Being first timers in Thailand, we naturally had a lot of lessons to learn! We planned our trip without the help of a travel guide or travel agency, so everything we encountered was a learning experience. Unfortunately, some things had to be learned the hard way. Our trip was quite the adventure, but we wished we had read about the tips we learned before our trip! Reading other blogs helped us to recognize some of the scams to avoid here before it was too late. I hope what we learned can help at least one other person have a more enjoyable and memorable trip!
1. Pack Lightly – In fact, forget rolling luggage all together, and get yourself a hiking backpack. This was a lesson we knew before we even got there! You will be especially grateful if you plan on hopping all around Thailand. The last thing you want to do is have to lug heavy luggage on and off of boats, buses and planes everywhere you go. Every time we saw people with rolling suitcases, we instantly felt bad for them. We packed all light weight clothing in a large hiking pack each. No checking luggage, no lugging roller bags through crowded streets, and no packing unnecessary items. We were able to do laundry a few times along the way, we only packed what we would actually wear, and there are TONS of 7-Elevens everywhere, so we were able to buy cheap toiletries when we needed them.
2. Avoid Scams – As safe as Thailand can be, it is filled with scam artists trying to make a few bucks. If a super friendly, well dressed, Thai person starts speaking to you in perfect English, they are probably a scam artist. If what they are telling you seems too good to be true, it probably is. Also, be explicit in your instructions to taxi and tuk drivers. They will try to get you to go to certain places, knowing you are a tourist, which will charge you way more than they should. Be specific on where you want to go and how much it will cost before you start your trip. If you are able to, take an Uber! We were able to take Uber in Bangkok and Chiang Mai for really cheap! These were some lessons we wished we learned about Thailand before we got there.
3. Print your tickets out! – If you buy tickets online for a ferry ride, or a flight somewhere, be sure to have your hotel print it out for you. Many airlines will charge you extra to print boarding passes at the airport, and even though the ferry ticket might not say you need to print it out, they might ask you to do so. It will really make your life a lot easier having passes on paper. Don’t miss your boat by being held up trying to find a printer! After this happened, I said, “I’m going to have to write a lessons learned in Thailand post!”
4. Dress “Smart” When Necessary – Most of the time in Thailand, you will want to wear shorts, tank tops and other lightweight clothing because it can be incredibly hot. However, when you visit temples and rooftop bars, you will need to dress appropriately. We saw many people not dressed appropriately at some temples, but don’t be that guy. Show some respect for the monks and other Buddhists, and dress modestly. At temples, guys can wear t-shirts and longer shorts, just no tank tops. Nine times out of ten, you will go in barefoot, so don’t worry about what kind of shoes you are wearing. Ladies, a t-shirt and longer pants like capris will be just fine. If you have to wear shorts or a tank top like I did, just bring a non-see-through beach wrap or scarf to place around your shoulders and wrap around your waist. I only packed tank tops, shorts and a long dress, so I had to layer up with scarfs to cover my knees and shoulders at the temples. I saw it was much easier to wear a t-shirt and a skirt or pants to cover your knees, rather than adding extra layers in such a hot environment.
As far as rooftop dress code for men, be sure to bring one pair of pants and closed toes shoes to wear at the rooftop bars in Bangkok. They are very strict about this, and we chose not to go because Tiago only had a polo shirt, boat shoes and shorts. Women are not allowed to wear shorts or flip flops, but dresses and nice sandals are completely acceptable. If you are not sure, be sure to look up what they consider a “smart” outfit.
5. Enjoy, but Beware of the Buckets! – First of all, everywhere you go, they sell these “buckets” which are essentially a small beach pail, with sealed bottles of various liquor, juice, and/or soda. They are a great deal, but I will give you some advice to better enjoy your time! Choose the more expensive, well known liquor brands over the cheap Thai brands. You will feel much better in the morning!
Also, keep in mind that their Red Bull is NOT the same stuff we get in the states, so drink with caution! We heard the ingredient in the original formula of Fourloko is in their Red Bull, which is similar to speed. Also, be sure to WATCH them make the drink. You want to make sure they are truly using UNOPENED sealed bottles, otherwise, you won’t know if they filled the bottles with something else.
When we entered the beach, we saw signs saying “no outside drinks allowed,” and at first we were like “crap, now what?” As we already had a bucket in hand. But we realized that there was literally no one to enforce this, and everyone already had a bucket. So in we went! In America, I would never pull this off, but in Thailand, go for it.
6. Don’t be Afraid to See a Doctor if you Need it! – If you are not feeling well in Thailand, go see a doctor! Don’t do what I did and wait until I was so sick I couldn’t talk or eat. They have clinics everywhere, as this is a popular country for tourists. It is cheap, you will be seen right away, and you can get the medicine you need for a fraction of the price in America.
7. Where to Stay for the Full Moon Party – Prices for a place to stay for the Full Moon Party can get really expensive the days right before, during and after if you look on Koh Phangan, but the reality is, you don’t even need to stay on that island. Most people like to party until the sun comes up anyway, but if you are like me, I like to know I have a place to rest my head at night. Ferries run back and forth from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan all night long, and is about a 20 minute ride. We learned this the hard way, but we could have had a place on Koh Samui, which is much nicer in my opinion, take a ferry directly to the full moon party, have a great time, then walk back to the boat to take you to your hotel.
8. Avoid Conflict and Always Smile When Having an Issue – Thai people are very peaceful individuals, and some believe it is because of their Buddhist practices, which involves regular meditation. It is certainly ok to be firm with someone, especially if you are not interested in what they are selling or if you feel you are being scammed, but if you need something from someone, a smile goes a long way. Thai people do not like confrontation, and will be less likely to help you if you start to act with aggression.
9. Save Places you want to Visit on Google Maps – When you are connected to Wi-Fi, star places you want to go to, like temples, attractions, restaurants and parks. Once the map is downloaded while you are on Wi-Fi, you will be able to see the locations, and your place on the map, even when you don’t have service. This was helpful for us to show a cab driver exactly where to go, or to navigate on foot.