5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Thailand

You've probably heard a lot about Thailand. The 'Land of Smiles' is known for it's warm hospitality, amazing cuisine and stunning landscapes. However, before heading off on your trip to Thailand there are a few things to take into consideration.

Here are five things you need to know, gathered from our friends in the travel industry - the ones who really know Thailand.

1. Watch Out For Dodgy Deals

Being a tourist hotspot, you have to keep your wits about you as there are people who will try to take advantage of you. From tuk tuk drivers who offer you city tours at an amazingly low price (or more like a ride to their friends shops!), to retailers switching a high quality product for a cheap version at point of purchase. The best option if you‘re ever in a situation where you‘re not comfortable is to simply leave.

– Clem Robin, i-to-i

WorldNomads: Most scams are easily avoided if you know what to look for, so improve your street smarts and learn how to avoid getting fooled.

2. You Know More Thai Than You Think

Thai language has adopted many words and phrases from English (and some from other languages). They call those words 'tap sap'. So, if a person learns those tap sap (they're similar to English, but with odd pronunciations), then there are effectively a lot of 'Thai' words that an English speaker already knows. Here are some examples: guest house, hotel, computer, taxi, disco, clinic, same (or as they say 'same same). Many useful Thai words are repeats or couplets, similar to the 'same same'. If you're getting a massage that's too deep, you can say 'bow bow' which means, 'go easier,' or 'softly softly.' The Thai word for 'often' is; 'boi boi'(sounds like boy boy).

– Ken Albertson, thailandrocks.com

WorldNomads:If you want to impress everyone and blend in a bit more with the locals, then you should download our free Thai language guide. Its available as an iPhone app or as an MP3.

3. Beware of the Buckets

Lined up in neat rows, filled with shiny bottles of Thai whiskey, vodka, gin and M150 (The Thai equivalent of Red Bull), they sit innocently gleaming at street stalls waiting for you to buy them. Backpackers be warned! The bucket is the deadliest of all concoctions in South East Asia and a drink that is not to be taken lightly - particularly at a full moon party! After just one, heaven forbid two of these notorious buckets - chances are you won't remember what happened during the course of the evening, never mind your name or where you come from! Get a load of straws and share one between friends if you must. Take it easy that's all we're saying!

– Nikki Scott, southeastasiabackpacker.com

4. Look Before You Leap

In general, the driving skill level here of both locals and tourists alike is rather appalling. There are more accidents here than there needs to be. Also, pedestrians are often ignored, the rules of the road seemingly being: the largest vehicle wins. Thai people, though lovely and generous, are not very disciplined (but it's part of their charm!) Watch what people around you are doing and mimic their movements and actions. Use pedestrian crossings whenever possible, but do not assume that they are pedestrian safe. Use overpasses where they exist.

– John Williams, Siam Dive n Sail

WorldNomads: If you are thinking about hiring a motorbike or scooter then check out our Thailand motorbike guide for tips on how to avoid injury, fines, and hefty hospital bills.

5. Stand Your Ground

If you feel you feel like you are unfairly treated by authorities (or people who masquerade as authorities), it's ok to make a big fuss. Many tourists to Thailand are fed the idea that Thais never complain or make a fuss in public. For the most part that's true, but even Thais have a saturation point - beyond which they go ballistic. Also know that anything can be bargained. Even in the heat of an extortionist's shakedown, a bargain can be struck.

– Ken Albertson, thailandrocks.com

WorldNomads: A good case in point is the argument that erupts when you're accused of handing over fake currency. The shopkeeper might be trying to scam you, so make sure you don't let them get away with it.


  • Marina from MadeInMoments.com said Reply

    Good to know! We're adding these tips to our notes for Thailand. We're planning on going from Feb-March. Wish us luck! :)

  • Robert West said Reply

    Also be aware of some expat establishments. There are many expats that will scam you faster than a Thai will. This is because you may trust an expat that speaks your language and fell safe like you do in your own country. There are some really bad expats living in Thailand so beware of them too. Use your common sense.

  • Chris Mulhearn said Reply

    I have witnessed thai police selling drugs to bungalow owners who then sell on to tourists. At which point the police get tippped off from bungalow owner and tourist finds themselves behind bars. I saw this one many occasions worst was a German family (Parents and three kids) arrived on Koh panghan and within an hour of checking in were arrested after purchasing a joint from bungalow. The police are some of the most corrupt of the Thais you will find.

  • Zeeshan Shah said Reply

    Thailand is exotic ! Generally a friendly culture.

  • John Bowen said Reply

    Yes, beware the expatriates, they are generally working in a place like Thailand because they can't conform to the rules of their own country and find it easier in a place like SE Asia to behave in a manner they prefer without the same regulations or chance of getting court

  • Vanessa said Reply

    1) Most things are generally fake.
    2) Cabbies and rickshaw drivers trying to cheat you at every turn.

  • Gary said Reply

    Check the currency you intend to exchange very closely for imperfections before you leave your home country. Currency exchanges will not accept worn, torn, or even bills with any writing on them. I was amazed that $160 USD was rejected for exchange due to seemingly insignificant details.

  • Stefan said Reply

    This is stupid. Learn people to behave themself and be respectfull to them, their King, dance and way of living as it is very important to Thai. Don't step over people to pass your way along!

  • Hillary said Reply

    Just got back from Thailand where I was traveling alone. I must say - I felt so safe there! More so than in Europe! People went out of their way to help me and they treated me like I was part of their family. A wonderful place full of wonderful people.

    Yes, it's true that tourist prices are different from local prices but can you blame them? I ate meals for like 20 cents - they were so good that I wanted to pay more.

    • chelsey said Reply

      hey were heading to Thailand in a few weeks, can you let us know some spots you recommend? email is crosedixon@gmail.com

  • Michelle said Reply

    A few things in here are totally wrong. The tuk tuk thing in #1 is not them cheating you. The government tuk tuks offer a reduced fare with the understanding that you will then visit a local shop at the end of your touring around for the day. Talk to your tuk tuk driver and ask how long you need to stay in the shop so they get the rest of their fare from the government. (Usually it is 5-10 minutes, and you are not obligated to buy anything.) In number #4 you suggest the Thais are bad drivers which is also wrong. It is true that the biggest vehicle has the right of way but there are rarely accidents. Be safe, and pay attention to your surroundings. Vehicles can drive on the sidewalks, especially motorcycles/scooters when the drivers don't have helmets. You are right about the buckets... also watch out for the 5 baht shots.

  • Carla said Reply

    Buckets and traffic are the two negative I experiences I had while visiting Thailand. Drunk and passed out and got hit by a moped. I woke up in a hospital with no insurance. I had to make my own way home. Never again.

  • Paul said Reply

    The buckets are a bigger problem than you mention. There's nothing wrong with the branded rum in the photo but sometimes they switch it to contain industrial enthanol instead. A number of people have died from this.

  • Eric said Reply

    @Michelle: If you are careful and keep your witts about you when wandering around a city or town, then yes, it's unlikely you'd be involved in an accident. But by no means could the average Thai driver be considered a good driver. For a start, it's possible to buy your license without qualifying for it. Second, Thailand has the highest annual road death toll of any country in SE Asia, and for the whole of Asia it is second only to China which has a much bigger population and covers a much bigger area. Third, on the highways outside the cities, there's a much higher risk of being in an accident. Blatant speeding, poor driving skills, drunk driving, and long-distance bus drivers (and truck drivers) falling asleep at the wheel, stray animals wandering onto the road causing accidents, etc (and in Thailand a stray animal can be anything from a lizard to an elephant). The roads are the biggest danger you will face in Thailand by far, because there's just so many ways you can get killed on them, and there's loads of video evidence on YouTube to prove it.

    @Paul: That is extremely rare. People just should be vigilant when buying. But as the author suggested, it's better not to buy these at all.

    @Phil Sylvester: As for sharing with straws, hepatitis isn't going to be much fun, and ordinary alcoholic beverages diluted with M150 probably aren't going to be strong enough to kill it.

    The main danger from bucket drinks is that they make it hard to keep track of how much you've had, they encourage over-indulging, and people that pass out from drinking too much are likely to get robbed (and sometimes much worse). Robbers and rapists who prey on bucket victims more often than not turn out to be other foreigners. Thailand is more fun when you're aware of your surroundings anyway. You can get drunk at home. No need to travel all the way to Thailand for this experience!

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