Heading to Thailand for the first time and looking for some insider views about traveling in the country? Read on! Here are our brief reflections on daily life situations we have experienced during our fifteen months traveling in Thailand.
If you are looking for a place to stay in Thailand, we recommend booking it through Booking.com, Hotelscombined or TripAdvisor, one of the best websites to compare prices.
Always make sure you travel with travel insurance! Be adventurous, but not careless. Check out some of the most reliable insurance companies out there: True Traveller if you’re European and World Nomads if you’re from elsewhere.
If you love animals and you prefer going local during your travels, try housesitting, which is an amazing way to travel the world while taking care of the pets whose owners are on vacation. If you use TrustedHousesitters with this link you’ll get 25% off on annual membership.
Traveling to Thailand? Get our Complete Guide to Thailand Independently
1. Fewer mosquitos than expected
Hold on, “fewer” means there are still some, but so far, citronella incense sticks and natural repellent have helped to keep bugs attacks under control.
2. Mind your head
If you are taller than 1.65 cm (5′ 5″), then take this warning seriously. Particularly while walking on the streets among the sunshades or roofs of the stalls and shops. Also, watch out for wooden sticks peeking out from the bottom of carton posters hanging on the street light poles.
Join one of the local tours in Thailand:
- Chiang Mai: Ethical Elephant Observation Nature Park Visit
- Bangkok: Full-Day Hop-On Hop-Off Walking Tour
- Erawan Waterfall & Kanchanaburi Highlights Tour From Bangkok
- Bangkok: Half-Day Thai Cooking Class with Market Tour
- Sukhothai: Historical Park & Countryside Cycling Tour
3. Honking transport is harmless
When you walk on the street and you hear from behind a car, a motorbike or a tuk-tuk honking vigorously, do not panic and jump away from the spot where you are. Here in Thailand, a sound of honk means “hey, mate, I can give a paid ride!” rather than “move out of the way, dude!” as we might be used to from western culture. Of course, if you are crossing the road at a red light and there are cars around, you had better run to save your life.
4. Ice is safe
Despite many warnings we found online or in guidebooks, to have a fruit shake or juice with ice is absolutely fine, with no side effects for your stomach.
Read more articles about Thailand:
- Bangkok Tips: How to Survive Your First Time In the Capital of Thailand
- Where to stay in Bangkok: the Ultimate Guide
- Adventures in Pai
- Things to Do in Chiang Mai: Your Ultimate List of Awesome Experiences
- Best Massages in Chiang Mai: Where to Get Yourself Pampered
- Fruits of Thailand: Healthy and Delicious Food You Must Try
5. Burning mouth
An expression like “a bit spicy” does not exist here. When ordering your food, do not ask for “just a bit of chili”. Your “little bit” is far away from their “little bit”. To keep your mouth safe, it is better to ask “no spice, please”. Then you might use your favourite amount of chili from the jar that is always available.
6. Thai trees are multi-functional
Here the trees serve not just to grow fruits, sustain a bird nest or to provide oxygen, but also as a holder for fans, neon lamps or an electrical socket! No kidding. Thais use trees in all possible ways, no matter if that tree is dry and rotten. The important thing is if it can hold the weight of a piece of plastic or metal.
Want to be fully prepared before traveling to Thailand? Check out our comprehensive guide THAILAND INDEPENDENTLY.
7. Sugar, sugar, sugar
Thai people use sugar basically everywhere: in soups, in meat dishes, in rice dishes, in smoothies, juices, too. On the other hand, be ready to find salt in typically sweet things like ice cream and some cakes.
8. Street food can be tedious
If selected mindfully, you can enjoy an amazing mixture of new textures, flavours and tastes. On the other hand, if eating only street food, it becomes quite repetitive after some time.
What goes around, comes around. 99% of Thai people smile back when you smile at them. 1% of non-smiling people are, strangely, the majority of Buddhist monks and some random people.
10. Less busier, more cheap
While doing fruits and veggies shopping at the street markets, it is always better to walk around before buying. It’s guaranteed that on a small side street next to the busier market you find cheaper stuff of the same quality, sometimes even less than half of the price of goods on the “main” street of the market.
11. Edible decoration
What we grow and care about in our vegetable gardens and fields in Europe, here they use as a decoration. We are talking about zucchini plants, which grow everywhere and produce beautiful yellow flowers to admire.
12. We are all humans
Oh, yes, we are, so do not forget to close your open mouth after you see a Buddhist monk smoking or eating chips here.
Pack & travel:
31 thoughts on “12 Lessons Learnt After 15 Months Traveling in Thailand”
love the advice especially about smiling it breaks down so many barriers….counting down the days to be back in Thailand 🙂 can’t wait to enjoy my first fruit shake.
Smile is an universal greeting, that’s for sure 🙂 Oh, yes, fruits shakes are the best ever you can have here 🙂 Enjoy Thailand, Michele!!
Cute! Wonderful photos too 🙂
Thank you, Johanna 🙂
No. 3 -Honking transport- reminded me that in India it has another meaning “I’M here !!!”. There, because it’s so crowdy, drivers close their side mirrors and concentrate only in front, and on the sides and back they count on the comming drivers to honk theit presence .
Funny rules though 🙂
Good to know, Marinela 🙂 Thank you a lot and have a great time in India!!!
yup, pretty spot on with no. 5.
spicy definitely equals hot, so proceed with caution.
Thanks for commenting, Gabriel. We are curious how it will be in other countries of SE Asia 🙂
It is the same like in India – a bit spicy in India is not the same what for me.
Hopefully we will have a chance to try it out there 🙂
Yes, yes, yes 🙂 Absolutely agree about everything, and especially about sugar. One other thing that surprised me in Chiang Mai in winter: the weather. It is way more colder than I expected and some nights were positively freezing. I guess while reading/researching I just could not believe that it could be true and dismissed any mentioning as an exaggeration of those who lived in tropics all their lives – it can not be cold anywhere in Thailand, right?, but it is.
thanks for commenting. You are very right, one could really freeze last weeks in Chiang Mai. Especially in the morning and early eve it was pretty cold.
From what we have heard, this “winter” season was very unusual for the area. Anyway, it is definitely coming back to hot days so let’s enjoy!
Have safe trips, guys
Lovely blog BUT, a blanket statement that ice “fine” is dangerous. Ice will only be “fine” if the drinking water is fine. Freezing does not kill bacteria, protozoa or viruses(it does kill some parasites)
Sure, quality of water determines the safety. But speaking about Thailand in the post, and also after having been in Thailand for five months now, we can say that we never had an issue with that 🙂
Great post Ivana. Great advice. We never saw the power points on the trees. I learnt about the spicy part very early in our travels. Jarryd loves spicy food so he had 2 dishes that day. We are a big fan of the fruit and veggies everywhere there too. We do miss that. Thank you for sharing.
I know what you mean by passing a meal to your other half, Gianni can tell you about it 🙂 We do love Thai fruits and cannot imagine other breakfast than a plate of fresh fruits. Hope you can have some fruit delicacies in Vietnam, too!
Our biggest surprise in Thailand was how hard it was to find Pad Thai! I loved the smiles though, especially since Thai people rarely smile first, but after you do, their faces just glow.
Hi Jane! Hmmm, we have quite different experience with both. I guess it depends on which area of Thailand you travel to. We usually got pad thai in the north, west, BKK and southern islands without any problem. And smile from the locals too 🙂
Thanks for sharing those first impressions. We traveled to Thailand 2 years ago and I can totally relate to everything you describe. Beautiful pics as well!
Thanks much! I’m curious how will be the country in a few years and how many of these points travellers to Thailand would be able to relate to. Happy travels!
I’m really looking forward to being in Thailand next week. Thanks for the chilli and height tip!
Thanks for reading, Rossi, and have a great time in Thailand!
My wife and I were in Thailand 2 years ago and loved the people and food! As you mentioned, a smile goes a long way! They love having their picture taken as well! 🙂
Thanks so much for reading and sharing, Robert! Any plans to get back to Thailand in the future?
I go to Chiang Mai every years and I so agree with you guy ^_^
Thanks for the amazing post Ivana. I am going to Thailand next month, this is surely going to help. I am glad I found this while browsing Quora.
Glad we could help, Ankit. ENjoy Thailand!
Great article guys! I really enjoyed your photos. The last one is really funny too haha.
I just thought that adding some common Thai phrases would be useful. If you have time, please check out my article here: https://blog.inspitrip.com/3420/top-100-basic-thai-phrases-to-know/. Hope you like it!
Yea the sugar in all the smoothie’s and juices was something I wasn’t fond of, but I learned to ask for no sugar quickly 🙂
Haha the spice bit made me laugh. I never mess around too much with spice but cazzie is a bit more adventurous. He learned his lesson quick though! Thanks for sharing, we’re headed back to Thailand for our 2nd time in a week.
Now they are used to non-spicy foreigner taste more, I guess, and they giggle when we tell them “not spicy”. You can always say “mai phed” (means “not spicy”), and is pronounced as “my pet” in English 🙂 Happy travels, and if you are around Chiang Mai, let us know 🙂
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