A Guide to Overseas Travel

11 Tips for Your First Trip to Thailand

tips for thailand

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There’s a reason that tens of thousands of people flock to the Land of Smiles every year. It’s a beautiful paradise where luxury accommodations and delicious food are priced low. Whether you’re starting your backpacking adventure across Asia, or looking to get away for two weeks, there are certain things that a first-time visitor should know. Thailand certainly delivers on everything that it promises, but knowing the following tips will help you get the most out of your experience.

What are some tips for visiting Thailand for the first time? First-time visitors to Thailand should know the following:

  • Don’t drink tap water.
  • Carry cash.
  • Know on/off-seasons.
  • Know the land.
  • Learn about local transportation.
  • Take preventative health measures.
  • Understand the culture and laws.
  • Be cautious of certain animal attractions.
  • Keep your cool.
  • Wear proper clothing.
  • Avoid scams.

With its stunning coastlines, friendly culture, and incredible food, Thailand certainly earns its ranking among one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. There is so much to see and so much to do. But before you show up, there are some things that all first-time visitors should know if they want to stay safe and get the most out of their time there.

11 Essential Tips for Your First Trip to Thailand

Visiting a foreign country is exciting! It’s always a wonderous experience to soak in a brand-new culture for the first time. Thailand dubbed itself as “The Land of Smiles” when the countries of Asia started bringing in a high volume of tourists. They wanted to stand above the rest, promising luxurious beachfronts, delicious food, and friendly local smiles.

If you’re planning your very first trip to Thailand, here are 11 tips you should keep in mind:

1.    Don’t Drink the Tap Water

The truth is, Thailand’s tap water is unsafe to drink. You’ll want to stick to boiled water or treated water. You can get a reusable water bottle to keep with you. It’s cheap to refill, and water dispensers are available in the street and many hotels. Be mindful of the water you’ll be swimming in too. Bacterial infections can easily enter your body through cuts and abrasions. You don’t want your fun day of white water rafting to result in a nasty case of swamp fever.

Check for cuts and have them treated with disinfectants. Another thing to be careful with is fruits and vegetables. Make sure they were washed by a safe water source before consuming it. Forgetting to do this is one of the most causes of illness among tourists. However, while the water itself is bad, the ice is good quality and safe to consume; this is because Thailand’s network of ice factories uses purified water. Instead of making their own, it’s cheaper for businesses to use the commercial ice.

2.    Carry Plenty of Cash

Thailand is a highly cash-based society, with its currency in the form of baht. Only high-end hotels, luxury malls, and certain restaurants will take plastic methods of payment. If you plan on paying with Mastercard or Visa, though, expect to pay an additional fee. Everyone else expects to be paid in cash.

ATMs can be found just about anywhere and everywhere in Thailand. There are so many ATMs, in fact, that they actually compete for space. Providing cash to tourists happens to be a thriving business in Thailand, and you can expect to pay a nice $6-7 fee per transaction on top of whatever your bank charges.

It’s always a good measure to just take out the maximum amount every time you make a withdrawal, but also keep this in mind: It’s considered rude to pay small fees with high bills, and often, vendors won’t even be able to break large notes without going out of their way. You don’t want to cause grumbling amongst small shop and eatery vendors, so when you withdraw your funds from the ATM, opt for something like 5,900 baht, instead of 6,000 baht. This way, you’re sure to get some smaller notes.

Negotiating Fees

There are also some culturally unique things about Thailand regarding money that you’ll want to know. Bargaining and haggling is a large part of their culture. Prices are often flexible, and it’s okay to try wiggling the final price around. Just don’t do it for essentials like food or drink. Souvenirs and clothing are what you bargain for.

Tips for Tipping

On the topic of cash and paying, you should know that tipping is not the norm in Thailand. You still have the freedom to do so, of course, but there are things to consider before you do. Tipping will encourage cultural mutation, and it can be bad for locals because prices will go up. It also causes everyone to prefer serving only “rich” tourists.

3.    Know the On and Off Seasons

What you do and experience in Thailand is going to be greatly impacted by what time of the year you go there. There are two distinct seasons in Thailand with multiple factors surrounding them.

  • May through October is considered the off-season. This is the perfect time to go if you don’t want to spend a lot of money. Prices on flights, accommodations, and various activities are very cheap; this is because of the country’s monsoon season. Weather conditions won’t be optimal, but the rain only lasts for a few hours.
  • November to April is considered the high (on) season. The weather is perfect for exploration adventures between islands, and scuba diving conditions are excellent. You may even catch Thailand’s incredible water fight festival, Songkran. This is the time where the paradise aspect shines brightest. But be aware, airlines increase their prices, and hotels and hostels often book out. There’s also going to be massive crowds at every top attraction.

4.    Know the Land

Thailand is a huge country, with over 69 million people spread across 76 provinces. Bangkok alone occupies 605.7 square miles of space, with over 8 million people living there. Deciding where to go and what to do can be overwhelming at first. If you’re starting your backpacking adventure across Asia, then you probably have some time to explore. But if you only have two weeks of vacation, then you’ll need a plan.

There is so much to see in Thailand. Besides Bangkok, you can explore the mountains and visit the hill tribes in the north. In the south, you’ll find beautiful beaches with stunning coastlines. Thailand has 1,430 islands for you to pick from. The following list shows some of Thailand’s most famous islands that you might consider visiting:

  • Phuket
  • Koh Phi Phi
  • Koh Pha

There are plenty of island hopping strategies and guides available online. Be sure to account for travel time. Thailand provides a mixed bag of thriving city life and a quiet getaway. Whether you want a taste of both, or be lost in one, get the most out of it by planning travel routes and destinations before you get there.

5.    Learn About Local Transportation

All first-time travelers to Thailand need to know that the traffic there can be terrible and absurdly dangerous. They have the second-highest number of traffic fatalities in the world, with over 80 lives being lost every day. Always practice safe transportation measures. If you are not licensed to drive in Thailand, stick to one of the many public transportation options.

Bangkok’s public transportation options include above ground and underground subways, public buses, taxis, and even boats for easy island hopping.

For those on a budget, the motorbike taxi option is always available, but that can be very dangerous. If you’re looking for a unique way to travel, wave down a tuk-tuk and go for a stroll. Tuk-tuks are little three-wheeled open vehicles that are similar to the cost of a taxi and provide a fun and authentic travel experience. There are larger capacity taxis in Thailand called songthaews. These guys are easy to flag down and will get you going.

6.    Take Preventative Health Measures


There are a few things to take in when considering general safety in Thailand. Overall, it’s a very safe place for people to visit, but first-time visitors should always make the proper preparations. There are several ways to get sick in Thailand.

The first thing to do is to make sure that you have the proper vaccinations. While not officially required, consider being up to date on the following vaccinations to prevent common illnesses people get from visiting Thailand:

  • Routine vaccinations such as MMR, Tetanus, Polio, and Diphtheria
  • Typhoid: Especially recommended if a sizable portion of your trip is spent in rural locations.
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies: The truth is, animal bites happen in Thailand, especially in remote locations. It’s always smart to prepare.

(Source: World Nomads)

Something else to look out for is certain street food vendors. Thailand has some of the best street food in the world, but not all of it was made with top priority cleanliness in mind. Don’t worry, though. All it takes is a vigilant eye to spot which stalls to avoid, and which ones to chow down on!Check out this link to see what the CDC has to say about staying healthy in Thailand.

7.    Understand Culture and Laws

Thailand’s rich culture is one of the main things that makes visiting the nation so wonderous and unforgettable. The Country of Smiles lives up to its nickname, and it’s a very good idea to get familiarized with the culture behind it.

The most important thing that first-time visitors should know is this: do not talk bad about the monarchy. The late King of Thailand’s reign was the longest-lasting monarchy the world has ever known. Though he sadly died in 2016, the Thai people still hold him in very high regard. The nation mourned his death for an entire year, so avoid saying anything bad about the king!

Here are some other cultural tips to keep in mind:

  • Be Careful Where You Point Your Feet: Specifically, do not point your feet at images of Buddha or the King; this is also considered very offensive.
  • Avoid Buddha Souvenirs: All images of Buddha, whether it’s a picture or a statue, is considered sacred. Even souvenirs that you buy require an export license or permit before you can take it out of the country.

8.    Be Cautious Around Certain Animal Attractions

You’ve probably seen cool Facebook videos where elephants are painting detailed pictures or some other incredible spectacle. These types of shows are plentiful in many parts of Thailand, but the sad truth is that the animals in the show are put through extreme and traumatic situations to perform. Unfortunately, this includes Elephant-riding too.

Be careful with the Monkeys. Thailand has a lot of places where you can get close and personal with them in their natural habitat. There is even a beach in Koh Phi completely dedicated to monkeys. If you encounter a monkey up close, don’t give them any food. They need to be able to get their food naturally in the wild. Feeding them will get them accustomed to human food, and if they don’t get it, they can get aggressive and start biting. Even more feeding can make them lose the skills to get their own food.

9.    Keep Your Cool

Everyone has gone out of their way at one point or another to save face. To Thai people, saving face is an important part of their culture. No matter what the situation is, the locals strictly frown upon tourists who raise their voices or use an improper tone. Losing your temper on a local will get you nowhere, even if you are right, and your argument is valid. This is the Land of Smiles, after all, so you’ll need to find another way to solve your problem.

Saving face is especially important when negotiating prices. Believe it or not, shopkeepers value saving face more than making the final sale! This does not mean that you must be a pushover. It’s okay to drive a hard bargain and to fight for a good deal. Just don’t stand firm to “win” the conversation. Be flexible and respectful of their way of life.

10.  Prepare Proper Clothing

Thailand is unique when it comes to preparing your wardrobe. No matter what time of the year you go, it’s going to be very hot. The humidity will not go unnoticed, and you’ll be tempted to wear minimal clothing; this is a bad idea for several reasons:

  • Mosquitos: Mosquitos are plentiful and abundant in Thailand, and they love biting! You’ll want to cover your skin if you’re going to spend a lot of time outside. Bring plenty of bug spray.
  • It gets very cold inside: To supplement the scorching weather outside, the locals of Thailand like to keep it cool indoors. Very cool. You need to account for this when deciding what to bring.
  • Restrictive Clothing Requirements: Thailand is home to many beautiful temples. Tourists love visiting these sacred sites, but you won’t be able to see any of it if you’re not abiding by the dress code. For the most part, men and women alike need to cover their shoulders and knees.

11.  Avoid Scams

First-time travelers to Thailand should know that certain individuals make an entire living out of scamming tourists. These scams could come out of nowhere and ruin your day unless you know what to look for. Mainly, make sure to settle the price on all of your transportation before taking off. Certain “taxis” do not have meters, and it can be impossible to tell how much is owed by the end of the trip.

Normally it’s a wonderful thing to be acquainted with local drivers who know a lot about the place you’re visiting. It’s a great way to discover gems you would have never thought to visit otherwise. But in Thailand, this can get you into trouble. Just stick with your plans, and don’t let anyone talk you out of it. If the drivers refuse to take you, then there are plenty of other taxis available!

Be wary of fake tourist centers close to the Bangkok airport. These places will try to convince you that your booked hotel does not exist, and you’ll find yourself paying even more money at some other place. It’s unnecessary, and a horrible way to start your trip. Check out this link to learn about more common scams in Thailand.


Thailand has done a fabulous job of branding itself as one of Asia’s top vacation destinations. Its special flavor of culture and unmatched variety of things to do at an ultra-low cost make it highly desired amongst tourists. There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy. But like most foreign countries, there are considerations that all traveling tourists need to make.

If you’re preparing to go to Thailand for the first time, then we hope that the information in this article has helped you prepare for the best and the worst. It’s always essential to load yourself up with basic facts before exploring a place for the first time.

In conclusion, Thailand is a very safe place for people to visit, and if you keep everything discussed in this article in mind, then your vacation will be one that you won’t be forgetting any time soon.

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