Thailand is a great place, but VERY easy to get yourself into precarious situations if you don’t know what you’re doing. To avoid trouble, and avoid getting ripped off at every turn, follow these Thailand TRavel Rules below, learned over the course of my extensive time in Thailand, through many relationships with Thais both as family members and friends.
If you heed this advice and stay within these parameters of behavior, I guarantee your time in the Land of Smiles will leave you with a smile.
Thailand Travel Rules for People
Observe and mimic the locals.
If they aren’t doing it, you probably shouldn’t do it either. This is ok though because it’s Thailand, and the locals do a lot of fun stuff.
Remove your shoes when entering a home.
But keep them on in restaurants…please. It’s not Japan.
Respond to a Wai, with a Wai.
The Thai greeting with hands pressed together.
Respond to a smile
…with a smile.
Refrain from touching or hugging people that you have not gotten to know.
Handshakes are not common, but acceptable. A Wai is better.
Refrain from touching anyone on the head.
Its a religious superstition, kind of. Applies to children AND adults.
Refrain from pointing at or waving “come here” at anyone with your finger.
Also a religious thing. Instead…
Signal “come here” by waving your hand downward
or use your entire hand or a slight upward chin nod.
Refer to elder Thai people you meet by Kuhn “Their name”
…if you want to appear respectful.
Avoid talking about the royal family
Or asking questions. Unless you have something positive and concise to say. To be safe, avoid entirely.
Make Thai friends to go out with.
It’s the best way to get to know Thailand.
Pour others drinks
…when they pour yours.
Be patient and remain calm in your everyday dealings.
Nothing positive happens when you lose your control or show anger. Especially in Thailand, instead…
Always smile when speaking with Thais.
It makes them feel at ease, and things go much smoother.
Don’t cause a Thai to lose face.
Ever. This could be from anything that makes them suffer embarrassment, and doing so can be dangerous. They have been known to hold murderous grudges. Top 3 Thailand Travel Rules.
Don’t get into a fight with a Thai.
They will win, not only because they may be a Muay Thai boxer, but also because you’re always outnumbered.
Thailand Travel Rules for Money
If a Thai offers to pay a bill, let them pay.
If they invite you to eat or drink with them, accept. Don’t offer to split the bill, as this insinuates that they can’t afford to pay it, and they may lose face.
If YOU invite someone to drink or eat, YOU pick up the bill.
That’s how it works.
Keep your money segregated by bill value
…to avoid fumbling and revealing how much cash you have when its time to pay.
If you drop money on the ground, pick it up.
No matter how small. Thai money has the image of the King, and Thais are highly offended when you allow him to rest on the ground.
Don’t count your money in public.
Great way to draw attention or torpedo your bargaining power. Not only for negotiation reasons, for safety and to avoid being hassled.
Don’t make the first offer.
Get a baseline price first.
Agree on a price BEFORE accepting goods or services.
Don’t wait until after. It won’t end well.
Tip everyone who provides a service to you
…at least something. The loose change will usually work fine. This will prevent a loss of face.
Don’t ever put yourself in a situation where you can’t pay a bill.
Take extra cash with you everywhere, and store it where it can’t be lost or spent easily. Thailand is no place to run out of money.
Thailand Travel Rules for Food
Don’t drink the water.
Make sure your water is bottled. Ice is usually ok. If in doubt, ask if the ice is safe. Thais don’t drink tap water either, they are well aware of your concerns.
Don’t eat raw vegetables
…that could have been washed in tap water. Avoid salads at even nicer looking restaurants unless they tell you its safe. Cooked vegetables are always fine.
Avoid street food
… for the most part. It’s very good, yes. But use your common sense. If the vendor or food stall looks questionable, move on. If Thai’s aren’t eating it…also move on.
Drink responsibly and watch your drink.
Take it to the bathroom with you if alone. Drugging is not common, but it’s not uncommon either. To be clear: Remain in control of yourself.
Carry an Epi-pen if you have allergies.
There’s a lot of new ingredients you’ve never had before in Thailand.
Don’t pet the wild street dogs.
They bite and they likely have rabies. They’ll leave you alone if you leave them alone, just like Thais.
Be wary of most pharmacies.
If it’s too cheap to believe, then don’t believe it. Many counterfeit drugs floating around Thailand.
Wear mosquito repellent and take it out with you to reapply.
It should be a staple in your pocket/ purse.
Use the BTS and MRT when possible (Bangkok).
Traffic is notoriously bad in Bangkok, plus it’s very hot.
Book your accommodation in Bangkok near a BTS or MRT stop.
This will minimize travel times and conserve your body fluids.
If in a town or village outside of Bangkok, a good protocol is to stay near the City Center
…or near a large mall to ensure access to transportation. (Central Mall is in every town in Thailand)
Avoid Tuk Tuks.
They are notorious tourist traps.
Don’t ever agree to be taken to a shop by a Tuk Tuk driver.
Find another means to get around. One of the main Thailand Travel Rules to remember.
Take only metered taxis.
If you don’t know why, please read 5 Tips for Thailand Taxi Travel
Look for the GREEN light in the taxis, not the RED.
The RED lights indicate the car is full.
Don’t put yourself in a situation that opens you up to harassment by the police.
This includes breaking any laws or other Thailand Travel Rules contained herein.
If the police fine you for something, or otherwise “shake you down”…
Don’t argue. Pay them the first time, or risk having to pay off many more.