Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia. It’s a country rich with historic temples, jaw-dropping beaches, and delicious food. If you’re one of the millions of people who can’t wait to visit the Land of Smiles, then here are ten pro-tips that you should follow to have a more convenient and enjoyable trip.
Do your homework before booking a place
Airbnb is becoming more popular since it is the cheaper option and the better way to immerse yourself in the locale. However, as with any other foreign land, doing your research is a must. Check the reviews of those who stayed there and check if the people leaving feedback are real. Some hosts create dummy accounts to leave 5-star ratings. Be careful not to be deceived and check the social media account of those who give positive reviews.
Don’t Stay In City Centers
Unlike traveling in Europe, where hostels in city centers are ideal because of their proximity to the European railways, backpacking in Thailand is better if you stay in areas brimming with natural beauty. You can always visit and enjoy the cities, but staying there might stop you from checking out all the beautiful places in the countryside.
Do dress appropriately when visiting religious temples and shrines
Make sure your shoulders and knees are both covered before entering any Thai temple or royal palace. This goes for all genders. You don’t have to wear a tux or a blazer, but the more formal you wear, the better the locals’ response to you will be. Don’t worry about getting heatstroke. You can still survive the unfamiliar heat by buying clothes with thin fabrics.
Don’t forget to ask if you have to take your shoes off
Feet are considered dirty in this country. Footwear is usually left outside temples, homes, and even some shops. It would be best to wear flip-flops instead so you can avoid the hassle of going back and forth with your laces.
Do remember not to point
Most cultures, especially in western countries, have no issues with pointing. However, many Asian countries, including Thailand, consider pointing with your index finger rude. And pointing at someone or even a general direction with your feet is almost like cussing since they consider the feet as the lowliest and dirtiest part of the body.
It would be better to use your chin or your whole hand to point at something or someone.
Don’t ever touch a person’s head
Since feet are the lowliest part of the body, the head is considered to be the holiest part. Touching someone’s head, especially a child’s, will be seen as an insult. To avoid seeming utterly disrespectful, bend your back, bow your head, and press your palms together while saying “wai” (pronounced as why) instead. The wai gesture is used as a greeting, to express gratitude, and even to apologize.
And while doing this to a person younger than you is unnecessary, don’t forget to reciprocate if someone greets you with this gesture.
Interaction With Monks
Do show respect whenever you encounter a monk
Since temples are one of the most popular tourist attractions, you will probably cross paths with monks multiple times during your trip. Monks are regarded as some of the most respected people in Thai society. Be sure to bow whenever you come across them. Giving up your seat on public transport will also earn you bonus points.
And speaking of public transport, whenever you’re commuting, keep in mind that you should not pass anything directly to them. You can put alms down in their collection bowl or any surface in front of them instead.
Don’t touch the monks
Show respect to their personal space. It’s easy to get excited seeing someone different but taking selfies with them without consent is a big no. Don’t forget that females are strictly forbidden to have any form of physical contact with monks. Even brushing past them or sitting next to them can break their spiritual vows.
Do steer clear of Ping Pong shows
If you’re not familiar, Ping Pong shows are sex shows popular in Bangkok, Phuket, and Pattaya. And even though it might pique the interest of some, it can be very dangerous both to your wallet and your life. Some workers in these shops will invite you to go to the upper floors of the bars when they see that you’re already drunk. And once you’re there, you will not be allowed to leave until you pay a huge bill.
Don’t support and fund elephant maltreatment
Elephant maltreatment has been a recurring problem in Thailand for a long time. Elephants brought into tourist spots are being harmed to stay docile in public. If you really want to experience bonding with animals, then it would be better to go to rehabilitation centers and sanctuaries for rescued elephants. The Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary and Elephant Nature Park are two places with the best reputation that you can visit.
All in all, Thailand is a beautiful place. The culture is rich and the people are hospitable. It’s called the Land of Smiles for a reason. But it doesn’t mean that you can do anything you want without considering the consequences. To prevent that smile from turning upside down, make sure to do your research, follow their customs, and always be respectful.