Do you dream of going to Thailand? Sometimes traveling to a whole new place can be intimidating and unknown. Gather your courage and curiosity and brush up on some cultural tips and tricks to assist you in feeling more confident and prepared to make the trip of your dreams happen. Here is a list of cultural and travel tips to keep in mind when planning your trip to Thailand! Doing a bit of research can pay off big time when trying to not stand out in a new country and to travel more like a LOCAL!
Learn some basic words in Thai
Learning to speak some basic Thai words will help with immersing yourself in Thailand. Showing the initiative to speak their language and connect with them will go a long way - and you can teach your travel partners as well!
Hello/Goodbye- Sawasdee Ka/Krab
Thank you- Khop-Khun
These are a few words to get yourself started adventuring like a local. The Thai people may be impressed with your eagerness to learn their language and be more inclined to help you along your journey.
Stay in a Thai village
When looking at booking your stay in Thailand look to finding a more local perspective. It’s nice when you can stay with or at least visit local families in their rural town. Take the opportunity to visit rural villages to learn from and meet the people there. This is a great way to get to know how families operate, how they cook and how they live every day. If you want to travel like a local, talk to the locals, they will have the best advice and recommendations to make your trip authentic. So talk with people at the markets you go too or even at your hotel. Everyone you are around has a story to tell!
Take a Thai cooking class
One of the best way to understand the local customs is to understand the food! What makes people happy and why do they eat the food they do? What spices have been used over hundreds of years and why do they use them? Investigate the culture of food and you never know, it might lead to something you can implement in your own home! Pad Thai is a MUST when visiting Thailand and bringing the skills to prepare this amazing dish home with you will be priceless.
Try some street food
Street food! This will be an amazing local experience that can really broaden your horizons! Everything you can dream of on a stick (and stuff you don't dream of) can be found being sold from street vendor stalls. Food markets create a great opportunity to expound upon your understanding of local food and why the locals choose to eat it. Don't be afraid to try new things and try not to say no to unsusual flavors- you never know when you’ll stumble upon your next favorite dish! Bangkok has an amazing street food market in Chinatown. I highly recommend to head that way and take it all in. When surveying the street food options here are some dishes that are very popular with the locals:
Som Tam- papaya salad
Khao Pad- fried rice
Pla pao- Fish barbecued in salt
Pad krapao moo- stir-fried pork with basil
Pad Thai Kung- Noodles with shrimp
Khao Mun Gai- Steamed chicken on rice
Gai/Moo Bing- Grilled chicken/pork skewers
Sai Krok Issan- Sour Issan sausage
Take a stab at these when you visit the local food markets and try some of the locals favorites!
Haggle at the night market
Many of us are not accustomed to haggling a price down because it's not our typical culture or we don't want to appear rude. Going to a market in Bangkok, Thailand provides the perfect chance to throw that notion out the window and get yourself haggling mode. To be a local you have to haggle! People haggle for goods and trade every day because it's a part of their culture and practice of obtaining the items they need. Part of the excitement of exploring a new city is discovering the markets they have to offer. A very popular market called the Chatuchak market, sells virtually everything you can think of. This market is divided into 27 different sections and will surely take a whole day for you to explore!
Another market that you can visit is the Pak Klong Talat Flower Market with a heavenly aroma of lovely smelling flowers everywhere you go. There are so many colors and vegetable and fruits can be found in displays as well. Many of the stalls here are open 24 hours and boats and trucks arrive each day from all over Thailand with fresh produce and flowers. the Pak Klong Talat Flower Market has been around for 60 years so getting a great shopping experience is guaranteed! There are also markets like the Pratunam, Bangkok farmers market, klong toey fresh and klongsan market. With so many options to choose, go see what the locals have to offer and practice haggling!
Wear the proper clothing
When it comes to traveling in Thailand, you need to be aware that the country is more conservative regarding dress codes. It's good practice to identify cultural practices wherever you travel and act respectfully. When packing your suitcase, keep in mind the following things: Women should try to cover their shoulders, but do keep in mind that Thailand weather can be hot! Investing in a versatile scarf is key because you can use it as a scarf, belt, shoulder covering, and head wrap. When it comes to visiting temples, having that scarf will come in handy to show respect and cover up properly. You can also take the opportunity to buy a sarong from one of the markets you visit! Sarongs can be used as a beach towel, skirt, or dress - a very handy accessory to carry around.
Understand the spices they use
Thai culture has such an amazing array of spices used in cooking and going to a spice market to purchase some of your favorite flavors can produce great souvenirs. A widely used Thai spice, galangal, is similar to ginger but much more intense and can be compared to cinnamon but slightly more tart. Birdseye chilies are small thin and have a very large bite to them. They are a very popular spice to use in Thai cooking and the heat unit can reach to 100,000- 220,000. If you are not good with heat, then you may want to avoid this spice as it can result in serious sweating! Another common spice that gets used in many Thai dishes is turmeric! With its earthy flavor and gorgeous color, it is a common enhancer in many Thai dishes. Bring home spices to continue the cooking skills you learn while abroad and implement create some new family traditions - a great way to remember the experience you had!
Written by Trisha Zachman