- See my main food guide for Thailand
- I highly recommend using Wongnai (very handy app/website with reviews from Thai people) instead of TripAdvisor (reviews by non-Thai people) when looking for good local food. If you're looking for pizza, burgers or something like that then use TripAdvisor. I really can't state this enough, TripAdvisor is terrible 90% of the time. Thai people are experts when it comes to Thai food and non-Thai people are generally completely clueless and only go to places they also find on TripAdvisor. Wongnai is also really useful for seeing photos of the menu so you know what they have and what the prices are beforehand (press "Explore the menu" when looking at a business in the app).
- Thai people eat with a spoon and fork, although chop-sticks are fine when eating noodles.
- Most Thai people seem to eat out at restaurants at lunch and during the day. Many local (non-tourist) restaurants will either be closed or empty in the evening.
- Papaya salad (som tum / som tam) is apparently the most eaten dish in Thailand. It's certainly not Pad Thai! Although beware of the potential spiciness. I find it's best to ask for a certain number of chillies. Unless you really can't handle spice, I recommend at least one chilli as it's a key part of the dish. Perhaps start with one and then increase it if you feel the need.
- The legal drinking age is 20+ although if you're western, you might find that they rarely ask for ID.
- Tap water isn't considered to be safe for drinking. 7-Eleven is often the cheapest place to buy bottled water, although many areas will have filtered water for free or incredibly cheap.
- Drinking hours: It's illegal to sell alcohol after midnight and between 2pm and 5pm. It's common to see the alcohol fridge in 7-Eleven padlocked during those times. As a result, bars often open at 5pm which can be annoying if you're wanting an afternoon beer. However, it usually doesn't take long to find a bar or restaurant that's ignoring the law.
- Singha, Leo and Chang are everywhere and effectively control the beer market. Strict alcohol laws prevent there being any real rivals and also stop what I'm sure would be a thriving craft beer scene. Any local craft beer you find will have been brewed out of the country (usually Cambodia or Australia) and is therefore subject to huge import tax making decent beer more expensive than London or any major western city.
- Buckets are the most common way of drinking on the party islands. They are also fairly common at other party venues around the country (such as Khaosan Road in Bangkok). You can choose your spirit and mixer but the cheapest option is usually Sangsom (Thai rum).
Most travellers enter Thailand on a free 30-day "visa exemption" which is automatically given on arrival, although obviously check before you travel to find out exactly the rules for your nationality. A 60-day "tourist visa" is possible but you need to apply for it before you enter Thailand and it costs (although they have been known to offer it for free, so check beforehand). For both of those options, it's possible to extend by a maximum of 30 days once you're in the country. Thailand is notorious for changing the visa rules frequently and sometimes you're not 100% sure until you're at the border. For instance, sometimes if you cross by land, you won't be given the full 30 days. There are also some official rules that are very rarely enforced such as the requirement of an outbound flight before you can enter the country.
Local sim card
I honestly can't understand why anyone staying a week or more wouldn't get a local sim. They're so cheap and it will save you time and money. Even if you only use it for Google Maps and Grab, it's worth it. I avoid the "tourist sim" options as they tend to be higher in price. I go for TrueMove's 300B option for 30 days with unlimited data. You should be able to easily find it in 7-Eleven and the staff will usually be able to help you with it.
Taxis & Tuk Tuks
In general the best option is Grab (Southeast Asia's Uber). Although the drivers might not be great, you won't get ripped off. If for some reason you can't (or don't want to) use Grab then getting a metered taxi should be fine but make sure you confirm with the driver that it's metered before you get in as they don't always turn it on. Getting an unmetered taxi might seem like a good idea and a good deal but you'll pretty much always be paying more than you should. Tuk tuks are often the most expensive way to get around. Obviously it's a fun (and somewhat scary) experience when you first get to Thailand but after that, only use them if you enjoy wasting money.
I recommend using the trains in Thailand, especially if there's a direct route to your destination. I've used the night train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai numerous times and had a good night's sleep each time. The onboard meals are tasty too! If there are an even number of you then look in to the first-class cabins as they're great and usually not much extra money.
7-Eleven stores are iconic amongst backpackers and found on what seems like every street in the whole country. They are a bright cold reliable haven, especially if you're still adjusting to being in Asia. You know what to expect, know you'll never get over-charged, most products have some English and they have some home comforts. They sell a wide variety of products from suncreen (although watch out for the whitening) to their famous toasted cheese sandwiches (I won't judge you if you have one when drunk).
Since 2014's coup, Thailand has been under military rule.
icon: Royal family
Thai people love the royal family. The last king, who sadly died in 2016, had been king for over 70 years and was adored. It was (and still is) extremely common to see shrines to him in restaurants and shops. His death was huge for the whole country, especially as most Thai people had known him as king for their entire lives. His son has taken the throne since. If you visit the cinema you will see a short video in honour of the current king which you will need to stand up for.
Buddism & Monks
Animals & Nature
- Elephants are an icon of Thailand. Even one of their most popular beers, Chang, is named after them! However, as explained in my main travel tips, you need to make sure you don't visit any park that allows riding of elephants and I even have mixed feelings about the ones which don't.
- Monkeys are often seen in national parks and tourist spots in the south. Be careful not to get too close or have food on you when they're around.
- Geckos are everywhere but they're safe, cute and help get rid of some mosquitos. Keep an eye (and ear) out for the much larger and rarer tokay geckos.
- Mosquitos will likely be a source of annoyance in varying degrees depending on the individual, location and season. I recommend buying a big orange can of "OFF!" mosquito spray from 7-Eleven, as I found it works better than anything else I tried.