Thailand is a beautiful country with lots to offer depending on the trip you want. Whether your interested in the big city experiences of Bangkok, the hills and countryside of Northern Thailand, or the beaches of Southern Thailand, there's something for everyone.
In this post, I'm not going to belabor where you should go and where you should stay in the Southeast Asian country. Instead, in this post, I'll share a few do's and don'ts for Americans visiting Thailand, many of which will be applicable for those visiting from just about any Western country.
Let's get started!
Do visit multiple parts of Thailand, if you're able. Like I said, it has so much to offer, so try to experience as much as you can! I've found 3 full days to generally be enough for each stop.
Do make sure you have Thai Baht at all times. A lot of vendors don't take credit or debit cards, so you'll need to make sure you have cash just in case. This is especially true for street vendors and transportation providers (taxis, tuk-tuks, and songthaews). ATMs are generally very easy to find, especially since they're outside of every 7-Eleven, and 7-Elevens are everywhere in Thailand.
Don't let your hotel or anyone else convert your payment into your home currency for you. Their conversion rate from Thai Baht will likely be lower than your bank, and they will charge a service fee on top of that. However, this tip is assuming that you have a debit or credit card that does not charge a currency exchange fee. If you don't, I'd suggest signing up for a travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and/or a bank account from a bank like Ally Bank.
Do use Grab to get around. Grab is a Singapore-based transportation app like Uber or Lyft that enables you to hail rides Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Cambodia. Grab keeps you from needing to negotiate prices with taxi drivers. It also allows you to schedule pickups ahead of time and use a credit card or cash. It makes getting around a lot easier, especially if you're in a less busy part of town.
Do go all out with your accommodations. Because of the value of the Thai Baht versus the US Dollar, everything in Thailand is much cheaper than it would be in the US, and that includes hotels. For example, you can stay at a 5 star hotel for under $200/night in Thailand. Try doing that in the US!
Do go to the night markets. They all have multiple food vendors, so it's a great way to try different things for very cheap. Of course, the markets have lots of different non-food vendors to check out too. All of them pretty much have many of the same tourist items and cheap bags, clothing, etc. Some also have local items and art. Depending on what you're interested in and where you're visiting, do some research to find the best market for you. Note that some markets are only open on certain nights, so it definitely pays to plan ahead.
Do make sure you barter at markets. They are expecting it, so if you don't, you'll just be overpaying.
Don't barter with food vendors, at restaurants, or at westernized stores. You'll likely get weird looks or angry responses.
Do learn a few basic words in Thai because it's polite. Learning words like "hello" and "thank you" go a long way no matter where you're visiting.
Don't stress yourself out about learning Thai before you're trip. Because Thailand has so many tourists, everyone knows a good amount of english. Almost everything is in Thai and English, and most things in the tourist areas are also in Chinese and even Russian.
Do one of the elephant excursions. There are many of them throughout the country, but they're especially popular in Northern Thailand. I did one during my recent visit to Chiang Mai, and it was definitely the highlight of the trip.
Don't go on an elephant excursion with a group that allows you to ride them. This is very bad for the elephants, and those organizations do not take care of them as well as the others. The group that I went with the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, and I'd highly recommend them.
This isn't an exhaustive list of things do's and don'ts for your trip to Thailand, but it's the things I feel like are most important to remember. Thailand is a wonderful country, and I highly suggest visiting at least once! If you have any other questions while planning your trip, please don't hesitate to reach out by commenting below, tweeting me at @c_pritchard, or contacting me through the form here.