Thailand is one of the modern world’s most prolific travel destinations and with more and more people gaining access to the wonder of air travel it’s sure to continue increasing in popularity. And rightly so – much of the country is truly a tropical paradise.
Of course there are many who feel that the popularity of this Southeast Asian paradise has, to an extent, ruined it. Mostly however, these are people lucky enough to have witnessed Thailand early on “before the hoards.” The fact is that not all of us were born in the 50’s and were able to see Thailand in it’s heyday of the 60’s 70’s & 80’s. And we would still like to see it, preferably without your judging looks, thank you.
I’ve put together a quick list of Tips for first time travellers to Thailand as well as including a few resources for more in-depth reading the country, here.
TROPICAL: CODEWORD FOR MOSQUITOES.
Countries in Southeast Asia are riddled with these life-sucking pests and Thailand is no exception. People will tell you that there are certain times of the year that there aren’t so many but generally even in the ‘driest’ mosquito season, chances are they will be worse than from your home country.
NB: You get two kinds of mosquitoes, “daytime” mosquitoes (found in the day) and nighttime mosquitoes. Be very wary of the daytime one’s they are the ones that are able to carry the dengue virus, which isn’t very pleasant.
Tip: Take lots of your own countries most reliable potion (I mean lotion). If you forget it at home then once in Thailand you’ll want to look for “Deet” products, it’s not natural but it works. There are also natural options available at the pharmacys. ProTip: Don’t forget that you can only stash 100 ml containers in your hand luggage on the aeroplane. I recommend decanting 100 ml and then putting an extra bottle in your main luggage.
CLOTHES: WHAT TO PACK FOR THAILAND’S HEAT.
Thailand is a vast country and telling you what to pack, in terms of clothing, without knowing where you are headed is probably a mistake. I’m assuming that most people are heading towards the islands (GO TO THE ISLANDS). The north of Thailand can be a lot cooler than the rest of the country but still gets very hot, though at times it can get cold. The majority of the Thailand is piping hot and humid.
Tip: Take along a swimming costume, but not too many as you there are plenty to stock up on there, the same applies to flip-flops (‘thongs’ for our Aussie readers) and sunglasses. Comfy cotton underwear goes along way to “below the belt comfort.” And in case you aren’t feeling partial to being roasted all day and night, thin tops and pants can be equally lifesaving (protects against mosquitoes too).
ProTip: Take decent sunscreen. And you may want to take a thin rain jacket too. Thailand is subject to frequent torrential downfalls but they disappear as quickly as they come. Should you be caught in the rain, you’ll have mere seconds before you are completely soaked. They do sell very cheap & very light “garbage-bag” type poncho raincoats in most 7/11’s should you find yourself stuck without one.
THAILAND FESTIVALS: YES PLEASE!
So you’re going to Thailand to experience it’s friendly people, warm tropical waters and taste its incredible cuisine. Most people headed to Thailand don’t realise just how many incredible festivals the Thai people have. Definitely try and co-incide your trip with one. Some of the most popular and fun are:
Songkran (April) – The Thai new year where everyone gets absolutely soaked with water all week long while they usher the new year in on a clean slate.
Loi Krathong (November) – The floating crown festival, where people all over Thailand head down to the rivers and beaches with beautifully decorated floating crowns and set them off, with candles, into the water. Thousands of Chinese lanterns accompany this incredible event.
The Chiang Mai Flower Festival (February) – a beautiful festival held in one of the most visually stunning area’s in Thailand, Chiang Mai.
FOREIGNERS IN THAILAND: EASY TARGETS.
One of the unfortunate results of an area that is blossoming with tourists is that the number of people that are out there just wanting to make a buck or two off you increase dramatically. Thailand is no different and in several of the more touristy areas (Bangkok, Phuket, Phi-Phi & Koh Samui) people are going to try and rip you off. It’s unpleasant, but so are mosquitoes and all you need to do is to be aware of this and hopefully these guys won’t ruin your day.
Tip: Prevention is alway better than cure and here are a couple of suggestions to avoid getting taken advantage of:
>> Ask somebody local (or a foreigner that doesn’t look as jet lagged as you are) what the going rates for taxis and tuk-tuks are (beware tuk tuk drivers, they are some of the biggest con artists.) Or do some research before you get there. There are plenty of resources online.
>>Never tell anyone that asks you (they will ask you) whether this is your first time in Thailand. Just respond with a polite “no, I’ve been here plenty of times” or something similar. If you do, you become an easy target.
>>To be clear, these guys just want to make you buy something at a rate 10x more than it’s worth, they aren’t going to take you into a dark alley and rob you, Thailand is generally very safe and if you stay away from trouble it will stay away from you.
SHOPPING: BARGAINING THE RIGHT WAY IN THAILAND.
And all the ladies go wild. It’s common knowledge by now that Thailand is great for finding some outstanding bargains. Clothing, make-up, sunglasses, tech & you name it can can all be pretty easily found in markets and plaza’s designed to make you drool. always know two things going into a market / plaza scenario:
1) If you see it once, you’re going to see it at least another 5 – 15 times further down the line and whatever it is they are all going to be the same price. So if you like it, buy it. Don’t hope that you’ll find some even more amazing discount three stalls down. These guys are here every night. They all know the deal. Which leads me into my second point.
2) When asking for discounts try work on getting 30% off & if possible bargain in 50 / 100 baht denominations. Squabbling over anything less than 50 baht is pointless.
PROTIP: When asking the price of an item ask in Thai (learn the phrase). At this point the stall owner will either get out a calculator or tell you how much. If you are able to tell him the price you want to pay in Thai then you have a much higher chance of getting the rate reduced.
Relax and enjoy yourself! Sometimes it is easy to get into a rut of defensiveness especially if you are coming from a country that you are used to being guarded in. It took me quite a while before I realised that Thailand is nothing like my home country. It’s safe and friendly and if you apply just a little street savviness you’ll be totally fine and have the most amazing time.