Often, when asked what a dream retirement looks like, Thailand is the first word many uttere. As a southeastern nation, situated on a tropical peninsula, it's no wonder many see it as some sort of paradise, with beaches, white sand and crystal clear waters in their eyes. Thailand is a glorious and beautiful place. However, like any developing nation, it is also a dangerous one.
As someone who has been to Thailand on multiple occasions to visit family but also has a Thai vocabulary of less than 10 sentences and phrases, here are some tips and tricks on how to get by.
1. Dealing With The Weather
As my aunt likes to say, Thailand has three seasons: hot, hotter and f*cking hot.
F*cking hot occurs in April and merely hot occurs around November, so for all you summer visitors, rest assured that as hot as it is, it could be so much hotter. Mid-summer, however, coincides with the rainy season, so be prepared for a whole lot of humidity, temperatures lingering around 90 degrees and considerable lack of air conditioning.
2. Beware Of Pickpockets
This problem is less prevalent the fewer tourists there are, but for hotspots swarming with tourists, stay vigilant. My dad once said he saw a pickpocket grab a phone from the front pocket of a girl's overalls, showing just how aggressive they are. Other methods include slicing open handbags and backpacks with a wickedly sharp knife and harvesting the goods in crowded locations with lots of human contact, like the Bangkok sky-train (BTS) or the largest market (Chatuchak).
3. Tackling Taxis
First, be aware that people drive on the left side of the road. Second, be aware that U-turns are one of the most complicated maneuvers to ever conduct on the strangest road system I have ever encountered. If you decide to take a taxi (which is not a bad idea, as the fares are dirt cheap, even compared to the typical Uber), make sure you are on the side of the road that is going toward your location. If not, expect to pay a considerably higher fare than you would otherwise as U-turning is quite a task.
Thai taxis come in multiple colors, such as pink, yellow/green, etc. These colors are not simply for aesthetics. The color of the car represents the taxi company the driver is working for (or in the case of pink, the lack of). Never take a pink taxi, as they are self-employed and did not have to go through the extensive screening process necessary to be employed by a taxi-driving company.
4. Other Modes Of Transport
Besides taxis, there are sky-trains (BTS), buses, motorcycle-taxis and tuk-tuks. BTS is comparably more expensive than every other kind of short-distance transport, costing up to 60 baht ($1.81 USD) per ride, but is useful when the traffic in Bangkok becomes completely and utterly awful (a frequent affair).
The buses are cheap, but they lack air conditioning, and unless you know enough Thai to ask where the bus is headed or are familiar with the number, it's not a great mode of transport for foreigners. Motorcycle-taxis is where one grabs onto the midsection of a motorcyclist in an orange jacket. They're very cheap but not for the faint of heart. Tuk-tuks are mostly catered towards foreigners, so they're more expensive.
I'm using market as a cover-all for any time of commercial area with stalls of independent sellers, whether that be outdoors or indoors. Outdoors, with the exception of Chatuchak (and probably a few others), the commodities mostly consist of exclusively street food, clothes and fruit. Indoor markets consist of anything from food to electronics to religious items. As the cost of living in Thailand is relatively cheap, the items will be as well.
6. Bathroom Usage
Lastly, invest in a portable bag of tissue, and carry it with you always. Most bathrooms in Thailand don't provide toilet paper, or they provide it for an additional fee.
7. Spicy Food
Go with the assumption that everything is spicy. Learn the words "mai pet," which means "not spicy." If you don't have any spice tolerance, I will tell you right now in the nicest way possible that you're screwed. Oftentimes, "not spicy" food will mean simply one chili in opposition to numerous. I suggest you be willing to build your spice tolerance while in Thailand. Otherwise, eating will become a very difficult affair.
(Note: foods in the south are marginally more spicy than foods in the north or in the metropolitan area.)
Thailand is a beautiful place, and everyone should travel here at least once in their lifetimes. As always, it's best to be safe. With these tips in your bag, traveling should be a breeze!