Thailand Travel Tips
For those traveling to ever popular Thailand, take some tips from for optimum trip satisfaction.
Do: Try all the food
Thai food is one of my favorites in this world. It is summer fresh and combines some of my favorite flavors such as coconut, lemongrass, and kefir lime, with hot spices and soothing textures. I can’t get enough of the curries, noodles, fresh salads, and stews. If you are afraid of the heat the more touristy restaurants will make a mild version if you ask.
Don’t: Ride an elephant or take photos with tigers
Please, don’t do this. Elephants are highly mistreated for the tourist industry. I made the mistake, like many tourists do, of wanting to ride an elephant the first time I was in Thailand because I love the sweet creatures, and I almost cried at how the elderly and miserable elephants were treated, beat, and forced on endless treks in the sweltering heat for the sake of money. Likewise, I know it looks badass on your Instagram but please, resist the urge to take a picture with the tigers. They are also mistreated and heavily drugged at the sake of their health so that tourists can take pictures with them without being eaten.
Do: Go to an elephant sanctuary
If you want to experience elephants in Thailand go to one of the amazing elephant sanctuaries in the north in or near Chang Mai. At these places they actually save elephants from abusive environments such as tourist establishments or zoos and allow you to interact with them in a healthy and safe way. Play with them in the water, help wash them and feed them, and see how much happier they are away from captivity.
Don’t: Go to the red light district
Most towns and cities have one, even if they aren’t obvious, but please, don’t do it. The slave trade is strong in Thailand and there is a lot of underage abuse and forced labor. Enough said.
Do: Go to the islands
True paradise. Clear emerald waters, white sand beaches, and tropical forests. It is as magical as the pictures. For the best weather, go in the winter months to avoid typhoon season. Weather you want a vacation on a solitary beach where you are the only person along a stretch except for the monkies, or you want an everyday party and fancy resorts, you can find it on the islands.
Don’t : be a dirty tourist at the Full Moon Festival
The Full Moon Festival on Koh Phangan island is world famous. It is a huge beach rave with multiple stages and bars. People paint themselves with florescent paint and party the night away. Be careful of plain clothed policemen. And please, try not the throw your trash everywhere. The once pristine beach was a giant trash heap the following day with bottles and plastic floating out to sea.
Do: Fly domestically
I decided to take a train and ferry from Bangkok to get to Koh Phangan. It was an overnight train that was supposed to take 10 hours but took about 18+ hours just on the train. In a straight back metal chair, with florescent lights all nights, live chickens (not joking), and no sleep. Then another 5 hours to wait for the ferry’s mysterious arrival time. On the way back I took a domestic flight and it was the most luxurious experience. It was less than 150 dollars and a two-hour flight. The airport in Koh Samui was beautiful with a lavish chandeliers, endless free wifi, no lines, open air with palm trees, and to top it all off a delicious complimentary buffet of fresh fruit juices, confections, and tropical fruit. There was also an excellent inflight meal and legroom. Five stars.
Don’t: Rely on things being on time
My extended train time above is not abnormal. They call it Thai time. Everything is late. My train took a three-hour break in the middle for no reason. Buses, ferries, trains, people. Late.
Do: Negotiate prices
They will always go high for tourists, and it is in the culture to haggle. Start with a quarter of the stated price and go from there. This applies to shopping, taxis, tuk-tuks (the local little taxis), etc.
Don’t: bring durian into places
You’ll actually see signs dissuading this in a lot of hotels and other buildings. Durian is a large round fruit with spikey yellow edges. When opened it smells like a sewer. It tastes ok but can stink up a place like nobody’s business and is hard to eliminate.
Do: Be careful
As always, be a contentious traveler. Thailand, especially Bangkok is not the safest place. Don’t be the drunk tourist stumbling home in the middle of the night alone with a sign on their back saying ‘mug me.’ On one trip I met two travelers who had been mugged in Bangkok, but both had been piss drunk, alone, and made themselves into easy targets. Be attentive, travel with a buddy, and don’t go so crazy you aren’t aware of your surroundings.
Don’t: let the monkey too close
They will try and steal from you. They may look like cute, innocent, Curious Georges but don’t be fooled. They will just as soon jump on your back from their perch in the tree to rifle through your backpack and escape with their treasure. They also bite and scratch those they don’t like.