Thailand Tips Part 2

thailand travel tips

If you haven’t already, go look at Thailand Tips – Part 1

Thailand Tips for Money and budget

  • Nearly every price is negotiable — ask for a discount! Fixed prices would include prices in chain supermarkets, department stores, drinks, and some transportation tickets. You will get a feel for when you can negotiate. Never take the first price!
  • Always expect to pay more in touristy areas. Negotiation will be much tougher as well because packaged tourists generally do not negotiate prices.
  • Large-denomination banknotes can be very difficult to change or spend. Unfortunately, you’ll get many from ATMs. When entering an amount at the ATM, choose a number that ensures at least a few smaller bills. (i.e., 900 baht as opposed to 1,000 baht)
  • Large notes such as 1,000s can generally be changed at supermarkets, minimarts (7-11), fast-food places, and for transportation tickets without much hassle. You can also save them to pay your guesthouse.
  • Do not accept torn notes or notes that are too faded to read — they may be difficult to spend.
  • Many taxis and vendors will have no change so that they may keep the difference in price. Try to have smaller bills in your pockets at all times. But play the change game and see if they will take the larger banknotes first!
  • In markets, the first sale of the day for a vendor is the “lucky sale” and you have much more negotiation power and can sometimes land a better price. Arrive early to markets as vendors are setting up and start negotiating.
  • ALWAYS negotiate a price first before getting inside of transportation without a meter (i.e., tuk-tuks). Try to find an honest taxi driver who will turn on the meter — it will save you money. Don’t believe when people tell you that the meter is broken.
  • ATMs usually offer the best exchange rates. Otherwise, be wary of changing money on the street or on the black market. Count your money before the guy walks away, don’t let him do the counting for you. A small calculator can be handy for clearing up any disagreements.
  • If using Traveler’s Checks, carry larger denominations such as $50 or $100. You will be charged a fee per check when cashing them and this can add up if you have a lot of small notes.
  • If you are going to be in an area for a few days, buy a large five-liter bottle of water and use it to refill smaller bottles. This saves money and keeps you from contributing to the existing refuse problem.
  • Never ask a taxi driver for accommodation or restaurant recommendations. They will always plug a family member’s business. Never let them talk you into changing your original destination, many times they get a commission and you get to pay the difference!
  • Farangs (people who are not Thai) will usually pay a higher price for services and goods in markets.

Thailand Transportation

  • Life in Southeast Asia, especially Thailand, moves at a different speed. Don’t be in a hurry! Buses and even trains breakdown frequently. Don’t lose your cool, remember – mai pen rai!
  • T.A.T. is NOT a real government agency and they are there for one reason: to make money! Book tickets directly yourself and save a bundle.
  • Always settle on a price to a destination before getting inside a taxi.
  • Taxis in the queue directly in front of the airport or an event will ALWAYS be more expensive than flagging ones on the street yourself. You’ll usually have to pay an additional fee for using coupon-based taxis from the airport.
  • To hitchhike, you point at the ground in front of you rather than sticking your thumb out.
  • When hiring a motorcycle, be sure to point out any defects or scratches before you take it. Sometimes a stiff inspection follows after you return a bike and you may be charged for damage.
  • Don’t agree to allow your tuk-tuk driver to stop at shops. This is a very old scam.
  • Keep your knees and elbows tucked in tight when riding on the back of a motorcycle taxi!
  • Always wear sunglasses when driving a motorbike. Not only will you look cool, it will keep the masses of insects from hitting your eyes at high speeds. Thailand has one of the highest traffic fatality rates in the world; wear your helmet!
  • If you don’t have a guidebook, search for the town name on http://images.google.com and print maps for cheap in the internet cafes.
  • Night trains are a cheap (and enjoyable) way to get from A to B. You save a night’s accommodation price and wake up at your destination. Top bunks are smaller but cheaper. Beware of extremely expensive food and drinks! The attendants work mostly for commission so they can be pushy.
  • When choosing your seat on the bus, take into consideration which direction you are traveling and which side of the bus the sun will be hitting. The closer you are to an axle, the bumpier the ride; sit in the middle. If there is AC available, count on it being cold enough to snow inside; keep something warm handy.
  • Don’t pay extra for “VIP” buses. They usually aren’t VIP, or sometimes they conveniently “break down” and a regular bus is substituted instead (with no refund of course).
  • Don’t lose your booking tickets from travel agencies. There is no common network and getting another printed could be impossible. Refunds for lost tickets never happen.
  • ALWAYS use your motorbike lock chain that was provided when parking overnight. You don’t want to have a bike rolled away.

Thailand Tips for Staying Alive

  • Don’t believe what guidebooks say: ice in tourist bars and restaurants is usually safe.
  • Even small scrapes and cuts can become easily infected in a dirty and humid tropical environment. Popping blisters allows bacteria inside; don’t open them until you are home and clean. Carry a small bottle of liquid bandage to quickly apply to cuts and small scrapes.
  • Only take anti-diarrhea medication if you will be on the move or absolutely have to do so. Loperamide traps bacteria inside your gut rather than allowing it to be flushed out. You can control minor stomach fluctuations by eating bananas (to slow down) or drinking green coconut milk (to speed up).
  • It goes without saying: never drink local water. If local water is brown or smells funny, brush your teeth with bottled water.
  • TD (traveler’s diarrhea) is normal for the first week or two when you change bacteria zones around the world. You can get your stomach back to normal by eating several bananas a day along with yogurt. Avoid spicy food, no matter how tempting, until your stomach settles.
  • HIV and prostitution are rampant in Thailand. Don’t let a thin piece of latex separate you from life or death.
  • Many local-brand condoms have a high failure rate because of poor storage techniques in the hot weather.
  • Sunblock prices and deodorant choices aren’t great in Thailand because locals don’t wear much of either. Beware of products that contain whitening agents — many do!
  • When swimming in the ocean, be conscious of drainage ditches and pipes. Many times they may contain raw sewage. Don’t swim in local rivers or streams if you have an open cut or wound.
  • There is no vaccination for dengue fever, a serious problem in Southeast Asia. Be smart: take precautions to avoid daytime bites (dengue mosquitoes typically bite during the day). You’ll receive the most bites under the tables when eating at dusk. Always use your mosquito net.
  • Turn your lights off when leaving home to avoid attracting extra insects. Check your mosquito netting for holes before going to bed. You can spray holes with DEET. Gecko lizards are noisy but eat other insects, so let them stay inside your bungalow!
  • If you are refilling a water bottle, avoid touching the cap or the threads. Smell your bottle first before drinking, and change it out every few days to avoid bacteria buildup.
  • Ginger is a great natural preventative for motion sickness. Dramamine works but can also double as a sleeping pill (not always bad on long trips) due to the drowsy side effects.
  • ALWAYS carry toilet paper in your pocket. It will rarely be available in public toilets. And never, ever flush it! Put paper into the bucket or can with a lid near the toilet.

Good to Know while Backpacking in Thailand

  • Don’t take expensive sandals or flip-flops. Often someone will “swap” with you in the pile of shoes left outside entrance ways.
  • In internet cafes, always check the login domain to make sure it is not a screen designed to capture your email password. (It happens) Change your password frequently when on the road. Make sure that Skype logged out properly (some versions want to persist in the Windows tray bar) or someone could drain your account.
  • If you pay to have your laundry done, check for missing items before you walk away. Clothing often gets mixed up between travelers. Doing laundry at your guesthouse rather than at a public laundromat is usually safer for recovering lost items.
  • Plan on your laundry taking over 24 hours to dry in the humid weather. In other words, don’t wash laundry the night before a long bus trip in the morning.
  • You can save loads of money by learning your numbers, how to ask prices, and negotiate in Thai. Vendors will almost always give you a smile (and a better price) when you try their language. Don’t worry about the tones at first. The numbers aren’t that hard to learn!
  • Leave the price tag on your books for more bargaining power later when you trade them at bookstores or with other travelers.
  • Memorize your passport number or have it written on something handy — you will use it a lot when checking in. Don’t make a scene digging it out of your “secret” money belt in front of everyone!
  • Be careful when approached to buy drugs from locals. Not only are drugs illegal in Thailand, but sometimes sellers work in pairs with police officers who will then relieve you of the drugs and your money! (in the form of a bribe)
  • Always look at a room before you check in. Only pay for the first day, then renew later if it turns out to be OK. In the islands, check the beach at different times; you may have been checking in during high tide which would hide an unpleasant rocky sea floor.
  • Keep a journal of your trip from the beginning, you will be forever glad that you did. Better yet, start a travel blog and share your adventure with everyone!
  • When uploading your pictures in internet cafes, always set the write-protect switch on your memory card to protect yourself from the viruses. iPods can become infected while charging, too!
  • If you can, always return to support the same businesses such as internet cafes and markets. They will get to know your face, provide better service, and sometimes give you discounts!
  • The best travel advice comes from other travelers — talk to everyone! If you show yourself friendly, you will make new backpacker friends faster than you can write down their email addresses.

Read How to travel Thailand cheap!

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