15 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Thailand

Ultimate Guide of Things to Know Before Visiting Thailand!

Welcome to Thailand also known as the land of smiles! We absolutely loved this country and I know you will too! Thailand was our first  Southeast Asian country, so as you could imagine we experienced quite a culture shock. With that said, I put together a list of the 15 things you should know before visiting Thailand.

Hopefully, this will prevent you from the embarrassing cultural blunders that I made when visiting Thailand.

Longtail boat ride in Krabi, Thailand with limestone cliffs
Longtail boat ride from Railay Beach

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1. Culture and Religion

Thailand is mainly a Buddhist country. To show full respect to their culture and religion, there are a lot of “DO NOT DO’s”

  1. Don’t touch people’s heads. (not sure why you would…. but.. lol)
  2. Don’t touch or sit next to monks. (if you’re a female)
  3. Do not put your feet on the furniture.
  4. Don’t point with your feet.
  5. Don’t step on Thai money.
  6. Don’t step over people or their things.
  7. Take your shoes off at religious sites ( and at stores if you notice other shoes are at the door)
  8. Cover elbows and knees at religious sites.

The head is viewed as the most sacred part of the body. This is why it is considered very rude to touch someone’s head even with the sincerest intentions.

On the other hand, the feet are considered dirty and impure since they are the lowest part to the ground.  This is why there are so many “Don’ts” that include your feet.  Even stepping on money could cause distress.

View of the front of Wat Arun Temple in Bangkok
The Beautiful Wat Arun Temple entrance

2.The King in Thailand

If you learn anything before visiting Thailand, it’s to NOT talk about the King….like ever. Also, if they are doing the national anthem, stand up. They take their King very seriously and repercussions can follow with ill talk of the King.

Things You Should Know Before Visiting Thailand
The King, Bangkok

3. Transportation in Thailand

Don’t be surprised when taxi’s and tuk-tuks( kind of like a golf cart but with 3 wheels) almost crash to ask you if you need a ride.

Seriously, if you’re not Thai they will be reversing down the street while honking to ask if you need a ride!

If a taxi driver says their meter is broken, it’s likely a scam. Always ask for them to run the meter. If they won’t, get another car.

If it’s a tuk-tuk, don’t forget to bargain. Any price they give you is usually higher. If they don’t take your demanded price walk another block and you will find another. They are legit everywhere.

If you find you keep getting shut down with your desired price, then you’re asking for too little, so try to find a happy medium. If you would like to hire a car through a car app, download Grab which is most commonly used in Asia.

Also, DO NOT always believe the driver if they say your destination is closed. Do your own research before you visit a place.

True Story – we had a man walk out to us from the Grand Palace in Bangkok to tell us it was closed. He said he had a great tuk-tuk deal that would take us to numerous places and bring us back when the Grand Palace reopened.

Once we declined and said we would rather walk around, the tuk-tuk driver got very angry saying “ there’s nothing to see that way” He almost wouldn’t take no for an answer. We continued walking anyway and of course, the Grand Palace was open.

Bangkok City View
Bangkok CIty view

4. Be Prepared to Bargain

It’s easy not to want to bargain when everything seems so cheap but it’s just a way of life in Thailand. You don’t want to be looked at with dollar signs hanging over your head.

We walked by a man on the street selling these silk painting scarf things. He stopped us and asked for $600 bht, almost $20 US dollars. We really didn’t want anything he was selling but he kept pulling out things to show us.

As we made our final escape, he went down to $100 bht which was about $3 dollars. Although we still didn’t buy it since it was not our style, I’m sure many people purchased it for much more! With that said, you should, of course, be fair with your price suggestion.

5. 7/11 is Everything in Thailand

If you need anything, seriously anything,  you can most likely buy it at a 7/11. You can buy your groceries, get a sim card, toiletries, really just about anything. And the best part about 7/11 is that they are everywhere. Kind of like Starbuck in NYC. There is never a 7/11 too far away!

7/11 in Thailand
You can find 7/11 everywhere in Thailand

6. Wrong Answers

Don’t be surprised if you ask a local a question and they give you the wrong answer. This doesn’t always happen but its always best to do your own research. If you happen to ask where the temple is and they don’t know or don’t understand you, they might still point you in a direction that’s incorrect. Also, if for any reason a disagreement arises, it is not out of the ordinary for Thai people to just walk away since the culture does not like conflict.

7. Water, is it Safe to Drink in Thailand?

This is a question I researched a lot before visiting Thailand. The answer is, the water and ice are safe to drink when being served at restaurants. However, do NOT drink or use tap water to brush your teeth from your hotel.

To travel more sustainably, look into a refillable filtered water bottle such as Lifestraw or other filtered water systems that kill bacteria and viruses. This is the best way to go to help reduce plastic waste.

8.Food Stalls in Thailand

You will see food stalls everywhere in Thailand. They are a part of the Thailand culture and the food is cheap! The rule of thumb for us became: if there is a line, it’s probably good. If the cart is empty and there’s food just laying out with insects… let’s go on a hard pass.

9. Toilets in Thailand

You will likely come across squat toilets and toilets with a hose instead of toilet paper. If you would rather not finish your business having wet areas, I would suggest carrying tissue or toilet paper with you!

10. Thailand Sim Cards

Sim cards are super cheap and easy to get. Just make sure your phone is unlocked and able to accept a sim card.

I would recommend using the AIS sim card. The service is exceptionally reliable. We were able to use our GPS throughout the entire trip.

You can purchase one at the airport when you arrive, but it will likely be more expensive. You can also find them at a local 7/11.

11. What to Wear in Thailand

Before visiting Thailand, it’s important to know they have a more conservative dress code, especially in sacred sites. The most important thing is to cover your knees and shoulders. I hear you saying, ” so you’re telling me I need to be fully covered on extremely hot days with insane humidity? Are you crazy?!” Yes, but here are some tricks I learned.

Women Packing Ideas

For women, make sure to bring a scarf, shawl or sarong to cover your shoulders and or knees if be. This way you can wear a tank top or shorts, and then if you go somewhere a dress code is necessary, you can pull it out of your bag. I also found wearing lightweight long skirts and dresses worked well in the heat.

Chiang Mai Temples
My go-to shawl to cover my shoulders and long skirt to cover knees when entering places of worship

Men Packing Ideas

For men, I would suggest a lightweight t-shirt with shorts. You can buy the “famous elephant pants” you see everyone wearing and just bunch them up in your pocket or bag if you’re knees need to be covered.

You can find a ton of additional Thailand Packing Guide tips here!

12. Wai Thai Greeting

This is the Thai greeting with hands pressed together in a prayer pose with a slight bow. It is a common way to show gratitude and you will see it a lot. It is kind to show gratitude and reciprocate Wai.

13. Driving in Thailand

Before visiting Thailand, we had only seen cars drive on the right side of the road. In Thailand, the cars are on the left. Being an American and driving on the right, it took me a long time to get used to this!

I wouldn’t be lying if I said I almost got hit by a car looking the wrong way!

14. Animal Tourism in Thailand

Any time you do any tourism with animals it’s important to do research on the companies. In Thailand, it is very popular to ride elephants or play with tigers, but these animals are not always treated humanely.

Riding elephants are usually treated in very poor standards, chained, and go through a scary and painful process to be trained to let people sit on them.

To learn more about it, I highly recommend a documentary called, “Love and Bananas” which goes into depth about the treatment of riding elephants. There are, however,  excellent sanctuaries that you can go volunteer your time for feeding, petting, and bathing the elephants.

Another popular attraction is being able to lay with tigers. These tigers are usually heavily sedated and not treated in the most humane way.

What I am getting at, is please do your research before interacting with companies that use animals as a tourism spot. If the animals are doing unnatural tricks, question it, google it, and cross-reference.

petting elephants volunteering in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Volunteer with Asian Elephants with 4 days in Chiang Mai, Thailand

15. Weather in Thailand

Before visiting Thailand, to know the season. The country can have very different weather in the North than the south and even the southwest to the southeast. One thing they all do have in common is the heat and humidity!

North Thailand

In general, North and Central Thailand weather is dry from Mid- Oct through May. However, keep in mind if you are up North around Chiang Mai, they have a burning season.

This is when all the farmers burn their crops making the breathing quality very poor. The burning season starts around mid- February through mid- April. August and September usually see the most rain in the North.

Side view of Wat Chedi Luang temple elephants in Side view of Wat Chedi Luang
Side view of Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai

Southwest Thailand

Southwest Thailand’s monsoon season starts around May through October. True story: We stayed in Krabi in May and out of nowhere it poured so hard all the electricity went out. Even the hotel! It was about 10 minutes until it came back and this is very normal. South West includes Krabi, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, and Koh Lanta.

Southeast Thailand

Southeast Thailand has mainly 3 seasons. Monsoon Season is September and October. Expect the warmest weather March-May and the most desired weather December through February.

If you are traveling during the summer months (June – August) and want Island life, this side of Thailand is your best bet!

Koh Samui, Koh Tao, and Ko Pha Ngan are some of the most popular to see.

Your ultimate guide for Island Hopping in Thailand! Find out everything you need to know before booking your tour!
Maya Bay

Getting To Thailand

My go-to to find the best flights are always through SkyScanner! You simply put in your dates (which can be flexible for the whole month) and a destination. Then Skyscanner will show you the best/cheapest flights for your dates!

Getting Around Thailand

There are a couple of ways you can get around Thailand. The quickest is to fly from city to city which is generally inexpensive compared to the states.

You can also take trains or sleeper trains. Trains make their way through some of the big cities. We actually took a sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai! You can find the train info here! Also, if you plan to take the same sleeper train, check my Chiang Mai guide where I go into detail!

Buses and sleeper buses are another option you have in Thailand, especially if you are traveling long distances! You can use 12GoAsia for bus schedules as well!

Lastly, you can use Tuk Tuks or Grab car services for short distances as discussed above.

Finding Accommodations in Thailand

For finding accommodations in Thailand, we have found the best booking source to be Agoda, although we always check booking.com just in case. Feel free to check out my recommended places to stay in Thailand here, which are budget-friendly! Furthermore, you can check the below links to compare pricing for hotels in Thailand!

Click here to check Agoda Hotels in Krabi, Thailand. Click here for Booking.com Hotels in Krabi Thailand.

Wrap-up

Now that we have gone through my 15 things you should know before visiting Thailand, you are on your way to starting your trip out right! Looking for more Thailand Guides? Click here to find all my guides on Thailand!

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“15 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Thailand”

  1. I want to travel to Southeast Asia once things get better. Thank you for the great tips, like all the details..

    Reply
  2. This is super helpful Sam! Thailand was my first ever Southeast Asia country and it was awesome. I went during monsoon season though and that is something I regret. I totally hope to go back soon! 🙂

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Planning A Trip To Thailand - Divert Living
  4. This was a brilliant post! I study Buddhism and Taoism (I do not belong to either religion) so you had my attention right from the start! That was so “odd” to see a 7-11 and that’s great to know on the bargaining to save some money when possible. I’m so glad you mentioned the drinking water (applies to almost anywhere I suppose) and the squat toilets. Yes, I would be carrying LOL. Oh my gosh on the elephants….yes!! And Mia Bay!! heart Merry Christmas to the three of you and to your families, Samantha! 🙂

    Reply
    • You are so kind! I am very glad you enjoyed my post =) The toilets deff got me haha. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas as well! Also wishing you a very happy and healthy New Years!

      Reply
  5. Sam, thanks for sharing such great tips. I especially appreciate the importance of researching elephant sanctuaries and sadly, you are correct, that the tigers are sedated and poorly treated. Lek Chailert’s, Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai is a great one. She is the wonderful woman featured in Love and Bananas. And, great tip on the Lifestraw. We travel everywhere with a Steripen now so that we don’t need to buy any bottled water!

    Reply
    • I am so glad you enjoyed my post! I have been wanting to look more into Steripen! I also watched Love and Bananas, but after we had seen the elephants. I loved her story and work though. Amazing woman!

      Reply

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