At 26, I’m still just irresponsible enough for random, spontaneous, probably-not-the-smartest-or-most-accomodating travel plans, but there are definitely some things I would and would not recommend doing if you’re traveling solo or with a friend in Thailand. Oh, and by twenty-something’s I mean in soul years, not age years.
Thailand was the one place that I had difficulty planning for, mostly because whenever I would try to Google the best things to do, there was a crap load of things and recommended places, many with names I couldn’t even begin to pronounce. I had a rough idea…play with tigers, ride elephants, take a typical Thailand beach selfie, but it was just way too confusing to try to plan anything prior to my visit, especially since I had flights to and from other continents before and after it.
I decided to just search and find other bloggers who live in the areas I was going to interview for a project I call Blogger Guides, figuring they’d have the best advice…and they did! So in conjunction with their advice, and my many mishaps, fails, good ideas, and good luck, here are the 10 most important tips I have for anyone planning to visit Thailand.
Coming from THE biggest overplanner in the world, you have to trust me on this one. There are so many things to see and do, and they’re all cheaper once you get there, as opposed to pre-booking online. My featured blogger for South Thailand, Nina, even advised me not to even book a hotel room until I got there so that I could walk around and see what areas I liked best, and also because they’re typically cheaper if you just walk in instead of book online.
Aside from having no idea where I was, I did end up finding glorious hotels on Ao Nang beach for dirt cheap ($30-$40 a night), with more than enough tourist information booths every few meters offering tons of options for tours and excursions. If you’re not feeling that brave (or forget to book like I did) you can always use one of the cheap booking websites to book something the first night, then explore and find somewhere else for another night. Also, asking locals, bloggers, Facebook groups, etc for tips and advice will give you great ideas! One of the best times I had was when we went on a normal day with Nina and ended up drinking beer and hoola-hooping (her hobby/workout) all day on Railay Beach!
Cheapest Hotel Sites:
Cheapest Flights: (I got mine last minute from Bangkok to Krabi for $40)
SO of course I left my debit card in the ATM at the Bangkok airport the moment I arrived, leaving me with only 5,000 baht (about $160) cash, and my American Express card. Luckily I could book things online using my credit card like flights and hotels, but when it came to buying things or booking hotels in Ao Nang…most places wouldn’t take it (or would charge a lot extra). I was able to manage by transferring all of my money to my mom’s bank account after I cancelled my debit card, and had her Western Union it to me in small increments…just in case I lost that too. I didn’t lose any cash, but I did end up getting my credit card stolen…
So now that I’m a professional at being poor in Thailand, I’d highly suggest bringing:
– A debit and credit card
– Cashiers Checks (and hide them in different spots)
– Local Currency (withdrawl at the airport, just don’t forget your card in the ATM like me)
– Your bank account info (in case you need to cancel your card or transfer funds)
– Written credit card info for a card you safely leave at home (since I cancelled mine I couldn’t even book things online)
– Pre-paid debit cards with small amounts of money in case of emergencies
After dodging Ebola in Africa and not going missing on Malaysia Airlines, I wasn’t taking any chances at getting Malaria in Thailand…even though I refused to take my prescribed Malaria Pills. I didn’t take them because multiple friends told me that they make you have night terrors and stomach problems, plus Nina lives there and has never had or seen anyone with Malaria. Instead I bought every form of mosquito repellent I could possibly find at Target.
Wear it. Shower in it. Eat it …just kidding, you’d die. But seriously, bring it with you and make sure you reek of it at all times, otherwise you will get bit and you will freak out. Note that I was in Ao Nang which is far south in Thailand and not in a Malaria-danger zone, so if you’re going somewhere else, obviously check the Malaria advisory. For the record I am not a Malaria expert or doctor so if you are scared of getting it, just take the pills then tell me how it goes.
I’d also highly suggest getting bug spray that’s all-natural and free of toxins and chemicals. It’s better for you and a lot better for the environment, especially if you go in the water! This one is only about $12 on Amazon:
Thai people are some of the happiest, friendliest, easy-to-bargain with people I’ve met, but if you’re rude, or ignore them, you won’t get very far. The first thing I wanted to learn before I got to Thailand was how to say “Hi” and “Thank You” and although it took me a while to say them correctly, I learned that saying them was highly respectful and noticed that the locals say thank you after literally everything they say. I also learned that they use “kah” and “kap” after every sentence, sort of like saying “usted” in Spanish except women say “kah” and men say “kap”.
To say “Hi”:
If you’re a girl: “Sawadee-kah” (sah-wah-dee-kaaaaa) – you say the “sawadee” part fast, then exaggerate the “kaaaaa”
If you’re a boy: “Sawadee-kap” (sah-wah-dee-kop) – same thing except “kop” isn’t exaggerated as much
To say “Thank You” (KNOW THIS):
If you’re a girl: “Kap-kun-kah” (kop-coon-kaaaaa)
If you’re a boy: “Kap-kun-kap” (kop-coon-kaap)
Learn Thai – Phrasebook – Basic phrases that spells it out and pronounces it
TripLingo – Emergency phrases in case you’re in trouble
WordLens – Allows you to take a picture of words in another language then translates them
Tipulator – So you know how much to tip people (I was really bad at this and over-tipped by like 500%)
You can pretty much bargain the price of anything in Thailand with the exception of hotels and restaurants. I personally suck at it, and ended up spending way more than I should have (even though it still wasn’t that much), but what I observed from my friend Kelli was that she would ask for 100 baht lower than what they would ask then negotiate.
This works with clothing, souveniers, and tourist excursions, so don’t jump at the first “low price” you see because we literally bargained down the prices of everything we did. Just remember, there are tons of the same shops and tourist info booths, so there’s always going to be a lower price.
I typically used my fingers to count in intervals of 30 to convert baht to USD (32 baht = about $1) but this made me look like a major tourist and was also very confusing which resulted in me over-spending, so make a note of some basic *rough conversions like:
30 baht = $1
60 baht = $2
90 baht = $3 (how much massages and happy hour drinks usually are)
100 baht = $3.25 (most souveniers, food)
200 baht = $6.50 (most clothing, food, souveniers and boat tickets)
500 baht = $17 (long cab rides, some excursions)
1000 baht = $30 (airport cab rides, longer excursions)
Aside from the fact that data roaming costs an arm and a leg and wifi is limited to restaurants and hotels, I made it a point to stay off social media as much as possible. Mostly because I was in freaking Thailand, and what could possibly be more interesting to look at on Facebook, but also because it wastes so much time, and causes unnecessary thinking about things happening not in Thailand. However since I work a lot with social media and international blogger relations, I had to somehow give and exchange information without having to log on.
The solution: I had cheap business cards made before my trip (about $15 for 50) that had all of my social media handles, blog name, and blog email, that way people could find me later instead of having to rush to search with the very slow moving connection. It also worked well with language barriers!
I know I said not to overplan, but some of the tours they offer are the best/most affordable ways to see a lot in a limited amount of time. In Bangkok I did a long tail canal cruise along the Chao Phraya River where we got to see houses on stilts along the water, temples, schools, and a giant swimming reptile for about $40 (way overpriced).
In Ao Nang we did the 4-Island tour which I HIGHLY recommend doing. If you have time, do the 5-Island one, and try to go to Phi Phi Island as well. I also did a Krabi tour where we went to the Emerald and Crystal Pools in the middle of the jungle, followed by an elephant ride through another jungle area. I must note that I wasn’t aware of how the elephants were treated before booking the tour, and after seeing it and learning more about it, I wouldn’t recommend riding one. An alternative elephant option is volunteering at a sanctuary for elephants, where you can feed, play, and wash rescued ones!
Here’s some tips for those tours:
– Bargain the price down – there’s a ton of tour companies and they all want your business so try using the old, “They told me it was this price over there” technique to get a cheaper deal!
– Wear sunscreen – not to sound like your mom but I didn’t wear any because I thought it was going to be cloudy and have never been so badly fried/in so much pain/peeled so badly in my entire existence. Use a natural brand like the one in the product roundup at the end of this post.
– Take the longtail boat over the speedboat – they’re way cooler and authentic looking
– Bring booze – they only sell beer on one of the islands, so I brought wine in a water bottle…best idea ever.
– Bring a waterproof phone case, gopro, disposable camera, whatever, you must take photos!
– Bring hand sanitizer – you don’t know where those elephants have been.
– If home cooked Thai food isn’t your thing, bring snacks (I’m a vegetarian, so I had Goldfish for lunch)
– Make friends with the tour guide – they’ll take pics for you, give you extra time, not yell at you for being late, etc.
– Bring a waterproof bag or buy one at the many shops – self explanatory.
– Stay on Phi Phi Island – I didn’t get to, but I hear it’s beyong incredible and only accessible by boat.
– Tip your tour guide – don’t be a dick.
As you (hopeully) know…Thailand is not like your hometown. Things you may be used to having easily at your disposal, are probably not readily available/affordable/or in existance in Thailand. Unfortunately you can’t pack wine (it was minimum $40 a bottle), but here are some things you definitely need to bring. You can click on the image to get them for cheap on Amazon!
– Phone chargers and portable chargers
Your phone will die. Often. Portable chargers are lifesavers however you can only charge things if you’re in your hotel room because you have to keep the key in the wall for electricity to work.
– Natural Bug spray
Already went over this, just do it.
– Natural Sunscreen
Did you know that the majority of Thai sunscreen has BLEACH in it because the Thai people want to have paler faces (meanwhile, we’re frying ourselves out here in Cali)? Bring your own sunscreen unless you want to look like Casper, and make sure it’s SPF 30 or higher. Yes, I know, you want to get a tan from Thailand…but you do not want to look like a snake peeling it’s skin three days after you get painfully fried.
– Lotion and aloe
For some reason these were pretty pricey, and again the lotion had bleach in it, so bring some with you from home.
You can probably get something like these at one of the many pharmacies around town, but just in case…Thai food can be unforgiving
– Hand sanitizer/Lysol wipes
There’s not really that much liquid soap or paper towels anywhere…
– Tampons –
Unless you want to use cardboard or pay 5x as much.
I felt very safe in Ao Nang, and that’s a big statement considering I lost my debit card in Bangkok and got my remaining credit card and drivers liscense stolen at a backpackers in Krabi. If you don’t want stupid things to happen, don’t do stupid things…like get drunk with backpackers. Always make sure you know where you are and where you are staying, and don’t put yourself in dangerous situations, like these:
– DON’T dress provocatively or inappropriately…there are real hookers in Thailand that will be dressed just the same and you may be confused for one.
– DON’T get hammered and walk around alone. Duh.
– DON’T do drugs. Yes, it is easy to get prescription pills there, but unless you want to head back for a prescription for something else, I’d highly suggest not indulging.
– DON’T be flashy. Aside from dampering your bargaining chances, you’ll also make yourself a prime target for theft.
Eat Pad Thai or Curry every day, take the cheap local transportation, go to the markets, have a conversation with a local, ask questions, put your phone away, wear local clothing, drink Singha, say “sawadee-kah” until people are impressed with your accent, wander around, give your spare change to the homeless, leave food or coins at the many shrines around town, start a journal, EMBRACE everything you see, hear, and do, because you’re in freaking THAILAND, and it’s freaking AWESOME!
Questions? Comments? Concerns?