Things to Know Before you go to Thailand
Thailand is a beautiful country with its bustling cities, serene beaches, wildlife, and history. Thailand should be on anyone’s bucket list but there are some things you should know before you plan your trip. These are things we wished we knew before we went to Thailand for the first time. Check out my other post on a first timers guide to Bangkok if you are checking out the city.
Tipping is always one of those things as a North American I struggle with while abroad. Where it seems the norm has become 15-20% in Canada this is definitely not the case while in Thailand. You are never expected to tip although it is quite common in most tourist restaurants. You should not tip like at home but simply round your bill and leave the loose change. 10-20 baht per person is all you need to leave max. If you are in a really nice restaurant tipping 10% is common practice. If eating from a street vendor tipping is not common practice unless they did something exceptional. The same rules apply to mostly any other time you would tip in Thailand, for Taxi’s round up and for people like massage workers you don’t need to tip but something like 20 baht+ is very appreciated since they’ll massage you for 1 hour for abut $10.
Taxis and Tuk Tuk’s in Thailand are plentiful. You should stick to the solid coloured cabs/ tuk tuks as they work for reputable companies and can be tracked, any cab with multiple colours is what they call a pirate cab. Try to always stick to the solid colours and ask for the meter whenever possible. If you are in Bangkok many of the highways are toll roads. You are expected to pay those yourself in baht. Also note, when leaving the airport there is a 50 baht airport charge.
If anyone approaches you on the street and tells you it is a holiday and recommends anything to you this is 100% a scam. You will still likely have a great day for a reasonable Canadian price but you will be overpaying by Thailand standards and that person will be getting a cut of whatever you might buy along the way. See this post to find out what happened on our first days in Bangkok.
The king is incredibly highly regarded to Thai people thus any form of disrespect to the king can actually land you a trip to a Thai jail. So be careful, do not do anything disrespectful towards him including stepping on banknotes or coins with the king’s face that might happen to be flying away. If you go to Thailand in 2016 or 2017 they are in mourning and you will see tributes to him everywhere you go.
Taking your shoes off
In a lot of places, you will be required to take your shoes off. If you have nice shoes I would recommend you bring a bag to put them in and carry with you. Shoes do get stolen and the last thing you want is to be walking around Thailand with no shoes (although it is surprisingly clean). Some of the most common places you will need to take your shoes off are any temple, some restaurants, massage places and people’s houses.
You can barter with just about anyone selling something (The main exception is a chain ex 7-11). The most prominent being street vendors. A good general rule of thumb is you should pay about 40% of the cost they are asking. Ex. Asking 500 Baht, Start by offering 200 baht, they will likely say let’s split which would be 350, say no and go up in increments of 10-15 baht. As a good friend can attest to, be fair, don’t offer 50 baht on a 600 baht item they will be offended and ask you to leave. Note that some places have a very fair price already and will often put no discount on the price tag.
Buddha is also very highly regarded by Thai and other people around the world. To show respect one should never point their feet towards any statue (This is mostly when sitting). Always take your shoes off when entering a temple or getting close to the prayer areas. You should also dress modestly by covering your shoulders and your knees. Some places you visit will require this as a minimum for entry some actually require coverage down to your ankles and wrists.
Most public bathrooms do not look anything like the ones that you find in North America or even Europe. Firstly they often do not supply toilette paper but they will often have a sprayer to clean your bits. Spray first then dry with toilette paper. The toilettes are often squat toilettes that may require you to manually flush them with a nearby bucket of water. Lastly, you may have to pay to use them but it shouldn’t be much 5-15 baht.
I would highly recommend you spring for A/C for the first few weeks to a month you are in South East Asia. It is HOT here. If you come from a country with A/C or a cooler climate spend the extra few dollars to actually be able to sleep. Slowly you can start turning the A/C down day by day to help you to acclimatize.
Did I miss anything from my list? Do you wish you knew any of these before you went to Thailand? Let me know in the comments below!