Hey everyone and happy Christmas weekend! I can't ! I was looking at my December editorial calendar and realized I had some Thailand trip recaps I was planning on writing, but since I vlogged the entire trip in great detail (watch part one in Krabi and the Phi Phi Islands here, and part two in Chiang Mai and Bangkok here) I feel like doing a trip recap post would be kind of repetitive. Instead, I started thinking about some of the best tips that I received before I left and some of the things I wish I’d known before our trip.
So, here they are all together—10 essential tips for traveling to Thailand. If you have any questions about Thailand that I didn’t answer, definitely leave me a note in the comments and I'd be happy to answer it. Also, if you want to know specific things we did or where we stayed, the description boxes of both vlogs contain all of that info. I hope this helps some of you if you’re thinking about going or if you’ve made plans to go for the first time (which you totally should because it is AMAZING).
1. Get Thai currency before you go
This is the best way to ensure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck while you’re in Thailand. Most places in Thailand don’t take credit/debit cards, so make sure you bring out more cash than you think you’ll need. There are ATMs there but you'll have to pay a service fee to use them. I was able to call my bank (Citibank) and place a money order which they overnighted to me. I took out about $400 USD for two weeks which comes out to about ฿13,000 THB.
2. Learn some common Thai phrases
A little goes a long way in Thailand! Many people, especially in touristy areas, will speak English, but learning even a few phrases can be super helpful. Keep them on a note on your phone so you can refer to them whenever you need to. These are the three that I found came in handy the most:
Sawadee ka (Hello)
Kup khon kha (Thank you)
Chung gow! (Cheers!)
3. Research the different elephant sanctuaries
Northern Thailand is amazing and beautiful, and one of the best parts about going there is playing with elephants! However, not all elephant camps treat the animals well, and many allow riding elephants—really not good for them—so look at all of your options before you pick one. We had a great experience at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary and I’ve also heard good things about Elephant Nature Park.
4. Buy a waterproof phone case
If you’re planning on visiting any of Thailand’s incredible beaches (we went to Ao Nang, Railay Beach, and Maya Bay just to name a few!) you’ll probably want some photos in the ocean. If you want to get one before you go, there are some good options on Amazon, but if you don’t remember to get one before the trip, there are lots of little stores by the beaches that will sell them. Just keep in mind they’ll probably try to overcharge you so feel free to negotiate with a shop owner.
5. Watch what you eat and drink
Thailand has a lot of amazing foods, and we got to try so many of them! We could have probably been a bit more adventurous in our food choices, but we didn’t want to get sick and have one bad meal ruin our trip since we were only there for two weeks. A safe bet was looking for restaurants in our area that had good ratings on TripAdvisor or asking our hotel for recommendations. Also, we only drank bottled water because Thailand’s water can be very unsettling to Westerner’s stomachs, but it’s super cheap and very easy to find.
6. In Thailand, 7-Eleven is EVERYTHING
I have never been so reliant on 7-Eleven in my life. In NYC we have bodegas and drugstores—in Thailand they have 7-Eleven. In all of the cities and beach towns you can pretty much always guarantee that there’s always one in walking distance. You can get water, beer, food, sunscreen, beauty products, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Oh, and every location is air-conditioned, which you will be thankful for in the sweltering weather.
7. Lightweight pants are key
You’ll often see people walking around Thailand wearing some variation of “elephant pants,” since most temples require visitors to cover their shoulders and ankles. Chiang Mai was much more laid back than Bangkok in this respect and they definitely enforced the rule for women more than men, which meant Andrew often got to stroll on in wearing shorts while I was in my pants. Ah, misogyny! But anyway, lightweight pants are perfect for the crazy Thailand heat and they still keep you covered up so you can explore all of the beautiful temples and palaces.
8. Don’t feel pressured to see everything
I’m going to be honest, when I walked into what was probably the 30th temple on this trip, I couldn’t differentiate anything from the previous ones I saw. And I was an art history major! Definitely plan ahead and pick out some highlights of the stuff that will be most interesting to you. If you missed some temple or ancient site, don’t lose sleep over it. We were only there for two weeks and as much as I’d have loved to check out a floating market in Bangkok or driven out to the White Temple in Chiang Rai, you can't do everything and we got to see so many amazing things. Plus, it gives us an excuse to go back, right?
9. Google Maps Will save you
This is a trick that I learned last winter when Nora and I did our Europe trip (if you want to relive that, check out my photo diary here). If you star places on the Google Maps app before you head out, even if you switch your phone to airplane mode you can still use the map feature. This was great because I didn’t need to turn on my international data most days and we always had WiFi at our hotels to look up places before we went out for the day.
10. Go with the flow and trust the journey
For me, Thailand was all about trying new things, so even though I knew that a cab might get us somewhere quickly and easily, I also knew we had to try a tuk tuk one day. Even though I was a little scared to touch an elephant, I ended up feeding them bananas! Every day is an adventure and leaving some downtime to explore and see where you end up is just as important as planning. Thailand is such an incredible place and you’ll have a great time whatever you do.
And there you go! I hope you found this helpful. If you want to see exactly how we spent our two weeks in Thailand, watch my vlogs below and be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel!
Have you ever been to Thailand? What’s your best travel tip?