Thailand travel guide and tips- 20 things that surprise first-time visitors
Hello summber savings, top picks design! Flat $4.9! Hello summber savings, top picks design! Flat $4.9!

We know of its beaches, fiery food and dubious adult entertainment, but first-time visitors to Thailand will find surprises and quirks aplenty to spice up their tropical holiday. Here’s what you’ll discover in our Thailand travel guide and tips if you look beyond the packaging:

The original ‘paradise’ is long gone

Nearly 20 years after its release, The Beach – Alex Garland’s novel about drug fueled misadventures in paradise – is still a bestseller in Thai airports, luring backpackers and Chinese tourists alike to the filming location of Ko Phi Phi.

To step on fabled Maya Beach, however, you’ll have to fork out 200 baht (A$7.75) before jostling for space with 100 boatloads of day trippers taking selfies. Forget about it…

But it exists elsewhere

..and head around the corner, where crystal waters and untouched sand is still yours for the taking.

Leave the tourist trail, explore beyond the obvious, and you may just find that swinging hammock you’ve been dreaming about.

The traffic is terrible – and dangerous

Three phone-wielding monks and a dog weaving through traffic astride a 50cc scooter might be an amusing sight, but Thailand has a horrifying road safety record, with 80 lives lost every day – the second highest number of traffic fatalities in the world. Unlicensed and drunk tourists only add to the statistics.

The food will be even better than you expect

You may think you know Thai food … until you get to Thailand. Generally, local menus offer a broader selection, unusual combinations of ingredients and a much spicier palate.

Wave chicken and cashews goodbye, and experiment with more adventurous choices.

But some dishes should be avoided

Bangkok-Thai-Street-Food-Guide-Thailand travel guide and tips- 20 things that surprise first-time visitors

Some Thai menus may not offer English translations or illustrative pictures – and it’s these that you should approach with caution.

Get 30% off life time discounts on most packages. Quality Web Hosting from KnownHost

There are some Thai dishes, for instance, that will leave delicate “farang” stomachs wrenching – such as Kai Yiew Ma (eggs preserved in horse urine), or “Goong” Ten (a live shrimp salad). Maybe stick to Pad Thai after all.

It’s the original home of pop-up restaurants

Every night, the footpaths of Bangkok’s major thoroughfares become pop-up dining rooms as food vendors set up shop, complete with plastic tables, rickety stools and toilet-paper napkins.

Do as the locals do and join the budget feast – guaranteed authenticity, as well as great theatre.

Tips: Always Check and Book Hotel Before Traveling

Find Exclusive Deals on Hotels Asia Pacific

Get Discounts & Promotions


Find Exclusive Deals on Hotels

With over 4,000 hotels in 95 countries, 20 hotel brands from luxury to budget, Accorhotels is from the world’s most recognized and respected hospitality brands such as Sofitel, Rafflers, Novotel, Pullman, Mercure, ibis, and more.

You can’t buy alcohol in the afternoon

While beer sits alongside bottled water in every servo, 7-11 and supermarket, liquor sales can only officially be made between 11am-2pm, and from 5pm-midnight – so avoid getting thirsty during the afternoon.

The language is ridiculously difficult

Thank goodness most locals speak English. While it’s polite to offer your “khob khun kas” and “krabs”, more ambitious attempts at the Thai language usually result in fits of giggles.

The word ‘ma’, for instance, can mean dog, horse or come, depending on the tone.

You won’t see elephants on the streets and that’s good

Fortunately, the sight of dejected elephants begging for bananas in large cities is now rare, with most mahouts and their pachyderm charges seeking alternative employment in tourist camps.

Finding an ethical sanctuary where elephants are treated with dignity and kindness, however, may involve travel off the beaten track to the north of Thailand.

Thais are generally conservative

Despite widespread acceptance of flesh-flaunting bikinis in appropriate settings (ie, the beach and by the pool), more modest attire is expected in public.

Shoulders and knees must be covered to enter wats and palaces, with shawls and fishermen pants often made available for forgetful tourists.

Thongs are OK to wear, all the time

Gotta love a country where rubber thongs are not only acceptable footwear, but by far the most practical choice!

Since shoes are discarded inside every home, temple and many shops, it makes sense to wear something you can just slide on and off.

It’s noisy

As peaceful and ever-smiling as Thais are, they take great delight in scaring the bejesus out of you by letting fireworks off at your feet, particularly during the annual Loi Kratong festival.

They’ll also happily soak you and your camera with impunity during the New Year celebrations of Songkran – be warned.

Tip: Get this amazing book for your bookshelf

Tourist Destination Images and Local Culture

An authentic, unique and memorable destination image is of crucial importance to be competitive…Buy the book>>

Tourist Destination Images and Local Culture

Related Travel Guide:

Shopping is a national pastime

Thais have two obsessions – eating and shopping, preferably under one air-conditioned roof. There are at least 25 new malls under construction in Bangkok alone, adding to the already staggering list of multi-storied behemoths where food court meets Prada

Tips: Flight to Thailand with Cheapest Air Ticket

Find Exclusive Deals on Air Tickets

Get Discounts & Promotions

CheapAir has helped over three million people buy plane tickets. We’ve made it our mission to radically simplify the way people search for travel deals.

travel-agency-Find Exclusive Deals on Air Tickets

Our proprietary air fare shopping engine does all the work for you, using a patented algorithm that scours the web for the lowest prices on the planet. We show you these fares in a simple, easy to navigate site with all the best flight amenities to bring some joy to your trip planning.

History abounds

Thailand may not spring to mind when it comes to monuments, but its two ancient capitals of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai are compelling diversions, impeccably-maintained complexes of ruined temples and palaces that offer insights into Thailand’s fractured foray into nationhood.

Locals are patriotic

The Thais are a proud people, with great respect for king and country. The National Anthem is played publically every evening at 6pm, bringing activity to a one-minute halt; spot the tourist, wandering confused through stationary crowds, oblivious to protocol.

Coffee is better than you expect

Graph Cafe - Thailand travel guide and tips- 20 things that surprise first-time visitors

Coffee snobs rejoice – Thailand serves a halfway decent drop, with a burgeoning café culture and homegrown beans grown under Royal decree.

Even in rural areas, there are chained coffee shops (or ‘huts’, as they are known) attached to gas stations, so you can get your caffeine fix on the run.

The Full Moon Party isn’t just at Ko Phangan

The party island of Ko Phangan often gets a bad rap, sullied (somewhat unfairly) by shenanigans during its monthly Full Moon Party that attracts up to 30,000 revelers.

But why battle the crowds when most island destinations have their own full moon celebrations, more sedate beach parties that won’t send your mum into a spin?

You’ll be discriminated against – officially

Many attractions and National Parks have two entry prices: one rate for Thais, and a far more expensive fee for farang.

Even tax-paying foreigners with valid work permits aren’t exempt from this blatant money-grubbing practice, justified as a lure for local visitors.

Yes, those massage parlors do offer ‘extra’ services

For me, a massage in Thailand means relaxation and ironing out the kinks; my male friends, however, speak of happier endings.

According to them, this is not an infrequent offer in low-rent massage joints; to avoid temptation, opt for a fully-clothed Thai massage rather than an oil massage.

Those girls in the bars may not be girls


Yes, girlie bars abound in every major tourist destination; but if you employ the ‘when in Rome’ mantra and can’t resist a peek, beware the innocent demeanor of pretty Thai ladies seeking your attention – they not be as friendly as they appear, or as female. Look beyond the packaging.

Tips: Looking for the best Hotels with the Best Price?

Best Hotel Deals

Get Deals on

Every day, more than 1,550,000 room nights are reserved on our platform. So whether traveling for business or leisure, customers can instantly book their ideal accommodations quickly and easily with – without booking fees and backed by our promise to price match.

Get Deals on Agoda

Agoda is one of the world’s fastest-growing online travel booking platforms. Established in 2005, the start-up quickly expanded in Asia and was acquired in 2007 by Booking Holdings Inc. – the world’s largest seller of rooms online.

Comfortable Born Shoes from Brown Shoe Fit Comfortable Born Shoes from Brown's Shoe Fit

Subscribe Now & Get Free Newsletter

We will send our awesome buying hints, tips and tricks to your subscribe email. We also have free gifts every month for active subscribers such as gift cards, ebooks, tools and software, etc. Stay Tuned & Don't Miss it!

Our Secret Deals
Promotions, Discounts, Coupons and More!