We want everybody visiting Thailand to enjoy it as much as we do, but if you’re visiting the country for the first time we also know how different things are compared to the UK and Ireland. Those differences can be exciting, but they can also be confusing. Here are some tips to help you overcome the initial culture shock that you may experience when you visit Thailand for the first time.
Whichever country you are visiting, respecting local culture is important and Thailand is no different. There are some basic do’s and don’ts in Thailand which will help you during your trip.
Read more information on Thailand do’s and don’ts here
- Visitors need to fill out an arrival card which includes the name and address of the first hotel or guest house you will be staying at in Thailand. The card is normally handed out by airline staff before you land, but you can also find the cards before you queue up at the immigration desks. Carry a pen with you to save time.
- Take official taxis or authorised transport from airports.
Food and drink
For frequent visitors to Thailand, eating Thai food at street stalls is one of those simple, but unmissable treats. But it can also be intimidating the first time you do it so here are some tips to help:
- As a general rule of thumb, look for vendors and restaurants that are popular with Thai people. At the same time, don’t dismiss somewhere just because it’s quiet. That street stall with no customers at 2pm may have been packed with Thai office workers at midday.
- Many stalls and restaurants in popular tourist areas will often have English language menus so don’t be afraid to try something new.
- Food courts at shopping malls can be an excellent introduction into Thai food culture with the added bonus of air-conditioning to keep you cool while you eat.
- Don’t drink the tap water in Thailand. Water served in restaurants and at street stalls will be bottled water.
- Ice in Thailand is hygienically produced from clean water and ice cubes are safe to use in your drinks.
- Although there are no compulsory inoculations required for Thailand, you should check with your doctor or health care practitioner before you travel. There is also some useful information on the NHS website here.
- There are mosquitoes in Thailand, but malaria is not an issue for most of the country. Your health care practitioner will be able to advise you more about this.
- Try to lessen the chances of getting bitten by mosquitoes by taking precautions such as using repellant and wearing light-coloured clothing.
- If you are bitten by mozzies, Tiger Balm available at pharmacies and 7-Elevens can be effective.
- Pharmacies in Thailand are an excellent first port of call for medical advice with most staff speaking English.
- Be sure to keep hydrated and don’t underestimate the effects of the heat and humidity, even on a cloudy day.
- In most cases, it’s OK to bring prescribed drugs into Thailand if you have an accompanying certificate from your doctor. However, if you are flying via a country with stricter drug laws (e.g. Dubai) be extra careful about what you bring and check the local laws in that country.
In many of the main tourist areas and resorts, people will speak at least some English and you are unlikely to have any major issues. However, if language difficulties do arise, just smile and accept it as part of the travel experience. Learning at least a few words of Thai shows respect for the culture and can be a great way to break the ice. Men should add the polite word ‘khap‘ at the end of a sentence and women should add ‘ka‘. Although there is a Thai word for please, it isn’t used in the same way as it is in English. Instead, the polite addition of khap or ka is normally used.
- Thank you: khop khun khap (male); khop khun ka (female)
- Hello/Goodbye: sawatdee khap (male); sawatdee ka (female)
- How are you?: sabai dee mai? (remember to add khap or ka at the end)
- I’m fine thank you: sabai dee khap/ka
- Delicious: aroy
- No problem: mai pen rai
- It’s fun/I’m enjoying this: sanuk
- The Thai currency is baht.
- Changing a small amount of money into baht before you travel can be handy so you’ve got some with you on arrival for transport or food.
- In most cases you will get a better exchange rate when you arrive in Thailand compared to changing money in the UK or Ireland.
- Authorised money changers such as SuperRich usually offer competitive rates that are better than the main banks.
- The exchange booths in the arrivals area at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport offer lower rates compared to elsewhere and you may find it more economical to wait until you can find an exchange booth later. Alternatively, you can head down to the basement level where there are exchange booths offering better rates.
- If the notes you are changing are torn or have any writing on them, they may be refused.
- You need to show your passport when changing money in Thailand.
- Withdrawing money from ATM cashpoints in Thailand can be handy, but please note there is a withdrawal fee (around 220 baht). This is separate to any service fees your card issuer may charge.
- Millions of tourists visit Thailand every year and have a fantastic trip without any problems. However, crime and scams do occur so you should take the same sensible precautions that you would anywhere.
- Thailand has a poor road safety record with many accidents involving motorbikes. Most travel insurance policies do not cover motorbikes and if you’ve never ridden a motorbike before, Thailand is not the place to learn.
- Please note that vaping and e-cigarettes are illegal in Thailand. Smoking is also prohibited on a number of beaches with signs in place advising visitors.
If you hold a UK or Irish passport and are visiting Thailand on holiday for less than 30 days, you do not require a visa. For longer stays check the information from the Royal Thai Embassy in London or the Royal Thai Consulate in Dublin.
What to bring
- Lightweight, breathable clothing made from cotton or linen is ideal for the tropical climate.
- For visiting temples and palaces, pack a smart polo shirt or top that covers your shoulders and a pair of trousers or a skirt that covers the knees.
- Brand name suncreams and toiletries can be purchased in Thailand at branches of Big C, Boots, 7-Eleven, Tesco Lotus and Tops.
When to go
Where to go
Although we can’t put together individual itineraries for you, we do offer lots of information on different destinations so you can select which ones are best for you.