After spending 3 weeks, and going on 4, in Thailand, I've come up with a few tips, a bunch of advice, and a list of my favorite places to make your travel to this truly incredible country that much smoother.
Top 10 Tips
Things to do/know before you head to Thailand:
- Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months before traveling. I learned this the hard way when I got to the Cambodian border. To enter Thailand you only need 3, but if you plan on going anywhere else around South East Asia, which you will most likely end up doing, you need 6 months validity. Extra tip: the US embassy can get you an "emergency passport," which gives you a year extension, 5 pages to travel with, and is processed in 5 hours.
- Learn how to ride a motor bike. This will save you a ton of money in taxis, and get you feeling safe and comfortable on something that a lot of people just jump onto and injure themselves with.
- Make sure you have a phone that is unlocked. I switched from Sprint to Verizon partly for this reason. This will allow you to save a ton of money, and get a Thai SIM card. I've been adding a certain amount of money and when it runs out I add more at a number of locations like 7/11, yes they have those here. Extra tip: save your data by switching to airplane mode and use wifi whenever you can.
- Bring half of what you think you need. Everyone I've spoken to has agreed we all brought too much. Almost anywhere in Thailand from Bangkok to Phuket to Krabi will have amazing street markets where you will end up buying a ton of stuff from. The goods are cheap, well made, and way more appropriate for the weather than most of what you'd bring on any other trip, especially if you're backpacking or doing humanitarian work. You can literally buy your suitcase here as well. I'm talking like $3 for fake or possibly real Nike, Adidas, or any number of brands shirts, shorts, shoes, etc.
- The Thai are super friendly but give zero fucks when driving. They literally have 3/4 people on one motor bike and this includes babies. They fly through the streets, don't wear helmets, and are crazy when driving, so again if you think you're going to drive or ride a motorbike be prepared.
- Bring a spare bank card. The ATMS may eat your card, you may lose your card, or you may just find you need a backpack for a number of reasons.
- Don't ride the elephants. This may be obvious to some, but I've encountered a lot of people that didn't realize what they were contributing to by riding these gentle giants. In order to ride an elephant their spirit must be broken, and these beautiful creatures are made to roam free and wander, not have you on their backs.
- Download Travel Apps. Trip Advisor, Kayak, Agoda, and Rome2Rio are all super helpful when trying to figure out ease, expenses, and effort when traveling around.
- Get lost, be open, and say hello to people. Yes, you want to have a plan and know where you're generally going, but my favorite days have been when I had no plan at all except to pick a spot and just wander. You'll find incredible people, street food, and sights that aren't listed on any travel blog, website, or app. Part of the magic of traveling is experiencing new things, so just go for it.
- Know there is so much more to see than you realize. You can either rush through Thailand or take weeks/months to really see everything. Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, and a number of other places are huge in their own right and can take weeks to see everything they have to offer.
With that said here are the places I visited and my recommendations for them.
This huge city surprised me in so many ways, and I can't believe I almost didn't see the magic and electricity the city has to offer.
- Khaosan Road. This wild street, which is about a 45 minute taxi or 2 hours bus ride from Suvarnabhumi Airport, is what you've probably seen in the movies. Think Vegas meets backpacker central. The street is a cultural experience where you can buy cheap goods, eat a number of insects or creepy crawlies, get henna tattoos, and party hard. Super fun, but you probably don't need more than 1-2 nights here. There are a number of cheap hostels and hotels that you can stay in right on this road or off to the side for under $10 a night.
- Lumphini Park. This gorgeous park sits in the middle of the main city center and is truly picturesque. I accidentally came across this park and it was such a happy occurrence. I took a swan boat out for a ride on the big lake in the center of the park, which has cranes, komodo dragons, fish, and amazing people watching. The 30 minute boat ride costs 40 TBH (about $1).
- MBK Shopping Center. This wildly busy street will put you in the thick of it and has over 2000 shops to get lost in. Beyond the shopping, the food, the people, and the infrastructure that makes up this part of the city are a welcomed culture shock that shouldn't be missed.
- The Temples. Thailand has so many temples to see, but the two I got to in Bangkok are highly recommended and beyond breathtaking. Wat Arun and Wat Phra Kaew are across from one another on the main river that runs through Bangkok and are must sees.
- The Grand Palace. It's an opulent former residence and museum that I didn't get the chance to go into because of the King's passing, but from what I've been told is insane.
- The Jim Thompson House. This amazing museum and former residence of American entrepreneur Jim Thompson is breathtaking and full of art, antiques, and lush gardens. A tucked away gem that was highly recommended to me, and one that I would definitely send any tourist to. You'll take a required guided tour for 150 TBH (about $5) that is very informative and entertaining.
- Charm Restaurant. An accidental find that was really tasty, very cool, and gives you an insider look into Thai culture in a trendy way. They're open late, which is perfect if you're used to late dining like I am. Located in a perfect little area for bar hopping afterwards.
Let me know some of your tips for Bangkok in the comment section below!