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Survival Guide: Lifesaving tips and tricks for travelling in Thailand 2022

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Khao Sok National Park in Khlong Sok, Thailand. Credit: Robin Noguier | Unsplash

Travelling can be a fun adventure or a frustrating nightmare; it depends on your preparation and how well you handle the unexpected bumps in the road. Regardless of your destination, there are always a few things you need to know before heading someplace new. But in just a few (long) years, oh, how the world has changed — especially international travel, post-pandemic.

Thailand remains one of the best countries to visit, despite its changing travel restrictions. And like everywhere else, this popular vacation hotspot has its flaws. We want to help you prepare for the worst, so you can enjoy the best the Land of Smiles has to offer in 2022. Keep it secret, keep it safe: Here’s our list of tips and tricks that could save your life when traveling in Thailand this year.

Know before you go
With all the changing visa and travel requirements for entering Thailand in 2022, it’s extremely important that you pay attention to the latest announcements from the Thai government. You don’t want to book your flights and show up at the airport, only to be turned away because you forgot to book your quarantine hotel, your PCR test is invalid or some part of your application is incomplete. That’s why we’re starting our list with the latest news about the revamped Thailand Pass “Test and Go” and “Sandbox” travel schemes/requirements. Read more about it below:

*Sign up for Thailand Pass HERE (official government website).*

Of course, visa requirements and travel restrictions are just one important aspect of trip planning. You should also consider the practicalities of weather and get familiar with Thailand’s three seasons because they’re probably quite different from your home country, especially if you’re coming from the northern or southern hemispheres (i.e. a non-tropical country). If you come during the monsoon season, you’ll want to pack a poncho or umbrella. And regardless of the season, you’ll certainly want to prepare plenty of (non-chemical) sunscreen.

Pick food vendors carefully
Fortunately, some of the best things about Thailand haven’t changed, including its street food. Indeed, trying the world-renowned Thai street food remains a traveller’s right of passage. But you need to choose your food vendors wisely, if you want to avoid a terrible tummy ache.

Restaurants with many customers are probably a safe bet. If you see a place with lots of locals, then that’s a good sign on where you should eat. Not just because it’s going to be worthwhile, but it’ll also be better or hygiene purposes. Most of these places offer freshly cooked food due to their high turnover rate. Don’t consume something that has been lying around for some time, even if it’s only a few minutes. So it’s best to eat at someplace that has lots of locals, where a dish is made fresh as soon as you order it.

Be alert and avoid scams
We’ve written about this already, but it’s best to stay grounded and always be aware of your surroundings. Luckily, there aren’t many serious scams in Thailand that will directly affect tourists, and they’re usually the same ones that have been well publicised in the past.

Always tell the taxi driver to use the meter. If not, it’s better to find another one (some tourist locations, like Phuket, will provide you with additional taxi and tuk tuk challenges – read up and get acquainted). The temple is closed? That’s a lie; please don’t fall for it. Gem and tailor scams will pop up here and there, depending on the person who approaches you.

Drink bottled water
We understand that it’s OK to drink straight from the tap back home, but it should be avoided completely in Thailand. You don’t want to get any unnecessary diseases or infections. Don’t worry about ice, as factories use water purifiers. We recommend buying bottles of water at the convenience store for about 6-10 baht per bottle, depending on the size and brand. The good thing is that you can always get a cold bottle of water to beat the heat. Ice is always an indispensable way of life.

Don’t badmouth the monarchy
OK, this is a tough one but we need to break it to you. Lèse-Majesté bans anyone, Thai and foreigners, from speaking out about, or criticising, the Thai royal family. Those who do could face some sort of punishment, or at the very least, upset the locals and attract some nasty stares. With recent events of protesting and uproar about the royals and government in Thailand, things are more heated than ever. So foreigners be warned: You might have more eyes on you than ever before.

Give and save ‘face’ (i.e. be respectful and hold your tongue)
That also goes for social media, too. While the internet is relatively free here (compared to Thailand’s northern neighbour), you’ll still want to be careful what you post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You never know who’s watching.

When travelling in Thailand, it’s important to understand the concept of “face.” Thais give and save face, meaning they give and show respect by not speaking indirectly to avoid criticism and confrontation. Direct communication (i.e. the way Westerners prefer to speak) can be misunderstood as rude and disrespectful. Being polite and respectful is super important if you want a smooth journey full of smiles like they ones you see on alluring travel brochures.

It’s not just the monarchy that wants to be respected, either; it’s the average Thai, from the immigration officer to the fruit seller in the market. Warning: be careful what you post on review websites, as some disgruntled businesses could give you some legal headaches if they receive a bad review.

Use insect repellent
Every year, Thailand will experience some problems with cases of dengue fever. Covid-19 has already been an issue for the past two years, but just because it’s gotten lots of attention recently doesn’t mean the bazillion other diseases in Thailand have magically disappeared; they haven’t. We don’t want you to experience the “bonebreaking” fever you can get from a tiny mosquito bite. With dengue fever, you’ll likely experience flu like symptoms at best, and some severe bone and muscle pain at worst. So it’s best to protect yourself and buy mosquito repellent from a local convenience store or a supermarket.

Always carry cash (safely)
If you rely on plastic bank cards and QR codes for cashless payments, then you’ll be safe inside expensive restaurants, chain hotels and large shopping malls. But outside on the street, cash is still king and you’re expected to have it on you, especially in rural areas.

Since the pandemic, going cashless has become more accepted. That said, it doesn’t mean it’s OK to walk around without at least a few hundred baht in your wallet. In Thailand that’s like walking around without your pants on. ATMs can be found in many places across the country, so it’s not the end of the world if you have to use them (many people prefer plastic to paper for travelling), but you’ll likely have to pay a hefty fee to withdraw money from a foreign bank account.

Additionally, most taxi drivers won’t have much change, or pretend not to so as to get a “tip,” so it’s important to have smaller notes with you at all times. But be careful! It’s also important you don’t carry too much cash on you or put it where it can be stolen. This may seem like common sense, but don’t assume the friendly people you meet are all trustworthy. Not every smile is a friendly one (but we’re glad to report, most are). Hotel rooms usually have a safe to store your valuables in. Use it. Of course, you should always have a backup plan, in case your cash is stolen or unexpectedly runs out. It’s wise to carry a bank card that don’t charge a foreign transaction fee.

Be careful crossing the road
This is not about why the chicken cross the road. If you visited Thailand before, you will know what we’re talking about. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the zebra crossing or not, crossing the road is a real danger, and even life threatening. This past month alone, Thailand has been getting a lot of heat (no pun intended) about crossing the road. The rules aren’t just strict enough.

It’s best not to cross a street directly; instead look for a pedestrian bridge. But if you have no choice but to cross the road on foot, be extra careful. Look BOTH ways (watch out for motorcycles driving dangerously against the flow of traffic on the wrong side of the road) and wave your hand firmly until all motorists stop for you to cross safely. Never expect a driver to stop for you, as you could get hit.

Also, try not to cross alone, and avoid being the first or last one to do so.

Buy travel insurance (in addition to covid insurance)
If something terrible does happen (heaven forbid!) and you find yourself in the hospital, you’ll thank yourself a thousand times over for paying a little extra for decent travel insurance. Of course, this is in addition to the covid insurance required to enter Thailand. But for both types of insurance, make sure to read the fine print and bear in mind that insurance companies operate with the goal of making the fewest payouts in the smallest amounts possible.

That said, any insurance plan that only covers less than 100,000 baht in in-patient medical expenses should be avoided because it likely won’t be enough to cover the cost of your treatment, if you have to stay in the hospital for more than a few days. And any in-patient covid treatments will certainly be much pricier.

(For example, a 10-day stay at a private hospital in Bangkok for Covid-19 can easily exceed 200,000 baht.)

Also, out-patient fees at private hospitals tend to range between 2,000-5,000 baht. That’s usually enough to cover the cost of the doctor’s fee and whatever medicines he subscribes for purchase at the hospital pharmacy. (Check to see whether you can get the same medicines for much cheaper prices at a regular pharmacy.)

Of course, doctor fees will be a lot lower at government hospitals. So make sure your insurance provides at least a few thousand baht for OPD, and know where to go if you get sick or injured during your trip.

Adjust to Thai etiquette
As the saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. You might find some things Thai people do are contrary to your own customs back home. But always remember you’re a visitor in this country. Adjusting to the local etiquette can help you avoid unintentionally offending someone and prevent a lot of misunderstanding. You don’t want to seem rude and give Thai people a bad impression of foreigners. You don’t want to be “that guy” (or gal) who makes his country look bad.

When traveling abroad, you’re by default an ambassador. So learn to “wai” to the elderly, take your shoes off when entering certain buildings, don’t raise your voice when upset, keep your hands to yourself, don’t point your finger rudely, keep your feet off of tables/desks/chairs, don’t spit, wait in line, wear a mask indoors in public areas (current pandemic expectation), clean up your mess, dress appropriately, adopt that Thai smile and always say “khop khun krap.” If you do these simple things, you’ll avoid a world of hurt and represent your country well.

Learn essential Thai phrases
Finally, if you want your trip to go smoothly and enjoy it to the fullest, then you’d do yourself good to learn some basic Thai phrases. Here’s a rough language checklist (in English) to get you started:

hello/goodbye, please/thank you, excuse me, I’m sorry, you’re welcome, how are you, where’s the bathroom, how much does it cost, I’m from ___ country, my name is ___, what’s your name, what time is it, where is it, where/how to go, what/how to do, why, when, how long, how much, how far, how old, go straight, turn left, turn right, stop here/there, over here/there, this/that one, what’s this/that…

I know/don’t know, I undestand/don’t understand, I want/don’t want this/that, I like/don’t like this/that, It’s cold/hot, I’m hungry/thirsty/sleepy/angry/happy/sad/satisfied/worried/excited/scared…

good, bad, yes, no, girl, boy, man, woman, person, I/me/you/he/him/she/her/they/them/we, take, give, come, go, do, to be, swim, walk, take, ride, say/speak, read, listen/hear, keep, feel, call, wash, buy, pay, rent, wear, work, travel, exercise, play, sleep, shower, 1-10, morning, afternoon, evening, bed, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, brown, white, loud, quiet, expensive, cheap, big, small, food, water, fruit, cash, coin, bank card, plane, train, bus, car, taxi, motorcycle, airport, station, ticket, phone, computer, internet, house, hotel, hospital, room, gym, road, market, store, battery, charger, electricity, fork, spoon, plate, bowl, cup, clean, dirty, salty, sweet, delicious, beautiful.

(Honourable mentions: Bangkok, visa, passport, nationality, immigration, policeman, doctor, medicine, time, a little more, the same, not the same, enough, not enough, open, close, rainy, sunny, windy, funny, painful, fever, diarrhea, body, head, stomach, hand, foot, island, beach, swim, smile, ice, drinking water, milk, mosquito, monkey, cat, dog, bird, lizard, elephant, monk, temple, church, park, rive, sea, forest, clothes, shoes, sandals, hat, sunscreen, umbrella, bag, suitcase, pen, paper, family, mom, dad, wife, husband, girlfriend/boyfriend, child, sister, brother, ladyboy, rice, chicken, noodles, pork, beef, fish, prawns, soup, coconut, pineapple, banana, mango, guava, Westerner.)

We hope you find this short list of essential phrases (in English) inspiring enough to kickstart your Thai language journey. If you only learn these basics, just imagine how much more enjoyable your trip in Thailand will be!

What’s your take?
So there you have it, our shortlist of survival tips and tricks you need to know to stay safe and enjoy your trip in Thailand in 2022. What’s your take? Did we miss anything obvious or essential? If you’ve been to Thailand before — or especially if you live here — let us know your own top tips for surviving and thriving in the Land of Smiles. Contribute to our survival guide by sharing your input and insights in the ThaigerTalk comments section down below. Khop khun kh!

 

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