Thinking of travelling to Thailand anytime soon? Read on below for some useful tips.
Thailand has become one of the highly visited countries in Asia. In fact, the Thai government has increased its spending to cater to the needs of incoming tourists, investing as much as US$13 billion in improvements to attract close to 65 million tourists. The country receives as much as 7 million foreign visitors annually, and it can grow even more in the coming years. These statistics show that Thailand is a prime go-to place for tourists and expats alike. If you have plans of travelling to Thailand, here are some of the travel do’s and don’ts that you should keep in mind:
As any foreign visitor, one should always remember to follow tradition and protocols. Good table manners are pretty self-explanatory, but there are some do’s and don’ts that one should know when they are in Thailand.
Similar to Japan, table positions in Thailand are quite remarkable. In the West, the head of the table is often considered the most important. However, in Thailand, the most revered person occupies the middle of the table. Honoured guests would typically get the position directly opposite the host. As such, you cannot merely occupy any seat. You have to wait for someone to show you your place. If you are to sit on the bamboo mats, you have to make sure that you are not showing your feet to anyone while eating.
If you are planning to eat alone in a busy restaurant, expect that you would have to share your table with a group. It is okay not to initiate small talk or any interaction with others at the table.
When travelling to Thailand, you have to remember that almost all group meals in Thailand are for sharing. Ideally, senior ladies have full command of what to order, and they would do so for the whole group. Given this, you should not plan on ordering food for yourself. Don’t worry as these ladies know what to order. They would often order different types of meats and fish and also include a good variety of vegetables.
Pro Tip: If there is a particular meal that you would want to try, you may ask the person-in-charge of ordering and hope that they may get the hint that you prefer it. Expect the rice to come in separate bowls.
If you have any dietary requirements and limitations, it is best to avoid trying these food items. If someone offers food items that you are not okay with, you may decline the offer, and they won’t take it against you. It is better to explicitly say that you don’t prefer the food rather than leaving the table with uneaten food.
Remember that food in Thailand is for sharing. When the food arrives, it is best not to get not more than two spoonfuls of each dish that you prefer. Don’t worry since you can always refill your plate until you’ve tasted each one that you like. However, you must ensure that you let other people in your group have a taste of each meal. Meals would often not arrive at once, so getting too much food at the start of the meal is not advisable.
Compared with Japan, the use of chopsticks in Thailand is only for standalone noodle dishes. When it comes to rice meals, Thai prefers to use a spoon and a fork. Don’t expect to have a knife to cut your food since the food from the kitchen would be served in bite-sized pieces already. If it is still too big for you, you can use your spoon to cut them. As much as possible, eat and handle communal serving utensils using your right hand.
The Thais are fond of seasoning and spicing up their food. So make sure to have a taste of the food items first before gobbling it down as they can be intensely spicy.
Like many Asian countries, a person’s age and social status get the top hierarchy. Before you begin eating, you have to wait for an elder or the highest ranking in the table to signal the start of the meal.
Eating in Thailand is best enjoyed when eating meals slowly. So nibble and savour your food. Socialize while eating and immerse yourself in their culture, and you’d be surprised at how unique and exciting their roots are.
Travelling to Thailand would make you realize how much Thais enjoy drinking. Most of them would enjoy a bottle or two with their meals. When drinking with a Thai, here are some tips to remember:
It may be okay and acceptable in the West to exhibit drunken behaviour. In Thailand, however, it is frowned upon. Getting too drunk means that you do not have self-discipline and self-control when it comes to drinking. Thais would often not give it attention because the drunk person is already losing face.
When you roam around while you are drunk, you would only attract trouble for yourself. As in any place, drinking out late at night only increases your chances of meeting crooks that can take advantage of your vulnerability.
If you are drinking with a Thai, it is best practice to pour a drink for someone. It shows that you respect them and consider the intimate activity a show of a good relationship. Expect to have a beer tower where they will share the drinks for everyone.
When toasting, follow the seniority. Start by toasting the most senior of the group first, before the rest of the group. Ideally, the host would begin a toast. When you are leading the toast, you can announce it by saying “chon!” and everyone will join n.
If you happen to receive an invite to visit a home when you are travelling to Thailand, there are some cultural norms that you have to observe.
When entering a home, it is their custom to remove their shoes to prevent the dirt from outside the home to enter their house. Make sure to follow this practice and remove your footwear and always remember to keep your feet on the ground. Refrain from pointing your feet towards anyone.
Thais are pretty laidback, but they won’t appreciate you visiting their home wearing inappropriate clothing. While you don’t have to dress to impress, wearing acceptable clothing, such as jeans, loafers, a polo shirt, or a nice dress should be enough. When you have an opportunity to visit a Thai home, you are no longer just a mere tourist. Honour your host by presenting yourself well.
Wai is a gesture of respect in Thailand. The practice is putting your hands together as if you are praying. The higher the wai, the more respect it conveys. As a tourist, locals would not expect you to offer a wai, but when one initiates it to greet you, return the gesture.
Seniority is such an essential factor in Thailand. When visiting a Thai home, it would be best to show your respect by keeping your head lower than the most senior in the house. For example, if the elder decides to sit down, you should sit down as well. If this would be impossible for you, then you can bend your head slightly forward.
Travelling to Thailand can be a breeze if you know what you could and could not do. However, some people can often paint a different picture of one’s culture. Here are some common myths about travelling to Thailand that you should know:
The Truth: Not many Thais make their ice from tap water so there should be no fear about consuming the so-called “fatal ice” while you are in Thailand. If you are still worried about consuming anything contaminated, your best bet is buying only the circular ice cubes with a hole as these are the ones made with filtered water.
The Truth: Many years back, Thailand became famous for its sex tourism industry. And it has led many people to believe that those who go on a solo trip to this Asian country would be out and looking for sex, even though they try very hard to keep away from the red light district. So, you may expect some people to come up to you offering their services.
The Truth: While it is true that some Thais are scam artists, many of them are still honest and trustworthy. Nevertheless, you should caution against scammers, particularly in areas where tourists flock. The key here is knowing the common scam strategies that they employ so you can already tell from the get-go and prevent them from scamming you.
The Truth: Times have changed. Over the years, Thailand, particularly Bangkok, has become popular with tourists, and this newfound fame brought inflation. While you can still get good value for your money, the prices are not as dirt cheap as it was during the 90s. Compared with other regions, such as Japan, Hong Kong, or Singapore, you can still get decent deals at a reasonable price.
The Truth: As mentioned, Thailand cultivated the notion that their country mainly caters to worldly needs and, as such, they are not suitable for bringing kids. However, travelling to Thailand will make you realize that this country has tons of family activities that kids can enjoy. Hotels have facilities that cater to kids, such as kid clubs and babysitters. They also have amusement and water parks that the kids will enjoy.
The Truth: Many will say that hiring a tour guide is only an added expense. However, for a first-time tourist, it can be a money-saver. Tour guides know Thailand like the palm of their hand. Hiring one can help you see Thailand in a whole new light. Plus, they’d be great for warding off any potential scammers that might take advantage of you during the trip. Tour guides can direct you on what activities you can do and the best places to do it during your stay. When hiring a tour guide, make sure that they have the proper accreditations.
Now that you know much about travelling to Thailand, don’t hesitate to buy your tickets, book your hotel, and visit this wonderful and vibrant country. Let us know in the comments about your trip!