Kiwis love to travel and explore the unknown. Ellen shares with us her top tips on navigating through this colourful, fragrant country – Thailand. A ‘real’ guide to travelling in this part of the world, don’t be caught out by anything unexpected. Read on and prepare for the pending wanderlust!
1) Know the weather
It sounds silly, but the wet season in Thailand can be SERIOUSLY damp, so be prepared for that. However, this is very unlike a southern hemisphere winter. It may downpour, but the rain will practically evaporate off your skin. If you’re feeling precious, disposable rainwear is available almost anywhere in Thailand.
Thai toilets are slightly lower to the ground than we’re used to, but for the most part, really clean and user-friendly. But when heading out to town, to old or remote locations, definitely take a loo paper with you as it’s likely you’ll encounter a squatter. Also, it’s really common to have a shower hose to act as a bidet in this part of the world. Embrace it.
3) To haggle or not to haggle
As a western tourists headed over to a South Eat Asian country for the first time, haggling is a very new experience. It takes a while to master but is highly useful once you have. When entering into price negotiations, have two prices in mind – the ideal and the top dollar. A good starting point is asking if the merchant would offer a discount, and they almost always will. Usually, you can start at half of what they offer you and go from there. Stand your ground, but also, know when it’s appropriate to let it go. Also, there are things that you do not haggle for. This will be quite obvious, but don’t push the boundaries.
4) Street food
The street food in Thailand is amazing! From weird and wonderful delicacies to really great classics we know and love (Enter pad thai, kebabs, smoothies, etc.), there’s something to satisfy anyone’s taste. We had very little trouble with street food but do ensure you eat where lots of other do (particularly locals) and preferably where they cook it in front of you. Common in Thailand are fabulous smoothies, exclusively of tropic fruit and a little ice, however, often this can be from tap water which is not recommended for drinking. Load up on a little alcohol, travel with some emergency meds and you’ll be sweet.
5) Keep in touch with conversions
The dollar changes daily, and when you’re overseas for any length of time, the amount of money you think you’re spending may vary somewhat. Understanding an exact conversion to a round number is extremely useful, for example; 100 Thai Baht is the equivalent of $4.30 NZD.
6) Learn the basics
Thai people are friendly and super polite, so naturally, it’s nice to return the favour. Ask locals you meet how to say hello, thank you and anything else you fancy. They’ll appreciate it.
7) Must market
Thailand is famous for fabulous markets. Whether venturing up north the Chiang Mai, hanging out in Bangkok or headed for the southern beaches, Thai markets are not to be missed. Full of local wares, branded replicas and delicious food – the markets are loads of fun. An assault to your senses but an experience not to be missed.
8) Fight the bugs
Naturally, as a hot and humid country, Thailand has it fair share of mosquitos. To avoid furious itching and scratching, ensure you dose up on the insect repellent. They are worst at night, so when heading out to town, ensure you’re all dosed up. Also, spray it outside as that stuff is serious potent.
9) Travel with a Hotel Map in the local language
When jumping in and out of taxis, tuk-tuks and open air vans, it’s important to know how to get home. You can zoom around stress-free when you have a guaranteed trip home. Keep a map of your hotel and small sum of cash on your person. The map is often useful if you are unsure where you are and your driver may not speak English.
10) Trust the Blog
When travelling in Thailand but indeed in any foreign country, there is a centurion perception that as a tourist you will only want to do certain activities. This can lead to overseas trips jam packed with “attractions” and not experiences. I encourage you to seek out advice from local bloggers or travel bloggers who have visited the area. They may help identify the coolest local op shops, eateries and ultimately, memories. Go beyond the souvenirs and really get amongst the city.
11) Avoid wine
In Thailand, the beverage of choice is definitely beer, Chang please. Closely followers by spirits in wild cocktails – drinking in Thailand is economic, so enjoy it. However, if you’re on any kind of budget, don’t bother with wine. Heavily taxed within the country, this drop is better enjoyed at home.
12) Respect the culture
Thai people are incredibly friendly and accepting. However, are unlikely to respond well to anger and outrage. Respect the religion and monarchy. Buddha is everywhere and Buddhism is the most widely practised religion in the country. Their king and queens are adored unconditionally throughout the country. These are all things to bear in mind when staying here. Also, to Thai people, the head is very sacred, so don’t touch their head. Ever. Thai people love a good laugh, so don’t be afraid to strike up a chat and open with a joke (however dadd-ish)