There’s a reason Thailand is known as the ‘land of the smiles’ – the country’s people are pure magic and it’s easy to fall big-time for their warmth and happiness. Added to that, scenery that packs a major punch, beaches that are among the world’s best, cities that buzz with chaos and life and beautiful temples that punctuate the landscape, and you’re in for a real treat. Here are some things to note before your stay.
Contrary to popular belief, Bangkok is no longer a city of traffic jams and endless travel time. While congestion still exists, it moves much easier following the developed of the BTS Skytrain, which is the cleanest, easiest (most air-conditioned) way to get around town, along with the city’s MRT Subway. A day pass for either allows you to travel everywhere for the equivalent of just a few pounds. Taxis are also available and are usually metered.
Tuk-tuks, a traveller favourite, are fun and practically an Asian rite of passage, but they’re around four times more expensive than a taxi, even for locals. The petite rickshaws duck and dive their way through the traffic with no meters, so it’s always best to agree a price beforehand. Most tuk-tuk drivers are legitimate and will take you directly to your destination, but some aren’t so honest and will tell you the temple/shop/attraction you want to visit is closed, often proposing a supposedly much better option. Don’t believe them and try another driver. Thais are a very honest people though and scams are rare, but like any major city, it’s sensible to take precautions.
Water buses are another scenic way to travel in Bangkok and there are various stops along the Chao Phraya River for you to hop on and off from. Don’t delay when getting up and down though as time is tight for drivers, who will sometimes rev the engine to hurry passengers along.
If you rent a motorised vehicle of any kind, insurance may or may not be on offer (although we’d always recommend being protected before you head out). If it is an option and you do take it out, from some dealers it will be worth little or nothing – even the slightest scratch can sometimes result in a colossal bill. It’s possible to negotiate this price, but the company will no doubt have your passport, so ultimately, they are able to hold you to ransom.
Thai cuisine is some of the most delicious in the world. And the Thais certainly love their spice – make sure to check the level of heat before ordering as most dishes will have a kick of some sort. Always specify a less spicy dish if you have a delicate palette – much like the country’s beloved massages, it’s always best to ease yourself in gently, as a strong Thai massage with no warm-up can feel like a full-on muscle crush! Let your palette and your muscles adapt to these Thai specialities and you’re sure to work up to full strength with both.
ATMs are found across the country and credit cards are widely accepted. Tipping is not expected in Thailand, but with many Thais earning poor wages, the additional income received from tips is always much appreciated. And like anywhere in the world, if you receive good service, a monetary nod of thanks is a welcome gesture. If service warrants a tip, you can add 10% of the bill at restaurants, the equivalent of £4-5 per day per person for guides and £2 for drivers and £1-£2 per day for hotel staff – servers, porters and the housekeeping team.
Markets are treasure troves of beautiful Thai crafts and many items will have inflated prices for tourists. Bargaining is expected – remain smiling as you negotiate, just as the Thais do, and you’ll no doubt fall on a price you’re both happy with. Keep a top price in your head and be willing to walk away and there are many great deals to be had.
Thai people are incredibly inviting, friendly and generally curious towards tourists. There are one or two traditions to be aware of when traversing the country, but most Thai people are tolerant and forgiving, so a misstep here or there isn’t a disaster. Ensure you cover shoulders and legs in places of worship and always remove shoes. Bikinis and skimpier clothing should remain on the beach and public displays of affection are frowned upon. Do not touch the heads of adults, or children, and don’t point using your feet, especially towards Buddha or a monk. Avoid touching monks. Do not criticise the king, which is illegal and never walk on a banknote, which bears his face. The national anthem is played in public places at 8am and 6pm every day to pay tribute to the king – Thais will stop what they’re doing and listen and tourists should follow suit.
On landing in Thailand, you’ll fill out and hand in an arrival card, then be given half of it back. Keep this card safe as you’ll need it for your return journey.
Packed with extraordinary sites and amazing people, when it comes to dreamy destinations, Thailand is a one-stop shop that always delivers.
Massages are a way of life in Thailand. A therapeutic practice, they relieve muscle tension and various aches and pains and serve as a fantastic stress reliver. Prices vary greatly according to therapists and location: expect to pay 300 Thai baht on the beach or in smaller towns, while 3,000 baht is the norm in spas and luxury hotels.
Many great custom tailors offer suits, dresses or shirts made according to your measurements at the same cost of ready-to-wear. Our tip is to allow enough time to get the measurements and fittings exactly right, so each garment fits like a second skin.
Communications in Thailand are cheap when you use a local SIM card. Cards can easily be purchased in mini-markets and depending on the device model, cost from 50 baht. Our tip – add the number of your hotel’s concierge to your phone and send a text with your name, so they will be easy to reach and you can make the most of the service.
Whatever colour of taxi you jump into, each one practices the same official rate, with the meter running from 35 baht. During rush hour in bigger Thai cities, some taxis refuse to turn on the meter because of traffic jams. In this case, it is necessary to negotiate the price, or take public transport to avoid the prices of the congestion zones. Various water taxis on the Chao Praya River are ideal for tours of Chinatown, flower markets, the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Express boats depart from the pier at the foot of the BTS Saphan Taksin, with 10 stops on the route. The price of a ticket is usually around £1.