After nearly a month in Thailand, we wanted to share some tips we’ve learnt along the way. This is a list compiled on our experiences and is by no means exhaustive, so you can take em or leave em.
Katie found it pretty darn difficult to be a vegetarian in Thailand, or most places on Asia come to think of it. It’s one of the few things missed about India. You can get around things by asking for no meat, but this does not necessarily mean the dish is free of any meat products. Sometimes you have to live in blissful ignorance, or go hungry. When in doubt, you can almost always find the simple dish of rice and an omelet to satisfy you. It’s good, it’s cheap and will keep you going for a while.
Pad thai: Our expectations were high for this dish which we are both very fond of, but over in Thailand it’s almost the default dish causing it to be a little plain. We ate many different varieties of phase thai dishes, some from restaurants and some from street stalls. To be fair the street stall dishes were pretty good in comparison and were a fraction of the price. I think the cheapest we had phad thai for was around 30p add chicken for an extra 20p.
2. Public transportation
Buses and trains are going to be late 99% of the time. If you are travelling across Thailand and have to transfer leave plenty of time, as it’s not worth the panic or the upset of missing your connection.
Taxis hail you, versus having to hail them. We had no trouble getting a taxi when we needed one because they spend most of their time flagging you down. They will honk and pull over to the side of the road for you. We felt least ripped off by the metered taxis whilst in Thailand. However, some will try not to turn on their meters and rest assured, when this happens, they are ripping you off. We would often walk away as there are plenty of options out there.
Moped taxis are by far the funnest and perhaps most dangerous ways to travel to your destination. You should try it at least once. They are most ideal for short journeys and are really cheap. Sitting on the back while weaving in-between traffic was defiantly one of the most memorable journeys.
Tuk Tuks are surprisingly expensive. You can negotiate and you should do so before getting in. We did hear about people being driven to jewellery and suit making shops by the tuk tuks. These are tourist traps and we hear they can be quite aggressive with their sales techniques. Not sure how to avoid that, maybe we were just lucky.
The slow boats are treacherous and will make the weak-stomached ill. Even the sturdiest of stomachs will have a testing time bobbing up and down. The slow boats are about a few pounds cheaper than the faster boats, that said, the few extra pounds to pay for a faster boat is worth it. If you do really want to save that money, go on the slow boat the earliest j the day you can because the waves aren’t so choppy then.
3. Customer Service
Please don’t have too high of expectations when it comes to customer service. Tipping is virtually nonexistent in Thailand unless you’re feeling generous. They are a very laid back culture, so be prepared to make it well known when you require service in a restaurant, otherwise you will sit there until the restaurant closes. The universal sign for check please (a virtual pen squiggle on the palm of your hand works every time).
4. Low season
This is really the best time to travel here if you’re a budget traveller. We got amazing deals on hotels simply for travelling when they are slow. This goes back to customer service though- you won’t get your room cleaned everyday unless you ask. Often there is less staff. Don’t be scared of the rainy season… It really isn’t as bad as you would imagine. At least not in June when we were there.
Travel between destinations is a factor to consider as this was pricier than we thought it would be. It depends on your trip of course, as we were often staying only between 2-4 days in a place and moving on. We met people along the way that were staying in one place for much longer. Have your route planned for how you will get to your hotel or hostel because often times that first taxi fare will cost you the same as one nights accommodation.
In Thailand including accommodation, travel and activities we spent about £33 a day. Initially we had a rough budget of £30 a day but this was really based on nothing but massive assumptions and what guidebooks suggested.
Even places that say they have wifi, it doesn’t mean they do..or that it’s good. When looking for a hostel or hotel, everywhere says high speed Internet usually and it’s often advertised as their number one facility. This is pretty much bullshit. Hours lost walking around the room with your tablet in the air trying to gain that one bar. If you are dependant on the Internet there are mobile solutions out there that might be more consistent.
A bit hit and miss, of course you can pretty much always find a trendy coffee shop and drink a mildly expensive coffee. However, more often than not you are sitting in a place with plastic chairs and tables, and the coffee served is usually a 3-in1 instant mixture. What is that? Well it’s a powdered coffee which has your creamer and sugar all in one. We would try and buy some instant coffee for the hotels with kettles (if we were fortunate enough to have one) and then you have to hunt down a standard instant coffee without the added creamer and sugar. Although, if that’s how you drink your coffee anyway, then you’re a winner.
It must be said…7-11 has hit Thailand in a big way. With one on most corners you are never far from one. So to use this to your advantage here’s our tips for shopping at 7-11.
Breakfast – save some money and don’t have a fried breakfast everyday. Buy yoghurt and cereal and they give you a little spoon. If your feeling really creative add some fruit,
Coffee, dodge the 3-in-1 stuff, there are cups with coffee bags in them they have hot water dispensers so for 40p this is the best cheapest cup of coffee on the market.
Heat and sweat aid. You can buy little towel/washcloths from the coolers. They help cool you off and wipe off your sweat in this humid climate. They also have a lovely floral smell. Lovely.
Oh and all 7-11 stores and Family Marts are air conditioned which can help cool you down a bit too.
You will get charged every time you take out cash from the ATM. This is probably not that surprising, but now that many ATMs in UK and USA have stopped charging, it is a bit annoying. Also be careful leaving any money in your room. We ran into people that had money stolen from their rooms, presumably by the hotel cleaning staff. There’s really no way to prove this, or get your money back so might be better just to carry your cash at all times. We did and didn’t have any problems.
Don’t always believe them. We were often perplexed by reviews on trip advisor that talked about how poor an area was because it was so touristy, or how bad a hotel was because they didn’t provide certain amenities – that quite frankly they shouldn’t provide given the cheap rates that you pay to stay there. Lower your expectations with the price of the hotel hostel. You spend £4 for a nights stay, maybe you will have a few bugs in the room, or it might not be the cleanest. As far as the negativity about an area being touristy, you are yourself a tourist. Many people flock to certain areas because of the appeals to that area, be it the natural beauty, pristine beaches or whatever.
How can you avoid the touristy bits? If you want to, I’m sure there are plenty of ways to avoid them, but this typically comes at a high cost. The further you are from main areas, the further away you are from any convinces or amenities and you will get charged more for things such as water and food.
Be prepared for living out of a bag. Packing a bag every few days does get old. We are not really fashionistas, but we are sick of our clothes already. Pack wisley we both have items we rarely use, mainly long sleeves, it’s just too hot for it here. When packing your bags think about packing that item over and over again. It’s not like you can’t get stuff over here.
We kind of wish we packed less clothes and just bought some items over here. There are markets everywhere you go, so you could go from traditional Asian clothing to super cheap knock off branded stuff. We could have saved ourselves loads of cash by buying our watches, sunglasses, and more when we arrived. We will have to wait until the wear and tear of what we currently have gets bad enough to justify buying new items.
Here are some more pointers on equipment. When packing for this trip we looked up many lists of what to take, in reality after being on the trip for nearly 2months, We still haven’t used the duct tape and other things we keep lugging around. Instead of listing out a full packing list of thing, here are a few of the essentials we have used loads.
Sleeping bag liner. Bam, used this so many times. With the point about staying in cheap accommodation, you are going to want a layer between you and the bed. It folds up into a small square and is really lightweight.
Travel towel. Again a lot of cheap accommodation won’t provide you a towel. We spoke to a few owners who said for the price per night they were fed up of towels being stolen. They will likely rent them to you though, but you’ll have to ask. Also the travel towel is real handy for the beach. They are quick drying and fold up into a tiny square.
A world travel adapter. Enough Said.
A camera lead which connects to a tablet. Great for backing up photos to dropbox and of course uploading the them to the blog.
Tiger balm. Best thing we have found for those damn mozzy bites. Better to buy it once you’re in Asia as you can find it nearly everywhere. Smells nice too.
Imodium for those times when you may eat something that doesn’t agree with you. Fart with confidence…at least once you’ve had some Imodium. We saw a quote in Thailand that said ‘never trust a fart in Thailand’. Well, that’s proven true for one of us. Yikes.
In terms of places, check out our blog posts on each pace.
Peace out Stephen and Katie x