For some of you this may be the first time you have ever left home and for others this may just be a notch on yourbelt of places you have been. Let’s face it though, regardless of being an experienced traveler or not, it is always nice to know what you may be dealing with in a different country, specifically in Thailand. This is a list, collaborated with others that went through the Thailand experience, about things that they have learned through trial and error.
1) Practice your skills at acting and negotiation tactics
Some people assume that everyone in the world has some understanding or capability to speak English. This may not always the case. The best thing that has gotten people toat least understand them has been charades! Believe it or not the motions and acting out of various objects or places you need to get to has been very beneficial (example: hospital ambulance sounds).
On another note, locals who deal with tourists all the time have the ability so speak some English, specifically prices, in the markets. In case you didn’t know, you can try your hand at negotiating those prices down, but be prepared to walk away as they are tough cookies to budge sometimes.
2) Don’t flush toilet paper here – it is highly recommended that you follow that practice and be prepared to pay to “go” in some areas.
That’s right – you don’t flush toilet paper here. That maybe common knowledge to some but others found out the hard way when their toilet got plugged and started to overflow. Yes that has happened.
Always carry spare change in case you have “to go” at the most inconvenient time and there are only pay places. It will help avoid that awkward scenario of doing a “hold it” dance.
Boys, skip ahead.
In some areas there are only squatter toilets – Ladies, if you have never squatted before you should practice before getting over here and not knowing what to do. Who knows – you may have to give a lesson to those less knowledgeable on the topic.
Tampons are rarely seen here and if you’re unlucky you won’t find them. It is just easier and less of a stress to bring your own. Your welcome.
3) Pack in accordance to the childhood song “shoulders, knees and toes”.
As a teacher in a conservative country make sure you have clothes that will cover those three areas – shoulders, knees and toes. Some have suggested buying the style of collared shirts, floor length skirts and traditional shoes at a thrift shop before coming to Thailand so that you can spend your money on trends that you would enjoy wearing casually. Once you start packing to go back home you can then leave those out-of-style teaching clothes behind replacing that sacred suitcase space with your newfound treasures.
4) Bring a real raincoat. That is all.
5) Learn the local transportation systems.
The local buses are the cheapest way to get around in the place you are living. Know when they stop running at night so that you can either be home before then or budget to take a taxi.
6) Learn the Thai names for landmarks around your accommodation.
To know a bit of Thai before getting here is extremely useful to begin with but to be able to know the Thai word for a landmark, such as hospital or school, will just save you some frustration of a communication barrier. If you’re not that good at learning new languages bring a small handbook for those frustrating instances.
7) You should financially over prepare.
Budgets are awesome if you stick to them. If you enjoy going out it will never hurt to have a little extra cushion, as the nightlife in Thailand is very fun and entertaining, tempting you to step out of that budget.
8) Make sure you do research before hand.
The Internet in Thailand is not the most reliable in places. To avoid getting completely lost keep an old fashioned map with you or make sure you write down the directions you pull off of Google before leaving the place with the golden WiFi.
9) Be open to new things.
We wouldn’t know what we don’t like if we didn’t try new things.
10) Make friends with the locals
This may be challenging at times but they are truly a benefit – they know all the best places. It also helps you adjust to the culture to join various groups within the community such as volunteering at a shelter or taking Muay Thai lessons from a trained professional. The community involvement can go a long way in building friendships.
Above all just enjoy your time in Thailand and embrace every new experience!