Thailand seems to be the hot travel destination this winter, so here are a few travel tips that I picked up.
1) Money. Most places in Thailand do not accept Union Pay. I always ask, but about 90% of the time the answer is “no.” However, there are ATMs on every street corner that do (for a 50 Bhat fee). So just every day or two, stop by a machine and get enough cash for the day (you can get by on less than a thousand baht a day easily). 1 RMB is almost equal to 5 Thai Bhat, and 1 USD is about 30 Bhat. Visa is accepted everywhere, but be sure to contact your bank to find out about fees.
2) SIM cards. Get a SIM card as soon as you can. The best and most popular service provider is DTAC. They have shops in every mall and a kiosk at the airport. I was able to get two weeks of unlimited data service, 100 talk minutes, and the card for 500 Bhat. For me it was worth it just for the data to have constant access to Google maps.
3) Watch where you step. There are stray dogs everywhere. They don’t bite or anything, but they poop everywhere. Surprisingly, the streets are pretty clean other than that. They have strict fines for littering so only the dogs get away with it. Also, they drive on the left, so, Americans, be sure to look the other way when crossing the street.
4) Shoes. Many places you enter require you to remove your shoes when you enter, so it is a lot easier if you wear sandals or other easy on/off shoes.
5) Dress code. The Thai are very religious and have a strict dress code for entering temples, palaces, and other places worthy of respect. So, even though it is crazy hot here, be sure to bring or plan on buying long skirts/pants to wear when sight-seeing. Also, if you wear sleeveless shirts or a low-cut top, bring a shawl to wear.
6) Getting around. In Bangkok, the taxis are metered, so you won’t usually get ripped off (they sometimes just don’t want to go where you want to go if the traffic is heavy, so it might take a few tries to find a driver). Tuk-tuks are not metered and will always cost you more than a taxi. My advice is not to bother with tuk-tuks. In smaller cities, the taxis aren’t metered and the tuk-tuks are an even bigger ripoff, so we rented a motorbike on days we wanted to run around. You can rent a motorbike for less than the cost of one taxi trip (as little as 150 Bhat) per day. You don’t need a license or training, just a passport as collateral. Driving in Thailand is better than driving in China. In Thailand, they drive pretty fast, but they can because they pretty much follow the rules (they at least stay in the correct lane and don’t go the opposite way down one-way streets).
7) Carry paper. Like in china, there is not always paper in the bathrooms, so carry some with you. There are more places that have paper than is typical in China, but it isn’t guaranteed, so better safe than sorry.