Before travelling to Thailand it is worth finding out a little about it as you don’t want to go around upsetting the locals! In the touristy areas the Thais are used to foreigners and accepting of their ‘strange ways’, but if you are planning on visiting some of the more remote areas it pays to be aware of local customs and traditions and always helps when you are travelling in a new country.
Thailand is a Buddhist country and in their religion the head is the most sacred part of the body. Whatever you do, don’t go around patting the Thai’s on the head as they are ‘so cute!’ generally it is ok to do it to children, but best to be on the safe side and don’t do it at all. Also be aware of your feet, try not to not put them up on chairs facing people, or use them to move things around on the floor, it’s especially rude to gesture at someone with your feet.
Again, if you stick to the tourist areas you will find that language is not a problem. Most Thai’s can speak some English, especially those working in the tourist industry. Learn a few words such as hello and thank you and they will love it.
The best way to travel around the country is to book a domestic flight. A flight from Bangkok to Phuket can cost you under 2000 baht. There are plenty of buses, but when a journey from Phuket to Bangkok can take you 12 hours you might think again. It will depend on your budget and time allowed. Train services are quite good to travel around as they are cheap and have sleepers for the long journeys, however there aren’t too many in the south of the country.
According to the law everywhere is closed by 2am. You will find a few places that remain open but on the whole the law is abided by.
At the beaches it’s fine to walk around in your shorts and bathing gear, however do cover up to walk from the hotel to the beach. There are far too many foreigners walking the streets of Patong in just their bathers!
If you are planning on visiting temples you will definitely have to cover up. They are not too strict but shorts and swim-wear are not acceptable or respectful. At the very least, cover your shoulders and knees. Always remove your shoes and hat before entering the temple, you will see all the shoes lined up outside. Once you are inside, keep your head lower than Buddha images and monks. Don’t sit with your feet pointing towards the Buddha images or monks, you will see the Thai people kneeling down with their feet tucked behind them. If you want to take photos, take them discretely and from a kneeling position. Leave a small donation in the collection box as you leave, this goes towards the upkeep of the temple and will earn you merit which you may need one day.
Don’t drink the water from the tap. Bottled water can be bought from most shops for around 10 baht a bottle.
In Phuket, most people rent a motorbike to get around. You will need your passport but won’t be asked if you can drive one! Be very careful around the roads, as the sharp bends and steep hills can be a bit like a roller coaster, the locals, never mind the foreigners, often have accidents on these roads. Make sure you have sufficient travel insurance that covers you.
Thai people love their King and Queen and the Royal Family and hold them in great reverence, so don’t disrespect them whatever you do.