I frequently receive a question similar to the following: “I have never traveled outside the country, where would you recommend me to travel?” The response is quite subjective. We probably don’t have the same tastes for places, our travel styles are totally different, and activity preferences are diametrically opposite.
Despite all these difficulties to give a recommendation on where to travel, there is a country that covers any travel expectation: Thailand.
In addition to being relatively cheap, it is one of the easiest countries to travel. For example, you can spend a night in the north of the country having a few beers with friends you just met and if you decide to change your plans drastically and go to the southern islands, you can do it without much difficulty and planning.
Even if the country captivates you to the point that you decide to stay a couple of months you can find a furnished apartment to move to the same day. This is how I ended up living here for 6 months.
Thailand is one of those places where anything is possible in a very simple way.
Although the title of the article, guide to survival, could indicate that Thailand is a dangerous place, the truth is that it is quite the opposite but you will need a few tips to make the most of your trip. So here are 5 tips for traveling to Thailand.
Tips for traveling to Thailand – Security
I am going to be totally transparent on the subject of security in Thailand since it is impossible to cover the sun with a finger. Thailand is a completely safe place but you must understand some things. The country has a very complex political history which has meant that several groups in their attempt to destabilize it have made attacks on one of its main sources of income: tourism (you can search for news about it).
In addition to the above, Thailand is the quintessential vacation destination for English, Australians and now Chinese. When a destination begins to receive large numbers of foreigners, it is very likely that social problems that are not entirely pleasant begin to arise.
Despite all this, the truth is that during the time I traveled around the country I never felt an insecure moment. I met foreigners who have made this country their home and could not be happier to have made that decision.
The problems of insecurity that you find in Thailand will be found in any other destination, but since it is a different country from which you know nothing, you are more susceptible to any type of negative information from it. Bad news flies fast, good news never.
I am writing this to put things as they are since if you find any article, news or comment from someone on the subject of security then take it with the approach it deserves.
The risk of traveling to Thailand is the same risk that you expose yourself in any city and you must take the same precautions, in the end it is a matter of common sense. If you are interested in reading more safety tips for traveling abroad you can do so in this article I wrote: 20 Tips for traveling abroad
Tips for traveling to Thailand – Meals
After clarifying the point of security, you have to talk about a big problem that you may encounter: gaining weight. No kidding, it happened to me. Thai food is absolutely delicious and cheap, the perfect combination to lose your figure.
You can eat full meals for $ 1. It is true that the portions are smaller than we are used to but in case you are hungry you can order a second portion, that is 2 dollars and you will eat like a king.
The best food in Thailand is in the north of the country, especially in Chiang Mai and if you had to choose just one food dish it would be Khao Soi. I won’t tell you what it is just that you have to try it.
Tips for traveling to Thailand – Holidays
If you ever saw the second movie of “What happened yesterday? (The Hangover) ”, the whole story happens in Thailand, Bangkok to be exact. There is a phrase that stuck with me and that when I traveled to Thailand I always remembered it. I do not remember well how the scene was going but the phrase was: “The city has it”, referring to the fact that it is easy to lose yourself in everything you can experience in Thailand, totally true.
For example, in this country one of the most famous mass festivals in the world occurs every month: the full moon party. It is estimated that in its most popular months, December and January, the party reaches more than 40,000 people. When I attended in October there were about 20,000.
It is easy to travel, make friends, go from one party to another and in less than what you expect you will be seeing the menu of “mushrooms” of a bar lost in the middle of the jungle. Thailand is the country that makes everything possible, but you shouldn’t abuse it.
Once again, turn to your common sense. Alcohol is the order of the day, you will know the famous buckets, which contain abysmal amounts of cheap alcohol (Thai Whiskey), energy drinks (Thais are fans of these drinks) and a little soda for the flavor . Drugs are easily accessible to tourists but severely punished, avoid them at all costs. And the music won’t stop until dawn.
Enjoy Thailand and its mythical parties. Stay at least one night on Koh San Road and go out and make new friends. If you plan to go to Koh Pha Ngan for the full moon party, book your hotel , they will ask for a minimum stay of 3 nights and make sure it is close to where the Haad Rin party, also known as Sunrise beach, takes place. At the end of the party, the last thing you want is to have a 40-minute ride in the back of a van between the curves of the island’s mountains.
Tips for traveling to Thailand – Avoid “typical” places
I’ll start this point with: Koh Phi Phi is NOT paradise.
One of the main attractions in Thailand is its beaches and islands, but to enjoy your trip you must be careful to choose which ones to go to. The most famous of all is Koh Phi Phi, which gained popularity thanks to the film by La Playa with Leonardo Di Caprio that he filmed in the Maya Bay. The funny thing is that this island is anything but a paradise.
Yes, it is a very beautiful place but my definition of paradise does not involve having to dodge selfies sticks everywhere, walk among hundreds of people on the beach or be in a place where you will not have tranquility to admire its beauty. (As a cultural fact, the author of the book La Playa, Alex Garland, was inspired by a beach in El Nido, Philippines but decided to change the location)
Thailand has many islands to choose from. Some almost completely deserted and with impressive landscapes. Do not limit yourself to the places that travel agencies offer, if you want true Thai paradises then visit: Koh Phayam, Koh Lipe, Koh Lanta and even the Koh Tao diving paradise.
If you want to see something totally different then visit the Khao Sok Nature Reserve
Another place that they include in almost any travel itinerary is Phuket and personally I do not recommend it. This place became the party center for foreigners and that made all kinds of activities take place for people who just want to “go wild” for a couple of days. It is a place with beautiful beaches but the atmosphere in which it is located does not make it the best tourist destination.
Tips for traveling to Thailand – Avoid animal attractions
The last tip I always give and the one I put the most emphasis on is: don’t do activities that involve animals.
Photos riding an elephant look great for the album, and taking a selfie with a chained tiger may impress your friends, but the repercussions are devastating.
In order for an elephant to be trained to carry tourists on its back, it has to go through a process called “breaking the spirit” as a child, after which it is forced to work strenuous days until it literally cannot take any more and is abandoned to its luck. I wrote an article about it and the video I included is quite heartbreaking: Elephant ride in Thailand, breaking spirits .
Tigers on the other hand, although the place where they have them is a Buddhist temple, the people who manage them are anything but spiritual. As of today, two centers have closed as they found evidence of smuggling of tigers and other animal species.
The tigers are raised and sold, the temple is only the facade to cover the operation. You can read more detail in this National Geographic news here .
Instead you can visit places that care more about animals as a sanctuary for elephants: Elephant Nature Park , where in addition to living with them, you can volunteer for a couple of days or weeks.
If you have never left the country then travel to Thailand, I am sure you will not regret it. It is true that perhaps the flight from Mexico to Thailand is not the cheapest, but it is worth every penny you pay for it.
It is a place that captivates you from the first moment. It is known as the land of smiles and it is totally true. Its inhabitants are friendly and will help you in whatever you need even if they do not speak the same language. Its landscapes are spectacular and unique in the world. Their food is exquisite. It has everything you need to welcome anyone with open arms, even if they don’t speak the same language.
Just remember the tips in this guide for surviving Thailand: Be safe, get ready to get fat, enjoy the holidays with a little common sense, admire the landscapes of lesser-known places and avoid animal attractions.
By doing this I am sure you will have one of the best trips of your life, at least mine if it was.