If you’re planning a trip to Thailand I’m pretty sure you’ve researched the hell out of your destination, whether it be Bangkok, Phuket or somewhere up north like Chiang Mai, then you probably already know what excursions you’re going on, what hostel you’re staying at or even a few favourite bars that people have recommended. But what a lonely planet book won’t tell you is to be vigilant of scams, tricks etc. Now Thais were one of the most polite and friendly people I met on my travels, even the police stopped us to give some advice on the best mode of transport to get to our hotel from the train station! But despite all the positives, there are always negatives, just like any country you visit. So I’ve written five things that will hopefully allow you to have a smooth and happy holiday!
1. Always ask for the meter on taxis.
Locals and foreigners alike mostly travel around in tuk tuks but if you’re travelling to and from the airport etc. sometimes it’s wise to get a taxi. And the first rule of thumb is to either ask for the meter or agree an affordable price beforehand.
2.Bargain with everyone!
You’ll see a lot of street stalls and little markets in Thailand, so prepare to bargain your head off! If you want one Chang vest, most likely vendors will try to sell you four; so if you don’t want four then try to negotiate other items or cheaper prices. They will always start high, and if you start low then hopefully you can both reach a happy medium. One thing to remember though is that shops like 7/11 etc wont bargain their prices, just street vendors and stalls.
3.Excursions – Make sure you buy from the right people.
Ok so I’m speaking from experience on this one, albeit it was Cambodia but it will apply in most SE Asian countries where everyone hassles you to buy a day trip. We actually got half-scammed by a travel company, well to this day I still think they were a legitimate travel company.
Basically what happened was, we stepped off a bus after travelling like 7 hours from Thailand to Cambodia and were eager to get going with our sightseeing early the next day. A guy came up to us and offered a package deal to take us to a few places, including the Angkor Wat temples – so we negotiated the deal and handed over our cash.
The next morning, the tuk tuk driver turns up and takes us to all the right places but then starts arguing with us that we hadn’t paid to visit the floating village when in fact we did. So he bought us a bottle of water, took us to a crocodile farm and drove off without us! In the end I think he scammed us out of about $20, not a lot but it left us angry and having to walk back to our hotel. (Clearly the water was a nice gesture so we didn’t dehydrate!) …Anyway the point of the story is make sure you go into a shop or meet someone in a place you know they will be the next day if you run into an troubles – the phone numbers on your receipt weren’t even real so it clearly happens a lot.
4.Women should cover up when going to a Temple.
So I never knew of this rule but found out the hard way on my first excursion. I can’t remember how someone mentioned it but basically I had to go to a market and buy trousers to cover my knees because for women to show their shoulders and knees in temples/sacred places is disrespectful. Luckily I had a small cardigan with me as sometimes the tour buses get super cold with the AC on. Although the trousers were super cheap and it wasn’t about the money, it’s just in case someone doesn’t have the opportunity to stop off at a market to get clothes, otherwise you will be turned away…and your male friends will all be able to enter.
5.Carry a small currency converter.
I always found that having a handy little piece of paper with Baht to Pound conversions on it. I.e. 10B = 20p / 100B = £2.
Now I highlight the word small just because you don’t want to stand out like the confused tourist that you are, but it allows you to have a quick glance and check the prices against your own currency and even bargain with tuk tuk drivers/vendors etc. without having them waiting while you bring out your calculator!