Top Tips for Your Trip:
- If you rent a vehicle, take pictures of it before you drive it. This may help shield you from the rife rental scam of accusing tourists of scratching or damaging already beat-up vehicles.
- If booking online make sure you know exactly where your hotel is located. Many ‘great deals’ ends up being out in the middle of nowhere. Pay upfront for a few nights as possible so you can leave without having to haggle your money back.
- Don’t lose your cool even in the most difficult situations. Thais greatly respect a ‘cool heart’ and shouting or anger will only escalate a situation, usually not to your benefit.
- Relax and smile! If you go with the flow it’s unlikely you’ll have any of the above problems.
What to Wear
Light, loose-fitting clothes will prove the most comfortable in the tropical heat throughout the year. Bring one reasonably warm sweater for the odd cool evening (or the blasting air-con on the plane). To visit temples, you will need shirts with long sleeves and full-length pants. While sandals are definitely the way to go, you should bring one pair of good shoes for the occasional night out in Bangkok or Phuket.
Outside of the high season, only the most popular resorts need to be booked in advance. At this time of year, walk-in or call-in prices are cheaper than what you’ll find online.
- Resorts Range from villas with their own swimming pools and butlers to aging shacks cooled by sea breezes.
- Guesthouses Are becoming fewer in number as resorts take over. Those remaining often have few amenities but low price tags and plenty of authenticities.
Paying for your food, drinks, entertainment, and souvenirs are usually easier with cash than cards. Most mid-range and top-end hotels take credit cards, as will most diving outfits, but expect to pay a ‘processing fee’ (of 2% to 3%) when you swipe your Visa or MasterCard (the preferred cards).
Withdrawing money usually includes a 150B withdrawal fee. You’ll find ATMs at (or near) almost all 7-Elevens. Smaller islands have limited to no withdrawal facilities.
When to bargain
Bargaining forms the crux of almost any commercial interaction in Thailand. There are no set rules. If you’re purchasing something, it’s best to buy in bulk – the more T-shirts you buy, the lower the price will go. Keep it light-hearted.
When not to bargain
You shouldn’t bargain in restaurants, 7-Elevens and petrol stations. Don’t haggle for a better price at a high-end hotel, though bargaining is fair game at most beach establishments.
Tipping is not generally expected in Thailand. The exception is the loose change from a large restaurant bill.
The best way to win over the Thais is to smile – any visible anger or arguing is embarrassing; the locals call this ‘loss of face’. Never disrespect the royal family with disparaging remarks, and also treat objects depicting the king (like money) with respect.
When visiting a temple, dress neatly and conservatively with shoulders to knees covered. It’s expected that you remove all footwear. When sitting, keep your feet pointed away from any Buddha images. Women should never touch a monk or a monk’s belongings.
At the beach
Avoid public nudity; in fact, most Thais will swim fully clothed. Away from the sand, men should wear shirts and women should be appropriately dressed (no bikinis).
Don’t know a lick of Thai? In most places, you won’t need to. Bus drivers, market vendors, and even taxi drivers tend to know at least basic English. In small, less touristy towns, it helps to know how to order food and count in Thai. With a few phrases, you’ll be rewarded with big grins.
Thais have their own script, which turns Westerners into illiterates. Street signs are always transliterated into English, but there is no standard system so spellings vary widely and confusingly.