Seven’s 10 Top 10: Things to Know When Traveling

Happy Friday, internet. It’s time for another frowback. This one’s from last year, although in truth the information was accumulated over years of bouncing around from locale to tropical locale here in The Land of Smiles. If you plan to travel around Thailand in the near future, I hope it helps:

“In our ongoing effort here at BKKNites (the previous publisher) to provide useful information for those newbies coming to Thailand for the first time, here’s another installment of Seven’s 10 Top 10 Lists, focusing on things to be aware of when traveling to and then within the country. Please bear in mind, I’m not a journalist or a travel writer. These lists are less of a comprehensive well-researched set of literary gems than they are the hard-learned lessons of a seasoned red-light addict. Grain of salt required.

1-Pack Light.  Most of the stuff you need for your trip will be for sale in Thailand, and at a fraction of the cost.  And leave all your expensive things at home.  Your nice watch, jewelry, sunglasses, etc. will likely be lost, broken or stolen, so save yourself the headache and don’t bring that stuff with you.  You won’t need any of it anyway. Here is a list of things you can easily get once you’ve landed:  clothes, shoes, toiletries, all manner of swimming-related gear, luggage, jewelry, medication, electronics—all at 50-75% less than you’d pay for in your country (except Apple products—they cost exactly the same).

2-Thai time has a 20 minute lag, so don’t expect your bus to be on time.  The further you are from Bangkok the better the chances that the bus will leave late. However, your bus MIGHT leave on time so YOU must always be punctual.  Just be prepared to wait.

3-Don’t take the front seats on the van.  Those are for monks and the elderly. The same is true on the Skytrain and MRT in Bangkok.  There are designated seats for monks and the infirm, indicated by a picture.  If you’re in one of those seats, and someone gets on who needs that seat, you’re expected to give up your spot.

4-Check your bus ticket for a seat number.  If it has one, sit in that seat. The number will be printed on the BACK of your seat, so don’t sit in the seat where you can see your number.  Sit in the seat that has your number on the back of it.

5-Don’t haggle with a songteaw driver.  The prices are set.  And pay him when you reach your destination, not before (one exception is a long ride like the one from Phuket Town to Patong, where they collect half way).

6-If you’re on an overnight bus or train ride, book a hotel at your destination for the day you start your travel.  For example, if you leave at 5 p.m. on the 1st, book your hotel room for the night of the 1st.  You won’t arrive until the early morning of the 2nd, but there will be a bed waiting for you.  The alternative is wandering around the town with your luggage for 8 hours waiting for your room to be ready. Also, if you know the day you’re departing, buy your bus ticket as early as possible.  Long rides like the one from Phuket to Bangkok fill up quickly, and if you wait till your departure day to book your ticket, you might not get a seat.

7-Thais are not thieves—generally.  The tendency to be paranoid while traveling is natural, especially after hearing one or two tales of tourist woe from this country or that.  But in the case of Thailand, you have a better chance of being robbed in your home town.  That’s not to say it can’t happen, but you don’t have to be suspicious of every stranger in your midst.  Having said that, don’t hand your money belt to the restroom attendant while you use the toilet.  Be smart, not paranoid.

8-When your choice is between going by bus and going by van, always choose the bus.  It’s the same price for a more comfortable (less-crowded and less-bumpy) ride.

9-Wear a shirt.  Thais are appalled when they see Western men going shirtless in the bus station, or the mall, or the bar/club.  We get it—it’s hotter than you’re used to.  The problem is, it’s the normal temperature for everyone who lives in Thailand, so you exposing yourself is not only unattractive, it’s extremely poor manners.  Thai people—whether they’re Muslim or Buddhist—show modesty at all times.  That doesn’t mean you have to wear a cloak and hood at the beach, but keep in mind that even though the bus is as hot as the beach, it’s not the beach.  Show a little respect.  Put a shirt on. (On a side note:  If you’ve spent years in the gym creating the perfect chiseled body and you want to show it off, go to Hawaii or Ibiza.  Thais don’t care if you look like an underwear model.  To them, attractiveness has little to do with being physically attractive.)

10-Zebra crossings/crosswalks.  This is going into multiple lists because not everyone reads every list.  In Thailand, PEDESTRIANS DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY.  I know that painted area on the street looks the same as the bastion of safety in your home country but it doesn’t mean the same thing.  DO NOT EVER STEP INTO TRAFFIC EXPECTING CARS TO STOP FOR YOU.  THEY WON’T.  YOU WILL BE KILLED.

The main point to take from this list is, traveling in Thailand is a bit of a pain, but by knowing what to expect, you will save yourself a bit of grief.  Getting around calls for a lot of waiting around, so be patient and roll with it.  You’ll get there eventually.”

A year on, this stuff is still applicable, though in thinking about the topic, my Lord but there’s a lot more to say. In-country flights, trains, ferries, the BTS, taxis, longtail boats, and highway driving could take up a whole other list that I’m too lazy to write, so maybe check other jackasses’ Thailand blogs for that. One other thing I’ll say is, don’t be afraid to slow down. The speed of travel in Thailand is directly proportional to the number of senseless deaths. Take a page from the natives and downshift into slow-motion mode (slomode for short, copyright BKK7). It reduces stress.

Check back Sunday for the weekly, and until then cheers to another week above ground in the busiest and greatest country in the world–Thailand.