On Dec. 5, 2017, I set out on a trip to Thailand for two weeks. My itinerary was set up to do the typical Thailand circuit. I would fly into Bangkok, head north to Chiang Mai, then go south to the islands and get home right before Christmas. Well, it’s Feb. 25, 2018, and here I sit in Northern Thailand. I’ve been here much longer than expected, and because of that, I’ve learned quite a few lessons. So here are my top 5 tips to help you understand and prepare for a trip to Thailand!
#1. Thailand’s main cities feel a lot more like home than you’ll expect
The first mode of transportation I used in Thailand was Uber. Yes, people! I took an Uber, and I live to tell the tale. I’ll admit the first Uber was scary, but whose first Uber ride wasn’t? Thailand is one of the most foreigner-friendly countries in Southeast Asia, and they indulge in western culture. Many people speak English, and there are plenty of signs to help foreigners out. Bangkok even has western franchises like Dunkin’ Donuts, MAC Cosmetics, and Cinnabon. If you end up feeling homesick, I suggest you grab a drink from Starbucks, or a medium fry from McDonald’s and keep it moving.
#2. Illness is relatively low on the spectrum of stuff to worry about
Before traveling to Thailand, everyone said to beware of getting sick from literally everything, which made me think of every horrible scenario of getting ill while abroad like, ever. Once you get here, you’ll see how irrational that fear is. Pharmacies can be found on every corner, and they carry everything. Literally, inhalers can be purchased over the counter. It’s easy to get medicine here, and it’s inexpensive. There was also talk of some insects that can be really dangerous, so I came prepared with a super durable DEET bug repellant. In the end, I just ended up smelling like chemicals and ruining some of my clothes. Standard bug spray will do just fine, and you can get it in Thailand for way cheaper than at home. Thailand is a country where nearly 80% of the travelers who visit get food poisoning, mainly because the sanitary codes aren’t up to par with western standards. In my three months here, I never had any issues, so just have some common sense. Don’t eat anything that smells disgusting, and don’t eat anywhere that looks unsanitary. If you’re eating street food, try to eat stuff you see them prepare. Don’t eat that weird stick of mystery meat that’s been baking in the sun for who knows how long.
#3. Carry tissues to go and hand sanitizer
Thailand’s sewage system isn’t as advanced as ours, and you cannot flush anything down the toilet, which means there’s rarely toilet paper in public bathrooms. Thai people mainly use bum guns, a hose next to the toilet that you can spray your most intimate areas with, and keep it moving. Sounds crazy, I know, but they say it’s more effective than using regular toilet paper. Once you get the whole gun situation down, you might even end up preferring it to traditional toilet paper. None of this is to say it’s easy to get used to, I mean, it took me six weeks to even get the bum gun figured out. But if you just really can’t handle the gun, please remember to throw the toilet paper into the bin next to the toilet. Nobody wants to endure a smelly bathroom because of ignorant foreigners. I would also recommend carrying hand sanitizer because many restrooms don’t have soap, which is connected to why food poisoning is so prevalent in Thailand. Gross, but you catch my drift.
#4. If sex isn’t your thing, don’t go looking for it
Thailand is known for its sex culture, but you don’t have to indulge in it. No one is forcing you to partake in any of the explicit activities that go down. I mean, no one did that to me, and if you take my advice, I’m pretty sure no one will do that to you either. So, just because the locals suggest something doesn’t mean you need to indulge, okay? One phrase I stayed away from was anything related to ping pong (sounds chill, but it’s 100% not.) Also, try not to engage with the ladyboys unless you really want something because they can be persistent! Though I would recommend going to a ladyboy show, they’re kind of like drag shows, but with far more commitment. Oh, and if you’re really opposed to paying for sex, steer clear of Soi Cowboy in Bangkok.
#5. 7/11 is your best friend.
I know, I know, 7/11 is terrible in the states, and you would never set foot in there unless it was absolutely necessary, but it’s a haven in Thailand. It’s clean, it’s got cheap food, it’s got toiletries, and it’s even got essential medicines in it. You can also get SIM cards there and pay your phone bill if you stay long enough. 7/11 is pretty much your one-stop-shop – always remember that.
These are all the tips I wish I knew before I went to Thailand, so you can all thank me later for coming over here and doing the hard research for you!