What to expect on arrival
The infrastructure and accommodation in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and the main tourist resorts is really very good but once you get out into the countryside you may feel a sense of culture shock. Here are some important things to bear in mind as you travel through this charming country:
- Thailand is generally one of the safest countries worldwide but there are a few conmen about so please avoid touts. If you get a telephone call offering you a free tour, be careful. It is usually someone hoping to relieve you of your hard earned cash. It is very rare that anything is free of charge these days, especially if it is offered by a stranger so be on your guard.
- In the same vein watch out for strangers approaching you whilst walking through entertainment areas as again they probably wish to take you somewhere it is not worth going.
- Also avoid unlicensed jewellery shops that sell fake merchandise at exorbitant prices.
- Despite these warnings there is no need to be anxious, touts are usually quite harmless, so just smile and walk on.
- Though tap water is generally safe for drinking, we recommend drinking bottled water only. Most hotels will provide either bottled water or filtered water in the rooms. Bottled water is available everywhere, but to cut down on plastic use we recommend taking your own refillable or filtered bottle and refilling as you go.
- Food is generally OK to eat, even at traditional food stalls, anywhere in Thailand.
- Please guard against sunburn and dehydration, as the tropical heat is much stronger than it seems.
- In Buddhism and generally in Asian society the head is the seat of the soul and its purity while the feet walk the earth and all that is deposited on it. Thais take care not to expose the feet when sitting down. Don’t rest feet on tables or chairs and do not gesture with the feet. Observe and try to follow the local people’s example if you don’t know what to do with feet and shoes.
- Religion is a major part of daily life. Most people will show their faith regularly and especially during religious festivals. Respect should be shown in temples and shrines. Watch how the locals behave, the basic rules are: dress modestly, no shoes in temple buildings, keep your head lower than Buddha and monks, don’t touch or turn your back on the Buddha and ladies should remember not touch a monk.
- Sawasdee krab / ka is the way to say hello to a man / women. This greeting is often combined with a wai, where the hands are pressed together and a bow is offered to the individual being greeted.
- Much like in the rest of Asia the notion of 'face' is very important and you should conduct yourself in a manner which preserves your status within society. Do not lose your temper shout or be visibly upset or angry in public.
- Public displays of affection are considered rude.
- Finishing all the food on your plate indicates that you are hungry, so if you are with a Thai family and have finished eating just leave a small amount of food on your plate.