What to know about Thailand

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Thailand is a popular travel destination in Asia. It’s the perfect country to go for backpacking solo, with friends or with your partner. If you don’t like backpacking, it’s also possible to just travel around. During traveling in Thailand, you will meet a lot of new people and learn a lot about yourself.

It’s already a touristic country but there are still a lot of hidden gems. I would recommend you visit Thailand outside the busy season so you can enjoy the country even more.

There is much to know about this country. That’s why in this blog I write about the following:

Emergency number: 191

Tourist Police: 1155

If you’re from Belgium, you can visit Thailand for 30 days without a Visa. Read everything about a Visa on this website.

General information about Thailand

In the touristic areas a lot of people speak English but the moment you’re outside those areas it can be quite challenging to communicate with the locals.

There are many places that you should visit in Thailand and there is something for everybody. If you want to go on adventures in the jungle or relax between palm trees on an island, Thailand is the place to be. Besides that, it’s suitable for every budget, whether you want a cheaper vacation or a more luxurious one.

Some general information that you need to know:

  • Capital: Bangkok
  • Currency: Thai Baht (THB)
  • Official language: Thai
  • Largest religion: Theravada Buddhist
  • Surface: 357.588 km2
  • Inhabitants: 68.615.858
  • Neighboring countries: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Malaysia
  • Independence Day: 5 December

Besides the general information there are some important things you should know before you go:

  • In Thailand it’s five hours later than in Belgium.
  • Important tradition is the “Wai” (pronounced like “why”), it’s a traditional greeting. 
  • Until 1939 Thailand was called Siam
  • It’s the only Southeast Asian country that has never been taken over by a European power.
  • Bangkok has 83 canals. The canals are crowded with boats full of vegetables, fruits and fish which create a floating market. You must visit a floating market.
  • In Thailand there are farmers that cultivate mulberry trees. The mulberry trees feed the silkworms. Those worms create silk that is used for beautiful clothing. You can visit a farmer and learn how silk is made.
  • Bargaining when you buy something is normal in Thailand. Try to only pay 40% of the original price or 1/3 of the price.
  • Favorite flower in Thailand is the Lotus flowers. The flowers live above the water surface but are rooted in the mud.
  • Many animals roam in Thailand in the deep forests like elephants, tigers, wild ox, Malayan tapir, leopards, cobras, and crocodiles.
  • Thai children first go six years to elementary school, then six years to high school. Boys start military training in the ninth grade

Tip: buy a sarong. It’s a skirt like a scarf that you can bind around your waist. You can buy this at a market. Never buy it near the temples because those are more expensive and less beautiful.

It’s always good to know some basic words in the language. Some basic Thai:

  • Hello = sawadeekah (females), sawadeekraap (males)
  • Thank you = Kawp Koon
  • Good bye = lah gorn
  • Yes = chai ; no = mai chai

Weather and landscape in Thailand

You can travel to Thailand all year round because of its tropical climate, but you need to know that there are three seasons. There is the wet season from May to October, then there is the cool season which is from November to February and after this there is the hot season from March to May.

The best time to visit Thailand is in November until April because these are the driest and hottest months which makes it the perfect travel months.

There is a variety of landscape in Thailand from mountains to jungle, dry plateaus, and even sandy beaches. You need to see it for yourself which beautiful landscape this country has. Read more about all the places you should visit in Thailand in the blog Ultimate backpacking guide in Thailand.

The highest mountain in Thailand is in the Province Chiang Mai and is the Dai Inthanon which is 2.565 meters high. This mountain is in the Doi Inthanon National Park and it’s an amazing area to go hiking but beware that the temperature is cool all year round so prepare yourself with the right clothing. There are many trails where you walk through rainforest, pine forest and mixed forest. You can discover some waterfalls and rice terraces in the national park. It’s a place worth going.

Transport in Thailand

You need to know that in Thailand they drive on the left side of the road. The best and cheapest way to get around Thailand when you are backpacking is with public transport. You can take trains, busses, ferries and even planes between cities.

To go around in the big cities like Bangkok you can take a GrabCar which is a Taxi that you order through an app. You will see the prices in front, so you don’t get surprised and it’s an easy app to use. Another way to get around is by BTS/Metro.

Tip: download the app GrabCar.

Other taxis and Tuk-Tuks are more expensive and it’s important to bargain with them in front. You need to go at least once with a Tuk-Tuk, it’s a fun way to go around. However, never take them near touristic attractions because they ask too much, and bargaining is key here!

Tip: download the map of Thailand on the app maps.me so you have an offline map. Sometimes there is no internet connection, especially outside the big cities.

When you travel between cities it’s best to take the train. There are many night trains going from Bangkok to Chaing Mai. Besides the train you can also take busses to many little villages to discover some hidden gems.

For long distances I recommend you take a domestic flight for example when you go from Chiang Rai to Phuket. It’s a long distance and many hours by bus. With a flight it only takes around an hour and they are not expensive.

Food in Thailand

Thai food is influenced by the Indian and Chinese cultures. The dishes are often spicy and in the most dishes they use lemongrass, ginger, basil, hot chilies, and coconut milk.

Some drinks you should drink when you’re in Thailand are the following:

  • Fruit smoothies are everywhere. You will find them on every market in many different flavors and they are the best. Tip: ask without added sugar.
  • Thai Iced Coffee
  • Thai beer to cool off. The most well-known are Singha or Chang.
  • Lao Khao is a Thai Whiskey

There is much food that you can try out. You will find different kinds of noodles and curries everywhere. You can easily ask to make a meal vegetarian or leave out a vegetable. There is much Thai food with rice and noodles like the following:

  • Spring rolls with many different flavors. You can have them with vegetables, meat, or fish.
  • Larb is a meat finely chopped with herbs.
  • Pad Thai are thin Thai fried rice noodles. There are many different flavors available.
  • Pad see Ew are wider and flatter rice noodles with a sauce that tastes like soy sauce.
  • Pad Phuk Tong is a wok with stir-fried pumpkin.
  • Khao pad is a fried rice available with many different vegetables.
  • Pad krapow is a recipe with fried basil.

There are also many kinds of Curries, noodles soups and salads in Thailand.

  • Panang is a red Thai curry which is made with spices and peanuts.
  • Gaeng keow wan is a green curry with chicken and is one of the most popular dishes.
  • Guay Teow is a noodle soup with rice noodles and many vegetables and meat.
  • Khao Soi a typical soup with rice noodles, soup broths, pork, and tomato sauce.
  • Tom Yum Goong is a spicy shrimp soup with fish sauce and mushrooms.
  • Tom Kha Gai is a chicken soup with coconut.
  • Som Tam is a green papaya salad with many fruits and vegetables.
  • Spicy green mango salad.
  • Chicken cashew salad.

Some delicious desserts:

  • Mango Sticky rice
  • Thai pancakes which they sometimes eat as breakfast or as dessert
  • Khanom krok are Thai coconut pancakes
  • Thai rolled ice cream
  • Pandan cake

For a meal you pay around 40-120 THB (€1 – €4) on a market.

Tip: in the Thonglor neighborhood in Bangkok, there is a nice coffee bar with organic food called Patom.

The Thai kitchen has many different flavors that are worth a try. There is much more to know about Thailand. If you want to learn about some Thai rituals read my blog Thai rituals learned from locals. If you want to know what you should visit in Thailand read the blog Ultimate backpacking guide in Thailand.

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