Some hopefully helpful tips for travelling to and spending time in Thailand.
The currency in Thailand is the Thai baht – and I’d advise you to change some money before you fly to Thailand and take it with you. There are currency change bureaus and ATMs, but I would advise you to never use ATMs just standing near the street. The best option are ATMs inside or just outside of banks.
During our stay on Koh Samui we met one guy who used one of those ATMs near the main street and then later received a call that someone had wanted to take all the money from his account with the data of his card. Fortunately for him the bank reacted as this was quite an unusual movement and all that happened was that his card wasn’t usable for the rest of his holiday.
You can also pay by card in most stores, but just do this when you are really sure that this is an official store.
To put it simply – the language in Thailand is Thai.
All in all it’s not that simple as there are numerous dialects, but to the unskilled ears of most visitors it’s just a language you don’t understand. There are some simple sentences which are not bad to know, such as good day and thank you.
In most hotels English is spoken, though it’s often far away from being fluent English. In Bangkok you will also find a lot more people able to speak English than in the other areas. But the people still are really helpful and will do their best to understand you.
You can divide Thailand into five parts in that respect – Northern, Northeastern, Central, Eastern and Southern Part.
Temperature in Thailand is usually around 28 degrees, humidity is high. We spent some hours near the pool and later left the hotel area around 5pm to walk around until late of night when the temperature was nice for me as an European.
There are three seasons – the hot season from March to May, the cool season from November to February and the rainy season from about June to October.
But from experience – just because it’s the rainy season doesn’t mean you should not travel to Thailand. The last time we stayed there from late September until October and apart from one hour rain per day we were fine. On Koh Samui they reported floods however, and the week before they had heavy rain in the Hua Hin region. But we met a lot of people who told us that in October it usually doesn’t rain much anymore.
You can travel by train, taxi, bus or tuctuc. The Thai busses, however, at least the local ones are quite different from what you might imagine them to be.
They are open busses, either stopping at their respective stop or stopping when you wave and ask them to pick you up. You just enter them, then, pressing the button whenever you want to stop. The bus then will stop at the next option and you hop off, walking to the front, paying. As a tourist they might ask you to pay more than the locals, but never be afraid to haggle.
Tourist busses are different – they have air con, sometimes offer drinks. But they need to be booked in advance, usually through a travel agency. There are also private drivers offering this right in Thailand, but always agree on a price before you board the bus.
Tuctucs are similar to busses, standing around hotels and city centres usually. They are smaller than busses, and are more the local equivalent to a taxi. But don’t forget to agree on a price before you board the vehicle.
Thai food is well known and there is something for everyone – for the lovers of spicy flavours and to those who like it more mild. There are numerous hotels, most of them offering food also for non-residents. They are usually at a European standard, and the food ranges from pizza to steak.
If you want a more Thai experience, there are other spots you should frequent more. Either go to one of the local restaurants or pick one of the street kitchens. Always look at the menu and if there’s something you don’t like, just go on and check out the next. People might try to lure you into the restaurants, but never let yourself be pressured to do something you don’t want to.
The street kitchens are what I personally really loved. There is a lot to choose from, but there the same aspect is important – look for yourself and check if they cook something you might like. And especially if the ingredients look fresh and well prepared.
You can also buy food and drinks in supermarkets. As long as the drinks are closed, pick whatever you like. But if you good a sensitive stomach, such as I do, be careful when you see ice-cream or drinks on the streets.
If you manage to get sick during your holiday in Thailand, you can easily go to one of the many pharmacies. Although communication may not be too easy, the people there will do a lot to help you. And you will easily get almost every medicine you might seek.
My father, for example, had a bit of the runs and my mother went to the pharmacy where she got a powder for calming the stomach, painkillers, antibiotics and another pill for calming the gut. Just like that, without a prescription, without seeing a Doctor first.
In areas with a lot of tourists you can usually find big hospitals which are very well equipped.
Before you travel to Thailand make sure you are up-to-date on vaccines such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and possibly a flu shot. If you’re in doubt about anything, ask your Doctor before you travel to Thailand. Our Doctor also suggested a travel vaccines for Hepatitis A and Typhoid.
You can, of course, get a lot more just to be on the safe side. But I’d say these are the basics.
You need a passport which is at least valid for 6 more months. If you are from Germany you don’t need a visa beforehand – you will have to fill out a form right in Thailand, handed to you at the airport where you need to fill which hotel you are staying in and especially when you will leave the country. If you stay no longer than 30 days, that is sufficient.
Since 20 December 2013,Nationals of (G7) the following countries who enter via a land crossing or enter via an airport will be entitled to a 30 day visa exemption , UK, U.S.A, Canada, Italy, Germany, Japan, France (from the Thai embassy)
If you’re not from the G7 countries, check this page for more details on which kind of visa you need: http://www.thaiembassyuk.org.uk/?q=node/44
Booking the trip
You can of course book everything beforehand through a travel agency, including the flight, transfer to your hotel and so on. If you want to book more for yourself, you can either also book everything in advance through the internet. Just take care that a hotel transfer is included and if it is not – be careful not to take one of taxis who will simply rip you of money. There are the normal taxi where you haggle with the driver and agree on a price before you enter the car.
You can also just book the flight in advance and choose a hotel in Thailand. There are numerous people offering such services at the airport or, if you are adventurous, pick some hotels from home and check them out once you’re there. But read about the prices beforehand so that they won’t offer you ridiculous rates.
There’s no mandatory requirement to tip anyone.
Some restaurants have an extra service charge, and you better read the menu closely so that you don’t end up missing any possible nasty surprise when you lay eyes on your bill.
You can tip the porter carrying your bags or the cleaning staff, but again this is not mandatory at all.
Thai massages are also really well known overseas, and there are a lot of massage studios around. Just walk around and check them out to find one you like.
Most of them speak enough English to get exactly what you want, may it be the hard Thai massage or a softer one like I preferred it.
Code of behaviour
There are a couple of aspects one should keep in mind whenbeing in Thailand.
- Women are not allowed to touch monks
- When entering temples, be sure that shoulders and knees are covered
- Never talk badly about the royal family (and don’t even catch anything with a picture of a member of the royal family with your foot as this might have severe consequences)
- The lower someone bows for a greeting, the lower his/her rank is below you
- Remove shoes before entering a house
- Thai women dress modestly. When visiting villages women should keep shoulders covered and avoid short skirts – although it is okay to wear short trousers and Tank tops, but try to refrain from walking around in a Bikini or too revealing clothes.
- If you encounter a Thai toilet (as we did at one point) you might feel clueless at first, but actually it’s rather easy: Place your feet on either side of the hole. After you’re done, don’t forget to flush the toilet by pouring water into it. If you do use toilet paper, please place it in the bin provided, not down the toilet.
- Don’t touch a Thai’s head (the head is said to be where the soul lies)
- Don’t put your feet on tables and it would be best to avoid pointing them directly at anyone