7 Things To Know Before You Travel Thailand
Unless you are very rich and own a private jet, the chances are you cannot travel right now. Most airlines have greatly reduced schedules and many governments are limiting non-essential travel.
The good news is that things are looking up and although you may not be able to get away this summer, you might be planning for 2021?
I recently travelled to Thailand in 2019 and I am eager to return as soon as possible. If you plan to travel, backpack or holiday in Thailand, be sure to read on for these 7 things to know before you travel Thailandl!
All ATM's (Cash Machines) Charge a 250THB Withdrawal Fee
The withdrawal fee as of September 2019 was 250 Baht across Thailand. It worked out to be a £6.25 GBP fee per cash withdrawal. This fee was unavoidable. It is understandable that Thailand's economy depends on tourism, I do not dispute that, but this fee is too high as tourists and travellers will still be putting their money into the economy anyway.
Cash machines are everywhere, mostly at 7/11 stores. Sometimes multiple machines are outside one store. Tourists are advised not to carry to much money at one time. I suppose you could risk withdrawing most of your funds and looking after them, but pickpocketing is still possible in Thailand.
Thankfully, my experience with the Thai people was always pleasant and they were very friendly. However, I still wanted to be cautious, especially when staying in cheap hostels, so I stuck to withdrawing smaller amounts that covered a few days of accommodation, food, and travel activities etc. Across 4 weeks travel I had paid around £100 in ATM fees from withdrawing 3-4 times per week. Maybe you’re thinking surely there is another way? Well I thought that too.
250THB Withdrawal Fee Converted Into GBP, USD, EUR, CAD, AUD
Approximate transaction fee
GBP - Great British Pound
USD - United States Dollar
EUR - Euro
CAD - Canadian Dollar
AUD - Australian Dollar
Conversion rate generated on 23/01/2020 at 22:00 - Subject to change and does not include (if applicable to you) charges by your bank for foreign transactions.
Tips For Cutting Down On Fees
- Instead of withdrawing cash, try and prepay for your accommodation and activities using a travel debit card/credit card with lower fees.
- When eating out or shopping at the 7/11 store, again use a debit/credit card with low fees for travel. The 7/11 stores had a minimum spend of 300THB, so consider getting everything you might need from the shop for a couple of days to avoid spending your physical cash.
- If you are holidaying or using reputable hotels for your stay, then you may not have as much of an issue as you will probably have your own room safe to store money and passports etc. I mixed accommodations between hostels and hotels and tended to carry less money on me in the hostels just to be careful.
Go To Phi Phi Island
Phi Phi Don Island
Phi Phi Island Viewpoint 1
Phi Phi Island Viewpoint 2
Phi Phi Island Viewpoint 3
Thieving Monkey at Phi Phi Viewpoint 2
Use The Grabb App
Getting around Thailand can seem like a daunting task, especially to those who get annoyed easily when trying to barter for lifts. In the cities like Bangkok and Chiangmai you will be constantly haggling for a fair price and this can be too much sometimes. The drivers will cover the meters with cloth and try charge you high prices for small journeys. Tuk Tuk drivers will also try to extort you for more. If you are not staying in Thailand for long, you may not need to worry about this. I made friends with some fellow backpackers and they told me about this app.
The GRAB app takes all the haggling away. It basically Uber for Thailand. You can either pay in cash or use your card and you are given the correct price within a fixed bracket before you get in the car. For example, 73 - 101 Baht. A journey many drivers would attempt to charge you up to 500 Baht for at the roadside. I know using the app seems unfair to the many drivers trying to earn a good living, but it is essential for travellers on a budget that may be staying in the country for a longer period.
The GRAB app also has a safety feature that tracks your car and the feature can be used in emergencies. You can also order food from many restaurants and they have a reward scheme that gives you discounts off rides and other things. I would recommend using this app while in Thailand but there are still some things to consider.
- Longer journeys can be quite expensive on the GRAB app and you might get a better deal chatting to a local taxi driver. I found the app was most useful for calling a quick taxi in the city and using local providers for longer journeys.
- You might want to consider giving your driver a tip even if you use the app or at-least leave positive feedback. This will mean a lot to the driver. One of my journeys across Bangkok took a couple of hours in bad traffic. A part of me felt a little sorry for the driver who was only getting around 100 Baht for the journey. So, I decided to tip him 200 baht anyway. I know this is the same result as probably calling a local driver from the roadside, but the key thing is to notice when you think maybe the driver does deserve more for the journey. If the journey was short, I probably would have just said keep the change from 100 Bhat instead.
I entered the country with a small 6kg rucksack as my hand luggage and day bag for daily outings. I also used a rucksack-style duffle bag weighing about 17kg when full. I am not sure whether this is considered a lot to you, but it quickly shown to be too much. I quickly found I had no room for souvenirs and other items us humans just love to hoard.
Here are a few items I packed that did not really need;
- Jumper & Hoodie – I thought of it must get cold at some point so I will take one of each just to be extra. Don’t do it, I felt no need to once put on a jumper, it was constantly hot and humid. Instead just take a lightweight waterproof coat for short sudden downpours.
- Sleeping Bag/Bedding – Every single hotel and hostel provided bedding or at least a blanket. I left my bedding in a hotel wardrobe to make space for my souvenirs! Just take a pillow and take the free blanket from your airline.
- That extra pair of shoes – Don’t be tempted to take lots of trainers and shoes and many outfits. Keep things simple with a pair of trainers/hiking shoes, and maybe some sliders/sandals/flip flops. You can easily pick up clothes, bedding and shoes in the street markets and shopping malls.
The Rucksack VS The Suitcase Scenario
What made matters worse is that I went with a rucksack option, meaning I had to carry my belongings from hostel to hostel/hotel or transport etc, and after some time this become tiring on my shoulders. I looked around at the many other backpackers and travellers using wheeled suitcases. I was immediately jealous and realised I fell for the whole backpacking ideology, but honestly don’t do it, unless your planning to carry every single one of your belongings on a huge expedition into the wilderness for days, just bring a suitcase. I must admit there were still many people who chose to use a backpack so it must work for some people, but if I were to travel again, I would take a suitcase and my small hand luggage/day bag.
Go In The Wet Season
It’s not that wet in my opinion. During my 4 weeks in Thailand I travelled to Bangkok, then Chiang Mai in the North, followed by south eastern Krabi coast, where I checked out Phi Phi Island before returning to Krabi and Bangkok. I would say I had just as many dry days as wet ones. In Bangkok it was mostly short showers, it did rain a couple of days in Chiang Mai, and there was a storm one night in Krabi, but generally the weather was always hot, sunny but sometimes cloudy with the occasional downpour.
Some other reasons to consider going in the wet season;
- It’s cheaper. Yes, you read that correctly, most hotel, shopping and travel costs are lower in the rainy season. This meant that I could stay in more hotels and less hostels, I was able to do a lot of activities and shopping too! I was finding hotels from £10 a night, and they were decent with WIFI, A/C, safe, pool etc.
- It’s a bit less busy. Although Bangkok continued at 100mph, the islands and coasts were noticeably relaxed and quieter, preparing for the busy dry season. There are still plenty of opportunities to get in amongst the crowds and party, but you can also find plenty of places for a quiet sunbathe or peaceful meal at the beachside.
When you exit the airport into the heart of Bangkok you immediately feel this wave of hot air hit you and you keep waiting for that cool breeze, but it never comes. You can see the fuzzy waves scattering in the air like the heat off an oven, and the sweating never stops. Next comes the smell from the air pollution, and there is no point trying to deny it, because soon you will get used to it and it becomes reduced to the odd rancid smell on the corner of street markets and roads. Then you have so much noise! There are people and transport moving in what appears to be harmonious chaos. It is true that all of this can be a bit overwhelming and an overload to your senses at first, but you will get used to it and as you start to see how beautiful and cultured Bangkok really is.
Here are a few of the things I loved to do in Bangkok
- Visit the beautiful religious temples. Some were free, others charged a small 100THB fee, whilst others like the Grand Palace cost more. My personal favourite was Wat Pho where I witnessed the graceful Reclining Buddha.
- You must go to a rooftop bar and see the skyline. This was by far one of my favourite parts of visiting Bangkok. On my last night in the City I went to the Banyan Tree Rooftop Bar and pictured a magnificent view. This was a pretty fancy hotel but entrance to the bar was free and I did not have to book in advance. However, the drinks started at around £20 each, but it was well worth it!
- Khoa San Road. It was a great night out with friends from the hostels. It was a chance to meet people and have fun but be careful as there are so many drunk people it is possible you could get lost or pickpocketed. Try to keep your wits about you and have fun!
- Shopping & Food. There are so many opportunities for a good meal, whether that’s street food or from a restaurant. You also have endless opportunities to get those must have souvenirs before coming home. However, I found lots of goods to be more expensive in Bangkok compared to Chiang Mai so consider picking up things along the way!
Bangkok City Skyline
Dragon Crest Mountain Trail
Peak of Dragon Crest Mountain
View of Krabi Coastline from Dragon Crest Mountain
Lizard at Dragon Crest Mountain Trail
Trail Signpost at Dragon Crest Mountain