** This guide is written before the emergence of the pandemic. Some advice might not be applicable to the current situation**
Every year, Thailand receives tens of millions of tourists in many of its cities, such as Bangkok, Phuket, and Pattaya. Thais are very familiar with foreigners. They are very willing to help if you have any concern.
However, there are several things that every traveler should know in order to get rid of any disturbance one might face while traveling in Thailand. This guide on Thailand travel advice does not refer to any specific city in Thailand. It is more like a comprehensive guide for travelers who plan trips to Thailand in general.
1. Beware of scams
This is probably the most important Thailand travel advice I could give you. There are many scammers who try to trick or cheat you for your money.
Most scammers would attempt to deceive you to pay for overpriced goods or services. This can happen at any tourist attraction, restaurant, in a taxi or even a Tuk-tuk.
To prevent being scammed, you should conduct research in advance about the price of goods and services that you plan to buy or use. When you are in Thailand, avoid untrustworthy restaurants, taxis, tuk-tuks, or even food stalls at all costs. Only choose the one that shows the price.
If you plan to buy goods from the market such as JJ Market, never hesitate to negotiate; otherwise, you might be charged four or fivefold of the real price.
If a vendor or service provider refuses to tell you the price of any good or service beforehand (such as a menu with no price), avoid his/her store. Be aware, Many foreigners are overcharged by this scheme.
For people who want taxis, I recommend you use the online-taxi app “Grab”, the service is available in every major tourist city in Thailand. The service is commonly used by Thais since the drivers are much more well-mannered compared to normal taxi drivers.
If you are not certain whether you should purchase any good or service, asking Thais for help is also a possible solution.
Thailand Travel Advice #1: Avoid every untrustworthy store, restaurant or service provider
2. Road traffic
Thailand is notoriously known for road accidents. Each year more than twenty thousand people die from motorcycle and car accidents. As a foreigner, you must be extremely alert. When you cross a road, you must always look around for approaching traffic from all sides. NEVER let your guard down.
This includes when you are walking on the footpath as well!.
Some tourists might want to ride a bike. I would suggest not to do so because Thai roads are not suitable for riding a bike at all. Most Thai roads have no bike lanes, and some reckless Thai drivers ignore every driving safety standard. As a result, there are many bikers who were killed in Thailand. It’s better safe than sorry.
Furthermore, If possible, avoid using public vans. The drivers are simply too reckless. They drive very fast, attempting to make money as much as possible. Thus, in recent years, there are several car crashes involving these vans, which killed more than ten people each.
Thus, I suggest you stick to the metros, BTS, and MRT, and taxis from Grab to explore Bangkok. If you are outside of Bangkok, feel free to use other alternatives such as buses.
Thailand Travel Advice #2: Always look around before crossing any road. Use metro, and avoid riding a bike, and catching a public van, unless necessary
3. Choose the right restaurant
Within Bangkok and other Thai cities, there are so many restaurants that are tourist traps. Many of these are even unsuitably included in high-end travel guides. Basically, Thais do not eat at these restaurants, because they know that the foods there are not delicious, and there are better restaurants available somewhere else.
Unfortunately, almost all foreigners do not know, and they queue up for hours to get low-quality foods.
Hence, please do your research beforehand. Tripadvisor usually complies and updates the list of top restaurants. It also provides numerous reviews of restaurants in Thailand. However, many on the list are still tourist traps. You should copy the name of that restaurant that you are interested in and paste it in Facebook search.
Currently, almost all restaurants in Thailand, even small ones have a facebook page. From the page, you are able to see reviews from Thai customers. Though you might not understand some reviews, you can look at the average score the restaurant receives. This process could help you separate the wheat from the chaff.
Another solution is to use a Thai language website/app named Wongnai. The site provides Thai people’s reviews of all Bangkok restaurants (street foods included) and allows you to find top-rated ones in each category, such as Japanese or western restaurant in Bangkok. However, as of April 2019, there is no English version of the site. You might have to ask a receptionist or a Thai friend to help you use it.
If you are too lazy to research or you are on the street with many restaurants, you should choose ones that many Thai customers are queuing or dining inside. Generally, many Thais dislike waiting in line. Thus, if numerous Thais are waiting in front of a restaurant, there must be a worthy reason. It’s likely that the restaurant serves high-quality or delicious food. If you want to try lesser-known Thai street foods, read this article.
Thailand Travel Advice #3: Do your own research, if you are too lazy, choose ones with many Thai customers inside.
Extra tips for starving people
Hungryhub is a Thai application and website that turns several a-la-carte restaurants into all-you-can-eat restaurants. In other words, If you reserve a table at any a-la-carte restaurant with Hungryhub, you can pay an all-inclusive price per person to order everything on the menu.
Hungryhub has many high-quality restaurants in its network. However, based on my experience, some restaurants are not as good as it seems. Thus, make sure you read the reviews as well. The app and website have an English version, so you won’t have any difficulty using them.
Eatigo is another useful web and mobile platform. Eatigo allows you to book and dine at numerous restaurants in its network at a steep discount price. The percentage of discounts would vary according to the time you want to dine. For instance, the discount would be 50% off, if you choose to dine at 3.00 PM, but it would be only 20% off if you come to dine at 7.00 PM.
You can handily find accommodations in tourist cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket. These accommodations range from 5-hotels to hostels. However, I recommend you choose ones that have public transportation access.
If you stay in Bangkok, try to select accommodations that are close to BTS or MRT stations. This is because, without this access, you have to spend hours in taxis. Traffic in Bangkok is among the worst in the world. Being stuck in a taxi can make you annoyed or even ruin your trip.
Finding accommodations in secondary cities or rural areas could be a challenge. You might have to stay at a low-quality hostel that may cost you less than USD 10-20. Make sure you choose ones that make you feel safe. The crime rate in rural areas is higher than in major cities, so please be cautious.
If you are in danger, call the police by dialing 191.
Thailand Travel Advice #4: Try to select accommodations that are close to public transportation.
5. Stay Healthy
As of April 2019, Thai food standard is still not up to its western counterparts. The food-making processes of numerous restaurants or food stalls could make you sick. Therefore, choosing a clean restaurant to eat is very important.
By the way, Thailand has a thriving medical industry. There are two types of hospitals in Thailand, public or private hospitals. Private hospitals provide world-class medical services and have much fewer patients than public ones.
If you have travel insurance, you should go to private hospitals. Public hospitals are full of Thais, and you have to wait for hours to see a doctor. In case of emergency, call 1646 or 1669, an ambulance would come to bring the patient to the nearest hospital.
You don’t need to schedule an appointment in advance to see a doctor in Thailand, especially at private hospitals. You could simply walk into the hospital within minutes you would see a doctor. If you only need medicine, you should go to a pharmacy. Thai pharmacies normally sell western-made medicines. These pharmacies are easily found on the streets.
Thailand Travel Advice #5: Get travel insurance before going to Thailand, go straight to private hospitals, if you need to see a doctor.
Important! Stray Dogs Warning
Thailand has millions of stray dogs. The population of stray dogs in Bangkok alone probably exceeds a million. Trust me, you will see these dogs in Thailand, because they are everywhere, even at popular commercial centers such as Siam.
It is extremely possible that most of them are not vaccinated. Thus, they are not safe to play with at all. Thailand is not a rabies-free country. There was an outbreak of rabies in 2018, which killed tens of Thais who failed to be vaccinated after being bitten.
Thus, you should not play with these dogs. When you see them, either ignore or walk away. If any of them bites or scratches you, you must go to any hospital to get a rabies vaccine immediately.
Thailand Travel Advice #6: Avoid stray dogs, if any of them bites or scratches you, go to the hospital immediately
This is probably the most serious Thailand travel advice you must follow. Don’t ever talk about internal politics in Thailand! Politics is now an extremely serious issue. Thai society is deeply polarized for more than a decade. The election in 2019 worsened it even further. Thus, it’s better for travelers to avoid talking about internal politics to them.
What Thais respect most are Buddhism. Make sure that you show respect while you stay in Thailand as well.
Normally, at several Buddhist temples, there is a board at the gate informing foreigners about specific restrictions. For example, you might not be able to enter the temple, if you wear short skirts. However, you don’t have to worry. Temples usually provide acceptable clothes for every tourist to change so that you can freely enter those temples later.
At religious temples, please be humble, and always follow the rules. Thai society is still overwhelmed by conservatism. Thai people do hope that foreigners behave well within any temple. You must take off your shoes before entering any chapel. Typically, there would be a cupboard in front of the door, where you can drop your shoes there.
For LGBT travelers, most Thai people are very open to LGBTs. LGBT travelers would not have any problem visiting Thailand. The country probably has one of the largest LGBT communities in South East Asia.
Thailand Travel Advice #7: Avoid talking about politics, and always show respect to Buddhism
If you spend too much on your trip and need extra money, ATMs are available for you in every department store or community mall. Furthermore, almost every shop and restaurant accepts VISA and MasterCard credit cards. Some of them might even accept e-payments such as Alipay, Wechatpay or Paypal, etc.
For those who plan to exchange money, you can do it at any branch of the banks in the department stores. Superrich, a currency exchange company, also provides the services as well. Their exchange rates are better than that of the banks.
Hence, if you plan to exchange a large amount of money, try Superrich. However, there are only several Superrich branches in Bangkok, make sure you search for the closest one to you from their website beforehand.
Keep in mind that in Thailand, the rates of exchanging the US dollar are better than any other currencies. The buy-sell spread of the USD is lowest. The European Euro, the Chinese Yuan, and the Japanese Yen come second, third, and fourth respectively. If you bring in other currencies, the rates could be horrible or the banks might not exchange with you at all.
Thailand Travel Advice #8: Feel free to exchange money at bank branches, if you find a Superrich branch, exchange at Superrich.
Every traveler should get a traveler sim card at the arrival hall of the airports. There are three providers, AIS, True, and DTAC. You can choose any of them. However, if you plan to visit the rural areas, I suggest you stick with either AIS or True since DTAC’s signals are sometimes poor.
9. Tour Guide
It is plausible that you can explore Thailand on your own. However, a tour guide can help you avoid many disturbances, and enrich your traveling experience in Thailand. You find a tour guide in Bangkok or book early with urbanadventures. Urban Adventures has many interesting day tours with a local guide.
I hope everyone finds my advice useful. Have fun traveling in Thailand!