In the following article, I will give you 15 exclusive Thailand insider tips for your trip to one of the most beautiful countries in the world. These tips, arised during my 2,5 months while traveling through Thailand, you won´t find in a typical travel guidebook. They are made off my quite personal experiences, which i don´t want to hide from you any longer.
Don’t book in advance and go with the flow
There is really no need to book your hotel or hostel long time in advance. You will see, that you will meet so many cool people along your journey, that being spontaneous is the best way to travel. Especially if you travel on your own. Be flexible for what life has to offer you and just go with the flow. Imagine, you meet a cool travel group or your dream boy/girl and you got asked to travel for example to another nice city with them, but you already have booked your hotel for the next month in advance. You probably have to say no or loose a lot of money. Bullshit! Better be smart!
If you just ask around a bit or search accommodation through Airbnb or Agoda, you will always find a good and still cheap place to stay. Except on Koh Panghan for New Years Eve. Then it is a bit harder to find something spontaneously with a good price, because literally everybody celebrates New Year there at the world famous Full Moon Party. A quite touristic party, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and simply total fun!
Make new friends for life and check out the co-working spaces
There is no better country for a solo-travel than Thailand! It´s a quite safe country with super friendly locals and loads of young and international travellers, especially backpackers. It is also THE place to digital nomads like me. Digital nomads are people working location independent in the field of online business with the help of their laptops and phones. If you come alone to Thailand, like I did, you will quickly realise, that this country has the best environment to connect to others and make new friends quite easily.
The best places for connecting with others are cafes, hostels, restaurants and especially the coworking spaces. Coworking spaces are like public offices, where like-minded people can work together on their business projects. Especially the tropical workspace Kohub on Koh Lanta and the modern Punspace in Chiang Mai, I can really recommend. But my absolute favorite is Beachub at Koh Panghans northern beach, where you can sit with your laptop directly at the beach or do your skype call in a hammock. An insane seaview is guaranteed and after a successful workday, you will be rewarded with an epic sunset.
You will meet so many cool people in coworking spaces, who are all extremely focused on their projects. Working with them got me so inspired for my own projects and the connections I have made there, helped me to expand my own business. So, if you are coming to Thailand not just for traveling, but also for a little kick in your ass in terms or your worklife, you shouldn´t miss the coworking spaces I have mentioned above. And even if you are not a freelancer, digital nomad or whatever, I would recommend you going there. The conversations are mind-blowing!
Don’t tell the waitress that you don´t want your meal spicy
Trust me, telling the waitress that you can´t eat spicy is so unnecessary! They will bring your meal spicy anyway! The Thai cuisine lives from the various hot flavours and my German tongue was not prepared for that when I came to Thailand. Circa 8 of 10 waiters didn´t understand my extraordinary wish or just didn´t give a fuck and brought it like it was written on the menu. Hot as hell! So, I gave it up someday to ask for a not-spicy-course. But your tongue will get used to it the longer you will be there. At the end of my stay in Thailand I got quite hardy in this!
Check out the hidden spots and discover the Thailand by scooter
If you are looking for privacy and tranquility, you may have to drive around a bit to find out the more hidden or let´s say more quiet places, but believe me, it´s worth the way. I highly recommend you renting a scooter to discover the less touristic places. In Thailand you can find literally everywhere scooter rentals. But you have to know, that the streets aren’t so easy to drive on at some of the places. Especially on the smaller islands; the roads aren’t the best anymore. Please always take care and wear a helmet! In bigger cities like Bangkok for example I wouldn´t drive by scooter because it´s famous for its crazy traffic and even for skilled drivers quite dangerous. But on the islands, it is a MUST to feel the warm breeze in your hair, while cruising down the curvy roads that lead you to incredible secret places, which aren´t mentioned in your travel guides. Thailand time is adventure time!
Grab a taxi or just jump on it!
Grab is a very helpful Asian ride-hailing app, similar to the taxi service app Uber, that offers you convenient and safe rides from one place to another. Extremely chilled and easy way of transportation! All you need to do is to download the app and fill in your current location and where you want to go next. With this information, Grab can help you to find a reliable private driver in time, who can give you a lift to a very affordable price.
But what I like even more than the Grab taxis are the red-coloured Songthaews, which are special Thai passenger vehicles adapted from bigger trucks or pick-ups. It´s totally common there to use them as a shared taxi, where you just jump on it. There, you usually have also the chance to negotiate a bargain price. Another funny and cheap way of mobility is a ride with one of the Tuk-Tuks.
No Google Maps needed
I have never seen so many people having brand new mobile phones without using Google Maps than in Thailand. It was just crazy! The local drivers always worked with their ordinary map made of paper even though they would have had the possibility to use Google Maps on their phones. Once I have asked my driver, if he knows this useful app for guidance and he just replied: “Yes, I know it, but I prefer the classy way!” Sure thing that I ended up at wrong places sometimes, but when I did so, it was always fun and I have to admit, that most of the Thai people have an incredible good sense of orientation! This really inspired me to overthink my own behaviour in this case.
We all, who are lost without our phones like standing in the desert without any water, should take a leaf out of it and try to use an original map more often. Being independent from a phone can be so relieving. Trusting yourself means so much more than to trust the techniques mindlessly.
Respect the culture, especially if you visit a temple!
I really fell in love with all the wonderful temples I have visited during my time in Thailand. Especially in Chiang Mai I have seen a lot and very beautiful ones. But it is very useful to know upfront, that it is not allowed to enter a temple with naked legs and shoulders, but you should get in there without shoes. So I suggest you to bring a thin but long scarf (like you can see it in my picture), which you can put around your hips and a jacket with you, when you want to visit a temple. You may get entrance without it at some places, but in my opinion we all should show our respect to another foreign culture and religion.
Control twice, whether you have the correct boarding pass
Just in case you don´t want to sit in the wrong plane like I did, better doublecheck your boarding pass! Not just only in Thailand, better do it everywhere!
On my way from Surat Thani to Chiang Mai, the unexpected horror happened to me: Entering the plane, when almost everybody else got seated already, I asked the stewardess how long the flight to Chiang Mai is going to take. But instead of a normal answer she just laughed at me and said, sorry but this flight goes to Bangkok! Guys, you should have seen my face in that moment… Apparently, they gave me the wrong boarding pass for mistake.
After a few minutes of me complaining about the disaster, I was allowed to leave the plane, after she told me that my normal Chiang Mai flight has already left. I went to the information desk to get the next flight to Chiang Mai and they told me it would be the day after, so I needed to check in to an expensive but still ugly hotel in the near of the airport to wait there for hours to get the next flight. I cannot tell you how shocked I was. And angry! But at the same time also a bit amused about the awkward situation. This really just happens once in a lifetime… hopefully! Now i have a quite funny story to tell! 😉
DANGERZONE VISA: Don´t expand it on your own!
Please do me the favour to not make the same stupid mistake I have made in terms of the VISA. If your “30 days VISA on arrival” runs out, better go BEFORE the due date. If not, you have to pay for every expended day a fine of around 500 Bath. To expand it; you can go to one of the immigration offices, which you can find in every bigger city like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi and on Koh Samui for example.
I have paid an almost 100 euros fine for just a couple of days expanding my VISA. And I can be happy with that. If you get caught by the police during your expanding time they can even send you in prison for that! Stupid me, because I thought it wouldn´t be so bad! Thailand´s normally so easy-going-way-of-life made me a bit to careless, why I got fined in the end.
Eat at the food markets and walking streets
There is simply no better way to get good food in Thailand than at the food markets and walking streets. Everything is prepared super freshly there: The smoothies, vegetables, meat, fish, seafood, noodles, crepes, junk food, ice cream, cocktails and so much more.
They have really EVERYTHING and it´s so incredible tasty. At their tiny little stands and tables, they grill or cook your meal right in front of you and you can choose your ingredients. It doesn´t matter, if you are a meat lover, vegetarian, vegan, allergic or whatever. At Thailand´s food markets everyone will find something delicious to eat on-site or for take-away. And we don’t have to speak about the prices. You cannot eat cheaper! With around 400 Bath, which is circa 10 Euros, you are more than just full and you had the best five-course-dinner. Even though it looks a bit unhygienic, if you are used to the European or American standards, but it´s all fine with the food, don´t worry!
Sawadee Kha & smile!
The Thai people are super friendly and warm-hearted people and you will always see them smile. In their culture it is the worst, if you lose your face and especially your smile! So be kind and greet them always with “Sawadee Kha”(female version) or “Sawadee Khap” (male version). Immersing into the Thai culture and Buddhism made me really happy. It´s a phenomenon how relaxed and chilled they are. And they are super reliable persons, at least the ones I have met. When they tell you to pick you up, they come! Even if you have paid for it in advance and you haven´t got a recipe for it.
Everything is cheap cheap, with some exceptions!
For me, as a nose spray addict, this was quite shocking: Paying over 10 euros for a tiny little nasal spray which suffices for not longer than 2 days (and I tried to make it quite economical to save a bit money). Okay this is really a first world problem but for me it was tough. My addiction get worse, if have in mind, that the nose spray is rare somewhere or quite expensive :D. I know, I am crazy. But why am I telling you this? I just want to show you, that the most common things can be much more expensive than you think, whereas other things are so much cheaper than at home.
Calculating my whole expenses for one month living in Thailand I would say you live like a king with 1000 euros a month. If you are thrifty or if you live in the northern part of Thailand, you can even make it with less money. On the holiday islands like Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi it´s the double price for food than in Chiang Mai for example but still cheap in comparison to german prices. Just to have an average understanding for the costs of living in Thailand.
Prepare yourself with a full body condom in case there is rain
Out of a sudden, there can often be a thunderstorm or pouring rain. So I highly recommend you to buy a full body rain protection condom (I mean a big raincoat) to be save. A bit of rain is really not a problem for me, but I can tell you, when it rains in Thailand, the whole street is flooded. If you have never been to Thailand before you can hardly imagine how crazy this is. Better prepare yourself anytime! You cannot trust the weather forecast there, because of the always high humidity.
No need to make yourself crazy because of the mosquitos bites
Depends which time you come and where you go to, but in November till February it isn’t sooo bad with mosquitos like everybody may think it is. But better be prepared with your protection spray. This really helps. And if you are scared of Malaria, I can calm you down, because more common is Dengue Fever, also a disease you can get from a mosquito bite. Unfortunately, there is at least no other way that I know for prevention, besides the protection sprays. Therefore, I can recommend the Nobite Insects Spray.
And if you are wondering, if there is something you need to consider before you come to Thailand in terms of health care, I would recommend you to bring special medicine, that you really need, with you when you come. But common western medicine like painkiller or nose spray for example they do have (even though it is not really cheap). And if you have the standard immunizations, which are advised by your doctor, you will be fine in Thailand, don´t worry! But for the worst case when something bad happens, the medical care system there is much better than expected.
If you buy a fruit shake/smoothie, tell them “no sugar”!!
If you want to have a fresh fruit shake or a smoothie, you should tell them “no sugar”! If you don’t do so, they will fill up the glass with so much sugar that you can rather eat a cake with ice cream to get your daily dose of sugar bomb. It is just crazy! Personally, I also don’t like the crushed ice in it, so I always order my smoothie with orange, strawberries, ginger, pineapple and mango without ice and sugar and I LOVE IT! Especially the strawberries are so much better than expected, because they raise them for example in northern Thailand in the area of Chiang Mai and Pai, where they get there incredible sweet and aromatic taste.
If you want to know more about my adventures while being in Thailand you should not miss to check out also my latest blogposts about the incredible Hong Island Tour, my happy place Klong Muang Beach and the amazing Phi Phi Islands.