Traveling to Thailand for the first time is not always easy for tourists, especially if you’re not from Asia or the Pacific Region. There is so much to see and do in Thailand. Whatever your plans are, these helpful tips are great for first-time visitors to Thailand, especially if you’re visiting from North America or Europe. There’s plenty more but I’ve narrowed it down to just 20 silly mistakes to avoid when visiting Thailand.
1. Not Using the Skytrain in Bangkok
The skytrain in Bangkok is a wonderful way to save time and money when getting around this crazy, crowded city. It’s very straightforward and uncomplicated, making it easy to use and a reliable means of transport.
2 ways to use it:
- Buy a ticket from the machine outside the train station (single journey costs between 15 to 52baht depending on zones crossed)
- Purchase a day pass for 130 baht
The BTS, or as it is commonly referred to, the Sky Trains, consist of 2 lines that are connected at Siam station. At Asok station it is possible to change to the MRT (the subway). Bangkok bus connections at BTS stations are listed here.
Some of the places you can get to using the skytrain:
- The Chao Praya River
- Chatuchak Markets
- CentralWorld Shopping Mall
- Siam Paragon Shopping Mall
- MBK Shopping Mall
- Terminal 21 Shopping Mall
2. Not Trying the Street Food
One of the best things about visiting Thailand is the street food. From chicken on a stick to banana pancakes, the street food is amazing and so cheap. I know everyone worries so much about becoming sick from eating on the street, but you can also catch something from eating in restaurants – where you can’t see how they prepare the food.
If you are really worried about this, my big tip is this:
Go to a big shopping mall and start trying different dishes from the food court. Once you have become accustomed to eating this food, venture out onto the street and try something innocent, like a Pad Thai. Start with a vegetarian option if you are concerned about the meat. Go on try it, you’ll be eating like a local in no time at all! This is definitely one of the mistakes to avoid when visiting Thailand.
3. Not Learning a Few Thai Phrases
Just a few Thai phrases in your head could mean making great contact with local Thai people and having a very memorable trip. The Thai people love it when you know some of their language and try it out on them. Often they like to practice their english on you too! Try these phrases – even print some out and take with you. And you can always find a smartphone app to help. Keep in mind that to make a request or greeting sound more polite, male people should add ‘khap’ to the end of a sentence and female ‘kha’.
Don’t forget that Thai people greet each other with the Thai greeting referred to as the wai which consists of a slight bow, with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion.
|Sabai dee ru (krub/kah)||How are you?|
|Sabai dee (krub/kah)||Fine|
|Khob Khun (kup/kaa)||Thank you|
|dai||(you/ I) can|
|mai dai||can not|
|mai pen rai
||never mind (handy all purpose phrase to express the Thai go-with-the-flow attitude)|
4. Forgetting Voltage Converters and Adaptors for Plugs
You get all the way to Thailand and realise you can’t plug your phone in to recharge it. Oops! Most hotels will have these adaptor plugs to borrow, but they might all be out being used by other guests. Nobody wants to run to a mall the minute they arrive in hope of finding an adaptor plug. Please remember to pack the relevant plugs before you leave home.
Most electrical outlets in Thailand will fit a plug with either two horizontally opposed flat pins or two round pins in the same configuration. And don’t forget a power board will come in handy for the extra appliances/gadgets you travel with. I’ve selected some examples below from Amazon so you’ll be prepared! This is one of the mistakes to avoid when visiting Thailand.
5. Falling for Scams
Now we could write a book on the number of scams we’ve heard about in Thailand. So many smart people thinking they can make the silly tourist part with their cash. It happens, and you have to keep your head on straight when dealing with people you don’t know. They can sound so believable, however, most of the time if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
The Time Share Scam – this one is really common in Phuket and Koh Samui. It goes something like this – someone stops you on the street and asks if you want to try your luck at winning a prize from a scratch ticket. Everyone “wins” a prize – and you have to go with them to collect it. They take you to a hotel somewhere and make you sit through a time-share presentation and at the end they pressure you into giving them a credit card to buy the time-share. DON’T EVER DO THIS. WALK ON BY.
The Grand Palace/Wat Arun/Temple/Anything is Closed Scam – You will see scammers in abundance outside places like the Grand Palace. They will try to tell you it’s closed. However, being the prepared tourist you are, you will know the opening times and the details of this scam, so you won’t fall for it. Invariably they try to get you to go somewhere with them instead – tailor for a suit, jewelery store to buy overpriced stones etc etc.
The Tuk-Tuk Round the World Scam – Now not all tuk-tuk drivers are scammers but there’s quite a few of them out there. They have a variety of scam scenarios. A popular one is to get you in the tuk-tuk and tell you there will be a small stop on the way – the price would be so much higher without this stop, so they make it “worth” something to you. The driver takes you to an out of the way jewelery store where they try to coerce you to buy something. Unfortunately with this scam, if you do go it’s very hard to get back to where you started because they usually take you somewhere really far away. Alot of people end up buying something just to get out. This is what they hope for. DON’T GET IN THE TUK TUK IF YOU SENSE A SCAM. A taxi would be safer.
The scams change all the time. New ones pop up daily. The bottom line is that they want your money. The best way to avoid being scammed is to plan your transport as much as possible – use the trains in Bangkok, baht buses in other cities, taxis with meters, and book tours and tour guides. Even the best tourists end up falling for a clever and elaborate scam, so don’t feel bad if they do get you.
6. Not Visiting a Sky Bar in Bangkok
Bangkok has the most amazing cityscape, and it’s particularly beautiful at night from a high vantage point. Skybars. There’s lots of them around now. Every really tall building (and there’s lots in Bangkok) seems to have a skybar/restaurant. The most famous one is at the Lebua Hotel – it’s called Sirocco. If you are a fan of the Hangover movies, you will remember it was the location of Mr Chow’s meeting, and he took the wolf pack along with him.
The one thing to keep in mind with skybars is that they are probably going to be expensive to drink at. If you’ve become used to cheap drinks in Thailand, then a skybar will blow your mind. Skybars also have pretty strict dress codes too. You will not be allowed in wearing shorts and tank tops. Most of them are not just bars, but also have restaurants as well. These will be expensive too. However, if you are in Thailand to splurge a little, this is one way to do it. I’ll save more details on which bars to visit for another post, but in the meantime if you want any further information, head over to What’s on Sukhumvit and read their skybar article.
7. Only Visiting Phuket and Nowhere Else
So many tourists will only ever fly into Phuket, stay a while and fly out again. They are missing out on so much more that Thailand has to offer. It is the most well known part of Thailand, and has many resorts and hotels. Most people visit Phuket to see the iconic islands scattered close by. These islands are now overrun with tourists. Maya Bay is constantly full of boats dropping off tourists for the day. Yes, Phuket and the islands are fantastic but there’s loads more to see in Thailand.
Starting off your trip as a first timer to Phuket is a great idea. It’s set up for tourists. Getting around and having a wonderful time is easy in Phuket. But next time, think about adding a destination or two from the following list. As you become more familiar with Thailand, you’ll be interested in more untouched areas with less tourists. For now, try these destinations after your Phuket or Koh Samui beach trip:
8. Handing Over Your Passport to a Bike Or Jetski Rental Operator
Most tourists would probably not be aware that a huge passport racket exists in popular tourist areas like Phuket. Plenty of operators will want to keep your passport as a deposit on the equipment you rent from them. A few things could happen to your passport. It could become “lost” and never returned to you – as it has now taken a trip by itself onto the black market and your identity is at risk. Your passport information could be copied and your identity stolen, along with the credit card you used to rent the bike or jetski. And finally, the most regular occurrence with passports – they use it to blackmail you for more money. A fake scratch appears on the bike, and you won’t be getting your passport back until you give them 10,000 baht!
Guard your passport with your life. Make a copy of it and carry it on you at all times. The original passport should be locked in the hotel safe in your room. Never ever give your passport to anyone.
9. Not Visiting the River in Bangkok
No trip to Bangkok is complete without a visit to the Chao Praya River. Most tourists will get there on their visit to the Grand Palace or Wat Arun as they are both located on either side of the river.
Our favourite thing to do in Bangkok is take a river cruise at sunset and have dinner out here as the lights come on. It’s just a magical experience being out on the river. The craziness of Bangkok subsides for a few hours and you can sit back and take in the majestic city and the amazing buildings.
Next on our list is a visit to Asiatique, which also involves a boat ride. If you take the skytrain to Saphan Taksin station you will be able to take the free boat to Asiatique. You can read more about Asiatique here.
There’s plenty of hotels down by the river too. Some legendary properties are on the list – The Mandarin Oriental. Perhaps drop in for their incredible High Tea in the Author’s Lounge. Dinner by the river is always lovely at the Royal Orchid Sheraton. The hotel has numerous dining options. The Italian Restaurant is particularly good there – Giorgio’s – which has river views. It’s not as expensive as dining 5 star back home, but the food is nothing short of heaven.
The Chao Praya river is always alive with river traffic and things going on. It’s definitely worth putting on your list.
10. Buying Fake Branded Goods
I am sure there will be some varied opinions about this one. Thailand has been very well known for selling a huge amount of counterfeit products for many years. From bags to watches to t-shirts to shoes….if it has a brand on it, you will probably find the fake version in Thailand. Of course all of this product comes in from China. Lately, the Thai junta has been cracking down on fake goods by raiding shops selling these items. There’s been divided opinion about this – some say it’s just a show and they let them come back a week later. It’s just so the General looks like he is doing something about it when the western countries complain.
I have some supporting facts to share with you which might change your mind when you are confronted by the fake gear on your next trip:
- It’s illegal to bring fake goods back to just about every western country. You can be fined for it. The goods will be confiscated.
- It’s morally wrong to purchase fake goods that someone is profiting off – they don’t own the brand so they don’t deserve to make money off the goods.
- The stuff is really poor quality. It’s not the real thing. It will break, tear, peel etc. I have been conned into thinking a Guess bag was the real deal in a department store – it wasn’t. It fell apart when I got home.
- You might be in the wrong place at the wrong time and find yourself arrested by the Thai Police if they are conducting a raid on counterfeit goods.
- Invariably the sellers will lie to you about the items to get you to buy. They will pull out lighters and pretend the bags are leather and won’t burn. They are not leather!
Do the right thing in Thailand. Buy locally made cultural goods so the money goes back to the local people. There’s plenty of these items in local markets. Some of the handmade items are just beautiful. The Thai people have such a talent for creating things.