Before Exploring Thailand and leaving on this adventure Nick and I packed our bags, got our passport, and mapped out our plan to get to LAX for our international departure. Neither of us knew where we were going once we landed or even how to speak three words in Thai.
That being said once we got to Thailand we quickly discovered that English is very much apart of their culture and they all speak some broken English. So once we landed at 12:50am in Phuket, Thailand we soon discovered we would take a taxi to Patong Beach. With no reservations booked until the next day we wandered the streets of Patong popping into hostels and hotels along the way. After about 3 different places we settled on a price with the hotel clerk just down the street from where we booked reservations the next day. This leads me into what I learned within the first 12 hours of being in Thailand. This is what to know before Exploring Thailand!
What to Know:
- ALL PRICES ARE NEGOTIABLE, now in the US this is said about some things like room reservations or when dealing with a salesperson that is known to negotiate. In Thailand, especially Patong Beach, you want to barter. Patong Beach is very expensive in comparison to other areas of Thailand. So when the street vendor starts at 1500 baht, it isn’t uncommon to come back with 1/3 to half their price. Now if you feel like you are getting a fair price then it is okay to make the transaction. Only barter if you feel the deal isn’t good. This took some time for myself to figure out what is a good price. Especially because when dealing with new currency it almost feels like monopoly money.
- THE KING IS EVERYTHING. In Thailand the King passed away just this past year in 2016. When he passed the country that never sleeps didn’t even open their doors that day. It was as if one of their family members had passed away. The King was responsible for keeping peace and avoiding wars. He helped bring a falling country into existence with irrigation and sewer systems. Not only did he help the people but he was a man of the people as well. He was never to good, he stayed humble and for this gained massive respect among his people. So never discredit the King or even step on their currency with the face of the King on it.
- RIDE THE SCOOTERS. Upon arriving in Thailand I remember watching our cab driver bob and weave in and out of traffic. From one side of the road on the left all the way to the center with oncoming traffic to avoid hitting scooters in the left lane. The thought of even driving here scared me to death. NO RULES, and NO REGARD. Due to the fact there seemed to be no traffic laws when the suggestion was made to rent scooters I was totally against it. After some peer pressure it turned out to be one of the coolest things. Driving on the left became second nature, and once you learned to go with the flow of traffic it became like a game. Now intersections and roundabouts are a different story and can get a little hectic. The only real tip I have here is: Be aggressive and don’t hesitate. If you merge people will move, if you don’t people will fill the gap. This sounds crazy but scooters were super convenient to explore the island at your pace!
- MEET A COOL TAXI DRIVER. The other option to this is to become friends with a taxi driver upon the first few days. If you meet someone with great English grab their number or their WhatsApp. Due to the number of people and the total number of taxi drivers competing for business everyday taxi drivers can go without a fare all day. So when you find one you like ask them to drive you. On my third day in Patong I got a Taxi for 800 baht round trip, which still may be too much. But with that my taxi driver took me to one destination, waited in the parking lot, then took me to the next. Overtime waiting in the parking lot till I was ready. Once you have toured the places you wanted to see he/she will take you back to your hotel. This is a cheap way to have a private driver, get local insight, and get history along the way.
- MASSAGE!!! In Patong you cannot go more than 200 ft without hearing, “MAAASSSAAGE?” Now everyone has heard about a great Thai massage and how amazing they are. While that may be true the ones on the street have a very cheap price at 200 baht. Once inside the women are more about the happy ending than a decent massage. Now this may be different for other travelers, but this is just my experience. My friend and I went with his wife and he was not harassed but I was only 5 ft from him and could not get a real massage. That being said I did discover that most hotels/resorts have spas. There are even spas on the street, there are no women outside trying to drag you in so you know it is a great place. These can be a bit more expensive depending on the package you buy. However, the price is a fraction of what you would pay in the states. I found this to be the better option when trying to get a massage in Thailand.
- MINERAL WATER! When you get to Thailand do not drink the water. As a westerner it can make you sick and it isn’t worth the risk of ruining your trip. Definitely drink bottled water and it is readily available at clubs, restaurants, and 7-elevens. Bottled water is very cheap too, coming out to about 15 baht or $0.48. That being said mineral water is also readily available. The benefit to this is that because the humidity will drain you quick. Mineral water helps to hydrate your body quicker while replacing vital nutrients as well.
- LAUNDRY. This is huge! When I arrived in Thailand I had 4 shirts, 4 shorts, 6 pairs of underwear, and 6 pairs of socks with two pairs of shoes. I knew laundry was inevitable. So after being there we discovered that each tourist stand selling tours also does laundry for 50 baht a Kg. Now the hotel will charge per item and can get expensive. These little stands will wash your laundry, iron it, and seal it up for you to be delivered to your hotel per Kg. So don’t waste your time or money at the hotel run across the street to the little kiosk and drop off your dirty clothes.
- FOOD! Now when in Thailand I recommend to eat Thai food. We made the discovery that Yelp is not available in Thailand. However, download trip advisor to find great restaurants, hotels, and other things to do. This app will lead you to some of the best restaurants around. While in Thailand we found that some restaurants tailored to tourists were more expensive. However, once we got outside of Patong food was cheap. I found myself ordering three or four main courses, an appetizer, and a dessert for the price of one meal in Patong. So EAT! AND EAT OFTEN! The food consists of some protein, veggies, and a bed of rice for the most part. My favorites are Chicken Fried Rice, any kind of Curry, and Pad Thai.
- Island hop! One of our main highlights was the decision to travel to Phi Phi Island for a night which turned into three! We loved Phi Phi and everything it had to offer. It was cheap, no cars or traffic, amazing nightlife, and after a Black Sails Adventure tour we couldn’t go anywhere on the island without running into a familiar face. One of the biggest perks to Ko Phi Phi Don is that majority of the people speak great English if not only English. This made for a great experience in meeting new friends. Ko Phi Phi Don isn’t the only destination you can venture off to. I would set a home base upon arriving in Thailand and then set a path to venture all around the islands.
- Bangla Road! It is well accepted in Thailand to be a Ladyboy and there are many ways to try and guess if they are. The easiest way to truly find out is to ask to see their ID. The ID card will say Miss or Mr, this is an official indicator. It is required for them to show you their ID and beneficial for everyone. Because no ladyboy wants to be hurt or killed and no one wants to find themselves with one that isn’t looking.
*Tip: Ask to play bar games with the bartenders or hostesses. You will play connect 4, Jackpot or other house games and if you win you get a free drink. If you lose you buy your competitor a drink. It is all good fun!
Hopefully, you find these 10 things helpful before you travel to Thailand. I know I wish I would have known a couple of them. However, learning from experience was part of the fun!