affect on your Thailand family tour.
…and respect the Ladyboys!
When someone mentions Thailand, it is inevitable that ladyboys will enter the conversation at some point. Regardless of how they are viewed in your home country, ladyboys are well repected and enjoy the rights of “ordinary” people here in Thailand. They can be overly friendly at times, but they are more than happy to pose for a picture with you, trusted you treat them with repect and dignity. Whilst you’re here, you may want to catch a ladyboy show – some are great singers and dancers, and their talents may surprise you.
Don’t be scared of the toilets
The hotels you stay at during you Thailand tour package will probably be Western toilets that you are used to at home, but at some point on your Thailand tour, you are bound to come across a tradition Thai toilet. Thai toilets may be intimidating, but they are actually very simple. Due to the sewage system in Thailand, many toilets don’t allow you to flush paper down. In fact, many may be without paper at all. Yet all will be equipped with a handheld bidet, or “bum gun” as many affectionately call it. The idea is to spray yourself clean, only using paper in order to ensure you are dry, before putting the paper in the waste basket next to the toilet. In fact, many people argue that this is cleaner than the Western method of using just toilet paper. Many toilets may also lack a flushing system; thankfully, a large tank of water will doubtless be nearby with a pot inside, and flushing can be achieved by pouring water into the toilet bowl. If you are more comfortable with using toilet paper, we recommend carry toilet paper or tissues with you as you cannot guarantee that it will be provided at public toilet, and often you will have to pay for it.
Know your visa details
Depending on where you’re from, the rules are different with regards to your visa to Thailand. Many countries don’t require a visa to be acquired beforehand; in fact, some nationalities are entitled to 90 days in Thailand with the visa stamped on arrival. To avoid any doubt – and potential costs – we advise checking with the government of your home country with regard to obtaining a visa to Thailand.
Prepare for all weathers
When you think of Thailand, you probably think of the blazing sun helping you get a tan as you relaxing on the beach. What you probably fail to think of, however, are the monsoon rains that batter the country in rainy season. From June to November, the days are interspersed with heavy rains and hot sunshine, with the weather changing in the blink of an eye. Usually, the rainfalls last for less than an hour at a time, with the residual water having dried up in a few hours, leaving no evidence. But the rains can also fall for hours at a time, which can leave you stranded in your swimwear with little to do. There’s a bright side, though; the rainy season coincides with low season, and as long as you’re willing to brave the risk of rain, you can take advantage of emptier beaches and high-class hotels at bargain prices.
The south of Thailand – Krabi, Phuket, Hat Yai and SuratThani – due to being closer to the equator, get much hotter than the Northern cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, which have been known to be quite chilly on a night. That’s why we think it’s best to pack for all weathers (except snow!) for you Thailand tour package.
Practice your bartering skills
Whilst not the case in supermarkets and restaurants, in places such as markets there is often no fixed price for goods, and great bargains can be had – provided your bartering skills are up to scratch. A great tip is not to look too interested; if the salesperson sees you have your heart set on an item, they are less likely to drop the price as they know you are probably going to buy it regardless. Instead, casually ask the price; if it’s too much, exclaim that it is “pengmak!”, which translates to “very expensive”, and offer your own price. Inevitably, there will be a back-and-forth situation before you meet in the middle and agree upon a price. It’s worth remembering that the average earnings in Thailand are low; 100 baht may not be much to you, but for these people it could make a big difference, so be respectful and realistic with your bartering, and help reward those who have made your Thailand tour so special.
Given that you can buy locally made items as well as designer goods for a bargain price here in Thailand, it is advisable to pack lightly. Anything you may need can be bought cheaply here, and nobody wants to be stuck with large baggage charges at the airport!
Don’t get taken for a ride
If you are new to Thailand, there’s often a chance that the taxi drivers and tuktuk drivers can sense it, and may try take advantage of your naïvety. When entering a taxi, it’s important to ensure that they put the meter on at the start of your journey. If your drive is unwilling to do this, leave and find another taxi, as he is more than likely trying to charge you a large amount for what will be a little journey. With tuktuk drivers, ensure that you agree a price before you get in to ensure you are not stuck with a surprisingly large fare on arrival at your destination. In Bangkok, many drivers will offer to take you places for free if you agree to visit a suit shop or a jewelry store on the way. This is because drivers are often giving fuel token in exchange for bringing custom to these stores. These can prove to be both a cheap way to get around and a nuisance, so make sure you tell him not to take any stops if you are short on time or patience on your Thailand tour.
Enjoy the food, but be careful
Thailand can be a culinary treat; delicious pad thai, spicy tom yum and healthy som tam are typical dishes that can be found on the streets and markets of Thailand. But be warned, Thai food here may taste different to the Thai food you are used to back home, and can be very spicy. You must also be careful when choosing which places you order food from – if the food looks like it has been left out for a long time, or if there are flies buzzing around it, there is an increased risk of getting sick from it. Pharmacies are well equipped to deal with stomach flu here, but it can be avoided if you sensible with what are where you eat. If the local food isn’t to your palette, there are plenty of places to eat Western food in all major Thai cities, so there is enough choice to please everyone on your Thailand family tour.
Drive the right way – on the left
In Thailand, cars and motorbikes drive on the left hand side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right. Whilst here, you may be tempted to join the throngs of tourists who rent motorbikes to get around. This is easy to do, and most places don’t ask to see a license. If you choose to do this, ensure you wear a helmet. The roads here can be difficult for the most experienced of drivers, so make sure your head is protected and be careful and sensible when driving and you should be fine.