Having traveled around Thailand for almost a month, I’ve definitely learned a thing or two. I may not have been “roughing it” like some of the backpackers we met on our trip, but I still did a lot of authentic Thai things and for the most part traveled like a local. That being said, there are a ton of Thailand travel tips that I learned that I’d like to share with you in case any of you want to jump on a plane to Thailand in the near future too. Okay, let’s begin:
1. If you want to be frugal, head north
As beautiful as the islands in the south are, and as exciting as the hustle and bustle of Bangkok is, if you really want to get the most bang for your baht, head north. Not only is it significantly cooler in temperature (and thus more bearable to walk the streets mid-day), but the cost of accommodation, food, drinks, and activities are a fraction of the cost.
Moreover, Chiang Mai was probably my favourite place in Thailand. The people were friendly, it wasn’t too busy or overwhelmed with tourists, and there was so much culture and history to see.
2. Clean food, good taste
If you are an adventurous eater then you’ll probably want to dive right into all the street food that Thailand has to offer. Since I’m a pretty picky eater, I needed to eat my meals at either a café or restaurant.
The street food honestly scared the sh** out of me (fish on a stick? No thanks!) and I really wanted to avoid getting food poisoning in a foreign country. A useful tip I learned to make sure a restaurant was safe to eat in was if it had a “Clean Food, Good Taste” sign hanging inside. It’s part of a food sanitation project launched by Thailand’s Department of Health in which all establishments that qualify as a clean, safe, and sanitary get to one of these signs.
But again, that’s not to say that if a place doesn’t have this sign, the food isn’t totally okay to eat. Just use your best judgement, and if you do want to eat the street food, rule of thumb is to avoid any cart without any customers at it. If it’s not busy, it’s probably for a reason.
3. Avoid the moon parties
Listen, I never actually went to a full-moon or half-moon party when I was in the south of Thailand, but everyone I met who did go said that those parties were insane. I’m talking drugs, hookers, buckets of booze, flaming skip rope competitions, you name, it’ll be there!
Hey, maybe that actually sounds right up your alley, I’m not judging. But just so you know, when I was staying in Ko Lanta I heard about two Canadian sisters found dead in Ko Pi Pi after ingesting DEET, a bug repellent that is also used as a drug, that was mixed in cocktails that they had at one of these parties.
I know I’ll have to die one day, but I sure don’t want it to be in a puddle of my own vomit. Also, drugs and prostitution are both still illegal in Thailand, and those parties are crawling with undercover cops who could put you in jail.
4. Beware of the “happy shake”
Another thing I didn’t try nor wanted to try was the “happy shake”. If someone offers you a happy shake, know that it will make you happy because there are magic mushrooms in it. Drugs aren’t my thing, but even if they were I’m not sure if I’d want it in shake form. Just sayin’.
5. Free Wi-Fi is everywhere
And I mean everywhere! Even street carts on the side of the road offer free Wi-Fi. It’s great because if you plan on bringing your iPad or tablet with you (which I highly recommend, we got a ton of use out of ours), you’ll never have to pay for internet or go to an internet café your whole trip. Thank you Thailand for being so up with the times! Now, why is Canada so far behind?
6. McDonald’s delivers
You read that right, in Thailand McDonald’s has a delivery service! Again, why don’t we have this in Canada? It’s brilliant!
7. PDA is not okay
Even though my BF and I spent almost every waking hour with each other for a month, when we got back to Vancouver, we told each other that in some ways we grew closer, and in other ways more distant. The thing in Thailand is PDA is not okay. That means no kissing, hugging, or hand-holding in public. It’s just part of their culture, and since we wanted to fit in we abided by those rules.
It was weird not being able to hold hands with each other like we did at home, and even though we did eventually get used to it, it was nice to be able to show PDA again when we got back home.
8. Driving in Thailand looks way worse than it actually is
I won’t deny that the traffic in Bangkok and most of Thailand was something I’ve never seen before (bumper to bumper from morning to night, and motorbikes weaving through cars), but even still I never felt unsafe in a tuk tuk, cab, or as a pedestrian. Actually, in our whole trip I only witnessed two accidents.
One was a mere fender-bender, and the second one was a motorbike losing control throwing off the driver and passenger. In both cases no one was hurt, which makes me think maybe we are really the bad drivers over here?
9. If you go to Chiang Mai, say hi to John
One of my favourite finds in Chiang Mai was John’s Gallery. It was the coolest looking whole in the wall, with some of the neatest artwork and wood carvings I’ve ever seen. We literally stumbled into it on our way back from dinner one night, and after buying a few little postcard sized paintings, we came back a few days later and got some really neat wood carvings and boxes.
The best part is, John makes most of the art himself, but everything else is made by this Thai hill tribe that he used to be a part of. Thanks to The Only Way is Asia‘s blog, I can let you know where to find it too: 330 Tha Pae Road, Chiang Mai.
10. Get used to the bum gun
Okay, fine, the Thais don’t actually call the hose in their bathrooms a bum gun, but my BF said he found the term on some British guy’s travel blog and it just stuck with us. Because many places in Thailand have old plumbing, even if there is toilet paper in the bathroom, you aren’t allowed to flush it down the toilet.
Instead, you have to put it into a garbage bin. Ya, I know, kind of gross, but that’s where the bum gun comes in. It’s what you use to basically hose your parts off before using any toilet paper. I personally never got used to the bum gun, and am so thankful that going to the bathroom in Canada is way less complicated.
If anyone else has any questions about Thailand travel tips, I’d be happy to try and answer!