Your first time traveling to Thailand can be overwhelming. A new country, surprising smells, different language and culture that you never encountered before can be terrifying. No worries, in this post I will share some highlights from my trip, photos and 20 tips and things to know when visiting Thailand for the first time.
- What you will need. US citizens only need a valid passport. It must be valid for at least six months from the date of travel and has one blank page per stamp. No visa required.
- When packing, think less is more. One or two pairs of shoes and you are good to go. Make sure they are comfortable you will be walking a lot. Pack sunscreen/aloe vera. The sun is hot over there; you will get sunburned ask my friend Joanna haha. Thai has regular outlets no need for adapters or converters.
- Many ask when is the best time to go and for how long. It all depends on how many different cities you plan on going to but I suggest not to do anything less than ten days. We traveled in March, which is the hot and dry season until July. April is the hottest and the most humid. July-Oct is the months they get the most rain.
- Thailand is usually 12 hours ahead of us in NYC. Due to the time change, while we were out there, it was 11hours.
- Choosing hotels is major. We stayed at the Anantara Sathorn Hotel. It is a luxury hotel 4.5-star hotel, lovely and secluded. Bangkok is a very much like NYC, so if you want to get away from the noise, this hotel is right for you. I must say that it is a little far from everything so you will be jumping in taxis a lot. If you would like to save some money on hotel and transportation, I would definitely recommend looking into Airbnb and boutique hotels that are closer to restaurants, markets, etc.
- Look for sales, when booking your flight. Travel Noire just shared a crazy deal alert for flights to Bangkok.
- Create an itinerary in advance. Know what cities you want to travel to, some cities it takes a flight and hotel may be needed. Don’t try to squeeze too much in one trip. It’s easy to want to jam in every island and city into one trip, but it’s entirely unrealistic. To enjoy your trip to Thailand, don’t spend too much time traveling between locations. Accept that you’ll want to (and will) visit Thailand again and again. Choose wisely and limit your places to visit in Thailand. Give your self some days to rest in between activities and sightseeing. With the time zone difference and after such a long flight your body will thank you. Travelhappy has several Itineraries, showing how to move around the country and see the most with the minimum of downtime. There are itineraries for spending time in Bangkok, on Thailand’s excellent beaches, and up around the mountainous north. Also be sure to prepare yourself, the jet lag is a real thing.
- Currency: US dollars will get you a lot out there. The money in Thailand is BAHT. For every dollar, in the US it's about 30 baht or THB. Bring cash with you, and you will have to exchange dollars for baht because they do not accept US dollars. Be sure your money has no writings or ripped; they won't trade it. It's best to have bigger bills like 50s and 100s to get more for your buck. Thailand is a cash-based society, so credit cards are rarely used. Almost everywhere there is ATMs and currency exchange houses/booths. Compare prices to get the best rate. There is a 150 to 180 baht ATM charge for every withdrawal in addition to your bank fees and conversion rate fees. Download the app XE to help and keep track of rates.
- Monitor your dollars. Don't exchange all your money at once, lock away some of it until you are getting low. The first day out there we got tricked to pay a tuk-tuk for 400 baht. That is a lot. Count your change and Check your bills. Negotiate prices. Often they think because you are out of town you don't know any better. Stand your ground. Don't let them trick you for flat rates for a taxi. Always ask for the meter or get out.
Be sure to visit: Khao San Road is LIT AF. Think Miami strip or more Vegas since there is no beach. This road in Bangkok is where everything is at, take your time shop around. There are bars with great deals. We found a bar where all drinks were 100BAHT, and the had buckets. This road you will also see a lot of tourist booths where you can negotiate and book excursion packages. We booked a day for floating market and elephants and another package to visit the Seven Waterfalls and then Safari park where we were able to see my favorite part of the trip Giraffes and many other animals and was able to feed the tigers. Visit here to get more information on what this strip has to offer.
- Be sure to get multiple massages. We did an hour massage in one of the spas on Khao San Road for 350thb. Best hour of my life.
- The language in Thailand is Thai. Sayings you will hear often and should know: Sawasdeekhaa! (Sah-wah-dee-khaa) means hello in Thai if you are a male you will and a "p" at the end. When saying it put your palms together brought up to your nose. To say "Thank you," it’s kob khun krup for men (pronounced more like “kup;” the “r” tends to get dropped), kob khun kha for women.
- Make time to travel to different cities. I recommend not staying in Bangkok for too long, maybe like 2/3 days. There is a lot to see in the other towns.
- We traveled to Phuket for a day. We only had time for one beach and decided to go to Patong beach. It wasn't the most beautiful beach water wasn't clear. We then were able to book a package for an hour ATV excursion that was so dope. I highly suggest allocating more time for other cities like Phuket, it has many beaches and from there you can travel to Koh Phi Phi which is a group of six islands in the far south, known for its crazy nightlife and gorgeous diving spots. We thugged it out and booked an Airbnb a few hours before in Phuket. It was walking distance from Patong beach and very inexpensive.
- Visiting the temples. The temples were lovely to be able to embrace others cultures and beliefs despite my own. I suggest anyone who travels there to visit some of the many temples. We were able to attend the Golden Buddha and Grand Palace. There is a small fee to view these temples. No flip-flops, short skirts, or shorts for temples and be sure to cover your shoulders. The Grand Palace was very strict they would not let you wrap a scarf around your shoulders be sure to wear a t-shirt that covers your arms.
- Nightlife in Bangkok is very busy. Reminds me of NY. Sugar Club is a hip-hop club in the Bangkok. It was popping in there. Two floors, it cost about 300baht to get in. Look into open bottle service (that's what they call it) where they provide bottles. Not as fancy as NY but that covers your entry so if you are in a big group it makes more sense just to split a bottle. No flip-flops at the club. We also went to Desi Beats for hookah, interior design was so cute, and they had an outdoor area where you can see the city. They don't allow photos of shisha (aka hookah) There is also just the strips and places like Nana Plaza where there are many bars, and spots to hop around.
- Transportation in Thailand: When you jump in the taxi be sure you know where you are going. Provide addresses instead of just saying the name of something assuming they will know or understand. We got dropped off two clubs before we finally just walked to the correct one. Also, make sure the taxi driver puts the meter on, they will try to charge you a flat rate, do not fall for it.
- In every country and culture, food plays a huge part, and for me, the drinks are a factor too. Blue Long Islands get the job done over there. Their fruit cocktails are so fresh and tasty. Beware of additional service charge at restaurants. That's how they get you. Check to make sure its only the 7% tax. On average prices for food and drinks should be in the 50-250 baht. Some fancier restaurants will be more; if you are on a budget stay away from rooftop bars, they are known to be pricey. Don't judge a book by its cover. A lot of places we visited at first glance looked a little funny or even smelled funny, but it would be that spot that would surprise you the most. Thailand had some great gems. One restaurant had sand and swing chairs, so cute. If you are on a budget, you will have to try the market food.
- Be courteous and respectful. Traveling is all about learning new cultures and trying new things. Respecting the people and their customs. No photos of military or police or monks. The King and the Royal family are highly regarded in Thai society. You will see many pictures commemorating the Royals throughout the country. Therefore, it is very disrespectful to say anything or act in any way negatively towards Royal family. Even stomping on a Thai coin as it rolls away it considered impolite as coins display images of members of the Royal family and past relatives. Remember, Thais find it insulting to be touched by your feet. Do not buy anything Buddha. It is not illegal to drink in public, but there may be some restrictions on where you can drink outside such as at temples and public parks. Use good judgment and stay seated when you are drinking. A lot of places and people don't like their photos taken. Try to avoid pointing fingers. Never clap, snap your fingers, or whistle to get someone’s attention, as this considered is very rude in Thai culture. Thais believe you call a dog in this way and not a human. Always take your shoes off when entering someone’s house, a temple, and in some instances, a business. If you see shoes arranged beside a door’s entrance, that is your key to take yours off. If you’re not sure, default to taking them off.
- BABA: Be adventurous but aware. Don't be afraid to try new things. New food, see new things and have fun. Yes, we did eat bugs lol. We ate the scorpion, and it tasted like a salted plain potato chip. Many people, just like us, search Thailand and see the fantastic photos of elephants and people feeding tigers. But many of us don't do the research. I heard a few things saying the animals are abused but to witness it was different. The elephants were chained, and I can see some scars and blood marks on their skin. While riding our tour guide who was leading the elephant couldn't get her to listen, so he pulled out some weird tool with a sharp end and forced it on the elephant. If you absolutely must see wild animals, I did some research, and you should choose to spend time at sanctuaries or rescue facilities who practice responsible animal tourism without the chains and cages.
Related Helpful Articles:
- Everything about Khao San Road
- Thailand has a site that allows visitors to book plane, train, and bus tickets online. It’s a lifesaver check it out.