14 Things That Will Surprise First-Time Visitors to Thailand

18 Oct 2016 by Olga Brighton

Travelling to Thailand

Thailand's beloved King passes away: What should visitors expect?

The Thai government has announced one year of mourning following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej who reigned for 70 years. So what impact might this have on visitors to Thailand? 

All airports, hotels, public transportation, hospitals, banks and other public services will not be greatly affected and should operate as usual.

However, some planned events and entertainment will be either toned down or cancelled. This includes the Morrissey concert and the Scorpions’ Anniversary World Tour. The Bangkok World Film Festival has also been postponed until next year.

Latern Festival Thailand

Other cancellations include the Chiang Mai Yi Peng Lantern Festival, the Pattaya International Fireworks Festival, and the Surat Thani Full Moon Party. Lumpinee Boxing Stadium will be closed for a month. It is best to check the latest information on any event that you planned to attend.

Tourists are advised to behave respectfully and dress sombrely when in public places. This is particularly essential when visiting royal palaces and temples. Avoid any discussion and critical statements regarding the royal family and be aware of any special restrictions that may apply during this period of mourning.

Check local media alerts regularly and follow local authorities’ advice. Follow the FCO Thailand travel advice.

Read more advice from the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

When preparing a trip to a foreign country, it is always good to have an idea of the life and culture of your chosen location before you get there. Especially when traveling all the way to Thailand, you may find some very different practices that you weren’t expecting! First time in Thailand? Get ahead of the game by discovering things to know about Thailand more.

1. Two sets of prices are normal

Thailand Prices

There is a price for Thai and a price for foreigners, and this cannot be avoided, even by expats who live in Thailand. Just expect and accept it!

2. Traditional greetings are important

Known as Wai, this traditional greeting involves putting your palms together at about chest level and giving a little bow. Learning a few words in Thai will definitely help you and make people more receptive to you, but you’ll be able to get by with English.

3. Weird and wonderful food

Thailand is known for its amazing cuisine and Thai food is an incredible adventure (and often very different from the Thai food that we know in the western world). However there are some things that may be utterly alien to visitors, so if you are brave enough to try, you could find yourself eating fried cockroaches (a bit like salted popcorn), or other crustaceans and bugs such as Goong Dten (tiny live shrimps) and Larb Mote Daeng (red ants with eggs). Alternatively, you could always stick to choices where a translation, or pictures are provided...

4. Alcohol is not always available

Alcohol Thailand

It’s common in Thailand to suspend alcohol sales on religious holidays, political polling days or even at certain times of the day or night, so be warned. Hotels and restaurants must abide by such restrictions, although some hotels may allow you to still purchase alcohol for private consumption using the privacy of hotel room service.

5. The incredible number of historical landmarks

Thailand is packed full of beautiful monuments, temples that preserve the history of this country. A simple walk around any of its cities will give you some insight into the people and their culture. Or you could visit the stunning and ancient Sukhotai Historical Park and get a real taste of Thailand rich religious history.

Read also: 8 Things that Can Get You Arrested in Thailand

6. Be prepared to hear the national anthem. A lot.

Every day at 8:00 and 18:00, the National Anthem is broadcast publicly, and everyone stops what they’re doing to respectfully stand and listen. Although it seems odd when you don’t know what’s happening, knowing this beforehand could save you some embarrassment and help you show respect for this local custom.

7. The people are very friendly

Thailand People

Complete strangers may come up and start talking to you, and that’s okay. They really are that friendly. One slight difference with Thai people is that they do not queue, but rather stand in a large crowd that slowly moves forward.

8. Head to the street vendors for cheap and delicious food

Street food can be one of the best ways to really experience Thai delicacies! Just use good judgment. If you can’t see where they make the food, or if locals seem to be avoiding it, or it’s not busy, then don’t eat there. Also, any pre hand-carved vegetables are likely to have attracted bacteria, so avoid eating them and just enjoy the decoration!

9. Cutlery manners are different

No, we’re not talking about chopsticks which are not actually widely used here. The act of putting food into your mouth with a fork can be considered rude. Instead, shovel food into your spoon using your fork and then put the spoon in your mouth.

10. Dress appropriately

Thailand Rules

Thai people are generally more conservative (except on the beach or in the pool). When entering temples, wats, or palaces, you are expected to dress modestly and keep shoulders and knees covered. Bear in mind that the weather could be humid and hot, so bring light, loose and conservative apparel that will not offend. Also, it’s likely to be appropriate to remove footwear before entering many locations, including people’s homes. Make sure you take a look at whether the locals are removing footwear and follow their lead.

11. The five star hotels are great value

Where else can you stay in a five star hotel for around 80 pounds? Take advantage of this great opportunity and spoil yourself with a bit of luxury!

Read also: Top Tourists Scams to Avoid in Thailand

12. Prepare for squat toilets

Although many places are equipped with ‘western style’ bathrooms, it’s wise to keep a supply of tissues and hand sanitizer with you just in case. Also be prepared for squat toilets.

13. Flip-flops are the most practical and popular footwear

Thailand Shoes

And it’s easy to understand why. Shoes are always removed in every temple, home, and inside some shops making flip-flops or slip on footwear the most convenient option.

14.April may be the cheapest, but also one of the hottest months to travel to Thailand

You will get lower prices, however, be warned that April is the month before the rainy season and Thailand is likely to be at its hottest and most humid. One bonus of travelling in April is that you get to experience the Songkran Festival – Thai New Year, where Thai’s typically celebrate by dousing each other (and others) in cold water. So if you don’t fancy the sound of that, then avoid April!

Now you are better prepared to visit this incredibly beautiful country with its breath-taking natural beauty, history and notoriously friendly people. Be sure to travel safely and with the peace of mind that you have a reliable travel insurance policy, so take a look at Single Trip Travel Insurance to Thailand and have a great visit.

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