Thailand Tips for Thailand
555 Means ‘hahaha’ (Laughing)
Because the Thai word for ‘five’ sounds like ‘ha’ it is used on Facebook and texting the same way Westerners use ‘LOL’. So if you see ‘555’ – someone is laughing (ha ha ha).
Many Thais hold the animist belief that spirits live in the ground. To show respect, you should spit before and after peeing outdoors to avoid accidentally urinating on a spirit.
Those tiny house shrines are to appease the spirits who lived in the ground where a house was built. Food, drinks, and offerings are given to avoid problems. A spirit house shouldn’t be in the shadow of a home.
Don’t cut off those orange bracelets you get for free in temples — doing so is considered bad for spiritual health. Instead, you can untie them after a few days or let them fall off on their own.
Some ATMs around Thailand are beginning to charge 180 baht (US $6) rather than the already expensive 150 baht. Check the screen before you proceed and go find another ATM!
Everything you ever wanted to know about taking a night bus in Thailand!
The Queen’s birthday is August 12 and is celebrated as Mother’s Day in Thailand. People wear pink in her honor and celebrations can be enjoyed all over but especially in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Being a vegan or vegetarian in Thailand is not easy. Tell people you want “gin jay” which means to “eat red” as the monks do. This is the only way to ensure that pork is not used in your noodles, broth, etc.
Getting to Penang, Malaysia, to make a visa run from Thailand.
When entering an amount at an ATM, end it with 900 so that you get small notes rather than only 1000-baht notes which are difficult to break sometimes. I.e., type in 5900 instead of 6000 so that you get small change.
Despite seeing locals do it, never drop a cigarette in tourist places. Bangkok police set up sting operations in front of MBK to watch for smokers and demand a cash fine on the spot.
Many guesthouses and hotels ask for your passport number when checking in. Either memorize it, or write it someplace handy so that you don’t have to dig through your money belt to find your passport.
The police in pleasant Pai, Thailand, have a poor reputation. One drunken officer shot and killed a Canadian backpacker in 2008 and wounded a second. They have been known to storm bars and do drug-testing via urinalysis on the spot.
Any menu item with the name “Mama” in it such as Mama noodles refers to the instant, Ramen-style noodles often given to kids in soup cups. These are obviously the cheapest noodles, and are deep-fried – not the best of Thai noodles.
The Thai national anthem is played every day at 6 p.m. in train stations, public buildings, and other places. Stand up when everyone does and stop moving or speaking to show respect. Just do what everyone else does!
Throwing an object to someone rather than handing it to them can be considered rude, particularly if the object is of any value. Take the few steps to hand someone an item, and do so with your right hand; left hand touching the right forearm.
Expect no legal alcohol sales on election days, the King’s Birthday, and during a few other holidays in Thailand. Of course, you can still find people willing to sell on Khao San Road in Bangkok and in some bars/restaurants.
December 5 is the King’s Birthday in Thailand. Most businesses will be closed, alcohol sales stopped, and all of Bangkok will celebrate with candles, fireworks, and gatherings. The King’s Birthday is also Father’s Day in Thailand.
Strangely, you now cannot buy alcohol in 7-11 or shops between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Also all sales stop in shops after midnight. This new law is strictly enforced by 7-11, so prepare for a big queue during peak times!
Surnames were only introduced in Thailand in the 1920s when everyone had to choose a unique family name. Two people with the same last name have a higher chance of being directly related than typically seen in the West.
Although putting your hands together prayer-like (the wai) is common in Thailand, you should not offer a wai to servers, waiters, homeless people, or others “below” you. Doing so actually causes them to “lose face.”
Pointing is considered especially rude in Thailand. Never point at people; instead, raise your chin in someone’s direction. Control your fingers during conversation when trying to make a point. It is OK to point at animals and inanimate objects.
It is polite to put a gift that someone gives you aside to open later, rather than tearing into it immediately in front of them. Expect Thais to do the same when you give them gifts. Wrapping and presentation are important for gifts.
Stepping on a door threshold is considered bad form in Thailand because a spirit resides inside. Remove your shoes before stepping over the wooden threshold in temples and homes.
When buying yogurt and other items you’ll notice many time the expiration date doesn’t make sense. Thailand uses a Buddhist calendar; the year 2554 refers to 2011 and so on.
Many people travel to Thailand without any vaccinations, however, a few basic immunizations are recommended. Read the longer article for Thailand vaccinations to decide for yourself.
Traveler’s checks can be cashed at banks and money changers for a fee. A fee is charged per check, so cashing larger denominations will result in less fees. You cannot use traveler’s checks to pay for shopping or accommodation.
Read about the standard choices for transportation in Thailand. Trains, Tuk-Tuks, taxis, trucks…
Please check out the new, current list of Thailand scams for the latest ripoffs to avoid in Thailand.
The public payphones and calling cards in Thailand are crap. Use Skype instead in internet cafes to make cheap calls home from across the internet. Rates are around two cents a minute to call landlines.
Leave the price sticker on any books that you buy — it will help give you more leverage later when you trade them at other bookshops or at book exchanges.
Nice or expensive flip-flop sandals have a nasty habit of disappearing quite easily in Thailand — particularly in the islands. The reason being that you have to remove them to enter places, and people swap with you on the way out.
Public internet cafes are often infected with viruses. You can get the virus on your iPod, camera SD card, or USB memory stick when you insert it into public computers.
Check your laundry carefully for missing items – articles are regularly lost or swapped between customers. Beware of washing whites that you care about. The new T-shirts people purchase and wash often bleed onto other clothes.
Raw ginger – easily found in markets – is an excellent preventative and natural cure for motion sickness. Suck on a piece during your choppy boat or bus ride to avoid feeling queasy.
Ironic because Thailand produces much of the world’s condoms, but condoms purchased locally have a high failure rate because of poor storage in the hot sun. They are also disproportionately more expensive.
Small cuts, scrapes, and scratched insect bites get infected quickly in Thailand’s humid and dirty environment. Take better care of insignificant injuries early and keep them covered during the day.
The left hand is used for toilet functions. Don’t use your left hand to hand someone money or items – use both hands or just your right hand instead. Always accept items with both hands to show respect.
Always lock up your rented motorbike, and don’t leave the helmet or other belongings in the basket. Motorbikes are frequently stolen in Thailand – sometimes even by the agency that rented it to you!
Wear your sunglasses when driving a motorbike. You’ll avoid getting hit in the eyes with large insects and pebbles from the dusty roads – just enough to cause an accident. Plus, you’ll look cool.
To hitchhike or stop a passing vehicle, point at the ground in front of you rather than putting your thumb up. Drivers will probably just smile and give you a thumbs up in return if you try hitchhiking the Western way!
Some taxi drivers will refuse to use the meter or claim that it is broken. They claim traffic is too bad or a destination is too far for the meter. Ignore them and hail an honest driver; be patient – there are a few.
The word “farang” is used in Thailand to describe foreigners. The word is not normally derogatory, unless used in a negative context. Even Asians who are not Thai can be described as farang.
Plastic bottles are a problem in Thailand. If staying somewhere for a few days, purchase the 5-litre jugs of water and refill your small bottles. Also look for water refill machines; 1 baht gets you 1 litre of water.
Negotiation is both expected and a part of Thai culture. Unless the price is fixed, haggle for nearly everything you buy. There is no shame in asking for discounts in Thailand – this includes guesthouse rooms!
Western food is nearly always an expensive letdown. We all get tired of rice and noodles eventually, but remember: If they can’t spell it on a menu correctly, they probably can’t cook it correctly!
Many monks take a vow not to eat anything after 12:00 noon. To show respect and to avoid unnecessary temptation, avoid eating or snacking around them in the afternoon.
When choosing a place to eat, look for volume. Busy restaurants with higher turnover buy fresh ingredients constantly; your chances of getting sick from bad food are less. These places are usually busy for a reason!
With only a few exceptions in Western hotels and five-star restaurants, tipping is never expected or required in bars, cafes, and restaurants.
Although no one would ever say anything, the proper way to eat in Southeast Asia is with spoon in your right hand and fork in your left. The fork never goes into the mouth. Chopsticks are only used for noodles and soup.
When visiting temples, cover your shoulders and knees. Although many wats in tourist areas are more laxed, show respect by not wearing swim shorts or sleeveless shirts.
Women should never touch a monk – even on accident, or hand a monk something. You must first pass something to a man or put it down. These same rules even apply to the monk’s mother!
You should not turn your back to Buddha statues in temples or shrines; instead, back away. Always remove your shoes before entering the prayer hall of a temple (wat).
Unless told not to do so by your host, always remove your shoes before going into a Thai home. Some shops, restaurants, and businesses will expect you to do so as well. Just look for shoes at the front entrance and you’ll know.
The Thai people dearly love their king – the oldest monarch in the world. Insulting the King or even his picture means prison time, even for tourists…
Torn and faded bills/notes are often given to foreigners in change. The damaged currency will be harder to spend later, so refuse it and demand a different note – particularly 500 and 1000-baht notes.
Mastercard and Visa are the most accepted, however, many places add a steep commission on when you pay with card, or won’t accept cards at all. Credit cards are not so useful, plan to bring lots of cash with you.
Nearly all dishes – including pad thai – in Thailand are cooked with peanut oil in the wok. If you suffer from peanut allergies, beware, and preferably eat at Western restaurants where you can clearly communicate the allergy.
Pad Thai is the default noodle dish in Thailand. Expect rice noodles with egg, your choice of meat, bean sprouts, other vegetables, and lots of seasonings. Pad Thai varies from place to place, but nearly every variation is delicious.
Yes, it’s safe to eat the street food in Thailand! Read about how to find safe street food and see a few pictures…
After the 2010 violence, people pay attention to the colors they wear. Gold/yellow represent support for the King, while red represents the new prime minister and anti-government coup. Avoid both during any uprisings!
Don’t expect the same service in restaurants that we enjoy in the West. Things move a little slower in Thailand – including the servers. How motivated would you be for no tips and pitiful pay? Be patient!
Travel insurance isn’t that expensive; it’s worth the coverage for a long trip to Thailand. WorldNomads.com is the popular choice for backpackers to get Thailand travel insurance.
Although many people do not wear them, you are legally supposed to wear a helmet in Thailand while driving a motorbike. Police may use this as an excuse to stop you for a fine/bribe.
The tap water in Thailand is NOT safe to drink. You must purchase bottled water, or use the water refill machines (1 baht for 1 liter of purified water). Ice is generally safe in busy places.
Getting a bad stomach is normal in Thailand. Lay off the spicy food, and eat more starches such as bananas or plain rice for a few days. Only take loperamide if you must take a long bus; it will actually trap bacteria in your gut longer.
If you are dumb enough to take a prostitute or local girl to your room, don’t be surprised if you wake up with money or items missing. Some will even spike your drink, flirt, then rob you after you pass out.
Check motorbike rentals carefully for scratches or damage before you take them. The agency will demand large fines when you return the bike with insignificant scratches they think you made.
Theft is common on overnight “VIP” buses in Thailand. They literally pick through bags in the luggage hold as the bus rolls…
Never trust someone’s recommendation for a bar, restaurant, or hotel. You will end up in a friend’s or cousin’s second-hand place because drivers and locals want to send business to friends and family.
Drivers parked and waiting for tourists will invariably charge you more. Hail your own taxi on the street, and insist that the driver use the meter before you get inside. Never try to negotiate your fare, you will fail.
Both tuk-tuk and taxi drivers rarely have change. Try to keep small bills to pay close to your exact fare. Round up for a small tip, but don’t expect them to break big notes. They will claim to not have change.
Avoid the age-old scam of accepting a tuk-tuk driver’s offer of driving you somewhere for cheap in exchange to visit three shops. The shops are rude, will waste your time, and sales pressure will be high. Get a taxi instead.
Tuk-tuk drivers are the biggest scammers in Thailand. Metered taxis are always cheaper – make them use the meter – and more comfortable. Never believe if a driver says a place is closed.
A list of 10 great tips to help you manage (and keep) your money in Thailand…
ATMs are found everywhere in Thailand, and work on all Western networks. All ATMs charge 150 baht (around US $5) per transaction, so take more money out than usual.
Getting dental work done in Thailand is cheaper than at home. Here is a list of dental clinics in places around Thailand…
Ask for the toilet in Thailand with “hawng nam.” Don’t expect TP or soap. See these pictures of typical toilets in Thailand…
Hostel dorms are rare in Thailand, so enjoy your private room! This is a rundown of what to expect from accommodation in Thailand…
The best time to go to Thailand is during the dry season, before the weather turns too hot. Read about seasons and holidays in Thailand…
The best time to visit Thailand is during the drier season between November and April. See the best time to go to Thailand tip for more information.
Say hello in Thailand by offering a “wai” with your hands and saying “sawas dee khrap” (men) or “sawas dee kaa” (women)…
Mai pen rai is a famous Thai expression loosely meaning “no worries.” Read about the mai pen rai attitude to adopt in Thailand…
A few Thailand vaccinations are recommended before you travel. Here is a list of what shots are worth getting or avoiding.
The feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest part of the body in Buddhist culture. Never point the bottom of your feet at anyone while sitting. Do not touch people with your feet or raise them higher than a person’s head.
The head is considered the highest and holiest part of the body. Never touch people on the head – even children – and always avoid lifting your foot higher than someone’s head.
Aside from the modern, Western influences found in big cities, Buddhists are generally very conservative in nature…