Thailand Travel Advice – Things Worth Keeping in Mind
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Traveling to Thailand? My aim for this page, Thailand Travel Advice, is to help travelers avoid some of the most obvious missteps during their stay in Thailand. The idea is to play it safe and operate with caution. Thai culture is different, very different, I’m here over four years and I still feel miles away from wrapping my head around the way some Thai people think. To be fair, Thai’s feel the same way about those of us from the west, we’re just straight up weird to many of them. That said, showing a little respect, decorum and patients will take you a long way and it may just earn you a life long friend. It’s one thing to understand why people think as they do and another thing entirely to ignore customs and rituals because it seems so foreign or downright unagreeable. Have an opinion? You might just want to keep it to yourself while inside the boarders of the Kingdom of Thailand. Stay out of conversations that involve local politics and the Royal family! You know the old saying; “If you don’t have anything good to say, it’s best not to say anything at all”. It’s not a joke. I’ve learned a lot in the four and a half years I’ve spent in Thailand and I’d like for my readers to benefit from this experience. Even though most of my time has been spent in Chiang Mai and Lamphun (Northwestern region) most of what I’ve learned applies to just about anywhere within the Kingdom.
Thailand Travel Advice: Lets Start With Some of the Basics
The Kingdom of Thailand, once known as Siam, is located at the center of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia.
King: Bhumibol Adulyadej
Queen: Sirikit Kitiyakara
Prime Minister: Prayut Chan-o-cha
Dialing code: +66
Currency: Thai baht
Government: Unitary state, Constitutional monarchy, Parliamentary system
Population: 66.79 million as of 2012
Life Expectancy: 74.09 years (2011)
Gross Domestic Product: 365.6 billion USD (2012)
Population growth rate: 0.3% annual change (2012)
(from population down: sources include: World Bank)
Thailand Travel Advice: Things to consider when driving in Thailand
Hierarchy on the roads of Thailand:
Be it on foot, bicycle, scooter or in an Automobile, it’s pretty simple to remember; the bigger you are, the more right of way you have. Remember that! The pedestrian is at the bottom of the food chain, meaning its your job to get the “F” out of the way! No yelling, no complaining, this is the way it is. You want to push back? You just might find yourself digging a much deeper hole. Generally speaking Thai’s are quite friendly but when driving, scooter or automobile, some become hyper aggressive and some can turn violent if provoked. So do yourself a big favor and check your western temper, idea of road safety and pedestrian right of way at the border. All the yelling in the world won’t change the reality on the roads and frankly speaking, the longer you fight it, the less safe you’ll be. Instead direct your attention at better understanding how the traffic flows here, it does have its own logic and benefits. That said, Thailand does have the second highest death toll in world with 36.2 out of 100,000 deaths so far in 2015, and three-quarter of those who died were riding motorbikes. Only war torn Libya has more deaths on the road according to The World Health Organization (WHO).
As a pedestrian: BE AWARE, just because your walking on the sidewalk or on the shoulder of the road doesn’t mean your safe from traffic. Drivers on scooters use the sidewalks often when confronted with traffic on the road. The same also holds true for the shoulder of the road but now you can expect trucks, cars and scooter to force you off the shoulder and onto the grass. You’ll be doing a lot of this since sidewalks are sporadic at best and often times they are littered with posts, signs and vehicles. At times you’ll be forced to interact with traffic on the roads and you’ll be passed at close range and sometimes at high speed, even on side roads. And I can’t say this enough, don’t get mad, keep your calm and keep your eyes open, it’s up to YOU to keep yourself safe. Keep your eyes open and keep your kids close, if you have any.
As a driver; bike, scooter or car? BE AWARE, if driving a car expect scooters to pass on all sides. They’ll be weaving in and out of traffic. Cars on crowed streets move slowly but deliberately when changing lanes. But they just keep on moving, so it will be up to you to get out of the way. NEVER blast your horn unless it’s a last resort. Better to do a tap tap of the horn and respond with an apologetic wave and or smile if confronted by an angry driver. As a farang (foreigner) you will be in the wrong if the Police/Judicial system were to get involved, most likely. This is just the reality in Thailand, but don’t take my word for it, check around, do your own research.
Newbie drivers to Thailand should approach most intersections with caution, all kinds of vehicles can pop out of nowhere, blow thru red lights, jump green lights, drive straight thru stop signs without blinking an eye, often times without looking. This can happen a lot at certain intersections. One of the most important things to know on Thai roads is that your danger zone is almost always behind you. When driving on a highway stay left if you plan on driving at the speed limit. Most drivers don’t speed but many do and they tailgate. This is there way of tell you to move over. They won’t use their horn so just move, DON’T GET ANGRY! Just get out of the way and let them go, cause if you’re going to be on the road for any amount of time, its just going to keep happening so, don’t fight it. You’ll notice pretty quickly each time you slow for a red-light because you’ll be passed by cars and or trucks still moving at high speeds and then only brake hard at the last moment. I try to avoid these situations by keeping my eyes open. Use your mirrors!
Now for a little of the positives of driving in Thailand, there is a freedom when driving here, due to the lack of rule (rules do exist here but they are rarely to never enforced), you can make common sense maneuvers without the fear of being pulled over, like drive thru a red light when no other drivers are around or when no pedestrians are crossing. You’ll never be pulled over for speeding, which is great on open roads, however this freedom is abused often and as a visitor, use your head. Scooters and motorcycles can drive in the wrong direction on highways and some streets as long as they use the shoulder of the road, making it much easier to get around in some instances (avoid this if you aren’t certain how it works). But again often times this freedom is abused and it is up to YOU to get up to speed on the free-form style of driving that exists in different degrees as you move around Thailand. There is no hurry, take your time and keep your eyes open.
More Thailand Travel Advice: General Information about Thailand
Official Religion of Thailand: Theravada Buddhism is practiced by 97% of the population.
Religious diversity is respected in Thailand as the remaining 3% of the population are a mixture of Muslim (mostly in the south), Christian and Hindu, especially among immigrants.
Life expectancy at birth:
Total Population: 73.6 years
Male: 71.24 years
Female: 76.08 years (2011 est.)
At Birth: 1.05 males/female
Under 15 Years: 1.05 males/female
15-64 Years: 0.98 males/female
65 Years and Over: 0.83 males/female
Total Population: 0.98 males/female (2009 est.)
(from Official Religion down: source: Wikipedia)
Region: Southeast Asia
Countries that boarder Thailand:
Myanmar: to the northwest
Laos: to the northeast
Cambodia: to the east
Malaysia: to the south
Say something in Thai:
Generally speaking, it is considered polite to put “ka” or “krap” at the end of every phrase you’ll see here.
(“krap” for male speaker or “ka” for female speaker)
Hello = Sa-wat-dii (krap or ka)
Good-bye = Laa-gone or Sa-wat-dii (krap or ka)
Nice to meet you = Yin-dee t-dai roowjak (krap or ka)
Where is the restroom = Hung-nam u teenai (krap or ka)
Delicious = Aroi or Aroi mak [for very delicious] (krap or ka)
Beautiful = Sa-way or Sa-way mak (krap or ka)
For private Thai lessons while in Chiang Mai, email me at [email protected] or PM me on Facebook and I’ll see what I can do to set something up. I know a few good Thai teachers and if their schedules will allow it, it could be a fun thing to do while in CM and take with you for the rest of your journey in Thailand.
Link to list of Thailand Airports (Click here)
Thailand Travel Advice; That’s it For Now
More Thailand Travel Advice to come:
More Thai phrases, sentences, tips and general knowledge to help you get around and stay safe in Thailand.
Thailand Travel Advice, I really can’t say that enough. Most visitors don’t take this seriously enough and it’s fair to say most probably skate by without running into trouble. This kind of advice usually only comes in handy when the unexpected happens to come your way. So be prepared, read a lot of blogs and travel guides, look for personal experiences and learn something. There is nothing to be afraid of per say, but I think its better to go in with your eyes open and know your risks and most of all, have fun!