Thailand Travel Tips – Read This Before You Go!

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A detailed explanation of the best Thailand travel tips and advice for all travellers.

Thailand is a beautifully diverse and culturally enriching travel destination. 

This small country has towering mountains, bustling cities, picturesque beaches, rugged cliffs, dense jungles, and a whole lot more. 

The people are friendly, the food is mouthwatering, and the activities are endless. 

You can spend your days hiking, snorkeling/diving, fishing, kayaking, practicing yoga or riding a speed boat from island to island, and you can spend your nights eating street food, watching a ladyboy cabaret or attending a Muay Thai boxing match. 

There is truly so much to see and do in Thailand, so you want to make sure you enter the country prepared for anything. 

In preparation for your trip, you may want to brush up on some general travel tips for Thailand so you can feel confident in your knowledge of the country and its customs. 

Thai culture is very centred around respect, so it is important to always be respectful of Thai people and their way of life. 

My Expert List of the Best Thailand Travel Tips

With this article of Thailand travel tips, you can read about some of the recommended things to know before travelling around this beautiful country. 

In addition to general travel tips for Thailand, you can read about cultural tips, budgeting tips, safety tips, health tips, and a few recommendations about what not to do in Thailand. 

READ MORE: Plan your trip to Thailand with our comprehensive Thailand travel guide.

Thailand Travel Tips
Thai beauty extends to the offshore islands

General Thailand Travel Tips

Without further ado, let me share my ultimate list of things to know before you travel to Thailand.

Check Visa Requirements

Check if you need a visa before travelling to Thailand.

The visa requirements are different for many countries; some nationalities do not need visas for a stay less than 30 days, some nationalities can obtain their visas when they arrive at the airport, and some nationalities must obtain a visa in advance.

Always check the visa requirements for your country to make sure you are allowed to enter Thailand!

Pack For Hot, Humid Weather

The weather in Thailand is over hot and humid. That’s just a fact when considering Thailand travel tips.

Unless you are in higher altitudes where the temperature drops a bit, pack plenty of lightweight, breathable warm weather clothes

Prepare to Pay with Cash

Paying with cash is much more convenient than paying with a card in Thailand.

Street markets, local restaurants and many tourist attractions usually only accept cash as payment, but luckily ATMs are frequent in touristy areas.

Make sure you alert your bank that you’ll be travelling so they don’t assume you transactions in Thailand are a fraud. 

Verify Companies’ Legitimacy Before Booking

Before booking any hostels, guesthouses, volunteer programs, or tours, read customer reviews to make sure it is legitimate.

The rise in tourism in Thailand has unfortunately led to a rise in scams and illegitimate businesses that try to get money out of tourists.

Just confirm before you book anything that the business is reputable. We recommend using Klook for Thailand.

BONUS – Interested in booking a tour online? Use the coupon code “NMDSKLK” on Klook when checking out and you’ll get $5 off your first booking!

Klook.com

Cultural Tips for Thailand

There are some other travel tips for Thailand that I have to share that relate specifically to the beautiful Thai culture.

Remove Your Shoes

Feet are considered the dirtiest part of the body in Thai culture.

You’ll have to remove your shoes whenever you enter temples, people’s homes, spas, and other establishments, so wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off. 

Avoid Touching Other People’s Heads

The head is considered the holiest part of the body, so you should never touch someone’s head.

It seems unlikely that you would touch someone’s head anyway, but just be aware that it is seen as disrespectful so try to avoid that. 

Dress Respectfully

When entering temples, you have to abide by the dress code.

In addition to removing your shoes, you have to wear clothes that cover your knees, shoulders, chest and stomach. 

There is no strict dress code for everyday life, but Thais do tend to dress modestly.

Respect their way of life by covering up a bit more.

You are perfectly fine wearing shorts and T-shirt’s when it is hot out, just try to hide areas like cleavage and the midriff so you seem a bit more aware of the Thai modesty.

Ask Before Photographing People

Before taking a photo of someone, ask for their permission.

If you see a local wearing a traditional garment or a monk praying in a temple, this can be a beautiful image to capture.

Thais are usually very friendly, so if you ask for a photo they will most likely oblige. 

If you need more help with this, check out our guide to travel photography tips for beginners.

Travel Tips for Thailand
A photogenic Thai girl posing for a photo.

Respect the King

Thais love their king. You’ll find posters, monuments, emblems, and other displays of affection with the king’s face plastered on them.

All that this means for travellers is to respect monarchy and never say anything negative or offensive about the king. 

Learn to Love the Ladyboys

Be prepared to see lots of ladyboys…or not see them.

Ladyboys are Thai men who dress up as women, and sometimes they do it so well that you would never even notice the difference.

You can attend a cabaret show to see the ladyboys performing their hearts out, or you can just wander through the streets of Bangkok and try to spot them in the crowds. 

Bargain with Dignity

Bargaining for goods at street markets is a huge part of travelling to Thailand.

Definitely give it a try, but always be respectful and don’t bargain too low.

See what the original price is, and slowly try and lower the cost down.

Generally speaking, half of the original price is as low as you should go. Anything lower than that may offend the vendor.

If you are buying something handmade or truly unique and special, just pay the full price as your money will benefit the local artist and community.

READ MORE: Know what to bring with you with our Thailand packing list.

Budget Travel Tips for Thailand 

I get it, you’re trying to save money when you travel. We all are.

So here are some budget-specific travel tips for Thailand.

Consider the Economy of the Country

Generally speaking, the north of Thailand is cheaper than the south.

Besides popular cities like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, there aren’t many tourist destinations in the north of Thailand so the prices haven’t been hiked up.

If you are really trying to stretch your money to last a long time, consider spending more time exploring the north of the country than the south. 

Stay in Hostels

Staying in hostels will be cheaper than staying in hotels.

This Thailand travel tip can actually apply to any country, but you’ll find hostels in Thailand to cost as little as 6 USD per night.

On average, hostels cost between 6 to 13 USD per night.

Thailand is such an affordable destination that even nice hotels can be cheap, but you’ll save the most money by staying in hostels. 

Eat Like The Locals

Eat street food whenever possible! Thailand has some incredible local food, and the locals known how to cook it the best.

Definitely treat yourself to a few nice restaurants, but you’ll find that the street food tastes the same, if not better than the expensive stuff.

Do trust your judgment though. If you have a sensitive stomach, maybe skip the meat and seafood and eat safer street food, like noodles and fruits. 

Street Food in Thailand
Street food in Thailand can be pretty awesome

Avoid Drinking Too Much

Drink responsibly to save money. Partying and buying lots of drinks in bars or clubs always adds up quicker than we’d like to think.

If you’re on a tight budget, limit your drinking to a few beers a week and you’ll save a lot.

Also be on the lookout for happy hours so you can get discounted drinks, or consider buying some drinks from the liquor store for cheaper prices. 

Consider just cutting down on drinking in general if you want to save the most money; you’ll also have a clearer head and fewer hangovers so you can enjoy exploring even more.

Find the Cheapest Form of Transportation

Compare different forms of transportation to find the cheapest option.

Thailand has an extensive network of travel options.

For travelling short distances you can take a tuk-tuk, rent a motorbike, or hop into a songtaew (red pick up trucks that serve as shared taxis).

For travelling long distances, you can take buses, minivans, trains, or planes.

One transport option isn’t always cheaper than the others, so ask around, do some research, and try to find the cheapest option before you travel. 

I recommend you start off by using 12Go.asia as a guide. You’ll often find the best price here, but do your research.

Fly Budget Airlines

If you plan on flying around the country, choose budget airlines like Nok Air, Lion Air, Air Asia, Vietjet, Orient Thai or Thai Smile.

Any of these reputable airlines can get you across the country quickly and cheaply.

Because budget airlines are so cheap, they often charge extra for other things like food, drinks, and bags.

To save the most money, pack your own food and water, and keep your bags to carry-on size. 

Health Tips for Thailand Travel

It’s important to stay healthy when you travel, and Thailand is no exception.

Purchase Travel Insurance

Always travel with travel insurance.

You never know what will happen abroad, especially if you are taking part in more extreme activities like riding motorbikes, hiking mountains, cliff-jumping, and doing water sports.

Even if you don’t plan on doing crazy sports, you still want to be covered in case you get sick. 

READ MORE: Check out this post if you need more reasons to purchase travel insurance.

Important Note! Before you book any international trip, we honestly recommend getting travel insurance. You never know when things will go wrong, and medical bills can add up quickly if you get sick or injure yourself overseas.

Our personal recommendation based on our own experience is World Nomads.

Consult Your Doctor

Visit your doctor at home before you visit Thailand. Ask them if they recommend taking any medications or if you need any vaccinations before you go. 

Don’t Drink the Tap Water

The tap water is not safe for drinking in Thailand.

Bring a reusable water bottle that you can refill at drinking water stations, or bring your own filter so you can always have clean water.

You can buy bottled water in Thailand, but try to reduce your plastic waste whenever possible!

Use Sun Protection

Always wear sunscreen. Whether you are on the beach, in the city or in the mountains, whether it is sunny or cloudy, just wear sunscreen to be safe.

The sun is so strong in Thailand, so you are always at risk of burning, no matter what skin type you have.

You may want to bring your own sunscreen from home, as the prices are quite expensive in Thailand. 

Also, wear sunglasses and a hat whenever possible.

READ MORE: Plan your trip with our 1,2 and 3 week Thailand itineraries.

Safety Tips for Travelling in Thailand

Thailand is overall a very safe country for tourists.

Just use common sense and street smarts and you shouldn’t have any problems. 

Avoid Petty Theft

The biggest crime for tourists to encounter in Thailand is just petty theft.

To keep your belongings safe, lock your stuff in a safe or locker at your accommodation and try not to bring too many valuables out with you while exploring.

Only take as much money as you think you’ll need, and avoid wearing flashy jewellery or expensive watches as it makes you a target for pickpockets.

Carry your belongings in a secure bag that you can always have a hand or an eye on, especially when walking through large crowds. 

Take Caution on Public Transport

Also, try to keep your baggage safe when travelling on local buses.

Especially on overnight buses or when your bags are thrown up onto the roof of the bus, lock everything up and keep your most important items on your person in a smaller handbag. 

Stick With a Group

Try to avoid walking around alone at night. This is common knowledge, but it is so true.

Stick with a group and don’t stray too far from the touristy areas unless you are very familiar with the area.

If you’re travelling alone, you’ll be fine to sightsee during the day or check out touristy areas at night on your own.

But if you plan on straying off-the-beaten-path, try to find a travel buddy in your hostel to accompany you, especially at night. 

Tuk tuk at night in thailand
Exercise extra caution at night

Be Safe on the Road

Drivers in Thailand can be insane to say the least.

Sometimes road traffic doesn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason, and some locals drive super fast.

You’ll see about 10 people on motorbikes in one lane, all packed close together and whipping around corners.

It is a bit scary, so always pick bus companies that are reputable so you know you are safe on the road. 

If you plan on driving in Thailand, either in a rental car or on a motorbike, be very careful at all times!

Like I said, local drivers can be crazy so always be aware of them and make sure you drive carefully.

On a motorbike, always wear your helmet. 

What NOT to Do in Thailand

Now for some tips for how to act, or more importantly how NOT to act, in Thailand.

These are some of the most important things to know before you go travelling in Thailand.

Do Not Flaunt Your Feet

Do not use your feet for anything except for walking.

As mentioned earlier, the feet are the dirtiest part of the body and doing anything out of the ordinary with your feet is considered disrespectful.

That means no putting your feet up on seats, no pointing at things with your feet, and no pushing or moving things with your feet.

Keep them pointed away from people, or under your body and out of sight. 

Do Not Ride Elephants

There are lots of companies that exploit animals for the purpose of tourism, which is a sad and horrible reality.

Elephants’ spines are made to carry lots of weight underneath them, not above them.

That means riding elephants puts lots of stress on their bodies and can be extremely harmful.

There are some elephant sanctuaries that rescue elephants and keep them in a safe environment.

Here, you can visit with the elephants, photograph them, and observe them without harming them.

So if you are eager to see Asian elephants in their natural habitat, always do your research to ensure you are choosing an ethical tour company, and never book a tour that allows you to ride the elephants. 

Let me say it again. DO NOT RIDE ELEPHANTS!!!!!!!!!!

Check out our complete guide to sustainable tourism.

Do Not Disrespect the Buddha

Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand, so the Buddha is highly revered by locals.

When visiting temples and statues of the Buddha, avoid taking any inappropriate or goofy photos and avoid touching the Buddha.

You are also not supposed to point your feet directly at the Buddha since the feet are considered dirty.

That is why you’ll see locals kneeling with their feet pointed behind them when praying to the Buddha. 

Do Not Touch the Buddhist Monks

Especially if you are a woman, avoid touching the monks in any way.

That means no hand-shakes or hugs, and sometimes you can’t even hand them anything; you’ll have to put it on the ground first for them to pick up.

Buddhist monks are not allowed to touch women, so, therefore, women should not touch them either.

Monks
Monks are a highly-respected part of daily life in Thailand

Do Not Stand Taller Than a Monk

Do not put yourself in a physically higher position than a monk.

If a monk is sitting down, you should not stand next to him, but lower yourself down to his level.

The monks are some of the most highly respected people in Thailand, so they take their traditions very seriously.

Do Not Make a Scene in Public

In Thailand and lots of other Asian cultures, modesty and respect are very important.

Try not to attract attention to yourself in any way.

That means no screaming, yelling, arguing or fighting, and no excessive public displays of affection.

Just carry yourself in a poised and humble manner and you will blend in with the locals more. 

Do Not Abandon Your Passport

Do not leave your passport with any tour companies, medical centres, or scooter rental companies.

Some businesses can be sketchy, and leaving them with your most valuable travel item gives them the opportunity to scam you.

Always carry a paper copy of your passport and give that to them instead.

Do Not Overstay Your Visa

Do not stay in Thailand longer than your visa allows.

Thais are pretty strict with their immigration rules in terms of overstaying visas.

Usually, in your passport they will write the ending date for your visa, so make sure you leave before then.

If you fall in love with the country and want to stay longer, which very well may happen, you can apply for a visa extension. 

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About the author

Gabby Boucher

After four years of working in hospitality, volunteering abroad and travelling for fun, Gabby has developed a knack for budget travel and admiration for different cultures. Her travels have taken her through the cloud forests of Ecuador, into the villages of eastern Europe, across the islands of Thailand, and to the beaches of New South Wales, Australia, where she is currently living with a working holiday visa. She plans to continue her adventures around the world for as long as possible. Follow her on her blog, and on Instagram.

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