As with any trip, the best lessons are learned through trial and error. Below are some tips to help make your trip to Thailand as smooth as possible:
1) Trip Advisor is the traveler’s bible.
One lesson that I learned real fast in Phuket is that a 4 star hotel can be equivalent to a Motel 6 in the States. You may be planning on spending most of your time in the city or on the beach, but before you book a hotel at that great rate, check the reviews and make sure that you will have basic amenities like hot water, air conditioning, and wifi.
2) Be prepared for tummy troubles, just in case.
In all honesty, I was scared shitless, no pun intended, about my trip being ruined because I was sick to my stomach due to the horrible traveler tales I’ve heard from people that had visited before me. It is not uncommon for your body to have an adverse reaction to all of the rich and flavorful foods that Thailand and similar countries have to offer. In Bali, they even have a name for the phenomenon that occurs from eating their exotic foods, Bali Belly. We all know the old adage, you get what you pay for, so decide very wisely if that $2 US Pad Thai is worth the tummy troubles that might accompany it on the backend, pun intended. Before I left Houston, I stocked up on Imodium, and everything else I could think of just in case. Happily, I didn’t get sick at all, but if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.
3) Ladies, don’t leave home without toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
It was very American of me to think that toilet paper was standard in restrooms all across the world. Let’s just say it took one hole in the ground restroom experience (yes, I mean a real, hole in the ground) for me to learn this lesson really fast. Also, pay close attention to whether the restrooms that you use are toilet paper in or toilet paper out, as most of the drainage systems in Thailand were not set up to properly dissolve toilet paper.
4) Don’t lose your departure ticket.
You don’t need a Visa to visit Thailand, however, you will need the exit ticket you receive on arrival to be able to depart the country. I’m not sure what happens if you lose it, but I’m pretty sure it’s something that’s undesirable like a fee and/or extended security process.
5) If you want to play with elephants, visit a sanctuary versus a trekking camp.
By no means am I an animal activist, but there was something about seeing such mild animals chained to trees and beaten with sticks that prompted some additional research.
Even though I paid for Elephant Trekking as part of my package, I kindly opted out after doing my research and will make plans to visit the sanctuary in Shanghai instead where you can bathe, feed, and interact with elephants that have been rescued from trekking camps.
6) Don’t be afraid to negotiate with vendors.
I literally watched my friend buy a pair of Hay Ban (not Ray) sunglasses that started at 950 Baht and dropped down to 200. Your goal is not to commit highway robbery, but never go with the first price, especially since it’s not like you probably need the stuff you’re buying anyway. The goal is not to scam the vendors out of making a dollar, but definitely, don’t let them scam you either. The rule of thumb is that the real price for a street vendor item is usually 25-50% lower than the first price asked.
7) Don’t get scammed.
Even though there are some really nice people in Thailand, the honest truth is that most services come with a price. When it comes to advice and finding cheaper pricing, check with your hotel or hostel, before you go with a random stranger on the street, especially if they are the ones offering.
8) Don’t drink the water.
I learned this tough lesson the tough way in Mexico, so I was already prepared by the time I reached Thailand. For the most part, most restaurants and your hotel will have bottled water, but just in case someone brings you a glass, kindly decline unless you want to be a victim of number 2.
9) Respect the customs.
In many of the temples and religious buildings, you may be required to cover certain parts of your body. My advice, be like Nike, and “Just do it.” I’m not going to lie, I was confused at the penis paraphernalia and sex propaganda on every corner with religious expectations on the next, however, my goal when I travel is to follow the rules and make it back home. And while this was not something that affected me directly while on my trip to Phuket, I read various blogs and articles that stressed the importance of never touching a Thai person on their head, as it is deemed a sacred part of the body, or point your toes at a religious image, particularly of Buddha, or images of the King.
10) Enjoy your vacation.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, but just in case, smile, unplug, and enjoy your vacay. You deserved it.
Read all about my trip to Thailand and things you must do by clicking here.
Be sure to read our blog on making the perfect itinerary here.