Thailand: 10 tips for first time travellers

You have these questions rolling around in your head of how the trip will go and what you will have to experience when you first get to Thailand. I was in your shoes when we finally decided to go there .You will find that Thai people are very warm and friendly toward you and they are more than willing to help you out.  You will also notice that Thai people smile a lot too; hence the nickname ‘The Land of Smiles’.  After visiting the country, I wanted to share with you a list of things you should know before going to Thailand.

  1. Pre-arrival to Thailand: While on the aircraft, sometime during the flight, you will receive an ‘arrival and departure card’ to fill out; they are attached to each other. Carry a pen and fill these cards .These cards are going to get through immigration / passport control.  Keep in mind the lines are very long usually and move slowly.

  1. Visa on Arrival: VOA booth is the first thing you will see after landing. Carry the following documents along with 1000 THB Visa fee.
  • Print Out of Return air ticket paid in full
  • Original Passport
  • Visa fee (keep it in the same zip pouch for convenience)
  • Two passport sized photographs –must. Do carry gum for pasting photos.
  • Evidence of enough funds during your stay in Thailand. At least 10000 THB per person
  1. Currency: Thailand’s currency is called the Thai baht (THB), and it’s around THB1 to Rs. 1.92. International access ATMs can be found across the country, and currency exchange booths are found in all of the international airports and tourist areas. You will be expected to use Thai baht for all cash purchases. Since Indians travel widely to the country, some places accept Indian currencies also. Credit cards are increasingly accepted. We used cash for nearly all day-to-day purchases in Thailand.
  1. Get a local sim: Purchase a one-month unlimited data plan. You have no idea how much it will come in handy. This goes for directions, looking up information, booking last-minute places, making calls, etc. You can also tether it to your laptop or tablet. 
  1. How to Say Hello: Knowing how to say hello in Thailand will get a few smiles, and shows that you have an interest in the local culture beyond what the other tourists show. Say hello in Thailand by offering a ‘wai’ with your hands and saying ‘sawas dee khrap’ (men) or ‘sawas dee kaa’ (women)
  1. Respect the culture: The head is considered the most sacred part of the body, while the feet are the lowest; don’t touch a Thai person on the head under any circumstances, or point your feet (especially the soles) towards anyone – or any sacred image, particularly of the Buddha or the King. Don’t talk about the king. Seriously, not a word.
  1. Don’t drop or stand on currency: It is also rude to drop or stand on currency, as it could be considered disrespectful towards the royal family (Thailand’s reigning monarch is printed on the Thai Baht).
  1. Cover up in temples: It is pretty likely that you will stumble upon an incredibly beautiful temple while wandering around the streets, but make sure you are respectful and cover your shoulders and chest before entering. Landmarks like the Grand Palace and Golden Pagoda require conservative clothing. Always keep a shawl or some long-sleeved clothing in your bag as you may be refused entry or cause offense it you aren’t properly covered.
  1. Use public transportation: The BTS (Subway) and MRT (Light Rail) are cheap, convenient, and fast. You can get just about anywhere using these systems and they are really easy to use. The maps make sense, the token system is efficient and simple. In case you take a Tuk Tuk, make sure he is not taking you to some promotion mid-way. Agree upon a price before taking a Tuk Tuk. Cabs run by meter, so insist that they take you by meter. Keep city map handy, and tell the cab guy about the place you want to go, on the map. They have an issue with our accent, like we have with their accent.
  1. Practice and hone your bargaining skills: Visiting an open-air market is a must-do and it is here that you will find the best prices and often the best goods. Thailand is a mecca for counterfeit products, so be aware that what you’re buying is unlikely to be genuine, and never forget to haggle. Almost everything is negotiable in Thailand. You will most definitely get ripped off at least once or twice, but the more you do it — the better you’ll get. I always follow the ‘walk-away’ method which I do in India also. Figure out what you want to pay, and if they won’t agree then start to leave and see if they will accept then.

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