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Things to know before travelling to Thailand

Thailand is known for it’s warm hospitality, amazing cuisine and stunning landscapes. However, before heading off on your trip, there are a few things that are handy to know.

Respect the Royal Family

The Royal Family, and the King in particular, is absolutely adored by the Thai people. So be mindful that it’s illegal to harm or mock them in any way. The Thai people view their King as a symbol of righteousness and proper adherence to Buddhist principles. Many also view him as a father figure, so much so that he is universally celebrated on their Father’s Day. Not surprisingly. it’s a huge no-no to say anything negative about the revered monarch, or anyone in the royal family, as it will offend Thais.

Follow the Polite Customs

There are some simple things you can make sure to do (or not do) that will make a huge difference in how you’re perceived by the locals. For starters, it will go a long way to learn a couple of Thai phrases, like “please” and “thank you,” and to be cognizant of the traditional Thai greeting: the wai. The wai can be performed by placing your hands together in a prayer position and doing a slight bow. It’s a simple thing, but it will go a long way in showing your respect for the culture. Also try to remember to take your shoes off before going into temples (wats) and most houses, as it’s considered very rude to keep your shoes on if everyone else removes them. Last but not least, the body is viewed hierarchically in Thailand, so make sure not to touch anyone’s head, as it is considered the sacred part of the body, and not to point your feel at anyone, as the feet are considered the lowest, dirtiest part of the body.

Take Risks on the food (sometimes)

You may think you know Thai food … until you get to Thailand. But you will hear a lot of warnings about food consumption before you go to Thailand. While you should tread a bit lightly at first to let your stomach adjust, don’t let the fear of Bangkok Belly take away from your experience! Wave chicken and cashews goodbye, and experiment with more adventurous choices.

Some Thai menus may not offer English translations or illustrative pictures – and it’s these that you should approach with caution. There are some Thai dishes, for instance, that will leave delicate farang stomachs wrenching – such as Kai Yiew Ma (eggs preserved in horse urine), or Goong Ten (a live shrimp salad). Maybe stick to Pad Thai after all.

Dress up for the temples

You don’t want to miss Thailand’s majestic temples. But one of the important things to know when travelling to Thailand is that you need to be fully covered for your temple visits. In fact, be prepared to remove your footwear for many places too. It’s completely acceptable to dress down at the beach.

That attractive girl might be a Ladyboy

There’s a huge trans population in Thailand, so you definitely won’t be able to travel there without hearing about the “ladyboys.” Though you’ll often hear jokes about ladyboys in Thai culture, they represent a widely accepted and recognized subgroup in Thai society that greatly contribute to the culture. In most cities in Thailand, you’ll hear about ladyboy cabaret shows, which we definitely recommend as they can be a lot of fun, and allow you to learn more about the community and culture.

Be Wary Of Good Deals

If something seems too good to be true, chances are, it is. If a taxi driver tells you a particular temple is closed but is more than happy to take you to another, chances are, this is a lie. If they tell you they cannot use a meter, they are lying. Oftentimes, foreigners and tourists are seen as gullible, never-ending wads of cash and taken advantage of because of this. The best way to avoid getting ripped off is to do your research.

Bargain Responsibly

Bartering in Thailand can be fun. There are few places in the Western world that allow you exchange numbers back and forth with a merchant until you both agree on a price. That being said, there is always a time and a place to fight for a discount. If you’re visiting Chatuchak Weekend Market, barter away! If something doesn’t have a visible price tag, you should definitely suggest a merchant go lower for an item than what they originally say. If you’re blatantly making a merchant uncomfortable or bartering is no longer friendly banter, move onto the next shop. Don’t be the tourist fighting to save a dollar at a Thai market.

Do Not Feed The Monkeys

You’ll come across plenty of monkey-riddled beaches if you travel the south of Thailand. They are seemingly cute, witty, and are definitely cool to see up close and personal. That does not mean you should feed them. Feeding the monkeys makes them less able to find food on their own. It also means that they’ll associate people with food. It’s not uncommon to see monkeys steal bags, clothing, and more from tourists in hopes of finding food. These monkeys become less cute when they are tearing your purse apart. Remember these are wild animals. Monkeys bite, and unless you had your rabies shot previous to visiting and there’s a hospital nearby, this will make for an unpleasant experience.

Mai Pen Rai

“Mai Pen Rai” is a Thai saying that can loosely be translated to English as “no worries, don’t sweat it, it will be okay, no problem”…you get the idea. But mai pen rai is much more than just a saying — it’s a small phrase that encapsulates the Thai philosophy on life, and it’s important to know about it to act appropriately in the culture. The Thais aren’t just a friendly people, they’re also incredibly laid-back. Much of this can be attributed to the devout Buddhist principles of the people, and it can also be attributed to the notion of saving face. It’s not socially acceptable for Thais to lose their cool when things go wrong. The vast majority of the time they’ll just laugh, say “mai pen rai,” and not lose any sleep over it. So why does this matter? Because things can often be slower or less efficient than you may expect in Thailand; thus, it’s important to take everything in stride, have a sense of humor, and just live the mai pen rai lifestyle. If you do this, you’ll have a true Thai experience, and maybe even learn to take things a little slower.