6 things to keep in mind before visiting Thailand

Last May 2016, my best friend (J) and I booked our tickets to our very first out of the country trip together. The second we received our booking confirmation, all the excitement hormones surged through our bodies and we sat staring at our screens deliriously happy and broke.

We were on our way to Thailand!

Locally, not a lot of Filipinos choose Thailand as a vacation spot, but I’ve heard so much of our neighboring country from a lot of my friends from the West. So basically Thailand, The Land of Smiles, is a country in the Southeast Asia. It’s incredibly popular for its beaches, temples, and palaces, but also because of its proximity to other countries. From Thailand, one can easily take a train or another plane to Myanmar and Laos in the North, Cambodia in the East, and Malaysia in the South.

The country was absolutely breathtaking and colourful. I loved it to bits. Everything was cheap (yes, even for my country’s standards!), there was so much to do, it was tourist friendly, and it was just so… alive. 

But anyway, after booking, J and I had roughly one month to plan and prepare (and save up again). I had thought then that I utilized my time well, but by oh golly, Thailand proved me wrong. So since I’d rather not let anyone go through the inconveniences I went through due to my unpreparedness, here are some tips to remember before visiting Thailand:

1. Exchange your money to Baht before leaving for Thailand

Unless you have an ATM that would work abroad, do exchange your cash before going to Thailand. Just to clarify though, there are banks and independent money changers practically everywhere but you would be wasting precious time queuin up to get your money exchanged. I also realized that the rates in the Philippines are actually a lot better than the rates they had offered in Thailand. Best to check the exchange rates before leaving, so you can strategize where you get the best out of your money!

If worst comes to worst though, from my short stay in Thailand, I’d say the best bank to get your money changed is at Siam Commercial Bank, or for even better rates, the independent money changer Super Rich.

2. Book accommodations online

Being the perfect procrastinators, J and I failed to book accommodations for our night in Bangkok. We shrugged it off, even as we got on board the plane to Thailand, because we were confident that we’d find a decent one anyway, what with all the hotels and hostels and dormitories in Thailand.

Again, Thailand proved us wrong (and we promised ourselves we would never procrastinate again). When we arrived in Bangkok it was already 11 PM, and most of the accommodations we had searched in advance were fully booked. In the end, we settled with a dodgy hostel that I do not dare remember. Seriously, guys. It was traumatazing, but we were desperate. So the lesson is: book your lodgings in advance! You can find hundreds online!

Personally, I found Agoda really helpful for booking places in Hua Hin and Ayutthaya.

3. Have a rough idea of your travel routes

Nothing beats preparation.

Thailand has a pretty decent transportation system. But it can save so much time and effort if you have a rough sketch in your mind of all the places you want to go, and how you plan to get there. Especially if you plan to use the public transpo system.

Print a copy of the railway routes in Bangkok; search “how to get there” blogs on google; jot down important details in your travelling notebook. There are so many things you can do.

4. Bring mosquito repellent

A week after we got home from our visit, J got dengue fever. It’s a kind of fever that’s transmitted by mosquito bites. It was only the minor type, so she was fine after a few days. While it was entirely possible that she got bit when we got home, it’s always better to be safe than sorry right? 

You’ll want to be out and about touring the streets of Thailand even from the late afternoon til night time–and these are the hours when mosquitoes will be hunting out to feast on your blood. Thailand is very warm, so you won’t enjoy wearing sweaters or long pants to protect yourself thus, mosquito repellents! You’ll be able to buy them at local drugstores and supermarkets (also, remember, keep them in your luggage and not in your hand carry bags!).

5. Practice your negotiating skillz

While I’ve told you that things in Thailand are cheap, you’ve got to know that they can even be cheaper. Prepare your negotiating skills so you can be ready to ask for lower prices from your tuktuk driver (this is very important), night market vendor, and, well, almost everything that doesn’t have a fixed price labeled on it.

Condition yourself to politely but assertively ask for cheaper prices. While we were there, I had offers that started out from 120 Baht but went down to almost 40 Baht after we were done talking, that was 33% of the original price. Most tuktuk drivers we talked to also always began with giving us amounts that were double what we ended up paying.

6. Schedule and plan well

We stayed in Thailand for four days and four nights. In those four days, we visited three towns. And even though we enjoyed every moment of it, we were dead tired  when we finally got on the plane back to the Philippines. We surely had made the most of our trip, but then it seemed then that we maximized it too much? 

Believe the forums when they say you’ll need at least two weeks to really have a legit vacation in Thailand, people. They don’t lie!

There were lots of places I would have wanted to stay in longer, but couldn’t, because we were pressed for time. Don’t make that same mistake. There are loads of info you can find online about Thailand, so don’t hesitate to read up on those first so you know which places you’d like relax at. Even if you’re up for the up all night, adventure all day kind of wanderer, it would still help you loads to read up on the places so you won’t be struggling as much when you finally get there. Besides, planning for the trip (yes, even the transportation part- See tip #3) can actually be very exciting!

That’s all I can cook up! What tips would you give for anyone travelling to Thailand?

Note: This is the first part of my Discovering Thailand series. Stay tuned! 🙂
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