As the tourism hub of Southeast Asia, Thailand is a vacation hot spot with white sand beaches, lush mountain jungles and a strong cultural heritage marked by intricate temples and historical landmarks. Known as the “Land of Smiles,” friendly locals await arriving tourists with open arms and open minds. In addition to breathtaking sights and kind residents, Thailand’s affordability and close proximity make this an ideal retreat for travelling Aussies.
Recent headlines reporting on political turmoil, physical attacks and other crimes are deterring safety-conscious travellers from visiting this beautiful destination. But overall, Thailand is a safe nation to visit. All it takes is a few precautions to embark on a carefree adventure to this gem. Being mindful of the country’s cultural etiquette, understanding areas to avoid and securing the proper travel insurance are all important to ensuring a positive travel experience. Read on to learn more about travelling to the exotic and historic Kingdom of Thailand.
Quick Travel Notes
Etiquette & Customs: As one of Southeast Asia’s most popular tourist destinations, locals are accustomed to and tolerant of foreigners traipsing across their beaches, visiting their sacred temples and climbing their tallest peaks. To show respect and appreciation for their customs, read below for tips on cultural etiquette.
Ecotourism: Conservation volunteers are highly welcome to help propel Thailand’s ecological improvement efforts. Programs like the Thai Elephant Conservation Project give visitors an opportunity to do good while enjoying Thailand’s incredible culture and surroundings.
Transportation: Bus, train, taxi, samlor: You name it, Thailand has it. Getting around the country is easy, affordable and a cultural experience in itself. Read on to learn more about getting around in Thailand.
Temperature & Weather: Like most tropical locales, Thailand’s climate is often warm, with a mean annual temperature of 28 degrees celsius, and humid. For travellers seeking to enjoy hotter temps, March to May is the time to go. Cool and comfortable months are from November through February while June through October mark Thailand’s rainy season.
Do, See & Explore
- North: With spectacular peaks, spirited hill tribes (indigenous people of Thailand) and low-key setting, Chiang Mai offers tourists a change of pace and a calming reprieve from Thailand’s bustling city of Bangkok. Encircled by mountains, Chiang Mai is home to seven national parks that offer unique hiking, camping and recreation.
- Northeast: Thailand evokes images of sparkling sands and pristine beaches, but there is another side to this tropical getaway. The Northeast region of Thailand, known as Isan, runs along the Mekong River and offers visitors access to spectacular monuments like the ancient Khmer ruins. If you visit this lesser-travelled region of Thailand, make a stop at the breathtaking Pha Taem National Park which overlooks the Mekong River and Laos.
- East: Beach lovers will enjoy strolling along the coast and catching rays along the Gulf of Thailand in Pattaya. In addition to the beach, visitors can also immerse themselves in the local culture by visiting the Sanctuary of Truth. The all-wood temple pays homage to Buddhist and Hindu art and architecture with its age-old displays of sculptures based on traditional Buddhist and Hindu motifs.
- Central: As the capital of Thailand, Bangkok is known for its cosmopolitan flare, complete with skyscrapers, wild nightlife and adult entertainment that keep tourists flocking year after year. Amid the hustle and bustle of the big city there are plenty of tourist attractions, like the ruins of Ayutthaya and the Wat Po Temple, that give visitors a taste of local flavour and a peek into Thailand’s cultural roots.
- Southern: The Southern region of Thailand is home to beautiful Phuket, a favourite destination for Travelling Aussies. Particularly Western Phuket where there is a wide variety of beaches that range from peaceful and serene to heavily trafficked and rowdy. As the country’s largest Island, Phuket hosts a wealth of activities to suit both families and singles alike.
Health & Safety
As with travel to any foreign country, staying on top of travel advisories and reading up on safety information is crucial to worry-free travels. It is a requirement under Thai law to carry photo identification at all times: a driver’s licence or a photocopy of the biodata page from a passport would be adequate identification. Arm yourself against loss or theft of identification with proper travel insurance and ensure safe travels by avoiding these high-risk regions:
- Sa Kaew
- Ubon Ratchathani
Because Thai and Cambodian troops are deployed in these areas and have on occasion engaged each other in armed conflict, the Thai government has warned tourists not to travel to these specific areas. Visit the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website to stay on top of travel advisories.
Getting Around in Thailand
Tourists can opt for taxi, train, bus or hire a car and driver. But adventure-seeking travellers can choose to do as the locals do and try one of these unconventional modes of transport:
Samlor: The Thai equivalent of a Pedicab. Take this three-wheeled carriage ride to get around small neighborhoods or villages. Samlor drivers will gladly pedal you to your next nearby destination.
Songthaew: Not a fan of buses? Hop on a Songthaew. These converted pickup trucks will gladly take you from town to town for a negotiated price. They come around more frequently than buses, so you can get more sightseeing done instead of waiting for the bus.
Tuk-Tuk: An upgraded Samlor, this three-wheeled motorized rickshaw is Thailand’s trademark (albeit a Japanese import). For in-city travel, make this your go-to mode of travel.
Thai Cultural Etiquette
It doesn’t take much to show your appreciation for the hospitality of the Thai people. By following these tips you’ll not only avoid offending Thailand natives, but also won’t stand out as a tourist:
- Pointing: Remember when your mother taught you that pointing at others is rude? Take her advice when visiting Thailand. Fingers and toes should never directly point at a person. Pointing your feet at someone, raising your feet higher than someone’s head, or simply putting your feet onto a desk or chair is considered extremely rude in Thailand, according to About Travel. Instead of pointing, the preferred method of signalling at someone is by lifting your chin in the direction of the person you are referring to.
- Show Respect: King Bhumibol Adulyadeg,The King of Thailand, is the world’s oldest monarch. Though the Western world may know little about Thailand’s royal roots, Thai natives hold the king in high regard. Any form of disrespect shown toward the king or images of the king can mean imprisonment and even the death penalty. Tourists should also be courteous of monks who follow strict rules of conduct. For example, women should practice caution around monks and never touch or hand something to them. Even accidentally brushing against their robes requires that they fast and perform a cleansing ritual. Food or donations must be passed to a man first and then on to the monk.
- Temple Etiquette: Though Thailand is beloved by tourists for its year-round sunshine and tropical climate, beachwear is absolutely prohibited in sacred temples. Shoulders and legs should be covered and shoes should always be removed prior to entering the worship areas. If you can remember, don’t turn your back on a Buddha statue. Instead, back away as you exit the premises.
Thailand is a nation of rich cultural history, friendly locals, beautiful beaches and architectural wonders. As a must-see adventure-packed hotspot, visitors will love the mix of cultural flare and scenic tourist attractions. Whether you’re laying low and relaxing beach-side, immersing in Buddhist culture by visiting ruins and temples or venturing off the beaten path to discover the great outdoors, don’t embark on your journey without Thailand Travel Insurance. Get a quote today to secure your peace-of-mind while visiting the Kingdom of Thailand.