15 Tips before you trip in Thailand

Few fascinating facts about Thailand I realised after I went there that nobody told me are –

You can see lots of customs similar to India in Thailand. Don’t miss out on watching Khons Performance to witness the Thai version of Hindu Mythology Ramayana.

Sadly, tourists ignore many of these things, and Thailand has become a place for cheap shopping and Boom Boom in brothels. Here are 15 things about Thailand you must know before going.

  1. Currency
  2. Debit and Credit Card
  3. Cost of living for Tourists
  4. Cell Phone Network and Wifi
  5. Type of Power sockets
  6. Public Hygiene and Toilets
  7. Roads and Transport –
  8. APPS to be downloaded
  9. Food and Beverages
  10. Alcohol and Smoking
  11. People and Language
  12. Safety & Scams
  13. What to see in Thailand and when
  14. Tipping Culture.
  15. Bonus tip – Thailand’s culture and heritage is richer than you think.

Thailand Currency

Thai Currency is called Baht. 1 Baht in June 2019 was 2 INR (0.029EURO). Getting Bahts in India is very easy, especially in state capital cities. If you plan to exchange the Currency in Thailand, bring USD / Euro / GBP but not Indian Rupees.

Card Payment – Using debit and Credit Card

Master and Amex cards worked perfectly everywhere. However, Visa cards were troublesome at ATMs. Cash payment is preferred in smaller towns like Ayuttaya, Samet Nangshe and Sukothai. Since there are plenty of ATMs even in smaller cities, carrying a heavy purse full of cash isn’t needed.

Cost of living for Tourists

Choose accommodation wisely -The hotel rooms are cheaper when compared to many other Asian countries. The kind of hotels we chose was 1600-1800 INR/ night, and they were ultra-comfortable. Leftside pic – Ayuttaya. Right side Luxury resort at Phuket

Your budget is safe in your hands until you go to travel agents who force you to lame tourist traps, which fetches them more money. Especially low price accommodation that is clean and comfortable makes Thailand even more affordable. With hundreds of luxury resorts and private chauffers, you can make Thailand a luxury holiday.

It cost 4200 INR (60 USD)per person for a day for us. It includes accommodation at budget guesthouses, three meals a day, entrance fees to monuments, train tickets, a bit of shopping, all public transportation ( tuk-tuks and taxis), intercity buses. Excluding international flights and one domestic flight, one night at a luxury resort The Nai Harn.

Cell Phone Network and Wifi

We bought two sims of True Move at the airport. They have special packages with 4g data, and international call plans are excellent for tourists.

Type of Power sockets

Thailand has TYPE A, B & C. Indians need to carry travel socket adapters.

Public Hygiene and Toilets

THE BOHEMIAN OLD PHUKET STREETS

The remote villages of Sukothai were with garbage-free roads. Chiang Mai was the cleanest and calmest of all. Bangkok is one of the top 40 densely populated cities in the world. It is the second-highest visited city by tourists. Still, the streets are almost thrash-free. I was surprised to see the spotless streets, even in the most touristy spots like the Grand Palace. . The usage of plastic bags for every tiny thing we bought annoyed me. This has led to a waste management crisis in recent years. The Thai government tries its best to keep the beaches trash free. However, Railay and Krabi’s crowded beaches showed the signs of becoming a garbage beach after ten years if proper care isn’t taken.

EVERYDAY MORNING SCENE – LOCALS PICKING THEIR USUALS FOR BREAKFAST FROM A STREET CART AT BANGKOK

The street food may look mouth-watering for non-vegetarians. However, it is neither as safe as in Amsterdam nor unsafe as in Egypt or India. So we trusted our instincts to try out some steamed and baked street food in Chiang Mai. It was delicious and healthy.

Toilets

Good news for Indians. Thailand uses Jet spray to clean the butts instead of wiping them with tissue papers. The only wacky part is that every dam EWC we used in Thailand works weirdly after flushing. The solid and liquid waste rises from the bottom of the pot to the top (almost up to the seat) and gets sucked inside the waste pipe later. Immediately, half of the pot gets filled with freshwater. This gives you a feeling that the previous user left the room without flushing.

Roads and Transport

Roads

Chiang Mai streets

Thailand follows right lane driving. The seat belts are two-point lap belts. The taxi driver seemed surprised when mom and I discussed and checked the lap belts because that was the first time we ever used lap belts in cars. 

The road conditions are decent, but traffic is madness. Bangkok traffic is as chaotic as Bangalore traffic. An immense relief is that people don’t honk unless it is an emergency. This brings in a huge difference and makes the streets more walking friendly. Most people do follow lanes but expect two wheelers zig-zagging to make their way between two vehicles. The traffic in Phuket remains similar to that of Bangkok. Chiang Mai, Ayuttaya and Sukothai are on the mild side. 

Many western travellers find Bangkok traffic to be risky for pedestrian crossing. However, if you are used to crossing roads on Indian streets, this is a piece of cake for you. Renting cycles and Motorbikes are very easy. But it isn’t a peaceful option. As an Indian, though I am used to galloping motorbikes, I don’t recommend anyone hire bikes in Phuket and Bangkok. It can get too stressful.

Airports

Thailand got seven international airports, while the Royal navy maintained one of them. So you can consider these six towns for your international commuting. Unfortunately, though Thailand receives millions of tourists every year, the airports here are not great for night layovers, unlike Istanbul or Abu Dhabi’s.

Railways

Domestic trains are the cheapest way to connect between the mainlands. We took a train journey from Ayuttaya to Phitsanulok(the closest railway station to Sukothai). The journey was comfortable, except for the stinking toilets. During summer, choose an AC coach. Always book the train seats in advance, because it is opted by locals too. Using Thailand official railway website is as complicated as the Indian railway website.

Ferries

The obvious choice when you are hopping between islands is ferries. Many tourists opt for ferries to travel between Phi Phi to Phuket and Koh Samui. Check Thailand ticket Ferry to know more. We did go on sailing, but it was a semi-private day trip through Simba sea Trips.

Public buses

The white and blue buses run between major cities of Thailand. I used 12goAsia to book the tickets. This website books tickets through travel agents. Those travel agents pick you from their offices and drop you at the main bus stands where the government buses depart! If you want to avoid all these middle brokerages, you can go to the bus terminals by yourself to book. The problem is, most intercity bus terminals are away from the city centre. Whether it is Phuket, Pattaya or Bangkok, it takes longer to reach the bus terminal. Other than those big white and blue buses, the red and beige buses run inside the cities. If the intercity distance is shorter, minivans are used.

Tuk-tuks

TUK TUK WITH A BIKE ENGINE AT SUKOTHAI TO EXPLORE THE ARCHEOLOGICAL SITE

When I hear the word Thailand, the first thing that comes to my mind is “Tuk Tuk”. These are similar to our Auto rickshaw in India, with better comfort and more space. Most Tuk Tuks are semi-open, making it airy and safer when you travel alone. There are at least twenty variations in these most famous local transport. What you see in Pattaya is a bit different from Bangkok. Chiang Mai Tuk-tuks are more like vans.

TUK-TUK IS NOT JUST A MODE OF COMMUTING IN THAILAND; IT IS AN EMOTION.

You spot red coloured shuttle taxis bigger than Tuk-Tuks running in towns like Phuket and Chiang Mai. These are called “Songathew” – small trucks like vehicles converted to passenger vehicles with seats and overhead covering. These are the cheapest mode to get between two points in the cities. There is no fixed schedule to refer to, as these are privately owned public transport. Look for locals waiting in a bigger group to spot the Songathew stops. There will be a switch on the roof for you to press when your stop comes. If you don’t know when your stop will come, ask the driver to tell you.

THE CHEAPEST AND FASTEST OF ALL- SONGATHEW IN PHUKET

APPS to be downloaded

THE COLOURFUL TAXIS IN BANGKOK – USE GRAB TAXI TO BOOK THEM

One app that is most particular to Thailand is Grab Taxi. There is neither Ola nor Uber for the city taxi rides. Grab taxi works similar to Uber with your credit card details linked to it. It is available in two languages – English and Thai. I used Grab taxi frequently in Bangkok, Phuket and Chiangmai. Except this, have the usual ones like Booking.com and google translator.

Useful website links

Food and Beverages

Thai non-veg food is abundant, and Ashrith loves it. But, delicious veg food is available throughout Thailand. Street food is almost safe to try in hygienic places. A typical Thai breakfast contains rice, boiled to make it like Porridge ( or Ganji in my language) with any meat of choice. 

For vegetarians, Thai style rolls, steamed coconut pudding, and Tofu are great choices. Plus, they grow a wide variety of fruits. Pineapples to Mango, you can go on a healthy fruit diet any time of the day. If you are a fussy eater and particular about eating only Indian food, Bangkok and Phuket are filled with Indian restaurants serving Jain food. But what is the fun of having Idli for breakfast or Dhal bati for lunch when you can munch on Mango sticky rice & Pad Thai? Read our post “Vegetarians guide to Thai food” to know more.

The most delicious Mango sticky rice

Beverages: Thais love Coffee over tea. From cappuccinos to their traditional Oliang ( iced Coffee with cardamom and soybeans), you get Coffee everywhere. Personally, Oliang wasn’t what we loved. I prefer my Coffee to be strong with milk. The best way to stay hydrated is Tender coconut water. Often, the coconut is stored in an ice container. Sometimes a squeeze of lemon and salt make it even more delicious.

Alcohol and Smoking

Thailand doesn’t have a restriction on Alcohol. Beachside cafes, streetside food trucks sell Thai beer. You often see tourists walking with a beer tin in tourist towns like Pattaya and Khao San road. Carrying Alcohol is illegal in the following locations like temples, Public offices, Petrol stations and Public parks.

Smoking: Smoking is generally banned in public areas. Except in the beachside cafes, there is always a designated smoking zone. Except for some tourists, we hardly saw any Thai people smoking in public.

People and Language

More than 90% of Thais follow Buddhism. The next larger religion is Islam. However, few Muslim communities live in Southern Thailand near the Malaysian border. The Christian population is minor.

Many times, in markets, we saw men sitting and chatting while women did physical work. So everywhere I felt Thai women are hard working. Being a scuba diving instructor or a boat rower, tour organising to guide, women work everywhere. Women drivers are not common for taxis, though.

Are Thai people-friendly – Thailand is called the” Land of Smile. ” Yes, Thai people are always smiling. But they weren’t that friendly. Take their service, pay them, and they are gone even without saying goodbye. We stayed in the same guesthouse in Phuket for five days, and the owner avoided talking with us every time he saw us. I wonder if only Indians are treated this way or by everyone. We were never harmed or insulted but didn’t feel the warmth and love.

Language

Thai is the official language. Thailand is as diverse as India. Each region of Thailand got its own variation of the Thai language. So the Thai spoken in Chiang Mai is different from the south. Signboards, guidebooks, audio guides are available in English. Tuk-tuk drivers, housekeepers and restaurant waiters speak enough English to communicate with tourists. 

When Thais speak, each word’s ending is usually stretched and sounds like a musical tone. You find the letter “X” a lot on the signboard. It is generally used when Thais want to pronounce words with “Y.”

  • Pumpkin – Fakthang ( It sounds like F*ckting)
  • To say thank you, you say ‘kapunkap” if you are a female and ‘Kapunka” if you are a male. 
  • Hong Nam- Toilet
  • Chacha Noi: Use this word to ask someone to do it slowly. You will need it when you go on sailing or when you grab street food in night markets.
  • Chang – Elephant god A.KA. Lord Ganesha
  • Mimi Nyu- No Meat – A most helpful phrase for vegetarians. 

Is Thailand Safe?

Safety

As per the Global peace Index in 2020. Thailand stands in 114th place. With lesser terror attacks, Thailand is very safe for every kind of travellers. I went flashpacking with my mom, and we never faced any trouble. Many may have a wrong notion about Thailand because Prostitution is legal there, and hence it is unsafe for solo/duo women travellers. The walking streets were safe for women to wander in the night. Just take standard precautions you would take in any city.

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On the first evening of our trip, we walked in the dark streets of residential areas near Wat Arun. Worried and scared at 8.30 PM in the dark, we asked two ladies who were washing dishes outside their house for the route to Deck by the river Restaurant. We even asked them if it is safe for ladies to walk at night here. They laughed hard at us, patting on my shoulder; one of them said,” Don’t worry, all ok here in day and night, We women go out in the night. Beware of your purse, that’s all.”

We took tuk-tuks and taxis to remote places in Ayuttaya and Chiang Mai with male drivers -We never had anything except pleasant fun-filled experiences. Buddhism isn’t just a religion for most Thai people; it is a way of life– Mr Boom, a taxi owner in Chiang Mai, said.

Take the usual precautions you would do in any safer countries like – avoid walking in the isolated dark streets, having late-night drinks with strangers, not doing drugs.

Scams in Thailand

Beware of the usual scam– Taxi and tuk-tuk fares, fake Currency, fake precious gems, fake silk. If you want to buy precious gems, expensive silk – Do not ask Tuk Tuk drivers to take you to an actual shop. Instead, do your research, ask someone knowledgeable before you spend a fortune.

The scammers are concentrated usually at the exit gates of tourist attractions. They smile and talk nicely to sell their useless day trips or some dumb shows. Like -Tiger park, dumb sex performance shows “in the name of art.” There are many dance performance shows and gardens which are an absolute waste of your money and time. Plus, the elephant Safari, snake on shoulders, touching tigers may look cool. But the animals are treated and tamed with drugs to please tourists.

When the locality of your accommodation is in a hot tourist spot, you must not leave your passport in your room. A friend of mine who went under a scam in Bangkok said that the housekeepers flicked it and demanded money from him later to give it back. But we left our passports all the time locked in our rooms, and everything was fine.

What to see in Thailand and when

Most tourists explore New Bangkok and ignore the Old city, and backpackers flock to Northern Thailand. There are over 35000 Buddhist temples in Thailand. The coast of Andaman and the Gulf of Thailand is excellent for beach holidays. Parts of the Andaman coast got great marine life for Scuba divers. Central Thailand is home to ancient Siam Capitals – like Ayuttaya and Sukothai. The National parks like Erawan are bliss for hikers. You can explore endless beaches on the beaten tracks or go to offbeat places.

Like any other tropical country, October to February is the best time. Ashrith has been to Thailand for the new years celebration. You may call it a celebration, but it gets overflooded with tourists, and the celebrations may turn Chaotic. Mid-January to May is ts the best season. The hotel prices will be lower. Fewer tourists, Not too hot summers are perfect for every region. We travelled to Thailand in June. The temperature was pleasant, but the rainy season had just begun in Chiang Mai and Phuket. If you like evening drizzles and don’t mind walking in the rain, the mountains turn lush green from June to August. So nature is fantastic during this time. But expect high tides and a “not so calm” ocean to ruin your sailing plans.

Tipping Culture.

It is not expected, usually at restaurants. But, if you like the food or service, it is always a good reward for the hard-working ladies.

Bonus tip – Thailand’s culture and heritage is richer than you think.

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When you walk in the walking streets, you get many invitations to weird shows like the Ping Pong show – A sex show at a strip club where a girl uses her pelvic muscle to throw or hold small balls out of her Vagina. Another pamphlet said,” Men with giant penis beat drums”, Saw a lady holding a board” Massage with Boom.” The colourful cabaret shows are major tourist attractions, almost equal to the Filmfare award set up. Yes, these are all crazy shows you want to see once in a lifetime. Unfortunately, heritage performances are often overlooked by tourists. Whenever you visit a temple or palace, look for traditional Thai performances like Khon’s performance – the Thai version of Ramayana or SERNG KRAPO – the coconut shell dance. They are beautiful beyond what you can imagine.

Which of these things was a surprise for you? Let us know in the comment section below.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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