Thailand – DOs and DONTs

by sajin on September 12, 2012

Went on a Thailand trip recently for a little over a week. There were some pretty good places and experiences. But then, extensive tourism has made the place like no other. Made us think it would have been good to know these from someone who went earlier and not repeat the mistakes. So here is your Thai cheat-sheet ๐Ÿ™‚

Airport Pickup
If your hotel is not arranging a free pickup, make sure you book a cab beforehand. There are several online ones available. Once you land, taxi is almost double the cost of what is available online.

Short Travel
Never encourage the taxi/tuk-tuk guys who are approaching you and offering a ride, of which there are many. These guys either try to cheat you with high rates or try to offer you a “one stop” ride with a low fare and take you to some shops that they have a tie-up with. Their true colors come out when you are not interested in the kind of shops they are taking you to, and starts threatening to pay a high amount or go shop.

Long Travel
Browse through the local travel agents and find out the prices to the places you want to go to. Come back and book the cab from the travel desk of your hotel, bargaining for the best rate citing the rates you found. You’ll end up paying slightly higher (say, 15-20%) than the other agents, but you are better off using the hotel transport in a country where a good number of guys in this industry are rogue.

Carry enough cash. Many of the shops and even some travel agents and restaurants doesn’t accept (or prefer) credit cards. Even in places that accept, they might ask you for 4% or so extra for using a card.

Always have an idea of how much something you intend to buy costs. You’ve seen bargaining everywhere in the world, but not quite this! Tourists are offered prices which are up to 10 times the actual price of an item (especially for things like handicrafts). And if you ask for too less, vendors act offended and might make some nasty comments. If you would rather avoid this, visit a mall where things have a marked price (like Platinum Fashion Mall in Bangkok). The bargaining percentage is less then ๐Ÿ™‚

Tourist Places
Do not trust people who come to you and offer things, without you seeking out any information. Always verify such information from an official counter or information booth. For example, when we went to see the Grand Palace one person dressed similar to a security staff came and told us the palace was closed until noon due to a Buddhist ceremony. He then helpfully offered us a suggestion to go visit another temple and come back post noon. He also arranged a tuk-tuk for just 20 Bahts! Once we saw the temple, this person took us to a jewelry shop and asked us to just go inside and spend some time so that he gets free fuel coupons from the store. We refused and he started to demand 300 Baht. Luckily the jewelry owners saw this and came to our rescue. We took a taxi back to the palace to find out that there was no such restriction in place. There was another instance in Koh Larn where we took a water scooter for rent for 1 hr @ 700 Baht. When it was 45 minutes they stopped us and started demanding more money for “extra time” and started claiming 700 was for 15 minutes. They now wanted 1500 more! When we tried saying they owed us money for stopping us early, those guys’ manners became menacing. Finally we had to pay 400 Baht extra despite being stopped earlier than agreed. Lesson Learnt: never rent things or use services from a street/beach guy with no office and no written tickets/coupons.

Night Life
If you are going as a family and doesn’t want a piece of night-life, avoid night-market areas and pick-up streets after 7pm. Else, you’ll surely be approached and possibly some advances made. If you are looking towards enjoying the night life and shows, there is plenty of information online.

We absolutely loved visiting the following places

  1. Nong Nooch Garden, Pattaya
  2. Grand Palace, Bangkok
  3. Safari World, Bangkok

River Kwai is worth a visit too. Apart from it being a must-see from a historic perspective, the place is pretty scenic as well.

The following places weren’t as exciting

Koh Larn is an over-crowded beach you are better off avoiding any day. Possibly there are serene beaches still around Thailand, but this is certainly not one among those.

Ayuthaya was OK, but not very impressed having seen places like Belur/Halebidu in India which are richer in terms of workmanship and comparatively well preserved despite being way older.

The tiger temple near Kanchanburi at 600 Baht per person was a rip-off. For an animal lover, the sight of these majestic beasts sedated and put to such puppetry is pretty sad.

Floating Market is a very touristy experience than a piece of Thai life.

If you’ve been to Thailand, please do leave your tips in the comments.

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