Millions of people flock to Thailand each year, and the number of annual visitors is continuing to grow. Having a basic knowledge of what to expect before you arrive in the Kingdom will be helpful both for you and for the local people you meet along the way. Here are eight things to know before you arrive.
Getting up close and personal with some of Thailand’s most exotic animals has become a must-do activity on many tourists’ itineraries. Elephant trekking, tiger temples, and photo ops with monkeys are a few activities you may come across while visiting the country. If one of these attractions is on your bucket list, we suggest crossing it out. Many travelers are unaware of how these animals are mistreated and neglected. Before arriving in Thailand, make sure you do some thorough research into the ethical ways you can interact with the native wildlife. If you’re dying to see elephants, see elephants! Just do so responsibly.
There are about 300,000 strays roaming the streets of Thailand’s capital city alone. While the exact number of soi dogs (street dogs) is unclear, one thing remains certain: you’re going to run into at least a handful of them while visiting Thailand. Lesions, fleas, rashes: these are just some of the conditions that street dogs are suffering from. Caring locals provide food and water for these animals, but many are still neglected. Help out when you can, but also be vigilant.
You’ll come across plenty of monkey-filled beaches in Thailand. These animals are cute, clever, and are definitely cool to see up close. That does not mean you should feed them. Feeding the monkeys means they become less able to find food on their own, making them vulnerable in the wild. It also means that they’ll associate people with food. It’s not uncommon to see monkeys steal bags, clothing, and more from tourists in hopes of finding food. These monkeys become less cute when they are tearing your purse apart. Remember these are wild animals. Monkeys bite, and unless you had your rabies shot and there’s a hospital nearby, an enjoyable experience could quickly turn into something very dangerous.
Bartering in Thailand can be fun. There are few places in the Western world that allow you exchange numbers back and forth with a merchant until you both agree on a price. That being said, there is always a time and a place to fight for a discount. If you’re visiting Chatuchak Weekend Market, barter away! If something doesn’t have a visible price tag, you should definitely suggest a merchant go lower for an item than what they originally say. If you’re blatantly making a merchant uncomfortable or bartering is no longer friendly banter, move onto the next shop. Don’t be the tourist fighting over a single dollar.
One too many trips to Thailand have been cut short by an unfortunate encounter with one too many bug bites. Whether you are left confined to your hotel room because the itching is simply unbearable, or worse, you contract a virus, you’ll certainly regret being so brazen. Bug spray should replace your perfume or cologne while in Thailand. Be sure to have a travel-size spray with you at all times. You never know when a bloodthirsty mosquito is going to be out for dinner.
If something seems too good to be true, chances are it is. If a taxi driver tells you a particular temple is closed but is more than happy to take you to another, chances are, this is a lie. If they tell you they cannot use a meter, question why. Oftentimes, foreigners and tourists are seen as gullible, and taken advantage of because of this. The best way to avoid getting ripped off is to do your research. Know the entrance fees and opening times of some of the top tourist attractions you want to visit. Invest in a map. Learn a handful of Thai words. These are all ways you can avoid getting a bad deal while traveling. That being said, the majority of Thai people are honest and helpful, and they want to ensure your trip goes as planned.
While traveling around Thailand, it is always a good idea to keep a small container of tissues or toilet paper with you, just in case. You never know when you will be caught short! Many bathrooms in Thailand have squat toilets and “bum guns” (essentially hoses used in place of toilet paper), which Westerners may not be accustomed to.
You will hear this phrase very often while on your travels. It literally translates as “everything is OK” or “don’t worry” and is the go-to saying when something goes wrong. But there is more to it than that. Mai pen rai is a perfect representation of Thailand as whole. People here are very easygoing, and they are resilient in the face of adversity. While in the Kingdom, why not try and adopt the mai pen rai attitude yourself?