After you are done planning your trip to Thailand, here is a little more information about how to prepare and what to expect while you are there.
When to Go
There are three seasons in Thailand: rainy (May-Oct), cool (Nov-Feb), and hot (March – May). The cool season is definitely the best time to visit. And DO NOT think that it will actually be “cool” you will be sweating constantly and it will be hot, but tolerable, around 80 degrees plus humidity. We went in November and the weather was great (if anything too hot) – I can’t imagine what it would be like in the hot season. The rainy season is worst in the islands and a lot of ferries and tours will actually shut down. Not only does it rain, but the ocean will be very rough and the beaches will be less beautiful as the waves pull in lots of debri from the ocean. Basically the cool season is the best time to visit, with the only downfall being that it is also the busiest. Visiting in November or Feb will help you avoid some of the crowds.
Paying for Things
The currency is Thailand is Bhat. 100 bhat = $2.80 USD and everything is CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP. Also, all prices are up for negotiation and we found that negotiation was fairly easy in Thailand. Tell them what you want to pay and they will usually eventually end up agreeing on it. This is true for anything that you buy in a market or cabs. Pretty much everywhere will only take cash, so make sure that you have cash on you at all times. There are lots of ATMs around so you can always withdrawal if you run out.
There are lots of transportation options in Thailand. When traveling to a different region I would highly suggest flying. The flights are cheap, easy, and the fastest way to travel long distances. There are also trains (which I do not personally have experience). If you are planning on taking a train try to take a night train so you can sleep during the trip. Trains will save you a bit of money, but I would recommend flying if possible.
In the cities you can either take a cab or tuk tuk. Cabs will be metered so you will know you are not getting ripped off, just make sure that they turn on the meter when you get in the cab, because sometimes they will purposely not turn it off to try to get you to pay more for the ride. Tuk tuks will also over charge you. If you take a tuk tuk make sure that you agree on the price BEFORE you get in the Tuk Tuk. We found this to be an effective way of getting a cheap ride. Though typically a Tuk Tuk will be more expensive than a cab.
Another popular mode of transportation is motorbikes. In some islands you will definitely want to get a motorbike, though they may be a bit more intimidating in cities with heavy traffic. If you are like me and not fully confident in your motorbiking abilities I would only get them when necessary. The driving rules in Thailand are like most rules in Thailand – they basically don’t exist.
To get to and from most of the islands you will need to take a ferry or speed boat. Make sure to plan ahead for these because they often only come at certain times a day.
We had a hard time finding good food in Thailand, especially in the islands. In the islands it’s basically non-existant (with maybe Phuket as an exception). If you are looking for some good food your best best is usually the street food. As far as restaurants, the best ones can be found in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Honestly we ate chicken fried rice or pad thai for every meal – including breakfast. Beware of food poisoning – it is very common in Thailand since they do not have the same food standards as the US. Pretty much every menu will have a Thai section and a westernized menu (you can pretty much always find spaghetti).
One thing that I was not prepared for before going to Thailand was the bathrooms. They are consistently bad. And unless you are staying in a nice hotel/resort do not expect a normal toilet as you know them in the US. First, you can not put toilet paper in most toilets, meaning if you use it you will throw it in a trashcan next to the toilet. Most of them don’t flush with a handle, you will need to scoop water from a large bucket in the bathroom and dump it into the toilet to “flush”. Most toilets are outside, or basically outside, and will not be clean. Expect spiderwebs everywhere. If you are really unlucky (as a girl) you will come accross an asian type of toilet (not sure of the name) that will require you to squat and aim. They are not fun and will challege you ability to squat and balance without touching anything. Also – Thai people may not know what you mean when you ask for the bathroom, make sure you ask for the toilet.
You can not drink the water in Thailand, so make sure that you NEVER drink water from the sink. Always drink from water bottles and use bottled water when brushing your teeth. Restaurants will serve you water bottles if you serve water. I was told to be careful and make sure water bottles were sealed before drinking them – but everywhere we went they were fine. Figured i would mention it here though.
Bring it!!! And use it every day!! Even if you think you don’t need it.
Very important!! More than half of people who visit Thailand will get dysentery(diarrhea). I got it after three days of being there. Make sure that you get pills to treat this before you go! Your doctor can prescribe them to you. This is a must!!
There are no required vaccinations for going to Thailand but there are a number of recommended ones. You can visit a travel center before you go and they can give you all the info you need. I got malaria pills (only needed because i was traveling to Pai) , Hepatitis A, and Typhoid vaccinations. Again – not required, talk to a travel doctor and decide what is best for you and how cautious you wanna be. Vaccinations are not cheap.
You can get them everywhere and they are VERY cheap. Definitely want to do a lot of these while you are in Thailand.
I highly recommend a backpacking backpack. You will sometimes need to carry your suitcase out into knee deep water to load on a boat, go up lots of stairs, ect. Make sure you leave room for the stuff you buy cause there’s tons of cheap shopping over there 🙂