I spent hours planning our 10 day trip from China to Thailand. We booked flights, accommodation and tours weeks if not months in advance. It turned out to be one of the best trips of our lives! However, there is SO much that I wish I would have known to make the trip better:
1. Do NOT book everything in advance!
If making reservations give you as much happiness as it give me, do it anyway. But if you want to spend less money, don’t do it at all. It is much cheaper to walk into a hotel and check in on-the-spot than to make an Airbnb reservation 4 months in advance. Same goes for most tours, trips and experiences you may be interested in.
2. Avoid touristy beaches
This may seem obvious but please bear with me. Touristy beaches in Thailand are overcrowded, have vendors bugging you literally every 2 minutes plus they are fake and look ugly. The only reason to visit such a beach is to parasail, rent a speed boat or do other water activities.
Just take a look at Patong Beach in Phuket in comparison to Ton Sai beach on Krabi, where you can get by taking a 2 hour, $15 ferry from Rassada Pier in Phuket:
3. Always have toilet paper
Thai toilets are not the greatest thing in the world. Sometimes you will find a typical Asian-style hole in the ground but there are plenty of sit-down toilets too. Very often there will be no toilet paper and even if there is, you can not flush it down the toilet. The sewer systems just aren’t built for flushing anything inorganic, so don’t do it.
It’s not only bad for the environment but just imagine how embarrassed you would be if you clogged a public toilet…
4. Everything can be cheaper, so haggle!
Most things in Thailand seem ridiculously cheap, especially if you are from the US or a Euro-zone country. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s fairly priced. Even on the most secluded beach, you can find a meal for 50 – 80 THB (around $2), a touristy shirt for up to 300 THB ($9) and a larger than pint-size beer for 140 THB ($3).
Keep in mind that in Bangkok you can get street food for as little as 10 THB (28 cents), shirts for 40 – 100 THB ($1-3) and the same size beer for 50 THB ($1.5). Obviously if you are in a restaurant or store, the prices are set. But any stall, market or street vendor practically expect you to haggle.
5. Bring bug spray, sunscreen and anti-diarrhea pills
I did say that most things in Thailand are ridiculously cheap… but bug spray, sunscreen and anti-diarrhea pills are not. There is a high demand for these products so they jack up the prices accordingly. There is one more reason why you shouldn’t buy sunscreen in Asia…
6. Avoid buying skin-care products
It is hard to resist the low prices and crazy varieties of masks, creams and other skin-care products. I spent a good 15 minutes browsing the snail slime, fruit scented and sea-salt masks. That’s when I noticed that they all have one thing in common… skin whitening chemicals!
These chemicals won’t turn your skin paper white, just like the anti-wrinkle cream won’t magically turn your face Barbie smooth. However foreign chemicals can give you a nasty rash which will ruin all your selfies. Even deodorants and douches in Asia will sometimes have whitening chemicals, so make sure to read or translate labels before you purchase anything.
7. “Not spicy” is a lie
If you don’t like spicy food, Thailand will not be kind to you. Avoid basically all salads as they are insanely spicy. Even my husband, who loves spicy food, had trouble finishing the “not spicy” salad that I ordered. Even picking out the finely chopped chili peppers doesn’t help much. It’s a shame because they are otherwise delicious!
Although I hate spicy food, there were times that I either had to eat it or starve for hours. I did my best, cried a little and stocked up on those anti-diarrhea pills that I mentioned earlier. Most people who aren’t used to the spicy cuisine will end up on a toilet afterwards. If you have the pills at hand, you can avoid surprises that risk ruining all your plans.
8. Monkeys are NOT friends
Monkey are extremely cute and so photogenic! They are also evil little things that are not afraid of you and will steal your stuff if they get the chance. Ethical issues aside, don’t approach them with a bag of food if you wish to feed them – they will grab it and take whatever else they can. Unless you can climb trees and don’t fear heights, you may never see your stuff again. They also bite.
Sorry for the long post. I don’t have any potato pics so here’s a thieving monkey: