But as you’re faced with these challenges, you might makes some mistakes along the way. Uneducated travelers are susceptible to offending people, getting overcharged for many products and services, or even getting a little confused or lost when trying to travel around the country.
We don’t want that to happen to you, though. By researching before you travel and heeding expert advice, you can avoid most of the tricky situations that we’ve listed below. Here is our advice on how you can avoid common mistakes when traveling in Thailand:
Mistake #1: Improperly Using Taxis
When you’re in any of the more metropolis parts of Thailand (i.e. Bangkok), you’ll probably use a taxi to get from point A to point B. As a foreigner, it’s easy to make mistakes when using this mode of transportation, and the drivers know that. All over the world, bad taxi drivers may try to squeeze more money out of you for a standard ride because they know you aren’t knowledgeable about exact routes and distances. Don’t be a target for scammers. Here is what you do in Thailand:
Firstly, it is a good rule of thumb to avoid taxis parked around hotels and tourist-y areas, as they likely raise prices knowing the people staying there definitely aren’t local. Flag down a taxi that is already driving down the street, and remember to have your palms faced down while you beckon it.
When one has stopped for you, lean into the window, state your destination, and the driver will nod if he can take you. Most drivers should use a metered fare, as it’s government-regulated. On some occasions, the driver might offer you a flat fare–around 200฿. Depending on the distance you want to go, flat fares could be double or triple the normal price! Politely decline his offer, and choose another taxi.
Once you get in a car, the meter should start around 35฿. If he refuses to turn the meter on and tries to negotiate a flat fare for you, this is your cue to smile, exit, and choose another taxi.
Especially in the Bangkok area, always make sure the driver uses the meter. The current rates (since December 2014) are broken down as follows:
- 0 -1 km - 35฿
- 1 - 10 km - 5.50฿ per km
- 10 - 20 km - 6.50฿ per km
- 20 - 40 km - 7.50฿ per km
- 40 - 60 km - 8.00฿ per km
- 60 - 80 km - 9.00฿ per km
- More than 80 km - 10.50฿ per km
By the time you get to your destination (if it is within the city), your fare shouldn’t be higher than around 100฿.
Mistake #2: Improperly Using Tuk-Tuks
In most other parts of Thailand, tuk-tuks will be your number one choice for transportation. Taxis are mainly found in huge metropolis cities, but tuk-tuks reign supreme in almost all other parts of Thailand. These three-wheeled motorized vehicles are a fun ride, and are sometimes brightly painted and decorated for your delight. But like taxis, they can also be an opportunity for drivers to overcharge you.
Similar to taxis, it’s best to flag a tuk-tuk when it is already cruising, and not parked by hotels and tourist areas.
Unlike taxis, tuk-tuks do not have a metered system. Always negotiate a price before you climb into one, and don’t ever start the conversation with, “How much?” Offer a kind smile, and ask if they can take you somewhere for a specific price. Ask a local or a hotel desk worker for a ballpark on how much that might be.
Mistake #3: Not Haggling
Nine times out of ten, you’re going to want to make a purchase than could easily be haggled down. You’re not a local, regular customer––so many store owners won’t necessarily go out of their way to make you a deal or give a discount. But haggling is a very acceptable practice in many markets and stores in Thailand! Here are a few tips to help you save money in your everyday purchases. We’ll call it Bartering 101:
While it can seem a bit stressful or nerve-wracking to bargain on items, it is meant to be a fun, normal way of Thai life. Don’t ever get angry or rude with the merchants, even if they are somewhat cold to you (it’s a common sales practice to stay firm on price at first). Never underestimate the power or a smile or laugh. Thai people have such a kind culture, it’s no different when it comes to business negotiation.
Start by choosing an item you want to buy, and be sure to clearly show your interest in the item. This opens up a window for the merchant to take their interest in you. What might happen is that they tell you a story about how your charming smile and kindness has docked down the price to a “special” offer that is “just for you!” Show your gratitude toward their offer, but start the bargaining with a pleasant smile and offer them around half their price.
Take your time compromising with the merchant. You’ll find that your ending price is much lower than the sticker price, and you get to take home a beautiful souvenir for a fair price!
Mistake #4: Misusing Your Feet
In most parts of the Western world, we don’t think twice about what we do with our feet. But in Thailand, our feet are considered the lowest and most “unclean” part of the body, so there is a significant amount of feet etiquette that we need to bear in mind. As foreigners and tourists, you might find that there are a lot of opportunities to accidentally offend someone with your feet!
One of the more common Thai customs you’ll notice is leaving your shoes at the door before you enter a home or place of worship. In many cases, though, you might find that you’ll need to leave your shoes even outside of stores, restaurants, and hotels. Rule of thumb: if you see a shoe rack or a pile of shoes outside, follow suit.
Temples are often great places to visit for tourists, and you’ll be encouraged to come pay your respects while admiring the beauty. But these are very sacred places. Far too often, many foreign visitors forget the etiquette and point their feet toward Buddha statues, sacred images, or monks, which is regarded as very rude behavior. Turn your feet outward or, if sitting at a temple, kneel instead of crossing your feet. Those around you will always appreciate the effort to assimilate into the culture.
Mistake #5: Getting Lost Between Bangkok and Trat
In many instances, you’re going to be faced with the choice between a bus or a plane to travel long distances. So, how do you go about making the right decision? The answer is both simple and complicated: do your research.
For example, many of our incoming volunteers fly into the Bangkok airport. However, they will need to come to Trat to get to our dormitories. When it comes to traveling between Thailand’s two biggest hubs, you have a couple options depending on your budget and timing.
For those who have the money and need to save on time, you can always book a one-way plane ticket. After setting your internet browser to “incognito” mode (shift+CTRL+n for PCs, shift+command+n for Macs), take a look at your favorite airline search engine. We suggest Google Flights, Kayak.com, or booking directly from airasia.com––Asia’s number one budget airline.
However, if you’re looking to save money, you will more than likely opt for taking a bus. For around 250 baht, you can make it to Trat in just 6 hours! In order to purchase tickets ahead of time, you have to buy them directly at the Ekkamai Bus Station, the same station you will be departing from. It’s best to purchase a bus ride that leaves in the early morning, but buses run so frequently that if you can’t take a morning trip, an evening or afternoon trip will work just fine.
One of the best things about traveling is challenging yourself and realizing that it’s actually easier to maneuver your way around than you might originally think. Many people are afraid to travel to places like Thailand where the culture and language are so vastly unique from what they’re used to, but that’s all the more reason why you should go!
Mistakes are bound to happen, and that is absolutely okay. Learning from your own mistakes as well as others’ makes the trip that much more rewarding. Hopefully these five tips will help you prepare (and avoid) a few slip-ups!
What’s the biggest challenge you faced while traveling abroad?