Thailand is a beautifully colorful country filled with exotic landscapes, delicious cuisine, and unique culture. It is certainly a place abundant with natural beauty and wildlife and rich in traditions and religion. The Thai people are very proud of their heritage and take great care in upholding their customs. Thailand has long been a welcoming hot spot for tourists from around the world. Drawing people from far and near, Thailand is one of the most visited tourist destinations on the globe and, with so much to offer, rightfully so. When visiting Thailand, it's important to respect their culture completely and adapt yourself to blend within. And whether you are traveling alone (make sure you take the necessary measures to be safe) or with friends, it is important to always follow these guidelines. Here is a brief list of all the most important "dos and don'ts" of visiting Thailand:
15 Do Respect The Royal Family
The Thai people seriously revere their royal family. You may notice just about every restaurant or public business and establishment will hang portraits of the royal family on their walls to show their utmost respect and admiration. The Thai people do not take royalty lightly and they do not appreciate any jokes made that disrespect the royal family. Do not engage in political conversations that would in any way shed bad light on their royalty. Always speak with respect about the royal family and never, ever say bad words against them in the presence of a Thai national, because odds are they will not be happy. When traveling to a country where you might not be aware of their culture or their political beliefs, it is important to just steer clear from anything that may get you in trouble. After all, you are in their territory now, so you should treat it with the same respect as if it were your own.
14 Don't Trust People That Tell You National Monuments Are Closed Due To A “Buddhist Holiday”
Particularly in the capital city of Bangkok, scam artists run rampant in the streets trying to convince unassuming tourists of different scams to steal their money. One very popular scam advises tourists that are seeking directions that whatever particular monument or religious temple that they are trying to visit is closed due to a “Buddhist holiday.” This is almost always false. Go to the monument anyway as you had previously planned. Even if someone that appears to work at whatever place you are attempting to visit (such as being dressed as a security guard, etc.) still do not believe them unless you see an actually locked door with an appropriate announcement on it. More often than not, scam artists dress up as officials to offer you "advice" and "help." They will tell you that places are closed and, instead, you should visit a similar monument nearby. They will very conveniently have a tuk-tuk (open-air taxi) available nearby to give you “$1” ride. And then they will convince you to stop at every jewelry store that they are connected with along the way and force you (sometimes with violent force) to purchase highly-priced and usually fake jewelry items. So, do not listen to anyone that is too eager to offer you friendly advice about the “next best” place to visit because the one you want to go to is “closed.”
13 Do Learn To Say Hello & Thank You In Thai
Being respectful of a culture means also means respecting their native tongue. I am a firm believer that you should always learn at least the most basic of words when visiting a foreign land. Most importantly, always learn how to say hello and thank you in the language of the country. The Thai language is certainly not an easy one, so most people really do not expect you to speak their language. However, if you do, even with the simplest of words, they greatly appreciate your desire to show your respect. You don't have to become fluent in Thai to visit this beautiful country, but you should learn the most elementary phrases to show people that you care about their culture and heritage. It is a small gesture that they will really appreciate, and a bonus for you because now you can add basic Thai on your list of languages that you are learning.
12 Don't Expect Everyone To Speak English
Along the same lines, do keep in mind that you are a foreigner in a foreign land, not the other way around. Do not expect everyone you meet to speak English, particularly as you step off the beaten path toward more remote cities and villages. As the foreigner, you should try your best to communicate in their native language, and if you can't, find someone friendly to translate. Do not get frustrated or annoyed if the people you are communicating with do not speak English. Many Thai people speak English quite well, but, of course, this is not required nor is it to be expected. Be appreciative when you can communicate with someone and be polite when you cannot. Always remember that you are the visitor. When foreigners are visiting your country, they don't expect you to be able to communicate with them in their language, so you shouldn't expect the same.
11 Do Wear Appropriate Attire To Monuments & Temples
The majority of Thai people are Buddhists. And Thai Buddhism is fairly conservative. Always, always, always respect the dress code when visiting religious monuments and temples in Thailand. And it is not only Thailand who has the same dress codes when it comes to visiting religious areas. Regardless if you share the same religious beliefs or not, if you do choose to visit these types of places, respect them accordingly. There really is nothing more disrespectful to the religious Thai people than tourists walking around half naked in their holy houses. Thailand is really hot. But that is no excuse to not cover up in the temples. Always cover your shoulders and knees when entering the houses of worship. If you don't have appropriate attire, it will either be lent or rented to you, but be sure to wear it. Also, always be sure to remove your shoes in holy spaces when others do.
10 Don't Support The Red Light District
There are a lot of countries with areas that tend to be more dangerous than most. And this is true in Thailand. There is a pace in Thailand that is known as the Red Light District where there are some dangerous things that go down, especially for tourists. In this area, as well as other areas in different countries that have a growing epidemic with illegal activity. Whatever country or place you may visit across the globe, do not ever support these types of illegal industries. Not only is this a moral issue of epic proportions, but so many of the young women and men working in these types of industry are working highly against their will, particularly in countries such as Thailand. Do not ever support this system of servitude and slavery. People are not meant to be bought and sold for their bodies and no one should ever, ever, ever contribute to this appalling industry.
9 Do Eat The Street Food
The cuisine of Thailand is some of the best in the world. And although it may not (at first glance) seem like the cleanest of places to choose from, I would highly recommend eating on the street. Street food in Southeast Asia is how the locals enjoy their cuisine. And you know wat they say "When in Rome..." or in this case, when in Thailand. And it is also where you will find some of the best food around. Sample a taste of everything from the many, many street vendors that set up shop across the country. Watch your food being fried up in front of your eyes, adding your favorite ingredients as you, please. Sit on tiny little plastic chairs on the sidewalk and slurp up some delicious noodles and delectable soups. As the ultimate Thai experience, you will not regret it. Being one with the country feels great!
8 Don't Buy Anything Illegal
The Thai government really does not take the issue of drugs lightly. Not at all. So even though buying a little bit of it in your home country wouldn't necessarily be considered the biggest offense, in Thailand, it is a big deal and something that you just don't want to get messed up with. The police of Thailand are notoriously corrupt and you may find yourself in a very unfortunate situation that could have been avoided altogether had you just stayed away. In most countries, it is a risk to buy drugs, but in Thailand, it is an extra big risk (not only in terms of law enforcement but also in terms of not knowing even slightly what “ingredients” are incorporated into what you buy). Simply put, don't buy drugs in Thailand – it is a big offense there that is simply not worth the risk. Why would you want to visit a place and take the risk anyway of either getting caught, getting sick, or who knows what other worse things can happen.
7 Do Take Advantage Of The Cheap, Wonderful Diving
The island of Koh Tao is internationally known as one of the cheapest and best places in the world to dive. A colorful and quiet world exists under the sea and there's no better place to experience it than in Thailand. If you are someone who likes to go on these kinds of adventures, then it is definitely something you need to do when visiting Thailand. World renowned scuba instructors will guide you through all the necessary safety precautions and qualifications to prepare you for a meditative state deep down in the big blue as you encounter some of the most diverse flora and fauna. Swim with sharks and drift with eels. Take advantage of the warm tropical, crystal clear waters. Photograph exotic fish and corals as you learn to breathe like a fish deep down under the ocean’s surface. How amazing would it be to discover another life in another country?
6 Don't Ride Elephants
Elephant tourism has become a huge part of the tourism industry of Thailand. However, the “domesticating” methods used to “tame” these magnificent creatures for humans to ride is oftentimes incredibly cruel and inhumane. Furthermore, most elephant riding businesses allegedly trade and sell elephants and elephant parts in the black market and hurt and/or kill these animals to get tusks and other parts. Not only all of this but most companies use saddle-like benches to make riding the elephants more comfortable for people; however, these seats can severely injure the backbone of the animal. Anything that has to do with animals besides letting them be in their natural habitat should not be something you take part in. Don't ride the elephants. But if you would like to have a very personal experience with these great creatures, sufficiently research homes and centers that care for, rehabilitate and rescue elephants from around Thailand and the world.
5 Do Explore The Markets
A significant part of Asian culture is the abundance of street markets selling everything under the sun from clothing to souvenirs to street food to taser guns. While in Thailand, be sure to fully explore all the amazing markets scattered throughout the streets. Some of these markets span miles of street space, some are held solely on the weekends or at night and some are specialized for food, clothing, etc. Whatever style of market you stumble upon, definitely walk through as much of it as you can. Learn to haggle to get the best prices, soak up the sights, smells, and sounds, and enjoy the excitement and bustle of all the people moving about their day looking for the best bargains as they buy food and supplies for their families. A little shopping never hurt anyone, and think of how jealous everyone will be back home of your one-of-a-kind piece.
4 Don't Visit Tiger Temples
Similar to the issues raised when riding elephants, visiting tiger temples is incredibly harmful to these endangered species. Again, let the animals be in their own habitats. Tiger temples and “kingdoms” are places where tourists can come to visit “docile” tigers and take photos with them, pet them, hug them, etc. There are claims that these tigers have been raised from a young age in captivity so they are accustomed to humans being around them. And then there are other claims that say that the animals are highly drugged to allow for paying tourists to interact in unnatural ways and “abuse” them as they please. Furthermore, there are many accusations against these centers claiming that the animals are mistreated, injured and killed to also be sold on the black market for their teeth, furs and more. Stay away from any places that offer tigers or any animals as an attraction.
3 Do Support The Locals
Thailand is a country that has grown immensely due to its high volume of tourism. This has been both beneficial and detrimental to the Thai people. As with any place that you visit, try to support the locals as much as you can. Even when you are in your own country it is important to always support your own people before choosing to go with the big chains. Buy your scarf from the women who handmade it on the street rather than the mass-produced in China superstore. Drink Thai iced tea from a local shop rather than buying a bottle from the corner 7-11. Stay in the local-run bed and breakfast rather than the American chain hotel. Try your best to put your tourism money right back into the pockets of the Thai people rather than the foreign investors who have come in to exploit the beauty of Thailand for their own personal gain. Wherever you go, shop locally whenever possible.
2 Don't Drink & Drive Motorbikes
Thailand is widely known for its big party scene. The infamous Full Moon Party is held every month on the beautiful island of Koh Phangan and drinking and drugs run amok across the island during this time (as well as many others). Many other islands and beachside towns, as well as Bangkok and other inland areas, are well known for their tourist party areas as well. And a wonderful local method of transport that is super easy and super cheap to rent in Thailand is the motorbike. Drinking and driving never ever mix, but drinking and driving a motorbike is a sure fire recipe for absolute disaster. Never ever get on a motorbike after drinking. Locals sometimes call the bandages worn by the lucky survivors of motorbike accidents “Thai tattoos.” It really isn't a laughing matter though as so many people are injured and killed from drunk driving on motorbikes in Thailand. Just don't do it, in Thailand or otherwise.
1 Do Enjoy The Beauty Of This Amazing Country
Thailand is a vast country with so much to offer. Naturally beautiful, there are mountainous regions, picturesque beaches, bustling cities and so much more. There are so many things to see, delicious foods to taste and amazing experiences to have. Thailand is a very large country filled with many different pockets of beauty and culture, each more wonderful than the next. There is so much to see and do and enjoy. As you travel through this amazing country, be sure to savor every moment as you enjoy the beauty and the uniqueness of this exotic country of Southeast Asia. Whether it is your first tie or you are revisiting, take it all in. Enjoy everything about this beautiful place and build memories with everything you do. With its beaches, its food, its hidden underwater villages, there are so many things to enjoy about Thailand!