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Traveling to Thailand for the first time is exciting, magical, and overwhelming at times. Thailand is a great country to start your Southeast Asia journey, it won't be the biggest cultural shock, and you will be too busy being wowed at every corner to panic about anything. Nevertheless, the more prepared you are, the more you will be able to soak it all in and enjoy this fantastic country.

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The Best Thailand Tips

After weeks looking for the perfect holiday destination, you have finally settled your heart on Thailand! Beautiful beaches, rich culture, mouth-watering delicious food, and all for an affordable price. How could you resist? But now it is time to get ready, and some Thailand tips to make this trip a hit would come in handy. And this is where we come in!

So let’s go ahead and do a deep dive into the top Thailand Tips you must know to have the time of your life on your upcoming adventure.

Visiting Thailand for the First Time

How wonderful it would have been to have this list of tips and tricks when visiting Thailand for the first time, but the truth is, we had to learn most of them the hard way. Nevertheless, one thing you need to know is that Thai people are extremely kind and happy to help. No matter what you encounter, you won’t be alone, so relax and enjoy. This is a safe and amazing country, and with these Thailand tips you should have more than your basics covered.

Be Cautious with Thai Street Food!

Because it is too good!! Thailand has open-air markets everywhere, and this is where you will find some of the most affordable and delicious street food. You will want to eat it all! Still, make sure to choose vendors with high turnover and fresh ingredients, and avoid food that has been sitting out for a long time (friendly warning: if we catch you buying sushi that looks older than you from a non-refrigerated Bangkok street stall just because it is cheap, we will slap it out of your hand).

must try Thailand food

Drink a LOT of Water

With the hot weather and spicy food, to stay hydrated is a must. Tap water in Thailand is not safe for drinking. While in Bangkok it is considered drinkable, this is not the case in most of the country, so even locals refrain from drinking.

One of the traveling tips for Thailand we always share is to purchase a thermal bottle. This was a game changer for us! From the moment you purchase a water bottle in Thailand and step outside of the store it is pretty much the equivalent to troughing your bottle into an active volcano. Unless you drink super fast or are really into hot tea, a thermal bottle will come in handy. The cherry on top is that you can also reduce your plastic waste, by refilling it in drinking water stations.

Use Public Transportation

Out of the many Thailand backpacking tips we can provide you, the most important one is not to be afraid of public transportation. Of course, this Thailand tip is not only for backpackers, but chances are our dear backpackers will use it everywhere, all the time, as it is convenient and affordable. There are buses going everywhere, the overnight train is a great experience, and having the chance to catch a subway with blasting AC in the heat of Bangkok will be one of your biggest joys.

best way to travel affordable in Thailand
man in public transportation in thailand best tips

Roll It On, Spray it, Shower in Repellent

My grandmother used to say I was always eaten alive by mosquitoes because I am sweet. Not the most reassuring thing when you are swollen like a football. If you are also “sweet”, then here is the most important of all Thailand tips for a peaceful vacation: always carry mosquito repellent around (at least 50% Deet). Mosquitoes are everywhere, and mainly when the sun comes down, it is showtime. Every 7-eleven in Thailand has mosquito repellent for sale in case you don’t manage to buy it before you go, or it runs out.

Avoid Thailand Burning Season

No matter whether you are traveling to Thailand for the first time or for the thousandth, you should be aware of the existence of the burning season. From February to April (there are no fixed dates), farmers in northern Thailand engage in slash-and-burn agriculture, which results  in heavy smoke and haze. During this time of the year, the sky turns red, and the air quality drops drastically. Therefore, it is advisable to have a face mask at hand, as you might need it.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this Thailand tip only applies to the north of the country. It is the most impacted area by it, but for a few years now the smoke from the burning fields has reached most parts of the country.

Pack Light Clothing & Sunscreen

For those traveling to Thailand for the first time, bear in mind it is hot and humid most of the year! In April and May you will often feel like you are about to go into spontaneous combustion.

two hands with shakes of the best mango from Thailand

If you are wondering what to wear on your Thailand trip, light and breathable clothing is the way to go. Choose lightweight fabrics such as cotton, and pack a long scarf that you can use when visiting temples, and which works as a light extra layer in case of a breeze.  A long-sleeve, light jacket or sweater will guarantee you are comfortable when visiting higher altitude areas.

Not only when going to the beach, but also to walk around the city center, use a high SPF sunscreen. You might not feel the sun is that strong, but you will the next day! Trust us on this.

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Always Carry Paper

Who would guess that “paper” would be one of the most important traveling tips for Thailand? But it is! Always carry tissues. The number of toilets that won’t have paper, even in paid tourist attractions, will blow your mind, and you don’t want to be caught with your pants down (pun intended).

Purchase Travel Insurance

We strongly suggest you purchase travel insurance when you plan your trip itineraries, mainly to another continent. Better be safe than sorry! Even if you are not planning on taking part in any high-risk activities, it is just reassuring to travel with the peace of mind that if you get sick, or if you slip and fall you are completely covered and with nothing to worry about.

doctor illustration

Learn Your Basics

While English is widely spoken in most tourist areas, learning a few basic Thai phrases can go a long way in communicating with locals and showing respect for their language and culture. We have discovered many hidden gems and received amazing Thailand tips from people with whom we chatted for hours after a simple “Sawasdee kha” (hello).

man at a thailand restaurant

Don’t Contribute to Animal Tourism

To this day one of Thailand’s biggest draws for tourists is its animal tourism. From photos with “sleeping tigers” to riding elephants, there are plenty of animal-related activities that many who are traveling to Thailand for the first time wish to experience. Please don’t contribute to this kind of tourism.

If visiting an elephant sanctuary is on your bucket list, then we strongly suggest you do your research and ask pertinent questions to ensure you visit one of the few reputable and ethical sanctuaries in Thailand. Be aware that just because a space with elephants has “ethical” or “sanctuary” in their name, it doesn’t mean they are such a thing.

Thailand Temples Dress Code & Cultural Etiquette

One of the things to know when visiting Thailand is that it is a deeply religious and cultural country, so it's important to be respectful of their customs and traditions. If you are traveling to Thailand for the first time, make sure to observe what locals are doing, read informational signs, and ask questions instead of jumping to conclusions.

Generally speaking, the Thailand temples dress code is pretty consistent across the country. By  following these tips you guarantee to be covering the basics and showing respect for the cultural norms.

Thailand Temples

To enter any temple across the country, you should cover your knees and shoulders. So, if you are already packing and preparing for your trip to Thailand, make sure to pack a long scarf and carry it around with you, so even if you don’t plan to visit a temple, if the opportunity arises, you are covered (literally). Sometimes these rules are more flexible for men, but we suggest that regardless of gender, these rules are followed out of respect.

couple in thailandese temple respecting following tips to respect the religious etiquette

It is important to know that women are not allowed to visit all temples. In some of them at all instances, in others exclusively during their menstruation. This rule is based on cultural beliefs rather than strict Buddhist doctrine, making it not a universal ban but common mainly in rural areas (and no, there is no way for them to check,  they simply ask you to be honest and respect their beliefs).

Another basic rule is to always remove your shoes before entering temples.This rule applies not only to temples but also to people’s homes and many establishments. So if you are wondering what to wear on your Thailand trip, flip flops and sandals are the answer.

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Buddhist Monks

If you are visiting Thailand for the first time, it's important to know that monks are some of the most highly respected people in the country. Therefore, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with some basic rules of interaction with them.

man in one of the must visit temples of Chiang Mai in Thailand, the Blue Temple

Don’t stand taller than a monk: You should never be at a physically higher position than a monk. If a monk is sitting down, avoid standing next to him, instead, lower yourself down to his level.

Don’t touch a monk: This rule applies primarily to women. Buddhist monks are not permitted to have physical contact with women, so this rule goes both ways. This means refraining from handshakes and hugs. If you wish to offer something to a monk, such as at an alms giving ceremony, place it on a surface so they can pick it up without direct contact.

Respect the Culture

One of the best Thailand tips we can offer you is to take the time to learn about the beautiful Thai culture. However, while doing so, there are a couple of points you should be aware of to avoid accidentally offending anyone or getting into trouble.

Respect the king and royal family: Respect for the monarchy in Thailand is taken very seriously. Never show disrespect towards the monarch or depictions of the royal family, as it is a criminal offense.

Respect the body: Thai people are extremely expressive, always with a warm and kind smile and rarely raising their voice or losing their temper. However, some subtle cues in their body language may not be easy to catch at first glance. For example, the feet are considered the dirtiest part of the body in Thai culture, so they should never be pointed towards anyone or any sacred image, mainly of Buddha or the King.

Conversely, the head is considered the most sacred part of the body, so you should never touch a Thai person's head under any circumstances. In Western cultures, it's common to pat children on the head as a gesture of affection, but this should be avoided in Thailand.

Money & Scams Thailand Tips

Let’s talk about money, shall we? If you are looking for some Thailand backpacking tips to avoid “losing” money or if you are simply visiting Thailand for the first time and don’t appreciate being caught up in a scam, there are a few things you should be aware of:

Money Withdrawal

Always withdraw as much as possible (within reason, based on how much you need) in one go. Every time you withdraw money, you will be charged your bank fees, plus a fixed 220 bahts charge (which is about €6). So, if you choose to repeatedly withdraw small amounts, you will repeatedly incur fees that are not budget-friendly.

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Purchase Transportation Tickets

You can purchase tickets for most modes of transportations in Thailand (boats, trains, flights, buses, transfers, etc.) from the comfort of your home or hotel via 12GoAsia*. Nevertheless, for all of you beautiful people seeking Thailand backpacking tips and aiming to save money, sometimes you can find cheaper prices, more routes, and even more schedules available at the ticket counter than what you would find online. However, try to buy them in advance, especially during the high season. Most employees at ticket offices speak enough English to assist you, so you should be ok!

couple visiting famous Thailand railway market near Bangkok

Get Ready to Bargain

Bargaining is a common practice in Thailand, especially in markets and with street vendors. Don't be afraid to haggle for a better price, but be polite and respectful during your negotiations. Learn to read the situation and discern when to bargain and when to appreciate a unique handmade craft, which should be acknowledged by paying the full price to support the local artist.

woman in Bangkok market where bargaining is common

Avoid Scams

It is not all rainbows and butterflies, tourist scams are common in Thailand. Here are some that we have encountered frequently and repeatedly witnessed people falling for:

The Temples are closed: A friendly person on the street approaches you to tell you that the temple is closed for the day or a few hours. As a kind suggestion, they offer to take you around on their tuk tuk for the time being, so you can see other lovely places and don't waste your time. Simply say thank you and continue towards the temple’s entrance as it will be open.

Fake baht: Despite how easy it is to withdraw money nowadays while traveling, with a card like Wise*, this scam remains common. There are many unofficial currency exchange stands around the city, where you might receive fake bills or the wrong amount of money. Ensure that you only exchange currency at official, certified bank offices.

Taxis and tuk tuks: Never enter a taxi or tuk tuk before agreeing on a price or making sure the meter is on.

tuk tuk in Chinatown Bangkok the best Thailand tip is always bargain

Thailand SIM Card

Having a local SIM card is such a fantastic commodity. If you usually don’t purchase one, maybe it is time to consider. The internet in Thailand is quite fast and affordable.

If having internet access from the moment you land is crucial for you, you have two options:

Purchase a classic Thailand SIM Card for tourists at the airport: In our opinion, this is the worst option. You will pay a lot, for little speed and Gb.

Get an E-SIM: The main advantage of an E-SIM is that you can connect to it literally from the moment you land. Even if your phone is not dual-SIM (meaning you can only have one SIM card), you can still add the E-SIM to your phone, using its data, while keeping your original number and SIM card available for emergencies. Attention, there are some older phone models that don’t support E-SIM, check if that is your case prior to purchasing it.

mobile phone illustration

If you can survive a couple of hours without data on your phone, we suggest you head out to your hotel and find a nearby 7-eleven after checking in. There, you can purchase the same Thailand SIM Card for tourists that were being sold at the airport for a fraction of the price. And if you have the patience, as it is not always easy to communicate with the shop attendees all these details, here is a trick to get the cheapest Thailand SIM card internet package:

  • Ask for their regular Thailand SIM Card (not the tourist ones). At the time of writing this travel guide the card on the photo is the one you want, but bear in mind the image changes often. This card costs 49 baht (€1.30) because it comes “empty”.

  • Ask to have your new Thailand SIM card charged with unlimited data, with a 30mbps speed, for 1 month. They also have a 7-day option, but it is only 30 baht (€0.80) cheaper than the full month one, so unless you are staying literally 7 days in Thailand, the month option is the best. For a full month of high speed and unlimited internet, you will pay 200 bahts (€6.70). Ah! And you can use it as a hotspot! So in our case, we always buy one card and use the phone’s hotspot to give wifi to both phones.

best cheapest thailand sim card tip

Apps to Use in Thailand while Traveling

You will be able to use most of your favorite apps without restrictions during your trip, but there are a few apps to use in Thailand while traveling that you will appreciate having installed on your phone from the moment you land:

Grab

Grab is the OG of apps to use in Thailand while traveling. It is basically what Uber is in the rest of the world. It gets food delivered to your doorstep, and you can catch a taxi or scooter from wherever you are at a very decent price, avoiding bargaining. Available pretty much everywhere!

Bolt

This app is not as frequently used as Grab, but it allows you to call a taxi as well, but for way less money! We had instances where we saved up to 60% for getting a Bolt. However, it is not as widely available, only in big cities, and you might have to wait longer for a car, as there are not that many. But if you are not in a rush and want to stay on budget, it is a good alternative to have! The less appealing part is that you have to pay with cash.

Google Translator

Most phones come with it already, but if yours doesn’t, make sure to download it. In big cities you will almost always be able to communicate in English, but it is better to guarantee communication is not an issue under any circumstances. Download the language to have it available even if offline.

Money Converter

Usually the conversion for baht is very straightforward, but for higher values, it is better to have it at hand and double check before any transaction.

Planning Time

If you are ready to start planning your next trip, here you have all the usefull links you need to make it happen! By using them you are supporting our work as we might get a small fee from it. But hey! You pay the same (or might even get a discount), so is a win-win situation!

This applies to all the links in this website marked with a *

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