Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles,” which absolutely makes sense.
From the Instagram-worth beaches to the delicious foods, traveling to Thailand would make most people smile, of course.
But, if you’re planning a trip to Thailand, there are several important things to know before you go—especially if you want to keep that smile on your face.
Here are the most important Thailand travel tips to know before visiting:
1. Know When to Go
The best time to travel to Thailand is during the cooler, dryer season. However, this varies depending on where you go in Thailand.
Most of Thailand has three seasons: a hot season, a cold season, and a rainy season. On the popular Andaman coast of Thailand, home to Phuket and Ko Phra, go between late November through March to enjoy warm, dry weather.
To the east of the Andaman Sea, over the thin sliver of land, you’ll find the Gulf of Thailand, home to such places as Pattaya, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Samui, and Ko Phaluai. Here, go between late January and early April to have the most sun and little rain.
Finally, the north of Thailand, everything north of Bangkok, has its own weather suggestions. For visiting Chiang Mai, Pai, or any other northern places, the cooler season is between October and January, while hotter weather can be found between February and April.
2. Keep Your Head High
Because it’s the highest point on the body, the head is the most important, almost sacred, part (and considered the “cleanest”). As such, never disrespect a person’s face or head, or even show disrespect to the head of any Buddha statue. It’s also offensive to even touch someone’s head, so apologize immediately if you do it by accident.
3. Leave Your Feet on the Floor
Thai people definitely don’t share Quentin Tarantino’s foot fixation. As the feet are the lowest point in the body, it is horribly rude to use it to point to things, raise it above someone else’s head, or generally use it disrespectfully in public.
4. Be Careful With Street Food
I’m all for street food, and the benefits of eating street food go far beyond just a cheap, delicious meal. That being said, many street vendors don’t have the best hygienic habits (which is true in many places, of course, not just in Thailand). To be safe and to avoid traveler’s diarrhea, pick street carts with longer, fast-moving lines, as these places probably have built up a reputation with locals for not serving up a side of stomach ache.
5. Take the Right Travel Adaptor
Thailand has a wide range of accepted travel plug types, but you won’t find them all in each destination you visit.
For many western tourists, you’ll be happy to know that many places have outlets in A & B types (common in North America), C & F (found in Europe), as well as O. Now plug type O is the one to watch out for, as it is unique to Thailand. To be sure you have juice when you need it, call your hotel or hostel ahead of time.
6. Keep Your Personal Items Safe
As Thailand modernizes, it’s becoming a safer place for tourists, with much lower violence, muggings, and robberies compared to decades past.
Still, though, it is wise to be vigilant while visiting Thailand. Most tourists stand out like a sore thumb and don’t even realize it. Wear tight pants when carrying a wallet, so you can always feel it on your person. Better yet, wear one of those chest strap wallets to keep all your important docs safe, such as your ID and credit cards. You can keep some petty cash in your pocket.
7. Get Vaccinated & Immunized
Do you need shots to go to Thailand?
Most vaccines or shots are not required for visitors to Thailand. However, one exception is a proof of vaccination for yellow fever if you come from specific countries (mostly in Africa and South America).
Still, while not required, it’s a good idea to be up to date on all your immunizations or vaccines for typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A, hepatitis B (especially if you’ll be sleeping with someone new there), malaria, and rabies.
8. Screw Safely
In Thailand, it’s more important than many other places to screw safely rather than saying “screw safety.” We already recommended you to get that hepatitis B shot, but condoms are alway important, as well.
Since Thailand, especially in red light districts in Bangkok, is a well-known sex tourism destination, safety also involves knowing the rules. Prostitution, though everywhere, is illegal, and Thai punishments can be very severe if you’re caught breaking the law. Definitely one of the most important Thailand travel tips to remember!
9. Don’t Gamble
Don’t gamble on your freedom by gambling in Thailand. You can bet on horse races in Thailand, as well as the standard government-owned lottery, but that’s it.
Aside from it being illegal, in Buddhism, it is super discouraged, as it is one of the four vices that can lead to a person’s downfall.
10. Don’t Raise Your Voice
While you may encounter situations where you feel you’re getting ripped off, never raise your voice. It is generally viewed as gospel that Thai people don’t like confrontation, especially of the raised voice variety. Arguing loudly is seen as a sign of weakness, and it won’t usually help your case. In the event you’re unhappy with a price or something else, simply walk away or be calm while discussing.
11. Take a Padlock With You
Padlocks are just a good thing to carry with you anytime you travel, from locking up your backpack zippers to securing a cheap safe or locker at a hostel while backpacking Thailand. For ease and peace of mind, bring a combination padlock so you don’t have keys to worry about.
12. Don’t Drive
A valid driver’s license from most countries will usually allow you to legally drive in Thailand, but it doesn’t mean you should.
Thailand is one of the most dangerous countries for drivers, especially those on two wheels. While it may be cheap to rent a scooter or even purchase one for your Thailand trip, you could end up regretting it. Beautiful Thailand, with its bustling cities and hairpin turns in the rural areas, has one of the highest road death rates in the world.
13. Carry Insect Repellent
Thailand has its share of insects, and they get BIG. On top of that, there are many biting, stinging bugs out there, including disease-carrying mosquitoes, painfully pricking Asian giant hornets, and even scorpions.
After your passport, bug spray is really the most important thing you can carry to Thailand.
By the way, in many Thailand street carts, you can easily find many creepy crawlies to eat, including grasshoppers, crickets, silkworms, and even those scary giant water bugs!
14. Bring Your ID
Of course you’ll have your passport to get to Thailand, but you should also carry some sort of ID around as you visit, because it’s the law. However, you can leave your passport safely tucked away in the hotel safe and just carry around your driver’s license or student ID to make sure you don’t lose it.
Related Read: The Traveler’s Guide to Sleeping Well
15. Bathe Yourself in Sunscreen
The Thai sun is powerful, being as close to the equator as it is. Make sure to keep plenty of sunscreen around, particularly the kind that doesn’t come off from sweating. One of the most obvious Thailand travel tips, but still highly important.
16. Drink Bottled Water
To be absolutely safe and to avoid the risk of gastrointestinal problems, drink bottled water whenever possible. Also, avoid ice cubes in drinks, as these are usually made from tap water, as well.
17. Don’t Get Scammed
Thailand has been notorious as a destination where many vacationers get scammed, so it’s important to know some of their main forms. From those sex shows you’ve heard about with ping pong balls to taxi meter scams to jewelry scams, these unfortunate, wallet-emptying, opportunities abound. For a full list, check out this guide.
18. Don’t Diss the Royals
Thailand has lèse-majesté (crime de lèse-majesté) laws in place, which involves any wrong done to majesty. As Thailand is a monarchy, you are prohibited from ridiculing, threatening, mocking, insulting, defaming, or otherwise offending the royal family.
Known by some as “possibly the strictest criminal-defamation law anywhere,” offenders face up to 15 years of prison for each count. And, this is Thai prison we’re talking about, not one in Norway. One of the most important Thailand travel tips to keep in mind!
19. Respect All Buddha Statues
As Thailand is primarily Buddhist, it’s not hard to understand that respect should be shown to all instances of Buddha. Whether a statue or picture, don’t climb on them, make fun of them, or do anything else with a Buddha statue which could upset the locals.
Also, it’s actually illegal to take some Buddha images or statues out of the country, even though many are sold at souvenir shops. Be safe and don’t buy them.
20. Take Your Shoes Off
In Thailand, as is common in most Asian cultures, it is proper etiquette to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home, a temple, and some other places. If you see shoes by the door as you’re about to enter some establishment, put two and two together and take yours off, as well.
21. Put Some Clothes On
Though shoes should come off, it’s respectful to enter a temple or other holy place with covered shoulders, knees, and other body parts. Yes, Thailand is hot, but you can cool off soon enough after leaving. Also, keep a nice, thin scarf or sari in your backpack or purse so you’re ready to enter any of Thailand’s gorgeous temples when the moment strikes you.
Well, that’s all our travel tips on Thailand for now! For more, check out our ultimate travel tips guide. Got any questions, feedback, or other Thailand travel tips to add to our list? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!