For our honeymoon we went to Thailand a country located in Southeast Asia. A place of beautiful sights, a unique culture, and lots of amazing experiences, we enjoyed every moment of our time there! If you are planning a trip to Thailand we hope that these quick pointers will help you prepare.
- Plan it out
Before we left the two of us read a guide book on Thailand, as well as read other blogs, watched videos, and just generally educated ourselves on where we were going.We learned about amazing must see places in the different regions of Thailand, and began planning a route to be able to see as many of them as possible.
The seasons in Thailand are different from the US and its helpful to know during which one you’ll be going there. For the most part their rainy season is like our summer in the PNW while the rest of the year is like California, hot and dry. Knowing ahead of time when you want to go is beneficial since then you can buy your tickets in advance at a cheaper price. If you plan on traveling around while there, one thing to consider is your travel time. Depending on your mode of transportation you may be losing a few days here and there which could throw off your plans a little bit.
- Make a packing list
Depending on the sort of trip you will take, you would want to decide between taking a backpack or a suitcase with you. Although a suitcase can generally be larger, for the most part taking a backpack will allow you greater flexibility and mobility.
The less things you pack with you the better. You’ll spend less money in baggage handling fees, have less hassle transporting your belongings around, and less risk of getting something stolen, broken, or lost. We recommend making a list of your essentials and taking only those things. One rule I’ve heard is bring half as many clothes as you think you need and twice as much money. Although this may not be your situation, one of the great things about Thailand is that you can buy any necessities there at a fraction of US cost.
Our trip was in a way two different types of trips in one, and as such we brought more things with us than we needed the entire time. We dealt with this by storing a part of our luggage at a hotel in Bangkok – for a minimal fee – and then picking it up when we flew out.
- It won’t be perfect
In life things happen. The bus runs late, things you thought were true turn out to be false, and the most perfect plans go awry. Having a great experience will not be as a result of everything going perfectly, but of you having the ability to go with the flow, adapt to the situation as it arises, and enjoy yourself no matter what. It wont be perfect, but it will be wonderful.
As mentioned above it is possible to buy many things that you need in Thailand at a fraction of US cost. The US dollar is currently getting you 35 Baht which in Thailand is the price of a meal of Pad Thai. This means that depending on what you are purchasing your money goes 4-10 times further.
Many places in Thailand don’t yet accept Visa or MasterCard, so you end up needing to withdraw money from the bank. As a result you can end up getting hit with various transaction and international fees. One way to get around this would be if a place did accept them, you could use a credit card to avoid the various fees. In addition you could also try opening up a local bank account if you will be there for a longer period of time. ATM machines are commonplace and except for the various fees, we did not encounter any problems with using them.
- Stay Centered
When choosing where to stay, staying closer to the center of the city you are in, is ideal for many reasons. Thailand’s resorts don’t really have an all-inclusive option therefore staying center to all the local food restaurants and food carts works out in your benefit. Hotels are less expensive and can also be of comparable quality. In addition, you will have easy access to public transportation, get to feel the cultural vibe, and have the ability to rent a moped to explore things on your own.
On one of the islands we were at, we stayed at a resort that was further from the center, and were unpleasantly surprised at the need to take a boat taxi every time we wanted to head out. It quickly got expensive, and when we did decide to eat at the resort restaurant, due to the low food turnaround in the restaurant, one of us got sick.
You might have heard that the world is a dangerous place and if you are traveling you need to be particularly on guard. Although there are definitely dangerous regions out there, for the most part as a tourist you won’t encounter that unless you really try. Basic precautions will keep you out of any trouble.
In Thailand the culture is very tourist-friendly and many people know English. We experienced times where random people seeing us looking lost offered to help us. Haggling is a pretty standard norm in most places, such as for a taxi, items in the market, and the like. Unlike in the United States there is no tipping, unless you are in a very Americanized location. You may notice that as a tourist you are being charged a little more in some places, however, that’s considered normal in their culture so don’t feel put off by it.
Thailand has more conservative norms on clothing that what you find in the west, and you’ll want to dress a level up from what you are used to. Inside the temples you are expected to be covered down to the ankles, and up to your shoulders. Some places are more or less strict than others so do your research.
Since its humid there, its a good idea to bring lightweight clothes with you, as well as good walking shoes, since you will probably be doing a substantial amount of walking. Don’t pack your whole wardrobe though since most of your clothes were originally made in Thailand and you can just buy what you need while you are there!
- Avoid the tours
Our experience with tours was a little hit and miss. Some tours, such as Pangnga Bay or riding elephants were phenomenal, and you really can’t do them without a guide. Others, such as visiting a temple, or waterfalls, which you can do on your own are better done that way. You will need to do a little bit of extra research, but as a result you will able to do them on your own time, spend less money, and experience them more fully. There are some tours that are such a tourist trap that you should just avoid those places completely.
Transportation is always a cost vs time consideration. Taking public transport will always be cheaper, but generally slower. If you get your own vehicle challenges such as driving on a different side, aggressive drivers, and an unfamiliar area could cause problems.
- Buses – They are very cheap, and easy to use within the city, or between cities. They are generally the slowest option but if you have time, you will save a lot of money using them. Sometimes, especially in a bigger city and due to language barrier they can be a little difficult to navigate – figuring out which bus to take, and where your stop is.
- Tuk-tuk’s – These are like a mini open-air taxi, and are more expensive than a bus, but they will take you directly to your location. With these you can haggle to get a lower price. In some places they will be your main source of transportation, while in others completely not worth it.
- Taxi – These are more expensive than a Tuk-tuk but are much more ideal for a longer trip.
- Moped – We made great use of moped’s, they are cheap, easy to use, and you can go pretty much anywhere with them. They have a daily rate, and you are responsible for filling them up. You are able to go up to 45mph on them and in the city they are much easier to navigate through the streets than a car.
- Car – For added comfort you can also rent a car, they are a little more expensive but depending on your itinerary and preference could be the perfect choice for you.
- Train – Thailand has a train system that connects all the different regions. Its cheaper than buying a plane ticket, and faster than using a bus. In Bangkok the bullet train from downtown to the airport is your best mode of getting there, since you will be able to avoid hours of traffic.
- Plane – Ticket prices within the country are amazingly low compared to US prices and you can find a ticket the night before for almost anyplace you want to go to for less than the equivalent of US $50. This is by far the fastest way to travel long distances although more expensive than other options such as by train or by bus.
Although Thai was never offered as in either one of our high school’s or college’s as an option we had no difficulties traveling through there. Many people learn English as a second language in order to be able to cater to tourists, while even in the more rural areas where that was not the case, we did not run into significant barriers. The people where very kind and we were able to make do with finger pointing, saying the few words we knew, and lots of smiling.
Wi-fi was our dear friend in Thailand. Nearly every restaurant, hotel, or coffee shop had free wi-fi and we made great use of it. We booked our hotels by using wi-fi to find the nearest one to the bus station, we were able to book plane tickets the night before, and in restaurants we were able to use Google Translate to order food.
Prepare your pallet to be overwhelmed by tastes of a heavenly nature. Thailand’s street carts are the stuff of legend and serve as a great equalizer of society. Both rich and poor, old and young, and people of all ethnicities come together to eat at the food carts. The ingredients to all the food is sourced locally and fresh as of that morning from the local market.
Eating from the food carts is preferable to all other options, however, if you wish to eat in a restaurant expect to pay a premium, and depending on the place a decrease in quality. In the more resort heavy places the restaurants did have a greater variety of international cuisine to choose from.
Although it can be tempting to bring your entire medicine cabinet with you, Thailand has a great health infrastructure even going so far as to offer free health insurance to all refugees. Your basic health needs can be taken care of at the corner pharmacies, and they have great local remedies and products available.
Bonus: Thailand is massage heaven. For a mere fraction of US prices you can experience highly professional massages. We tried to get one at every city we visited, and even tried their fish spa!
And by the way, the ice cream is delicious!