Ko lanta sunset

How to Prepare For a Visit to Thailand – 20 Tips

Thailand, Travel Tips

Thailand is a strange and exotic country that is full of contradictions and challenges. Thais are some of the nicest, most laid-back people you will ever meet, yet they drive like maniacs and have the 2nd highest traffic-related death rate in the world. The food is delicious but the spice can inflict violence on your taste buds. And the heat – oh my god, the heat! – especially in Bangkok away from the ocean breezes, is unbearable!

As a result, it pays to prepare before you go to Thailand. Follow these 20 tips so you can hit the ground running in the Land of Smiles.

Thailand Travel Tips

Soak a jalapeño with gasoline, light in on fire and eat it. This will get your taste buds ready for the extreme chilis they will encounter in Thailand.

Take your favorite beer, pour 1/3 in a glass, fill the rest with water, add ice, enjoy!

If you plan to drink wine in Thailand, pour yourself a glass of your favorite wine and burn a $20 bill while sipping it.

Crank up the bathroom heater to full blast and run the shower at maximum heat until the bathroom is a sweltering, steamy mess. Now, imagine what clothes you’d like to wear in that environment and pack accordingly.

Start smiling at all strangers.

Land of smiles

Everyone is so friendly and smiley.

Start sleeping on the floor, the harder the surface the better.

If you plan to stay in cheap hostels or go to a full moon party, invite your friends over to have a debaucherous, drug-fueled party with thumping techno music in the next room while you attempt to sleep.

Go to the busiest highway in your area and practice jaywalking, dodging cars, playing chicken with motorcycles, and running in front of trucks so you are ready to cross an average street in Bangkok.

Stop wearing your seat belt.

Spend 60 minutes in a tanning bed just to get the first really bad burn over with.

If you plan to rent a scooter, update your will and get right with your God(s).

If you are a cat lover like me, get vaccinated for anything a street cat might carry.

If you are going to be hanging out in the red light districts it is probably a good idea to get vaccinated for anything a Thai “girlfriend” might carry and invest in a full body condom. I’d also recommend building up a tolerance for roofies.

Start eating Tums after every meal so you are accustomed to the traditional farang dessert.

They drive on the wrong side of the road with steering wheels on the wrong side of the car, so practice not getting in the driver’s seat of a taxi on accident and causing confusion and embarrassment like I did not do one time I swear. (Ignore this tip if you are British, Australian or otherwise drive on the wrong side of the road).

Practice having awkward conversations with friendly people who don’t speak a word of your language.

Start taking an umbrella with you everywhere – it is protection from the searing sun or a tropical deluge, whichever happens to be occurring at the time.

Collect some insects, fry them up in oil and fish sauce, invite friends over, start drinking like sailors and when you are totally hammered, dare each other to eat them.

Khao San Road Scorpion Vendor

Post beer-binge snack.

Buy new sandals and just go ahead and step in dog poop to get that over with.

If you plan to hang out on the backpacker trail, remember that there can be difficulties with language in Thailand, so you should study the Australian, Kiwi and British accents to ease communication.

Do you have any other tips for Thailand or travel in general?

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Currently living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~ planetbell1@gmail.com

62 thoughts on “How to Prepare For a Visit to Thailand – 20 Tips”

  1. Great tips that had me chuckling out loud. I might add that you should pack very lightly as it is fun to buy clothes at the markets in Thailand. And, do take a shawl to cover your shoulders for temples.

    Man those curries were spicy as fire!! I guess don’t expect American Thai food, the real thing in Thailand is nothing like what most have eaten in their home countries.

    Do not miss the lychee season in April!! Yum yum.


    • Thank you Peta for some actual advice! Yes, a shawl is great, cover for temples or the sun. And the lychees, like all fruit, are so good here!

      I love spicy food, but on occasion I get something I can’t eat. My neighbor has these big vats of curry she sells and they are just too intense for me, but the locals like them.

  2. Eleazar says:

    Definitely woth considering tips. I loved this ironical and frisky approach.

  3. Adventures in Kevin's World says:

    Scorpions and such… I see a few possibilities about them. 1 – Thai people eat them regularly, so there is nothing odd about seeing them as food. 2 – Thai people only eat them as a rare or fun snack, not regularly. 3 – Thai people never eat them, they only offer them to Western tourists to see what the crazy foreigners will do.

    Which is it?

    • In the local markets, I see insects, but never scorpions, so I think it is #3. Last year I saw a big western guy with a mohawk buy one and bite in and a look of pure disgust shot across his face.

      I have eaten crickets and I must report that they are actually quite good – taste like potato chips.

  4. You are hilarious. And I was really wanting to go there, preferably soon, but now I am reconsidering … Nah, not really, but it does sound a bit more chaotic and uncomfortable than I had imagined. That’s what makes travel fun, right?!

    • Yes, that is what makes travel fun. Except dying in a car wreck. I am sure that is how it will end for me in Thailand.

  5. Great post Jeff! I could identify with so many of these tips. I always make friends with the street cats too. They’re so lovable, how can you resist?

    • One block from our house in Bangkok is a place I call “cat street.” A few of the cats have collars, but for the most part there are strays that get fed by the locals. It is great! Also, many of the monks feed the cats too so there are always kitties at the wats.

      • I would probably go there every day. I’m a converted cat lover, never loved cats until I was forced into relationships with them. Then I ended up getting a cat from hell and developed an appreciation for the sweet ones. And I developed some cat charming skills along the way 🙂 Also, Gabby is allergic to cats, so we can’t have them anymore. Therefore I take every chance I can get to make friends with them on the street 🙂

  6. Jeff I just read this out loud to Dave and he laughed so hard he was doubled over. I could barely get through several points without giggling incessantly. I’m not sure Thailand Tourism will be hiring you any time soon but I do appreciate your honesty.

  7. Have you braved the Som Tam yet? It is the spiciest thing I have EVER eaten (and Korean food is pretty darn spicy already). They asked me if I wanted it “Thai spicy,” to which I said NO, thank god. I can’t even imagine what that would’ve been like. I was a quivering sweaty mess trying to finish it as it was…

    • Oh yeah, I eat Som Tom often. The lady near my house knows I like it nit noy pet, just a little spicy, with 2-3 chilies. I see locals get 3 times as many chilies. Crazy!

      • “nit noy pet” – words I’ll definitely have to remember the next time I’m in Thailand..but 2-3 chilies might even be a bit much for me. Sometimes they just make it with whatever’s leftover in the mortar and pestle and I’m still breathing fire… 🙂 Can’t resist the som tam though. So delicious!

      • I had some friends visit from the states and they kept ordering everything “pet pet” – very spicy! I fall somewhere in the middle, I love spicy food, but can only take so much torture.

  8. So funny and so true. I still feel the burn of the spiciest curry I have ever had at the Bangkok Weekend Market, and that was over 20 years ago. That statistic about traffic-related deaths is scary but I believe it after thankfully surviving the most hair-raising bus rides. You’ve primed me for Bangkok next month…I’ll start the steam shower now.

    • Yes, start the steam shower now! That may be the most important part to surviving the first week.

      Anytime I eat were the locals eat it is super spicy and now I’m very disappointed if I get a dumbed down version of the food.

  9. that traveling nurse says:

    I will surely keep these in mind! My Thai trip is coming up pretty soon… and I still have no definite plans. ack! So not me at all 😉

    • When are you coming? Good thing about Thailand is you don’t need fixed plans – it is really easy to get around.

      • that traveling nurse says:

        I’ll fly straight to Chiang Mai on the 22nd of Jan. from Singapore after visiting my brother. We’ll be there for 3 days. I chose to stay in Chiang Mai longer than Bangkok because I am not a big city fan at all. We get to Bangkok on the 25th and stay overnight before our flight to the Philippines. I would have loved to stay longer but this trip has too many itineraries I almost cannot keep track of it! If you only had one day in Bangkok, what would you do? 🙂

      • I’d recommend a canal tour. http://www.thaicanaltour.com I have not done this, but I’ve been to this part of town and had friends take this tour and they highly recommended it. I think you’ll see a cool side of Bangkok that way.

      • that traveling nurse says:

        This sounds interesting. I will go check it out. Thanks!

  10. Such a treat… Jeff 🙂 I can’t stop laughing …

    We used to have ‘Indianized Thai food’ in Bangalore and when I tried the real one (in Singapore) tears started flowing from my eyes …

    I am still not sure, the one I had from there is ‘truly Thai’ or another imitation 🙂

    I do take your list really really seriously before venturing to Thailand for sure, he he 🙂

  11. That’s hilarious Jeff. Laughed out loud a couple times! New sandals in dog poop…killer, but true, eh? I love hot chilis, but some places (Thailand, India) they just go overboard sometimes, and by overboard, I mean all the way to Mars. I’ve been gone a while, back now…you?

    • I’ll be back online for real in week or so. Been in ‘Murica for the holidays. What amazes me about the chilies, is even kids and old people eat them!

  12. Great tips, Jeff! Too funny! I particularly like #6. We love Thailand and so many of your tips really hit home. James and I want to wish you and Kristi a happy and healthy New Year filled with love and adventure. All the very best, Terri

    • Thank you Terri! How are you doing these days? I hope you have a great new year as well.

      The funny thing: we’ve gotten used to our stone-hard bed and soft beds hurt my back now!

  13. I have just decided to go to thailand yesterday and started preparing today, this post has made me more relaxed about doing it solo! Thanks for the tips Jeff 😀

    • Awesome! Thailand is a very easy country to do solo. Transportation is pretty straightforward, there are plenty of other travelers to meet and hang out with and Thai people are very helpful. Enjoy!!!

  14. Had me laughing for sure! Except that it’s also pretty good advice…

    As I always enjoy your stuff, nominated you for the “Sunshine Blogger Award”, ahem, Chain Letter… if you’re at all interested. No worries if not. Details here: http://gonefloatabout.com/2017/01/16/sunshine-blogger-award/ Oh, and I don’t think it’s bad luck not to pass it on if you’d rather just answer the questions – would be fun to read some of your responses! Like I said, though, no worries if you don’t have time/inclination!


  15. afarawayhome says:

    I mean, I came here for real advice… but this is fine too 🙂 I’m heading to Thailand soon and I’m not so good with spicy food! It’s going to be… interesting.

    • I am sorry you didn’t get practical advice. Here are some real tips 🙂

      1. All taxis have meters and are dirt cheap. Make sure they turn them on.
      2. Avoid riding Tuk Tuks in touristy areas – they will insist you go shopping at their friends store and it will be a big hassle.
      3. Learn the phrase “My Ow Kap/ka (m/f)”. It means “I don’t want/need.” Use it at 7-11 when they try to wrap everything in plastic and give you a straw for your drink. Use it with pushy vendors trying to see you something.
      4. Try street food
      5. Take a walk out of the main touristy areas into some local neighborhoods.

      Enjoy your time in Bangkok!

  16. Love the writing style! Having lived in Thailand for a while, I find all of them to be absolutely true! I even got yelled at by a taxi driver for trying to put on my seat belt once..

    • HA – yelled at for putting on the belt – that is funny. At least you had one to put on! I really don’t understand where they all went.

      Where in Thailand did you/are you living?

      • Currently living in Roi Et, Isaan! Loving the Thai countryside and the unique Isaan culture and food that you can find here in the northeast!

      • Nice. I want to get out to Isaan and see that part of the country. Any good weekend trips from Bangkok that can be made to that area?

      • Plenty! Roi Et is pretty sleepy, but for the best entertainment, Gai Yang and overall atmosphere, I’d recommend Khon Kaen. For something a bit more picturesque, I’d recommend Loei.

      • Do it, you won’t regret it. Also, I can’t remember if the south has it, but seek out Neua Yang Kaolee up here. Grilling your own meat is awesome.

  17. Pingback: How to plan a trip to Thailand and Vietnam to avoid telenovela dramas – Ecuador in Munich

  18. littleaprilshower says:

    At first, I was like, ok these tips are really strange, and then I realised that that’s what it will be like in Thailand *face palm*

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