Feb 2, 2019: Tuk tuk driver with passengers on the roadside of Siam Square.

17 things you need to know before visiting Thailand

Planning a trip to Thailand? Before you set off on your adventure, it’s important to be armed with some essential knowledge to make the most of your experience. Thailand is known for its ease of travel, diverse attractions, and friendly locals. But there are a few things you should know before you go. From understanding the rainy season and checking for recommended vaccinations to respecting the local culture and being cautious on the roads, these tips will help ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. So, get ready to explore the vibrant temples, indulge in delicious cuisine, and immerse yourself in the rich culture of Thailand!

17 things you need to know before visiting Thailand

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Rainy season varies depending on where you are

The rainy season in Thailand varies depending on the region you are in. In northern, central, and southwestern Thailand, the rainy season typically lasts from June to October. During this time, heavy showers and regular storms can create dangerous conditions for travel by sea. On the southeast coast and the Gulf of Thailand, the rainy season occurs slightly later, from October to December.

Traveling during the rainy season can have its benefits. Prices are generally lower, and there are fewer crowds, making it a great time to visit if you want to avoid the tourist rush. However, it’s important to note that some accommodations may close during this time, and many island ferries may stop running, including services to popular destinations like the Tarutao archipelago. If you plan on visiting Thailand during the rainy season, it’s a good idea to pack appropriate wet weather gear.

Check for recommended vaccinations

Before traveling to Thailand, it’s important to check for any recommended vaccinations. While you may have already been vaccinated for COVID-19, there are other vaccinations that are recommended for travelers to Thailand. These include tetanus and hepatitis A vaccinations. Additionally, considering a rabies shot is a good idea, as dogs, cats, and monkeys in Thailand can carry the viral disease.

It’s also worth noting that malaria is present in border areas, particularly along the borders with Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Malaysia. If you plan on visiting these regions, it’s important to take anti-malarial prophylaxis, such as atovaquone/proguanil or doxycycline.

17 things you need to know before visiting Thailand

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Sensible travelers to Thailand book ahead

Thailand is a popular tourist destination, especially during the peak tourist season from November to March. If you have your heart set on a particular boat journey, train trip, trek, tour, or boutique stay, it’s a good idea to book ahead to secure your spot. During the rainy season, it’s also wise to call or email ahead to check if places are open, as some accommodations and attractions may close during this time.

By booking ahead, you can ensure that you have a smooth and enjoyable trip without any last-minute hassles or disappointments. Planning ahead allows you to have peace of mind and enjoy your time in Thailand to the fullest.

Follow local etiquette when meeting Thai people

When visiting Thailand, it’s important to follow local etiquette when interacting with Thai people. The standard greeting in Thailand is called a “wai,” which is a respectful dip of the head with the hands held palms together in front of the chest. It’s customary to return the wai when greeted in this way.

When meeting someone for the first time, it’s best to wait for the other person to initiate a handshake before extending your hand. Additionally, if you are invited into a Thai home, it’s customary to remove your shoes before entering. It’s also considered impolite to point the soles of your feet towards another person, so try to avoid doing so.

By following these simple etiquette guidelines, you can show respect for Thai culture and make a positive impression on the locals you meet during your trip.

17 things you need to know before visiting Thailand

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Be respectful of Buddhism, a part of everyday life in Thailand

Buddhism is a significant part of everyday life in Thailand, with approximately 95% of the population identifying as Buddhist. As a visitor, it’s important to show respect for Buddhist customs and practices. When visiting Buddhist structures, such as temples or sacred sites, it’s customary to remove your footwear before entering. Additionally, it’s important to dress appropriately, covering your shoulders, upper arms, and upper legs.

When in the presence of a Buddhist image or monk, it’s considered disrespectful to point the soles of your feet towards them. It’s also important to avoid touching Buddha statues on the head, as this is considered inappropriate. When walking on footpaths, give way to monks, and refrain from sitting next to them on public transport. It’s also important to note that it is taboo for a woman to touch a monk or their belongings.

By respecting the customs and practices of Buddhism, you can demonstrate your appreciation for Thai culture and make a positive impact during your visit.

Dress modestly

In Thailand, it is customary for both men and women to dress modestly, particularly when visiting religious sites or temples. It’s important to avoid revealing outfits that show off a lot of skin, as this may be considered disrespectful. While swimsuits are acceptable for the beach, it’s best to cover up with a sarong or fisherman’s pants when away from the sand. When visiting religious sites, it’s also important to cover your shoulders.

It’s worth noting that topless or nude sunbathing is frowned upon in Thailand and can attract unwanted attention. By dressing modestly, you can show respect for Thai culture and customs, while also ensuring that you are comfortable during your time in the country.

Show respect for the king and royal family

Respect for the Thai monarchy is taken very seriously, and it’s important for visitors to Thailand to show proper respect for the king and royal family. Disrespecting the monarchy, known as “lèse-majesté,” is considered a criminal offense in Thailand. It is important to avoid showing any disrespect towards the monarch or depictions of the royal family, including on Thai currency.

It’s also important to note that Thai people hold a deep reverence for the monarchy, so it’s best to avoid engaging in any conversations or actions that may be perceived as disrespectful. By showing respect for the king and royal family, you can ensure that you have a positive and respectful experience in Thailand.

Know what to expect at the dining table

Thai cuisine is known for its bold flavors and aromatic ingredients. When dining out in Thailand, it’s important to know what to expect at the dining table. In Thai restaurants, it’s common for all the dishes to arrive at the table at the same time and be placed in the middle for everyone to share. This communal style of dining allows for a variety of flavors and dishes to be enjoyed together.

Unlike some other Asian countries, Thailand has abandoned the use of chopsticks in favor of using a spoon and fork. Most dishes in Thai cuisine come in bite-sized portions, so a knife is usually not necessary. Sticky rice, a staple in Thai cuisine, is typically bundled up into balls and eaten with the fingers.

By familiarizing yourself with the dining customs in Thailand, you can fully enjoy the unique culinary experience that the country has to offer.

Vegetarian is a relative term in Thailand

If you have dietary restrictions or follow a vegetarian diet, it’s important to understand that the term “vegetarian” can be interpreted differently in Thailand. While there are vegetarian-friendly options available, it’s important to be aware that fish sauce, oyster sauce, and egg are widely used as cooking ingredients in Thai cuisine.

To ensure that your meals are suitable for your dietary needs, it’s best to seek out Indian-owned vegetarian restaurants or restaurants that specifically serve “kin jay” Buddhist cuisine. When in doubt, you can ask the person making the food if it is suitable for vegetarians. It’s worth noting that the term “mang sa wirat” means food that doesn’t contain pieces of meat or fish but doesn’t necessarily mean it is suitable for vegetarians.

By being mindful of the ingredients used in Thai cuisine and seeking out vegetarian-friendly options, you can enjoy delicious meals while adhering to your dietary preferences.

Follow local advice if there’s a natural disaster

Thailand is vulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, landslides, and cyclones. These events are more likely to occur during the rainy season. If you find yourself in Thailand during a natural disaster, it’s important to follow local advice and take appropriate measures for your safety.

Heed any official advisories or warnings and be aware of evacuation procedures if necessary. It’s also a good idea to stay updated with the latest information from reliable sources such as local news sites or your embassy. By staying informed and following local advice, you can ensure your safety in the event of a natural disaster.

In conclusion, Thailand is a wonderful destination with a rich culture and diverse attractions. By being aware of these essential tips and following local customs, you can have a memorable and respectful experience during your visit to Thailand.