Travel Tips Thailand

 

You will find here some advises on :

 

How to enjoy Thailand best ?

Learn to speak a bit of Thai. 

Wake up early to see the monks walking the streets to receive rice donations.

Respect the country & its social customs : get up during the National Anthem (you hear it in the streets at 8am & 6pm ), show respect toward the Royal Family and the religion (dress neatly in temples, get off your shoes and, if a girl, do not touch a monk or give him something directly), do not point your foot (the lowest part of the body) at people, do not touch the head (the highest part of the body) of people, do not loose your temper, avoid public display of affection and, basically, try to do as Thai people do (difficult, I reckon with the spicy food)

Mai Pen Rai ! This Thai concept literally means "never mind !". Do not let people rip you off but keep in perspective that you are on holidays... So, do not get mad because your room was not cleaned correctly for example. A smile will bring better results than any kind of confrontation !

There are plenty of other customs but Thai people do not really help you in understanding them if you just cross their way. For example, it was reported impolite to stand up while talking to sited people (you should get yourself a seat to reach the same level as your interlocutors).  People with long hairs are traditionally considered as crazy and Thai girls married with foreigners will be regularly insulted as "prostitutes". If you know the Thai culture, feel free to contribute to this section...

Master the lunar calendar ("Kam") : there are 4 Buddhist days each month, on the 8th and 14 or 15th of each lunar cycle (two cycles per month : raising & falling, full moon & black moon). Those are the best time to visit temples. 

Eat & drink at food market or small local restaurants : you will have plenty of opportunities to meet people, find the widest choice of tasty and fresh food and have less risk of food poisoning (rare and usually limited to western restaurants)

Use drug far away from any official. The penalty start at one year in jail for marijuana consumption and goes in theory up to the hanging. In 93, 1002 overseas visitors were prosecuted for drug offenses.

Buy jewelry only at establishments displaying the "Jewel Fest Club" Emblem of Standard. There are apparently no scams there, you get a clear certificate of your purchase and there is guaranteed refund (less 10 or 20%) if you change your mind within 30 or 45 days.

Select your travel agent carefully. Some are approved by TAT and proudly display their certificate. Others are recommended by backpackers. In any case, use caution, accept to pay a deposit only and never sign any disclaimer. Scams do occur. 

Compare prices & goods before buying and remember that there is usually no exchange, refunds or after sale services. As the tourist leaflet says : "Always use common sense" !

Get a free copy of What's On Magazines, available for Pattaya, Chiangmai, Samui, South Thailand (Phuket) & after dark activities. The same publisher also publish Thailand This Week. Available at selected hotels & restaurants. Free maps, tips & tons of ads ! Tel : 332 4600-5 Ad : 165-167 Sukhumvit 62/1, Sukhumvit Rd, Banjak, Phrakanong, Bangkok 10250

Avoid annoying a drunk Thai as Thai boxing is much more fun under alcohol...

Backpacker's Tips : Ben, Belgium (Nov 05)
Respect local customs: If you drop a coin, dont stamp on it. just wait for it to stop and then pick it up. Apparently its disrespectful to the King.

 

How to keep the low cost even lower ?

Eat & drink at food market or small local restaurants : beside being tasty and closer to the people, you shall get plenty of cold purified water to drench your thirst for free.

Travel on fan buses on short to medium distances. If you leave early in the morning, the air will be cool enough anyway and usually more "healthy" than the dirty air cond system.

Travel on 3rd class trains. It takes a bit longer than on AC buses but there are more distractions on board, you travel with local people and it is the cheapest way to move ! For example, Khorat to Bangkok cost B50 on ordinary 3rd class train (6 hours), B78 on ordinary bus (5 hours) or B139 on AC bus (4 hours).

Hitch your way around ! With so many helpful people traveling on pick-up trucks, it takes never too long to get a ride. But not everywhere nor all the time : if you wait next to a bus stop or if the local know that buses are available, it should require more patience. 

Drink with moderation : beer is expensive in Thailand ! A 660ml local bottle basically cost half the price of a guesthouse room (about B50). But maybe this means that rooms are cheap...

Travel with someone to share the cost of the motorbike (usually B150 per day)

Read the local English newspapers for bargains on flights and big discount on hotel prices

Send parcel at the "slow air" (SAL) rate : it is half the price of regular Air and usually take much less than the 1.5 months delivery time announced, in particular if you register it (an additional B25) and stick an "air mail" sticker on the envelop... 

Be careful with taxis : There are a lot of rip off around here ! To start and since the meter is not always used, always clearly bargain for a price. You will have better chance of a discount by stepping a bit outside of the hotel, bus or trains stations and avoiding the queuing taxis. Refuse also to be taken to another hotel than the one you specified and bring small change for the fare. Altogether, the best advice to save money & (maybe) temper would be to stick to the public transport...

But remember that enjoying a trip is sometimes or from time to time worth a little bit more... Backpacking is more about the bag than the money !

Backpacker's Tips : Paul Ferber (Nov 05)
I have been in thailand for 3 months its the 3rd time I have been here. I just brought a card called the Thai Travel Card. Its a membership card. It cost me 1500 baht.I booked my padi open water course through them and saved 3000 baht. Also done some diving which they also saved me money on. So far i saved about 8000 baht. All i have to do is call a free phone number tell them what i want to do and they book it direct no commision or fees. Worth a look. Note from Passplanet: Why not but bargaining through a travel agent is also part of the backpacking experience and I never had the feeling of being ripped off there...

 

 

Tips for Vegetarians by Yoav, Israel (Dec 01) :

As long as you stay in the touristy areas (kao san, the touristy islands, the north-west) you have plenty of things as a vegetarian. Of course its a bit of frustrating to see all of those chicken/sea foods all over, but you can easily find vegetarians dishes (vegetarian pad Thai, 10 bahts is the favorite). In addition most of the people know some English in these areas so they will understand your "no meat" request. If you have a bit more money or you want to spoil yourself you can easily do so with baguettes, Italian meals or even the "pizza hut"...

In the less visited north east, though, you have a problem as a vegetarian while people don't really speak English and are completely not familiar with the concept of "vegetarian". I must admit that accidentally I ate there a duck or two after ten time asking "no meat" in all kind of forms. Of course, the best advice for vegetarians (always) - is just to memorize "no meat" in the local language. Another possibility is to run to the seven-eleven and buy some groceries, but that might be a bit expensive.

 

How to shop on visa for neighboring countries ?

Laos Visa ? It is possible to get a one month visa in one working day. The cost, if you go yourself to the embassy at 8am and collect it in the afternoon should be B1350 (for most western nationalities, cheaper for Asian & Israeli people, more expensive for Canadian, American, Japanese or German). But considering that the embassy is very remote and tricky to get to (Bus No60 B3.5, then taxi B20), you will be better off to leave the work to an agency for a commission of as little as B100-150 (check around). A one month visa should cost B1500 and a 15 days visa B1000.

Backpacker's Tips : Anonymous (Oct 01)
The visa for Laos is now cheaper. In some agency, it cost as little as B800 for 15 days or B1200 for one month. Shop around !


Myanmar (Burma) Visa ? For this one, most honest agencies will advise you to arrange for the visa yourself as you can get it the same day while this would take them two days. The Myanmar Embassy is in the south of town at 132 Sathorn Nua Rd (boat to Tha Oriental or Tha Sathon then 15mn walk east). Open Mond to Frid 8:30 to 12 and 14 to 16:30. You usually have the visa ready in the afternoon by 15:30. It cost B800 + 3 ID photo for the basic 4 weeks tourist visa to use within a month from the date of issue. 

Cambodia Visa ? The cheapest agencies were quoting B900 plus one ID photo for one working day delivery. Problem with this 1 month visa is that it starts from the date of issue. 45 days visa can also be obtained for the same price but in 2 working days. It seems however possible to have them starting later than the date of issue. The cost at the Embassy (254 6630, just north of Lumphini Park on Ratchadamri Rd) was $20 or B1000 (bad exchange rate) but you will have to come back the next day (same day for $9 extra), it is usually busy and open from 9 to 11am only for applications. At Poipet or Hat Lek borders, the 1 month visa delivered in 5mn cost B1000 plus one photo (in theory, it should also be possible to pay the normal $20 but, in practice, officials insist that you pay in Bahts as the exchange rate is at their advantage and seem to go straight into their pocket). Other scams were also reported at Hat Lek. At the airports of Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, it cost $20 plus 2 photos. 

Recapitulative Visas Table :

Country Duration From Agencies Cost Delay Other options ?
China 1 M entry 1300 4 wd cheaper in HK for 3 M
Vietnam 1 M entry 2200/3100 4wd/1wd cheaper  & longer in Cambodia
Nepal 1 M entry 1400 2 wd ???
Laos 15 D / 1 M entry 1000/1500 3wd/1wd 15 D for US$30 at Nong Khai's border
Cambodia 1 M issue 900 1 wd 5mn at the border for B1000 / B500 at Embassy ?
Myanmar 1 M entry 950 2 wd 1 wd at embassy for B800
India 6 M issue 2100 5 wd ???

Note : wd = working day / M = month / D = day

 


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