If you are planning a trip to Thailand then there are some things you need to know before getting on the plane. Take a read of this post offering my top tips for first time visitors to Thailand to help you make the most of your trip.
1. Do your research
I did a LOT of research before arriving in Bangkok. If you want to make the most of your time in Thailand I recommend you do the same. It doesn’t matter if you are an obsessive plan-every-second-of-your-visit or a go-with-the-flow kinda person. Knowing what to expect will only help.
Make sure you buy a good guidebook, read it, and make notes. Although Google will also be your friend when you are in your hotel or hostel, having a book that you can flick through while traveling between places will kill some of the boredom and make the most of your travel time.
2. Get Pinning
As I traveled with a friend, once we had booked our flights and ordered some guidebooks, we set up a pin board on Pinterest to store all the websites, images and blogs we found. Everything we read online is linked to this board and you can take a look by clicking here.
3. Book your internal flights before you arrive
If you know that you are going to fly between places then book these in advance. It will be a lot cheaper than if you wait until you are there.
We flew from Chiang Mai to Phuket and it cost us around £20.00. If you book the day before it’s likely to be over £100! Air travel comes with pros and cons. It’s quicker than trains and buses and when you book in advance it’s not much more expensive. But you do really need to book in advance, which means planning when you are going to travel, which can be limiting.
This was the main reason we only flew once as we didn’t want to over-plan our trip, so chose to do most of our travel on trains and busses. Make sure you check Skyscanner for your flights.
4. Take some time in Bangkok on your way back
We spent 2 days in Bangkok at the start of our trip and we did cover a lot of ground in those 2 days. So much so that we decided not to travel back for our return flight until the evening before.
I still regret this a bit, if you have never been to Thailand it will most likely take you a week or two to settle into life in Thailand and get over the initial culture shock. Bangkok is pretty nuts and when we did get back the night before our flight home I felt so much calmer and more comfortable.
I really wish I’d been able to take a few days to explore without the panic and culture shock. You also get lots of tips and advice from fellow travelers as you are traveling around, like where to stay in Bangkok, so on our second visit we stayed in The Yard and I really can’t recommend staying there enough. I could easily spend a week in Bangkok staying there.
5. Take sunscreen
You will notice straight away that EVERYONE on Thai advertising is very white. They put skin bleaching ingredients in almost all of their skin care including sun cream. Although you can get sun cream without bleach it’s more difficult to buy and expensive… better to be safe than sorry; just bring your own!
6. Don’t over pack
As a general rule, don’t bring too much with you. Clothes are so cheap out in Thailand and you will want to shop. You aren’t a true traveler until you are rocking some elephant pants. I ended up having to throw so many clothes away to make room for my new ones. Trousers and dresses are so cheap and easy to come by; tops I found a bit more difficult.
I wrote a whole guide to helping you pack that you can read here.
7. Know where you are going
Every time we moved on we found the most stressful part was when you actually arrive at your new destination.
Picture this: You are tired, a bit stressed, probably hungry, most likely need to find a toilet, and after sitting on a bus for 16 hours you’re probably stinking. As soon as you step off the bus/ train or ferry you have about 30 Thai people shouting “Where you going?”.
It can be pretty overwhelming and this is normally the point where people get ripped off. If you have booked your accommodation already then see if you can pre-book a transfer or a car to pick you up. We did this a few times and booking a car online actually saved us about 400 Baht compared to the cost of a taxi. If you aren’t sure where you are going then try to find a café close by and hang out there until you have orientated yourself so you can make decisions with a clearer head.
If you have booked your accommodation already then see if you can pre-book a transfer or a car to pick you up. We did this a few times and booking a car online actually saved us about 400 Baht compared to the cost of a taxi. If you aren’t sure where you are going then try to find a café close by and hang out there until you have orientated yourself so you can make decisions with a clearer head.
However, if you aren’t sure where you are going then try to find a café close by and hang out there until you have orientated yourself so you can make decisions with a clearer head.
8. Check booking.com first
Most hostels and hotels are on booking.com now so if you are traveling in peak season (which we did) then booking online can actually be cheaper.
Pre-booking your accommodation is a tricky one. We probably got it wrong more than we got it right BUT it was peak season and some places got booked up.
The biggest issue we found was that we didn’t know the area so more often than not we booked a great place in an area that was too far away from town. A few times we found a place and the price we were quoted in person was more expensive in person that the price we would have paid booking online. So even if you choose not to pre-book I would always check the price online as well as in person as you might save money.
9. Get some experience driving a moped
If you are like me and have no experience on a moped and are a bit of a scaredy cat I would seriously recommend either doing your CBT course (1 day and costs about £70) or at least get someone to show you how to use one.
It’s almost impossible to get around Thailand without one. Luckily for me, a kind German guy took pity on me and helped teach me how to turn the thing on! If you go to Koh Phangan for example and you don’t want to go on a bike it will cost you a small fortune in taxis as it’s the only other mode of transport.
10. Stay away from Elephant Rides
It’s really easy when you are out there to make bad decisions – I did, and I really wish I could take it back.
As part of a pre-organised trip, an elephant ride was included. As soon as I sat on the elephant I wanted to get off. The way the man was treating the elephant broke my heart. I hated every moment of it.
It’s pretty widely acknowledged that the animals in these places are badly treated. Elephants are not for riding. Tigers are not for selfies. Have a read of these articles if you don’t believe me.
If you want to see some animals while you are out there check out this article 5 Awesome Alternatives to Cruel Animal Attractions in Thailand
If you are planning your first trip to Thailand then be sure to check out my other posts: