Thailand was our first vacation where we planned everything ourselves, instead of going for school, study abroad, or through a paid tour group. And boy we learned a lot the first couple days! To save you some stress and confusion (and some money!) I started writing down helpful tips for Thailand. These tips would be helpful for any international trip.
- First thing you do is grab a business card of your hotel so you have the address, phone number, and usually a map in case you get separated or lost. Each person should keep some money with them as well. Luckily none of us got separated but it was super easy to just show the map to the taxi/tuk tuk driver and they instantly knew where to go.
- Keep a map of the city that shows a few of the attractions so you can easily show to taxis and eliminate confusion. We learned that one the hard way when a taxi started driving us out of the city to a zoo when we expected to go to the zoo downtown that was 10 minutes away. An hour ride trip later we really wished we had a map to point out exactly where we wanted to go.
- Plan your Bankok/Thailand Temple and Wat tour on Sunday. There is no traffic at all compared to the rest of the week. Just listen to me and do it!
- At the Thailand airport, go to the bottom level for a meter taxi. First mistake was not knowing 1000 baht (~$28) is way too expensive for a ride from the airport.
- I bought the SD card adaptor for iPhone so I could easily import my nice photos from my camera onto my phone. I could also put photos on other people’s phones so they could instantly have photos as well.
- When taking long taxi rides from one city to another, write down your hotel’s address and phone number for the taxi driver. Phone number for sure. We ended up having to stop at a place for wifi so we could help our taxi driver find our hotel. This was a less touristy place so it probably just depends on what city you’re in but might as well just write it down.
- Something we thought would be good is to book a hotel for only one night, even if you plan on staying in that city for more than one. This would obviously only work on the low season (both Thailand and Cambodia the low season is March-October so most places won’t be full). We booked all our hotels before leaving and most hotels you pay when you book. Once we got there, either our taxi driver or tour guide would tell us of an even better hotel we could have booked. Although it was very nice to always know your hotel was good to go and already paid for but it was something we thought was a possible good idea.
- In Cambodia, it costs $30 for a Tourism Visa and $2 if you don’t have a small photo. So make sure to print a small passport photo and keep that in mind when you’re getting cash out. Cambodia also use American money $5+ so you won’t have to exchange a lot there. For Thailand, it is completely free. Just had to fill out a Tourist Visa on the plane ride. You will need to know your hotel’s address for both though!
- We joked about the ‘white tax‘. Everything is a bit more just because you are American/not local. We learned to just accept the white tax. There’s no way around it (unless you or a friend speaks the native language. Then bring them on your trip). $1-2 dollars difference on food or taxis is no reason to stress about getting ripped off. They most likely need those extra few dollars more than you do. Just be smart and don’t take a $28 taxi from the airport like us on the first day!
- Make sure to take a photo of your passport so you can exchange in the city and avoid carrying your passport around. I felt most comfortable exchanging in the airport than on the street but you can always double check the exchange rate online at the hotel before exchanging if you’re worried about getting ripped off.
- When exchanging, we found that any $100 bills with tears, marks, or stamps they will not exchange. So make sure to bring new crisp bills from the bank! (This only happened to us in Cambodia)
- Only use ATMs inside a bank, not even the ATM right outside the bank. Ryan learned this one the hard way on his mission when the one and only time he used an ATM was right outside a bank and ended up with his bank account getting drained. There wasn’t much money in it, but definitely no fun. If you are paranoid just bring as much cash as you plan on using and you won’t need to use an ATM.
- Definitely use meter taxis. We went one way paying 400 baht (~$11) with a flat rate and the the same way back was only 100 baht (~$2.80) with meter!
- Don’t bother using the tuk tuk, taxi drivers, or tour guides that make you stop at shops and they get a commission. A tuk tuk driver will come up to you and say 100 baht for a drive, or 50 baht and they will drop you off for a second at a tailor shop on the way to your destination. You don’t have to buy but you have to stay for more than 10 minutes. I’m all fine with people working hard and getting commissions but the shops are annoyed and rude if you don’t buy anything and it’s just worth it to pay the full price to get straight to your destination. If you’re fine walking around jewelry and tailor shops to save a few extra bucks go right ahead!
- Print out your airline itinerary, especially when flying on the quick cheap flights. They charge extra for almost everything, like printing out your tickets. Also, Asian airlines carry-ons must weigh less than 7kg (14 lbs) or it has to be checked.
- It is definitely worth paying more for a nice tour to make it easy and stress free. We had a nice big clean van, were given cold water and wet towels multiple times throughout the day, and a tour guide with really great English. Check out the tour group we bought in Bangkok here!
Hopefully, these tips will be helpful for your next adventure! What have you learned on your trips, any other tips or advice? Happy vacationing! 🙂