Another guide about Thailand? Maybe, but it is always a good thing to read as many as possible, right? Thus, you will not be caught unprepared, especially if you feel like an extra-precise-person like us (and so you like to inform yourself thoroughly before taking any action!).
This is all we have learnt during our 4 weeks of travel to discover the south of Thailand. We present you a quick guide with all what you need for your journey!
Good news: no anticipated request of VISA is needed for EU citizens, when the reason for the visit is touristic. In this case, in fact, you will get a stamp in the passport by the customs, valid for 30 days, without having to pay anything.
Just remember to safely keep the piece of paper which you fill in before approaching the customs, because it will be requested when you are going to leave the country.
Language and communication
The official language is Thai. Since they use their own unique alphabet, prepare to not understand anything that is written around and to not be able to use the translators so easily.
English is known only in touristic areas, even if only at a basis level.
If you happen to be in less “international” places, do not expect to communicate in English! To your question “Do you speak English?” you could still get a positive answer... But it will not be true! In fact, at the first real sentence in English that you will say, they will look at you with eyes wide open and perplexed.
Often, in these situations, your best choice is to learn a few words of the local language, useful in your everyday life. Thus, you will be able to make yourself understood and often you will also be able to make them laugh.
Here below you can read our tiny dictionary, compiled thanks to our friend Sherwin. We have reported just the pronunciation, we ignore how these words are actually written!
Plan to always have it with you, thus your journey will be easier!
Tiny Thai dictionary
Premise! Thai people often use the following words to conclude a sentence: “ka” or “kap”, sign of courtesy and kindness. We always recommend you to use them, in particular “kup” if you are a man and “ka” if you are a woman.
Good morning / Hello → sauwadee kup / ka
Thank you → kob khun kup / ka
Never mind → mai pen rai
Yes → chai or kup / ka
No → mai
Sorry → ko tot kup / ka
How much? → tao rai kup / ka
I don't understand → mai kao jai
The Thai currency is the baht ฿ (THB). To date (mid-July): € 1 ≈ ฿ 38.9.
Beware of withdrawals from ATMs! Independently from the bank and the amount requested, you will be charged a fee of ฿ 220 (around € 5.65).
You have 3 different options to optimize your money management while you are in Thailand:
- get some ฿ before coming to Thailand;
- exchange $, € or any other currency you have, in one of the many exchange points in Thailand;
- perform a single consistent withdrawal from an ATM at the beginning of your vacation.
In any case, remember that the cost of living in Thailand is much lower, so adjust your computations accordingly.
For instance, we spent just US$ 200 + € 50 for 24 days in Thailand, all included (it is also true that we have low pretensions and we paid only 4 nights of accommodation, for the rest: Couchsurfing!).
Scooter and driving license
Officially speaking, to being able to drive in Thailand you must possess an international driving license, more precisely the one of the Ginevra Convention (1949). In reality, it does not seem to exist a compulsory true rule. In fact, it seems that no policeman will ever stop you to ask for your license.
To best enjoy the countries of Southeast Asia, it is often advised to rent a motorcycle. Indeed, this is the most used mean of transport here: it gives you the chance to be independent from public transport (which is not so great), while spending just a little money.
For this reason, we also recommend you adopt this solution. Just remember to drive on the left (British style)!
Renting a scooter is very cheap, especially if you have some connections: there will be a friend or a friend's friend who can rent you his motorcycle, at a convenient price.
In Thailand, the only rule that apply for driving a scooter is being able to control it. So, do not be surprised if you see 10-years-old boys around as already expert drivers.
The helmet is obligatory (technically), but a lot of people simply do not use it. This does not mean it is useless: if you care about your life, always wear it, even if no one will come to you obliging to do so.
The mystery of the official prices
One of the Thailand's aspects which struck us the most, is that often official prices are not indicated anywhere. In this way they can modify them as they wish, according to those who are in front of them.
As it is not easy hiding the own status of “being a tourist”, because of the difference in skin colour and the inability of speaking Thai, usually the prices for you will be doubled or even tripled without you even noticing it. This mostly happens when you take a mean of transport.
But don't discourage yourself! Try rather to always inform yourself in advance about costs.
Our advice is precisely this: every time you must move, take the time to ask for recommendation from people you trust or who have no interests at stake. Just ask them what the price of the route is and what means are available. Thus, you can be sure and reply accordingly if they try to charge you a higher price.
Most of the time it is straightforward moving around Thailand, as there are plenty of cheap local buses, minivan and trains. The latter mean of transport is veeery cheap! In the worst situation, you can always call a taxi or similar means, to make short distances. The prices are very good especially if you know how to bargain.
What we have learned is that very often they make you think that the only possible solution is relying on travel agencies, but it is not like this, at all!
We have always opted for the do-it-yourself approach and in this way, we have spent much less, without encountering major problems.
Here below we have collected some tips for you about some of the possible routes!
Traveling from Krabi to Koh Phangan
In a travel agency they will ask you no less than ฿ 700 for this route. But if you organize the trip by yourself, you can safely stay under ฿ 500. So how you can move from Krabi to Koh Phangan? That's easy:
- from Krabi Town take a songteow to reach the bus station, at a cost of approx. ฿ 15;
- from Krabi bus station, get on a local bus to Surat Thani. You will reach this city approximately in 3 hours, at a cost of ฿ 150;
- get off at the last stop, the Surat Thani bus station, and catch a minivan to Donsak port. You will reach it in an hour, at ฿ 100;
- from the port, take a ferry to Koh Phangan. The cheapest company which goes there, is Raja Ferry. After 2 hours and a half of sea crossing, you will reach Thong Sala, paying ฿ 210.
Traveling from Koh Phangan to Nakhon Si Thammarat
As soon as you have reached the port of Donsak again with Raja Ferry from Thong Sala, get on a minivan which heads to the bus station of Nakhon Si Thammarat with ฿ 125. It will take around 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Traveling from Nakhon Si Thammarat to Phattalung and Hat Yai
The cheapest way to do this, is using the local trains. We do not remember the precise price, but it was totally derisory, like ฿ 20 each.
Traveling from Hat Yai to Padang Besar
For this route, the most clever and efficient choice is to take a minivan from the Hat Yai bus station. In less than an hour and paying just ฿ 50, you will reach the town at the border of Malaysia.
There is also a (red) local bus which costs ฿ 46, or the local train at ฿ 50. Therefore, mainly evaluate where is your accommodation, as the locations to get these 3 different means of transport are different.
For sure you can find better and more detailed online guides to travel in Thailand.
We decided to be concise and, in the meantime, useful. The only remaining thing is to prepare your luggage (just a backpack is even better) and go to explore this fascinate country!
Don't forget to check out our other article where you will discover what to expect in Thailand, just click here: Why Thailand is NOT for everyone.