When it comes to traveling in Thailand for the first time, planning can seem a bit daunting. Thailand has received a lot of bad publicity lately, especially when it comes to its overcrowded touristic sights. But if you’re up to the challenge, the country’s rich culture, landscapes, friendly locals and street markets will undoubtedly put a spell on you! And if you’d like to add some surfing sessions when hitting the beach, then you should know that surfing in Thailand is quite a recent endeavor. The country’s stunning beaches are home to excellent waves that offer something for every level and taste, from beginner surfers to advanced and from popular spots to remote, secret waves.
If you’re ready to go, here are my eight insider’s travel tips for the first time Thailand traveler.
1. Read about Thailand’s geography and culture
Before embarking on your trip, take your time to study the country. Before arriving at your destination, you will have already learned to appreciate Thailand’s culture and people at a deeper level, not just its incredibly scenic places. Once you understand their culture, you will have more confidence to interact with the locals, making for an even more exciting experience.
2. Pack everything for the trip
Packing involves not just your clothes and personal necessities, but also your documents. Make sure your VISA is not expired and that all your documents are valid. Make sure to pack lightly because Bangkok is the place to go for knock-offs and cheap clothing. If you’re planning on camping, make sure you go through this packing checklist for camping trips.
3. Public transportation
Thailand may not be such a big country, but it sure has plenty of airports, many of which serve international flights. Domestic flights are available to most cities in the country, so you can rest assured that you have the fastest way to travel available. You will probably be glad to know that Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) in Bangkok is one of the cheapest airports to fly into.
The country’s taxi services
In some countries, taxi services may be expensive and riding a bus, if available, is a much cheaper option. Meanwhile, in Thailand, taking a taxi is one of the cheapest ways of commuting.
Experiencing the Tuk Tuk
You may wonder what a Tuk Tuk is and where this vehicle will take you. You will surely appreciate these auto rickshaws, especially when you are in a hurry!
4. Where to stay
If you’re looking for a place in Thailand to have a little rest and relaxation, a place to stay overnight or the whole week, you can rest assured that you’ll find all types of accommodation and the best amenities. There is a vast number of luxurious hotels with great facilities in Pattaya, Thailand, a tourist hotspot and home to a galore of water sports, from surfing and kitesurfing to stand-up paddle boarding.
5. What to eat
There are a lot of restaurants in many towns in the country, and it would be great if you have at least a sample of each restaurant in each town. Each one really is a must try! Unfortunately, that’s not possible, which is why I’m sharing the best Thai dishes you should not miss out on:
- Gaeng Keow Wan Kai. This is probably the most famous food in Thailand; the exotic aroma from the unique blend of chili, lemongrass, lime juice, shallot, galangal and fish sauce gives this classic dish its legendary taste. Its invigorating sour-spicy taste will get you up and kicking on the table.
- Som Tum or Spicy Green Papaya Salad. Som Tum is one of the most commonly eaten salads in Thailand. Originating from Isaan, this dish is totally outlandish and unique in its taste. With shredded raw papaya, cherry tomatoes, green beans, chillies and garlic pulverized and mixed in a mortar and pestle, the dish presents a sweet and sour-spicy flavor you will think of for a long time.
6. Where to go
Photo credit: asiawebdirect.com
Bangkok is a beautiful and busy city. From the elaborate temples to the exotic street foods, there’s so much to see and do in the place. A few of things you can do while in Bangkok is:
- Take a cooking class
- Take advantage of the beautiful skyline
- Visit the temples
If you’re looking for a nice night out, make sure to visit the Khaosan Road where all the travelers drink from buckets.
If you’re looking for pristine beaches, then you should visit the islands south of the country. To get here, you can either take the train or the bus. The train is usually the cheaper option. The most popular islands can be divided into two groups:
- Koh Lanta – Koh Lanta is a very easy-going island. It offers everything from cheap bungalows to extremely luxurious hotels. It’s a great getaway spot for couples and for people who are looking for some relaxing.
- Koh Phi Phi – There are a few islands as stunning as this. This is the place to go to watch fire dancers by night while drinking questionable alcohol out of a bucket. While it’s a party island for backpackers, its breathtaking view makes it a must-visit place for everyone.
7. Must-see festivals and events
While you can go to Thailand any time you want, you can maximize the experience by timing your visit to coincide with these festivals:
- Songkran (April 13-15) – possibly the largest water fight in the world. Songkran sees the country go crazy along the streets – no one is spared from the splash.
- Loi Krathong (November 4) – along with the full moon, thousands of Krathongs fill up the night sky. They are said to float away any negative feeling you might hold.
- Buffalo Racing Festival (October) – a unique Thai festival that has been around for 140 years, the Buffalo Racing Festival is all about buffaloes: races, contests and even a buffalo fashion show.
- National Elephant Day (March 13) – to raise awareness over elephant conservation, March 13 is dedicated to these beloved gentle giants.
8. Be friendly with the people
The people in Thailand are warm and hospitable, especially to foreigners. Be warm and nice with them so you can enjoy their company. Keep in mind that they have the tendency to get offended, especially with unintentional racist comments. Apply what you’ve learned about the country’s culture and people in being friendly and courteous with them.
For more information about camping and the great outdoors, check out Paul’s articles on Outdoor Choose!
Now that you know where to start your first trip to the ‘Land of Smiles’, how about joining a surf camp in Thailand?