After traveling Thailand for 2 months we became very familiar with the Thai Culture. So I’m going to share all of the helpful info that I learned over those 2 months! There were so many times that I said “WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE TELL ME THIS BEFORE?”. I quickly figured out its because…. nobody wants to talk about these things. So here it is the good, the bad, and the ugly stuff you need to know BEFORE heading to Thailand. You’re welcome!?
The last thing you want to happen is looking stupid when greeting someone in a culture that is all about respect. It took us a few weeks to get the courage to actually throw out a “Sawasdee Ka” or a “Khop Khun Ka” when trying to communicate with the Thai people. The good news is most people at the hotels and restaurants speak quite a bit of English! So don’t be too scared!
GREETING: To say hello you say “Sawasdee Ka” if you are a girl or “Sawasdee Khop” if you are a boy. A lot of times they will say it to you first and you can reciprocate a bow with a smile to them and that will do just as well!
STANDING IN LINE: Lines don’t really exist in Thailand. People just kind of crowd their way to the front and will cut in front of you. Keep your ground and keep moving to the front! It’s not rude and it will save you a lot of time waiting.
SAY NO: Don’t feel bad to say no to people or just walk away. Tons of people (especially the taxi drivers) will try to sell you knick knacks and tours ALL DAY LONG. Most of the time they are trying to rip you off, so just say “no thank you” and walk away.
PING PONG: Ping pong does not mean ping pong. Avoid ping pong. Say no to ping pong. Do not go to ping pong. If you want to know what it is… you’ll need to google it for yourself.
WHAT TO EAT: From personal experience I would avoid tap water, salads, dairy products and some meat to be safe. Not everyone will get sick from eating these things, but you never know!
ORDERING FOOD: Don’t feel stupid to just point at pictures for what you want. It will actually be easier for them. And don’t expect all of your food to come out at the same time. They like to bring it out right when its hot and fresh. So just start eating without the rest of the group so you don’t offend the chef.
ALLERGIES IN FOOD: Allergies are actually very uncommon everywhere else in the world besides America. So make sure that you double check what is in your food if you have an allergy. Most times they don’t put all ingredients on the menu. Peanut allergies are the biggest issue because they mostly cook with peanut oil!
GETTING YOUR CHECK AT A RESTAURANT: This is something that after 2 months…. we are still confused about. At more expensive restaurants they will bring your check to you at the end of your meal but while eating at the local restaurants you will sit for hours without them bringing it if you don’t ask. Either grab a waitress and ask to pay, or stand up and head over to the cash register yourself. Either is fine and not offensive at all!
TIPPING: Tipping is not required in Thailand, but certainly appreciated. Remember that the minimum wage equals about $3 per day. So leaving a small tip or some spare change could brighten their day!
UTENSILS: Most people only use their spoon to eat. You won’t be ridiculed for using a fork, but give the spoon a try!
ICE: The ice at restaurants is fine to have. It has been processed from fresh water in a factory. But avoid the water unless its bottled!
FOOD CARTS: Avoid the meat being sold on the streets. You can probably figure this out for yourself when you see flies and cats laying all over it. But just letting you know.
WHAT TO BRING
SUNSCREEN: This is something that we heard about before leaving and I am soooo grateful! The sunscreen in Thailand contains bleach because all of them want their skin to get lighter instead of darker. We saw so many people that had used sunscreen bought locally and were left with huge burns on their skin. If you happen to find an American brand then it will cost $20 for a travel sized tube. It is so much better to take your own!
IBUPROFEN: You are able to find something similar to Ibuprofen or Tylenol at 7/11 in Thailand but it isn’t the same thing that we are used to. The dosage is different, the ingredients are different, and you never know what you’ll react to! After long days sweating in the sun, you are going to have a sun headache. At least we did almost every single day! Make sure you are drinking plenty of water during the day if your body isn’t used to sweating as much as it will in Thailand.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE SICK
Unfortunately getting sick is unavoidable. The food, the sanitation, and the water are all so much different then whatever country you’re from. Lucky for you, Gavin and I both got sick while in Thailand so we have all the answers you need!
PHARMACY: Skip the grocery store or the gas station and look for the big letters PHARMACY on the outside of a building. They will have exactly what you need for a very cheap price! Their English is also very very good so they will be able to figure out exactly what you need with no miscommunications.
WHAT TO GET: Electrolyte packs, White Medicine (for throwing up, diarrhea, or just upset stomach), Tums, Sprite, Bread, Bottled Water
One of the top things to do in Thailand is get massages for cheap. But be careful about where you get them! I have read so many scary stories about people being violated while getting a massage in Thailand. I didn’t think much of it until we walked past multiple massage businesses that said “NO SEX” on the door. It clicked for me that a lot of the places give happy endings, and I wanted nothing to do with that! Look for a place that looks more legit or is a little bit more expensive to ensure that nothing scary happens. Avoid places names anything like “Happy Girl Massage” or “Smiley Girl Massage” unless you are seeking out a brothel…. and don’t forget to read some reviews!
If you have been following my blog throughout our Thailand trip, I’m sure you have heard the monkey stories. The only thing you need to know is BEWARE OF THE MONKEYS! The monkeys in Thailand might seem cute but if you get too close they will attack you and potentially put you in the hospital for the rest of your trip. The most common place to get attacked is Monkey Beach. Think about your decision to visit very carefully because your whole trip could end with just one bite from a tiny monkey!
Forget packing an absurd amount of clothes because almost every hotel offers a very cheap laundry service. We used this service so many times while in Thailand and loved it! They will get your laundry done within just a few hours.
LAUNDRY BAG: Bring a laundry bag or a giant trash bag for your dirty clothes! We didn’t do this and thankfully got one after having our laundry done by a service. By the end of our trip we were hoarding bags like our lives depended on it. When you are out all day sweating in the humid hot sun… Your clothes are going to smell like death and be soaking wet. Especially if you are like my husband and wear every shirt twice to avoid paying more for laundry. Until we got a laundry bag our dirty clothes were making everything else in our suitcases stink! Because of the humidity it felt like our clothes were never going to dry, even our swim suits. It was a lifesaver to put everything dirty or wet into a bag and not have to worry about it.
TOILETS: The bathrooms in Thailand are somewhat of a unique experience. If you use a public bathroom you will be “going” into a toilet hole in the floor. Its something you have to see yourself to truly understand.
FLUSHING: You will see signs in every bathroom telling you to not flush any type of toilet paper down the toilet. Whether you go #1 or #2… They don’t want the paper being flushed. I’m being serious. So there is a garbage can next to every toilet for you to throw it in. Be prepared for it! We actually always just put it in the toilet though and never had any problems. Just don’t let them catch you!
BUTT SPRAYER: As someone from the States, I was not accustomed to the butt sprayer situation. We honestly didn’t realize what they were for a couple days but quickly realized because of the “no flushing” policy. I think you get the idea! All the Australian tourists refer to it as the “Bum Gun”.
WASHING YOUR HANDS: Most bathrooms have a sink to wash your hands but have toilet paper to dry your hands with and some bathrooms don’t even have sinks or toilet paper at all! The ones thats have toilet paper make you grab it for yourself before you go into the stall. Overall it is very confusing. Carry your own hand sanitizer and tissues with you to make your life easier… and more sanitary!
UBER: The only places we found Uber were in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. And they are so cheap! I wish they had them everywhere because when we had Uber it was amazing. Check your area to see if it exists before booking a taxi. It will be significantly cheaper and a much better ride!
TAXI: The taxi’s are over priced in Thailand especially to and from the airports. But you can try to strike a deal with the taxi driver since everything is negotiable. Act like you know what you are doing and stay firm on price otherwise walk away and find another taxi, we did this several times. Taxis are used for more long distance journeys (maybe anything more than 10 minutes away) otherwise the Tuk Tuks are your other option!
TUK TUK: I personally believe Tuk Tuks are made for the adventurous. I was a little scared for my life riding in the Tuk Tuks through the crazy traffic of Thailand but sometimes it’s the fastest way to get somewhere! The Tuk Tuk drivers will try to rip you off about 99% of the time so make sure you negotiate like with taxi drivers.
SMOKING: Another thing that I wasn’t used to as an American was the amount of smoking in Thailand. It isn’t necessarily only the Thai people either but all the tourists! Everywhere else in the world smoking is so popular. As we were sitting in an indoor restaurant people will start smoking and literally blow it right at you. and not just in restaurant but EVERYWHERE!
THAI: Most people call their country “Thai” instead of “Thailand”. So if you are getting confused about why they keep saying “Thai”, they are talking about their country. They are very proud of their country and will want to tell you all about it! Ask a lot of questions and they will be excited to share with you.
THE KING: Do not talk about the King or talk poorly about him. You will actually be arrested if you are caught talking down on him in any way but we’ve heard it’s very easy to say the wrong thing so just don’t mention him at all. Their King of 60 years just passed away and it is a very sensitive subject. You will see giant murals and shrines dedicated to him on almost every corner. He is the Thai peoples pride and joy and they are very protective of him. Just avoid the word “King” in general to be safe!
WILDLIFE: Be prepared to see a snake, a cockroach (or two), and some BIG spiders. They don’t exterminate like we do in other countries so you’re going to see some critters! They are mostly harmless but might give you a scare.
THE PEOPLE: Yes…. The people are really THAT nice! You will meet the most kind people in the world. Even if they are trying to rip you off, they’re just trying to make a living! They will go above and beyond for you and are there to serve. The Thai people are very hard working, grateful people, and take pride in that.
THE WEIRD: Thailand doesn’t have many homeless people or drug addicts walking the streets but if you are in Bangkok or Patong you might see some strange things. You might see a lady boy. You might see someone drop their pants and pee on the sidewalk. You might see strippers or prostitutes if you are out past dark. You might see a dead cat laying in the gutter.
SMELLS: There are a lot of smells on the streets. And not good ones. Avoid walking over the caged gutters in the road, thats where it will hit you the worst!
SHOES: Look outside of temples, stores, and restaurants to see if people have taken off their shoes before entering. Follow what they have done. Taking off shoes is a sign of respect!
CLOTHING: Dress modestly especially when visiting temples. You will not be allowed to enter if your knees or shoulders are showing. It isn’t like some countries where you will be shamed if you wear shorts or tanks but they do love the sign of respect for modest clothing and the bigger site won’t let you in without covering up. If you forget they usually have shawls you can borrow or buy.
And thats a wrap on our posts of Thailand. So crazy! I hope this post can be helpful for all of you planning to go to Thailand soon or someday. Cheers!