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traveler777 Aug 12th, 2008 05:42 AM

Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Thailand..
 
My wife and I just got back from a week long trip to Thailand. This is an amazing country! The people are extremely friendly. I have made some notes of things I wish I would have known before heading over. Part of traveling is experiencing the unknown, but these notes may make you feel more comfortable as you prepare.

Arrival

As you arrive, follow the signs to immigration. Immediately after immigration is where you pick up your luggage. There is a currency exchange right here. I would advise exchanging money here. Make sure to get small bills to pay for the taxi since some won’t have change.

Ignore anyone that comes to you asking if you need a cab. (some may have yellow shirts if I remember correctly) Just say no thank you. Being in a new place, it is very tempting to say yes, but try to resist the urge. These people will charge you 3 – 4 times the amount you should pay.

When you leave the baggage area, there will be sign that will say something to the effect of Taxi to city. Get in this line, and tell the person where you are going. You will then receive a ticket. Take your ticket outside and there will be a person to give it to. This person will then get you a legit taxi. Make sure the taxi uses it’s meter.

You will be charged 50 baht for an airport fee, and any tolls you go through (should be about 40 – 100 baht). The charge to the city will be about 300 – 400 baht (depending where you go) + the charges mentioned.

Toilets

Available at most tourist spots. Sometimes they may cost money to use (3 – 10 cents). Make sure to bring your own toilet paper. May of the restrooms don’t have them. You may be able to buy it from a vendor at the bathroom, but not at all of them.

80% of the toilets are squat style. Flushing is different…there will be a basin next to the toilet with a cup in it. To flush, just fill the cup with water and dump it in the toilet.

Shopping

I highly recommend shopping at the markets. It is a unique experience. EVERYTHING is negotiable. Don’t offer a price then expect the merchant to give it you for that. The merchants will be more willing to give you a deal if you play the game. I was pretty stingy and after I left the stand, I realize I didn’t buy the shirt because of 30 cents! Stupid me.

There are a lot of knockoff brands. On average, you will pay 100 baht ($3) for a tshirt, pants/jeans (300 baht ($6 USD), sunglasses 100 baht ($3 USD), dresses 100 – 200 baht ($3 – 4 USD). All of the clothing here is very fashoniable and for the price, you really can’t go wrong.

Of all the cities I visited, I found that Chatachutec Market in Bangkok to have the best prices.

Transportation

As a general rule (this will sound bad) but don’t accept rides from anyone that approaches you. I read all the guidebooks and travel forums, but still got swindled.

Tuk-Tuk

These are all over. Most of these will approach you and ask where you want to go. They will say 10 baht for one hour. This is actually a great deal, but the catch is that the driver will take to some sites and then take you to a tailor shop where extremely persuasive salesman will try to get you to buy a tailored outfit. The tuk tuk drivers then receive a commission if you buy anything.

If you are able to resist the salesman, tuk tuks are a really great way to see the city and a variety of sites. A few people we met ended up spending $200 at the tailor shops on a new suit.

We were taken to a suit shop, but just said we weren’t interested and walked out. My best advice would be to avoid tuk tuks. It is a unique experience though…if you are able to say no to the tailor shops.

Some may also tell you that the site you are going to is closed for today. Do not believe them. It is extremely rare that a temple or site closes.

Taxi

Taxis are the best way to get around. They are air conditioned and comfortable. You can find them everywhere. The best is to flag one down. Some will sit outside hotels and most likely wait for you to come and negotiate a price. This happened to us and we paid 3 times what we should of.

When you get in a taxi, tell them to turn on the meter. If they don’t, just simply get out and find another one that will. They may say something like “There are no meters after 9pm, or It’s a special day, no meter today”. These are scams…once they get you to your destination, they will charge what they want.

We found taxis very willing to turn on their meters and this was the best way to get around.

Skytrain or Subway

Very great way to get around. Easy to understand the routes and very modern. The area that these cover is limited though.

Clothing

I mostly wore shorts and a polo shirt. My wife usually wore lightweight pants and a tshirt. Some of the temples won’t let you in if you don’t cover up your knees or shoulders. To play it on the safe side, we never went out in tank tops. Shoes or flip flops are ok to wear. Flip flops may hurt your feet after a while, so I would advise going with shoes.

I hope this helped somewhat. A lot of this information is in guide books, but I thought giving a basic outline would be helpful.



Gpanda Aug 12th, 2008 06:18 AM

T777-thanks for the thoughts on Thailand travel. While not a narrative, this does qualfy as a report and no penalty attaches.

WillJame Aug 12th, 2008 06:47 AM

Gpanda, I don't understand your remark about Traveler777's post qualifying as a report. Is this a joke, or did he come close to violating some Fodor's rule? I ask because a post I attempted yesterday did not appear, and I wonder if it was ruled out of order somehow.
(Interesting and helpful comments, by the way. Thank you, 777.)

simpsonc510 Aug 12th, 2008 07:01 AM

WillJame... the "regulars" here have sort of appointed gpanda (or did he appoint himself???) as the overseer of trip reports. It's tongue in cheek, to be sure, but we all enjoy reading them, and especially if they are timely and have pertinent information.

Thanks, traveler777, for your report. Some good tips, for sure. Care to share anything about your choice of hotels, sights you visited, restaurants you tried?

Carol

WillJame Aug 12th, 2008 07:15 AM

Thanks, Carol. I knew I was missing something. Right now I'm so preoccupied with the details of filling out visa and importation forms for our forthcoming trip that I probably am too uptight about rules and regulations.
I wonder more about the safety of tuk-tuks than being ripped off. My wife and I were crowded aboard one in Bangkok with an Asian friend (whose husband had forbidden her ever to use one but we couldn't get a taxi!) and huge trucks were roaring by on a multi-lane roadway inches--it seemed--from my elbow. Do people avoid them for that reason?

Gpanda Aug 12th, 2008 07:25 AM

Anointed, not appointed.

We NEVER take tuk tuks. Taxis are much more comfortable and cheap. You also avoid the sales pitches. One ride for the experience should be enough.

Kathie Aug 12th, 2008 07:41 AM

Will, I never take tuk-tuks. Not only are they dangerous, but who wants to breathe all that exhaust? Taxis transport you in air-conditioned comfort. Also, as traveler777 says, tuk-tuks want to take you to tailor shops or jewelry stores (from which they would get a sizeable commission if you buy and from whom they get gas coupons even if you don't buy). I don't want to waste my vacation time being dragged to overpriced stores!

Jed Aug 12th, 2008 08:10 AM

A tuk-tuk is an must experience. Take one a short distance, like back to your hotel. That gives you the right to complain about them. ;;) ((*))

travelduo Aug 12th, 2008 09:37 AM

We have a positive tuk tuk story to tell. On our first trip to Thailand we were trying to get to church on Sunday morning. We knew which skytrain station to get off at, but we were not sure where to go from there. We had the address in Thai and showed it to several taxi guys, none of them could take us there. Then, this really scary looking guy in a skull cap and smoking pulled his tuk tuk up next to us, I told my wife, our fodors friends said not to even talk to this guy! She didn't listen, and showed him the address, he said" I knew where you to go,church,30B. Well, we got in, he flipped a U turn and we went the wrong way down a really busy street. Wegot there in like 10mins and made it before the sermon started.
My favorite part of the ride was the pink seats and amway sticker on the windscreen! It was such an odd part of our trip that my wife now has that tuk tuk tattooed on her! She actually has the whole bottom of her leg tattooed with all things Thai :)

rhkkmk Aug 12th, 2008 09:50 AM

all good info

Bella_Bluebell Aug 12th, 2008 10:40 AM

if anyone is desperate to experience a tuktuk, we found them to be less hairaising in chiang mai and less of a rip off.

my friend went out with the daughter of a diplomat at the British Embassy. Repatriations (of deceased British citizens) were part of his remit and a large number of them were from tuktuk accidents...:(

Kathie Aug 12th, 2008 10:42 AM

Good story, travelduo!

travelduo Aug 12th, 2008 11:29 AM

Thanks Kathie! Glad you liked it. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous at first, im sure we looked like sitting ducks with our church clothes on,standing on the corner,lost!

anatoleschadenfreude Aug 12th, 2008 11:38 AM

tourists in flip flops and covered in Tattoos - 2 excellent reasons to avoid Thailand.

JohnAtLC Aug 12th, 2008 11:41 AM

Traveler777, really now! Flip-flops? Men in short pants? Heavens forfend. I am about to go into a Victorian swoon. We are after all speaking of SE Asia, not Australia. Oh, the horror of it; oh, the flesh uncovered; oh, the shock to the local sensitivities!!

Tell me, though: did any of the locals mind?

Nice comments, seriously, and useful too.

Jed Aug 12th, 2008 11:41 AM

But, Bella, 'hair-raising', zipping through traffic, is part of the experience.

As to a 'rip off', the first one that we asked wanted 200 BHT. We took one for 70. ((*))

simpsonc510 Aug 12th, 2008 11:59 AM

I've taken tuk-tuks many times. Sure, taxis have AC and are more comfy. If I'm with one of my Thai friends, we don't get ripped off. She tells them how much we'll pay, and they either take or leave it!! Maeng and I will be shopping BKK markets once again next week!! Can't wait!! Who knows, we may need to hop in a tuk tuk.

Loved the tuk tuk story, travelduo.

Carol

easytraveler Aug 12th, 2008 08:42 PM

Tuk tuks?

Kinda a mild way to get around.

Best adventurous travel mode in Thailand is by motorbike/cycle. Just watch your knees and keep them in as close as possible or you may lose a kneecap along the way.

traveler777: thanks for the tips! We all need to be reminded from time to time! :)

Mango7 Aug 13th, 2008 04:17 PM

Make sure you stay at least two weeks next time!

simpsonc510 Aug 13th, 2008 07:25 PM

easy
I won't get on a motorcycle taxi. I draw the line with that one! lol I've heard enough of the stories of banged up knees from hitting car door handles. Motorbikes weave in and out of traffic, between lanes, etc. The drivers are crazy...!!


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