Just some general tips to help your stay run a bit more smoothly and also to prevent you from looking like a knob-end. I have over 10 years of experience in this country and a lot of my wisdom comes from doing precisely these situations the wrong way.
Do! Take off your shoes (sometimes)
Generally speaking, Thais don't wear shoes indoors and if you are entering someone's house you should definitely respect this. However, I have over my many years of living here seen tourists taking off their shoes literally every time they enter anything. You do not need to take your shoes off to go into 7-11 or a shopping mall.
When in doubt ask... most places that are visited by tourists will have a sign indicating if you are meant to take off your footwear. Abide by this.
Do NOT! Attempt to interact with stray dogs
Thailand and especially Bangkok, has a rather massive problem with stray (and even feral) dogs.
I have seen this happen time-and-time-again; a tourist thinks that Fido is lost and in need of attention / love and then Fido bites said person.
I know you feel bad for them and so do I. However, this is a fantastic method of having a rabies scare and the sequence of shots you will need to undergo as a preventative measure should you get bit by a street dog will definitely ruin your vacation.
This doesn't mean you need to shoo dogs away if you are in a market eatery or something. These dogs are used to human interaction and are allowed there because they are friendly and live off the scraps from the tables. It's best to just leave them alone. There are many ways to donate your time to helping these animals in many private shelters all around the Kingdom, should you feel compelled to help.
DO! Ride on a tuk-tuk.... but be careful
No trip to Thailand would be complete without the obligatory ride on their iconic taxis. However, you need to be aware of a few things and I learned the hard way on all of these things.
Generally speaking tuk-tuks are going to be more expensive than taxis, especially for tourists. If where you are trying to go isn't too far away ask the guy how much to go there and ALWAYS negotiate the price before hand. In some places the prices are now marked and there is a queue of sorts - this makes it much simpler.
Important Note: There is not such thing as a 20-50 Baht "tour of the city" in a tuk-tuk. It doesn't exist. Sure they will take you to some shoddy local temple and do a drive by on a market or something ... but the real destination is going to be a gem shop or an out-of-the-way tailor where the high-pressure salespeople specialize in getting you to buy something.
Much like the rest of the world: If it sounds to good to be true, that's because it isn't true.
DO! Install the Grab app before arriving
A few years ago Grab purchased Uber and now is the only taxi app available in Thailand. This makes getting around significantly easier because you don't need to be able to speak to the driver at all to get to where you are going. There is also no negotiating. If my driver is really good and the car is cool and he doesn't drive like a lunatic, I will normally tip like 20B or something small like that. It is appreciated.
Do NOT! Buy any "fine gems" while you are here
It really amazes me that people are still conned by this age-old scam because it is extremely well-known to be a hoax. Unless you are a gemologist (and even if you are) this is not the right place to be picking up expensive precious stones. Once again, if it sounds too good to be true... it's because it isn't true.
This scam has evolved in recent years and now foreigners are involved in it. They will join travelers at a bar and help to con people pretending to "have found a hidden secret way to make money." Don't be a fool!
DO! try loads of street food
This applies even if you don't know what it is. If you end up not liking it the cost of $1 or so is probably something that fits into your budget and who knows? It might end up being something you really like.
source = me
A rice noodle dish with boiled pigs blood sounds disgusting right? Well one day i decided to leave my comfort zone and it is now one of my favorite dishes. Street food is everywhere in this country and I truly believe that in many ways the stuff served inside of restaurants pale in comparison. You will have to sit on a rather uncomfortable plastic chair but that's the tradeoff!
Do NOT! bring a bunch of stuff with you
Honestly, you really shouldn't even be bringing a backpack with you unless you plan on going trekking somewhere. If the only places you are going are major tourist destination cities, a backpack is totally impractical. Just use your rolling suitcase and really, even if you are staying for a month or more, this is more than enough gear for your trip.
I'm going to Asia for 3 weeks, I think i'll bring everything I own!
You can have your laundry done for you with next day service just about anywhere in this country and it costs very little. Also, clothing is extremely cheap here, especially at street stalls.
Forget about bringing the following items:
- Multiple pairs of jeans
- any heavy cotton t-shirts that you have acquired in countries where it is occasionally cold.
- multiple pairs of shoes (one pair of trainers and some flippy-floppies is more than enough)
- Boots of any sort or other camping supplies (seriously, what sort of adventure do you really think you are going on?)
- jackets (you know it is sometimes painfully hot here, right?)
- excessive toiletries (contrary to popular belief Thailand actually does have soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, etc)
- any sort of musical instrument
My own family members did not heed my advice on this and they ended up leaving 75% of the stuff the brought with them in my house for the entire trip. It's only going to complicate things if you do bring it, trust me on this.
DO! learn a few Thai phrases
I think just "hello" and "thank you" are enough and it is definitely appreciated.
Hello and Goodbye = "Sawat dee Kha / Krap"
Thank you = "Khap Khun Kha / Krap"
The Kha and Krap are polite additives that you put on the end of anything you say. "Kha" is for women and "Krap" is for men. This is referring to what sex the speaker is... not who they are talking to.
you can also "Wai" people you meet like Ronald is doing above... keeping in mind that you do not need to do this to everyone you ever see... such as the staff of McDonalds
Generally speaking, I find Thailand to be significantly safer than most western countries so don't get the wrong idea. The scams I have listed above exist in all countries in some form or another so don't think I am bagging on Thailand...
Mostly you don't need to be on your guard all the time but just remember to always get the price of things before you engage in them and remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch..... and you'll be fine!