Tips for travelling to Thailand

Steve lives and works in Thailand. He is English but his knowledge of the country is as good as a local, mixed with a touch of British humour and lashings of common sense. Read his tips before you travel, and you could save time, money and hassle.

Bangkok •  You will get the visa application form on the flight in. These have two sides which are often missed and the immigration people make you go to the back of the queue and start again. You will get 30 days NOT one month and the fine for being late leaving is £10 per day. Look for the queue with two officers at the desks as it's quicker.  It's a long walk from leaving the aircraft to immigration, I have had life changing experiences on the walk!

•  The exchange rate is changing daily due to the political situation so bring cash to change and about £200 in Baht with at least ten 100 bht notes. There are ATM machines everywhere and a charge of £3 in Thailand for drawing on a UK account. I always draw a minimum of 10,000 Baht.

•  I have a separate wallet I use in Thailand for carrying just the amount of money I need, I leave passport, credit cards etc. with hotel in safe or buried in my clothes. Pick pockets (are rare but getting merry and forgetting /loosing things is common. Just take minimum you require to beach i.e. a couple hundred baht to buy drinks.

•  Don't be afraid to put your hands together in response to the locals, it's the same as our handshake.

•  Hello is "sow (same as the pig)" add e cap for a woman and add ee cap for a man pronounced as one word sowadeecar. It will become easy to say and gets them on your side.

•  Thank you is cop cum car (f) or cop cum cap (m) pronounced copcumcar. Notice how the end changes for whatever gender you are.

Thailand •  Tipping for hotel carrying in bags 20-40 Baht ,after meal 100. Tips are split amongst staff so if you want to tip an individual put the tip into their hand discreetly not in the bill folder although I generally give the house 20.

•  All accommodation no matter how cheap supply towels although some not soap. Insect repellent can be bought in any convenience store 7/11 being the equivalent to Spar and sun tan lotion as well.

•  Watch the sun it burns very quickly in about 10 mins, if the sun feels hot it's burning! I buy an aerosol of mosquito spray and always spray my hotel room before I go out at night. Mozzies rest behind curtains, wardrobes, under beds and amongst clothes so pay attention to these when spraying. Long sleeves and trousers at night will stop you getting bitten as will staying in during the hour of dusk.

•  To call home buy a SIM card while at the airport, you will pass them as you exit arrivals it will cost 200 Baht and includes call time. Ask for number suffix to call UK it then costs about 10p a minute.

Tuk tuk •  Try and take some 100 Baht notes to pay for taxi on arrival as the driver will often claim not to have any change to try and get change as tip.  You can split a 1000 Baht note at any of the money changers or ask for small notes if changing money. Take a taxi from outside airport not from the touts inside. You will see the counter so have your hotel details to show them and they will show you to a cab. The taxi will ask if you want expressway / tollway, say yes and have 100 Baht to give him for tolls. With all taxis make sure they put the meter on – if they won't, stop and get out. The cost into Bangkok from airport depending on traffic is 300 Baht. There is a very efficient Skytrain from the airport and is quicker and cheaper, it's in the basement and next to it is a very pleasant coffee shop with internet. I take taxis as the TukTuks are an experience but charge a fortune or spend hours dragging you round tailors as they get a fee from them. I always tip taxi drivers as they get so little pay. Taxi from airport I usually give 100 Baht.

•  Haggle for everything except meals, drinks and accommodation, offer half and enjoy the haggle and if not to your liking walk off. They will follow you with a better deal, if they don't – nothing lost.

Chiang Rai Clock Tower •  Thais love to look at us, me especially for some reason, just look back and smile and enjoy the moment. They are friendly.

•  Car and motorcycle hire is cheap but beware of idiot drivers at night who usually are young Westeners drunk.

•  Ask at hotels to check nothing dangerous in the sea eg. jellyfish. Should you get stung wash off with seawater NOT fresh!

•  In touristy places take a "baht bus" which is a pick up truck with seats in the back it's 20 baht for any short trip, just stick your hand out and they will stop. Either show them where you want to go or shout stop when you want to get off and the local Thai people on board will holler for you.

•  Eating – avoid salads due to unclean water although ice cubes are mass produced and come from a central supplier so ok in drinks. Cooking seems to kill off any bugs so the only problem is the spicyness. I pretend to fan mouth and then pinch thumb and finger towards each other to indicate little … that usually works although the waiting staff normally understand  English.

•  Thai for "little spicy" is "pek nidnoy". Street vendor food is best avoided. If you are not familiar with Thai food the curries vary in strength from green to red and have distinct tastes. The TomYum soup is a master piece of taste experiences. Pad thai is a noodle, peanut and bean sprout dish that varies around Thailand. Beware of the bits of really hot chillies that are in every dish it's easy to get caught out. I have found a mouthful of sugar stops the burn.

Koh Tao Beach •  Thai beers are strong 5% plus so beware, the local spirits are good , Regency brandy is very smooth and good with cold chocolate milk as a sun downer, Hong Thong is a smooth rum as is Sang Thip.

•  Smoothies are a masterpiece as proper fresh fruit is used. I buy a bottle of rum and top up the smoothies … what a great way to drop off to sleep and most bars will get you home!

•  Pharmacies sell electrolyte and the Thai word for them is the same, they are fruit flavoured and not unlikeble, I drink one a day to replace what you sweat out and if you feel out of energy. 

Read Steve’s Places to visit and to avoid in Thailand

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Steve Francis

Thailand tour guide

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