This post is full of practice Thailand travel advice that my friends and family found “actually useful”.
Since 2011, I’ve sent out the same email full of practical tips for Thailand so many times that I’ve lost count. Instead of searching through my very messy email chains to find out the last person I sent these tips to, I can now refer them to this post… whew!
These are my best tips on traveling to Thailand especially if you’re on a budget or traveling here for the first time. It was one of my favorite places to visit and I highly recommend going!
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The Story Behind Our Thailand Trip
It all started when my now husband and I embarked on one of the most care-free and fun adventures we’d have in our adolescent lives… if you consider being 24 still an adolescent.
This trip was a sort of symbolic ending to the chapter of college closed behind us recently and an exhilarating way to say hello to the rest of our adult lives ’cause you know, growing up doesn’t have to be boring!
Before starting our careers, we took the year off to study for our CPAs and travel the world.
We road tripped out to Arkansas for Wakarusa Music Festival, went to Chicago for a couple of weeks to eat our hearts out, and finally, flew to Thailand for three weeks as our last hurrah.
Thailand was thrilling and exhilarating yet so peaceful and soulful at the same time.
It gave me the ultimate culture shock I yearn for when traveling and filled my tummy with savory, authentic goodness and sweet, tropical fruits day after day.
And the people! This was the first country I went to where even in Bangkok, their big city, I would say hello to EVERY person on the street without getting some weird stare for being socially open and reaching out to strangers (so not NYC).
Maybe it’s because Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand or because the sun warms up people’s souls, but everyone was SO nice, and gosh, I love nice.
Anyways that trip of a lifetime led me to this– my nine practical tips for Thailand that I’ve been sharing with my friends and family since 2011.
Nine Practical Tips for Thailand
1. Buy the Thai government brand water.
Do not any under circumstance drink the tap water in Thailand.
Even when it’s boiled, you can get very sick from it, which is quite the circumstance to have in a gorgeous, adventure packed country (speaking from a very romantic experience Mike and I had in Phuket).
Since you can’t drink tap water, you have to buy bottled water, which can add up pretty quickly if you drink a lot of water like me.
The best way to save on Thailand travel costs is to buy the Thai government brand water (instead of Nestle or other brands). You’ll know which one it is because it’s usually all the way at the bottom of the color, has a flimsy matte white plastic with blue graphics on it, and is about 90% less of the big brand water’s cost.
2. Pack a pillowcase.
If you’re backpacking around Thailand, you may stay at some budget friendly places at the cost of unclean accommodations.
Pack your own pillowcase to use whenever you encounter questionable sheets on your bed.
You’ll sleep a little better at night knowing that your face isn’t rubbing onto unwashed sheets.
3. Carry hand sanitizer and toilet paper on you at all times.
Thailand’s sanitization levels are much lower than the United States’ levels, and this might not be tolerable to many people used to pristinely clean facilities.
A lot of bathrooms don’t have any soap to wash your hands, and most charge for toilet paper.
If you don’t feel like carrying toilet paper or tissues on you, then bring change to buy some, and at the very least, bring hand sanitizer.
4. Eat at food carts over restaurants.
Eating at street carts is probably was one of the best things to do in Thailand for us. It is street cart heaven there.
You can literally feel like you died and went to the type of heaven that has whole, filling, and spice-filled foods for only $1 USD.
Opt for street food over restaurants because from experience, the street food can be better than the food at restaurants.
My theory is that street cart owners spend their whole lives mastering the one or two dishes they sell at their carts daily, which makes them better than chefs at restaurants in Thailand– just a theory…
Plus, spending less money at a restaurant means you have more money to try out at a variety of food like deep fried crickets—yum!
5. Don’t take bike cabs (aka tuk tuks) or anyone else you didn’t plan on taking a ride from. If you take a cab, ask to turn on the meter.
Ok, admittedly, even though everyone is SO nice, Thailand has its sketch balls, especially in Bangkok so be alert.
Always ask the cabs to turn their meters on because they have them, and don’t take rides randomly even from official looking tuk tuks because they’ll charge you out of the wazoo or bring you somewhere unknown that’ll charge you out of the wazoo from something else.
On this note, there will be guys outside of big tourist sites saying that the site is closed for the day, and they can bring you to another place for good sales and shopping.
UM HELLO– don’t fall for it. We actually heard this one on the way into the Grand Palace. Almost got us… NOT!
6. Pack less to travel lightly.
There are two reasons to pack lightly. One awesome reason is that clothes in Thailand is really cheap and you’re bound to put up a handful of $3 shorts and $5 dresses.
The second reason is that getting your laundry sent out is super cheap at about 50 cents a pound, which comes back smelling nice and neatly folded, so there’s no really to pack enough clothes to get you through your vacation when you can just get your laundry done.
7. Carry a raincoat or umbrella on you.
Depending on the season, you’ll never know when it’s going to rain so either carry a raincoat or umbrella on you for random downpours.
If carrying an umbrella isn’t your thing, then try getting one of those cheap 99 cent raincoats to slip into your pocket as you walk around.
8. Wear sandals with straps at waterfalls or on hikes.
Although they’re not the average person’s choice of sandals for fashion, wearing sandals with straps are the best for waterfalls or on hikes because you need a solid grip to walk on the very slippery rocks and paths of the waterfalls.
Boots or sneakers with socks have the grip but soak your feet into wrinkly, old grandma feet whereas regular sandals can have you slipping around ‘till you fall on your back.
For example, these Merrell sandals with straps do a great job for hiking at waterfalls.
However, if you want to save money on shoes you may only wear once, then check out Target or Wal-mart for similar style shoes. I got a pair for $15 in the boys’ section. 🙂
9. Buy leather and silk.
Ok so this isn’t exactly a practical tip, but if I could go back in time and wasn’t as cheap as I used to be right after college, I would buy leather and silk in Thailand.
I bought one small leather purse back then for $12, and it still looks basically brand new ’till this day. The craftsmanship and quality is excellent, and you can even get custom jobs done for really cheap.
For those who love silk, silk’s the thing to get here too.
Well, there’s all my 9 practical tips for Thailand, which include:
- Buy the Thai government brand water
- Carry hand sanitizer and toilet paper
- Pack a pillowcase
- Eat at food carts
- Turn the meter on in cabs, and don’t take random tuk tuk or cab rides
- Pack lightly, and get your laundry sent out
- Carry a raincoat or umbrella on you
- Wear ugly sandals with straps
- Buy leather and silk
More Thailand Travel Advice
Here are some more resources on Thailand travel advice you might like:
- Tips and resources from Fodors
- Hidden beaches in Phuket
- Celebrating Makha Bucha Day in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Have any tips for tourists besides my own tips for Thailand? Please share by commenting below!
Thanks for stopping by! xo.