Time and time again you’ve seen friends come back wearing baggy elephant pants you wouldn’t dream of wearing in the UK, arms full of rope bracelets and a cracking tan, musing about their fabulous trip to Thailand, how much they’ve learned about themselves/the culture and most importantly, how bloody cheap it is. It’s all strangely endearing isn’t it? So, if you’re thinking about travelling to Thailand and experiencing this amazing country for yourself, you might want to arm yourself with our Cheat Sheet – telling you everything you need to know about this little Asian paradise.
Seasons in Thailand:
- March – June is the hot season (highs of 32 degrees)
- July – November is the wet season – later in the season is when it’s the rainiest, whereas in the beginning it usually only rains for one or two hours a day
- November – February is the cooler season (average is still around 25 degrees, so not cool to us Brits)
Top 5 phrases:
We’re all used to being told to use our manners by our parents, so if you want to sound more polite when greeting someone in Thai, you need to add ‘khap’ to the end of the greeting if you’re a guy, and ‘kha’ if you’re a woman.
Sa-wat dee (hello)
Used for both hello and goodbye.
Khop koon (thank you)
How to show your appreciation once you’ve been handed your Singha beer and pad Thai.
Gee baht? (how much)
Essential for all the shopping you’ll be doing, or when haggling with tuk-tuk drivers.
Yoo tee nai…? (where is…)
Invaluable when lost! Just point at a place on your map or in your guidebook and say ‘yoo tee nai’. Also useful when you are trying to find the right bus to go to Phuket or otherwise.
Mai ow (don’t want)
Useful for fending off persistent street vendors.
Top 5 foods to try:
A tasty noodle dish with egg, peanuts, veggies and your choice of meat (if you want it), you’ll find this dish absolutely everywhere, but you can snag great ones from street vendors from as little as 30 baht (approx 70p).
Thai green/red curry
Where else to try this creamy, spicy curry than in its native land?! You’ll never be able to buy the sauce in a jar again…
If you sweat at a korma then maybe a Thai green curry isn’t the choice for you, however the Massaman curry is a mild but equally delicious local curry made with potatoes, coconut milk and peanuts.
Mango and sticky rice
On a hot day there’s nothing like a ripe and juicy mango to cool you down – pair it with some cold, sticky rice mixed with coconut milk and you’re on to a winner!
Tourists flock to fried insects like moths to a flame – we still have no idea why, but when you walk down Khao San Road you’ll be inundated with great offers of fried spiders, scorpions, frogs, and various insects. Thailand, you do spoil us.
Top 5 places to visit:
The cosmopolitan side of Thailand, Bangkok mixes the modern with the ‘authentic’ Thailand. In some places, like Koh San Road, you’ll find a lot of tourist traps, but go for a wander and you’ll find temples, landmarks and markets dotted along the streets. Take a taxi to a floating market, visit Wat Arun temple or the Grand Palace.
Chiang Mai is about a 6-hour bus ride north of Bangkok and is well-known for its elephant sanctuaries. Stay for a little longer and you’ll discover temples and shrines around every corner, a famous night market in the Old Town, and lush jungle and waterfalls as part of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.
A perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, Pai is located about an hour north of Chiang Mai, with accommodation nestled into fields, nightly food markets, beautiful natural surroundings and calming hippy vibes.
A little slice of heaven by day, a crazy party scene by night – at least when the Full Moon Party is happening. If you enjoy chilling on a beach but also appreciate a good party, Koh Phangan is the place to go.
Koh Phi Phi
This island south-west of Bangkok is well-travelled by backpackers, probably due to the diverse lifestyle that you can enjoy while being there. On the one hand, there’s a lot of bars and clubs that cater to a crazy night out, on the other hand there’s some incredibly chilled bars, secluded bays and beaches, and it’s home to the famous Maya Bay (aka the beach from ‘The Beach’).
Top 5 packing tips:
It’s so hot you’ll barely end up wearing much, plus you’ll need all the space in your case to stock up on all the elephant pants and beer-branded vests your hearts desires. Don’t forget your plug adaptor though!
Pack a good pair of flip flops/sandals
You’ll walk, a lot. So, get a decent pair of shoes to do it in – none of this £1 nonsense.
Camera with waterproof casing/GoPro
Thailand will turn you into a mermaid with all its swimming, snorkeling, waterfalling and diving activities. You want to make sure you capture the footage!
A good book
You’ll tally up a good number of hours on coaches/trains/planes or just chilling on a beach – pack a good book to pass the time, then look out for the book swaps around Thailand so you can switch it out for free when it’s done!
We’re sorry about this one guys, but girls, if you’re going to need them – pack them! It can be hard to track them down in Thailand.
Top 5 transport options:
Uber is becoming more and more popular in Asia, but GrabTaxi is just as good – essentially it does the same as Uber, but it hooks you up with registered taxi drivers who don’t rob you blind. Download both apps and use as you want.
A great way of saving on a night’s accommodation, and one of the most fun ways to travel – you’ll get a little bunk with your travel buddies as opposed to busses where you’re constantly struggling to find a comfortable position.
Although it might not always be the most comfortable, it’s often the cheapest way to travel the country and they’re really regular. Plus, you get to see a lot more of rural Thailand this way.
The only option of getting about especially when it comes to the islands in the south of Thailand.
You can fly domestically at cheap prices in Thailand – sometimes you just don’t fancy a 6-hour coach when you can get a 1-hour flight!
Top 5 budgeting tips:
Don’t go crazy just because it’s cheap
We’ve all been there – completely disregarding how much money you have because you think you don’t need to worry… food is like, 40p right?! Sure, you can go a little crazier in Thailand due to their insanely low prices, but it’s still handy to give yourself a daily budget.
Thailand is the perfect place to practice your haggling skills – almost everywhere the prices are negotiable. Just don’t take the piss – the people selling still need to live!
Get a travel money card
Get rid of those annoying bank fees and avoid getting screwed over by commission and exchange rates by getting a travel money card. Loads of them don’t charge you for using your card/withdrawing money from an ATM.
Hostels are super cheap
You can find some amazing hostels in Thailand for as little as £5 a night – no joke. Do some digging around, read the reviews and you could be saving tons of money, which means extra for eating your body weight in delicious food/diving activities/buying a ridiculous amount of elephant pants/volunteer projects with elephants.
Eat like a local
Everywhere you go you’ll find street food stalls lining the pavements selling everything from banana and Nutella roti’s to mouth-watering curry, usually less than half the price of what you’d pay in a restaurant and it’s usually just as good, if not better.
Top 5 Thailand tips in general:
Thailand is a really great place to decide things last minute, whether that’s a tour, a hostel, a coach journey or a totally new destination! Don’t get bogged down sorting everything out before you go – just sort out what you need for the first week and give yourself the chance to travel spontaneously.
If you want to see elephants – do your research
Elephants are beautiful and majestic creatures, so it’s no wonder that most tourists want to see them when they go to Thailand. But just double check the place you’re going to first – if they let you ride them, they’re a no-go. Make sure no elephant suffers for the sake of your enjoyment. Sanctuaries are the way to go.
Travel as much of it as you can
Thailand is so diverse, one moment you could be relaxing in paradise, the next you could be trekking in the jungle – if you’ve got the time, travel the length of the country, you could find somewhere you’d never even heard of before (and they usually end up being your favourite!)
Negotiate costs, especially when it comes to travel
If you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, the locals will pick up on it, especially the taxi drivers. Never accept the first price and always try to haggle/ask them to put their meter on. It gets easier to gauge how much you should be paying the longer you travel.
Download maps.me – it’s amazing anywhere you go
Maps.me is an app which allows you to download the map of the area you’re currently in and then use it offline – no pesky data charges for you!