Bangkok is usually the entry point for gap-year students and wanderers when they come to Southeast Asia. Once there, it’s hard to imagine leaving, thanks to the easy living, low costs and great food. The country is safe but at times can be incredibly irritating if you don’t understand or underestimate the importance of not losing face.
Heading to Thailand? This post can help you get prepared. Need a little more? Be sure to check out our Thailand guidebook! Here are five things every female should know when traveling to Amazing Thailand:
1. Know what to pack
Stock up on your preferred foundation and powder, deodorant, sunscreen and after-sun gel before you arrive. The first two because it’s hard to find any in the drugstores in Thailand that aren’t whitening, and the last two because they can be pretty expensive or limited, especially if you forget about them until you’re on the beach.
As for clothes, finding natural fabrics (in bigger sizes) in the markets can be a rarity, so bring clothes that will breathe. Thai women don’t normally show off their shoulders, so keep a more covered-up style in mind, especially if you’re going to the country. Make sure you wear something that covers your shoulders and knees when visiting temples and the Grand Palace, or you’ll be denied entry. Flip-flops will work about 99% of time; bring one nice pair of shoes for clubbing and tennis shoes for hiking.
2. Adventures in public transportation
Bangkok’s traffic is god awful, but there are a few different options for getting around. Bangkok’s buses are rickety barrels on balding wheels, and they cost approximately nothing. The air-conditioned options are only slightly more expensive. The BTS (Skytrain) is a much quicker and refined way of getting around. Taxis are also very price-friendly but of course you’ll have to deal with traffic jams. Five o’clock is the drivers’ shift change, so there’s no chance of getting one then.
Motorbikes are the most dangerous and most fun option at the same time; ask for a price before you hop on. There is a very slight chance someone might take this opportunity to snatch your bag, so keep it lodged between you and the driver. I never learned how to ride sidesaddle and hold my umbrella and groceries while texting on a bike, instead opting to concentrate on unclenching each muscle one by one. Plus side: your thighs will get a great workout!
Intercity buses vary in price and condition. Leg room is scarce, so ask for a seat at the front or next to stairway to the restroom if your legs need it. Personally, I love the train system: it’s safe (in every sense of the word), mostly on time and comfortable. First and 2nd class sleepers are really nice, and the grubbier, non-aircon 3rd class option is a good choice for short day trips or budget-conscious overnight rides.
3. Know what’s off-limits
I’ll keep this brief: The royal family is held in extremely high esteem, so the best thing is to refrain from talking or asking questions about them. Also, if you go to the movies, the Thai Royal Anthem will play along with a reel of the royals before every movie, and you need to stand up for it.
4. Safety and sex show etiquette
Thailand in general is very safe; the only times I’ve seen things get real is when patrons stiff taxi drivers or sex workers. And if you want to see Bangkok’s notorious nightlife, you’ll definitely get an eyeful. As a foreign woman, you’ll more than likely be ignored in Patpong or Soi Cowboy, although you should keep your purse close (stash cash in various safe corners when at the beach). I once got felt up by a ladyboy asking if my parts were “original”. That’s as bad as the harassment got, and since it was just curiosity, I didn’t let it bother me. Which leads me to…
5. Keep your cool
Getting angry in public has never helped anyone trying to get things done in Thailand. Losing it will cause the other person to shut down and probably walk away rather than let the embarrassment continue. It doesn’t even have to be a full-on meltdown; a dirty look or thousand-yard stare can have the same effect. Follow the locals in their use of the legendary Thai smile. The old saying of attracting more flies with honey than vinegar is never truer than it is in Thailand.
Don’t forget to skip the moonshine and go straight for the street food!
Do you have any suggestions for traveling in Thailand?