I have been living in Thailand for the last six months. Thus far, I’ve had an incredible experience. I’ve grown in ways that I never expected to. I’ve learned things that I never thought that I would learn.
And of course, I’ve had fantastic food! But there are a lot of stuff that I wish I knew beforehand that could’ve made my experience a little more comfortable.
Actually, no matter how much information you read or pictures that you look at, it all comes down to firsthand experience. Experiencing something is very different than reading about it or hearing about it through friends and colleagues.
So here we describe those 10 Things You Should Know About Thailand:
10 things you should know about Thailand
1. Getting a visa for Thailand is a process.
You need to provide your passport information. Thailand requests that the traveler has a certain amount of money in his or her bank account that shows that he or she can go home. A return flight out of Thailand must also be purchased.
A return trip was difficult to schedule because I didn’t know where I would be when my teaching position began. But it all ended up working out. This is one of the 10 Things You Should Know About Thailand.
When you apply for a visa with your local embassy, you must leave your passport with them. Depending on which state (or country) you obtain your visa it could take one to two weeks (this is for the United States).
I completed the process in three days. Try first to get a 60-day tourist visa before your arrival. Sure you can get a visa on arrival which will last you 30 days. But after 30 days you have to leave the country and start the process all over again.
You can obtain a visa extension while in Thailand which will cost you 1900B. The cost is about $55 USD. I knew a friend who had to do visa runs on a monthly basis!
Try first to get a 60-day tourist visa before your arrival. Sure you can get a visa on arrival which will last you 30 days. But after 30 days you have to leave the country and start the process all over again.
Once you get your 60-day visa, you can still extend for another 30 days before the expiration date. It’s best that when you do the visa extension that you give yourself at least five days before the expiry date.
Don’t wait until the last minute. Many processes in Thailand aren’t smooth. Every time that your visa expires you must leave the country. You can go to any of the neighboring countries that border Thailand like Lao, Myanmar, and Cambodia for example.
Take a few extra copies of your passport and visa pictures before you leave your home country. The immigration office in Thailand will ask you for visa style pictures (smaller than passports).
If you don’t have it at the time of your extension, they will charge you for one at the immigration office. It’s a nominal fee. If you’re teaching like I am, depending on your agency (hopefully it’s reputable), they will handle the entire visa process for you, which can be confusing and utterly illogical.
If you’re teaching like I am, depending on your agency (hopefully it’s reputable), they will handle the entire visa process for you, which can be confusing and utterly illogical.
Overstaying your stay in Thailand comes with a hefty daily Baht fine. I met a teacher that finished teaching, and she stopped getting the extension. She spent a few months without an extension.
It’s still too risky in my book and not worth the headache. At any given situation a police officer may stop you and ask for your papers. It’s never happened to me, but it does happen, which leads me to my next point.
2. Make paper copies of all of your documents and have at least three sets. A copy of your passport and all of the pages once you get your visa. If you decide to obtain an International driver’s license, which is easy and cheap, then make a copy of that as well.
Most countries accept an international driver’s license. Although, the process of obtaining one is different for every country. I only had to fill out a form, pay a $25 fee, submit two photos, another form of ID and bam I had an international drivers license.
Verify this information with your home country. This one is the Second thing from those 10 things you should know about Thailand.
Thailand police are known to stop foreigners and ask them for their passports or visa information. If you are not carrying it, they can detain you. Or what they will most likely do is blackmail you to let you go.
I’ve only read and heard about this. A colleague of mine also told me that when his friend who also was a foreigner was stopped by the police on his motorbike, the police asked him for his license and papers. Well, he didn’t have either, the police demanded a payout.
The police, in fact, flagged him down, if the police flag you down, play dumb and keep driving. Thai police officers are notoriously lazy, and the likelihood of the police chasing after you is slim to none.
3. Don’t pack too much! I did this, and now I’m heading back to the States to unload and reorganize. Many clothing items are so cheap here in Thailand it’s easy just to purchase what you need along the way.
You need a comfortable pair of sneakers because you will be walking a lot. In many businesses and restaurants you might be required to remove your shoes, therefore buy shoes that are easy to slip on and off.
It’s hot in Thailand, scorching. Unless you’re in the north further past Chiang Mai, where it can be a bit cooler at night, then you may need a light sweater.
Because of the hot weather bring sunscreen and breathable clothing. You can easily purchase bug spray upon your arrival in Thailand. No need to buy it beforehand.
I had a tough time finding lotion here in Thailand. Many of the products have whitening chemicals in it. They also only carry lotions like Jergens (so watery), Nivea, and so forth.
I’m sure if I looked hard enough, I could’ve found something comparable to Aveeno but I didn’t. I used organic coconut oil, but over time that didn’t work for my skin either. When my friend visited me she packed me, some Aveeno.
Not having access to proper lotion is a major concern for me as I am thinking about my next move. Traveling with a bunch of toiletries means checking my bag which leads to check bag fees. But that’s another conversation.
Bring toilet paper. About 99% of the time there isn’t toilet paper in the bathrooms. You won’t find any napkins either. I knew this coming in.
You can quickly stop at a 7/11 in Thailand and purchase the following: napkins, toilet paper, and personal and hand wipes. Many of the bathrooms don’t carry soap. Many of the bathrooms have squatting toilets and water bins to wash instead of toilet paper.
And you can’t flush the tissue down the toilet. That’s the rule in Southeast Asia. I couldn’t flush paper down the toilet in Indonesia or Vietnam. Their pipes are super small and not made to transport paper.
That’s the rule in Southeast Asia. I couldn’t flush paper down the toilet in Indonesia or Vietnam. Their pipes are super small and not made to transport paper.
4. There’s a lot of trash in Thailand. A lot! Some people are taken aback by it, but it’s the truth. I rarely see garbage trucks if at all.
There are sections of Bangkok that are pristine, but there are tons of areas that are pretty filthy. Remember Thailand is a developing country. Incorporated in 2003, Bang Bo is still building and constructing homes and hotels.
Remember Thailand is a developing country. Incorporated in 2003, Bang Bo is still building and constructing homes and hotels.
5. Don’t drink the water! The tap water is dangerous. Not like tap water from the States. Thailand’s water is very polluted and dark. In fact when you walk through the neighborhoods and if there is a lake, you will smell it.
Only filtered water and be careful with the ice. I’ve had ice in my drinks, and I’ve been fine. The bottled water is cheap. In some restaurants, they may charge you for ice. But just use your judgment when it comes to ice in your drinks.
When I was at an accommodation on Ko Phangnan, I didn’t use the water to brush my teeth. The resort specifically had a sign up that said don’t drink the water and the water is brown because of their pipes.
I thought all of Thailand was like that. But when I got to my accommodation that I am living in now, the water was much more filtered, so I felt comfortable brushing my teeth with it.
6. Learn a bit of Thai. Say hello: Sawadee Ka (female) Sawadee khap (male). Kob khun ka(kap) means thank you. Tow (like you are about to say tower) lie means how much. Mai ow ka(kap) means I don’t want.
Mai cow jai ka(kap) means I don’t understand. Cow jai ka(kap) means I understand. For the taxis, this is great: leo kwa(turn right), leo sigh(turn left), drong bai(go straight), and ti ni means here.
The word for the bathroom is hong nam. Khun chun arai (what is your name for females) Pom chun arai (for males).
7. The apartments in Thailand are hotel rooms. I live in a studio average size with no kitchen and no microwave with a balcony. I only have a refrigerator and a coffee maker.
Depending on where you live many of the apartments will have a 7/11 or some convenience store. Where I live, I have access to four restaurants to choose from, five food stands, and two food carts that drive around, so there is always plenty of food to eat.
8. Although Thailand is dirt cheap, you can still use a lot of Baht. I don’t typically eat the street food. I’m very selective.
But what’s great about Thailand is you can just buy what you need. For example, I did laundry last weekend which cost 40B equivalent to $1.15. I ran out of detergent and didn’t want to purchase an entire bottle since I’m leaving soon. I bought a cup of detergent for 10B which is equivalent to .29 cents.
You can eat very cheaply in Thailand by eating the street food. There are meats on a stick for 10-30B, you can buy one piece of fried chicken for 15B, and you can buy steamed rice for 10-15B.
Because I eat at the restaurants, I average between 60-200B per day. When I’m at school, I can get food at the canteen or the street food which will cost me 30B for a meal, and I also get fruit for 10B.
I try to eat for about 100B per day. But the food is good! And so are the snacks. Knowing 10 things you should know about Thailand is very easy with us.
If you are a drinker, then you will run through your money. A can of Chang beer may cost you about 38B, which is a little over a dollar and drinking it at restaurants will cost you 50B+.
Western food will always cost you more. Some restaurants charge VAT and tax. You will pay 17% more on your bill. So although it’s cheap, you can blow through your Baht quickly. For example, my friend took out 2600B, and within two weeks it was nearly gone.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s still way CHEAPER!!! My apartment costs 16,000B = $487. Whereas, some accommodations are as low as 3000B which is about $85USD. I will pay more for my living space. I have yet to see any pest control businesses.
My colleagues were living in accommodation, and they both had problems with bugs (purchase bug spray). I have zero issues with bugs in my apartment. When you arrive in Thailand, make sure that you bargain for everything. The Thai people are known to jack up the prices for foreigners. So negotiate!
9. Get an international bank so that you can transfer money easily. I haven’t had to withdraw too much cash but when I did it cost me almost $6! That adds up. My colleague was paying $17 wire transfers.
There’s a Citibank. There’s also a Bangkok bank branch in NY. I use my Capital One 360; it doesn’t double charge me like my SunTrust account. I can withdraw money without getting charged both the ATM fee from Thailand and the US.
Just the fee from Thailand, but I recently learned that you could use the P2P option through Capital One 360 to deposit money into your Thai bank account. I will do this moving forward wherever I live next.
Please note that the Capital One 360 is a referral link. If you sign up, I receive a little monetization.
10. There’s little fiber in the Thai diet. I’m sure in other provinces other people may have access to more fruits and vegetables, but it’s very meat heavy here. If you’re lucky, you can find places that serve stir fry (pad pak is cooked vegetables), but I noticed I pay more for that than a dish made up of rice and pork.
I normally get my fruit from the canteen at school. I get smoothies, but I found out they put sugar in it. Just say mai sai nam tan. This means no sugar. Because of the little fiber, my digestive track is all out of sorts.
They also use a lot of MSG in their foods. Just say mai sai pong chu rot. This means no MSG.
These 10 things that you should know are not written to scare you. Thailand is a great country to explore; they have great hiking and great nightlife and incredible architecture and historical sights.
There is something for everyone here in Thailand. There are still many more places that I would like to explore. I would like to go further up north and even further south.
Please come and explore it yourself! And read all of the 10 things you should know about Thailand.
Lessons that I’ve learned:
- I don’t need a lot of stuff. Thailand has taught me that I don’t need to “stock” up on anything. I like being able to buy what I need. Maybe I don’t want 10 pieces of chicken; Give me two pieces, I can do that. Sometimes, I don’t want to buy a whole bottle of detergent; I can pay for a cup size. I’ve learned to shed excess and material possessions.
- I’ve learned to be uncomfortable and out of my element. It’s how you grow. I let go of a lot of luxuries, and I’m still alive! It makes me grateful for what I have.
- I’ve become more patient. Nothing in Thailand is convenient. The other day I drove 30 minutes away to deposit my monthly motorbike rental fee. In America, I just do online banking. Of course, if I had a Thai bank account I’m sure I could’ve sent the money that way (but you catch my drift). In Bang Bo, many of the restaurants don’t open until mid-day. I have to practice waiting and moving at a much slower pace. The only time the Thai people move fast is when they are driving! There is no rush here. I’ve slowed down.
- I’ve learned to trust strangers. I have to believe that the taxi driver is taking me directly where I need to go even though he has no GPS. I am confident that when I give my deposit for my motorbike or accommodation that I’ll get it back. Now that doesn’t mean you should go off and trust everyone, but many transactions are made with a handshake or a one-page contract. Very different than America.
- I’ve also learned to take myself too seriously. The Thai people are always laughing (well at least my students).
- I’ve learned to judge less. People all over the world live differently. My standards aren’t theirs, but it doesn’t mean that mine is better. It’s just different.
If you have or are living abroad what are some things that you can share about your transition and or experiences?