Monday, July 20, 2015

General Travel Tips For Traveling to Thailand

Traveling to Asia was quite eye-opening for me. The culture is so beautifully unique from anywhere else I had visited but it took time to learn various cultural expectations and norms.  Below are various notes regarding dress code, interacting with monks and haggling that I hope you’ll find useful if you’re heading to Thailand.

Colorful taxis!
Taxis – When hailing a taxi, keep your hand horizontal, fingers facing down.  Fingers up is considered rude.  Be sure to either ask if the meter is on or ask for the price up front before getting in the car.  Many taxis either don’t have a meter or won’t turn it on in an effort to charge more than they should – so always ask!  You should also be aware of the carbon copy ticket the airport or hotels give you once you get into your taxi.  Hang onto this until you’re out of the cab.  I also found that tipping taxi drivers is very different than it is in the US.  Typically, it’s expected that you round up on your fare.  So a 97 baht fare would be rounded to 100.

Water – be really cautious when it comes to water and ice. If you plan on making coffee or tea in your room, double boil the water (most rooms come with an electric water boiler).  Ask for drinks without ice when at restaurants and be weary of smoothies that contain ice.  You’re typically safer eating ice in nice hotels and restaurants but it’s good to always be aware.

Haggling – everything except food can be negotiated.  As a rule of thumb, I never accepted the price tag as the final price.  Most of the time you can either offer a lower number or try to haggle a package deal (ie: I’ll take 5 of these for 500baht).

Visiting Temples:
  • Attire: make sure shoulders and knees are covered.  Yoga pants are not allowed at the Grand Palace.  Most temples have a place where you can borrow clothing. 
  • Never sit with your feet facing Buddha; sit with your feet facing the back or cross legged.
  • Thai Baht
  • Women are never allowed to touch monks (ie: no hand shakes)

Bangkok Metro system: 
  • There are 3 types of transportation: the BTS, the MRT (metro) and Airport Link.
  • For the MRT, you’ll need coins to purchase tickets.  Go to the cashier desk to get change if needed.  Find the ticket machines and look up the stop you’re going to.  The number associated is the fare amount.  Insert the exact change into the machine and get your ticket.  Callie and I struggled with figuring the system out and a sweet Australian man showed us the ropes.  (He also gave us some travel tips which can be found later in this post)

Air Asia Baggage Notes:
·       Checked bags need to be 20kg/44lbs or less or we’ll be charged
·       Checked bags cannot exceed 81cm (H) x 119cm (W) x 119 cm (D)
·       Each passenger is allowed 1 carry on and 1 purse.  Cannot exceed 56cm x 36cm x 23cm and cannot weigh more than 7kg; 15lbs

Grand Palace
Grand Palace Schemes: Beware that many people will try to lure you away from the Grand Palace entrance and some of them are very, very convincing (we fell for it even though we were on high alert).  For us, someone approached us saying the temple was closed for lunch but he could take us on a tour of nearby attractions for 500 baht while we wait.  While he did take us to 1 attraction (a golden Buddha statue) the rest of the time he shuffled us to various tailors and gem stores where we had to spend at least 15 minutes inside and engage with the salespeople.  Total scam and total waste of time.  Don’t fall for it like we did, just keep your eye on the entrance and don’t stop!

Tips from a very nice Australian we met:
  • Never go to bars that are not on the ground floor.
  • NaNa in Bangkok is where the party scene is.  If you’re looking for a crazy night out, that’s your place
  • Don’t go into any Russian bars
  • Be cautious when eating food on Koh Phi Phi island.  He told us that tourists die every year from food poisoning. 

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